Monday, January 14, 2013

Another North American Academic Praising the Soviet Union

Despite what my good friend Walt Richmond says about the rarity of pro-Soviet academics at US universities I keep finding them published by scholarly presses in droves. Valentine Moghadam is an associate professor of sociology at Illinois State University. She is also director of their women's studies program there. In a recent collection of essays on revolution I purchased she states, "To me the downfall of Communism in the Soviet Union represented a tragedy of world historical proportions precisely because the US became the sole hegemonic power." (p. 127). First, the US is not the sole hegemonic power in the world. Russia has far more influence than the US in Central Asia, France continues to dominate much of West and Central Africa in a blatantly neo-colonial manner, and I suspect China prevents the US from being the "sole hegemonic power" in parts of East and South East Asia. There is also of course the fact that the collapse of the USSR represented the liberation of millions of people from police state tyranny. The end of Soviet colonial rule just in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia was a very real advancement for human freedom in the world. To this of course one must add the end of pro-Soviet dictatorships in Poland, East Germany, Hungary and other regions of Central Europe. Imagine if somebody wrote "To me the downfall of colonialism in Africa represented a tragedy of world historical proportions precisely because the US and USSR became the sole hegemonic powers." Such a statement even given the post-colonial history of dictatorship in much of Africa would be rightly condemned as a racist and insensitive remark failing to take into consideration the lives of Africans themselves. Yet, here we have a tenured academic at a major US state university making the exact same type of statement regarding Soviet colonial rule.

Source: "First Thematic Discussion: The Political Economy and Geopolitics of Globalization: What Has Changed? What does it Mean for the Future of Revolutions? 25 January 2001," in John Foran, editor, The Future of Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization (London: Zed Books, 2003).

2 comments:

Walt Richmond said...

"To me the downfall of Communism in the Soviet Union represented a tragedy of world historical proportions precisely because the US became the sole hegemonic power." That's not exactly praise of the Soviet Union, more of a critique of the United States' arrogance since the Soviet collapse and how the USSR provided a brake on US actions. I agree with her that the collapse of the Soviet Union allowed the United States to become the international bully it currently is. However, like many Americans, her rationale for wishing the USSR had not collapsed doesn't take into consideration all the advantages for the people of the former Soviet Union--ironically another example of American arrogance! But there are people on the right who praise the downfall of the USSR as a total victory for the West, ignoring the turmoil it caused for many people (war and ethnic cleansing in Tajikistan, barbarous dictatorships in Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, etc.)

You can search around and find academics who support all sorts of positions. But there are thousands of sociologists in the US. Pointing to one or two, or even ten or twenty, doesn't really show a trend at all. There are a handful of scholars in IAGS who are calling for war with Iran, and they're very loud. Looking at our listserv you'd think they represent a major force in the field, but everyone recognizes that they're radicals with an agenda. Which is exactly what this person is.

J. Otto Pohl said...

Walt:

I just don't see this person taking into account anything other than her own armchair revolutionary agenda. It is wide spread among leftist intellectuals that people in the rest of the world only exist as props in their little morality plays. She views the USSR as good because it opposed the US and the population that lived under their rule has no relevance to her. They are not mentioned at all. From what I can garner this type of thinking seems to dominate academic thinking in the US. Which is one reason I am very glad to be working in Africa.