Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 27, 2014

Russian Imperialism Today

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 2:28 pm

Ukraine solidarity campaign солідарність України кампанія

by Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski

Sergey Nikolsky, a Russian philosopher of culture, says that perhaps the most important idea for Russians “from the fall of Byzantium until today is the idea of empire and the fact that they are an imperial nation. We have always known that we live in a country whose history is an unbroken chain of territorial expansion, conquest, annexation, of their defence, of temporary losses and new conquests. The idea of empire was one of the most precious in our ideological baggage and it is this that we proclaim to other nations. It is through it that we surprise, delight or drive mad the rest of the world.”

The first and most important characteristic of the Russian empire, says Nikolski, has always been “the maximization of territorial expansion for the realization of economic and political interests, as one of the most important principles of state policy” [1

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16 Comments »

  1. Sorry but that’s tragic mess of an article driven by hysterical russophobia

    Comment by I.G.I. — November 27, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

  2. Why do trolls even bother? If it is a “tragic mess”, why don’t you explain why? Why don’t you take the crayons out of your mouth, turn off your Playstation, and give it a shot.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 27, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

  3. Bullshit. who gives a shit if the leaders of Russia have imperial ambitions. Russia has about as much imperialistic capability as Turkey did in 1850.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 27, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  4. Tell that to the Armenians. And later on to the Chechens.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 27, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

  5. “Or take the Ukraine. At the beginning of the century, before the tomfoolery of ‘Ukrainian nationalism’ with its silver rubles and its ‘Universals’ and Lenin’s hobby of an ‘independent Ukraine’ had been invented, the Ukraine was the stronghold of the Russian revolutionary movement. From there, from Rostov, from Odessa, from the Donetz region, flowed out the first lava streams of the revolution (as early is 1902-1904), which kindled all South Russia into a sea of flame, thereby preparing the uprising of 1905.” – Red Rosa

    Comment by Don T — November 27, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

  6. The writer concludes: “A year ago, the massive uprising of Ukrainians on the Maidan in Kiev, crowned by the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime, was an attempt by Ukraine to finally break the colonial relationship historically binding it to Russia. We cannot understand the present crisis in Ukraine – the annexation of the Crimea, the separatist rebellion in the Donbass and the Russian aggression against Ukraine – if we do not understand that Russia is still and always an imperialist power.” The omission of the role of NATO and its fascist clients in these events seems an almost fatal defect. We cannot understand anything if we don’t understand that the U.S. is the dominant and most aggressive imperialist power in the world today. In particular, we in the West!

    Comment by dkeil — November 27, 2014 @ 6:31 pm

  7. “As Trotsky noted, “Russia paid in this way for her right to be an ally of advanced countries, to import capital and pay interest on it – that is, essentially, for her right to be a privileged colony of her allies – but at the same time for her right to oppress and rob Turkey, Persia, Galicia, and in general the countries weaker and more backward than herself. The twofold imperialism of the Russian bourgeoisie had basically the character of an agency for other mightier world powers” [7].”

    As it continues to do today. This is the paradoxical nature of the conflict over the Ukraine, The Russian Republic remains an agency for the capitalists of the “other mightier world powers” even as it fights with them over the division of the spoils.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 27, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

  8. Wow, such great imperial ambitions. I bet in Texas there are counties bigger than Armenia and townships bigger than Chechenia. Russia is ruled by genuine psychopaths. Big deal. How many countries are there that are not ruled by genuine psychopaths? One, two, or three?
    I think that it is really kind of silly for Americans to spend any time at all thinking about let alone worrying about Russian imperialism.
    As Americans it is not our job to support any one political movement, or party, in the Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Libya, Burma or Thailand.
    It is our job to support political change in the USA.
    When I was around 12 or 13, in the early 1970s, I learned that blacks in the US were 4 times more likely to be in prison than whites. I also read that blacks were 4 times more likely to be poor than whites so a 13 year old could make an inference that there is a correlation between poverty and criminal behavior.
    Over the next 40 some years I figured that nothing had changed. Yet even this pessimistic assessment was wrong. It seems that on one hand based on what I have recently read that no blacks are now “only” 3 times more like to be poor than whites but are 6 and a half times more likely to be in prison than whites. Based on what I have read the huge increase in the number of people in prison since 1980 has been fueled largely by people convicted for drug offenses. It seems that the rate of violent crime has been going down for quite some time. Of course some people would draw the conclusion that putting lots of people in prison is the reason that violent crime has been going down, Yet another very easy possible explanation for this drop in crime is the falling birth rate has led to fewer young MEN. I recently read that by the age of 23 one half on black MEN have been arrested and one quarter of white men have also been arrested. The arrest rate for young black men is appalling. But the arrest rate for young white MEN is hardly something not to be outraged by.
    If these figures do not convince an American that American society is so incompetent that it should be immediately occupied by a foreign nation for the good of its own people it would be because an incompetent person is not in a position to understand that they need to be institutionalized.
    Obviously these figures for arrest rates do not explain in and of themselves what exactly the problem is. I am left to wonder why have the same policies that are clearly not working continued year after year. Is it because in the mind of some people the policies are working exactly the way that they are designed? People with that mindset would clearly have to be implicit members of the KKK.
    The rate of imprisonment in the USA is now so high I have to wonder if it exceeds that rate of Nazi Germany in 1933. If the leaders of the US criminal justice system were not psychopaths themselves they should have staged their own riot to demand a change of course. If they had thought the cause or even a cause of this this disgraceful rate of imprisonment they should have demanded more social workers or else.
    If they had thought that some other systematic problem was the cause they should have demanded that this problem be addressed. That the policy of our country is just to keep building more prisons and adding more police officers has been a policy of achieving failure by expecting and programming failure. It is evidence that the Confederacy has taken control of the Union. Under such conditions it is silly to worry about what is going on in Asia.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 27, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

  9. place the w where it goes or take the no away.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 27, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  10. the cause that I meant was bad parenting. I meant to mention that one because I have seen that one often mentioned by conservatives and I agree with conservatives that this is something that should be examined. I also realize that after the age of 5 the influence of parents in a persons development goes down year by year and other factors outside the family increase year by year.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 27, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

  11. I bet in Texas there are counties bigger than Armenia and townships bigger than Chechenia.

    Yeah, who cares if the Armenians were exterminated. You have to teach uppity people like them and the Cherokees to mind their p’s and q’s.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 27, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

  12. The Finns were almost exterminated by the Turks not the Russians. Furthermore if leftist or libertarians for that matter ruled the USA the military would be small to non existent and there would not be any military bases overseas so if the Russians wanted to exterminate the Finns there would not be anything American leftists could do about it anyways other than ask the Russians nicely not to exterminate the Finns and give any Finns who manage to escape political asylum. And if the people who currently run the USA were in power during a time that the Russians decided that they wanted to exterminate the the Finns the current rulers of the USA would use it as an opportunity to do nothing for the Finns but to do a lot to put a lot more money in their pockets.
    Americans have to learn that the world will be just fine without them and if it is not we are not responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world if we REALLY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for everything that goes wrong in the world. Which would be the case if we were not an empire on which the sun never sets.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 27, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

  13. Kowalewski wrote:

    “A year ago, the massive uprising of Ukrainians on the Maidan in Kiev, crowned by the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime, was an attempt by Ukraine to finally break the colonial relationship historically binding it to Russia.”

    And here I thought it was about Ukrainian workers trying to kick out one rich vermin who was bleeding them dry.

    Comment by Todd — November 28, 2014 @ 1:00 am

  14. Too few commentators on Russia and the Ukraine crisis point to the profoundly ingrained imperialism and racial/ethnic suprematism of the Great Russians historically. The Russian Federation is as big as it is precisely because it is an empire, Q.E.D.

    Good to read this, and Richard Estes’ interesting comment on the subject.

    But people claiming to be on the left who can idealize the fascist Putin as they once idealized the monstrous Kaddafi are not likely, ever, to yield to rationality in political discourse.

    Why think clearly when you can just look for the black hats of “NATO and her fascist allies” and cry out against them? I mean, if your guy is a fascist, mine can’t be–right?

    Comment by Pete Glosser — December 1, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

  15. Kowalewski ignores Lenin’s definition of modern Imperialism as the stage of capitalism characterised by the fusion of finance capital and the state. (TTIP anyone?)

    Instead he uses a completely arbitrary sociological definition, which can’t even distinguish ancient Rome from the modern USA! This is typical abstract bourgeois academicism and completely useless in politics.

    As is shown by Kowalewski’s description of WW2:-

    “During World War II, the participation of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the struggle for a new division of the world was an extension of domestic imperialist policy.”

    This was pretty much how the petit bourgeois opposition in the Fourth International, led by Max Schachtman and James Burnham characterised the war.
    Kowaleski stands in their tradition, not that of Trotsky.
    Like them, completely fails to explain what actually happened in WW2.
    But it’s even worse than that.
    Whereas Schachtman and Burnham made a false prediction, Kowalewski makes a false
    *post-diction*!

    The practical consequences of these differences became more serious as World War 2 progressed and they are still important today.

    Trotsky called for an “Independent Soviet Ukraine”, at the time of Stalin’s pact with Hitler.
    Even if this did not resonate amongst a significant layer of the Ukrainian working class, it was a valid slogan to raise at the time.
    Trotsky saw removal of the Stalinist clique in the USSR as a *precondition* for effectively fighting the Nazi aggression that was overtaking Europe.
    But he also continued to defend the Soviet Union against imperialism, because the gains of the Russian revolution had not been overthrown.
    In case Kowalewski has forgotten it, Trotsky’s critique of the Stalinists centred around their theory of “Socialism in one country”, not their mythical plans to conquer the world!

    The huge initial defeats suffered by the Red Army in 1941 not only showed that there could be no “Socialism in one Country” (as the Stalinists argued);
    No convergence between capitalism in crisis and the USSR (as the Schachtmaites argued);
    It also vindicated the Opposition’s critique of Stalinist military policy before the war.

    If Trotksy had followed the advice of the Schachtmanites and their latter-day descendants, he might have opposed the modernisation of the Red Army.
    After all, according to Kowalewski, it was merely an instrument for a new “imperialist division of the world”.
    Of course, that isn’t what the Left Opposition argued.

    They backed those in the Red Army, like Marshall Tukhachevksy, who were calling for a modern tank force to replace Stalin the outdated cavalry forces defended by Stalin and his crony Budyenny.
    Their critique was borne out by the disaster the Red Army suffered in the Ukraine in 1941.

    After Trotsky’s death, instead of following his policies, the 3rd camp deepened their mistakes.
    They published articles suggesting that Ukrainian nationalists and collaborators were involved in an “anti-bureaucratic revolution” against Stalinism, rather than being collaborators with Nazism.
    The complete superficiality of Kowalewski’s description becomes even more apparent when he says:
    “The crisis of the Soviet bureaucratic regime and of Russian imperialism was so great that to everyone’s surprise the USSR collapsed in 1991, not only without a world war, but even without a civil war”

    In other words, a whole system of imperialism collapsed by “surprise”!
    Kowalewski has absolutely no explanation for this.
    He doesn’t even follow the analysis offered by Ernest Mandel, who used the collapse of the bureaucracy as evidence that it wasn’t a class with deep social roots, merely a thin bureaucratic layer, parasitical on a socially-owned planned economy.

    So, according to Kowalewski, you can have an imperialist system divorced from any definite means of production and devoid of a stable ruling class. Yet this system has allegedly existed from at least 1263 until the present and existed even after the Bolshevik revolution!

    With this superficial analysis, it’s not surprising that our “Le Monde” corresondent gets the modern-day political situation in Ukriaine so completely wrong .

    Comment by prianikoff — December 8, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  16. Well whenever there’s a discussion about Russia either now or during the cold war Soviet era it makes me think of “plum island” the compound documentation of medical experiments conducted here in the U.S. to weaponize a bacteria and use it as germ warfare against the Soviets. My significant other says it’s propaganga I say READ IT it’s truth their experiment backfired and now I myself have Lyme Disease. My thanks to our pro-bullshit promoting estanlishment no different than Dr. Mengele have gall to criticize other goverments please spare me!

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — December 9, 2014 @ 9:30 pm


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