Seven years after formally ceasing operations, the u.$. navy’s 2nd fleet has been reactivated and ordered to the northern Atlantic as a means of confronting “bad actors” they believe hostile to imperialist interests. It is more than obvious these “actors” are in fact one actor—Russia. This is riding a high-tide of inter-imperialist tension and rivalry over control in strategic political and economic areas throughout the Third World. The united $tates, desperately attempting to hold onto its empire, sees any and all Russian activity—even its existence—as a threat to its survival. This is by no means exclusive to the Russian imperialists. China is a power capable of dislodging amerikan imperialist hegemony from strategic markets, a reality that has stoked a similar policy in Asia.
The fleet’s reactivation is intended to further an unstated u.$. policy obtaining since the Cold War: Russian containment. The NATO encirclement of Russian political and military interests is nothing new, but it is continuously expanded. Thousands of tanks, soldiers and aircraft dapple the frontier across eastern Europe much as they did in the cold war, except this time the action is much closer to Moscow itself. Although Russia has its own imperialist ambitions, there is a clear asymmetry in the escalation. Russia mobilizes even its offensive operations in a strategically defensive posture. For instance: the invasion of Georgia in 2008, the ongoing intervention in Syria, the annexation of Crimea and their intervention in the Donbass conflict. These are, by and large, occurring directly on their borders or nearby, and have been in reaction to the advance of amerikan imperialism, or destabilizations supported by the u.$./european bloc.
This has much less to do with any “progressive” orientation in Russian imperialism, and more to do with its junior status in the world. Simply put, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian state was put on the permanent defensive. The military-economic bulwarks it had set up against NATO imperialism had largely evaporated, and while they have been able to retain or reclaim some of their former outposts, it is clear that their position has been significantly weakened. Russia’s primary concern is, in military terms, to defend what it has. Although conquest is certainly not off the table for the Russian imperialists, and it certainly maintains an interest in reclaiming an advanced position over and beyond its former holdings, their capacity to do so is conditioned by the tightening NATO coil. In short, the supremacy of amerikan imperialism prevents the realization of the Russian monopoly capitalists’ full potential.
There is an overall ebb and flow in the intensification of inter-imperialist rivalry, and this is clearly represented in amerikan imperialist policy. At one moment, the amerikans attempt to befriend Russia to isolate China, then the reverse, then neither, and back again. The chaotic unpredictability in amerikan imperialism in its orientation to both Russian imperialism and Chinese social-imperialism is dependent upon a number of factors, but it is clear that the general intensification in this rivalry, which is strategically visible regardless of whatever tactical motions are made by the u.$. Imperialists, is predominantly driven by two main factors: the declining, and already very low, global rate of profit and a crumbling imperial-hegemonic infrastructure. This is why even diplomatic breakthroughs with one or the other power never result in actual backward motion on its provocations. Relations “resets” with Russia or China have only ever frozen or delayed further provocations, it has never reversed them. Despite its tactical confusion, the strategic orientation of amerikan imperialism is unambiguously pointing to war.
The united $tates’ enemies are by no means passive actors. China increases its war readiness daily. Russia’s largest wargames since the early 1980’s, Vostok 2018 will include troops and bombers from China’s Northern Command, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization members, under China’s auspices, are currently participating in anti-terrorism and urban warfare drills in Chelyabinsk. These preparations disclose that, while the u.$. is indisputably the aggressor, cruising headlong into world war, its rivals, and the monopolists they represent, are certainly willing to meet them there.
As we have stated before, there is a genuine danger now, as there always will be so long as imperialism exists, of the sudden breakout of world war. Capitalism-imperialism can only resolve these stagnating struggles, where the bloated and flagging capitalist economy becomes overcome with crisis and contradiction, through the redevision of the world. What the imperialists cannot currently obtain through negotiation, they will soon move to annex. Although imperialism exists as a set of relations inherent to an advanced stage in capitalism, its final “argument” is always direct military strength. The smaller, more feeble imperialists, and those caught within spheres of influence, will have to choose sides. The strongest will confront each other directly. In the imperialist epoch wars of redivision are always imminent. Until some unforeseeable qualitative change occurs in the world system, Lenin’s exposition will remain correct:
The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism. But strength varies with the degree of economic and political development. In order to understand what is taking place, it is necessary to know what questions are settled by the changes in strength. The question as to whether these changes are “purely” economic or non-economic (e.g., military) is a secondary one, which cannot in the least affect fundamental views on the latest epoch of capitalism. To substitute the question of the form of the struggle and agreements (today peaceful, tomorrow warlike, the next day warlike again) for the question of the substance of the struggle and agreements between capitalist associations is to sink to the role of a sophist.
The epoch of the latest stage of capitalism shows us that certain relations between capitalist associations grow up, based on the economic division of the world; while parallel to and in connection with it, certain relations grow up between political alliances, between states, on the basis of the territorial division of the world, of the struggle for colonies, of the “struggle for spheres of influence”.
We must take these provocations seriously. They are not simply theatrics, but are, at their core, and whether the imperialists truly mean them to be or not, sincere preparations. This is the reality of inter-imperialist conflict in the era of moribund capitalism-imperialism, and to obscure this fact leaves us ill-prepared to deal with its consequences. Our tasks to oppose escalation, principally in our “own” countries, and to carry out Lenin’s program of revolutionary defeatism have not changed. No doubt as amerikan imperialism recedes, others will take its place, but we must count on our comrades internationally to thwart the rise of their “own” expansionist and imperialist states. Our responsibility, first and foremost, is to turn struggle inward, and to confront the threat of imperialist world war with revolutionary war.
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