The Character of War in 21st Century: Are China and Russia a target or a side of the war?

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The promise to bring about a peaceful capitalist development in the guise of “globalization”, which constituted the most significant component of the ideological attack by capitalism has evaporated.[1] The whole world realizes that we are on the precipice of a new war. It is now widely accepted that the US will constitute one side of the fighting forces, whereas Russia and China, in one way or another, will position themselves against the US. The new ideological attack under these circumstances focuses on the propagation of the belief that Russia and China, as the two rising global powers, pose a threat to the world peace. For approximately two decades, the media outlets of imperialism, such as Newsweek, Time, or The Economist, have consistently preached that the 21st century will be the century of China. Recently, Putin, as “the new rising Russian Tsar”, is under the limelight on the covers of the very same media outlets. There is no reason to believe that these media outlets have good intentions behind their “propaganda” of Russia and China. The aim of this propaganda is to obscure the imperialist aggression of the US by portraying Russia and China stronger and more aggressive than they actually are.

The reflection of this imperialist propaganda on the left, be it consciously or otherwise, is to describe Russia and China as imperialist powers. Transposed from the theoretical sphere to political practice, this results in grave mistakes, including the extremely reactionary position of defending the sectarian organizations in Syria in the name of a call to fight against “Russian imperialism”, and in relatively reparable mistakes, as in the case of adopting an indecisive attitude toward US imperialism. Our belief is that we could spark a meaningful and progressive debate with those who embrace an irreconcilable stance towards US imperialism and its allies, adopting at the same time a cautious attitude about the possibility of Russia and China becoming imperialist powers.

It is thus of great importance to analyze the socio-economic structure of Russia and China in order to discuss the character of imperialism and war in the 21st century.  This article examines the general principles of the Marxist approach to the question of war, how these principles were formulated during the various stages of capitalist development, and what the stance of Marxists should be under the present circumstances. We had previously presented a thorough analysis of the Marxist approach to the question of war, in a dossier in Devrimci Marksizm, issue number 25. In this article, we confine ourselves to a general explanation of what the stance of Marxists should be in today’s fast-approaching war. We will not go into a thorough debate on the question strategy and tactics. Without doubt, we assume the US as one side of the war along with European Union, Britain and Japan, which are in a subordinate position towards the US, but also carry an imperialist character. As we analyze the character of Russia and China, we specifically focus on which distinctive features of imperialism exist in these countries rather than offering an exhaustive explanation on their socio-economic structure. Between the two, we are primarily concerned with China. This is because our essential point of departure, which is the Leninist theory of imperialism, locates the economy at the center of its analysis. It conceptualizes the imperialist struggle for partition and repartition as one of the outcomes of the imperialist stage of capitalism. China is way ahead of Russia in terms of its economic development, so much so that it is not even comparable with the latter. Hence, if China cannot be characterized as an imperialist power, it will also be possible to say the same for Russia. Because the military power and the capacity of China and Russia, as well as their positioning in the Middle East and the Pacific, deserve to be scrutinized on their own, they will not be the focus of our debate in this article. We shall present our position pertaining to these matters under the subtitle of the character of war, where we will refer to the decisions taken by the 4th Congress of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP).

The Marxist stance on wars in general

Lenin begins his book Socialism and War by stating that Marxists always view war among peoples as barbarous and monstrous and decry it. He then opens up a parenthesis, within which can be found the content of the rest of his book.  The monstrous and barbarous character of war creates the necessity of taking it seriously, directing Marxists as true and coherent critics of war to refrain from adopting a pacifist position, waging “war against war” instead. To wage “war against war” is to be involved in a revolutionary fight that essentially strives for the liquidation of a class-based society because that is the root cause of war. This fight requires an evaluation of each war on its own terms. The distinction between defensive and just wars and aggressive and unjust wars lies on this basis. As Marxism makes this distinction, it views the war not from the perspective of a journalist but from the perspective of a staff officer, meaning that the analyses and evaluations of a Marxist are action-oriented.

Marx and Engels evaluated the wars in their own period as the staff officers of the working class, took their stand and acted accordingly. They evaluated wars with the purpose of leading class struggle to a successful end or, in other words, from the point of view of the interest of world revolution, and determined their stance accordingly. The invariable aim of war is to disarm your enemy, forcing them to concede to your will. If war is waged by nations, within which there are divisions along the lines of class, and if one side is not a workers’ state, that war leads to the dragging of millions of workers to the battlefield, but results in a triumph of the will of one dominant class over that of another, whereas it is the members of working class who pay a great part of the cost. It would, nonetheless, be wrong for the working class to remain indifferent to wars. Even when the decision-makers and executors of a war are dominant classes, that war can produce progressive and reactionary outcomes for the international proletariat and laboring classes as a result of the uneven development of the nations. Not only does a Marxist party strive for an outcome with favorable consequences for the toiling masses, it also engages in active and well-planned intervention to that end.

The character of war in the pre-imperialist period

Marx and Engels, with this perspective, supported the wars of exploited nations and peoples against the colonialists. They took sides with the Afghans, Indians, Chinese against the British and the Egyptians and Mexicans against the French. The primary reason behind this attitude is that colonialism constituted the main obstacle to the social development and transformation of the colonial lands. In the war between France and Prussia, Marx and Engels sided with the Germans, who fought a defensive war against the aggression of Bonaparte III. For them, the latter was the enemy not only of the Germans but also of the French Revolution. Marx and Engels saluted the Republic which was proclaimed thanks to the defeat of Bonaparte III. However, as soon as the war of the German dominant classes lost its defensive character and turned aggressive against the French Republic, they did not hesitate to oppose it.[2] During this period of time, Marx and Engels issued declarations, advocating the collaboration of the working classes of the fighting parties under the umbrella of International Workingmen’s Association (First International). They invariably tried to steer the working class on either side away from nationalist illusions and to establish a political line independent of the bourgeoisie and the land-owning classes.

Marx and Engels backed the Ottomans in the Crimean War. Ottoman despotism, without doubt, was reactionary and Marx and Engels opposed this despotism and its class- and nation-based manifestations. They also perceived Russian Tsardom, along with other reactionary actors, as posing a threat to all progressive and revolutionary forces. For this reason, they favored Russian defeat for the sake of revolutionary and progressive struggles as well as the interests of international proletariat.[3]

Ultimately, not only should we evaluate each war on its own terms, but we should also consider the historical circumstances of each war.  In the age of bourgeois revolutions, each and every development to dissolve the feudal order is progressive in terms of preparing the ground for the historic victory of the proletariat. It is due to this perspective that Marx and Engels supported not only wars against colonialism obstructing social development and transformation, but also wars against despotic structures, barriers in the way of the development of societies in the face of feudalism.

Lenin explains the historical context which determined Marx’s and Engels’ stance as follows: “The epoch of 1789-1871 left deep tracts and revolutionary memories. Before feudalism, absolutism and alien oppression were overthrown, the development of the proletarian struggle for Socialism was out of the question. When speaking of the legitimacy of “defensive” war in relation to the wars of such an epoch, Socialists always had in mind precisely these objects, which amounted to revolution against medievalism and serfdom.”[4]

Imperialism: The highest stage of capitalism

Capitalism acquired a monopolistic character and entered into its imperialist stage from the last quarter of the 19th century on. Although the warring nations did not change, this phenomenon changed the character of war. Lenin stressed that the bourgeoisie’s wars waged in the name of freedom had already become history and inter-imperialist struggle for dividing the world came into prominence. This transformation did not take place due to the change in the governments of the nations or these nations’ ethical dissociation from the values of bourgeois revolution such as equality, freedom, and fraternity. These nations became forces oppressing and enslaving the majority of the peoples and nations of the world because of the development and ripening of capitalism.[5]

Lenin notes that both colonialism and imperialism existed before the age of modern capitalism and even before capitalism itself. The Roman Empire had colonies and practiced imperialism in the sense of territorial expansion. However, after reaching the highest stage of capitalism, it is impossible to understand imperialism independent from the finance-capital’s colonial and imperialist policy. In this regard, Lenin states that “‘general’ disquisitions on imperialism, which ignore, or put into the background, the fundamental difference between socio-economic systems, inevitably turn into the most vapid banality or bragging, like the comparison: ‘Greater Rome and Greater Britain’.”[6] Imperialism is not the expansionist policy of individual countries but the highest stage of capitalism.

Lenin explains the characteristics of the stage of imperialism based on the structural change of capital and capitalism. As Marx explained in Capital, in the process of capital accumulation competition led to the intensification and centralization of capital, and monopolies emerged as a result. Monopoly capitalism replaced competitive capitalism. The unification of financial capital and industrial capital created the finance-capital, which is the characteristic unit of imperialist capital. Export of capital became more dominant and decisive than the export of commodities. Giant international monopoly capitalist groups divide the world among themselves. Powerful capitalist states complete the territorial division of the world.[7]

In the age of imperialism, great powers define the act of war and carry out the territorial division of the world. However, the analysis of imperialism requires making distinctions between these great powers. According to Lenin, among the six great powers that divided the world, the United States, Germany, and Japan were young and emerging capitalist (imperialist) states and England and France were the old capitalist (imperialist) states. With a socio-economic structure dominated by pre-capitalist relations and surrounded by modern capitalist imperialist forces, Russia was quite different from others.[8] While defining Russia’s position in the World War I as imperialist, Lenin stressed this crucial difference: “In Russia, capitalist imperialism of the latest type has fully revealed itself in the policy of tsarism towards Persia, Manchuria and Mongolia; but, in general, military and feudal imperialism predominates in Russia.”[9]

The elements of militarism and feudalism that dominated Russian imperialism were also present in Ottoman imperialism. However, the Ottoman Empire was a semi-colony and did not possess the distinct characteristics of imperialism defined as the highest stage of capitalism. Therefore, neither Russia nor the Ottoman Empire cannot be seen as imperialist powers that defined the (imperialist) character of the World War I. They were dependent on great imperialist powers and therefore occupied a secondary position (at best) in the inter-imperialist rivalry. Hence, the imperialism of Russia and the Ottomans resembled the imperialism of the Greater Rome rather than capitalist imperialism.[10]

The emphases on monopoly capitalism, finance-capital, and capital export in Lenin’s theory of imperialism displays the main foundations of the great powers struggling for the division and re-division of the world. Large armies, expansive territories, and relatively high populations were the sources of power of the pre-capitalist empires. In the age of imperialism, the export of capital took the place of military campaigns and finance-capital invading the markets took the place of invading armies. On the international plane, imperialist armies (that are financed by super profits derived from the plunder of raw materials and exploitation of cheap labor power and using the technical and technological capabilities supplied by capitalist industry) became dominant in every field. The armies of the pre-capitalist empires proud of their almighty past were either defeated by the imperialist invaders (as seen in the case of China) or became auxiliary powers in the service of imperialism (as seen in the cases of Russia, the Ottomans, and Austria-Hungary).

The character of war in the age of imperialism and proletarian revolutions

The stance against war in the age of imperialism brought the working class movement and Marxism to a turning point. Against the social democrats who distorted Marx and Engels’ “war of defense” perspective in order to legitimize the support of their own imperialist bourgeois governments, internationalist socialists like Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Liebknecht took a firm stand against the imperialist war. Among the internationalist socialists, Lenin became the most consistent representative of the revolutionary perspective of Marx and Engels. Lenin united the stance against the imperialist war with the strategy of turning the imperialist war into civil war. The victorious October Revolution was a result of this strategy. The proletarian revolution that triumphed in Russia in 1917 also ended the World War I.[11]

The imperialist world system experienced a break following the October Revolution. The age of proletarian revolutions opened up. The subsequent wars can be (and were actually) understood in this historical context. In the French-German war of 1870-71, we witnessed that the character of an ongoing war can change. Similarly, the October Revolution changed the character of World War I. After the February Revolution, turning the imperialist war in Russia into a revolutionary war became possible. Revolutionary war concretely came to the agenda following the October Revolution. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty ruled out a revolutionary war against Germany. However, the war of imperialism against the recently founded workers’ state continued in the form of civil war. The Russian Civil War that started in 1918 was a war in which classes visibly struggled against each other. It was a revolutionary and just war of the proletariat and reactionary and unjust war of the Russian landlords and bourgeoisie. The character of the war also changed for the Ottoman Empire/Turkey at the end of the World War I. Along with Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman state joined the war in the imperialist bloc led by Germany. After losing the war, the Ottoman state was dismembered and invaded. After that stage, the war acquired a bourgeois nationalist and defensive character. With this perspective, Lenin and Trotsky supported the national struggle in Anatolia.

In the age of proletarian revolutions that opened up after the October Revolution, the Soviet Union became the most important and strategic front of the world revolution. After that point, imperialism ceased to be a truly universal system. Anti-colonial wars of the 19th century were instruments of the destruction of the pre-capitalist socio-economic and political forms in the colonies and advancement of the colonized societies. After the October Revolution, national wars against imperialism became part of the world proletarian revolution. Lenin understood and advocated nations’ right to self-determination not as an abstract principle but in close relation to the requirements of the world proletarian revolution. In the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, the famous slogan of the revolutionary working class movement since the publication of the Communist Manifesto, “Workers of the world, unite!” was revised as “Workers and oppressed nations of the world, unite!”

The coexistence of declining imperialism and rising proletarian revolution determined the historical context of World War II. Like World War I, World War II had the character of an inter-imperialist rivalry for the division the world. World War II was not simply a conflict between the German Nazism and Italian fascism on the one side and the English, French and American democracies on the other side. It was a war between two imperialist camps for the division of the world. In this context, the stance of Marxism against World War II was similar to the Bolsheviks’ stance against World War I, meaning that the working class of each country had to reject to collaborate with its imperialist dominant classes. Since France was occupied at the onset of World War II and the invading capitalist power appeared (in front of the French nation as well as the French working class) in the form of Nazism, resistance against occupation and fascism/Nazism came into prominence. For all other imperialist countries, turning the imperialist war into civil war (in order to triumph over their national bourgeoisies and establish workers’ states) was a relevant revolutionary strategy. The character of the war changed after the Nazis’ assault against the Soviet Union in 1941. The Soviet Union’s war against Nazism was a defensive and just war. The policy of revolutionary defeatism against the imperialist allies of the Soviet Union were to be continued but in a modified form. Without forgetting the fact that the Soviet Union’s imperialist allies were essentially the enemies of the Soviet Union and the proletarian revolution, suitable tactics prioritizing the military victory of the workers’ state were to be deployed. The direct and immediate target of the world proletariat was the Soviet Union’s military victory. Hence, the second wave of the world revolution started with the Red Army’s victory over fascism, partisan wars across Europe, and the war against Japanese invasion in China. In conformity with the character of the age, socialist revolutions stopped the imperialist war.

What defines the character of the Russian and Chinese economies: Export of commodities or export of capital?

Imperialism is a stage of capitalism in which the export of capital, rather than that of commodities, becomes determinant. In the 21st century, the export of capital has become easier both technically and technologically. The neoliberal attacks of imperialism have, over time, considerably dismantled the barriers in front of the circulation of capital. The export of capital under these circumstances is not limited to a handful of imperialist powers but has rather become more widespread. Moreover, the deepening integration of the imperialist world has led to an increase in the export of capital among imperialist economies and the US and Britain now receive a high level of direct foreign investment, as well as being leaders in the export of capital as major imperialist powers.  That the levels of investment the US and Britain export and receive, each, are approximately the same does not change the imperialist characteristic of the finance-capital of these countries. On the contrary, they are at the center of an increasingly integrating world capitalist system.

Imperialist countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus the European Union as a whole and Japan are net capital exporters in terms of the foreign direct investment stock. On the other hand, Russia and China are net capital importers in terms of the foreign direct investment stock. Whereas the stock of the foreign direct investment of China is equal to 24 per cent of its GDP, its export of capital reaches only 12 per cent of its GDP. This percentage, for Russia, is respectively 30 per cent and 26 per cent, and this despite it being the unrivalled number one exporter of capital to the former Soviet republics, which demonstrates that it is also a net capital importer.[12]

A close scrutiny of both China and Russia shows that the character of their economies is defined not by the export of capital but by the export of commodities. The situation of Russia is quite obvious. 40per cent of Russia’s budget income stems from oil, gas and their derivatives. Its economic performance is highly dependent on the fluctuation of oil prices.[13] On a global scale, however, Russia with its total export income of 353 billion dollars is at the bottom of the league of exporting countries, competing with the United Arab Emirates. For this reason, we shall not discuss further the situation of Russia due to the clarity of its position, whereas China’s situation seems to be more controversial and deserves to be evaluated in more detail.

With an income to the amount of 2.3 trillion dollars from its export of commodities, China is at the top of the league of exporters. If we add the 550 million dollars of Hong Kong’s exports to this figure, China’s export income stands at twice the export income of countries such as the US (1.5 trillion) or Germany (1.4 trillion).[14] Our point is that the export of capital from China is complimentary to the country’s gigantic commodity-exporting economic structure. In other words, the Chinese economy exports both goods and capital but what is determinant in the Chinese case is the export of commodities, not imperialism’s distinctive feature of the export of capital.

For instance, the export of capital by China by means of buying ports and terminals is different from the conduct of imperialist finance-capital which seeks to find cheap labor overseas. Ports for China are not a means of transferring the excess profits acquired by capital through the exploitation of cheap labor. Rather, China uses them to sell goods to the world, goods produced in China using its cheap labor force.  It is as an extension of its position in the world economy as the top exporting country that China invests in ports worldwide. Despite these investments, the Chinese state’s commercial monopolies, which own 29 ports in 15 countires and 47 terminals in 13 countries, are approximately on a par with, or even fall behind, the Danish company Maersk (41 countries, 76 ports), the Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Co. (22 countries, 35 terminals) and the Dubai-based DP World (40 countries, 77 ports).[15]

While 40% of Chinese direct capital export concentrates on the mining, oil and energy sectors, only 4% of it goes to manufacturing industry. China is one of the major customers of raw materials and energy and this demand emerges out of export-oriented production within the borders of China, that is, out of the impetus for the export of commodities. The determinant variable in China’s direct investments abroad is the national income of the country into which the Chinese capital is exported.[16] Foreign investments of China target not cheap labor but large markets. Large markets mean more demand for Chinese goods, which demonstrates that the export of Chinese capital is an extension of its export of commodities and that this characteristic of the Chinese economy cannot be defined as an indicator of imperialism.

There is also a serious source of misunderstanding regarding the data on the Chinese export of capital. When Hong Kong, a former British colony, was turned over to China in 1997, China and Britain made an agreement known as ‘one country, two systems’, according to which the free market and the liberal structure of Hong Kong earned immunity. For this reason, investments of China in Hong Kong are calculated as part of China’s capital export. Additionally, foreign investments of Hong Kong in China are in the status of foreign capital. China offers many incentives so as to attract foreign investment. For this reason, the Chinese capital that starts a business in Hong Kong returns to China (“round tripping”) and takes advantage of the incentives provided for foreign investment. The share of Hong Kong in the export of Chinese capital reaches 70 per cent and the capital that is re-invested in China as a result of round tripping is estimated to reach 40 per cent of the export of Chinese capital.[17]

The contradictory character of Russian and Chinese finance capital

Three   petroleum and natural gas giants, Gasprom, Lukoil and Rosneft, and two publicly traded national banks, Sberbank and VTB Bank, are the Russian companies which are amongst the world’s biggest 500 companies list. China, on the other hand, enters the list as one of the leading countries, with approximately 20 companies in the top 500 list. Thus, if we add the increasing stock market activity in both China and Russia to the increasing importance of the banks’ capital, we can easily say that finance-capital, characteristic of the age of imperialism, exists in Russia and China. However, almost all of those companies are either state-owned corporations or joint-stock companies in which the state is the main share-holder. The only private Chinese company which made it to the list is the Hong-Kong based Noble Group, which is in fact a British company founded by a big coal trader named Richard Elman. The reason why those companies are among the top 500 in the world is not the developed capitalism of China and Russia, but Russian leadership in natural resources and China’s huge market due to the fact that it has the biggest population in the world.

We can observe a pattern in state ownership that is not compatible with the classical tendencies of finance-capital, especially when it comes to China. The prominent tendency in China’s foreign investments is not the “greenfield” type, which means building new factories, production units, plants etc. from scratch, but instead the joint venture model in which companies are bought in parts or wholesale. However, Chinese investors have gained serious notoriety. While classical finance-capital operates with the motive of maximizing profit, China’s political and bureaucratic motivations can sometimes push the profitability of the investment into the background. The emblematic example of this was the case of a Chinese state company, Angbang Insurance Group, that bought the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. After going through restoration, Waldorf Astoria stayed closed for months due to the suspension of the group’s director, Wu Xiaohui, in the course of an investigation. This incident resulted in a loss of more than one billion dollars.[18] Such incidents do not only spark suspicion against Chinese investors, but also pushes the Chinese government itself to impose serious restrictions on foreign investment. In 2017, the Chinese government banned investments on casinos and the like, while introducing restrictions on the export of capital on real estate, hotels and entertainment venues.[19]

Unlike their American, German, French and Japanese counterparts, neither Russia with its oil and gas monopolies, its state banks as well as its ever-growing oligarchs due to the plundering of the workers’ state, nor China with its giant but premature finance-capital can form the basis for an imperialist power. However, such a conclusion does not imply that the current situation will remain the same forever. Even though Russian finance-capital is far from having an imperialist character, the development of Chinese finance-capital requires close scrutiny. Nonetheless, we cannot talk about imperialism unless China elevates its economy to a new level in which the export of capital, not the export of commodities, becomes dominant.

Additionally, it is impossible for China to rise up to the league of imperialist countries as long as it does not seek cheap labor beyond its borders, but continues to offer  wages among the lowest in the world and remains a country into which capital flows  and out of which its own population moves. In connection with this, we must mention that Lenin also added the phenomenon of migration to the indicators of imperialism: “One of the special features of imperialism connected with the facts I am describing, is the decline in emigration from imperialist countries and the increase in immigration into these countries from the more backward countries where lower wages are paid.”[20] In today’s world if there is no such thing as American, German, Danish, Dutch, Canadian, British or French migrant workers, the reason is that these countries are imperialist powers. And the converse relation must also be taken to be true.

Results and Prospects

Lenin states that the struggle for repartition of the world  among great powers in the age of imperialism develops on the base formed by monopoly capitalism, finance capital, and the export of capital: “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.”[21] When we are trying to make sense of war in our age, this clear comprehension directs us to investigate the economic infrastructure of Russia and China, which are obviously one of the poles of political contradictions and military tensions.

We have demonstrated in its basic outline that the economic infrastructure of Russia and China are not of an imperialist character. The defensive position of Russia and China, as parties to military tensions shaking the world today, is determined by the aforementioned infrastructure. In reality, the defensive position of Russia and China can easily be observed without such an analysis. What determines the character of war in the 21st century is the encirclement of Russia and China by US imperialism, in alliance with its subordinate allies of European and Japanese imperialism, in order to integrate the former countries into the imperialist world system in unrestrained fashion by bringing the process of capitalist restoration in these countries to its completion.

To repeat, this position may undoubtedly change over time. However, for this to occur, the finance-capital of Russia and China should develop in such a manner that the export of capital becomes dominant whereas the export of commodities falls to a secondary position in the economy. Only under that condition can these countries compete with the US and its allies in the imperialist struggle of domination as independent imperialist powers. A more probable development would be that Russia and/or China will fight alongside an imperialist camp in the case of a division within the imperialist camp. This latter situation means a similar position to that of Russia and the Ottoman state during World War I. Considering the current situation of the world and political developments, it can be said that the probability of such an alternative is very low.

Even though Russia and China are in a just and defensive position against the imperialist block led by the USA, neither Putin’s despotism nor the CPC or the “Capitalist” Party of China is an alternative for the world proletariat to follow and offer political support. The interest of the world proletariat lies in the defeat of imperialism. The military power of Russia and China reduces the possibility of an imperialist invasion to almost impossible. However, prior to a military attack, these countries are faced with the risk of an economic and political collapse, resulting from the destruction of all the achievements of the proletarian revolution and the sharp mobilization of all the capitalist crisis dynamics into those countries. That is to say that, even though those powers may resist imperialism, they cannot defeat it. On the other hand, the defeat of Russia and China at the hands of imperialism would give rise to retrogressive results worldwide. Thus, no impartiality is possible between imperialism and these countries. On the contrary, each blow received by imperialism would pave the way for revolutionary dynamics. What ultimately will lead to the defeat of 21st century imperialism is the proletarian revolution, as was the case in World War I and World War II.

Levent Dölek is the Deputy Chairperson of DIP (Revolutionary Workers’ Party) and a former lecturer at the Faculty of Economics of Istanbul University before he was expelled with one of the first Decree Laws of the State of Emergency in Turkey in 2016 because of his political struggle. He is a writer in Devrimci Marksizm (Revolutionary Marxism) and its annual English edition Revolutionary Marxism, and newspaper Gerçek (Truth)

[1] This is a slightly abbreviated version of the same article in Turkish, published in Devrimci Marksizm, issue No. 35, Summer 2018. It was translated into English by Burak Başaranlar.

[2] See the “Second Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association on the Franco-Prussian War (Marx)”,

[3] For Marx’s views on this question see Karl Marx, Türkiye Üzerine (Şark Meselesi) [On Turkey (The Eastern Question)], translated by Selahattin Hilav and Attila Tokatlı, İstanbul: Gerçek Yayınevi, 1974.

[5] Ibid.

[6] V.I. Lenin, Emperyalizm Kapitalizmin En Yüksek Aşaması [Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism], translated by Cemal Süreya, Ankara: Sol Yayınları, 1998, pp. 92-93.

[7] Ibid., pp. 100-101.

[8] Ibid., p. 92.

[9] V.I. Lenin, Sosyalizm ve Savaş [Socialism and War], p. 18.

[10] Lenin continuously stressed this distinction especially with regard to Russia. On the other hand, Lenin used the tactic of “revolutionary defeatism” and strategy of “transforming war into civil war” in the struggle against Russia which joined World War I on the side of English and French imperialism and waged a war with a colonial/plunderer character. This struggle undoubtedly necessitated stressing the unjust and imperialist character of the war led by the dominant classes of Russia. The mistake of those claiming that Russia has always been imperialist stems from a misreading of this emphasis.

[11] For a detailed analysis of Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ position, tactics, and strategies regarding the war, see Levent Dölek, “Devrimci Marksist savaş politikası” [“Revolutionary Marxist Policy on War”], Devrimci Marksizm, no. 25, Winter 2015-2016, pp. 11-39.

[16] Wade Shepard, “China’s Seaport Shopping Spree: What China Is Winning By Buying Up The World’s Ports”,

[17] Chia Le, “China’s numbers don’t tell full story on foreign investment”, Nikkei Asian Review,

[18] Xie Yu, “Chinese Overseas Acquirers Export Capital and Leave Black Eye”, South China Morning Post,

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