BT’s Tom Riley: Still soft on US Imperialism


20/11/2018 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

Image result for Tom Riley and the International Bolshevik Tendency images

On his, Reply to Decker/Dorn on ‘Russian Imperialism’

Reply to Decker/Dorn on ‘Russian Imperialism’, For a ‘Concrete Analysis of the Concrete Situation’ is a weak document. Because it does not understand imperialism as a global system dominated since WWII by the sole remaining world hegemonic imperialist power, the USA, which dominates all its other allied imperialism in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand etc.

No new imperialist power can emerge while that global system still operates, and that set-up cannot be altered in any other way than war. This article does not address this fact at all and so is soft on US imperialism, not recognising as the main enemy of the world working class and oppressed.

The document does prove that Russia is not imperialist, in fact, it proves that China has a better case to be dubbed imperialist but, of course, neither are imperialist.

This weakness is also revealed in the way that they defend Lenin’s designation of Russia as imperialist before 1917. Again, it is not the movement of finance capital that is the fundamental question. In fact, on the criteria that Lenin adopts to define modern capitalism, Russia fails in several ways. So, in a certain sense, and if we took Russia in isolation, he was wrong.

But Lenin had written the foreword to Bukharin’s 1915 book on imperialism, Imperialism and the World Economy, and had written his own famous work in 1916 and so he understood imperialism as a global system. It was this that was the basis for the April Theses and for the second October revolution.

Lenin was correct that Russia was imperialist; it was similar to the proto-feudal empire of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Feudalism as a mode of production had long gone and only semi-feudal states remained, integrated into the world imperialist system. Tsarist Russia was an ally of the USA, France and Britain and part of their global imperialist empire. They were opposing the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires.

Lenin said that “capitalist imperialism of the latest type” was present in Russia but there were three types of imperialisms:

“firstly, young capitalist countries (America, Germany, Japan) whose progress has been extraordinarily rapid; secondly, countries with an old capitalist development (France and Great Britain), whose progress lately has been much slower than that of the previously mentioned countries, and thirdly, a country most backward economically (Russia), where modern capitalist imperialism is enmeshed, so to speak, in a particularly close network of pre-capitalist relations.” an that, “in general, military-feudal imperialism is predominant in Russia” and “in Russia the monopoly of military power, immense territory, or special facilities for pillaging non-Russian indigenous peoples, China, etc., partly complements, partly substitutes the monopoly of modern, up-to-date finance capital” Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.

Trotsky noted in 1938:

“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”

Trotsky also noted:

“In one sense Czarist Russia was also a colonial country, and this found its expression in the predominant role of foreign capital. But the Russian bourgeoisie enjoyed the benefits of an immeasurably greater independence from foreign imperialism than the Chinese bourgeoisie. Russia itself was an imperialist country. With all its meagreness, Russian liberalism had far more serious traditions and more of a basis of support than the Chinese. To the left of the liberals stood powerful petty-bourgeois parties, revolutionary or semi-revolutionary in relation to Czarism … In contrast to this the Bolsheviks, from the eve of the revolution in 1905, took up an irreconcilable position in relation to the liberal bourgeoisie. Only this policy, which achieved its highest expression in the “defeatism” of 1914–1917, enabled the Bolshevik Party to conquer power. Leon Trotsky, The Chinese Revolution, (1938)

The April Theses, in which Lenin came to the same conclusions as Trotsky on Permanent Revolution, meant not only were these semi-feudal states imperialist in how their economies workers as part of their corresponding imperialist blocs. And the class consciousness of the ruling class corresponded with that. And the working class conscious was part of the world working class-consciousness, not Russian, or Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman but aspiring to socialism as were the working classes in Germany, France, Britain, and the USA. And Ireland, I might add, The Limerick Soviet was in 1919.

Today there are not two rival imperialist power blocks, as was the case before WWI and WWII. Now there is only one, the USA, however the subordinate imperialists might chaff they are forced to swallow vile insults not just from Trump today but even from Obama – remember Victoria Nuland’s “Fuck the EU” and bugging Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone.

Image result for naval base at Sebastopol imagesA tale of soft anti-imperialism vs outright support for Uncle Sam: “Two days later (5 March 2014) Dorn, Decker and Logan presented a draft statement on Ukrainian events which included the following: “We demand the immediate expulsion of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine (including its naval base at Sebastopol), and of any Western forces or ‘observers’ that may intervene militarily.”

Not understanding, or at the very least not applying that understanding to today’s situation, leads the BT to be very soft on their opponents because they must hang together or they will hang separately, as they look like doing now because of their extreme version of democratic centralism.

 “I regard Decker, Dorn and their co-thinkers in exactly the same light—as good comrades whose errors on this question stem from a tendency to attempt to make reality fit their pre-established construct.”

A few months later we saw where all this was going. For the soft, neutral stance of Riley to the outright support of the Loganites and Barbra Dorn, who is still in denial as to what this amazing passage from Riley actually means:

“While there was no agreement on whether Russia is “imperialist,” there could be no doubt about the rivalry—as the Ukrainian crisis came to a boiling point in the weeks prior to the conference. On 3 March, Riley replied to a query from Dorn regarding the Nimp attitude toward a possible military conflict:

“If there is a civil war in Ukraine between two qualitatively similar bourgeois opponents we would  not have a side,” but in the event of a move “to forcibly seize the Russian base and assert Ukrainian nationalist/ Nazi western imperialist government control” we would “side militarily with Crimean resistance and any Russian troops to repel the invaders.” Two days later (5 March 2014) Dorn, Decker and Logan presented a draft statement on Ukrainian events which included the following: “We demand the immediate expulsion of Russian forces from the territory of Ukraine (including its naval base at Sebastopol), and of any Western forces or ‘observers’ that may intervene militarily.” Russia’s expulsion from its chief naval base on the Black Sea would have represented a major strategic setback for the Kremlin and a huge gain for U.S. imperialism, because the rightist regime in Kiev would have immediately handed the facility over to NATO.”

But this “Russia is imperialist” was a direct response to the movement by US imperialism to close in and achieve regime change and balkanise Russia, first in 2008 in Georgia and then in 2014 in the Maidan coup. Of course, having taken a neutral stance on the CIA-US NGO-organised and funded and fascist-led coup, $5 billion it cost, Nuland helpfully tells us, Riley is in no position to really attack the politics of the Loganites. And Logan actually manages to attack these ‘anti-Imperialists’ from the left on their shameful position of taking a neutral stance on the 2013 coup in Egypt and the 2016 coup in Turkey.

“But there were no imperialist troops involved in these” AG complains. Well, the USAF certainly was involved in Turkey from the Incirlik Air Base (Erdogan cut off electricity to it for a period in retaliation) and no doubt that Israel and the USA were involved covertly in Egypt. They had no hesitation in supporting the coup and the appalling crackdown on the left and the working class that inevitably followed it. The BT should have had no hesitation in opposing the USA’s clients’ coups.

 “The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations…Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity”. Letter from Thysville Prison to Mrs. Lumumba.

Embarrassingly our comrade, Ian, had to point out in response to the lack of imperialist troops complaint that there was a difference between colonialism and modern imperialism. It is not generally the case that colonies are established by the installation of administrations as in the glory days of the British Empire. No, financial and economic pressure is generally combined with covert actions to achieve amendable clients and stooges. The Patrice Lumumbas, (above) and Mosaddeqs must be eliminated and the Mobutus and Shahs installed. They favoured, nay sponsored, Ramaphosa over Zuma, having previously favoured Zuma over Mbeki etc. The imperialists of the USA have a dog in every conflict and civil war and war between semi-colonial countries, and it is on that dog they rely on to produce greater profits for their transnational corporations. This drive for profits is the entire reason for all conflicts.

And all serious internationalist Trotskyists are not neutral in the US-sponsored coups and wars, as the IBT/BT so often are, with the bogus Shachtmanite “neither the oppressed nation or the oppressor nation but the international working class”. We are for the defeat of the US imperialists and their allied imperialist powers in the EU or elsewhere via the anti-Imperialist United Front. As was Trotsky before us and Lenin, Engels and Marx before him. They were NEVER neutral when imperialism sought to advance their cause by whatever methods they chose.

2 thoughts on “BT’s Tom Riley: Still soft on US Imperialism

  1. stephenrdiamond says:

    I don’t think you take the reasons sufficiently seriously for certain third-campist positions–on, say, Assad/Russia versus Islamist extremists/America. What makes a force an American proxy does not seem to me like an easy question–given that Marxists endorse the right of movements to receive foreign aid based on expediency. The goals of the Islamists are currently congruent with those of U.S. imperialism, but that doesn’t automatically make them U.S. proxies. The U.S. doesn’t control them. After all, the U.S. might prefer that they take a more “moderate” public stance.

    Does the fact that the Islamist reactionaries act in the objective interest of U.S. imperialism and depend on imperialist financing make them proxies? Perhaps the most significant practical aspect of this question is that international alignments can readily change despite the regime remaining the same. There is no guarantee that an Assad victory won’t be followed, even in the near future, by a change in Assad’s allegiance.

    On a somewhat related issue, comparisons between the Morsi government and the Kerensky government ignore that Morsi’s position depended from the start on the largess of the military.


  2. […] We agree 100% with this article. I have fought along these lines for decades and can detail these struggles on behalf of Socialist Fight. We differ on whether China is still a deformed workers state or a semi colony. But agree it is not imperialist nor is Russia. The ‘interpenetrated peoples’ theory is a capitulation to imperialism as leads to neutrality in wars between imperialism and semi colonies. It complelents our 20-11-2018 article, BT’s Tom Riley: Still soft on US Imperialism, […]


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