Russia is not an Imperialist Power
And how Marx, Lenin and Decolonial analysis proves this to be the case
Sons of Malcolm
01 Oct 2015
Referencing #Syria and a kinda thorough argument as to why Russia (and China, India, Brazil, Iran etc) are NOT 'imperialists' nor are they 'sub-imperiaists'
With Russia being invited by the Syrian government to step up in assisting countering and defeating Britain, France and the USA's deaths squads in the country, with this relative upsurge in the defence of Syria that has been resisting a combined global imperialist attack against it for over 4 years, we hear those who echo the leading Nato powers in claiming Russia is an 'imperialist' country, or "Russian militarism" to quote a well known english left leader at the moment. It is not anything of the sort. Here I attempt to lay out why it is not, and why the western, actually imperialist or neocolonial left, seek to state that it is:
Colonialism, empires, and 'imperialism' is an ancient phenomenon, whose common nature includes the acquisition of lands beyond the original state, this acquisition is done through violence, but the degree of violence and state craft depends from incident to incident, and varies according to each empire and its historical moment(s). Nearly every region of the world has seen such empires for millennium. That's not to justify them at all, its just a fact. On an ethical level of judgement, I oppose all empires and colonialism, none of them should be a model for us today, and historically especially in the modern world many of our peoples have to overcome the legacies of these empires made much worse by the colonial experience which tended to (and continues) to champion and celebrate them but distorts them into a mirror reflection of european colonialism, and then encourages us to internalise them and then project that onto ourselves and others.
The genesis of what we understand MODERN imperialism, ie., the development of west european and north american-based modern capitalism/imperialism while sharing the common feature with ancient empires in the sense of acquisition of territories beyond the 'original', 'home' or 'mother country', the similarities end there.
Modern european capitalism has many very specific features which are unique to itself and cannot be conflated with ancient empires nor can it be conflated with countries like Russia.
This has been well analysed by Marx and Engels, developed by Lenin and Mao and others, and also one has to add decolonial theory of 'coloniality' into the mix, decoloniality exists to a large extent in Marx, Lenin and Mao's theories, but is not sufficient imho, and likewise, decoloniality tends to lacks in some cases but not at all (for example many good decolonials in our actual Global South struggles allied to Morales, Chavez, Maduro, Castro, Lula/Dilma, ZANUPF, ANC and many others) a viable and reality-based actually existing struggle of resistance and liberation against imperialist oppression.
Lenin defines five characteristics of modern imperialism, and by 'imperialism' he means and I also mean when I use the term the modern big capitalist-colonial countries. I will go through these point by point and after each point point out how this is not relevant to Russia nor the other countries stated above:
"(1) the concentration of production and capital, creating monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life";
- The state in Russia, which is a continuation of the security (KGB) and military (Red Army) elites of the Soviet period (from 1917-1991) are in the final analysis in charge of the economic and political life of the country, the monopolies are not. This elite is steeped in a world outlook and policies which confronts and is hostile to imperialism.
"(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy";
- There is to some limited extent a financial oligarchy, except they are not oligarchical in the sense that they have any leading role in Russian life, no, it is the aforementioned security and military class that is leading Russia. Putin's ascendance to the Russian elite and leadership signalled the END of the western imperialism imposed looting of state assets and the bringing to power of a totally anti-Russian economic elite that was breaking the country down. Putin imposed a political terror and purge of this.
"(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance";
- A fundamental premise of my general analysis is that Russia does not have 'capital' in the sense that it exists, 'capital' of west europe and north america (and Australia) has a totally different nature based on the world conceptualisation of modern colonialism, more of this shortly.
"(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves."
- Russia is not and has never been at the table of Nato and the imperialists in which the imperialists accept Russia's role AT ALL on the world scene, rather the imperialists have always and continue to develop a policy of open war against Russia, encircling it militarily, and seeking ti downgrade its global allies. This policy is not going well at all!
'(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed."
- Russia is RESISTING in PARTNERSHIP with the Global South this division of the world by the imperialist powers. Just a few examples of this is Russia's direction political and military support to 'latin' American nations such as Venezuela and Cuba. The Russians had a joint military naval exercise with the Venezuelans in 2007 in the Caribbean waters, this was a major historical victory of the global anti-imperialist movement, so much so, the imperialist media did not want to let you know about it so kept very quiet. The Global South are very content and generally happy with Russia's support to them.
Lenin also developed a concept of the three contradictions of imperialism, being:
1, between Labour and Capital (global imperialist capitalists / imperialists / neo-colonialists)
- in the 'global class war', Russia stands on the frontline in defence of the first interest of the global working class which is not being destroyed by imperialism. I analyse this more deeply in this piece.
2, Between imperialist countries themselves
- Russia like every other country of the Global South seeks to exploit tensions between the imperialists for their own advantage, and Russia as well as China is doing this generally very well.
3, Between imperialist / 'oppressor nations' and oppressed nations or what some call the 'Global South' or 'Third World'
- In this contradiction, Russia clearly stands on the side of the 'oppressed nations'.
However, this is not at all enough to explore and identify the nature of imperialism, and if Russia fits that. Because imperialism is much more than just those five characteristics and the three contradictions.
So what else is it? What makes imperialism unique and totally distinct to ancient empires, colonialisms etc, is the world outlook of modern imperialism and the way this justified its unique and terrible, terrifying and dehumanising physical operations and dehumanising principles and ethics and world outlook.
Marx's Capital is in general the best analysis of physical capitalist-imperialism, but in one relatively short paragraph from his defining work - Capital - he sums up this uniqueness of infamous oppression: "The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines 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."
Here we see how irrelevant are the labels 'imperialist' to Russia, China and others. Capitalism exists in Russia and China and frankly exists to some extent in ALL countries of the world. However, it is uniquely in the european colonial-capitalist-imperialist experience that we see that its very system is underpinned by what Marx calls out: the extermination of whole native populations; the mass enslavement and TREATING LIKE CATTLE/ANIMALS (*chattel* slavery) African peoples; emptying whole regions of the world of their wealth. Marx is blunt: THIS is the dawn of this system.
In other places Engels states that the oppression of women and girls being also a fundamental aspect of this system, with the mass extermination of women and girls in the middle ages being part and parcel of the process of 'primitive accumulation' of this system of imperialism, the extermination of women in the middle ages was an integral part of the oppression of peasants and the theft of common lands and the land tilled by the peasants. No other power before or after has done these combination of things, and this is what makes imperialism nothing to do with Russia, actually Russia is in the leadership of assisting Humanity to push back on all these oppressions of imperialism.
However, the picture is still incomplete. And this is where decolonial theory is so important to marry into an anti-imperialist approach, and similarly the anti-imperialist approach and analysis must be married to the decolonial theory and analysis. Without this coupling, both are weakened and are in danger of negating themselves. Because modern imperialism/colonialism impacts ALL relations between humans and humans and humans and the world and universe, and on this universe issue, it also conducts a mental genocide against non/pre-colonial belief systems.
That is not to say that pre-colonial belief systems are essentially good and liberating, they too can be oppressive, but one has to admit that all pre-colonial systems are just incomparable to the conceptual and physical oppression of modern imperialism.
Decolonial theory helps us to move away from colonial contagions, such as recycling european colonial supremacists in Black and White garb such as manifested in the mirror images of this colonial supremacism in Muslim (Muslim Brotherhood and Qaeda/Isis formations), Hindu (BJP and RSS), Sikh (Khalistani etc), and other garbs. Also within anti-imperialist socialist experiences and processes it is important to understand that one cannot wish away colonial contagions in our people, countries and liberation struggles, but only through 'working through' actually liberation struggles in the resistance and defence of our peoples can we apply a holistic liberation project.
In conclusion: if one has a keen mind and eye as to the nature of modern colonialism/-capitalism/-imperialism/-'europe'/-'the west'/-'western democracy' one can clearly see how inapplicable this is to Russia and China etc.
Unfortunately the western/imperialist left and westernised left always tail the imperialists, they nearly always echo the conceptual and actual policies of oppression of the imperialists across the world. They consider Russia equitable to imperialism, hence they claim they are 'Russian militarists', and 'imperialists'. People like J Sakai in his very important work 'Settlers', Marx and Engels, and Lenin all observed that the imperialist system could only function if it bought off a considerable section of the working classes within the imperialist centre so as to stave off their potential sympathy with the global working class and peoples who were fighting imperialism, and its worked and continues to work a treat.
So imperialism always seeks to 'racialise', or put outside of humanity or into the 'zone of non-being' (Fanon) all peoples they want to attack and destroy, the most vicious racialised assaults are visited upon darker peoples, but skin deep very light people can also be put into a dehumanised state ready for destruction such as some 'white' or even 'blonde' people that are in part constituent of the peoples of Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Eastern Ukraine and frankly Russians are also defined in an imperialist white supremacist dehumanised manner.
Like in EVERY country of ours, there are problems of racism in Russia, but Russia has a leadership which also provides frameworks in pushing back against that, examples of this are Russia's leading alliances with Africa (Mugabe and others being their closest allies); its critique and on-going hostility to racial supremacism, for example in perhaps the most important show of unity and strength of Russia along with its allies (Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, and others) on the 70th anniversary of the victory against fascism Putin said: "We must not forget that the ideas of racial supremacy and exclusiveness had provoked the bloodiest war ever".
And finally but surely not least is Russia's leading part on the global stage of defending our Homelands from the imperialists.
What is needed is GREATER unity between Russia and the bigger and more assertive Global South countries and the entire Global South community, and this is developing apace.
Russia's upgraded entry into the defence of Syria against the imperialist death squad destruction project in alliance with Iraq and Iran as well, is a major important development for the continued existence and liberation of our Homelands.
We need MORE military defence pacts between our countries, we need MORE strategic military alliances between our countries to push back and defeat once and for all this supremacist genocidal system.
Russia and others are not imperialists, they are our vanguard defenders against the real purveyors of the greatest violence ever visited upon Humanity this last 500 years.
These oppressors must be defeated and they will ONLY be defeated by Russia and others allying with us more closely, and our job is to advocate for the positive alliances and unity and building towards greater unity.