CPGB-ML contribution to the NDFP International Theoretical Conference on Imperialism and War

Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist-Leninist

As communists, we have a common understanding of the policy being pursued by the US and their proxy forces and their drive to war. As communists we ought to look at the policy that’s pursued by both sides before the outbreak of war and we have to look at the nature of each force involved in the war.

But as soon as we try to do this, we’re faced with a problem in our movement. In particular, how should we characterise the nature of the economies and the societies of two of the major partici- pants, which we would say are the major targets of these wars: the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

Arguments that are raging surround the questions:

  1. To what extent can we characterise Russia and China as imperialist powers?
  • To what extent can we prove that Russia and China are powers engaged in wars of dominance, colonisation and rivalry over the control of profits and superprofits?
  • Is the war between the USA and Russia and/or China a WW1 type of war, ie, an inter-imperialist war for the redivision of global spoils?
  • To what degree are Russia and China fighting wars of self-defence?

Our policy as communist parties in responding to these questions is very different depending on the answer we give to these questions. This is not just a theoretical debate but it has a very practical and tactical significance that can help us orient ourselves properly, or not.

The ideologues of the USA and its allies really want workers in the countries of the imperialist core, like Britain, to believe unquestioningly that Russia and China are imperialist powers. They are work- ing hard to persuade workers that they have no side in this war, which is a conclusion that while it might not stop them opposing the war in general, it will definitely stop them from supporting any of the forces involved or helping their fellow workers to see through the propaganda of the western media: “yes, Russia’s bad”, “yes, China’s bad, it’s colonising Africa”.

All of these tropes are thrown at workers on a daily basis. And if one goes along with the idea that these are imperialist powers, one will support those lines of reasoning, so that, whether deliber- ately or not, one will encourage the working class to end up siding with its own imperialists. Be- cause, if is a case of two imperialist powers and workers do not really like either of them, very often they will say “well, might as well stick with what we know”.

Unfortunately, we are often handicapped in our efforts to come to a rational conclusion on this question. We ought to use theory in a way that is dialectical, scientific and not enforcing schemas onto the world but rather to study and analyse based on current facts and evidence.

It is a perilous moment for workers and oppressed peoples everywhere right now and our responsi- bility is great. It is not Russia and China that are threatening to lead us into WW3, it is Nato. Nato, which is backed into a corner, and feeling itself needing to retain its control, is the one that’s push- ing us in that direction.

We agree with our esteemed comrades from the Philippines who speak of the inevitability of war in the imperialist stage of capitalism. In their role as representatives of vast stores of monopoly capi- tal, imperialists have only one type of logic; the logic of their capital which needs to expand and ac- cumulate. Capitalists have to dominate or they go under. That’s the iron law of capitalism and im- perialism.

It is a really historically important moment for those who fight capitalism in its highest stage. We can see the direction things are going in. We are witnessing the growing bellicosity of the USA to- wards all the countries it thinks are an impediment to its supremacy. In the Middle East, in particu- lar, that is Iran. In Southeast Asia, in particular, that is the DPRK. And then of course, most espe- cially it is Russia and China.

An analysis on the character of the war and the character of Russia and China is what underpins our action and the content of our action will determine our effectiveness as we try to impact the world situation in the interests of the working masses, against imperialism, ultimately for peace via social- ism.

We agree again with our comrades in the CPP, the USA is so desperate to maintain and save its po- sition of hegemony by any means necessary. It is clear that the US ruling class, and its various junior imperialist partners and puppet regimes around the world, hopes to find a way to wear down its opponents and come on top. It is really important to recognise that it’s Nato which has been the ag- gressor throughout the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century so far.

To insist that the workers have no side misleads the workers into neglecting the imperialist aggres- sion of the US and precludes any possibility to support wars of self-defence, or “just wars”.

The line of inter-imperialist conflict differs drastically in its explanation and in the attitude it is ask- ing workers to take. But we think that we can come together in a clear view of what the USA’s war is about and that can form a basis of some common position. We agree for example that the war in Ukraine is the result of the western imperialist drive to war, in particular of the USA. That the war began when the USA financed, armed and organised the fascist coup in Kiev in 2014.

We agree that after the coup, eight years of antifascist war were waged by the people in Donbas people’s republics who refused to accept the imposition of the new fascistic social order.

We agree that NATO has been waging a relentless war drive – ever since its foundation, in fact in the 1940s. First against the USSR, then against Russia, with the ultimate aim of breaking the country into pieces and creating in its place a number of weak and dependent states whose governments

could be easily controlled and whose natural resources could be looted at will. We can agree that it would be catastrophic for the working class of Russia if Nato succeeded in Balkanising their country.

But it would not only be a catastrophe for the working class of Russia to be subjugated by western imperialism.

We agree that Lenins theory of imperialism is our guide. Lenin uses the image of the chain to ex- plain how the countries are connected and highlights as the main characteristic, the relations of de- pendence. The imperialists are the first links in the chain and determine the fortunes of the rest, which are dependent on the former and follow them. This is exactly what Lenin was talking about when he referred to breaking the chain in the weakest link. We cannot reject the theoretical and revolutionary significance of the Leninist category of the “weak link”. The weak link can be a coun- try or group of countries where internal and global contradictions are concentrated in an explosive nexus. As communists we ought to be able to analyse precisely where this nexus of contradictions emerge and where there is a conscious revolutionary subject emerging.

The term “interdependence” might give rise to misunderstandings. There may be interdependence of the markets but when Lenin spoke of dependence, he was referring to economic and political re- lations of power and subjugation in the context of imperialist oppression, not simply participation in the market. Caution is needed before we start thinking that in the age of imperialism, all formally independent countries are interdependent, and end up confusing Leninist theory with Trotskyist or social-democratic conceptions of globalisation and the inescapability of automatic integration of all countries as long as they participate in the global economic system.

Before we call a country “imperialist” we need to consider its position in the world system and ex- amine according to Lenin, to what degree it is dependent. We can have countries that are devel- oped in terms of capitalism but cannot be considered as independent. Caution is needed so we don’t see all anti-imperialist political demands as disorientating to the communist movement. We do not separate the international anti-imperialist movement from the struggle of the working peo- ple worldwide for liberation from capitalist exploitation. There is no contradiction between these tasks.

It is anti-Leninist to not study the character of national bourgeois capitalisms and their degree of dependence but instead to blanket all capital bourgeoisies as de facto imperialist (without examin- ing if their independence is only an aspiration or a reality). It is our duty to analyse the existence of degrees or stages in a historical process of imperialist expansion or neo-colonialism where they are present but not to preempt them before they actually materialise. Especially in relation to Russia, and its assumed imperialist status as a rival to USA. Such a position cannot be assimilated unques- tioningly. Nor can we see every communist party willing to question the degree of dependence of Russia as agent of the Russian bourgeoisie.

We need to study the objective factual conditions of capitalist development that differs from coun- try to country and examine specific economic data about Russian capitalism. Before we label we need evidential backing and willingness to debate with alternative positions.

To be an imperialist power it is not sufficient just to engage in international trade or to have a meaningful defence capacity. It is not trade but a reliance on the super-profits brought in through the export of capital by monopolist financiers that indicates that an economy is moving from the lower stage of capitalism to the higher, monopolist stage.

To be considered imperialist (monopoly capitalist), a country must fit the following five criteria:

  1. the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has cre- ated monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life [where are the Russian monopolies dominating our lives today? Russia only has one-twelfth of the economic area of the USA];
  • the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital’, of a financial oligarchy [Russia’s richest capitalists are involved predominantly in industry not finance; only one of the world’s top 100 banks is Russian, the state-owned Sberbank];
  • the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional im- portance [Russia’s biggest exports are raw materials, not capital; where are the Russian finance cap- ital trusts and monopolies exploiting the resources and labour of the world and repatriating their wealth to Russia?];
  • the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves [such cartels do of course exist, but they do not include Russian monopolies];
  • the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed [such division has indeed taken place, but the Russian revolution and formation of the Soviet Union changed the relation between the Russian Empire and its oppressed nations to one of fraternal pro- letarian brotherhood; today, its main crime is to come to the defence of those fighting off imperial- ist attack (Syria, eastern Ukraine) and to try to keep its own territory free of imperialist domination and super-exploitation].

As the world market spirals deeper into crisis, the financial overlords of the monopolist countries are fighting to survive – at the expense of the workers and of each other. On the one hand, they are trying to pass the burden of the crisis onto the workers by crushing living standards and wringing every last ounce of profit from our labour. On the other hand, even as they compete with one an- other over who should receive what share from the spoils of the globe, they are uniting to try to de- stroy every country that resists their drive to plunder and domination.

As Nato’s war against Russia grinds on and reality forces its way through the propaganda lies, it is becoming very clear to workers in the oppressed countries that they have a side in this

war. Russia is not an aggressive imperialist power trying to control and super-exploit the globe, and nor is China. These are simply countries whose socialist revolutions have left their people with both

the will and the ability to stand up for themselves against the marauding Nato beast. In doing so, they have drawn a line of demarcation across the entire globe.

All of us who wish for freedom from imperialist domination understand that in order to defeat so mighty an enemy we must maximise the unity of our forces – we must stand together with all those who are also facing the same enemy.

This is the principal question facing humanity today: will you stand on the side of the imperialists or on the side of those who oppose imperialism?

There is no neutrality in this war, whose tentacles are felt in every corner of the globe. The over- whelming economic, military and media might of the neo-nazi Nato alliance means that to be ‘neutral’ is to allow the powerful to act unhindered.

Workers who cannot be mobilised – or at least persuaded into a position of sympathy – for the cause of anti-imperialism will remain as a reserve for the exploiters. This is why they are so keen to spread the revolutionary-sounding lie about Russian and Chinese ‘aggression’ and ‘imperialism’ – our class enemies understand, even if the workers themselves do not, the importance of our failing to take a side in this pivotal conflict, which will decide the fate of humanity for decades to come.

It seems like insanity for the imperialists to be targeting Russia and China as they are currently do- ing – countries with the economic and technical strength to stand up for themselves and their al- lies. But the desperate need to find some way out of their economic crisis impels the monopoly fi- nanciers to drive towards war all the same.

Clearly, they hope that if they can set enough fires on the borders of Russia and China; can create enough proxy forces to drag them into endless conflict, they will be able to wear their opponents down before facing them openly; will be able to create unrest amongst the Russian and Chinese populations, and thus prepare the ground for regime change from within and without.

What is it ultimately that the imperialists want? They want free access to the wealth of the world, with no resistance from the peoples on or under whose lands this wealth resides. They want to de- stroy every government and movement that tries to defend its people against this piracy.

In particular, they want to destroy the sovereignty and independence of Russia and China, break them into pieces, loot their wealth and exploit their labour forces.

They want a repeat of the carnival they enjoyed after the fall of the USSR.

Such an outcome would once again set back the cause of socialism and liberation by 20, 30, 40 or

even 50 years. Comrades, the world’s impoverished masses cannot be asked to endure such an- other torment!

We agree, based on Lenin, that imperialism has very concrete features such as the economic and political domination of monopoly, the importance of exporting capital, the creation of international capitalist associations dividing the world and the convergence of industrial and banking capital.

These features are not met in all capitalist countries but concentrate in the most powerful and dominating ones. The fact that financial capital and monopoly dominate and concern all countries does not mean that all countries can have equally strong monopolies. The fact that all countries participate in market sharing does not mean that all have the ability to share the spoils in the same way.

The very definition of spoils means that there is an aggressor and an aggressed. The economic divi- sion of the world, the creation of zones of influence which is implemented in all capitalist countries is not actually perpetrated by all countries automatically because they are capitalist.

To state these simple Leninist facts does not mean that as communists we delegate our revolution- ary work to the Russian ruling class or that we trust and support unthinkingly the bourgeoisie of de- pendent or non-imperialist countries, which are under attack, or in need to defend their right to in- dependence like China. We do not support the Russian bourgeoisie when we recognise that Russia is aggressed by US imperialism.

As revolutionaries we need to understand what contributes to the ability of the most powerful mo- nopolies to make decisions and interventions at an international level. As serious revolutionaries we need to understand such interventions as a result of the power of monopolies expressed in the correlations of power in the imperialist organisations (Nato, EU, IMF, G7, etc).

Using Lenin’s theory, we need to be able to prioritise the enemy and understand the element of his- torical development that is often unequal between countries even if they are capitalist. Automati- cally labelling countries as imperialist, a tendency we see in the western left, can obscure the con- crete mechanisms for the extraction of monopoly super-profits. We must be able to examine in which are this handful of countries where current multi-national, trans-national groups are based.

We need to confront the mechanisms of super-exploitation on a regional and global scale.

We must stay away from orthodoxies of the Second International such as the concept of capitalism as “ultra-imperialism”, a product of the economism/Kautskyism that Lenin strongly opposed.

We need theory and practice together, strategy and tactics together. In order to fight effectively we need to be able to create fronts and alliances and be one step ahead of the capitalist enemy.

We must use the Leninist discovery of the basic contradiction of capital: the contradiction between imperialist countries and non-imperialist, independent, semi-independent, dependent countries, through mechanisms of extraction of monopoly super-profits.

We must be there in the preparation and escalation of the struggle with a communist strategy of fronts. The USA’S efforts to maintain its neo-colonial hegemony over the world by any means and the real threat they pose of global military confrontation and nuclear war create an urgent need for the consolidation of forces to combat this danger. We must continue the finest tradition of prole- tarian internationalism and anti-imperialist struggle as an integral part of the overall struggle against capitalist exploitation.

Comrades, the so-called “anti-war” movement in Britain has taken the line that this is a conflict be- tween rival imperialist forces and that workers therefore must oppose both sides.

This mischaracterisation of Russia as ‘imperialist’ only helps the imperialists of Nato and serves to demobilise the working class’s power to give meaningful opposition to the imperialists’ aggression. It is an act against the progressive and socialist movement to spread this irresponsible analysis, which renders our class an impotent bystander in the struggle.

Workers need to understand the truth – that Nato is the aggressor and that Russia in this case is fighting imperialism – so as to orient themselves correctly. Our support for Russia has nothing to do with Russia’s capitalist economic system but for its objective role as a front line against imperialist domination. In its quest to free itself from imperialist control, Russia has found itself playing a grow- ing and very important role in the world anti-imperialist front, involving China,

the DPRK, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and many other countries. This must be supported.

Our job in the Nato-imperialist countries is to do everything in our power to obstruct the activi- ties of the Nato war machine and to expose the lies of the psychological operation being perpe- trated against our peoples.

Does this mean we support uncritically Russian oligarchs? No. It is just that the Russian oligarchs have realised that:

  1. If their subjugation is complete, they will soon have the fate of Saddam and Gaddafi.
  • The decline of the Nato axis under the US in the global correlation of economic, political and mili- tary power has become clear.
  • The rise of China in this correlation and the pole formed under it also became clear.
  • China’s economic power does not have the corresponding politico-military means, apart from its clear superiority in the navy and in some other areas.
  • Today, Russia, utilising the USSR-acquired military arsenal and developing plans since then with remaining acquired speed/tradition, currently has a clear asymmetric advantage with certain super- weapons (supersonic missiles, etc.).
  • The crudeness of US-Nato policy pushed them hard into the arms of China.

Of course we know that a victory in Ukraine will not solve the problem of the next day for the peo- ples of Ukraine, Russia and the whole post-Soviet space from the impasses of the bourgeois counter-revolution/capitalist restoration.

Without China’s economic power, present-day Russia is in doubt as to whether it can withstand long-term conflict.

The pole formed by the role of China unites the countries that have emerged from the most impor- tant socialist revolutions of the 20th century and the associated anti-imperialist/anti-colonial move- ments.

Russia today is by no means the USSR and should not be confused with it. Class vigilance is needed and the misery of the counter-revolution and its leadership to be exposed.

However, even present-day counter-revolutionary Russia, with its repugnant anti-Soviet/anti-com- munist outbursts of leadership, owes all its power to the remnants of the October Revolution and socialist construction, and its leadership must invest its movements with references to the glorious anti-fascist Soviet past.

The truth is that no great revolution occurs without leaving a trace in history. Any opposing view is unscientific, anti-dialectical and ahistorical. The course and outcome of this conflict will depend on the upgraded role of the rising China. The same goes for the character of the ongoing world war.

At present, China without the Soviet-made arsenal of Russia is as much at risk as Russia without China’s economic power. To the extent that the escalating shift of power crushes fascist forces while militarily defeating Nato, this can only be a gain for the future of the revolutionary move- ment.

Without illusions about the interests the bourgeoisie serves, we as communists must turn in our benefit every disorder, every material and moral damage and weakening of our main enemy and utilise every opportunity arising within alliances against Nato.

The main enemy of strategic importance was and remains the Nato axis under the leadership of the USA.

If we can truly unite our activities against our main enemy; if we can really come together to max- imise our actions to disrupt and defeat the aggressive and criminal Nato-imperialist bloc, then our victory is assured.