I disagree with much of Emile’s article Imperialism 2011: Steps Going Forward.
First, because I do not see what it clarifies about any aspect of the current challenges in bringing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a close. I do not see how it helps guide our thinking about the implications of the uprisings in North Africa and the Mid-east. I don’t see how it helps frame the main questions in addressing the many-sided challenges of globalization. The references to Lenin’s pamphlet on Imperialism are entirely uncritical and unhistorical, despite the passage of a century. It’s as if time has not passed at all except to make the scripture of Lenin’s words more sanctified.
We need a new, ‘sacred’-phrase-free, popular understanding of the global democratic revolution, and the strong underlying technological, financial and social transformations of globalization that are fueling its fires. As objective global relationships extend and mature, as both labor AND capital make their journeys to all corners of the earth, so too does global citizenship become an idea that begins to descend from the world of vapors to those of solid ground. Immigration battles can only be peaceably managed by international law, founded on a system of international rights and obligations extending to persons regardless of national origin.
What does Lenin’s text on Imperialism say about ending the Afghan war? Is there any practical future of any kind available to the Afghan people that does not include gigantic sums of aid and investment? What is our responsibility for or to the failed states now littering the post-USSR world, many of them relics of cold-war dictatorships, or anti-cold-war-dictatorships? What is meant by “international responsibility”? Is there not some truth to the charge by General Powell that “If you break it, you own it!”? Perhaps “Out Now” is all some need to hear. But this is a “political sidelines” position if you do not have a sober estimate of the consequences of your actions. Even with countries as backward as Afghanistan, there are now links of every description that make it NOT possible for it to remain isolated and lawless, as perhaps it could have in 1916.
It used to be the case that many on the left had grave doubts that arose from anti-democratic allegations against the USSR, but forgave the latter out of recognition of that country’s material assistance to anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggles throughout the post-war world. But the political and economic collapse of the USSR meant that there would be NO exceptions, no skipping of capitalist, market-oriented institutions if you want to pursue industrialization, commodity production, and economic growth.
Today, China is the biggest lender to the United States. It seeks the ability to rapidly increase the export of not only its manufactured goods, but also its reserves to investments IN the US. Ultimately, it will succeed in this effort as the force of its accumulated surpluses will be impossible to resist. Who, then, will be the imperialist? I submit many formerly ‘imperialist subjects HAVE managed to accumulate substantial surpluses, have ignored IMF “Washington Consensus” policies against strategic industrial policy (an incremental socialism), and now have no interest in undermining the acquisition of new capital assets from virtually any source is they expand the social surplus, nor any destination market. I am not saying there do not remain imperial relations in many aspects of US and Western European foreign policy. But I AM saying its a lot more complicated than it was in 1916, and that the solutions now, must have a more global character than they did in 1916, meaning the content of “anti-imperial” policy is much more dependent on emerging international institutions, and their reflection of the democratic will of affected peoples, than was ever true before.