Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 22, 2014

Is Russia imperialist? A reply to Roger Annis and Sam Williams

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,Japan,Russia — louisproyect @ 8:03 pm

Hideki Tojo: he anticipated Vladimir Putin

On June 18th Truthout published an article by Canadian socialist Roger Annis titled The Russia as “Imperialist” Thesis Is Wrong and a Barrier to Solidarity With the Ukrainian and Russian People that is an extended polemic against a view he describes as follows:

More deeply, the empirical, economic and political evidence disproves the claims of Russia as “imperialist.”

The role of finance capital is the benchmark of any measure of the core nature of a capitalist country. In Russia, it is nothing resembling that of the imperialist countries. It’s the state, not finance capital, which plays the overriding, directing role in Russia’s economy. The state happens to own much of the vaunted oil and gas industries; so too in finance and much of manufacturing. The CIA Factbook explains some of the consequences thusly: “The protection of property rights is still weak and the private sector remains subject to heavy state interference.”

Before addressing his arguments, a word or two about Annis’s recent evolution is in order. Shortly after the war in Iraq began, Annis resigned from the Canadian sect that was allied with the American SWP over its abstention from the antiwar movement. I have not followed his trajectory closely but was not prepared for his recent turn toward the Donetsk separatist movement. Along with Boris Kagarlitsky, Alan Woods, and Socialist Alliance member Renfrey Clarke, Annis has essentially defended a movement as anticapitalist no matter the presence of leaders with connections to the Kremlin, or more alarmingly, Russian fascism. Kagarlitsky, who runs a think-tank funded partially by the Kremlin, spoke at a conference on “colored revolutions” in 2010 hosted by the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, the Austrian party formerly led by Jörg Haider, a politician widely regarded as a neo-Nazi. In addition to Kagarlitsky, speakers included the Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin and Israel Shamir, the eccentric journalist who smeared me as a shill for NATO. Clarke has been faithfully translating Kagarlitsky’s pro-separatist articles into English while Annis makes sure to reproduce them on his blog. It would seem to me that these people have lost their way.

Annis is strongly influenced by blogger Sam Williams, whose 30-page article “Is Russia Imperialist” reprises many of the same points made by Annis, especially the business about finance capital being key. I was only aware in the past of Williams’s blog “A Critique of Crisis Theory” having an orientation to the ongoing debates about the falling rate of profit, etc. This was the first article, as far as I know, that took up questions outside of the value theory bailiwick.

It is safe to assume that Williams was a member of the Workers World Party based on his “about me” page:

It was in this period [the 1970s] that I met my friend and collaborator Jon Britton. With his help and encouragement, I began to write articles for the socialist press, though under a different name.

Along with Bill Massey, Britton had joined the WWP after leaving the Socialist Workers Party. Sam Marcy formed the WWP after leaving the SWP over differences on how to regard the Hungarian Revolution. I have very fond memories of Jon Britton and can only say that if he chose to join the WWP, that speaks highly of the organization even if I have deep disagreements with their “global class war” analysis.

James P. Cannon viewed Hungary in 1956 as a workers revolt against Stalinist oppression while Sam Marcy took a position very close to the Kremlin’s, namely that it was a CIA plot. Oddly enough, despite the obvious embrace of Marcy’s analysis on the left, including many writers on CounterPunch where I am a regular contributor, the WWP never seemed able to exploit the broad support for its positions.

When you look at Williams’s article, you will see immediately how it dovetails with the WWP type analysis:

The Orange Revolution was part of a series of pro-Empire “color revolutions”—some successful and some not—that were organized by the Empire and its local representatives with the aim of replacing governments that resisted the Empire in one way or another. Other such “revolutions” include the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon; the unsuccessful Green Revolution in Iran, which also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn a presidential election; and the Rose Revolution in Georgia.

This, of course, was the theme of the conference organized by the FPO that Kagarlitsky spoke at. As has become quite evident in recent months, the left and the ultraright have come to an agreement that Putin is a heroic figure standing up to NATO, the IMF, Western banks, the CIA and all the rest. Even the Golden Dawn, that now has the brass to sing the Horst Wessel song at its rallies, regards Putin as a savior.

After a few thousand words reprising the talking points of the pro-Kremlin left about how Euromaidan was a fascist plot organized by the CIA, Williams turns to the question of whether Russia is imperialist. Like Annis, he insists that everything hinges on finance capital:

What is the relative position of Russian banks today? If Russia today is not only capitalist, which it indeed is, but also imperialist, we would expect Russian banks to be increasingly prominent in the world, since the “great” universal banks are the most important organizations of finance capital. The publication Global Finance lists the world’s 50 biggest banks as of 2012 in terms of assets. Despite the size and natural wealth of Russia, not a single Russian bank appears on the list.

Besides finance capital, NATO distinguishes the real imperialists from Russia:

If you have to describe the difference between the imperialism of 1914 and the imperialism of 2014 in one word, it would be NATO. Unlike in 1914, there is one military machine, or “czar,” that dominates the imperialist world. And its roots are not in feudal but purely capitalist relations. This machine includes the armed forces not only of the United States but also of other countries in the NATO “alliance,” including Britain, Germany, France and, though formally part of a separate security treaty, Japan as well.

Part of the problem with this analysis is that it focuses on imperialist rather than imperialism. Lenin’s 1914 pamphlet is a guide to understanding a system, not a handbook on classifying countries. For much of the past ten years or so, I have seen arguments on Marxmail going on at length on how to classify apartheid South Africa (or even post-apartheid) or Israel. Are they imperialist? Sub-imperialist? Lenin never intended to provide some kind of birdwatcher’s guide for such classifications, however.

Lenin’s pamphlet was written for a specific time and place, not a universally applicable textbook. If you take it that way, then you might as well conclude that the war in the Pacific pitted an imperialist USA against a non-imperialist Japan. Do we really want to view Japan as non-imperialist? I don’t think that would have sat well with someone living under occupation in Manchuria or the people of Nanking.

Unfortunately Germaine A. Hoston’s Marxism and Japanese Expansionism: Takahashi Kamekichi and the Theory of “Petty Imperialism” that appeared in the Journal of Japanese Studies (Winter, 1984) is behind a paywall  but I will be happy to send a copy on request. Takahashi Kamekichi’s made the case that Japan was not imperialist according to Lenin’s definition of the term. His evidence was impressive even if it led to the wrong conclusion.

Kamekichi honed in on the phenomenon of yukizumari, a term that meant deadlock and that referred to the failure of the post-Meiji restoration period to propel Japan into the first rank of capitalist nations. The previous partition of the world had deprived Japan of access to raw materials, especially the oil that was crucial to full-scale industrial and military prowess.

It meant that Japan was incapable of producing heavy capital goods like Germany or Britain. In the 1920s 73 percent of Japanese exports were textiles and even when capital goods were being produced, tariffs from more powerful capitalist nations inhibited sales.

Finally, and most importantly given Sam Williams’s emphasis on finance capital, Japan was simply not in the same league with the USA and Europe. Roston writes:

Finally, Japanese imperialism could not be powered by “financial capital” in the Leninist sense. Finance capital had grown prematurely in the late-developing Japan, with the support of the Meiji state, in advance of industrial capital. This process constituted a reversal of the development sequence of Europe and America. Consequently, the finance capital to be found in the zaibatsu was not identical with the finance capital Lenin and Rudolf Hilferding had described as characteristic of the “age of finance capital.”45 These internal and international financial conditions placed severe constraints on Japanese economic expansion. Even where Japan had been able to execute imperialistic ventures, the benefits of these to Japanese capitalistic development and the extent of Japan s imperialistic exploitation were necessarily more limited than those gained through comparable activities by the U.S., Great Britain, and Germany.

Japan pinned its hopes on the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, a policy that was designed to achieve imperialist goals in the name of anti-imperialism, anticipating to some extent Putin’s Eurasian Economic bloc. Just as Putin positions himself as a friend of nations suffering from IMF, NATO, Western banking interests, etc., so did Japan appeal to Asian nations as its benefactor.

You get the same kind of demagogy surrounding China’s penetration of Africa today. In exchange for some clinics, roads, and rural schools, China gets access to precious resources necessary for capital accumulation.

Prime Minister Tojo gave a speech to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere on November 5th 1943 that will ring a bell with those who have been paying attention to the left that has been suckered into supporting the Donetsk People’s Republic:

During the past centuries, the British Empire, through fraud and aggression, acquired vast territories throughout the world and maintained its domination over other nations and peoples in the various regions by keeping them pitted and engaged in conflict one against another. On the other hand, the United States which, by taking advantage of the disorder and confusion in Europe, had established its supremacy over the American continents spread its tentacles to the Pacific and to East Asia following its war with Spain. Then, with the opportunities afforded by the First World War, the United States began to pursue its ambition for world hegemony. More recently, with the outbreak of the present war, the United States has further intensified its imperialistic activities, making fresh inroads into North Africa, West Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, Australia, the Near East and even into India, apparently in an attempt to usurp the place of the British Empire.

What can we conclude from all this? It is useful to remind ourselves that Lenin wrote a pamphlet titled “Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. For some on the left, the emphasis on capitalism has been forgotten. Everything is reduced to a struggle between nations that are imperialist against those who are not. As Marxists, the emphasis should be on the class struggle, however. As class antagonisms deepen inside Ukraine, the small and weak left will become more critical as a voice of reason. I would urge people like Kagarlitsky, Annis, and Clarke to offer its solidarity to that left and cut its ties to the Russian propaganda machine. There’s a good chance that they will ignore me but I would hope that those still trying to make up their mind will give careful attention to what I have written. Time is of the essence.

33 Comments »

  1. Louis, thank you for this timely post. I’ve been waiting a few days for Roger Annis, to respond to my two comments I posted at Links in connection to his article. I don’t know what kind of response I should expect, beyond me being wrong or misimformed. A comrade on Facebook, recently said their are different kinds of imperialism, finance just being one.

    Also, have you read reviewed Barry Sheppard’s recent article on the Soviet Union and modern Russia? Annis has great admiration for it which is evident and how he uses it in support of his own argument.

    Comment by Jim Brash — June 22, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

  2. I suppose that I would be closer to Barry than to the ISO’ers on this but why are we making an issue out of the USSR? Even if we have differences on Cuba–a more germane issue since it is still “socialist”–the point of unity should be an end to the blockade and attempts to subvert Cuba through a fifth column, etc. That’s the case for Solidarity and could be as well for a new left party so badly needed.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 22, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

  3. I always thought imperialism was based not only on the capitalist mode of production but a society that was inherently predatory & militaristic.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 23, 2014 @ 12:47 am

  4. Slightly off topic, but I have posted a review of Lars Lih’s biography of Lenin here: http://trotskyschildren.blogspot.com/2014/06/book-review-lihs-biography-of-lenin.html

    Comment by Dan King — June 23, 2014 @ 1:00 am

  5. I would love to see you take on a serious piece arguing that Russia is not imperialist (by Lenin’s definition). An attempt at that is found: http://internationalist.org/bugbearrussianimperialism1405.html

    If you can ignore the praise of the heroic Trotsky throughout, you get a good example of Lenin’s position on imperialism applied today, with plenty of analysis and sources.

    For example, Russia sells natural gas to Ukraine for much less than it charges Germany.

    Comment by Steve D — June 23, 2014 @ 3:59 am

  6. “could be as well for a new left party so badly needed.”

    What interest would people who think Cuba is simply a capitalist state (differing only from the rest of Latin America in that it lacks elections) have in promoting that country’s interests? That’s where you lose me on your mass left party idea.

    Comment by Steve D — June 23, 2014 @ 4:02 am

  7. Steve D, I think demanding an end to the blockade and the US policy of regime change is separate from the debate of whether or not you think Cuba is state capitalist, socialist, mixed economy hybrid, or whatever. You build a mass party with people of varying levels of sociopolitical consciousness and with different perspectives on Cuba as long as ending the blockade and covert intervention is connected to what the US is doing in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and further linked to what its done in Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Nicaragua etc. If we present it as being in our interests rather than their interests, it would work.

    Comment by Jim Brash — June 23, 2014 @ 4:18 am

  8. Louis I wasn’t making an issue of the former USSR
    I was just pointing to how Roger used Barry’s article as proof that Russia isn’t imperialist. Barry’s article base the argument of Russia not being imperialist via the old USSR, its history & dissolution. I firmly believe that Russia and China are imperialist powers. I also believe in the defense of the Ukrainian people from US/EU and Russia.

    I’m interested in how minorities within Russia are taking it all in. Autonomy might be appealing to them as well.

    Comment by Jim Brash — June 23, 2014 @ 4:27 am

  9. I think it makes more tactical sense for those on the left to support Russia, China and BRICS. Once U.S. power is destroyed the entire global financial capitalist regime backed by the U.S. will suffer a huge defeat. Forces on the left will gain.

    When USSR was destroyed, the power of the global right wing forces strengthened while the left weakened.

    If U.S. power is destroyed, the right wing neoliberal finance capitalist forces will weaken and the left will be strengthen. I think this analysis is correct, I don’t see how it can be wrong.

    I completely, totally, resolutely and fully support Russia, China and BRICS to terminate U.S. imperialist capitalist system.

    Comment by Bankotsu — June 23, 2014 @ 7:06 am

  10. I think the first thing to demand in Cuba is a political revolution to sweep out the self-serving bureaucracy who are rapidly restoring capitalism and will soon be administering a pro-imperialist satrap state on behalf of a few wealthy Cubans.

    Comment by David Ellis — June 23, 2014 @ 8:22 am

  11. #5: I would love to see you take on a serious piece arguing that Russia is not imperialist (by Lenin’s definition). An attempt at that is found: http://internationalist.org/bugbearrussianimperialism1405.html

    These people follow the same “analysis” as Williams and Annis, namely to turn finance capital into a sine qua non: “And this is certainly not the dominance of finance capital, the cornerstone of Lenin’s analysis of imperialism.” As I pointed out in my article, this would require us to deem Japan in 1941 as a non-imperialist country. Ridiculous.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 23, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

  12. Bankostu, how you suggests the Left, however dysfunctional and disorganized, should support the BRICs?

    We might be seeing the potential rise of bonapartist in India with Modi. Whom has already said he wants India to be for Hindus in the same way Israel is for Jews. Also communalism in benefits chiefly the ruling class and upper castes already.
    China’s slowing growth will eventually force it to repress its own workers via an East Asia version of austerity.
    Russia wants to be the dominant force in Eurasian. Period. It will attempt to achieve that goal by any means necessary.
    Brazil wants to be the economic, political, and cultural hub of South America. It just displaced more than 250,000 people to build stadiums for FIFA and the Olympics! There were already thousands of homeless before construction began. Unemployment is extremely high; the wealthy live behind walls & gates on the hills….

    The leftists should never support any imperialist power during any type/kind of inter-imperialist rivalry. We support the poor, the migrants, the workers within their borders; we support efforts to end the exploitation of their natural resources, workers, and the driving down of their living standards by US multinationals, wall street bankers, and decisions by US legislators & Judiciary. We may even as a tactic, support a governments attempt to restructure and reduce their debts owed to our own imperialists. We even support the formation of economic blocs like ALBA..

    But openly supporting regime that are imperialist or have imperialist aspirations should be a no-no.
    If someone could explain how we do so without compromising our ethics & positions, I’m all ears.

    Comment by Jim Brash — June 23, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

  13. “I think it makes more tactical sense for those on the left to support Russia, China and BRICS. Once U.S. power is destroyed the entire global financial capitalist regime backed by the U.S. will suffer a huge defeat. Forces on the left will gain.”

    Exactly, tactics before strategy! This is precisely the problem with the pro-Russian Left: The have forgotten what the strategy is.

    Bankostu, do you recall what the strategy is?

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — June 23, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

  14. “Bankostu, how you suggests the Left, however dysfunctional and disorganized, should support the BRICs?”

    People inclined to this sort of view might want to consider the translation of Raul Zibechi’s book, “The New Brazil”:

    http://www.akpress.org/newbrazil.html

    “Once upon a time, Lula’s election in Brazil offered a pretense of hope to the international left. In the midst of a rapidly shifting global economy, Brazil has since emerged as a powerful new player on the geopolitical stage. With three short years of aggressive economic restructuring, Lula embraced the legacy of the country’s oligarchic past, paying off huge IMF loans years ahead of schedule and placing Brazil at the center of political and economic power in the region.

    Brazil is now the poster child for neoliberal capitalism. Within its borders, vast inequities in wealth and access to social services still exist—a striking contrast to the nation’s newfound prestige in world politics. At the same time, unrest is growing. Small protests against the costs of public transportation have grown to mass demonstrations that question the very foundations capital and the state in Brazil.

    Raul Zibechi dedicates this book to “the new forces emerging in Latin America, to all the movements and acts of rebellion against current forms of oppression in mining, monoculture, hydroelectric dams—and against the new imperialism.” He makes it clear that movements and militants must understand the implications of Brazil’s rise to the global power as part of changes happening in the world system. Toward that end, he provides a step-by-step history and analysis of the country’s trajectory in recent decades, including the new forms of militarization and “sub-imperialism” it has developed; the increasing collusion among its unions, multinational corporations, and the state; its devastating conquest of the Amazon; and, most importantly, the antisystemic movements that are getting stronger and smarter as they try to push the entire region in a more radical and humane direction.”

    As for Russia not being imperialist because the state is purportedly more dominant than finance capital, I lack the time to fully read all of these perspectives, but I wonder how the sovereign wealth funds are treated as well as the emergence of Gazprom. Is the argument that, because the state has a significant role in the decisionmaking activities of these enterprises, they aren’t considered repositories of financial capital, and hence, can’t be put to use for imperialist purposes? If so, that sounds strange, given how the English promoted their imperialist activities through the grant of charters, like East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company, enterprises that blended state, corporate and capital return functions.

    Comment by Richard Estes — June 23, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  15. By coincidence I am wrapping up a section on (the theory of) imperialism for a book proposal. It revolves around the theoretical and practical status of Lenin’s famous pamphlet. The gist is: It is important to understand that this pamphlet is not an explicit “theory” of imperialism. It is the presentation of a broad historical *perspective* only, with obvious theoretical implications, but these are only *implications*. A formally theoretical work in the manner of Marx’s Capital would be required, in order to generate any number of practical perspectives for an ever changing reality. Lenin sought to quickly straddle theory and practice here, and I think he understood the limitations of his product, as he indicated in the Preface to the second edition, where he expressed his regrets.

    More specifically, there is the problem of what Lenin explicitly relied upon theoretically speaking: Hilferding’s theory of “finance capital”. The problem lies not in that indicated by the two key criticisms of Hilferding, that its grasp of Marx’s theory of money is wrong (true), and that the theory is specific to German capitalism (somewhat true, but irrelevant as will be seen). Rather, the problem is that, at the level of abstraction appropriate to the analysis of imperialism, one that differs from the analysis of capital in that it constitutes a more *concrete* level, we are always dealing with historically real, concrete capitals of a certain scale – an international or internal colonial scale (this for big BRIC continent countries, including the first BRIC, the USA) – in the concentration and centralization of capital.

    Now a careful reading of Capital Vol II, particularly Part I (usually glossed over in favor of the famous Part III) shows that Marx considered *all* concrete capitals to be a dynamic combination of what he called, abstractly, the three circuits of capital: The productive, commodity, and money circuits. Thus theoretically *all* capitals are combinations of money (“banking”), commercial commodity (“merchant”), and productive (“industrial”) capital. In practice only *large* capitals – the ones of interest to a theory of imperialism – can effectively realize this combination; small capitals must specialize in one or another circuit. Hilferding characteristically ignores commercial capital, as this is the habit of virtually all Marxists, who have put the first two parts of Vol II into obscurity, partially because Part II in particular is clearly an unfinished, partial manuscript that I don’t think Marx was able to really flesh out fully.

    As a first aside, one can already see how absurd Williams’ reference is to the Russian banking sector as an index to imperialism. Even Hilferding referred to finance capital as a *fusion* of banking and industrial capital, so clearly one cannot simply reference a purely money capital sector like banking. This sloppiness is not because Annis or Williams are stupid, but is the result of the exigencies of placing tactics above strategy (Bankostu!), uncritically received perspective above theory.

    Secondly, these large, dynamic combinations of money, productive and commodity capital (nowadays called TNCs) operate in a space that Lenin correctly characterized as one divided between nation-states (and BRIC continent countries). Both TNCs and states enter into competition with one another in a world market absent a global State. The international space itself is stateless. The competition in this stateless space produces the tendency for not only the combination of the circuits of capital, but also for the combination of these capitals and the state. For me, the tendency towards the fusion of state and capital IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF IMPERIALISM. It is also the appearance for the two valuable but theoretically unelaborated concepts in Lenin’s pamphlet, the “era of capitalist decay” and “parasitism”. This latter is closely related to the so-called “privatization”, actually also a process of the fusion of state and capital, in pursuit of, not necessarily monopoly profits, but surplus profits in the form of rents and commercial arbitrage. What a coincidence.

    Finally that gives us: Gazprom. It matters not a whit that this is “state owned”. It is an imperialist state capitalist enterprise. Gazprom can its own banker, its own merchant, its own industrialist, all fused with the Russian state.

    I’ll leave off by stating that it’s no accident that those who rely on Hilferding’s inadequate theory also overlap politically with those who espouse the theoretical importance of “monopoly” in the definition of imperialism. The concept presented here rests instead on the concept of capitalist competition. This is congruent with Marx’s analytical approach in Capital.

    -Matt

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — June 23, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

  16. One of Gazprom’s stock quotes: http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/OGZD:LI

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — June 23, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

  17. You are so damn wrong and stupid on

    Boris Kagarlitsky
    A Quadrille of Monsters
    Translated by Renfrey Clarke
    The events unfolding in Kiev present many people on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border with a very unpleasant dilemma. If we cast aside the sentimental raptures over the latest “revolution” (how many is this now?) in our neighbouring state, along with the paranoia of the Russian protectors who adore any functioning authority and have a panicked fear of any and all change, then the discussion overall boils down to a choice between two evils. On one side is the corrupt, irresponsible administration of Yanukovich, which is becoming more authoritarian by the day. On the other side are the nationalists and ultra-rightists, who are violent and aggressive, no less corrupt, and who in no way resemble democrats according to any understanding of the word. Most of the population, who at first sympathised with the protests, are now trying to keep their distance from the nationalist warriors, not so much from ideological considerations as for the simple reason that keeping company with such people is repellent and not without danger.
    Both sides, as if deliberately, are doing everything they can to alienate the support of people of intelligence and goodwill. It is enough for one side to carry out some stupidity or provocation, and the other immediately finds a way to outdo its rivals in this competition. The destruction by nationalists in Kiev of the monument to Lenin aroused the anger of residents, most of whom feel no sympathy whatever for communists. But it was enough for the pendulum of public sympathies to swing a little in the direction of the authorities for supporters of Yanukovich to introduce into the Supreme Rada a whole packet of anti-democratic legislation, that might have been compiled deliberately to ensure that social forces mistrustful of Independence Square would take part in protest. Meanwhile the opposition, raising a great racket on this score and with the technical ability to frustrate the voting, for some reason undertakes nothing of any seriousness in the parliament. Perhaps this is out of incompetence and irrationality, but it may also be for the reason that it hopes to use the repressive measures against its opponents should there be a change of government.
    Neither the authorities nor the opposition enjoy the support of the majority of the population, and more important, neither side has a program that would give it any prospect of winning this support and of constructing a broad social base. The problem lies not only and not so much in the notorious antipathies of east and west in Ukraine, as in the absence even of any attempts to suggest a socio-economic program aimed at integrating society, improving the conditions of life, reducing unemployment and developing the economy.
    The monsters that are waging a struggle for power in the Ukrainian capital are constantly changing places, like partners in a dance. All of them now have spent time in power, if not on a national then at least on a local level. All of them, including the neofascists from the “Svoboda” party, have managed to be caught embezzling. All of them show an identical determination to defend and maintain the existing socio-economic order, whose crisis is obvious.
    However events now develop, it can be stated that the specifically Ukrainian model of democracy, built on an equilibrium between two oligarchic blocs, is coming to an end. Whichever group wins out in Kiev, it will be able to hold onto power only by establishing a harsh authoritarian regime. In this situation, the question of who should be considered the less and who the greater evil is simplified immensely. The “greater evil” will inevitably be the group that achieves victory. Meanwhile, we shall be able with complete justification to designate the group that goes down to defeat as the “lesser evil”, since unlike the victor, it will not succeed in realising its destructive potential.
    Does this mean that Ukraine’s position is hopeless, and that catastrophe is inevitable? To draw so pessimistic a conclusion would still be somewhat premature. The triumph of either side will guarantee a great calamity, but like the previous experience of Ukrainian politics, the events of the recent period show that the contending groups are capable of simply blocking each other’s path. If neither the authorities nor their opponents manage to prevail unambiguously in the present conflict, the country will be faced with a drawn-out period of instability, perhaps even of political chaos. But this would be better that a decisive victory by one of the groups, which would then impose its dictatorship.
    Under conditions of prolonged instability, the chance will appear for the assembling of new social forces that call for a genuinely radical renewal of the state and social system. It is rather like the well-known joke about the Whites, Reds and “Greens” who fought interminably in the forest, until the forester came and drove all of them out. The question lies in how, and how soon, Ukrainian society will be able to give birth to this “forester”, and what role in this process will be played by the left organisations, which have been happy to stay on the sidelines of the present battle of political monsters.
    Refusing to be drawn into this conflict, however, does not mean abstaining from struggle. Passivity has never been a recipe for success, even though to participate without thinking in the actions of alien social forces remains a guarantee of failure. Forces that aim genuinely at democratic change will organise and act independently, putting forward their own demands. This is already occurring, as for example in the strike by students of the Kiev-Mogilyansky Academy who are demanding the repeal of the anti-anti-democratic Yanukovich laws, but who are not joining with the ultra-rightwing warriors on Independence Square. Perhaps this is only something local and episodic, contrasting with an unpleasant dynamic overall. Still, it provides some hope for the future.
    21/1/2014

    Comment by thomas — June 23, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

  18. Boris Kagarlitsky
    Ukraine: Smashing the Feed-Trough
    Translated by Renfrey Clarke
    The crisis that has arisen in Ukraine, involving a contest between a reactionary government that is becoming more authoritarian by the day and a no less reactionary opposition with openly fascist tendencies, has created something close to intellectual stupor on both sides of the border. The range of views extends from a readiness to take part in protests and demonstrations of any kind – regardless of their aims, purpose, ideology and perspectives – to calls for supporting the existing authorities as a “lesser evil”.
    In Russia these arguments have been superimposed on an inconclusive discussion focused on the lessons of the events of 2011-2012, though the effective results of the movement at that time are perfectly obvious: everything ended in total failure. The only questions are whether the left could have acted differently from the way it did, and how the forces became redistributed on the basis of the outcome of the events (against the backdrop of a general decline of the movement, by no means all its participants finished up losing; some, to the contrary, strengthened their positions).
    But as we know, Ukraine is not Russia. Contrary to the views of the liberal intelligentsia, the distinction is apparent not in any greater love of freedom or special passion on the part of our western neighbours, but in the fact that the ruling class in Ukraine simply has considerably fewer resources at its disposal. This determines the specific model of oligarchic democracy to be found in Kiev; the leading Ukrainian clans, unlike the Russian corporations, are unable to reach agreement and to divide the country up in such a way that everyone has enough and there are no pretexts for open conflict. In Russia it was not Putin’s authoritarian inclinations, but the objective ability of the ruling groups to satisfy all the big players (more or less) that allowed the relative stability of the decade from 2000. The same consideration underlay the sudden outburst of crisis in 2011, when this ability of the authorities was placed in doubt.
    Meanwhile, the difference in the resources available to the ruling classes of the two countries determines the social climate as well. The reason we Russians have tolerated our problems for longer is not because we are less passionate, but because our situation is objectively better. Nevertheless, the rapid exacerbation of the social crisis in 2014 threatens to end this state of affairs, even to the extent that “the dancers change places”. If political crisis and open social protest break out in Russia, everything that has happened on the Squares of Ukraine will look like child’s play.
    Precisely for this reason, the question of the “lessons of Ukraine” is extremely pertinent to the Russian left. The question is not about what our comrades over the western border might or might not be able to do, but about the conclusions for the future that the left organisations of both countries manage to draw from what has occurred.
    In the larger framework, three major positions can be distinguished in the Ukrainian discussion, with more or less distinct political organisations and currents standing behind them. As in Russia the position of the liberal left consists of appealing to the movement to come together, in the Ukrainian case on Independence Square, and “despite the dominance there of the right wing”, to join with the dominant nationalists and fascists in an ideological struggle for hegemony and for “influence over the masses”. This is the kind of declaration we hear from certain members of the “Left Opposition”, whose articles and opinions are published enthusiastically on the Moscow site Open Left.
    Here we see a logical continuation of the line pursued by left liberals in Russia during the protests of 2011 and 2012, only taken to the level of the absurd. In Russia the entire discussion, along with the tactics pursued, was defined by the fact that the left from the outset was an important element in the overall movement. Significant numbers of the demonstrators took their lead from the left, and the latter also enjoyed a definite authority and influence among the mass of protestors. To a substantial degree these opportunities were let slip as a result of the position taken by the leaders of the Left Front, but large numbers of the activists and organisations distanced themselves in good time from this position, getting the Forum of Left Forces to resolve to boycott the Coordinating Council of the opposition. The upshot was that as a result of the crisis of 2011 the ideological weight of the left in Russian society increased; even people who for twenty years had pretended we did not exist were obliged to notice us. But we shall scarcely be able to say the same about the outcome of the current events in Ukraine.
    There is also another fundamental difference. In Russia in 2012 we faced a struggle between leftists and liberals for hegemony over the protests, under conditions in which the nationalists among the protesters were a relatively marginal force. On Independence Square in Kiev the left is forced to contend with nationalists and fascists, who while they do not control everything by any means, nevertheless hold a commanding position. While it is possible to debate with liberals, talking to the ultra-right is pointless, simply because rational discussion on the level of arguments and counter-arguments is quite impossible. The whole structure and culture of the ultra-right movement is founded on a completely different principle; hegemony in these circles does not rest on theoretical or analytical contructs, but on force, to which another such force has to be counterposed.
    In plain terms, cooperation with liberals, however doubtful from an ideological point of view, is a much lesser “sin” than collaboration with the ultra-right. But the question is not one of abstract “sins”. If such a course opened up any prospects at all for the left, it would be possible to discuss even alliances that were quite strange from a theoretical point of view. The point, though, is that no such prospects exist. The left on Independence Square in Kiev is invisible and inaudible. A few leftists, of course, were earlier beaten up and chased off. But at the moment, the left is so insignificant in terms of its presence and influence that no-one even bothers any more to beat up its members. For the most part, the Ukrainian left exists solely within its own imagination. This, of course, does not mean that the left will never again materialise as a political force, but the first condition for this will be that it recognises the actual state of affairs.
    Obviously, the people on Independence Square are not just benighted nationalists and followers of Stepan Bandera. But there is simply no niche there for the left to occupy. Technically and in terms of the situation, no-one apart from nationalists and Banderovists can come out ahead. These are the only people who are finding the “emerging possibilities” suited to their ends. Meanwhile, the alternative to a victory for Independence Square is a dictatorship under Yanukovich; in this case, the position of democracy would be far worse than before the protests began. Finally, the prospect of a “national reconciliation” becomes more real with each day that passes. This would involve either a compromise between the Donetsk thieves and the pogrom-instigators of Lvov (the most likely variant), or else a semi-disintegration of Ukraine, not along east-west lines but according to provinces (not the worst possible variant, and also quite conceivable).
    If the boundaries of the possible are to be expanded, the limitations of the present situation must first of all be recognised. Further, we have to understand our real position. Instead of weighing one policy that is correct in the abstract against another policy variant, also correct in the abstract, we have to observe the strategy and tactics of the particular forces that are present, while also considering the practical circumstances. Articles by many Ukrainian leftists fail to give any thought to this. Worse still, in rehashing these discussions Russian commentators uncritically repeat the same abstractions. It is impossible not to be reminded of Plato’s famous “reflection of the reflection”.
    If organisational, ideological and media bridge-heads have not been created earlier, there is no prospect of changing anything through attempts to involve ourselves in a process that is already under way without our participation. The left was able to play a certain independent role in the Russian protests of 2011 and 2012 because structures, leaders, activists and organisations existed that were known at least in certain circles, and that exercised authority beyond their own narrow domains. If similar bridgeheads have not been created in advance, then it is pure naivety and self-deception to hope that the rightists might be outplayed on Independence Square, that a public fascinated by the struggle between the government and the opposition might be drawn over to the side of the left, and that “leaders who have discredited themselves” will be repulsed.
    Even in such a situation, however, passivity is no solution. It is highly significant that the site of the “Borotba” party reacted to the events unfolding around it by publishing an article by the fashionable Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek entitled “On the false sense of urgency”, and extolling ideological withdrawal from an unsatisfactory world. “In some situations the only genuinely “practical” course is to fight the temptation to undertake action without delay, and instead to “sit and wait”, and to engage in patient critical analysis.” It is amusing that in this case the people who turned to Žižek were not the glamorous leftists from Open Left or the Left Opposition, but their traditional opponents from Borotba. This, of course, is not the main problem.
    Strictly speaking, Žižek’s point of view at least has the right to exist. But things that are possible and allowable for an individual thinker are catastrophic and impossible for an organisation. If the latter merely sits and waits, immersing itself in the subtleties of critical analysis, then the result of its waiting will be that it collapses or turns into a club of armchair intellectuals incapable of practical work. Properly speaking, this is the threat that now hangs over the Borotba party. The analysis of the situation that is to be found on the site Liva, which is close to the party, is unquestionably convincing and well argued, but for the most part it fails to answer the question of “what is to be done”, even on a tactical level.
    There is nothing terrible about remaining in a minority; what is terrible is to remain unnoticed. Disagreement and criticism become facts of our collective existence only if our views become known, if not to a majority then at least to some significant part of society. It is only then that our correctness may in retrospect acquire at least some political meaning. Taking into account the fact that the situation of the left at the moment does not allow of victories, the need is all the greater for us to think and act strategically, to establish bridge-heads for the stage that follows, to conduct struggles on our own terrain that we ourselves have prepared, to find places and opportunities for aggressively propagandising our ideas, to make use of the weaknesses of the authorities in order to compel the ruling groups to address new topics on a local level, and to advance our own demands. This might involve actions proceeding in parallel with Independence Square, struggles around specific social problems, or even direct conflict with the nationalists in order to win a place on the square. This latter route has been taken by a section of the anarchists, whose ideological views are, at a minimum, far less developed and nuanced than those of the Marxists of Borotba. For Russian leftists, following events from a distance, the news of violent clashes between anarchists and fascists in Lvov and Kharkov could only appear as a ray of light in the darkness of the Ukrainian crisis. But here we have to be extremely cautious, avoiding illusions and idealisation.
    The political program of the anarchists is minimal. They have no strategy. Their tactics can be reduced to formulae that are very simple, though it must be recognised, effective: “In the last year we have put particular efforts into developing the striking power of the Kharkov movement. This helped us to hold out on the square in Kharkov during the attacks on our ranks on19 January. After we fought off an attack by the local fascists in full view of most of the participants on the square in Kharkov, the provocations by the rightists ceased. The factor of violence was by no means the only one at work, but it was far from unimportant. My advice to everyone is to take part in sport, preferably martial arts under conditions approximating to those of the streets.”
    This advice is unquestionably valuable, but as a political program it is clearly insufficient. Here one might dream, in the manner of Agafya Tikhonovna in Gogol’s A Wedding, that “the lips of Nikanor Ivanovich might be set against the nose of Ivan Kuzmich…”. On the whole, if the Marxist analysis of the “Borotbists” could be combined with the aggressive tactics of the anarchists… But the reality is that no such combination is occurring, and it cannot come about in mechanical fashion. Only through carrying on work in mass social movements, through the creation of new civil, trade union and other independent organisations, and through the active popularisation and propagandising of this struggle can political bridgeheads for the left be created, along with opportunities for the integration (and mutual re-education) of various political currents.
    This means, however, that the left cannot be idle, and cannot simply bustle about on Independence Square (or around it), but has to make use of the temporary weakening of state control and of the vacuum of power that is now emerging in order to establish its own autonomous spaces. On the basis of these, it will be possible to enter into a new, “post-square” stage of political life.
    Both in Ukraine and in Russia, oligarchic groups are now engaged in the struggle for a place at the feed-trough. Meanwhile the historic task on which the development and even the simple survival of our countries depends can be summed up as smashing this very feed-trough. Sooner or later this task will be recognised, if not by the majority of the population, then at least by a large proportion of it. Then the left will get its next chance. The main thing is to make certain that this chance is not let slip in as clumsy a fashion as all the previous ones.
    3 February 2014

    Comment by thomas — June 23, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

  19. slightly off-topic, but highly mind strengthening:

    http://mg.co.za/article/2014-06-23-mathunjwa-pats-self-on-back-after-amcu-strike-ends

    Amcu’s leader has used the congratulatory speech of the historic strike to take swipes at the union’s defectors and the new mines minister.

    “The world called you uneducated,” he said, addressing the workers. “But you taught the entire world a lesson.”

    Comment by thomas — June 23, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

  20. “These people follow the same ‘analysis’ as Williams and Annis, namely to turn finance capital into a sine qua non: ‘And this is certainly not the dominance of finance capital, the cornerstone of Lenin’s analysis of imperialism.’ As I pointed out in my article, this would require us to deem Japan in 1941 as a non-imperialist country. Ridiculous.”

    Louis, I asked you to take on a serious piece, in a serious way. That would require reading through the entire thing.

    They point out the requirement for financial capital to take precedence because Lenin did and they are Leninists; but that aside there’s much more.

    1. In bourgeois AND Leninist ideas of imperialism there is usually resource extraction through unequal deals. Japan during WW2 would fall under that. But in this case Ukraine has no real resources to speak of while Russia has an abundance of almost every one in existence, much of which is exported. Ukraine is largely industrial and exports finished iron, steel and weapons to Russia. Russia sells natural gas to Ukraine for a much lower price than it charges rich countries like Germany. Where’s the “super exploitation” or uneven relationship?

    2. Lenin characterized imperialist countries as having an excess of capital that they needed to invest in other countries. More capital flows into Russia than out of it. Chile invests more internationally than Russia does. Would any Leninist say Chile is imperialist?

    3. The US and Britain are much bigger investors in Russia’s neighbors in Central Asia and the Caucuses than Russia is. Central Asia houses several US military bases but not a single Russian one.

    4. You say that Lenin did not mean to characterize individual countries with his book “Imperialism” but in fact that’s exactly what he did in its pages. He specifically characterized a number of countries, calling Argentina “almost a British commercial colony” and Portugal “a British protectorate”. He also went on to characterize “intermediate countries” and so on.

    5. Crimea was historically a part of Russia and Russia was recently able to take control of it without armed force of any kind because of mass local support by a population that in its vast majority (95%) speaks Russian.

    6. Ukraine was hit hard under Stalin but then became a net beneficiary while the USSR was led by one Ukrainian after another. By 1991 living standards were higher in Ukraine than they were in Russia.

    Since you’ve hailed Lenin as a great thinker here, I’d like to see you contrast your views with these facts and Lenin’s arguments in “imperialism.”

    Now, if you are taking on the long held position of Left Communists, Rosa Luxemburg, et. al. that imperialism is a phase of the global capitalist system that involves every country, so that each and every country is imperialist (limited only by its military, economic and political potential) I will applaud you and welcome you into our ranks.

    Comment by Steve D. — June 24, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

  21. Since you’ve hailed Lenin as a great thinker here, I’d like to see you contrast your views with these facts and Lenin’s arguments in “imperialism.”

    You are obviously not a careful reader since I have written an article titled “Goodbye Lenin” that urges the left *not* to try to conform to Lenin’s writings that were meant for a specific time and place. Furthermore, I really lack the incentive to answer your points one by one since it would take too much digging and thus time taken away from more pressing items. But with respect to “By 1991 living standards were higher in Ukraine than they were in Russia”, I will only say that the Orange Revolution was symptomatic of a mass rejection of Russian domination. It is most interesting that Boris Kagarlitsky would speak against “colored revolutions” in a conference organized by the FPO in Austria.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 24, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

  22. I understand that you’re a busy guy and you rightfully reject a dogmatic application of Lenin’s works to the present.

    So how about this, just tell us what definition of “imperialism” you are working with when you brand Russia as such. I’d be interested to know it anyway. It would be helpful when reading future entries.

    And if you have time to answer even one of the points, how about #1? Russia exports natural resources TO Ukraine at preferential rates and imports finished goods FROM Ukraine.

    I’m not sure about the Orange Revolution. It’s not my area of expertise and I honestly haven’t studied it much. I do know however that at the present more than half of the population of Ukraine uses Russian for its daily language today and that the original Ukrainian language is only dominant in the Western part of the country. It’s also a fact that the Russian economy is doing much better than the Ukrainian and workers there get higher pensions, which seems to me to be a pragmatic reason that many may be interested in joining the latter (outside of the language issue).

    Comment by Steve D. — June 24, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  23. Okay, a few of Steve D. s points: “5. Crimea was historically a part of Russia and Russia was recently able to take control of it without armed force of any kind because of mass local support by a population that in its vast majority (95%) speaks Russian.” Not quite, actually. There was considerable Russian armed force on the Crimea. The fact that this force did not actually shoot, did not actually hasd to use its force openly in war operations, is not at all the same as sating that armed force was not used in actual fighting. And yes, a large part of the population sup[p[orted the anexation. A large part of the Austrian population supported Nazi Germany ‘s Anschluss ( about 100 percent of Austrians were German-speaking, if I am informed correctly…) Does this mean that Nazi Germany didn’t act as an imperialist power? By the way, did Nazi Germany export much capital to its colonies in the East (Russia, Poland, Ukraine…)?

    6: “while the USSR was led by one Ukrainian after another.” Which ones? I checked. We have Khrushev, on whom Wikipedia informs us: “His parents, Sergei Khrushchev and Ksenia Khrushcheva, were poor peasants of Russian[3][4] origin” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev
    We have Brezhnev, abouw whom Wikipedia says ” Brezhnev’s ethnicity was specified as Ukrainian in some documents,[1][2] including his passport,[3] and Russian in others” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Brezhnev Then we got Andropov. Wikipedia: “Andropov was born in Nagutskaya, Stavropol Region, Russian Empire, on 15 June 1914.[1][2] He was the son of a railway official, Vladimir Konstantinovich Andropov, who was of a Don Cossack family[3][4] and Yevgenia Karlovna Fleckenstein, the adopted daughter of a Moscow watchmaker, Karl Franzovich Fleckenstein, who was originally from Finland.[5]” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Andropov Okay, Chernenko: “Chernenko was born to a poor family in the village of Bolshaya Tes (now in Novosyolovsky District, Krasnoyarsk Krai) on 24 September 1911.[2] His father, Ustin Demidovich (of Ukrainian origin),[citation needed] worked in copper and gold mines while his mother took care of the farm work.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstantin_Chernenko Bingo! At long last, a clear Ukranian connection! Gorbachev, then? “Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai into a peasant Ukrainian–Russian family.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Gorbachev Another one, though mixed. This is not “one Ukranian after another. This is Russian after Russian some with one Ukrainian parent, the most clearly in the case of poor old Chernenko whose main job was: living long enough so that the Politburo could decide on a successor. Steve D. should be a bit more precise with his facts.

    Comment by Peter Storm — June 25, 2014 @ 3:15 am

  24. And I should be more precise with my language and formulations… “The fact that this force did not actually shoot, did not actually hasd to use its force openly in war operations, is not at all the same as sating that armed force was not used in actual fighting.” This should read: “The fact that this force did not actually shoot, did not actually hasd to use its force openly in war operations, is not at all the same as stating that armed force was not used in actual fighting.”should read: “The fact that this force did not actually shoot, did not actually had to use its force openly in war operations, is not at all the same as stating that armed force was not used at all.”. Apologies.

    Comment by Peter Storm — June 25, 2014 @ 3:21 am

  25. Those aren’t my arguments Peter. They come from the Leninist article I linked to in a previous post.

    I believe that all countries are imperialist, ie. that capitalism long ago entered an imperialist phase.

    Comment by Steve D. — June 25, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

  26. Mr Roger Annis is very clever, indeed when on his blog re Ukraine he makes sure that no comments are possible. Obviously he received a very thorough training by his paymasters in Kremlin. To all those who wants to know how the Russians behave in the situations like shooting MH17 I suggest to read about their behavior after shooting down KAL007 in 1983. First it was complete denial for a week, then when confronted with undeniable intelligence data alleging that it was “a spy-plane masked as a civilian aircraft on a mission”, then telling the world that they provide every possible assistance to US/Japan search efforts whilst simulating search because they have already found KAL007 and removed black box recordings and trawled the sea to destroy all evidence. All this has been confirmed by the information released by Russians ten years later, containing memos of KGB chief to Andropov, black boxes recordings, etc. What is happening now is quite the same – deliberate Russian misinformation. After having lived over 30 years in an Eastern Europe communist country I can witness that the Russian misinformation and propaganda machine does not have anything parallel or even coming close in the whole world. After all Russians were able to brain wash their people about “rotten capitalism”, “workers dying from hunger on the streets of Western cities” and “successes of communist economies” since 1917 for almost 100 years and that alone speaks volumes!
    I suggest to Mr Annis to live up to his convictions and vote with his feet. It is not fair for him to enjoy the comforts of imperialist Western world whilst attacking it. He should buy one way ticket to Moscow and stay there forever, enjoying his living in the non-imperialist country (sic). I will be the first to wish him all the best there.

    Comment by Richard Waluk — July 20, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  27. R. Waluk you’re a fool. The USSR in 1983 and Putin’s Russia are state’s resting on completely different social foundations. All they have in common is a huge bureaucracy which naturally have a certain symmetry.

    I guessing you’re a Libertarian minded fellow so you might want to look into Iran Air Flight 655 if you want to study murderous thugs:who brazenly lie & stall:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/when-the-u-s-navy-shot-down-a-civilian-airliner-2/

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 21, 2014 @ 2:22 am

  28. 1) Those who argue that the BRICS should be supported believe that the economic and political development of BRICS nations will ultimately undermine the U.S., and as a result will undermine imperialism. This is completely erroneous. Did the displacement of the British imperialism by that of the U.S. undermine imperialism? Not at all. The leading imperialist nation-state can change without that change in the least bit undermining imperialism as a world system. In fact, historians can probably make a much stronger case that with each succession, imperialism as a system evolved to a higher stage.

    By contrast, during his lifetime, Lenin *never* proposed that, for example, the U.S. should be supported so as to undermine the British imperialism. He supported fighting against ALL imperialists. Including Russia, which Lenin (again, during his lifetime) designated as imperialist; also this is why Lenin explicitly supported the right of self-determination for Ukraine (from Russian domination).

    2) How is it that Lenin, even *after* writing the ‘Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ pamphlet, considered Russia an imperialist country a hundred years ago, and some Marxists are arguing Russia is not an imperialist country now?!!

    3) Just for one example of imperialist behavior toward less powerful nations: Russia, starting in early 1800s, tried and subjected Iran, formalizing her dominant relation with Iran in successive wars and treaties that followed: Treaty of Gulistan (1813), Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) and Treaty of Akhal (1881). These treaties included exclusively economic/trade provisions that forced Iran into agreeing to not interfere with any Russian businessman who chose to set up shop in any part of Iran. Meaning, through the use of military force, Russia was able to gain asymmetrical economic benefits it otherwise would not have had. *That* is imperialism’s core characteristic, not finance capital alone.

    4) Finance capital alone cannot guarantee imperialist gains. In order to achieve its goals imperialism frequently has to employ ‘extra-economic’ means (for example, unfair trade agreements gained through political and diplomatic means, or through military means). Case in point, Iraq. Iraq was brought to its knees not by financial instruments, but by brute force of a military attack, after which economic benefits were secured.

    Marxists who think that purely ‘economic’ features are the key determinants of imperialism forget that for Marx capital accumulation was a POLITICAL-economic reality, not just purely economic. Such Marxists also ignore the importance placed on ‘extra-economic’ means by which ‘primitive accumulation’ was achieved during the transition from feudalism to capitalism (see Part Eight of Capital, Vol. 1).

    Comment by Reza F. — December 6, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

  29. Just to add a couple of additional points:

    5) Marxists who believe economic criteria alone, and not a relationship of dominance, determine the imperialist nature of a state formation claim that imperialism requires the imperialist country to have excess capital that it needs to export. Well Russia does that to Iran. Russia has huge investments in Iran, the most famous of which is the nuclear reactor they have built and the nuclear reactors they have been contracted to build in the future. Getting the contract to build nuclear reactors is akin to having the sole ticket to the lone entry allowed to an absolute monopoly market.

    Also, Russia is a great beneficiary in the nuclear deal in other ways. They will now have a semi-monopoly over a good portion of the enrichment of the uranium to be shipped to Iran under the terms of the current deal on the table.

    In short, Russia has been extorting the Iranian regime in different ways for a good while.

    The real problem is that when I raise these points, Russia’s western Marxist supporters (who consider Russia as their rescuer) think Iran’s political and economic deals with Russia amount to just bilateral deals between two countries as two equals. They dismiss as irrelevant the 200-year-old relationship of one-sided dominance between them (except maybe during the Soviet period, some could argue). This is a huge departure from historical materialism.

    Imperialist countries stick it to whomever they can, and not to everybody equally, and definitely not able to stick it to everybody all at once and at all times. Not even the US gets its way all the time; unless, of course, you live in the world of Global Research. There is always agency on the other side, and there is always more than one other side.

    Comment by Reza F. — December 6, 2014 @ 11:54 pm

  30. I can’t be “sure” whether or not Russia is imperialist based on a bunch of criteria, but here’s a reasonably coherent study of why it should be considered imperialist, with plenty of Lenin in it: http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/

    Comment by mkaradjis — December 7, 2014 @ 11:40 am

  31. Former Stalinist leftist Louis Proyect pays his homage to Wall Street as do many more on this thread. We do not have to believe Putin is anything other than a corrupt bourgeois nationalists and likewise so are many of the leaders of the Donbass. Nevertheless the main enemy of all humanity and US finance capital and its NATO allies, however reluctant they are they have no choice but to accept the diktats of the global hegemon.
    Of course neither Russia not China are imperialist powers, Annis is fundamentally correct in that, they cannot bring states to their knees like the IMF and World bank has done, particularly since 1973 and increasing so since the collapse of the USSR in 1990. And Russia itself is now being brought to its knees by the US with the assistance of the Saudis. Proyect grovels to his own ruling class, as several other do here.
    And of course uncritical support for Russia, China and the BRICS is wrong; a revolutionary perspective is needed defend the working class and their militant representatives, fight for the world revolution, the vision that rocked the planet in 1917.
    And learn from the tactics of the United Front and the Anti Imperialist United Front of the revolutionary Comintern (up to its Fourth Congress in 1922). The United Front said “with the TU bureaucracy when they fight the capitalists strike against them independently when the sell out.
    Similarly with every anti-imperialist struggle, left by Ataturk, Gaddafi, Assad or the Donbass, with them when they are fighting the main enemy, US/EU Nato, but mobilising the working class independently against they when they sell out. So we are politically conscious enough not to make the Comintern mistake that led to the Shanghai Massacre of 1927. Or we might look at the same method in operation on the Donbass today in demanding the release of the Borotba Four:

    http://socialistfight.com/2014/12/29/brokering-a-sell-out-to-kiev-donde-esta-borotba-release-the-borotba-four/

    Comment by socialistfight — December 31, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

  32. Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    Former Stalinist leftist Louis Proyect pays his homage to Wall Street as do many more on this thread. We do not have to believe Putin is anything other than a corrupt bourgeois nationalists and likewise so are many of the leaders of the Donbass. Nevertheless the main enemy of all humanity and US finance capital and its NATO allies, however reluctant they are they have no choice but to accept the diktats of the global hegemon.
    Of course neither Russia not China are imperialist powers, Annis is fundamentally correct in that, they cannot bring states to their knees like the IMF and World bank has done, particularly since 1973 and increasing so since the collapse of the USSR in 1990. And Russia itself is now being brought to its knees by the US with the assistance of the Saudis. Proyect grovels to his own ruling class, as several other do here.
    And of course uncritical support for Russia, China and the BRICS is wrong; a revolutionary perspective is needed defend the working class and their militant representatives, fight for the world revolution, the vision that rocked the planet in 1917.
    And learn from the tactics of the United Front and the Anti Imperialist United Front of the revolutionary Comintern (up to its Fourth Congress in 1922). The United Front said “with the TU bureaucracy when they fight the capitalists strike against them independently when the sell out.
    Similarly with every anti-imperialist struggle, left by Ataturk, Gaddafi, Assad or the Donbass, with them when they are fighting the main enemy, US/EU Nato, but mobilising the working class independently against they when they sell out. So we are politically conscious enough not to make the Comintern mistake that led to the Shanghai Massacre of 1927. Or we might look at the same method in operation on the Donbass today in demanding the release of the Borotba Four:

    http://socialistfight.com/2014/12/29/brokering-a-sell-out-to-kiev-donde-esta-borotba-release-the-borotba-four/

    Comment by socialistfight — December 31, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

  33. Part of the problem with this analysis is that it focuses on imperialist rather than imperialism. Lenin’s 1914 pamphlet is a guide to understanding a system, not a handbook on classifying countries.

    Lenin certainly thought countries were “classifiable.” The “division of nations into oppressor and oppressed … forms the essence of imperialism” (“The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”).

    Comment by Stephen Diamond — February 6, 2017 @ 5:12 am


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