[Marxism] Imperialism debate

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed Feb 10 23:29:29 MST 2016

Hi comrades (on a couple of lists that may be interested)...

On 2016/02/10 08:21 AM, 'Michael Karadjis' mkaradjis at gmail.com 
[GreenLeft_discussion] wrote:

> ... as I’ll explain later, am equally happy with the “Sub-Imperialist” 
> label.

In India last month, launching our BRICS book (co-edited with a 
Brazilian working in the Mauro Marini tradition, Ana Garcia), we got 
helpful feedback on the width and depth of the sub-imperial stance: 

For Putin's Russia this is a sensible category because of his obeisance 
to world financial hegemony (e.g. his last press conference pledging 
debt repayment - no matter how painful - and his empowering of the IMF 
by increasing Russia's voting share by 8% in December), his role in the 
world climate crisis (with massive increases in emissions during his 
reign) and - of course easiest to prove - his absurd nurturing of soccer 
imperialism not only by bribing Russia's hosting of the 2018 World Cup 
but by arguing Sepp Blatter should receive the Nobel Prize. (That's just 
symbolic - but add it to South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014 and 
then add the Chinese Olympics and Indian Commonwealth Games and suddenly 
the BRICS look sporty-subimpy, eh.)

But this occurs alongside contingencies that complicate matters, e.g. 
offering Snowden asylum, retaking the Crimea, supporting Ukrainian 
rebels, giving Assad comfort in Syria and doing non-$ energy deals with 
China, to recall some recent 'anti-imperialist' moves.

But remember Gramsci's advice? “In studying a structure, it is necessary 
to distinguish organic movements (relatively permanent) from movements 
which may be termed ‘conjunctural’ (and which appear as occasional, 
immediate, almost accidental).”

So this is not about semantics and definitions, it's about whether we 
agree on distinctions between the "necessary" in imperialism, and the 
"contingent." I weigh the evidence of finance and climate (and soccer, 
haha) politics as justifying the "sub-imperial" category. And I'm not 
(yet) intimidated to change course on the basis of conjunctural 
geopolitical situations which cannot be theorised.

My sense is that between Luxemburg, Marini and Harvey, we have superb 
theoretical traditions from which to work the sub-imperial argument.

But yes, I like this material below.


> We can have that discussion. Renfrey’s and Roger’s article on Links 
> has plenty of good arguments. But it comes down to definitions, and 
> while you can quote Lenin on what he said at one point about certain 
> characteristics of imperialism, if you really think that was supposed 
> to be a defining list, and all imperialist powers need to tick all 
> these boxes, then it would be difficult to explain how the same Lenin, 
> in the same book, included such states that did not have these 
> characteristics as imperialist.
> ... in economic terms, Russia belongs in the ‘Semi-Periphery’ rather 
> than the ‘Core.’ Broadly speaking, the Semi-periphery today are the 
> BRICS, the NICs and perhaps a few others....

> Sub-Imperialism
> But if today it is about only Russia and China, and they are not 
> imperialist, what is the big deal? I my opinion, if we are not to call 
> them imperialist, then the correct word for semi-periphery is 
> _Sub-Imperialist_. That word is unfashionable, yet I think it is 
> useful, because it expresses the idea that you don’t have to be on the 
> first rung of global economic powers to both have significant 
> investments abroad and to be able to throw your weight around – 
> politically, economically, militarily – in order to push your economic 
> interests.
> And yes, there can be a degree of “rivalry” between an imperialist and 
> a sub-imperialist state, despite the imbalance. You don’t have to be a 
> fully imperialist power to have some degree of rivalry.
> Yet, as Patrick Bond points out, such rivalry, and ability to pose as 
> a global “opposition” to the Core, has its limits; the world 
> capitalist reality means that the sub-imperialist states also act as 
> transmission belts/deputy sheriffs for Core imperialist penetration 
> (I’m paraphrasing).

Posted by: Patrick Bond <pbond at mail.ngo.za>
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