Imperialism is the highest and final stage of capitalism. Imperialism is not an occasional policy, a transitory period or a reversible error of capitalism; it is the capitalism itself in a form ready to be destroyed. Capitalism will not undergo another transformation; it will not proceed to another stage. Capitalism will either be destroyed with a socialist revolution or continue to hold the humanity captive in its imperialist stage. The necessity of transition to socialism in our age should be perceived this way. The age of imperialism is the age of socialist revolutions.
The struggle against imperialism cannot be independent of the struggle against capitalism. Imperialism and capitalism cannot be separated from one another. Imperialism is the concrete, historical form of capitalism. An anti-imperialist struggle that is not anti-capitalist does not serve the interests of the working class.
Imperialism is a hierarchical world system. All capitalist countries are a part of this hierarchy. At a specific historical moment, the positions of particular countries in the imperialist hierarchy are relative. The hierarchy, above all, means a relationship of supremacy and dominance. The elements within the hierarchy cannot be equally decisive on the whole of the system, nor the contradictions among them have to bear the same weigh in the functioning of the current hierarchy or formation of a different one. Therefore, identification of the critical link in a given imperialist hierarchy is of great significance for the clarification of the direction of the struggle. Since the countries at the top of the structure are decisive in the functioning of the imperialist hierarchy, it is of strategic importance for the revolutionary struggle to analyze such hierarchy. Identification of the countries at the top of the hierarchy does not mean to exclude other components of the system and to see imperialism as solely made up of the countries that are in a position to lead and govern the system. Identification of the countries that are at the top of the imperialist system, which in that sense deserve the name imperialist, does not mean to narrow the system down to these countries. To the contrary, the analysis of a functioning where these countries are located at the center or at the top will not only help apprehension of the relationships between countries maintaining different positions in the hierarchy and how other countries are articulated into the system, but also allow setting of clear and concrete goals for the political struggle of the working class in each country and at world level.
Conceptualization of imperialism as a hierarchical world system is one of the most valuable contributions of Lenin to the Marxist theory. For a long time, the concept was used in a narrow sense to define the “imperialistic behaviour” of great powers. With the fact that monopolization became a dominant character of capitalism, the link between the phenomenon of imperialism and capitalist development attracted the attention of some writers; but it was Lenin who built up a robust holistic approach and linked it to the struggle of the working class for revolution.
As Lenin showed almost 100 years ago, imperialism is a hierarchical order where the world market is constantly shared and re-shared. The concrete and historical manifestations of the hierarchy have changed since Lenin put forward the theory of imperialism, and they may also change in the future. This is because concrete and historical hierarchies of imperialism and relative positions of countries within such hierarchies exhibit a very dynamic structure. Nevertheless, this does not mean that capitalism itself may go through another transformation beyond imperialism. Capitalism will not assume any other character than that of imperialism.
Lenin’s intervention elucidated the transformation of capitalism, in its imperialist stage, into a reactionary structure as a whole and in an irreversible manner; the sources of the labor aristocracy that haunted the working class movement in dominant capitalist countries; the political outcomes of the uneven development of capitalism; the link between competition among imperialist countries and wars; the opportunities generated by internal contractions of the imperialist world for the working class movement; the meaning and limitations of national liberation movements developed against imperialism for the world revolutionary process.
The fact imperialism is a world system that involves all countries without exception does not mean that the term “imperialist country” can be used for all the elements of the system. An imperialist country is a country that, in a hierarchical world system at the final stage of capitalist development, has the capacity to influence and guide the economic, political, military, ideological and cultural dynamics of other constituent countries of the structure. The tendency to establish such relations is not equal to the capacity to establish such relations in concrete. It is always the second criterion that is valid to define an imperialist country. Therefore, any question on whether a specific country is imperialist or no should always be answered with a political perspective at the end of a concrete analysis.
Imperialism is not a fact that is observed solely at the economic level, but a multi-dimensional world system that has political, ideological, military and cultural aspects. Thus, imperialist supremacy and domination should be analyzed not only at the economic level but also in consideration of its political, ideological, military and cultural dimensions. In order to take hold of the top of the imperialist hierarchy, it is not enough to establish occasional relations of supremacy in one or several of these spheres. Furthermore, having the potential to establish a relationship of domination in all these spheres will not determine the hierarchy. This is because; materialization of such potential involves not only class struggles in general but also internal contradictions of imperialism and it is a very complex and multi-dimensional process for a country to develop such character in all spheres. In order for identification of an imperialist domination, a concrete relationship should be observed in all these spheres. Such imperative does not exclude the existence of relationships of bidirectional dependency and supremacy, in distinct spheres and at different scales, between the countries in the system. Such relationships do not make a country imperialist per se; but they are inherent in imperialism as a world system and they constitute a structural way of articulation to the system.
In order to understand the functioning of imperialism, it is essential to analyze the relationship between different levels. The natural weight of the economic level should not lead to the rupturing of the dynamic relationship between the economic level and the political, ideological, military and cultural levels. The problem generally does not arise from the omission of any level but from failure to establish correct links between the levels. As long as the economic level is subjected to a solely economic analysis, the political level to a solely political analysis, or the military level to a solely military analysis, it is unavoidable that each sphere leads to a different interpretation of imperialism. Whereas, what is essential is to comprehend how imperialism functions in all these levels in a complete and integrated manner. This is the only possible way to analyze the dynamics of the imperialist hierarchy.
Imperialism is the fact that even the most developed capitalist regions are subject to partition and re-partition struggles and it follows an extremely dynamic line of development determined by class struggles and also depending on the political actions of states. Imperialism cannot be conceived as the supremacy of developed capitalist countries over undeveloped counties. Furthermore, imperialism can by no means be considered as a sole relationship or conflict between the center and the periphery or between developed and undeveloped countries. Just as at the periphery or in undeveloped countries, imperialism has a transformative effect also at the center or in developed countries, and class struggles are decisive in the actions of these countries too. Imperialism is not a one-dimensional, one-route economic process that is only defined and observed at international level but a multi-dimensional fact with ideological, political and military aspects that affects the internal equilibrium of each country. Moreover, any change in the internal equilibrium of each country affects the developments at the international level.
In the functioning of the imperialist system, the competition among the countries at the top of the hierarchy has a decisive significance. Those analyses neglecting the conflicts among imperialists and supposing that these countries act as a homogeneous entity around common interests are far from analyzing the bottlenecks that the system experiences. If one attempts to understand the system, where the countries at the top of the imperialist system try to impose domination on the resources of the countries at the bottom, through bilateral relations between the center carrying out the transformation and the countries resisting the center, not only the contradictions within the countries at the so-called center are underestimated but also the positions of the other countries, which are deemed as objects, in the world capitalist system are desubjectified.
One-sided dependency theories oversimplify the internal hierarchies of the imperialist system and lead to wrong political conclusions as seen in many examples in the past and present of the world communist movement. In a relationship between a country at the top of the imperialist hierarchy and a weaker country, the net transfer of funds is likely to be unilateral and we can talk about a military-political domination in favour of the imperialist country; yet, this does not make the bourgeois class of the weaker capitalist country a victim, nor does it make the same class a potential ally of the working class at any level whatsoever.
The positions in the imperialist hierarchy cannot be used to derive direct conclusions on the historical roles of the countries. The fact that the countries that are not at the top of the hierarchy have limited effects on the system in general does not make their international actions progressive. What matters is the interests of the working class, not that of the countries. The interests of a country gain significance and importance only when they coincide with the interests of the working class.
The hierarchy of imperialism, by nature, is a dynamic structure that tends to change. A transformation in the hierarchy does not in all cases lead to the replacement of the hegemonic element of the system. Even if a transformation in the hierarchy, which is so radical that result in the appearance of a new hegemonic element, may lead to accumulation of revolutionary energy especially in the weaker links of the system, such transformation does not necessarily coincide with the interests of the working class. The transition from an imperialist hierarchy based on British hegemony to the imperialist hierarchy based on US hegemony is an example of such dichotomy.
The US, the leader of the system, has been guiding imperialism for a long time; however, this does not mean that its position is permanent. Theoretically, the competition and contradictions within the system has the potentiality to generate transformations in all instances of the hierarchy, including the top. The functioning of the system does not allow that such transformations spontaneously assume a progressive role. The dynamics shaking the US hegemony do not necessarily trigger any development in favor of the global interests of the working class.
Existence of certain countries challenging the imperialist hierarchy and generating disruptions in the system does not in all cases lead to favorable consequences for the working class struggle. The capitalist nature of these countries acting within the framework of the system should never be forgotten. The focus should be placed on the disruptive effects of the conflicts arising from the nature of the system and the dynamics of crisis arising from challenges to the hierarchy and their effects on class struggles. This is what will move the history forward.
The tendency to ascend in the imperialist hierarchy and thus to turn into an imperialist power is inherent in the system. Capitalist relations of production and, associated with that, political and military dynamics theoretically force each country to move in the hierarchy. The tendency to become an imperialist power is one of the sources of the dynamics of contradictions and crises in the system. As a concrete outcome of such tendency, countries that are not at the top of the hierarchy also take regional or conjunctural imperialist roles within the system. One should never forget that such roles, which sometimes lead to tensions and frictions in the imperialist hierarchy, might function as a tool to clear the way for imperialist centers and that the very same centers might encourage different countries to assume such roles.
One should avoid analyses that, while emphasizing the characteristics of imperialism as a system permeating all over the world and the imperialist roles assumed by each country at a given stage of capitalism, trivialize the imperialist hierarchy itself. The phenomenon of imperialist hegemony, as the fundamental element of imperialist hierarchy, should not be undervalued and the link between anti-imperialist struggles and socialist revolution should not be weakened.
The transformation of capitalism into imperialism means that it has reached an advanced form along with all its internal conflicts and dynamics of crisis. It is clear that there is a non-linear relationship between the transformation processes within the imperialist hierarchy and the capitalist crises, which are getting more and more complicated and internationalized. The critical link that has provided capitalist crises with a more complicated and international dimension is the arrival of financialization and internationalization to its peak with imperialism. Fictive capital is not unique to imperialism; however, massive fictifying of capital is unique to imperialism. In the stage of imperialism, financialization is not simply the management of the system with a multitude of financial instruments; much more critically, it is the ability of monopoly capital to govern the wealth that is not in its own possession. Hence not only the hierarchy of the capital accumulation process is solidified and idle assets are incorporated into the accumulation process, but also the control over social wealth is ensured by a multitude of financial instruments. In the stage of imperialism, the deepening of capitalism always goes hand in hand with the increase of fragility. The line of economic development of the countries that are later incorporated into the system or countries that are gradually strengthening in the system also follows a parallel course. Ours is an age of big crises and also an age of complicated and multidimensional tools that are developed to overcome such crises. The level of maturation of capitalism should not lead to the idea that capitalism is free from crises or it has attained a structure that is capable of overcoming all these crises. Nevertheless, capitalism will be destructed not by crises but the working class who, under the leadership of its party, will take advantage of crises and hit the final blow on the system.
A necessary consequence of the crisis-generating structure of imperialism, which will never be able to get rid of cycles of crisis, is a permanent threat of war. The extent or intensity of the wars is associated with the level of contradictions within the imperialist system. War is not the only way for the destruction of depreciated capital and not every crisis faced within the imperialist system necessarily results in a war. However, in the current stage of capitalism, the threat of war never disappears; imperialism structurally excludes the option of permanent peace.
In the imperialist system, economic interests and political and military interests of a country constitute a totality. It is mistaken to believe that the links between these interests are weak; however, it is also mistaken to claim that one of these interests determine the others in an immediate and direct way. For example, wars or conflicts cannot be considered as independent from countries’ economic interests; yet, nor they are immediate outcomes of the same economic interests. The link between the political and military and the economic should be formulated in line with the logic of general functioning of capitalism. Imperialism is not an arena of struggle between states, determined by intra-system conflicts and competition. The capital’s relationship of exploitation with the labor at national and international level should not be ignored ever. Thus, the class identity and belonging of the state in concern should be placed at the center of the analysis.
Imperialism today still operates through a model where nation-states are articulated with one another in a hierarchical structure. Revision of the forms of articulation of nation-states into the system, curtailing or weakening of internal decision-making processes of countries in favor of the interests of international capital, and even elimination of such mechanisms in particular cases following the dissolution of the Soviet Union do not mean that imperialism does not need nation-states. There is an insolvable tension between the facts that, on the one hand, capital needs nation-states for the sake of its own interests and, on the other hand, its international interests contradict with nation-state mechanisms. Such tension is an indicator of the political crisis of imperialism. The fast course of the European Union towards bankruptcy as an integration project is one of the best examples of this fact.
In the age of imperialism, class struggle is the principle dynamic that moves the history forward. Reduction of this struggle to an inter-state conflict or competition veils the fundamental contradiction between capital and labor, the contradiction whose resolution will change the destiny of humanity. Such a modelling of struggle masks the working class factor with a sort of category of “the oppressed”, which assumes an image of nation or people. Furthermore, it is wrong to claim that monopolies and capitalist classes do not have national identities. Nation-states, which serve the interests of big monopolies, assume the role of clearing the obstacles in front of capital at national and international scale, which is inherent in the logic of functioning of imperialism. Instead of a single global entity, dominant classes need a divided world; thus, using this or that state against the achievements of the proletariat, they are able to compete and to safeguard capital accumulation. The assumption that capital has totally become multinational is a covert attempt to conceal imperialism as a system.
The crisis of imperialism, which has economic, ideological and political aspects, requires a transformation in its current structure and mechanism. Each crisis of capitalism provides the system with an opportunity for restructuring. Whether the ever-deepening crisis of imperialism will result in a restructuring that will relieve the system for a while or a turmoil that will further deepen the crisis will depend not only on the positions of the actors of the system and the strategies of international capital but also on the interventions of the working class and the communist movement from outside the system.
The economic crisis of the imperialist-capitalist system peaked during the crisis of 2007-2008 and became visible. This crisis was not coincidental or was a result of the faulty decision of some of the actors of the system. The system inherently generates such crises. Capitalism can never find radical solutions to the problems of excessive production, decrease in profit rates and contractions in capital accumulation processes.
The ideological crisis of imperialism is manifest in its lack of providing ideas to motivate and inspire the masses for some time. Capitalism beat socialism mainly in the field of ideological struggle and declared the end of history that was written by means of class struggle. After the collapse of socialism, capitalism maintained its dominance over concepts like freedom and democracy and was able to direct people with discourses of globalization and integration. And yet, capitalism has lost ground in the field of ideological struggle.
In relation to economic and ideological problems, imperialism has been undergoing a serious political governing problem. The mechanism in which the US acts as the ultimate decision maker did not function in several cases. Although the position of the US did not change in the imperialist hierarchy, the existence of intimidating actors at the given conjuncture is well admitted by everybody. What secures the position of the US for now is the inability of other actors like the People’s Republic of China and Russia to perform self assertively in economic, political, military and cultural spheres holistically and consistently. However, the US is partially under threat in all these fields. Furthermore, the US is getting into a deepening competition with other European states in its system of alliance, like Germany.
Events occurred before and after the US Presidential elections have to be viewed as an indicator and a result of the deep crisis the world capitalist system is going through and as developments that deepen the crisis. The lack of ability of US capitalism to resolve different economic tendencies in national and international level as a complete bloc and the depression caused by different tendencies of capital cause political consequences. Moreover, the decline of US hegemony on capitalism’s ideology generation mechanisms has been observable in both US internal politics as well as the international politics. Thus, US’s military superiority and its traditional political weight in imperialist hierarchy is inadequate for managing the deep crisis US political system is going through.
The decline in resolving and manipulating role of US within the imperialist-capitalist hierarchy have intensified the structural problems of the European Union, deteriorating inputs of Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China to the system had significant effects on the European level and the fastened the dissolution process of European Union. In this dissolution process, with the disintegration of Britain, which had a unique position in the integration scheme since the beginning, the weight of Germany in the old continent is inevitably increasing. This increase in weight intensifies the conflicts between imperialist powers and results in restructuring dependency relationship at European level and for the countries that are in Europe’s sphere of influence. This process, which increases the frictions and tensions between the central nations of Europe and particularly between USA and Germany, becomes more sophisticated due to interventions of Russian Federation. The crisis in Europe, which has a historical weight in the course of class struggle is the herald that shows the existing equilibrium has to change and will change.
The problems created by actors, mainly Russia and the People’s Republic of China, that contract the manoeuvring field of the US within the international system is related to the multidimensional crisis of imperialism. Although the integration model and the hierarchical mechanism developed after the collapse of the socialism succeeded in relatively smaller countries, they are insufficient for the stabilization of the positions of Russia, considered as the inheritor of the central country of the real socialism, and the People’s Republic of China, which has become a great economic power, within the system. When this insufficiency is coupled with the systematic quest of Russia and the People’s Republic of China in the international arena, the existing mechanisms of imperialism failed and the balance was disturbed.
Although whether Russia and the People’s Republic of China can be considered imperialist countries depends on a holistic analysis of economic, military and cultural contexts, it is, in the final analysis, a political question. The position both countries occupy within the imperialist system makes it difficult to leave out these countries in the definition of imperialist countries. Furthermore, the instabilities of Russian economy and weaknesses in the financial structure of Russia and China do not change the imperialist character of both countries. The fact that imperialism is a hierarchical world order is decisive and any actor within this system cannot be considered without taking the basic characteristics of the system into account. Although Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China show considerable weaknesses compared to dominant imperialist countries, they are both imperialist countries whose intervention capacities are ever-increasing with their substantial economic potential, powerful monopolies, advanced military potentials and long-established political and diplomatic traditions. The disruptive or balancing positions of both countries against the international interventions of dominant imperialist countries, mainly the US, originate from this fact. In addition to this, such a position buys some time for the internationalist working class movement to organize around an independent direction of struggle. In the present situation, whether Russia and China can be considered imperialist countries depends on the political needs and duties of the communists. The terminological precision pursued hitherto by the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) while using the concept of imperialist country for the US and prominent EU countries, that are still the most dangerous and aggressive ones, cannot last forever.
Russia is part of the imperialist-capitalist system. Therefore, the problems, rivalries and conflicts between Russia and the rest of the countries within this system should be analyzed as internal problems and contradictions of the system. The disruptive position Russia takes on within the system at present does not originate from Russia’s becoming an actor of resistance against the imperialist system, but from the problems and new contradictions Russia faces during its integration with the world order in the post-Soviet era.
Among the factors that determine the position of Russia within the system, the political, military and cultural factors outweigh economic ones and Russia still appears to be weaker in terms of economic indicators to be positioned at the top of the imperialist hierarchy. However, Russia has vast opportunities for political and military manoeuvres to subvert the internal balance of the imperialist system depending on factors like its geographical scale, physical infrastructure, particularly its industrial production, its rich natural resources and trained labor force. Moreover, political, military and ideological advantages of Russia have positive effect on its economic conditions. The historically established political and cultural position of Russia in the eyes of the neighboring countries facilitates the imperialist vision of Russia. Putin’s Russia does not hesitate to abuse the legacy of Soviet Russia by isolating it from socialism to the same end.
The economy of Russia shows characteristic features of late articulation with the world capitalist system. A powerful capitalist class emerged in Russia through plundering, by means of a model like primitive capital accumulation, the wealth that had been created for social needs throughout the socialist period. Following this immense wave of privatization, the increase of state property through nationalization never meant a re-elimination or restriction of capitalist relations of production. There should be no doubt about the capitalist characteristics of the Russian economy. The increase in the role of the state in economy with Putin’s rule in 2000s did not result from economic reasons only, but it also enabled a restructuring of the capital for political and ideological reasons in line with the new national and international route of Russia. As the role of the state ownership increased, some factions of oligarchs were purged and some others were consolidated around Putin’s rule. The resources gathered by means of inordinate and unpredictable increase in energy and commodity prices strengthened Putin’s rule. In addition to this, state ownership especially in the energy sector in Russia was preferred by the international monopolies since they appreciated it as an assuring and regulating factor compared to the unstable structure of Russia in 1990s.
Russian economy has the capacity to make a breakthrough, as long as it overcomes its limits of capital accumulation, with its industrial infrastructure taken over from the Soviet Union, its being a self-sufficient country in terms of its basic industries together with its natural resource wealth, as well as its being one of the leading countries in petrochemistry exportation, and its advantageous position in high-tech sectors in relation to its advanced industry of defence, aviation and space. Therefore, Russian economy cannot be grasped by means of a simplified model of economy based on natural resource exportation, and especially energy exportation.
Russia has the potential to transform its regional influence into a global economic and political power with its strategic position amid key energy resources of the world economy, its natural wealth and economic structure. This potential of Russia necessitates considering the disruptive influence of Russia over the existing balance within the imperialist system not as a temporal but a structural fact.
There is a weak working class movement in Russia in spite of the developed industrial infrastructure and well-educated and urbanized working class of the country. The liquidation of the organized society inherited from the Soviet Union during the restoration of capitalism had given permanent damage to the working class movement. Putin’s rule also systematically creates political, legal and economic obstacles against the organization of the working class, thus the general level of organization among the working class keeps decreasing and organizations alternative to state-controlled unions show slow development. The global crisis of the trade union movement can be clearly observed in Russia. The working class in Russia, that reacted to economic developments and had gains in some cases, is not that powerful to assert itself as a political class. Moreover, the section of the working class besides the industrial workers is more inactive and disorganized.
The political arena in Russia is under the influence of the phenomenon that came to be known as Putinism. The bourgeois opposition in Russia is determined by Putin himself to a large extent. When the general consensus in Russia about Putin’s foreign policy is coupled with Putin’s prowess of making use of this influence in domestic politics, the maneuvering field of the bourgeois opposition in Russia gets narrower. The liberal and pro-Western opposition that object to Putin’s foreign policy moves from a pro-imperialist perspective do not have social support or political influence. Liberalism has no chance to form congruence with industrial workers who have great authority in Russia. Putin’s party United Russia consolidates a certain amount of support and even organized action among the working class, especially in terms of foreign policy. The fact that property ownership in Russia, where the dominance of the state owned sector will proceed for a considerable time, will not change hands provides the objective conditions for the continuity of this support. Working class population has been exposed to an eclectic discourse of nationalism, religious politics, liberalism and consumerism. Putin’s rule even purposefully makes references to the 74 years of history without noting the socialist past. They consciously and systematically make use of an image of the Soviet Union purified of socialism and utilize it to erase the legacy of socialism.
Russia inherited a unique foreign policy tradition established in the socialist period, the powerful and victorious legacy of the Red Army, the advanced infrastructure of the Soviet Union and well-educated labor force trained during the socialist period; and is a country of immense geography, energy resources and economic potential. Even though Russia followed the capitalist path after the dissolution of socialism, it was not transformed into a country that would completely submit to the rules of the game and to the paradigm determined by the dominant imperialist country US, and that would unconditionally abide by the existing hierarchy of the international capitalist system. This integration plan was inapplicable in Russia and that was one of the reasons why the submissive policies of the Yeltsin period reached an impasse due to economic and administrative crises. During the dissolution of the USSR, the objective resistance asserted through the historical legacy of socialism and social structure hindered the liberal plundering program to a certain extent although the politicians of this country submitted to it in a quite dishonorable way. However, it should be remembered that the unchanging wish of Russia during the capitalist restoration period was integration with the imperialist system and there had been no interruption and rupture since 1991. Even though there had been interludes when the restoration went through trouble and policy choices needed to be revised, the Russian administration always sought integration in principle. Russia demands a position within the system convenient to its conditions.
As seen in Ukraine and Georgia cases, Russia acts with a firm determination to respond to social, political and economic change attempts and provocations in ex-Soviet republics, leaving aside the Baltic countries that would challenge its own interests. While Russia intervenes in the integration of these countries to the imperialist system as desired by the US, Putin and the Russian bourgeoisie display a firm will to strengthen Russia’s partial military success both in Ukraine and Georgia also in the field of diplomacy.
Russia launched military intervention in Syria by taking advantage of the condition in which the US was never able to break through in Syria, the ISIS factor, the resistance of Syria and Assad’s maintenance of his rule. Russia took the step that would enhance its international influence through a military intervention in a country not bordering Russia, where there are no Russian origin ethnic groups and yet an old ally from the Soviet period. Russia, that took such an active role in the Middle East region for the first time after the USSR period, deepened the internal conflicts of the imperialist world by preventing absolute US control in a country where Russia has the only military base in the Middle East.
Russian intervention in Syria should be evaluated by means of a two-sided analysis. The conflicts in Syria started as the last phase of the extensive intervention by the US and its allies in the region. This intervention can be considered as a universal conspiracy of the important regional actors Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, along with other reactionary Arab regimes. Since the conspirator parties acted on specific strategic plans along with their mutual interests, the operation in Syria not only reached an impasse but also the devastating effect of the operation intensified on a full scale. In this regard, the operation in Syria, which can be considered as part of the attempt of the US and its allies to destroy or split some countries that gained relative autonomy and freedom of action by means of the characteristics of the Soviet period, turned into an area of conflict and rivalry as soon as the operation started. Although these two dynamics cannot be separated from each other, they are not one and the same thing. Yugoslavia was the first and most typical example of the integration of some countries into the system and liberation of capital flows with a more advanced articulation model by the hand of the international capital. Although the intervention in Yugoslavia caused a vehement rivalry between Germany and the US and had the aspect of sieging Russia that was yet on the verge of capitalist transformation, it should be essentially considered as the collective conquest operation of international monopolies.
The mobilization of reactionary fundamentalist gangs of the region in Syria has a counter-revolutionary character. The intensity of ethnic and denominational massacres should not obscure the aim of operations to purge all progressive legacy and public culture, and to annihilate all the gains of the working classes. The communists of the region found themselves in a complicated situation under these difficult circumstances. One of the parties that de facto emerged during the war is clearly an enemy of the communists not only because it aimed to split Syria and make it a target of imperialist plunder, but also because it acted on to deal a fatal blow to the progressive legacy that was already weakened. Although there is no doubt about the class position of the Assad regime, communists can never be at an equal distance to the warring factions in Syria. What happened in Syria was completely an imperialist and reactionary intervention and the communists can never be expected to develop a strategy other than taking an initiative to repel this intervention, turning this process into an advantage for strengthening the independent direction of the working class, and to overthrow the system of exploitation. In consideration of the existing power balances, the termination of this intervention will definitely be a gain for the world revolutionary process and the working class of the region. Maintaining this as a permanent position depends on the revolutionary positioning of the communist movement without ….
In its intervention in the Syrian war, Russia made use of the legitimacy of “responding” to an imperialist intervention and the massacres of counter-revolutionary and Islamist gangs. However, these motives of Russia do not have any other meaning than preserving the economic and political gains of Moscow in its intervention in Syria. The ideological and class characteristics of Putin’s rule are in no way compatible with protecting the well being of the peoples of Syria or displaying an ethical conduct in international politics. Therefore, Russia can be said to make a rational choice to protect its own benefit and to attain a new position in the sharpening conflict with the imperialist block led by the US.
Russia clearly displays imperialist motives in its intervention in Syria. Putin’s rule follows finely adjusted policies to keep Syria obliged to Russia both in military and diplomatic fields, and lays impositions to Assad about some issues. It is especially striking that some constitutional amendments regarding the liberalization of the country’s economy are among these impositions. Finally, Russia makes use of Syria as a means to establish a certain agreement ground with the US. In this regard, the Syria policy of Russia should be considered not only as a hegemonic struggle between Russia and the US, but also as a sign that Russia will not submit to any economic and political siege of the US and other imperialist countries targeting Russia. However, this cautious attitude of Russia is pertinent to current conditions.
Another field where Russia is able to realize its political assertions is Latin America, a geography in which Russia was able to penetrate very close to the US and was able to prove to its rivals that it could follow an effective intercontinental policy of influence as before. The influence of Russia in Latin America has become concrete to a large extent by means of the intense diplomatic efforts for the last two years. However, Russia does not have the capacity to compete with the People’s Republic of China in Latin America in terms of economic investments. Although Russia has lost some of the markets to the People’s Republic of China, Russia has been primarily selling war technology to the Latin American countries, mainly Venezuela, Peru, Nicaragua, Cuba and Brasilia. Russia is also striving to make military base deals with the Latin American countries. However, it should also be expected that the recent political developments and the intensification of right-wing ideology in the Latin American continent to have results affecting the influence of Russia in the continent. The reaction of the Latin American people to this intensification of right-wing ideology would be decisive despite all the efforts of Russia and the People’s Republic of China. If the US-backed provocations and right-wing forces continue to get results in the continent, the US would attain important positions again, though it would not be able to get back to old days.
Russian Federation displayed its ability to interfere with the internal balances of the US in the latest US presidential elections, and openly supported one of the two candidates and assisted in the election of one of them. This intervention, which is a product of the imperialist rivalry, deserves attention since it demonstrates the place of Russia within the imperialist hierarchy.
In the circumstances of political crisis where the international capitalist system is not able to conceive a new governing system for the 21st century and the old one has become dysfunctional, Russia makes use of the gaps of the crisis to widen its zone of influence. However, Russia is not able to undertake an imperialist role as that of the US. The fact that Russia does not undertake an imperialist role and makes use of the principled, rational, consistent and peaceful foreign policy legacy of the Soviet Union creates an illusion of a third way in a world devoid of a socialist camp. The strategic moves of Russia contracts the maneuvering field of imperialism in some cases and this intensifies the aforementioned illusion, increasing the popularity of Putin’s Russia among the world communist movement and the world left. As an actor within the system who has an undeniable capitalist quality, Russia has credibility neither to represent the working class in any part of the world nor to be an ally of it.
Russia is obliged to address the oppressed peoples of the world because of its competition with the US. Russia, striving to be the voice of the oppressed against the values represented by the US as the country at the top of the imperialist hierarchy, cannot have ideological consistency due to its place within the imperialist system. Russia assumes tactical positions over the course of the time. Although Russia has no ideological consistency in its discourse basically against the US, such a discourse intensifies the confusion of the world left and progressive public opinion about Russia. The communists cannot position themselves at an equal distance.
Especially when it comes to Russia, the progressive public opinion and the communist movement in the world are not able to solve the tension between not being impartial and being deprived of a political direction, and consolidating the independent route of the working class. They tend to perceive Russia as an ally of the oppressed. As much as it is impossible to establish a revolutionary position by standing at an equal distance to the tensions of the world system, it is ever so impossible to assume a revolutionary mission by supporting any of the political actors. The duty of the communist movement is to make use of the gaps within the system caused by Russia and similar actors to the advantage of the working class and socialist revolution with a political perspective centered on an independent socialist direction.
An important parameter for the future of the international capitalist system and the position of Russia within this system is the course of Russia’s relations with the People’s Republic of China which acts within the system like Russia in some senses. The importance of the course of this relation would get clearer when it is perceived that the giant economy of the People’s Republic of China is the main threat for the unstable position of the US within the imperialist system.
The decollectivisation and marketisation process commenced in 1978 transformed China into a country that can influence and unsettle the internal balances of the imperialist world. The Chinese example results from the relocation of hundreds of millions of peasants to free industrial zones along the coasts and riversides as cheap and irregular labor force, and the attraction of the international capital to the high rates of exploitation. The direct foreign investments that accelerated in 1990s also fueled the rapid capitalist development of the People’s Republic of China. The export-oriented growth of the People’s Republic of China, and the obvious shifting of the low and mid-technology manufacturing sector to the People’s Republic of China by the US and Europe is a product of the role change within the imperialist-capitalist division of labor. Although the role of the state is high in economy, there are more private sectors and thus foreign investment in China than generally considered.
In 2015, the People’s Republic of China outscored the US in the gross national product and the rate of contribution to the world production with a high growth rate of 30 years. The Chinese economy uses 20 percent of the whole petroleum and 40 percent of the mines of the world. Under these circumstances, China is required to secure its share in the world market and control raw material flow and thus strengthen its hand in the imperialist competition.
Three quarters of the manufacturing industry capacity of China is export-oriented. Chinese economy faces a great risk of dependency considering that the main market of the People’s Republic of China is the developed capitalist countries like the US, Europe and Japan. The greatest advantage of China is its greatest disadvantage at the same time. The growth model depended on domestic market, which suggests an effort of stabilizing declining growth rates due to decelerated demand from the developed capitalist countries, has a range of disadvantages. China tried to compensate the effects of declining foreign demand with grand infrastructure investments after 2008, and yet high debts this step necessitated became an important threat for the Chinese economy. As the foreign demand gets weaker, the conversion of an economy, whose primary mission is to provide low-cost consumer goods flow to developed capitalist countries by means of foreign investment, into a growth model based on domestic demand that would naturally provide increase in wages has great difficulties.
All the steps taken by the People’s Republic of China in recent years were against the Chinese working class and to the benefit of the strengthened Chinese bourgeoisie. Reforms contrary to the advantage of the working class, like increase of working hours, have important social and political consequences. The increase in labor demand because of high investment rates cause great migration waves from the rural to the urban places. Rapid proletarianization process, together with precarity, sharpens class distinctions and the Communist Party of China assumes the responsibility of moderating political and social dynamics of this process. Due to the weight of labor-intensive sectors in economy and the rates of low wage/high exploitation, household consumption rates are generally at lower levels and the domestic consumption increases by means of the rapid development of high and mid-level bourgeois sections.
The People’s Republic of China seeks after a new position for itself within the world capitalist system with its increasing economic capacity, developing military and political abilities. Economic developments of recent years like the rapid growth, capital export, expansion, and trade deals have the potential to generate consequences that would disturb balances in the middle term. The expansionist policies of China, its capital exportation, deepening relations of exploitation and the quality of its economic relations with the developing countries demonstrate the crucial potential of China within the imperialist system. However, China handles its competition with the dominant imperialist countries with pragmatic tactics and purposefully avoids open conflicts.
As the People’s Republic of China pressurizes the existing hierarchy and seeks after a new position for itself, it causes problems in the present functioning of the system. As a country that seems to have assumed cautious steps to accumulate power, China chooses to abide by the rules of the existing hierarchy in its search for a dominant place in the world hierarchy and getting into the markets, and thus demonstrates at every opportunity that it is not an anti-system centre. All the steps of China should be considered in relation the imperialist system; the political and military position of China towards underdeveloped countries as well as its competition with the countries at the top of the imperialist hierarchy should be analyzed within this framework. Even though China creates a gap within the system by unsettling the mechanisms of it, it should not be forgotten that this results from the internal crisis dynamics of the system.
Although China refrains from a direct confrontation with the US except for some strategic issues like the South China Sea, it has taken aggressive steps in the last couple of years to boost its influence in the Middle East, Latin America and especially Africa. It is obvious that competition in these regions, especially in Africa, has got sharp and will get even sharper.
Despite all their differences, both Russia and the People’s Republic of China generate a dynamic of unsolvable problem and crisis in the existing balances of the international capitalist system with their existing leadership and capitalist structure. The future of both countries within the system cannot be understood without the future of the international capitalist system is analyzed as a whole. In a world where the socialist camp got out of the equation, the unipolar aggressiveness of the US determined the first years of the 2000s and yet got into a crisis afterwards. This unipolar system, characterized by neoliberal policies and war of aggression that reached its final stage during the Bush period, cannot be sustained as a world system. It expired during the crisis of 2008, and a new and stable structure was unable to be formed due to the deepening political and ideological crisis of imperialism. The place Russia and the People’s Republic of China attained in the international arena is sustained by the objectivity of crisis and impasse and thus do not represent a permanent and stable position.
There is no objective ground for an anticipation of an anti-imperialist camp of Russia and China in today’s circumstances by looking at the former political polarization when imperialism co-existed with socialism. The co-existence of socialism and capitalism as two camps resulted from the uncompromising contradiction of the two systems. This contradiction was resolved with the dissolution of one of them. In the case of Russia and the People’s Republic of China, there is no such uncompromising contradiction. However, this does not mean that Russia and China would compromise with the existing imperialist status quo. The imperialist system inherently contains within itself rivalries and contradictions of the system. The problems caused by Russia and the People’s Republic of China result from rivalries within the system and their challenges against the hierarchy of the system. It should not be forgotten that in a world system which does not contain opposing class positions, there can always be changes in alliance systems and compositions different than the existing ones can always be formed.
Today, as the equilibrium of power is being restructured in the world, this process is developing in a framework determined by the internal dynamics of the system, which is different from the previous periods when socialism had a weight as a pole. Working class in the whole world cannot effectively intervene to this process. None of the actors in this process represents the working class. Under these circumstances, the uncertainty regarding the future of the imperialist system is due to internal dynamics of the system and due to preferences of the bourgeoisie. This uncertainty shall not be expected to deepen by itself in a permanent way against the favor of bourgeoisie. The ability to utilize the opportunities created by this uncertainty due to the deep crisis of the imperialist system is in the hands of the world communist movement. Working class is the only power that may create an alternative to the imperialist system.