My PhD thesis reconstructs the history of Czechoslovak foreign aid 1948-1989, based on published and unpublished documents of the period. I propose a periodization rooted in the global class struggle and the internal dynamics of the Soviet commonwealth, within a historical sociological framework of uneven and combined development.
Czechoslovakia was the USSR’s most active ally in the provision of foreign aid to Third World governments and national liberation movements. Early optimism about the anti-colonial movement was reflected in ambitious attempts to expand Soviet style social relations and forms of state. This gave way to a more cautious programme corresponding to the Soviet bloc strategy of ‘peaceful coexistence.’ The rulers of non-aligned countries effectively became the revolutionary subject in Soviet and Czechoslovak theories of world revolution, and the adhesion of the non-aligned countries to Soviet projects of world order became the primary motivation for provision of foreign aid. There was also an expansion of foreign aid to support the development of trade with solvent non-aligned countries, and a corresponding decline in aid to those non-European countries of socialist orientation which were not of geopolitical interest to the Soviet bloc. This pattern was modified somewhat during the early 1980s, when the resurgent military confrontation with the US-led western bloc led to an expansion of Czechoslovak foreign aid to selected strategic allies. Early attempts to overcome the conditions of uneven and combined development by extension of the Soviet political economy gave way in most countries to policies which tended to reproduce uneven and combined development at a higher level of industrialisation and economic integration. Non-European countries that joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistancewere more able to close the gap with the European socialist bloc, but by the 1980s, a growing use of market mechanisms meant that multilateral mechanisms in the socialist bloc also tended to reinforce and reproduce uneven and combined development.
Foreign aid is approached using a historical materialist analysis, drawing on Leon Trotsky’s theory of uneven and combined development and permanent revolution, and Antonio Gramsci’s concepts of hegemony and passive revolution. The vacillation of the Czechoslovak and Soviet aid systems between attempts to overcome the uneven and combined development of the non-European socialist countries on the one hand, and efforts to extract a short-term benefit from these conditions and to recreate them at a higher level of development on the other hand is explained as a reflection of the transitional nature of the Soviet social formation as nether state capitalist nor fully socialist. The Soviet contestation of western hegemony is explored in three dimensions: expansion of non-capitalist social relations, expansion of particular state forms, and promotion of a particular world order.
Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy