Analysis of imperialism needs to be brought up to date

The CPUSA is having some internal discussions around “Imperialism”. You might want to first read the article, mentioned in the author’s first sentence, that this posting is replying to.

Analysis of imperialism needs to be brought up to date

by: JOHN CASE friday 11 march 2011tags: 

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.


  • On John Case’s critique of my article “Imperialism 2011: Steps Going Forward“. Point by point to the objections he raises:

    1. I don’t know what he means by “sacred phrase free”. One can use any vocabulary one likes; the point is the validity and usefulness of one’s analysis. And the point here is the analysis, not whom it comes from. But since Lenin’s 1916 book seems to have had validity then and to still have it today, I took that as my starting point.

    2. On how Lenin’s analysis can help us understand issues related to bringing the wars in Afghanistan to a close: Lenin’s analysis of imperialism as the most advanced phase of capitalism is ESSENTIAL to understanding the entire context of these wars, and the motives of the major state and non-state actors. Without such contextual understanding it is impossible for solutions to be proposed, let alone carried out. Lenin died in January 1924 after a series of catastrophic strokes, so he could not have anticipated the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But his conceptual framework of imperialism as both an economic and a politico-military phenomenon that amounted to the same thing as advanced capitalism, is absolutely valid for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In Iraq, think oil and geopolitics. In Afghanistan, think regional oil pipelines and the related geopolitics of Central Asia. Imperialism acts in those parts of the world on the basis of its interests, that is to say, of international monopoly capital and its political allies both locally and in the wealthy countries, including the United States. That is why imperialism sponsored the Islamist movements in both areas, as a firewall against communists and other progressives. That is why imperialism supported Saddam Hussein until it became more convenient not to. That is why imperialism has done what it can to build relationships with despotic regimes in Central Asia and the Middle East, including with some people who had come to power in Central Asian countries upon the decline and breakup of the USSR. Is this not an extension of imperialism as Lenin described it? And does all this not at least give us clues as to how these conflicts can be ended, and new ones avoided?

    3. As to giant sums of aid and investment as part of the end of the Afghanistan war, who ever said aid should not be given? In fact, I would argue that in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and in a lot of other places such as Haiti too, not only aid but REPARATIONS should not be given as charity, but demanded as justice. As far as investment in those areas, does Case think it has to be only on the rich countries’ terms? It is 100% the responsibility of progressive people in countries to DEMAND reparations and also fair terms of trade and investment. How does this clash with a Leninist view of imperialism?

    4. As to the flat statement by Case that there can be “no exceptions” to the building of “capitalist, market oriented institutions if you want to pursue industrialization, commodity production and economic growth”. If by this case means that everybody has to bend their knees to international monopoly capital and sing hosannas to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the WTO, and let foreign corporate monopoly capital penetrate their countries on exclusively their own rapacious terms, I beg to differ. Even though it is hard to avoid the need for some foreign investment, there is room for struggle and for the building of publicly controlled enterprises, or the defense of such enterprises where they already exist. The creation of trade and aid relationships among countries that reject the capitalist road to development, or that at least try to maintain their own sovereignty vis a vis international capital, is a very viable strategy for getting out from under. The countries that control major natural wealth such as oil and natural gas can play a key role in this, as Venezuela is doing in the Latin American context. Even though it is not impossible that the rise of China, Brazil, India etc. could lead to new forms of imperialism (in my opinion, it hasn’t yet), at least this rise allows for poor countries to play off different powerful and wealthy ones against each other, thus bidding for the best possible conditions of trade and aid.

    Overall, Case’s critique is too pessimistic about the possibility that mass struggle, with the working class at the center but bringing in all sorts of other sectors, in the poor countries and the rich, can change the course of history. Communists have often been accused of asserting that blind forces of history make certain things inevitable which in fact have turned out not to be inevitable. This has been a valid criticism of some undialectical pseudo-Marxist formulations. But nor is it the case that blind forces of the market make inevitable the outrageous suffering inflicted on the world by neo-liberal imperialism. This is surely the significance of what Chase calls the “global democratic revolution”.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 03/11/2011 11:10pm (22 hours ago)


  • Well meaning and honest or not,an attack upon the useful theory of Lenin’s classic work on Imperialism,is an ignorant(of Marxism) attack on Marxism.
    It dovetails with a false notion that the fight to save socialism,in the Soviet Union was itself the main problem and impetus of fascist imperialism,when in fact it was the effect,not the cause.
    The source of the dialectically,materially and historically molded movement in Russia,and in the whole world,including the residuals of the gems of Marx’s First International,and not only of the most important element,people,but also machines and technological know how,was the international working class,and its allies,led by V.I. Lenin. The book, Ten Days that Shook the World, by our own John Reed, with its introduction by Lenin will confirm this.
    This source,this force,led in large part in the United States by W.E.B. Du Bois,narrated in his Black Reconstruction,published in 1935,when German imperialist fascism developed. Du Bois’s companion book,The World and Africa,written in 1946,included Marx’s cogent observation that capitalism itself was created in the exploitation of the African slave labor and its trade,supplying its ruthless “primitive accumulation” :
    “The discovery of gold and silver in America,the extirpation, enslavement and entombment of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins,signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.”

    Lenin’s Imperialism continues this theme,the crux of Marx’s argument in Capital,Chapter XXXI,page 823.
    Thus,as Emile Schepers argues,capitalism is so much part of imperialism,and imperialism so deeply embedded in capitalism,they are one.
    We yet live in the epoch of Imperialism,and indeed Capital is an invaluable source of the behavior of this vicious animal called imperialism,as its genesis.
    Now,Lenin’s Imperialism, a continuation of the analysis of Marx’s Capital, is a valuable source.
    Those like John Case who seem to be suggesting that socialism in China is a new imperialism,or, like it Phil Amadon suggests,that the fight for socialism in the Russia(distorted by Stalin to commit crimes against humanity as it did) was the source of Hitler fascism, really seem to have missed what is “old”and “dated” when it comes to Marxism-Leninism-and that is, the old,exploiting,oppressive,parasitic expropriating capitalists and imperialists.
    The protagonists of history are the workers of the world.
    More on these protagonists and W.E.B. Du Bois’s contribution to them, later.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 03/11/2011 2:33pm (1 day ago)


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