Reply to Louis
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Sat Oct 2 08:14:16 MDT 1999
>>Well, then here we are debating the "super-imperialism"
thesis again. Lenin had a lot to say on this, which for the
sake of brevity I will not repeat here. But the gist of the
argument -which I share and we all suffer- is that
imperialism being as it is a product of the history of
capitalism it is also OF NECESSITY dominated by the clash
of rival imperialisms. The clash may be subdued because of
the overwhelming relative strength of one imperialist
country (US, today), but it is a STRUCTURAL COMPONENT of
the system which, like true love, never runs smooth.<<
I'm quite aware that the way I view the world could be taken as similar to
the way Lenin describes Kautsky and other as having viewed the world. Yet I
do not believe Lenin was wrong at that time. History has shown clearly and
conclusively he was right.
Still, I also do not believe that you can describe the way world imperialism
functioned over the past 50 years or so as "dominated by the clash of rival
imperialisms," although I also believe it is obvious that inter-imperialist
conflict is indeed what you call "a structural component" of capitalism that
cannot be eradicated. But the specific weight of those conflicts in world
politics today is not such that one can say the world political situation as
a whole is "dominated by the clash of rival imperialisms." I think it is
much closer to the truth to say that it is "dominated by the cooperation of
rival imperialisms who have come together into a world system of
institutions, alliances and arrangements under the economic, political and
military hegemony of the United States."
I think it is necessary to take two other things into account, in addition
to the overwhelming strength of the U.S. in relation to the other
imperialist countries, in understanding what has happened.
One is the "cold war" period, which led the U.S. to try to build a world
imperialist coalition to contain and eventually reverse the advance of world
revolution, and led the other imperialist powers, most notably the Brits,
really, the only ones still standing in 1945 (and barely) to support
wholeheartedly this American project.
The other is the rise of the neo-colonial "solution." This means that now
the imperialists exercise a sort of collective economic and political
domination over third world countries. It means that they can share in
exploiting the underdeveloped countries without having to go to war with
each other to reallocate the division of the spoils.
With the way the cold war ended, one of the big factors that pushed the
imperialists together has now disappeared. Ironically, this has not yet
brought to the fore increased inter-imperialist conflict. On the contrary,
the immediate result has been to heighten US hegemony because the
counterweight of the Soviet bloc has been removed. Thus we have had
well-nigh unanimity in the imperialist camp in launching two major wars --
the Gulf War and the Yugoslav War.
Even in this context you can see interimperialist rivalry reasserting
itself. Unless somehow a new "cold war" --or "hot war"-- against socialism
and world revolution emerges, the most likely outcome is for the current
single imperialist coalition, so to speak, to fragment into 2, 3 or more
blocs, recreating something like the situations that led to W.W.I and WWII.
I do not see how it can be avoided, and if I do not say it is inevitable, it
is because experience with such past statements by revolutionaries has
taught me that often there are factors impossible to foresee that break all
You speculate that it will be a three-cornered dispute between Europe, Japan
and the U.S., and this is "what makes [the Australian and New Zealand
bourgeoisie] run so swiftly to build up a regional power of their own, is
that they may be foreseeing that they will have to partner with the Japanese
in this new scenario, and that they will have to put something on the table
in order not to be overridden by their new partner."
I would not assume that this is how it is going to turn out. There is a fair
degree of interpenetration and commonality of interests among the ruling
classes of the English speaking world, symbolized by the anglo-american
"special relationship." The number of companies that trade in both the New
York and London stock exchanges, for example, is quite significant.
In various ways their strictly national interests coincide. For example, the
U.S., Canada, Australia and NZ have highly productive and export-oriented
agricultural sectors unfettered by all sorts of remnants of the feudal past
and its ramifications.
Another area where their interests often coincide is in the entertainment,
information and news business, i.e., media. One obvious example is Rupert
Murdoch; a perhaps less obvious but as telling is that CNN International is
largely run by people from all over the Commonwealth headed by the former #2
person at the BBC. The teams of CNN producers and correspondents that
covered the Gulf War were almost exclusively American; not so the Yugoslav
war. And although Hollywood had a long tradition of drawing in writers,
producers, actors and directors from all over the world, a correspondent or
"anchor" with a recognizably "foreign" accent was unthinkable on American
networks 20 years ago (and I suspect the same could have been said about the
This is made possible by, and re-enforces, a common bourgeois ideology
tending towards free-market absolutism, extreme consumerism, and apolitical
bourgeois politics that is largely shared among the anglo-imperialist
You can see this phenomenon in Britain's ambivalence towards Europe and the
profound distrust among the British rulers towards Brussels.
However all that shakes out (and my suspicion is you will see at least
initially different line-ups on different issues) it is largely music of the
I have been, frankly, very surprised that people have objected to the idea
that in the world today the imperialists function largely as a bloc under
U.S. leadership, and are instead quoting Lenin against Kautsky's and others
attempts to hide the true nature of the inter-imperialist conflicts that
dominated world politics at that time. As I make clear above, I do not at
all consider my statements in this regard to be a profound theoretical
insight nor are they meant to be at all "prescriptive" -- they're a simple,
and I would have thought, quite superficial, observation of the way things
happen to be right at this moment.
Whatever one may think of the rights and wrongs of the political questions
posed in East Timor, I would have thought it would have been clear that
inter-imperialist rivalry is not the driving force, and it is not even a
major secondary factor.
Dear Nestor, I'm sorry if I have come across to you in an uncomradely way,
but I am truly aghast at the position you have taken (as, I realize, you
must be with mine). With the comrades who support the Timorese independence
movement but opposed the Timorese demand for a UN force, I believe my
differences are episodic. I think we'll find growing agreement in practice
over time, around a whole series of concrete demands all flowing from the
principle of self-determination and independence for the Timorese people.
But with you, Macdonald and some others, the situation is different. You go
Without trying in the slightest to exaggerate for effect or to draw out the
"logic" of your position, as I may have done in other posts, just so that
correct me if I'm wrong, I understand you to be saying that the only
independent East Timor possible in today's world is an imperialist dagger
ready to strike
down any revolutionary movement in the region.
This means --it has to-- that you view the withdrawal of the Indonesians
from East Timor as a defeat for our class, and I do not. I view it as a
retreat by world imperialism that tried to bite off, using the Indonesian
regime as its teeth, more than it could chew.
The Indonesian intervention, the colonial war, was an imperialist war,
because it was carried out at the behest of, and with the support of, world
imperialism. The UN
intervention (all of it, the whole decolonization policy, not just the blue
helmets) is ALSO an imperialist policy. The relationship between those two
different imperialist policies towards the struggle of the people of East
Timor for independence is this: the current "UN" policy is a policy of
retreat from the previous policy which had proved untenable, and which
threatened to undermine the stability of Indonesia itself.
It represents a concession by imperialism to the struggle of the people of
East Timor. (Which, yes, I know, the imperialists are trying to use to gut
East Timorese independence of real content, to subject them to UN tutelage
and create a pliant neocolonial regime that will play the role of doormat
when imperialist corporations come calling. Nevertheless, and without
knowing in advance the degree to which such imperialist designs might
succeed, I consider the achievement of self-determination and independence
by the Timorese to be an advance that creates a more favorable context for
their future struggles and for the struggles of the peoples of the region as
I do not see how the two positions can be reconciled, because, for me, the
whole strategic line of the proletariat in relation to all sorts of issues
is NOT to denounce these movements as divisive, but to support them
wholeheartedly and patiently explain that at the root of their problems is
the capitalist system. It stems from an understanding that such movements
weaken the capitalist system, and the stronger these movements are, the
better, from the point of view of the strategic interests of the working
class. It seems to me this is not your approach.
I am very eager to read what Louis has been working on in relation to the
Miskitus and the Sandinista Revolution, because I think it is essentially
the same underlying question. (Or one of them -- there were, I believe, in
the case of the Miskitus, a whole series of other questions as my
understanding of economic relations on the Río Coco is that it was largely a
"natural" economy, and commodity production and trade in commodities was a
fairly marginal phenomenon). But perhaps revisiting the underlying strategic
concepts and issues in a very different framework will help us overcome the
From: Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky <nestor at sisurb.filo.uba.ar>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 4:24 PM
Subject: Re: Reply to Louis
>El 28 Sep 99 a las 20:32, Jose G. Perez nos dice(n):
>> The world imperialist system of today (as opposed to
>> the one that
>> existed a century ago) is no longer dominated by the clash
>> of rival imperialisms.
>Well, then here we are debating the "super-imperialism"
>thesis again. Lenin had a lot to say on this, which for the
>sake of brevity I will not repeat here. But the gist of the
>argument -which I share and we all suffer- is that
>imperialism being as it is a product of the history of
>capitalism it is also OF NECESSITY dominated by the clash
>of rival imperialisms. The clash may be subdued because of
>the overwhelming relative strength of one imperialist
>country (US, today), but it is a STRUCTURAL COMPONENT of
>the system which, like true love, never runs smooth.
>> Instead of fighting over the
>> division and redivision of the direct colonies, as they
>> were doing then and continued to do until WWII and its
>> immediate aftermath, the imperialists today function
>> through a world system in which they mostly they are
>> "joint tenants," i.e., concurrent "owners" of the third
>Just wait for the next crisis and see, Jose. This is an
>early warning, so you get less amazed at the dirty foam
>that will sprout at every crack of the system when that
>ever nearer event takes place. Most likely, we shall see at
>least three "imperialist joint tenants" ripping the joint
>venture apart: the European bloc, the North American Bloc,
>and the East Asian bloc; what makes things difficult for
>the Australian and NZ bourgeoisies, and what makes them run
>so swiftly to build up a regional power of their own, is
>that they may be foreseeing that they will have to partner
>with the Japanese in this new scenario, and that they will
>have to put something on the table in order not to be
>overridden by their new partner. They are too small to
>become a fourth bloc, and the hard facts of geography
>isolate them from what has been their "natural" haven up to
>now. In a sense, the Cold War kept the Anglo brethren
>united; now it might dissolve.
>We are witnessing a new instance of the redivision of the
>colonial world, unlike you state, Jose.
>> As the hegemonic power in this world system, the
>> U.S., of course, gets the choice bits, and it also carries
>> the primary responsibility for guaranteeing the stability
>> of the system as a whole, i.e., bombing anyone who gets in
>> the way back to the stone age.
>This is a valuable position for an American fighter in
>America. But it is misleading if abstractly followed, and
>utterly reactionary when -as is the case with Phil or Gary
>or the DSP we all here would like to be better positioned-
>you must confront a rising imperialist bourgeoisie that is
>tething her independence. The USA are the hegemonic power,
>but this does not rule out (it rather strongly IMPLIES)
>struggle between imperialist bourgeoisies.
>> New Zealand's (and Australia's) status as imperialist
>> countries does not
>> mainly flow from their own prowess as imperialist "Powers"
>> in their own right (there are really NO imperialist "Great
>> Powers" in this classic sense of the term except the
>> U.S.), but mostly from their insertion into this world
>Obviously, I strongly disagree. You are risking blindness
>here, Jose. Which I understand but cannot help warning you
>against. People (and bourgeoisies in particular) have a way
>to have goals of their own and fight for them, even though
>in jeopardy. And, believe me, the USA are not THAT menacing
>in the Western Pacific for Australians and NZers today.
>> This means that "The real test of anyone's
>> anti-imperialism is not
>> whether they oppose some other imperialist government but
>> whether they oppose *their own* imperialist government" is
>> no longer as useful a shortcut/rule of thumb as it used to
>> be when inter-imperialist rivalries were the overriding
>> feature of world politics.
>What will the new rule be, then? If Le Pen opposes American
>imperialism (which I am certain he will), does it make him
>an anti-imperialist? When the German imperialists wrestled
>with the Americans over the future of Yugoslavia, during
>the early 90s, were they anti-imperialists? Were they
>challenging the world system? Or they were rather making it
>> The attitude by Marxists towards the pre-WWII
>> "disarmament" and similar
>> pacifist schemes was based on the fact that each
>> "national" disarmament movement favored precisely such
>> disarmament as weakened its own imperialism the least and
>> its rivals the most, and that, in general, ALL such
>> movements were a fake and a fraud when the various powers
>> were ALL pursuing policies of strengthening, maintaining
>> or extending their individual empires, which could only
>> lead to another inter-imperialist world war, as it did.
>I honestly do not understand what does this have to do with
>our debate, Jose.
>> The defining characteristic of the US/NZ (and for NZ
>> you can put here
>> just about any imperialist country you want) is no longer
>> rivalry and competition over division and redivision of
>> the colonies, but cooperation in maintaining the
>> domination of the third world and competition of their
>> respective capitalist firms and groups in exploiting it.
>No, not so if we are both relying on a common definition of
>imperialism. There is not a "general" US imperialism to
>which the "minor partners" add themselves. The British
>bourgeoisie was the only one that, more or less, believed
>this. And witness what has been left of Britain today. Do
>you think nobody has learnt the lesson?
>> In the old imperialist system before WWII, each power
>> "policed" its own
>> colonies. In the post-WWII system, the United States
>> overwhelmingly plays the role of gendarme of the world
>> imperialist system AS A WHOLE.
>It has never been this way, in fact. At the very aftermath
>of WW 2, for example, the very allmighty US had to elbow
>their way into the Middle East in a wrestling competition
>that took from 1945 to 1956 against France and Britain. And
>even in this last year, the Israelis could manage
>inter-imperialist contradictions to lean on the Europeans
>against the wishes of the Americans. And how would you
>explain the French helping Israelis build up their own
>nuclear power and their own aircraft industry during the
>high years of De Gaulle, if not as an obvious and beautiful
>display of interimperialist struggle? Do you think Gaullism
>is dead? Wrong, Jose. It speaks German now.
>And take the South American case. In Argentina, American
>imperialism could not take hold seriously and in a
>definitive way before 1965. The English knew they were
>going to be expelled from here, but they clung to the bone
>between 1955 and 1966, and in the 1976 coup you could still
>sense the perduration of the "Colorado" (that is,
>pro-British) military faction of the Armed forces taking
>revenge against the "Azul" (that is pro-American) one which
>had been increasingly hegemonic from 1956 to 1973.
>And during the dismantling of Argentina that took place
>between 1990 and 1999, it was almost funny (though tragic)
>to see the European investors outwit their American
>counterparts at every moment. The financial capital, mostly
>centered in the USA, took hold of most of the assets, but
>the operating arrangements (and the vital import operations
>implied) were almost to the last one taken over by
>Europeans. Thus, while Argentinian economy boosts American
>financial sector, it strengthens European industrial
>sector. Much to the rage of Americans, indeed.
>If this is an easygoing partnership, then words lose their
>The premises not accepted, the conclusions not granted. So
>I will not go ahead with the following paragraphs.
>Inter-imperialist rivalry is a built-in feature of
>imperialism, Jose. In fact, this is what was meant for.
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