Monday, February 29, 2016

Once more on the nature of Russia and China

by Alex Steiner
Lenin as depicted by Diego Rivera
 In September of 2014 we posted a brief comment on a resolution on war that was adopted by the SEP (Socialist Equality Party, the American group responsible for the publication of the World Socialist Web Site).  Among other things, we noted that the resolution lacked any serious analysis of the nature of Russia and China. This is a rather serious omission in a resolution discussing the dangers of war between the U.S. and Russia and China.  Instead of a serious analysis, the document contained a blanket condemnation of anyone who claimed that China and Russia were imperialist nations,
One mechanism through which pseudo-left forces are seeking to legitimize US and European aggression is through the false characterization of Russia and China as “imperialist” countries. This characterization, which tears both Russia and China out of all historical context, is aimed at conditioning public opinion to accept ever more dangerous provocations by the imperialist powers in both Asia and Eastern Europe.[1]
In our comment on this part of the SEP resolution we pointed out its theoretically vacuous nature,
Amazingly, though the SEP resolution is ready to condemn those who consider Russia and China imperialist nations, the SEP never tells us what they think Russia and China are.  Neither the SEP resolution, nor any of the numerous articles in the WSWS ever provide a theory of the nature of Russia or China.   All we are ever told is what they are not.[2]
That post elicited a number of comments which led us to follow it up with another post in October of 2014 where we noted that,
The branding of Russia and China as mere victims of imperialism, while a fiction from the viewpoint of the Marxist theory of imperialism, has a very practical purpose.  It enables the SEP to side with Russia and China in the inter-imperialist rivalries that have broken out between those countries on the one hand and the U.S. and Western Europe on the other, as if Russia and China held the same status of clearly oppressed nations such as Bangladesh or Peru. In our previous comment on the SEP's resolution, we called this the Politics of As If.  And this fictitious identification of these countries with the oppressed nations of the world becomes the justification for the failure of the SEP to formulate an independent role for the working class within these conflicts.  Instead the SEP has championed a form of anti-imperialism that is divorced from socialism and adapts itself to the Chinese and Russian ruling classes.[3]
We asked a pointed question at the end of that comment,
…we are still waiting for an explanation from the SEP as to what exactly Russia and China are. If they are capitalist countries - which the SEP acknowledges - but not imperialist powers - then what exactly are they?
We never did get an answer to that question.  One WSWS journalist even invented a new category to describe the nature of Russia,
In contrast to the United States, Russia is not an imperialist country. It functions chiefly as a supplier of energy to the world market and as a sales market for global concerns.[4]
Previously Marxists had only considered that in the age of capitalist imperialism, it was only possible to be either an imperialist power, a semi colony, an outright colony or some hybrid combination of these general categories. But we now have a brand new category being introduced into the Marxist theory of imperialism, almost as an afterthought, namely “a supplier of raw materials”. At the same time, numerous articles in the WSWS asserted that the aim of US imperialism was to “transform Russia (or China) into a semi-colony”.  Here is one example,
The US and its European allies backed the coup as part of its long-term strategy of removing Ukraine from Russia’s historic sphere of economic and military influence, with the ultimate aim of encircling and transforming Russia into a semi-colony. [5]
One can find literally dozens of similar statements about the “ultimate aim” of U.S. imperialism vis a vis Russia and China in the pages of the WSWS.  But that leaves open an obvious question – if the ultimate aim of US imperialism is to transform Russian (or China) into a semi-colony, then it must be something more than a semi-colony now. But what could that be?
Given the appalling lack of any serious analysis of the nature of Russia or China in the pages of the World Socialist Web Site (and one must add that the WSWS/SEP was hardly the only left wing group guilty of empty fulminations about the nature of Russia and China) we decided to publish a serious work of Marxist scholarship on the nature of Russia.  While we have a number of political disagreements with the author of that analysis, Michael Pröbsting, we felt that his analysis of the nature of Russia was far and away the most serious work from a Marxist perspective on the subject.[6] We received a number of thoughtful comments on that piece including some comments that disagreed with both Pröbsting’s and our assessment of the nature of Russia. However there was no comment either from the WSWS or any of its erstwhile supporters, some of whom had been more than eager to comment on our previous remarks on this topic.
But while the WSWS was silent when a serious analysis of the nature of Russia was being published, they went ahead with a new statement on Feb 18 that once more reiterates their condemnation of those who considered Russia or China to be imperialist states.  Here is the key section of that statement,
Straining to endow their alliance with Pentagon strategists with some form of theoretical and political legitimacy, a broad swathe of pseudo-left organizations has proclaimed Russia and China to be “imperialist” powers. This definition has been plucked from midair, with barely any attempt to explain the historical process through which Russia and China, within the space of just 25 years, changed from bureaucratically degenerated and deformed workers’ states into imperialist powers.[7]

While this statement once more lashes out at unnamed “pseudo-left organizations” for their position on Russia and China it still fails to shed any new light on the subject. The statement goes on to denounce these groups for borrowing a definition of Russia and China which “has been plucked from midair, with barely any attempt to explain the historical process through which Russia and China, within the space of just 25 years” have been transformed.  By that reasoning, the SEP must find itself within the camp of those pseudo-left organizations that it condemns, for try as you may, you cannot find anything remotely resembling “an explanation of the historical process through which Russia and China, within the space of just 25 years” have been transformed into whatever it is they think they are today. It is nothing short of incredible that the intrepid followers of the WSWS have not noticed the irony of this statement.
But that is not all.  The WSWS statement concludes its condemnation of the "pseudo-lefts" with this bit of demagogy:
Were it merely a matter of expressing political opposition to the regimes in Beijing and Moscow it would not be necessary to employ the epithet “imperialist.”
Now in stating that the label “imperialist” is merely an epithet, and in the case of Russia and China, an unnecessary one, the WSWS has completely repudiated the Marxist understanding of imperialism.  (I make  this point regardless of what one’s theory of the nature of Russia and China are.) For Lenin and the Marxist theoreticians from whom he borrowed in formulating his theory of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism, figures like the Second International  theoretician Rudolf Hilferding, the term “imperialism” had an objective content, expressing a stage in the development of a mature capitalism and defining the nature of the era.  And it makes a big difference in the practice of the revolutionary movement whether it considers a state to be “imperialist” or a victim of imperialism.  One might say that this is the most important theoretical question to determine when a revolutionary movement is developing its strategic orientation.  To suggest, as the WSWS statement does, that the label of “imperialist” is little more than an invective is to completely subjectivize and destroy the Marxist analysis of imperialism.  There isn’t much left to Marxism after you go down that road.

It’s a point worth remembering the next time a WSWS journalist claims that their analysis is based on  a “science of perspectives”.
   






[1] The fight against war and the political tasks of the Socialist Equality Party, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/08/25/reso-a25.html



[2] Alex Steiner, A comment on the resolution of the SEP on the fight against war, http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2014/09/a-brief-comment-on-resolution-of-sep-on.html



[3] Alex Steiner, The SEP on the Nature of Russia and China,  http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2014/10/the-sep-on-nature-of-russia-and-china.html



[4] Clara Weiss, Russia and the US end collaboration on nuclear disarmament, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/01/23/russ-j23.html



[5] Niles Williamson, US and NATO engage in unprecedented military exercises in Europe, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/07/24/nato-j24.html



[6] Michael Pröbsting with introduction by Alex Steiner, Russia as an imperialist power, http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2015/11/russian-as-imperialist-power.html   



[7]  Socialism and the fight against war, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/18/icfi-f18.html

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Now in stating that the label “imperialist” is merely an epithet, and in the case of Russia and China, an unnecessary one, the WSWS has completely repudiated the Marxist understanding of imperialism...To suggest, as the WSWS statement does, that the label of 'imperialist' is little more than an invective is to completely subjectivize and destroy the Marxist analysis of imperialism."

This is an almost embarrassing (if not deliberate) misreading of the document. It is clearly stating that groups it describes as pseudo-left use the term imperialist as an "epithet" in relation to Russia and China, thereby "subjectivizing" it and divorcing it from an assessment of the nature of the epoch and the historical evolution of both states. I.e. the document is asserting the objective content of imperialism, in opposition to a tendency to use it as an epithet that is politically convenient for organizations aligning themselves with the US preparations for war in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. If you read the entire document, (http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/18/icfi-f18.html) it contains entire sections outlining the contemporary significance of Lenin's explanation of the imperialist epoch and its implications for the working class and the revolutionary party.

It's also worth noting that this site has in the past implicitly claimed that the Marxist definition of the imperialist epoch as one of war and revolution, posing the threat of a global conflagration, is outdated. You wrote in response to a 2014 IC resolution warning of the threat of a US war against China or Russia, "the use of military power to back up economic interests, while certainly still in play, is embarked upon with much greater reluctance today."

This is a theme you have repeated on numbers of occaisions. In September last year, you declared that for Marxists to warn of the threat of a third world war was "crisis mongering."

And then, without explanation, and apparently in response to the ever clearer threat of a global conflict, you seem to have junked this position. In November, you wrote, "In the case of Syria tensions have escalated to the point where there is a real danger of a direct confrontation between the Russian and American military." Why haven't you repudiated your previous denunciations of the WSWS for its prescient warnings, and attempts to mobilize the working class against an eruption of militarism unprecedented in the post World War Two period?

Alex Steiner said...

Response to Anonymous - Part I

Anonymous claims that I misrepresent the WSWS statement on war. He claims that the WSWS is only characterizing “pseudo-left” groups by saying that labeling Russia and China as imperialist is little more than an epithet. He claims that the WSWS itself does not believe that affixing this label to Russia and China should be considered an epithet. He says,

"…the document is asserting the objective content of imperialism, in opposition to a tendency to use it as an epithet that is politically convenient for organizations aligning themselves with the US preparations for war in Europe and the Asia-Pacific."

Perhaps that was the intent of the WSWS statement but it does not read that way. According to the statement,

"Were it merely a matter of expressing political opposition to the regimes in Beijing and Moscow it would not be necessary to employ the epithet “imperialist.”"

It is clearly implied that you can correct yourself if you just stop using that epithet of “imperialist”. But even if the WSWS statement did not intend to provide a “subjective” account of the nature of Russia and China, they have by their own standards done just that – a point that Anonymous studiously avoids. How so?

The essence of Anonymous’ argument is that groups that he calls “pseudo-left” take the definition of Russia and China as imperialist without any analysis, and use it merely to justify their own pro-imperialist politics. Quoting from the WSWS article,

"This definition has been plucked from midair, with barely any attempt to explain the historical process through which Russia and China, within the space of just 25 years, changed from bureaucratically degenerated and deformed workers’ states into imperialist powers."

But I have made the point, not just in this article, but repeatedly in a number of articles, that the WSWS denial that Russia and China are imperialist has also “been plucked from midair, with barely any attempt to explain the historical process through which Russia and China, within the space of just 25 years” have been transformed.

I have repeatedly asked for the WSWS’s theoretical justification for their assessment of the nature of Russia and China. We never received a response because there is no such analysis. So by their own criteria, the WSWS must consider itself part of the “pseudo-left” and are therefore making up labels for Russia and China to suit their political prejudices, which consist in back-handed support for Putin and the Chinese bureaucracy. But it is even worse. For you can say that at least those groups who label Russia and China as “imperialist” are not afraid of stating their position on the nature of Russia and China, even if it is “plucked from midair”. But the WSWS won’t even provide a coherent account of what they think Russia and China are. They only know that it is not “imperialist”.

Alex Steiner said...

Response to Anonymous Part II

One might also say something about the epithet “pseudo-left” with which WSWS propagandists label their political opponents. Can we have a clear definition of this evasive term? It seems from the usage made of it in the pages of the WSWS that the term “pseudo-left” encompasses every organized left group on the planet excepting only themselves. If that is the case is it really true that every other left group has labeled Russia and China “imperialist” and “plucked that definition from midair”? I can easily compile a list of left groups who do not consider China and Russia imperialist besides the WSWS. The neo-Stalinist Workers World Party comes to mind. And is it true that among the groups who label Russia and China imperialist, there has been no serious analysis of the nature of Russia and China? Certainly there are plenty of groups, including the WSWS, who have not presented any serious analysis. But others have, for instance the group with which Michael Pröbsting is affiliated, the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, whose analysis of Russia we published. This group has done infinitely more theoretical work in this area than the WSWS. And there are other groups as well. What all this goes to prove is that the label with which the WSWS tries to tar its political opponents, “pseudo-left” is based on a fiction and one that has credibility only within the closed bubble of the WSWS.

As for Anonymous discovery that I opposed Lenin’s definition of imperialism but have recently changed my position, this is a complete non-sequitur. Why does saying that the nature of imperialism has changed in the last hundred years imply that Lenin’s analysis of imperialism can be junked? Only a formal and dogmatic thinker would see such a connection. It’s something like saying, “We have learned much more about physics since Einstein, therefore we can throw out Einstein’s theory of relativity.” Here is in fact what I said on this topic,

"A century ago, the colonial system still dominated the planet and the British Empire was still intact. Today the colonial system has mostly disappeared with the rise of national independence movements in the post war era. That does not mean that imperialism is no longer deeply involved in the affairs of Africa, Asia and South America. But the character of that involvement has changed drastically. Whereas a hundred years ago you had direct military occupation and rule by a foreign power, today imperialism works largely through political, economic and military proxies. But these proxies are hardly reliable and oftentimes turn against their bankrollers. One need only mention in this context the rise of ISIS, which began as one of the proxies of the Western powers fighting against the Assad regime in Syria.

The other thing to recognize about the nature of imperialism today is that the traditional players on the scene, the old European powers and the United States have been joined by new imperialist powers that are challenging their hegemony, most conspicuously China. This is an “inconvenient truth” for North and the WSWS who would prefer to argue that China (and Russia) are not imperialist powers. We have already pointed to the threadbare nature of their arguments on this score and we will have much more to say about the nature of Russia and China in a series of subsequent articles. But as far as the WSWS is concerned, nothing much has changed about imperialism since Lenin wrote his classic work on that subject a hundred years ago." (Crackpot philosophy and doublespeak )

If anonymous has anything specific to challenge what I wrote we can discuss it further but as of now I think it should be clear that there is little more to Anonymous contribution than a lot of hot air.

Anonymous said...

"Previously Marxists had only considered that in the age of capitalist imperialism, it was only possible to be either an imperialist power, a semi colony, an outright colony or some hybrid combination of these general categories."
Isn't the WSWS claiming that Russia and China are "...some hybrid combination of these general categories.", while you claim they are imperialists? Where's your evidence that they are imperialists?

Alex Steiner said...

I don't know if this is the same 'Anonymous' as the previous 'Anonymous'. It is difficult to carry on a meaningful exchange with people who are afraid to identify themselves.

But to answer your comment,

1. You have not been paying attention. Had you followed the links in the notes to the current post you would have come across our previous post,
Russia as an imperialist power
which provides plenty of evidence for our position that Russia is an imperialist power.

2. Where is the WSWS evidence that Russia and China are "hybrids" or whatever they claim they are? (The WSWS has been wildly inconsistent on this topic.) Can you show me anything more than an occasional reference to some cherry picked statistic that various WSWS journalists raise from time to time to argue that Russia is not a imperialist power? Is there anything remotely approaching the comprehensive study undertaken by Michael Pröbsting to justify their somewhat evasive position on Russia?

Michael Pröbsting (RCIT) said...

„Anonymous“, who wishes to remain anonymous probably since he or she does not have the courage to associate in public with the WSWS, asks: “Where's your evidence that they (Russia and China, MP) are imperialists?” Well, comrade Alex Steiner has already referred to our documents so the WSWS comrades should know. Anyway, here is the evidence:
Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4;
Why is China imperialist? Interview with Michael Pröbsting, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-imperialism/
Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-china-and-russia/;
More on Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Reply to Chris Slee (Socialist Alliance, Australia) and Walter Daum (LRP, USA), 11 April 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/reply-to-slee-on-russia-china/;
The China Question and the Marxist Theory of Imperialism. Again on China as an imperialist Power. Reply to a Polemic from CSR (Venezuela) and PCO (Argentina), December 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 32, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/reply-to-csr-pco-on-china/;
Is Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism Incompatible with the Concept of Permanent Revolution? http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-permanent-revolution/
No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism! Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home! Stop the conflict on the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in the East China Sea! 23.9.2012,in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/no-war-between-china-and-japan/
China’s “Socialist“ Billionaires, 16.11.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/china-s-billionaires/
Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/;
Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/;
Michael Pröbsting: The Uprising in East Ukraine and Russian Imperialism. An Analysis of Recent Developments in the Ukrainian Civil War and their Consequences for Revolutionary Tactics, 22.October 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/ukraine-and-russian-imperialism/

Anonymous said...

Call me Anonymous2, because I'm not the first. Thank you for the links, I'll take a look at the material and get back to you after I've read them. No I'm not a member of WSWS, just a curious observer. What's the big deal about anonymity? Why should a commenter have to identify him/herself? Aren't the ideas expressed the important thing?

Chris said...

First off, those choosing to remain anonymous are not "afraid" or lacking in "courage". You are simply using their decision to withhold their names, for whatever reason, to launch ad hominem attacks and ignore the substance.

Secondly, as the first anon said, your distortion and misrepresentation of the WSWS's statement is laughable and clearly false to anyone who takes the time to read it. You make it seem like the WSWS has stripped imperialism of all its significance when in reality it is people such as yourselves who are doing that. You attempt to squeeze your way our of not having once explained how Russia and China made the leap from backwards, export based economies dependent on world capitalism to the highest stage of capitalism through a scientific basis through ignoring the question and ripping a comment completely out of context shows your inability to answer this question on a scientific, class basis. It must also be pointed out that the WSWS not responding to you is not a show of theoretical weakness or not having answers. The WSWS has no responsibility to respond to every statement that you, who left the movement in the 70s, publishes on their blog. Also, just because it is not a direct response to your questions does not mean that the subject is not addressed. You are attempting to play on the ignorance of people in order to discredit the WSWS.

Your arguments that Russia and China are imperialist rest solely on those two countries' "aggressive" actions which, if analyzed through objective means you would see that it is the US that is the aggressive party. It is the US that initiated the coup in Ukraine and the regime change operation in Syria. While the Russian response has been reactionary and based on the interests of its corrupt oligarchy it is of a defensive nature. As for China, it has been the US that has been stoking tensions in the South China Sea and is staging provocative "freedom of navigation" missions.

It most also be pointed out that the second anon's claims that the WSWS advocates a "hybrid" hypothesis is false. Nowhere in any document published on the WSWS has this been presented.

Alex Steiner said...

The comment from "Chris" is a good illustration of what I would call a WSWS "true believer". Just to be clear the great majority of readers of the WSWS are not true believers. But of that small number who can be classified as "true believers" the following methods of argumentation are I think typical.

1. Make an accusation without any supporting evidence.

["...your distortion and misrepresentation of the WSWS's statement is laughable and clearly false to anyone who takes the time to read it."]

2. Misrepresent what we wrote by claiming we never provided an explanation for something that we did in fact did cover exhaustively.

["You attempt to squeeze your way our of not having once explained how Russia and China made the leap from backwards, export based economies dependent on world capitalism to the highest stage of capitalism ..."]

3. Ascribe the failure of the WSWS to provide an explanation for an important phenomenon that has vast implications for their practice to those who exposed their theoretical vacuum, thereby turning reality upside down.

[See point 2 above.]

4. Misrepresent what we wrote by ascribing to us arguments that we never made.

["Your arguments that Russia and China are imperialist rest solely on those two countries' "aggressive" actions ..."]

5. Provide an alibi for the failure of the WSWS to address important theoretical questions.

["The WSWS has no responsibility to respond to every statement that you, who left the movement in the 70s, publishes on their blog."]

6. Argue over some facts with which most leftists will agree while pretending that we have denied them.

[ "While the Russian response has been reactionary and based on the interests of its corrupt oligarchy it is of a defensive nature." ]

What portion of the distortions of this "true believer" are due to poor reading comprehension skills and what portion of it is due to deliberate falsification I will leave to others to decide.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous2 here,
I will not try to defend the position of the WSWS, not being a member. What follows is my impression of the material I read from the links provided by Michael Pröbsting, specifically, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-imperialism/, and http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/ukraine-and-russian-imperialism/.
You clearly showed that these nations are capitalist. The wealth of their ruling classes is based on the exploitation of the labor and natural resources of the peoples of these nations. You try to argue, unconvincingly in my opinion, that they are imperialist because of that. The USA grew in a similar fashion during the 19th century but did not embark on the road of imperialist brigandage until after the Spanish-American war. In my view, China and Russia are potential imperialists, but aren't there yet. Both nations have been powerful empires in the past and may be so in the future. I found it strange that Pröbsting was for the Donbass Russians when the Kiev regime was on the verge of defeating them, but did a 180 turn as soon as Russia helped them stave off defeat. Pröbsting,still refers to a "Libyan revolution" after that country was reduced to a state of anarchy with the help of the traditional imperialists of the West. Where's the revolutionary defeatism in such stance? it looks more like making common cause with the diplomacy of NATO. The same goes for Syria. The claims made about Brazil, India and Turkey weren't that convincing either. Turkey is clearly trying to become the arbiter in the Middle East, as it was during the Ottoman Empire, India clearly wants to play a similar role in its area, as demonstrated by its bullying of Nepal and other smaller states in its periphery. I don't think it's sufficient to show that a nation has the wherewithal to be an imperialist power. You also needed to show that they have plans to redraw the map militarily. The only nation moving in that direction, in my opinion, is the USA.

Anonymous said...

I'm also one of frequent visitors to this blog.
Although I'm anonymous too, I fully understand Alex Steiner's complaint about a commentet's covering up their identities.
I suspect that he is tired from having fighted against concealed attacks from members from the WSWS.
Back to the issue of the nature of Russia and China, I like Anonymous 2's definition by "potential" imperialist states.
I think we can lose a lot by labeling "imperialist" or "non-imperialist."

Chris said...

You did not answer a single point that I raised and instead, once again, launch ad hominems against people who disagree with you. However, I will respond to your claims.

1)I am referencing the article that you yourself used as a citation for this drivel, "Socialism and the Fight Against War" http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/18/icfi-f18.html, in which your accusations are shown to be clearly false to anyone who reads the document.

2)Here you conveniently leave out an important part of my statement, not rare for this site that loves to misquote the WSWS. The entire quote is, "You attempt to squeeze your way our of not having once explained how Russia and China made the leap from backwards, export based economies dependent on world capitalism to the highest stage of capitalism through a scientific basis through ignoring the question and ripping a comment completely out of context shows your inability to answer this question on a scientific, class basis." Note how you leave out my criticisms of your analysis to give the appearance that I am a bumbling fool.

3)You claiming that the WSWS has not addressed this topic and that you are somehow exposing it plays on the ignorance of people. Thankfully as a digital medium it is easy for people to find the truth. In "SEP (Australia) Second National Congress
Resolution 1: Australian imperialism and the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”" https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/18/icfi-f18.html, there is an entire section named "The fallacy of Russian and Chinese imperialism" that goes over this subject in detail.

4)Over the time I have been looking at this website and analyzing its subjective, anti-Marxist positions to strengthen my understanding of them and how to confront them, you have constantly used the Ukraine and Syria as "evidence" of Russian imperialism and much similar things in regards to China.

5) Once again, the WSWS has responded to these issues. You are merely upset that they did not reference you in their articles because it does not give you an additional platform and room to bash the WSWS.

6)In this regard you play a sinister role. While you have described Russia's actions in passing as having a defensive nature, this is at odds with your analysis of Russia as an imperialist power. You shroud your statements in a Marxist veil as you actively promote conflicting statements.

I will admit to one thing though; I am a "true believer". I ardently believe that the ICFI's positions are the correct ones and that unlike yourselves and others who would bind the working class to bourgeois forces - one only has to look at the disgusting flattering and praising of Syriza to see this - they fight for the political independence of the working class on the grounds of a socialist struggle. It should be worth noting that while the American SEP was fighting to arm the United Autoworkers membership in a political battle against the companies, the corrupt union bosses, and the capitalist system (and gained a significant following) you said in the comments of "Crackpot philosophy and double-speak: A reply to David North" that it was a "a minor SEP venture among auto workers" completely disregarding the importance of the struggle. Yet in the same breathe you pose your supporters as "indicating an audience for Marxism"! This despite your attacks on Plekhanov and the dialectic, your embrace of Frankfurt School concepts, and your support for bourgeois forces. Being insulted by the likes of you is more like a compliment to me.

Chris said...

Also, a correction on my previous post: the SEP did state that China was a "hybrid" but not in anyway involved with imperialism, which caused my confusion. The hybrid that they are mentioning is the contradictory nature of a deformed worker's state; one between a state ruled by a corrupt caste hostile to socialism that follows a nationalist economic policy and its base among the working class. This is a quote referencing it, "The Fourth International characterised the hybrid state that emerged from the Chinese revolution as a deformed workers’ state. A colossal social overturn had taken place, ending imperialist domination, overthrowing the bourgeois-landlord ruling class, and abolishing the private ownership of land and the means of production. Unlike the Russian Revolution in 1917, however, the Chinese Revolution was not carried out by a politically-mobilised working class. The CCP’s political orientation was based on the reactionary Stalinist conception of “socialism in one country,” the betrayal of the Russian Revolution by the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, and the subsequent bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union. From the outset, the CCP state apparatus, resting on a peasant army, forcibly suppressed the working class.

The Trotskyist movement’s sociological characterisation of China as a deformed workers’ state contained a political prognosis: either the working class would undertake a political revolution and overthrow the bureaucracy and, in unity with the working class of the region and the world, go forward in the struggle for genuine socialism, or the Chinese Stalinist bureaucracy under Mao Zedong, based on its nationalist, autarkic program, would restore capitalism."

Hansen said...

"It must also be pointed out that the WSWS not responding to you is not a show of theoretical weakness or not having answers. The WSWS has no responsibility to respond to every statement that you, who left the movement in the 70s, publishes on their blog."

Firstly, Steiner and Brenner have already done an excellent job of addressing this ludicrous argument (that the party is not obligated to respond to such questions) in the first chapter of their book Marxism Without Its Head or Its Heart, I believe, which can be found on their website. Secondly, Chris is clearly drinking the koolaid and seems to take everything the WSWS does or doesn't do/say at face value. He will defend their actions no matter what they do or say... until the Party decides to finally ostracize him and puts him under the microscope and subjects him to dictatorial tirades the way many ex members have been in the past... or ya know, another tactic is for the WSWS to just completely ignore (read: shun) a member/supporter so the person is forced out of the movement (the Party seems to be rather good at conveniently ignoring a lot of things when it suits their narrative). I question how many people have actually "left" the party. I suspect most ex members have actually been forced out this way.

Anonymous said...

Where is your proof of those claims Hansen? You can not just say such inflammatory things without providing any evidence of such attacks. Furthermore, merely a person's claim on some obscure source is not sufficient, but objective evidence such as emails and direct interactions with official members.

Michael Pröbsting (RCIT) said...

In reply to Anonymous2 remarks I would like to reply the following (Part 1):
1) I will focus here on discussing the issue of Russian imperialism. Concerning the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary process in Libya and Syria I would refer the comrade to other documents of the RCIT where we dealt with this more in detail. (See numerous documents here http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/; but in particular I would refer to this document: http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/liberation-struggle-and-imperialism/) However I can refrain to express my astonishment how communists can prefer a stable bourgeois dictatorship a la Assad or Gaddafi to what you call – like many bourgeois commentators – “a state of anarchy”. In general one has to be aware that, as in World War II and various other wars, communists have to combine support for liberation struggles with an anti-imperialist stand (particularly if the rivalry between imperialist powers results interference of one or several of these Great Powers in such liberation struggles).
2) You say: “China and Russia are potential imperialists, but aren't there yet” I do not want to repeat all the arguments and facts which we gave in our documents. But look: China is one of the biggest exporters of capital. It has become home of the biggest number of billionaires as we have shown in an article linked to above. According to the recently published figures by Forbes it is No. 2 behind the US. Whatever is true, it is undeniable fact that China hosts one of the biggest shares of global capital – more than all other imperialist powers except the US. Russia is economically weaker but this is offset by its military power. See the Ukraine or Syria as practical proof. Ask yourself: why do the US and all other Western imperialists look so nervously to the rising power of China and Russia?! Why should these imperialists fear China and Russia if they would not be already Great Powers?! Did they seriously fear semi-colonies when the latter endangered their interests? No they attacked and smashed them like Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

Michael Pröbsting (RCIT) said...

Part 2
3) You write: “I don't think it's sufficient to show that a nation has the wherewithal to be an imperialist power. You also needed to show that they have plans to redraw the map militarily. The only nation moving in that direction, in my opinion, is the USA.” I think that this statement reflects the inner inconsistency of your position. Going by this logic, the US would be only imperialist power on the planet. Obviously, this is in complete contradiction to any Marxist analysis. What’s about Germany, Japan not to speak about smaller imperialist countries like Austria or Belgium? Irrespective of this, it is visible to everyone that China and Russia have build-up their military and they want to drive the Western influence back. This is why you have the tensions in the South Chinese Sea (or East Sea as the Vietnamese call it). And is Russia’s important role in the negotiations about Syria an implicitly acceptance of the West that Russia has become a Great Power again?!
3) Concerning the change of the character of the civil war in the Ukraine in summer 2014. You write: “I found it strange that Pröbsting was for the Donbass Russians when the Kiev regime was on the verge of defeating them, but did a 180 turn as soon as Russia helped them stave off defeat.” Well, as we explained in this pamphlet, the direct military intervention of the Russians, the change of personal at the top of the Donbass republics, the dominant presence of the “Eurasians” – all this transformed the Donbass leadership into stooges of Moscow. Do you deny the evidence we give to prove these changes? Or do accept them but refuse our conclusion because you do not consider Russia to be imperialist “yet”?
4) Finally, a remark to another, also anonymous, contributor who wrote: “I think we can lose a lot by labeling "imperialist" or "non-imperialist."” Of course, if it would be a debate simple about terminology, we shouldn’t waste too much time on it. However, I am sure this comrade is aware that for Marxists such terminology is connected with programmatic conclusions, i.e. which side are you on in a conflict (militarily, economically, or politically) between such states. While we would take the side of a non-imperialist, semi-colonial country, we take a defeatist position on both sides if it is a conflict between imperialist states. Don’t you think so?

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Anonymous 2:

The bulk of your questions are directed to Michael Pröbsting so I will just comment on that part of his analysis with which I concur. I do not necessarily agree with his views on Libya, Syria or the Ukraine but it is a separate topic.

In saying,
" In my view, China and Russia are potential imperialists, but aren't there yet",
you are presenting a position that is similar in many ways to that of Jan Norden and the League for the Fourth International. I already discussed my view of Norden's thesis in my earlier post,

Russia as an imperialist power.

So let me quote from that essay:

"Norden considers Russia to be a “transitional” state, perhaps on the road to imperialism but not there yet. He discounts Pröbsting’s thesis that Russia is exploiting some of its neighbors in Central Asia and the Ukraine. He claims that Pröbsting’s figures are bogus and the actual figures do not show any significant economic domination by Russia of its neighbors.

Whether Norden’s criticism of Pröbsting’s analysis of the data is correct or not I do not find his distinction between a “transitional capitalism” and a weak and regional imperialist power convincing. There is little doubt that Russia today plays a role similar to the Russia of the Czarist Empire as a regional power that dominates its neighbors. In addition few would argue that it maintains a full- fledged colonial occupation in Chechnya. It is also true that Russia is playing a largely defensive role vis a vis the aggressive moves of U.S. and European imperialism in the Ukraine, the Baltics and its Western borders in general. But that fact does not make Russia a “semi-colonial” country as some have claimed. [12] In addition, Russia does have a significant presence in world finance, though its influence is dwarfed by that of the U.S. and the U.K. not to mention China! Furthermore we may ask if Russia is a transitional regime, what is it transitioning into and how long can one expect that transition to work itself out?"

Anonymous said...

I'm lysistrata.
As one of Far East Asians, I cannot be indifferent to this blog's writing and its responses surrounding the nature of Russia and China. Especially under the circumstances, summed up by apparently frantic last-ditch efforts, and strategically defensive positions of Russia and China towards USA. I'll continue to read and reflect on the writings of this blog.
However, I am more curious about Alex Steiner's opinion on Bernie Sanders. The so-called 'upset' victories, which had been never expected just a few months before, have aroused from many folks in my country a lot of interest in the latter's campaign promises and even 'socialism' specific to him. People from the so-called left wing here, who have fared badly for long, are inspired encouraged. Can I think that Alex Steiner has similar position about Bernie Sanders as about Syriza?

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Chris - Round #2

I have learned over the years not to engage in debates with religious fundamentalists or creationists. The reason being that people who fit into those categories, with few exceptions, are not capable of changing their views either through the force of reason or evidence. I should now add to the categories of those who are immune to arguments based on reason or evidence Internet cheerleaders for political groups for whose actual practice they take no responsibility. If you add political propaganda and the use of the Internet into the mix you get a formula that encourages not only blind adherence to dogma but arguments made in bad faith and deliberate misrepresentation. And the more you call such people out on how their narratives twist reality the shriller they get and the more personal become the attacks. Thus in his last round of contributions "true believer" Chris says that I play a "sinister role" because he cannot understand how Russia can be an imperialist power and also be on the defensive against U.S. Imperialism. This is, horror of horrors, a contradiction! How can such a thing be possible?

But while Chris's response is mostly rubbish that evades the points I raised, he does make one claim that is worth a reply. He claims to have unearthed an analysis by the WSWS of the nature of Russia and China.

He says this analysis can be found,

"In "SEP (Australia) Second National Congress
Resolution 1: Australian imperialism and the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”"https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/18/icfi-f18.html, there is an entire section named "The fallacy of Russian and Chinese imperialism" that goes over this subject in detail. "

Unfortunately the link Chris provides is wrong. The real link to the SEP of Australia's document is here:

The fallacy of Russian and Chinese imperialism

My brief reaction to this document:

First of all it is all about China and has hardly anything to say about Russia except for a quote from Trotsky about the situation in the 1930s.

If this is supposed to be "a comprehensive analysis of the transformation of China in the last 25 years" it clearly fails in that respect. There are sections that give a concise historical narrative and lots of polemics against the Socialist Alternative and other "Pseudo-Left" groups but only the most superficial account of the dynamics of the Chinese economy and how it has evolved in the last 25 years. If you compare this document to Michael Pröbsting's analysis of China (whether you agree or disagree with him) you can see the difference:

China's transformation into an imperialist power

The actual argument as to why China is not an imperialist power consist of a single paragraph (paragraph 36) which begins with the statement, "The fact of the matter is that while China’s economy is indisputably capitalist, it is not an imperialist power",

and throws in a few cherry picked statistics to try to justify that statement. It is also interesting that while this document adamantly denies that China is an imperialist power it never gets around to saying just what China is. The impression is left that the authors think it is a "semi-colony" but they actually never come out and say so!

There is of course much more to say about China than can be addressed in a brief comment but I think I have shown that "true believer" Chris's claim that the WSWS does indeed have a comprehensive analysis of the transformation of Russia (or China) in the last 25 years is bogus.

Anonymous said...

Concerning China, the in depth document Steiner can't find is there : http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/03/cha1-m09.html a three parts series.

I think it deals extensively enough with the state of China, it's 10 years old, so maybe it could be argued that it needs an update, but I haven't noticed anything that's not true anymore.

The third part defines China in a sui generis way, but not outlandishly, just as a way to exit the formal categories presented by steiner in order to be more accurate :

"Rather than some kind of deformed workers’ state, it would more accurate to characterise Mao’s China from the outset as a deformed bourgeois state. The anti-working class character of the regime has been apparent ever since 1949, as the Beijing bureaucracy suppressed any independent role of the workers. Under “market reform,” Beijing has consciously acted as the collective representative of the interests of both Chinese capitalists and foreign investors, using police-state measures to enforce the ruthless exploitation of the working class."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous2:
I'm not arguing that China and Russia aren't regional and world powers. They are by virtue of the size of their populations, economies and military. Their permanent UN Council seats confirms them as such. The USA and its allies have good reasons to fear China and Russia, given the treatment they meted out to these nations in the past.

Michael Pröbsting, does China have the right to reclaim territory that was snatched from her when she was weak or not? You left out that fact in your claim that China's dispute with her neighbors is a sign of an imperialist expansion from its territory.

I mentioned the USA prior to the Spanish-American War in my original comment because, unlike present day China, it expanded at the expanse of its neighbors by grabbing land from Mexico, the nations of the native populations of north America and others, yet no Marxist ever classified it as an imperialist nation until after it defeated Spain and grabbed the Philippines, Cuba and other Spanish territories. You completely ignored that part of my comment, as well as the parts touching on the roles that India, Turkey and others play in the present. Why? ArcelorMittal is the biggest steel maker in the world and an Indian corporation, there are other large Indian conglomerates, yet, India is seen merely as a "semi-colony" by you!
Part of the USA plan to contain China, is to embroil it in disputes with her neighbors. You remain silent on that fact. A peculiar aspect in the disputes over islands, is the fact that the official US position is neutral on who owns what. Not one word from you about the US Navy in the Pacific.
I don't get your claim that Russia's support justified your 180 degree turn on Donbass, but NATO intervention in Libya caused you no such qualm. Not even pogroms against Blacks in Libya shook your faith in the "revolution" there!

Alex Steiner said...

Reply to Anonymous:

Anonymous brings our attention to a 10 year old document that deals extensively with China. I agree that the analysis of John Chan is a more serious effort than I have seen elsewhere in any of the WSWS documents or articles. I also noticed that Chan, whose byline disappeared from the WSWS two or three years go, was a prolific journalist whose articles on China were superior to the usual coverage of international topics on the WSWS.

As far as Anonymous' remarks are concerned, my position is being misrepresented. Anonymous insinuates that I was trying to put China (or Russia) into some rigid system of classification in contrast to Chan who adopts a description of China as a "deformed bourgeois state" which Anonymous tells us is "sui generis". But I was not insisting that China (or Russia) be squeezed into some rigid category that does not fit an evolving and contradictory social phenomenon. This should be clear from the remark I made in the above article, where I said,

"Marxists had only considered that in the age of capitalist imperialism, it was only possible to be either an imperialist power, a semi colony, an outright colony or some hybrid combination of these general categories."

Rather than insisting on pegging China or Russia into some rigid category, I was calling attention to the fact that the WSWS did not place them in any category whatsoever.

And in my previous article,
Russia as an imperialist power,
I emphasized that our concepts need to be flexible to accommodate the unique structures we see emerging today as a result of the law of uneven and combined development. I wrote,

"And particularly in the 21st century, much more so than 100 years ago when Lenin was writing, we can expect some genuine surprises through the work of the law of uneven and combined development. It turns out that many of those countries formerly dismissed as backwards and lacking the technological and economic infrastructure that took centuries to develop in Europe have a distinct advantage when it comes to harnessing the power of modern technology and communications."

and,

"This working of the law of combined and uneven development has enormous implications when assessing the status of nations. It means that you cannot take one feature of what has traditionally been described as defining the nature of an imperialist nation and use that as a decisive determinant."

As far as Chan's 3 part series on China, I can only make a couple of brief observations in the framework of a comment:

1. The position that China was "a deformed bourgeois state" is interesting, but is not developed. Without further elaboration it is difficult to comment on this point.

2. The thesis that China is a "deformed bourgeois state" is at odds with more recent WSWS discussions on the nature of the regime that emerged after that 1949 revolution. For instance, the Australian SEP's recent resolution,
Australian imperialism and the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”,
states very clearly that China was a deformed workers state. For instance,

"The Trotskyist movement’s sociological characterisation of China as a deformed workers’ state contained a political prognosis..."

If the terminological difference has any real significance, then the only conclusion one can draw is that the WSWS no longer subscribes to Chan's position on China.

3. I should also point out that Chan does not express an opinion in his 3 part series as to whether China is not only a capitalist country but an imperialist state as well.

Anonymous Michael Pröbsting (RCIT) said...

Reply to Anonymous2 (Part 1):

It seems that Anonymous2 has no identity, no political affiliation and no political theory (concerning the Russia and China question) to which he or she could refer. Hence he limits himself or herself to some ill-conceived accusations which are also full of inner contradictions.

Anonymous2 writes: “I'm not arguing that China and Russia aren't regional and world powers.” OK, this means that they are regional and world powers. If this anonymous person considers these two countries as capitalist, what could be the conclusion? What is the name for capitalist regional and world powers? Well, we Marxists characterize such states as imperialist. And Anonymous2?

Then Anonymous2 asks: “Michael Pröbsting, does China have the right to reclaim territory that was snatched from her when she was weak or not?” This is a question of a petty-bourgeois moralist but not of a Marxist. For a Marxists this question is related to the class character of the given country. There are a number of countries of which territories was snatched from them when they were weak. Usually, this happens if a country loses a war. For example, a number of German-populated territories were snatched away from Germany after WWII (and the people were expelled). The same is true for Austria after WWI. And Japan also lost control over the Kuril Islands after WWII. Would our anonymous critic say that Germany, Japan or Austria should be supported to their claim to these territories? In general Marxists do not support territorial claims of imperialist powers (including China) since they are a pretext for imperialist ambitions.

Then our anonymous critic accuses me that I have not answered his reference to the US prior to the Spanish-American War. He says, the US “expanded at the expanse of its neighbors by grabbing land from Mexico, the nations of the native populations of north America and others, yet no Marxist ever classified it as an imperialist nation until after it defeated Spain and grabbed the Philippines, Cuba and other Spanish territories.” It is true that I did not answer it. The reason is that it is a particularly stupid example. The Spanish-American War took place in 1898. At that time Marxists had not developed a theory of imperialism. They only elaborated this theory in the next one and a half decades. Lenin came to the conclusion that the Spanish-American War (and similar events at that time) marked only the beginning of the imperialist epoch, i.e.e at the turn of the century. So how on earth could any Marxist have considered the US an imperialist country before 1898?!?! It seems that logic is anonymous to our critic.

Anonymous said...

"The reason is that it is a particularly stupid example. The Spanish-American War took place in 1898. At that time Marxists had not developed a theory of imperialism. They only elaborated this theory in the next one and a half decades. Lenin came to the conclusion that the Spanish-American War (and similar events at that time) marked only the beginning of the imperialist epoch, i.e.e at the turn of the century. So how on earth could any Marxist have considered the US an imperialist country before 1898?!?! It seems that logic is anonymous to our critic."
This is hilarious. In order to discuss this issue with you, I'm obliged to accept the way you frame it? I'm stupid to inquire into the reason Marxists make a difference between pre and post 1898!? I'm not impressed with your "Marxism" since it amounts to nothing more than drawing up a list, arbitrarily comparing what's going on, checking a few boxes on your list and coming to the conclusion you find most convenient. It seems that civility is an unknown concept for our dogmatic 'Marxist' hero, Michael Pröbsting. You spent time telling me how stupid I am, and saved yourself from stating why India isn't just as Imperialist as you claim China to be given the facts I mentioned about it.
"Anonymous2 writes: “I'm not arguing that China and Russia aren't regional and world powers.” OK, this means that they are regional and world powers. If this anonymous person considers these two countries as capitalist, what could be the conclusion? What is the name for capitalist regional and world powers? Well, we Marxists characterize such states as imperialist. And Anonymous2?" These nations have been world powers before capitalism existed. China could have discovered the Americas during the 15th century when it led the world as far as navigation goes, it didn't. I'm simply pointing out to you that history is more complex than your list would lead you to believe. I don't have a worked out theory, but I can see that you are pushing snake oil here. I bought up 1898 because we might be witnessing another change like the one that occurred at that time. Maybe we are moving to a post Imperialist era, who knows?

Anonymous said...

I'm lysistrata.
Regardless of how much my opinion coincides with this blog, what makes me attracted to here most is that Steiner or Brenner seem to me serious, viewing themselves as objectively as possible, unlike the WSWS. To me, they are defiant against anything but humble in the face of truth.
However, I'm feeling disapponted at recent comments from a few people, which apparently put sneer or disdain before any other thing.
I think we should listen to others even if they are not of the same opinion. That's not because I am more likely to be wrong or because it is in accordance with social norms of polite conduct. That's because only thereby can we approach the truth one more step.
I don't want this kind of confusing and displeasing conversation.
I hope that, as an owner or mediator of this site, Alex Steiner will direct the discussion more constructively.

François said...

Just for clarification... the Chan series someone mentioned (and many other articles) presenting post-49 China as a deformed bourgeois state were denounced in an internal campaign several years ago, with a group of documents (most many decades old) circulated to reassert the orthodox analysis on China. Unfortunately they did not present any new substantive analysis of China or the imperialist/semi-colony issue brought up here. Why it took the American section more than a decade to realise they had been publishing articles that were a clear revision of the orthodox Trotskyist analysis is also a bit of a mystery.

Alex Steiner said...

I appreciate the light you shed on the circumstances around the departure of John Chan from the pages of the WSWS. While I do not subscribe to Chan's position that China was a "deformed bourgeois state" - indeed I am not even sure what that term means - I gather that Chan was a serious journalist who tried to think through difficult theoretical issues and was not satisfied with merely mouthing received wisdom. It is no mystery to me why the SEP did not realize that Chan's position was contrary to the position taken by the Fourth International decades earlier. Clearly theory is not taken seriously in the SEP although lots of lip service is paid to their "scientific" analysis of this or that. In the leadership of that organization there is a real contempt for theory. If it is mentioned it is only in the context of its employment as a battering ram to suppress any independent thought. I think Chan must have learned that lesson from his own experience.

Indeed it is telling that the defenders of the WSWS/SEP who have commented on this issue can't even decide which of the articles posted on the WSWS they should point to in arguing against us. Behind all the rhetoric of the WSWS about their "science of perspectives" lies an empty shell.