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Discussion has been sparked by a recent article posted at Anti-Imperialism.com about the situation in Syria. Particularly, some of the feedback questioned to the nature and existence of Russian and Chinese imperialism. The following is part of a correspondence which briefly deals with the development of monopoly capital outside of the post-WWII trilateral bloc of the US/Canada, Britain/Western Europe  and Japan. -Nikolai Brown 

I think is is evident that Chinese capital is increasingly involved and invested in foreign and far away places, Africa being a prime example (China is now the continent’s top trading partner), but also Latin America and it Asian-Pacific neighbors. This certainly is not a form of benevolence, but Chinese capital probably offers better terms of trade than, say, France or the US.

The question of whether China is a net-importer or exporter of surplus value is, I believe, separate, as it is a lagging indicator of imperialism. I don’t think resources will be available for Russian/Chinese capital to create as large a labor aristocracy as has historically existed in post-WWII imperialist countries.

While it would be hyperbole (and liberal) to describe Russia/Chinese imperialism on par with US-led imperialism, I think we have to remember to society is constantly in a state of motion. In this case, we have to look at particulars to understand which bloc is in decay due to its inherent contradictions (US-led imperialism) and which is ascendant and attempting to ‘fill the void’ (Russia/Chinese capital). Obviously, a qualitative change in power dynamics between these two blocs won’t occur smoothly, and I believe what we are seeing in Syria is primarily an expression of the conflict between these two blocs. Interestingly, US-led imperialism has already been dealt a blow by the ‘international community’s’ refusal to back its aggression. Again, this might have something to due with the fact that Russia and China have been pouring money into global media outlets which challenge the Washington-London-Tokyo narrative. …..

Getting into this a bit more… I think US-led imperialism is increasingly decadent, i.e. increasing invested into the means of maintaining rule and realizing value at the expense of investing in developing the means of production to create new value [or rather, which utilize labor more efficiently thus producing greater amounts of surplus]. Materially speaking, countries such China, Russia, Brazil, etc have large resource bases and huge productive populations. Over the course of decades and given political initiatives, enough capital can be accumulated to create competing monopolies.

With regards to Syria, I think there is a thin line between comprador and national bourgeoisie. Often times, compradors will take (usually superficial cultural) nationalist measures as a way of achieving some popular support. Likewise, even progressive bourgeois nationalist governments (i.e. Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, DPRK, et al) rely on popular domestic cross-class coalitions while nonetheless operating within the world-economy.

If anything, I think the development of a competing Russian/Chinese monopoly bloc adds an interesting dynamism which is both inevitable yet has been lacking since the 1930s.

All of this said, strategy is necessary in all circumstances. US-led imperialism is still the principal enemy of the world’s people. However, it is increasingly upstart Russian/Chinese monopoly capital which is emerging as the primary threat to it rule, and not the world’s masses per say. The challenge, I suppose, is maneuvering between the two to create through struggle a better alternative. 

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with your thoughts more.

    Clearly the emerging inter-imperialist rivalries are benefiting progressive bourgeois regimes. Do you think the vile comprador-led Third World regimes see this shift and are opportunistically trying to capitalize on these rivalries to the same degree? Some Third World countries certainly have more leverage over the imperialist rivals than others (Vietnam for example has more leverage than, say, Laos), but I’d say overall their (referring to the comprador regimes) benefit from the global neoliberal system is even greater now than it has been in the past. Regardless of which compradors benefit, it’s the masses caught between the tectonic machinations of the big imperialist blocs that are being ground to dust. We must oppose them all outright. If either imperialist “bloc” is weakened, then defeated, won’t the other blocs just step in to fill the vacuum like the US did after WWII? Maneuvering between the two in order to create a better alternative is quite vague. I know we’re not going to conjure up a tenable revolutionary strategy from our keyboards, but we need something more concrete to tell the proletariat than “you’re doomed” -which is essentially when you’re saying.

    And I wanted to say that you’ve changed my mind with regard to the future of Western imperialism. I thought that the “Eastern imperialists” were just ‘lesser organs’ of the same organism that worked in tandem with the West against the proletariat. I took issue with terming them separate “blocs.” But you’re right about this:

    “I think US-led imperialism is increasingly decadent, i.e. increasing invested into the means of maintaining rule and realizing value at the expense of investing in developing the means of production to create new value [or rather, which utilize labor more efficiently thus producing greater amounts of surplus]. Materially speaking, countries such China, Russia, Brazil, etc have large resource bases and huge productive populations. Over the course of decades and given political initiatives enough capital can be accumulated to create competing monopolies.”

    The more I considered what you wrote, the more I realized that I was wrong about the nature of the “Eastern Imperialists.” Perhaps the friction and rivalry between them and the West is more tangible than I believed. I used to think of conflicts such at the one in Syria as “intra-imperialist.” As you said, the China/Russia bloc can’t become First World (or at least their masses can’t achieve the same level of decadence that the parasite mAsses of the trilateral bloc has). So there’s a qualitative difference in the roles each bloc plays in the system. Every nation is vying for a better role within the system and no bourgeois regime wants to see the system crushed. As you pointed out, the shifting of positions within the system is anything but smooth and will open up opportunities for us to “maneuver” within. Since not everyone can be the top-dog within the imperialist system, these rivalries are inevitable. But are these contradictions so acute that something game-changing will occur? Is the weak link in imperialism here, among the inter-imperialist rivalries?

    Reply
    • I generally agree with these observations. With regard to the apparent pessimism, keep in mind this article was written as an addendum commentary to a previous article about the nature of the Syrian conflict and the duties of Communists in the First World.

      With regards to your latter comments, I do think polarization and social tension is and will continue to increase around the board. While it goes without saying the First World masses have for some time been fairly pacified via superwages and settler-colonial privilege, any breakdown of this historic bride, to the extent that is occurring, will surely generate a reaction on their part. A loss of faith in the extant system on the part of the petty-bourgeois masses is a recipe for fascism, but may also open possibilities to reach out to minor sections. At the very least, it is better to attempt to organize a progressive opposition against reaction than to cower as it sets it.

      With regards to US imperialism, there is a trend toward stratification favoring those directly associated with the financial-security-bureaucratic sector and an overall favoring of parasitic activities, which ultimately can only exist as an extension of a hegemon which exploits the Third World at gunpoint. This is against the interest of Russian and Chinese capital, not for political reason, but because their capital has to grow too – though obviously neither seek a major conflict with each other.

      Reply
  2. Russia and China are not imperialist. They are anti-imperialist. The best way to fight imperialism is to support the Chinese Communist Party.

    Reply
    • Russia and China are indeed emerging imperialist powers. The logic of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” is lazy politics.

      Reply
      • Personally, I find the above comment not even warranting a response. There is a difference between an assertion and an argument. This is an example of the former.

      • Strange its a logic that has led to much revolutionary success-vietnams defeat of japan using us trainers.struggle in philipines using same.defeat of germany by russia in front with imperialist powers etc.is this lazy?

  3. Russia’s export sector is based around fuel/commodity exports. It’s economic growth depends on world commodity prices-I can’t see it becoming imperialist. China is certainly going for an imperialist role by trying to turn the yuan into a reserve currency but I can’t quite see this succeeding. The USA is trying to block its ascent and the Chinese leadership just aren’t showing the back-bone to stand up to it.

    Also Iran ‘progressive bourgeois nationalist’? My enemy’s enemy may be my friend but this might be pushing it.

    Reply
    • With regard to Iran, the original comment was ill-timed simply because of the Iranian state’s recent turn toward conciliation. However, over the past 30-odd years, I’m not sure how else one would describe the Iranian state besides bourgeois-nationalist. In this case, the Iranian revolution was based on a cross-class coalition, after which the colonized national bourgeoisie was able to ascend at the expense of proletarian forces (this happened in other revolutions such as Cuba, Vietnam, et al, only the new bourgeoisie formed from within the ascendent revolutionary parties). Since then, the IRI has maintained itself as a bourgeois-nationalist republic which nonetheless relies on a cross-class coalition of support as a substitute for patronage by US-led imperialism. As the above article mentions, there is a thin line between a bourgeois-nationalist regime and an outright comprador one, and furthermore these things are always in flux, propelled by class struggle itself. The fact that the IRI is under attack by US-led imperialism is enough to allow for for tacit communist support based on a global united front. This, of course, does not preclude the critical need for independent communist organizing and leadership within bourgeois-nationalist countries such as Iran.

      Reply
      • While there is no doubt china and russia are not net importers of surplus value they are for sure emerging semiperipheries.the. proletariat of both is superexploited.hardly the immense accumulation of surplus value which lenin noted re.imperialist nations.iran has been consistently progressive force in region for decades.anyone who denies that is not on this planet.every force that weakens imperialism to be welcomed.is this an example of south-south cooperation?a global united front will involve bourgois forces.liberals who use the term imperialism in such an idiotic fashion should wise up.

      • True.but in any such nation as mao noted re.united front such criticism must be relative..states want independance,nations liberation and peoples revolution.any regression from one of these advances is counterrevolutionary.

    • Is iran bourgeois nationalist?that is one off the wall question

      Reply
  4. The author notes (almost in passing) that new ‘eastern’ capital activities in Africa involve much less predatory terms of trade as compared to those of until-now dominant western capital. It seems to me that this is a hugely important point when it comes to analyzing the coming systemic shifts at a world level–and in calibrating anti-imperialist responses to increasing ‘eastern’ power. I think it would be interesting to develop precise modes of analysis to evaluate the reduction in inequality contained in emerging extractive regimes linking, say, China and African nations as compared to West+Japan capital. It would also be important to include a consideration of structural adjustment demands as part of the latter, and their absence as part of the former. I think such a wide-ranging analysis would temper the attribution of ’emerging imperialist’ to China and Russia, and might show that we need new terminology to describe the late-capitalist growth of China’s and Russia’s global power. I suspect that ’emerging imperialism’ suggests features of hyper-exploitation and hyper-extraction which are not characteristic of the emerging ‘eastern’ system.

    Reply

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