12/06/2014 by socialistfight
We need to tackle the ideological justification advanced by both the pro Imperialist side and the fence-sitting third campist “neither Moscow nor the US/EU/Nato but the international working class” side; that both Russia and China are Imperialist states (“Eastern Imperialism”). Therefore any conflict between either or both of them and US-dominated global Imperialism (“Western Imperialism”) is a conflict between rival Imperialist powers and therefore revolutionary socialists should support neither in that war. We should advocate revolutionary defeatism for ourselves and for the Russian/Chinese working class, i.e. they should seek the defeat of their own bourgeoisie in order to combat the imperialist chauvinism that sweeps the masses in wartime via its main conduit in modern times, the Labour and trade union bureaucracy. We content that this is fundamentally wrong, that neither Russia nor China are Imperialist powers in the Marxist sense and that therefore in any conflict between Imperialism and these states it is necessary to form an Anti Imperialist United Front with them either singly or together if both are simultaneously attacked.
The balance of forces internationally is nothing like in the periods before WWI or WWII when roughly equal Imperialist power blocs faced each other; now the economic and military power is overwhelmingly on the side of US Imperialism and its NATO allies.
Now we say that in this conflict today in the Ukraine revolutionary defeatism is equal to national chauvinism in western imperialist countries because neither Russia or China are Imperialist countries. We caution newer comrades against bandying about the term “Imperialism” as groups like the AWL does in imitation to how it is used in the bourgeois mass media. In Marxist terms “Imperialism” has a precise meaning and this is the rule of finance capital. We take this quote from Trotsky in 1939, when the old semi-feudal empires of pre-WWI were in the dustbin of history, to make that point:
History has known the “imperialism” of the Roman state based on slave labor, the imperialism of feudal land-ownership, the imperialism of commercial and industrial capital, the imperialism of the Czarist monarchy, etc. The driving force behind the Moscow bureaucracy is indubitably the tendency to expand its power, its prestige, its revenues. This is the element of “imperialism” in the widest sense of the word which was a property in the past of all monarchies, oligarchies, ruling castes, medieval estates and classes. However, in contemporary literature, at least Marxist literature, imperialism is understood to mean the expansionist policy of finance capital which has a very sharply defined economic content. To employ the term “imperialism” for the foreign policy of the Kremlin – without elucidating exactly what this signifies – means simply to identify the policy of the Bonapartist bureaucracy with the policy of monopolistic capitalism on the basis that both one and the other utilize military force for expansion. Such identification, capable of sowing only confusion, is much more proper to petty-bourgeois democrats than to Marxists (our emphasis).
Michael Pröbsting’s damn lies and statistics
But what about economically? Michael Pröbsting of the Austrian-based RCIT has produced a big pamphlet to prove, on behalf of the whole third campist crew, how wrong we in Socialist Fight and the LCFI are and that both are imperialist. He even calls his work, Russia as a Great Imperialist Power, with a front cover cartoon of Uncle Sam facing a very angry Russian bear which is clearly just about to rip his head off. We would suggest that this is an illegitimate use of imperialist propaganda in a self-proclaimed Marxist magazine.
The work is replete with extensive charts and tables to statistically prove his point that Russia and China are the new rising Imperialist powers about to dominate the planet and the USA is the declining power, soon about to be eclipsed by these bear-like and yellow menaces, which are our own and everybody’s enemies and the real danger. Much of the work proves only that these are unequal societies, as were the former deformed and degenerated workers’ states, though not anything like as unequal as their successor capitalist states are now. But even the more relevant statistics and charts are one sided and very misleading (damn lies and statistics) as to the real economic relationships between Russia and China and global imperialism and who poses the military dangers.
In sum, in less than two decades a number of Russian monopolies have been formed which exert a total grip on the country’s economy. Russia’s capitalism is probably more monopolized than most other imperialist economies. As we will see below in more detail, these monopolies are involved in all forms of businesses – starting with oil and gas extraction, metal mining and manufacturing, and up to finance. Lenin’s definition of an imperialist power is obviously applicable when it comes to Russia’s monopoly capital.
But we must ask who owns these “Russian monopolies”? The energy giant Gazprom is just over 50% state owned but most of the rest of the shares are in the hands of foreign capital. And most of the rest of the major “monopolies” in Russia and China which are listed as “state owned” are considerably less than 50% state owned, 25% being typical and as low as 13% in some cases. Of course western imperialists complain bitterly that this is grossly unfair, that they should be allowed free access to all shares and not just to the “B” shares that are freely floated. And Pröbsting can point to foreign direct investment (FDI) inward and outward and the “round tripping” of oligarch’s funds to Cyprus etc so they can reinvest them in Russia tax free but always he avoids the entire global picture in his eagerness to make his imperialist point.
For instance China and Japan are by far the two largest holders of US government stocks and bonds, which they are obliged to buy to offload their dollar surpluses and keep open the US consumer market, by far the largest in the world. But these stocks and bonds only pay between 1% to 2% interest whereas the FDI of the US in Russia and China yields over 20% interest. And the dollar as the trading currency for not only oil but most other commodities in the planet gives the US a huge advantage; some would say the most important of all its holds over the global markets. The continued threat to this global monopoly can be reasonably designated as the prime cause for the war against Iraq in 2003, against Libya in 2011 and against Ukraine in 2014. If the US loses this immense advantage their empire’s days are indeed numbered.
Combined with that are the successive bouts of Quantative Easing, i.e. devaluating the dollar which reduces the value of the dollar holdings of these two countries in particular, but also Japan, the Gulf States, Brazil and others. And there is the question of the gold holdings. It is rumoured that the US looted Libya’s gold reserves at the end of the war in 2011, it has not returned to Germany its gold bullion as Merkel requested in the end of 2012 and it has just looted the entire gold reserve of the Ukraine on 7 March 2014, some $1.8 billion worth. By these mechanisms the whole world is forced to subsidise the US economy.
A large portion of that subsidy from unwilling foreign trading partners goes on the US military which in turn is used to menace and/or invade any country that seriously threatens that monopoly. US military spending is kept high by the powerful military industrial complex (MIC) which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of in 1961:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
The MIC is now far more powerful than they were in 1961 and every US Senator and almost all Representatives are in the pay of the MIC lobby, which needs constant wars to keep profits and shareholders’ dividends high and their employees in work, as Eric Zuesse noted above.
Today the Russian state-capitalist sector is crucial for the economy. It plays a decisive role among many Russian monopolies. For example, the state has retained Golden Shares in 181 firms. 15 State-backed companies account for 62% of Russia’s stock market.
But according the Russia beyond the Headlines:
Foreign investors continue to have a decisive influence over the Russian stock market. According to Sberbank KIB analysts, they own about 70 percent of free floating Russian shares. But Russian investors are still wary of the stock market after the 2008-2009 crash.
One third of investors active in Russia are U.S. funds; another third are funds from continental Europe; and the remaining third are U.K. funds. The biggest foreign investor (more than $5 billion) has turned out to be the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, followed by Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund (about $4.7 billion) and the Oppenheimer fund (with slightly less than $3 billion invested in Russian stocks).
This makes quite clear that far from being Imperialist powers both Russia and China are no more than semi-colonial countries, albeit very large and advanced ones. They are not linked to the global web of US Imperialism in the same way as minor imperialisms like Holland and Belgium or allied to it in a more equal though still subordinate way like Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain and Canada. No, they are in the upper level of semi-colonial countries and recognise themselves as such by allying as the BRICS; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
We have outlined the development of three distinct current within the far left, the right which has taken a pro-Maidan position on the Ukraine, the most extreme examples are the signatories of the Statement of the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign of Chris Ford; Labour Representation Committee, Socialist Workers Party, Revolutionary Socialism 21, A World To Win, and Socialist Resistance (Fourth International) and a few more internationally like the CWI and the LIT (FI). The centre ground we have listed, some of whom had shifted sharply to the left over the Ukraine and those more consistent revolutionary Trotskyists who have taken a strong anti Imperialist line on Libya and Syria from the beginning. We have outlined our theoretical, economic and political rejection of the theories of the international class struggle being driven by the inter-Imperialist conflicts between Western US-led Imperialism and Eastern Imperialism of Russia and China. This includes even Venezuela where the conflict is the result of the incursions of China into the US backyard as the Liaison Committee of Communists ridiculously propose.
We have proposed an international solidarity campaign to defend what is now the new Novorossiya Union of eastern Ukraine and its organised working class led by the Borotba Union and the Communist Party of the Ukraine. We have also proposed an Anti Imperialist United Front with the “devil and his grandmother” including Putin himself as the demands that working class should make on Russia to defend it against the fascist onslaught from Kiev. Lastly this orientation is primarily designed to build a new revolutionary socialist working class leadership as part of a reforged Fourth International.
● Defend the Novorossiya Union against the fascist attacks, smash the illegal Kiev regime installed by the USA/CIA!
● Form armed workers Militias to defend the premises and organisations of the working class!
● No faith in the corrupt oligarchs, nationalise their factories, transport systems and land!
● Smash the reactionary, pro-Western imperialist regime in Kiev!
● For an anti Imperialist United Front with all forces now fighting the fascists!
● Demand material assistance from Putin in arms and troops to defeat the US global conspiracy against Russia and China, Syria, Iran and Venezuela!
● Forward to the building of a Ukrainian revolutionary socialist leadership, a section of the reforged Fourth International!