B – Economy, trade, and finances

Actor or instrument: The role of the CMEA in the global Cold War

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

    Saturday, 27 June - 11:00 – 13:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    B – Economy, trade, and finances
Convenor
  • Suvi Kansikas (University of Helsinki)
  • Uwe Müller (University Leipzig, Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe)
  • Berthold Unfried (University of Vienna)
Chair
  • Jean-Jacques Dethier (Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley)
Commentator
  • Uwe Müller (University Leipzig, Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe)
  • Suvi Kansikas (University of Helsinki)
  • Berthold Unfried (University of Vienna)
Panelists
  • Jan Zofka (Leipzig University)
  • Suvi Kansikas (University of Helsinki)
  • Bence Kocsev (Leipzig University, SFB 1199)
  • Max Trecker (Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin)
  • Ivan Obadić (University of Zagreb)
  • Berthold Unfried (University of Vienna)
  • Claudia Martinez (University of Vienna)
  • Eric Burton (University of Innsbruck)

Papers

  • Jan Zofka
    The CMEA and Technology transfers to the People's Republic of China in the 1950s

    The CMEA and Technology transfers to the People's Republic of China in the 1950s

    This presentation examines technology transfers from Eastern European socialist states to the People’s Republic of China until the Sino-Soviet split and assesses the significance of CMEA structures in these transfers. It centres around the following questions: Did these immense programs of investment and knowledge exchange in the 1950s follow exclusively Soviet interests or did they take also the interests of the single national states into account? Did these programs have any kind of common logic inspired by CMEA structures? This presentation suggests that the exchanges within the framework of what the protagonists themselves called “Scientific-Technological cooperation” and “technical assistance” indeed had a common structure and a shared logic to a certain extent. Looking closer at the protagonists, this presentation surveys the importance of intra-bloc and global economic power relations in the course of these exchanges.
  • Suvi Kansikas
    The CMEA and international trade regimes: The case-study of EC protectionist measures, 1960s-1980s

    The CMEA and international trade regimes: The case-study of EC protectionist measures, 1960s-1980s

    Building on the results of previous research on socialist countries’ and the CMEA’s relations with the EC from the 1960s to the dissolution of the CMEA in 1991, this paper focuses on the efforts of socialist policy-makers in order to understand restrictions to trade that the European Community (EC) imposed as well as the ways in which these policy-makers sought to overcome the negative consequences of the capitalist policies. The paper underscores the difficulties that the socialist actors experienced in comprehending the phenomenon and progress of capitalist economic integration in the form it was practised within the EC. After the socialist countries gradually switched to the strategy of import-led growth, their trade and consequently dependence on the non-socialist world (NSW) increased. On the one side of the coin in the CMEA’s conundrum was the member states’ need to continue trade without disruptions to acquire necessary technology and know-how and to sell their produce to obtain hard currency. On the other side were the political, ideological and economic consequences of this trade. Within the CMEA, trade protectionism and barriers to trade were a constant issue discussed in relation to the EC. The EC is a revealing case-study for analysing the CMEA external trade relations because of its geographic proximity and historical ties to Eastern Europe as well as its distinctiveness as a trade regime: The EC’s progress in terms of its authority over the trade relations of its members gave the EC a leverage in the negotiations that the CMEA could not match. The CMEA’s role and its members’ relations with the EC are contextualised, in this paper, within the process of their integration into other global trade regimes, such as the GATT and IMF.
  • Bence Kocsev
    Eastern Europa and the New International Economic Order

    Eastern Europa and the New International Economic Order

    The paper concerns itself with the CMEA reception of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), a major United Nations initiative in the 1970s aiming at restructuring the global economy. The socialist countries were often lambasted for giving the impression that they would preferably avoid all active participation in the reform of the international economic order. However, in certain socialist countries, the concept of the NIEO was nevertheless considered to be a serious opportunity which would help them to open-up their centrally planned economies towards the newly independent countries. This would substantially lessen their countries’ dependence on the Soviet Union’s economic resources and would furthermore assist them in their efforts to move away from the Soviet-imposed economic institutions. The CMEA had, however, never managed to have a common strategy vis-à-vis the concept and several frictions emerged among socialist states having different views on how to support the aims of the NIEO. Against this background, the NIEO tells the story of great differences within the Bloc regarding the strategy envisaged towards the Third World. Thus, it does not just illustrate the limits and the strength of Soviet power vis-à-vis its Eastern European allies. But the scientific discussion on this topic also highlights the fact that the Soviet bloc failed in its attempt to respatialize the setting of the world economic order to its advantage. This paper primarily focuses on the scientific outputs produced at the Institute of World Economics (IWE) on the topic of the NIEO. Being a major hub of developmental thinking within and outside the Socialist Bloc, the IWE often hosted scientific meetings and published on the most current world economic issues that had to be dealt with. The NIEO was, unmistakably, one of them.
  • Max Trecker
    India and the CMEA

    India and the CMEA

    When India became independent in 1947, her political leadership chose the economic development path of state-led industrialization. Although the private sector was never nationalized, five-year-plans that were backed by state funds and foreign assistance set the guidelines for India’s economic future. From the late 1950s until the late 1980s, economic relations with the CMEA member states expanded continuously. The members of the CMEA supported the Indian government in its state-led industrialization drive and imported Indian goods, in return. During the 1970s, Indian state agencies such as the Planning Commission got in direct contact with the CMEA Secretariat to organize joint conferences on economic planning and trade issues of mutual interest. This paper focuses on the expectations of the Indian side from this partnership at different points in time as well as the perceptions of CMEA as an international organization about India.
  • Ivan Obadić
    The Policy of Economic Coexistence: Yugoslavia in the Cold War divided World Economy in the 1960s

    The Policy of Economic Coexistence: Yugoslavia in the Cold War divided World Economy in the 1960s

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the structural changes in the world economy and international trade caught the attention of Yugoslav policy-makers and theorists. The increased role of commerce in the post-war international economic order, greater openness of the global economy due to reductions in trade barriers, transport and communication costs, as well as changes in patterns of trade, payments, and international financing had significant repercussions for the formulation of Yugoslav economic and foreign trade policy. These developments together with the Cold War division of the world and the Yugoslav policy of non-alignment played a crucial role in conceiving an economic platform on international economic relations and European integration. By 1960, Yugoslav scholars envisioned a new theory of foreign trade: the policy of economic coexistence. In broad ideological terms, the concept anticipated an accelerated economic development of underdeveloped countries which would lead to the creation of a new socialist international economic order. In practical terms, this concept implied various aspects of economic cooperation among the developing countries and diversification of the Yugoslav foreign trade which was decisively reliant on trade with the Western Europe. This paper intertwines different narratives in order to thoroughly contextualize the relations between Yugoslavia and various iterations of Eastern and Western efforts at economic integration. Therefore, this paper follows a set of deeply interconnected issues from Yugoslavia’s foreign economic policy to its international strategy in order to shed light on different views about the role and place of Yugoslavia in the divided world economy during the Cold War. Within this admittedly wide scope, the paper focuses on foreign trade dilemmas that a middle-of-the-road position in the international division of labour entailed for a country living next door to two antagonistic trade blocs (EEC and CMEA).
  • Berthold Unfried
    Claudia Martinez
    Cooperation in the "mutual interest": Cuba and the GDR as an example for the role of the Council of Mutual Economical Assistance as a "Development" agent

    Cooperation in the "mutual interest": Cuba and the GDR as an example for the role of the Council of Mutual Economical Assistance as a "Development" agent

    Even though cooperation in the “mutual interest” was a major slogan of the CMEA, the implications of the Cuban participation in the CMEA relations remain largely unexplored. Information from Cuban files and interviews with participants in this socialist framework of action show that Cuba’s unexpected full membership in the CMEA from 1972 was the (partly unintended) result of the decisions by the highest political organization of the country: the Communist Party of Cuba. Based on archival material from the GDR and from Cuba, this paper elaborates on such “mutual interest” on the level of personal exchanges between Cuba and the GDR such as the Cuban labour (qualification) programme in the GDR, GDR youth brigades in Cuba, Cuban students in the GDR, and GDR experts in Cuba as examples of cooperation between an “underdeveloped” non-European and the most industrialized European member state. Cuba already had various personnel around the CMEA geography when the agreements for the qualification of young workers in the GDR and Czechoslovakia started in 1978 (Hungary und Bulgaria to follow), which enabled Cuba to reduce its number of non-qualified youth. In turn, the European counterparts received a work force that was lacking in their economies. The Communist Party of Cuba was to play a major role in the supervision of the Cubans sent abroad. The CMEA years became an endless race to improve the Party organizations’ work both in the island and abroad. Its organizations were complemented by the Communist Youth organizations which should tackle problems arising from the intercultural encounter of the Cubans in the European CMEA countries. In seeking to answer questions such as how the Cuban and East German actors dealt with such problems and which interactions happened between the involved Cuban and East German institutional and personal actors, this paper contributes to the history of temporary migration within the CMEA.
  • Eric Burton
    From convergence to divergence. Mozambique’s failed campaign to join COMECON and the collapse of East-South solidarity, ca. 1977-1985

    From convergence to divergence. Mozambique’s failed campaign to join COMECON and the collapse of East-South solidarity, ca. 1977-1985

    Comecon was founded by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites in 1949. Its membership extended to three states in Asia and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, promising to bring the economic benefits of socialism to all member states. Vietnam was the last state to join Comecon, becoming a full member in 1978: some considered this expansion beyond Europe already an overstretch. A further extension to Africa—e.g., to Angola or Mozambique—did not come to pass. This paper reconstructs Comecon’s tipping point from geographical expansion to stagnation, arguing that this moment reflected a larger shift in most of its European member states from the belief that Comecon could be a device to produce convergence between member states to the view that differences within Comecon were a burden—or, alternatively, a fact that needed to be acknowledged in more hierarchical forms of integration. Based on archival materials (especially files from the Mittag Commission held at the SAPMO BArch Berlin which report multiple vantage points) and secondary literature referring to different countries, this paper analyses the varying positions regarding Mozambique’s campaign to join Comecon and the different geographies that were invoked in these debates. Putting debates within states aside for a moment, this paper identifies three major different viewpoints: (1) Mozambican policy-makers referred to the example of Comecon’s extra-European members states and recipients of aid and hoped for a “push” in development through Comecon commitments; (2) economic planners in the GDR and, to some extent, the USSR supported Mozambique’s efforts for membership due to already large investments, expecting other European Comecon members to chip in more resources; (3) these other European members, however, were reluctant to support the efforts of Mozambique, as they saw Mozambique’s prospective membership primarily as a material burden on their own economies. Eastern Europe’s rejection of Mozambican efforts to join Comecon reflected a revived mistrust of the durability and quality of socialism in non-European countries as well as a diminished willingness to sacrifice material resources for political ends. The “observer status” that was granted to Mozambique and other Asian, Latin American, and African states in Comecon in the 1970s and 1980s was a was a means to keep material claims in control while still providing opportunities for investment projects that seemed profitable for Comecon’s better-off members.

Abstract

The panel examines the role of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) in structuring the relationship with the “peripheries” of the “socialist camp.” It pays special attention to the Council’s function in shaping the external relations of the socialist bloc during the Cold War. The CMEA was founded in 1949 as a reaction to the Marshall Plan. The Soviet Union had prevented the states in its sphere of influence from participating in the European Recovery Program. Post-war reconstruction would be organized within the CMEA through “mutual assistance”, such as the exchange of know-how, raw materials, machinery, and technical assistance. At the same time, the CMEA aimed at supporting the heavy industrialization and thereby the foundations for the rearmament of its member states. The CMEA was therefore a genuine product of the Cold War. Nevertheless, both the CMEA’s self-portrayal and scientific research on the CMEA focused mostly on its inner life. The forms of integration and/or cooperation sought and practiced by the CMEA constituted the foreground of political science and historiographical analyzes. The non-European member states (Mongolia, Cuba, Vietnam) were hardly taken into consideration. Subsequent analyses of the CMEA concentrated on measuring its “successes” and “failures” in Europe. After 1991, the verdict was almost unequivocally negative and scientific interest in this organization declined significantly. The question of the CMEA’s role in the socialist camp alongside other international organizations, such as the Warsaw Pact, has only recently been raised again. As the development of a “Socialist Camp” or an “Eastern Bloc” can be meaningfully analyzed only in the framework of the spatial order of the Cold War (Marung/Müller/Troebst 2019), this reemerging interest in the role of CMEA has inevitably brought also external relations into the focus. Investigations on the role of the CMEA in the development of economic as well as political relations of the socialist countries of (Eastern) Europe with the (Western) European capitalist countries and the EEC made it clear that the CMEA was also de facto an instrument of (overall) foreign policy not only of the Soviet Union but, to varying degrees, also of the other Member States (Lipkin 2016; Kansikas 2014). The recent flourishing research on the East-South relations during the Cold War has also shown that the boundaries between the camps were much more porous and a lot less clear than it was long assumed. The CMEA played an important role and was interested in cultivating relations with the so-called developing countries irrespective of their political tendencies. Trade relations and technology transfers as well as intellectual exchanges regarding economic planning processes (which were what the CMEA could bring into the relationship) were interesting also for countries which did not follow a communist model of society. The recent relativization of the otherwise widely-accepted thesis that the Soviet Union aspired to (bloc) autarchy (Sanchez-Sibony 2014) has been applied for other CMEA countries at least to the same extent. Similarly, a number of indications have pointed to the fact that sharp ideological-political conflicts between former socialist brother states did not necessarily lead to the complete disruption of economic relations. On the contrary, contacts remained intact in the fields of economics and trade as well as in scientific-technical cooperation. Moreover, at times, there were also attempts at least to normalize the disrupted relations. In addition to the particular roles played by some nation states and socialist international organizations such as the CMEA, intergovernmental institutions focusing on individual sectors of the economy—such as the OSJD in the case of railway transport—, too, played certain roles in improving and maintaining these relationships. This panel systematically presents the results of recent research and discusses open questions as well as future tasks. The proposed panel focuses on the following questions: What was the role of the multilateral organization CMEA and other international socialist organizations in distinction from (or in coordination with) the bilateral relations of its members? What role did the CMEA play in the positioning of the non-European CMEA member states in the Cold War spatial order? To what extent did the CMEA have agency not only in the integration or cooperation between the socialist economies, but also in the relations with the “capitalist foreign countries” and the “Third World?” What function did these external relations have in the strategy of the socialist countries in confronting and competing with the capitalist system? How did the respective weight of political, ideological, geostrategic, and economic rationalities change over the time?