Does imperialism exist?

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Boris Badenov
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Feb 22 2011 13:52
Joseph Kay wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Another way of looking at it is that the term 'imperialism' has referred to the manoeuvrings of the great powers and other states since the 1600s at least, whereas the term 'geopolitics' was invented 100 years ago. So 'geopolitics' is just another term for 'imperialism'. Why use 'geoplitics' when the perfectly serviceable term 'imperialism' pre-exists it?

well, geopolitics is used to describe everything from the Pelopenisian Wars to the Thirty Years War and Westphalian settlement to today, so as a generic term i think it's more useful and less loaded. i think 'imperialist!' is used by leftists in much the same way as 'fascist!', to substitute emotional charge for analytical rigour. that doesn't mean it can't be used, but it's about as useful as describing all illiberal tendencies as fascism imho.

Just because leftist demagogues have hijacked a word to express their hysterical moralism, that doesn't mean it ceases to be a useful concept.
Leftists also like to talk about "anti-racism," "anti-sexism" or "workers' democracy;" do we toss those in the epistemological bin too?

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 22 2011 14:00
Boris Badenov wrote:
I disagree. I don't think that the recognition of imperialism as a core strategy of capital implies the recognition of nation states as "natural" or the scapegoating of "baddie states." Certainly that is one way of looking at it, but not the only way. I don't think imperialism is either a "stage" or a "side effect" of capitalism. It is simply a time tested strategy for maximizing profits, much like union busting if you will.

this just seems to be saying state power is used to support capital accumulation. i mean yeah, that's true inside and outside state borders. i still think if you're decribing a generic property of the states system, using a word employed to describe particular agents in that system or particular periods of it is likely to create confusion.

i mean there is a good argument that the industrial revolution(s) innaugorated a period of rapid expansion, which neccessitated the opening of new markets to absorb the enormous outputs of industry. so you get a century or so of state-backed attempts to open up markets, including taking direct rule over far-flung territories. once decolonisation began, they were already integrated into the world market. so 'imperialism' would therefore be the use of state power to impose the world market. that's about as close as i can come to a consistent defintion that would encompass both classical imperialism and the opening of Iraq, whilst distinguishing imperialism from geopolitics in general.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 22 2011 14:01
Boris Badenov wrote:
Just because leftist demagogues have hijacked a word to express their hysterical moralism, that doesn't mean it ceases to be a useful concept.
Leftists also like to talk about "anti-racism," "anti-sexism" or "workers' democracy;" do we toss those in the epistemological bin too?

any chance you could read my arguments about why it's not useful, rather than latching onto a single sentence and pretending i'm a cretin?

Boris Badenov
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Feb 22 2011 14:12
Joseph Kay wrote:
Boris Badenov wrote:
I disagree. I don't think that the recognition of imperialism as a core strategy of capital implies the recognition of nation states as "natural" or the scapegoating of "baddie states." Certainly that is one way of looking at it, but not the only way. I don't think imperialism is either a "stage" or a "side effect" of capitalism. It is simply a time tested strategy for maximizing profits, much like union busting if you will.

this just seems to be saying state power is used to support capital accumulation. i mean yeah, that's true inside and outside state borders. i still think if you're decribing a generic property of the states system, using a word employed to describe particular agents in that system or particular periods of it is likely to create confusion.

i mean there is a good argument that the industrial revolution(s) innaugorated a period of rapid expansion, which neccessitated the opening of new markets to absorb the enormous outputs of industry. so you get a century or so of state-backed attempts to open up markets, including taking direct rule over far-flung territories. once decolonisation began, they were already integrated into the world market. so 'imperialism' would therefore be the use of state power to impose the world market. that's about as close as i can come to a consistent defintion that would encompass both classical imperialism and the opening of Iraq, whilst distinguishing imperialism from geopolitics in general.

It needn't be solely the use of state power. Today's multinationals, like the "India companies" of yore, are imperialist, but their reliance on the state proper has been in a state of flux. Today especially, imperialism exists almost as a contradiction to the official ideology of the liberal democratic state; for this reason, imperialist expansion is not as simple as "the use of state power." It is a feature of capital, not the state per se (the two being obviously strongly symbiotic but not identical). I think the concept is useful in explaining economic changes that do not fall in any obvious way under "use of state power" (mercantilism or protectionist isolationism are also "state power") or "bourgeois competition" (two discount mattress retailers are also in competition).
Decolonisation is not, and indeed cannot be, a fait accompli, given that imperialism is still ongoing. Markets need to constantly be re-integrated; the history of Iraq provides a great example of that.

Boris Badenov
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Feb 22 2011 14:14
Joseph Kay wrote:
Boris Badenov wrote:
Just because leftist demagogues have hijacked a word to express their hysterical moralism, that doesn't mean it ceases to be a useful concept.
Leftists also like to talk about "anti-racism," "anti-sexism" or "workers' democracy;" do we toss those in the epistemological bin too?

any chance you could read my arguments about why it's not useful, rather than latching onto a single sentence and pretending i'm a cretin?

I have actually read all of your posts in this thread, and it genuinely sounded to me as if you're trying to acknowledge the reality of imperialism while inexplicably trying to brush the word under the carpet because "leftists use it." If I read you wrong, I read you wrong. *shrug*

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 22 2011 14:32
Boris Badenov wrote:
Easy cowboy, I have actually read all of your posts in this thread, and it genuinely sounded to me as if you're trying to acknowledge the reality of imperialism while inexplicably trying to brush the word under the carpet because "leftists use it." If I read you wrong, I read you wrong. *shrug*

well no, i've been saying unless someone offers a definition which isn't just another word for generic properties of a multi state system then it isn't very analytically useful. i mean i'm happy to use the word fascism - if it's properly delimited.

Boris Badenov wrote:
It is a feature of capital, not the state per se... Markets need to constantly be re-integrated

this is a definition... 'a feature of capital, integration of markets'. seems workable. it would place 'imperialism' on the conceptual level of things like 'accumulation' or 'exploitation'; inherent attributes of capital itself. but it would mean things like this aren't really imperialism, since it has very little directly to do with integrating markets, but more to do with the geopolitical posturing of states.* but i'm sure baboon would say it's yet more evidence of iranian imperialism and so on. it would also mean that 1492 and subsequent conquests weren't imperialism, but i mean that's fine, i'm sympathetic to attempts to historicise it.

* i wouldn't separate these out into two distinct logics, Callinicos style, but i don't think state manouvrings are reducible to capital/markets either, there are causal determinations arising from the geopolitical system itself.

Boris Badenov
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Feb 22 2011 15:18
Joseph Kay wrote:
Boris Badenov wrote:
I have actually read all of your posts in this thread, and it genuinely sounded to me as if you're trying to acknowledge the reality of imperialism while inexplicably trying to brush the word under the carpet because "leftists use it." If I read you wrong, I read you wrong. *shrug*

well no, i've been saying unless someone offers a definition which isn't just another word for generic properties of a multi state system then it isn't very analytically useful. i mean i'm happy to use the word fascism - if it's properly delimited.

Ok, fair enough. I'm glad we got that settled.

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Boris Badenov wrote:
It is a feature of capital, not the state per se... Markets need to constantly be re-integrated

this is a definition... 'a feature of capital, integration of markets'. seems workable. it would place 'imperialism' on the conceptual level of things like 'accumulation' or 'exploitation'; inherent attributes of capital itself. but it would mean things like this aren't really imperialism, since it has very little directly to do with integrating markets, but more to do with the geopolitical posturing of states.*

It would mean that yes. I think another important thing to realize is that not all conflicts start off as imperialist ventures. If the Taliban were to all of a sudden regain control of Afghanistan and invade Pakistan (unchallenged; clearly a purely hypothetical scenario) with the purpose of instating a Wahhabi "caliphate", that would not count as imperialism right away imo. But history is not made according to the blueprints of warlords or politicians. Obviously a successful occupation of Pakistan would benefit the Taliban enormously, economically (as well as politically and militarily). The nature of the conflict would consequently change from utopian jihad to imperialism. Parochial warlords would become couth capitalists.

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but i'm sure baboon would say it's yet more evidence of iranian imperialism and so on.

That would be problematic yes, and I can see now why you would react against an imperialism defined as anything a state with a military does outside of its borders.

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it would also mean that 1492 and subsequent conquests weren't imperialism,

I'm not so sure about that; the Columbus expedition was explicitly funded as an attempt to open up the Asian markets (by any means necessary pretty much), and even though the expedition never reached "the Indies", early "discoveries" like the island of Hispanola were almost immediately incorporated into the Spanish economy, by using the local population as a slave work force.
1492 was a successful (albeit in an unexpected way) imperialist project, but again this is not to say that all wars or invasions start off as imperialist. There is usually a genuine conflict between ideological agendas and reality, with reality invariably winning in the end (but "dialectically").
To go back to the example of the British Empire, it should be pointed out that it was made possible thanks to several factors:
1) success of primitive capitalist ventures
2) European wars
3) downfall of Asian and African Muslim powers (incidentally because of "national" breakup, meaning of course that even before the Europeans got there, the "imagined community" of the nation was a project supported and implemented by many non-European states).
This is important because it illustrates that imperialism is never the "choice" of one "nation" to "oppress" another; it is the nexus of several material trends in society. Even when it is appropriated consciously as a strategy for maximizing profit, it is important to remember that it is not the capitalists' "will" that allows them to create an empire, it is economic, social and geographical reality. This is why imperialism is not a moral failure, but a structural feature of society.
But I feel I am getting off on a tangent. Suffice to say that I think I agree with you on more things than I disagree with on this thread.

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but i don't think state manouvrings are reducible to capital/markets either, there are causal determinations arising from the geopolitical system itself.

Precisely.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 22 2011 15:43

so so wars, conflicts, occupations, other violations of sovereignty etc happen for a million reasons, but are only imperialist if/when imperiatives of capital accumulation (or opening markets?) take over? seems ok, but makes imperialism into a bit of a technical term like 'exploitation' (which also has its moralist counterpart aimed at maquilas etc). that's not really a problem, just saying.

that seems to be almost the exact opposition of what Tommy Ascaso's saying; that imperialism doesn't exist because inter-state violence is subject to imperitives of capital accumulation, opening markets etc. although Tommy Ascaso's also saying there's no national interests, only global capital's interests. i think capital probably faces a similar 'in itself/for itself' problem as the working class. it's not an already-unified force acting with a single purpose. there's numerous obstacles to its realisation as such (including geopolitics) but nonetheless elements of the capitalist class consciously aim towards it becoming so. in that sense, 'Empire' would be the dream of class conscious capitalists rather than a description of reality.

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Feb 22 2011 20:48

So do you think that wars are occupations of other countries might have been imperialist before 2008 but now no longer are? How do you explain the conflicts which were ongoing before 2008 which have still continued, and they didn't all end when the crisis began?

baboon
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Feb 22 2011 22:20

Jim,

First of all you said you didn't want a list and when I pointed out that capitalism has been a global system for one hundred years or more, and during that time imperialist war and tensions have ravaged the planet endlessly, you call that a "mantra" and ask for "global trends" and "things that are actually happening". I don't think that's a "mantra" but a valid political consideration that has a much wider application.

When I said that imperialism was the most powerful (and dangerous) force on the planet it was on a thread about the present revolts and the relation of the strength of those revolts to the strength of imperialism - i.e., the military, political, diplomatic weight of particularly the major, but also the minor nation states combined. That's in relation to the incipient class struggle as expressed in the current revolts - that is: could we consider these revolts strong enough to take on nationalism and imperialism. They are certainly nowhere near that stage. But it's not "totally nuts" to say that imperialism is the strongest force in the world in relation to everything else. What do you think it is? An abstract global capitalism? That's was Kautsky's position.

Your view that now, with the economic crisis, states are being forced to act in the interests of global capital, is incomprehensible to me. What global capital? Where does this abstract force come from? Are they forced to cooperate, to surmount their contradictions, as Kautsky concluded? The opposite of what you say is true. The worse the economic crisis gets, the more nation states - particularly the major ones, but it applies to them all - are forced into greater assertiveness, greater demands for the "national interest", greater competition and interference with rivals. Now that's not rational. But if capitalism was rational, cooperative and far-sighted, it would no longer be capitalism.

Your list of "things that are actually happening" is selective but useful. First of all, not in any particular order, you talk about what the Israeli ruling class does to the Palestinians. And this is true. What you omit here is what British imperialism, US imperialism, French, Russian, Eygptian, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian imperialist tendencies do the Palestinians. I thought, gemerally speaking the text Against Nationalism was very good - a sound contribution to the workers' movement, and the one criticism that I had of it was that for a text produced in the UK is should have particularly denounced the role of Britain in the world. But that was secondary because the basics are sound. But with your position you must be confused about the role of your own bourgeoisie - and ultimately our enemy is at home.

In the example of Afghanistan that you use, this is the same old Great Game with different weaponry. It's a hundred years old inter-imperialist rivalry. Of course there are economic aspects to this war, the transportation of oil for example. But it's geostrategic in the main and, in the main, all the major imperialist powers are involved in a completely irrational adventure. The whole AFPakRaq wars, leaving aside the toxic legacy, the misery and the loss of human lives, have been, and continues to be, an enormous drain on capital and have only served to cause more instability and potential danger. For example, the Afghan war is now turning into a proxy war between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India (with China not entirely absent). And the US and Britain are certainly considering war against Iran - although I would think that plans have been thwarted for the moment due to "events".

Yes, to answer your question: the whole component of Nato is imperialist. Look at the very clear example of the 90s Nato wars in the Balkans and it's very clear that they were all backing different factions (with contingent alliances) and they were all at each others' throats for their own national interests.

Finally on the question of "self-determination", "national liberation": any proto-state, any faction of any proto-state is immediately caught up in imperialism from the off. More than this though, they are also promoted by bigger players, bigger fish up to the major powers who use them as their own pawns to advance their own national and thus imperialist interests.

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Feb 22 2011 22:54

First off, the word "imperialism" is a relatively new addition to the English language (and possibly also other European languages, but I haven't checked this). It appears in English in the 1870s, specifically in the phrase "The New Imperialism" (see WP: Rise of the New Imperialism). So the word (and the idea) itself is a relatively late development in capitalism, towards the end of Britain's period of unchallenged global dominance, Pax Brittanica, during which time the free-trader liberals (who were relatively hostile to colonialism, seeing it as feeding the monopolistic and parasitic practices of the "unproductive" land-owning military class) held more sway over foreign policy. It is associated with the rise of credible capitalist competitors to Britain, particularly in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war, the establishment of the Gold Standard as the international relation of production that governed competition between European and American capitalist powers, and last but not least, the emergence (already in 1848, but incontestably in the Paris Commune) of the working class movement as threat.

So, back to the OP, I guess part of the question is, has Imperialism ever existed? imo it clearly did, if only as the historical policy of "new-style" colonialism from 1870 - 1914. The question is, does Imperialism still exist - that is, is the concept of imperialism still relevant today? Without having a fully worked out answer to all the questions this discussion raises, my instinct is that yes, it probably still does. Although perhaps it is now more clearly simply an aspect of more general tendencies of capitalism.

In the first colonial phase of capitalist imperialism, we can see a difference in form between previous colonisations of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the Americas, for e.g. That is there is an investment of capital into developing the economic infrastructure of the colonial territory. However that development (railways, ports, mines, etc.) is of a form to serve the economic needs of the colonial power for cheap raw materials and captive markets (e.g. via the smashing up and interdiction of local production). So there is an effect of extending capitalist relations into non-capitalist areas of the world, but in a partial and distorted way.

So does colonialism end with the eviction of the troops and administration of the colonial power and formal independence? Many people ended up thinking not. The concept of neo-colonialism asserted that if the basic economic structures set up to serve the needs of the colonial powers in the world market, remained unchanged, even if run by a local "comprador" capitalist class, then in some way the colonial relationship remained, even if in a changed form. Of course this couldn't happen in isolation, it needed the support of the global relations of exchange. So here we have the post-war Bretton Woods system. To a degree far more of a Gold System-lite than Keynes had originally intended, but with capital controls as a means of managing the contradictions of the macro trilemma. Capital controls meaning that newly independent countries, in a globe divided by the Cold War, had to accede to management either by Soviet foreign policy, or by the Bretton institutions of the World Bank, IMF and GATT. So, in summary, with neo-colonialism we have the 'Keynesian' world order extending the economic relations of the previous Gold Standard/Colonial period, except with a degree of sharing between the US and European powers (in proportion to their market power and colonial legacy), rather than rigid exclusivity of territories to individual imperialist powers.

With the fracturing of the Bretton Woods system in the mid-70s (Vietnam, 1st oil shock, worker unrest in the 'core', etc) we move to the neoliberal system of world market relations based on dropping capital controls (thanks to Maggie in particular) and free floating currencies. The old Bretton Woods institutions, rather than disappearing, assumed new roles under the new "Washington Consensus" regime. The beginning of the Washington Consensus era looked pretty similar to the end of the Bretton Woods era in many ways (as is normal in any temporal transition). The "free world", outside of the OECD core, was still mostly made up of very unfree military dictatorships. Despite the US engagement in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan (both equally disastrous), the main poles of the Cold War mostly refrained from direct intervention in warfare, however in Africa and throughout Latin America and Asia, proxy wars raged chronically.

But if in the 1980s most critics assumed that the Washington Consensus simply continued the neo-colonialism of the Bretton Woods era by slightly different means, today we can see that the world has changed dramatically. Although liberalised FDI flows were able to carry out ruinous smash and grab style raids on "peripheral" economies, such as the 1998 "Asian" crisis (called IMF crisis in Asia), yet the old economic structures left behind by colonialism have in fact been transformed markedly by this global regime. Not least the fact that the old G7 order of the "West" lording it over the global South has progressively disintegrated. Despite the ascendency of the Washington Consensus IMF in 1998, that proved to be the last hurrah of the unchallenged dominance of that order. Since then the growth of an externally-imposed "Bretton Woods II" system by a China bolstered by CCP capital controls, has eaten the Washington Consensus order from within, leaving us now in the post-crash state that Ian Bremner has christened the G-Zero order. So does it make any sense any more to speak of imperialism?

Let me put it like this, last year some French comrades asked me to write an article on Ireland's economic situation for their readers. In the article I mentioned that in 2006 Ireland's exports as % of GDP touched 100%. They got back to me and asked me whether I'd made a mistake on that figure (equivalent number for UK is 29%, France 27%). I assured them that’s what it was. The French comrades had made the usual mistake of assuming that Ireland was somehow just a little scaled-down version of France. Obviously that's not the case.

Using Ireland as an example - staying with the 26 counties and ignoring the more industrialised economic development in the wee North - under colonialism the British structured the economy mainly around agricultural exports to feed the swelling workforce in Britain. After independence, De Valera's Free State defended the interests of the large land-owners ("ranchers") and the agricultural export industry continued pretty much unchanged and other economic development was minimal to non-existent. So we could say that fits into the neo-colonial model of formal independence with the continuation of the colonial economic structures.

That started to change a little bit in the 1970s but then the global recession in the early 80s sent Ireland back into the status of an underdeveloped exporter of emigrant labour. It was really only in the 1990s that the economic transformation that became the so-called Celtic Tiger kicked in in a big way. So does that mean that all vestiges of the old colonial economic structure have been removed? Not entirely, in fact the agricultural export sector still continues pretty much unchanged (albeit with modern technology) to this day. But that's not the major part of the story. The export as % of GDP figures (beaten only by Singapore) are an indication that the structure of the economy, while no longer dominated by the colonial layout, is still radically different from European countries that do not have that historical legacy.

The finance capital for the boom/bubble came primarily from outside sources, especially once entry to the Euro convinced capitalists (wrongly) that capital investment across national borders within the Eurozone had no additional risk to home investments. Up to 5 times GDP was invested into the Irish property bubble from UK, German, US and other European banks looking for growth rates that brought higher returns than available in the depressed Franco-German core (costs of German unification etc). End result is that since the global credit crunch helped collapse the bubble (which would have had to burst sooner or later in any case), all the losses on those FDI flows have been nationalised and landed on the Irish working class. Since the resulting bond bankruptcy, economic policy is now directed from the ECB centre, as is the case for Greece also (and soon enough, Portugal).

So what is the relationship of us Eurozone “peripherals” or PIGS to the EU core? Well, despite the fact that the agents of that relation are not uniformed men with guns, but Armani-suited accountants with laptops, there is still a similarity with previous forms of imperialism. That is the role played by the peripheral regions of the common currency area as dumping grounds for the core to externalise the effects of the periodic crises of capitalism, in a similar way to that described by Polanyi in the Great Transformation re colonies role in the Gold Standard era.

So, through these three different historical forms - colonialism, neo-colonialism and post-colonialism - what would be the common thread that makes them all of a kind? I guess, on the most abstract level, imperialism is the unity that divides - a movement that is simultaneously one of incorporation and exclusion. I get that that may seem like sub-Proudhonian messing about with contradictory constructions, but you have to start somewhere...

I do have some sympathy for the Negri position that “there is no longer any outside”, at least as far as the globe being divided up into discreet territories of capitalist powers and the non-capitalist economies subjugated to them. It is the historic own-goal of neoliberalism as a project for a new American century, that capitalism is now truly dominant around the world, directly in rather than being indirectly imposed “from without” in large areas. That is that market forces, rather than armed forces, are the main delivery mechanism of capital’s command.

But at the same time, the general tendency of capitalism to accentuate and increase inequality, still combines with the imperialist tendency to avert social confrontation by exporting the entropy damage of periodic crises onto some “other”, means that you have a kind of fractalisation or en-filigration (ok , that’s probably not a word) of the included/excluded boundary throughout every territory of the so-called Empire of capital.

Um, er... Well that appears to have gone on far longer than I originally intended. Oops. Anyway, I throw that in for consideration.

What I would reject entirely is that the Lenin or Luxemburg ideas of Imperialism as a Krisentheorie mechanism of objectivist systemic breakdown in the tradition of orthodox Marxism. Capitalism may still be shite and monstrously destructive, but it has changed and evolved in the last century in response to the motor of history - the class struggle.

slothjabber
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Feb 22 2011 23:09

Sure, and as a Luxemburgian Kreisentheoristische I'd argue what it has evolved into is a world imperialist system. It's not just Britain, France and Germany that imperialist now, every state is an imperialist power or an imperialist power in waiting.

The more powerful states throw their muscle around to intimidate other states, but they also have their clients; these clients are constantly trying to extend their own spheres of influence either economically or militarily or both. At one stage only a few large (generally European) powers were 'imperialist'; the generalisation of capitalism has seen the generalisation of imperialism as states compete for the world market.

This has not changed fundamantally since 1915; the identities of the top dogs is different, and there are now many more minor players, but the game is essentially the same. Hang on the coat-tails of the bigger boys until you see a chance and then take it fast before some other state steals the advantage (contract for power station or oil pipline, arms deal, regimechange leading to preferential treatment for gas exploration or whatever it might be).

baboon
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Feb 23 2011 12:45

A couple of quick mantras for you Jim:

1. In the last 6 months or so, the USA has delivered the highest warnings possible of military retaliation against China over two separate but related issues. The first was over China’s military expansion into space directly threatening US satellites which are essential to the overall functioning of US imperialism world-wide. The second was in relation to Chinese military assertiveness in and around the Yellow Sea, which also involved its North Korean “ally” and which threatened the national interests of Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and the US itself of course.
Neither China nor the US wants war, but defence of the national interest, imperialism, is well beyond the good intentions and best wishes of any element of the ruling class and is fundamental in the drive towards war. There is an argument against this: it says that capitalism is a rational system the integrated economic interests of which drive it not towards war but towards overcoming competition and self-interest and towards cooperation and mutual survival. The argument goes on to say that all this has taken capitalism well beyond the old-fashioned view of imperialism and to a new horizon of mutual respect beyond national interest however large. This is not a view that I see confirmed looking at the last one hundred years. I find the argument hollow and, more than that, reinforces the lie that capitalism can be a peaceful and rational system. Such a lie has always been part of the attack against the working class both ideologically and practically.
I don’t see the USA issuing a third such warning to China.

2. Just 3 weeks or so ago, the Egyptian military apparatus, potentially formidable, was, at its high levels, flabby, sluggish, well fed and living in the lap of luxury while doing its US masters’ bidding as a regional policeman for decades.
Recent events have seen the Egyptian military revitalised on the back of its own “reborn” national interest and a clearly potential powerful force on the Middle Eastern imperialist chessboard. There could be no better indication of the arousal of Egyptian imperialist appetites than the decision to allow two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal – to the horror of Israel and the dismay of the United States. Egypt, like Turkey, now wants to be an imperial force to be reckoned with in the region.

Now, like the Sino-US rivalry, there’s plenty of arguments and positions that say all this can be settled in a rational, peaceful, cooperative manner and a democratic Egypt, with the military holding its reins, will be a force for good and stability. But this is fundamentally the same lie about capitalism being able to go beyond its own innate competition and cooperate peacefully and rationally in the interests of all. In this same argument, one you seem to support, there are imperialists and oppressors, Israel is one for example, sometimes with the US, but these are exceptions. And as for the rest of us, the working class that live outside these two countries, we must appeal to our democratic governments to be “more reasonable” over these two imperialist oppressors or support our regimes in their lying denunciatory rhetoric.

The Middle East and South East Asia, whatever the arguments about the “new” realities of “the globalisation of capital” and capitalist cooperation, are now even further gripped by tensions, uncertainty and danger. To these regions we can add the Balkans, the Caucasus, all the ex-Russian republics and we see a world where every area holds danger for the working class.

baboon
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Mar 4 2011 15:38

A couple of thoughts:

I see two major aspects to imperialism. The first is global and comes from the fact that the world is carved up by all the major powers which distinguishes it from colonialism - the latter being the work in progress of this carving up which resulted in global imperialism. The second is its expression since the early twentieth century in the specifics of national interests (in line with colonialism at another level), obviously dominated by the stronger countries and expressed in wars, machinations, diplomacy, etc., that express imperialst rivalries and tensions. These latter are constant features that are more or less active, more or less intense across the globe at all times.

Even if one accepts the idea of imperialism and national interest, there must be doubts as to its economic efficacy, as there must be doubts as to whether capitalism is a rational and viable system. Imperialism takes on life of its own and, as it encapsulates the "heights" of capitalism it also accentuates its irrationality and contradictions where it even acts against the economic national interest. Take the war in Afghanistan for example. There's no doubt that oil is a factor involved in this and there's no doubt that individual companies have done very well out of it. But has it directly benefited the US, British, etc., economies? Is it a rational war in the terms of investment? I don't think so even from the standpoint of the economic national interest. Certainly for global capital it is a blow to the accumulation of capital, it's a destruction of capital. It's irrational from capitalism's point of view.

Militarism is a major factor of imperialism and the development of the means of destruction that militarism implies is a pure waste for capital both at the global and national levels. A recent report showed that in 2009, arms sales globally increased 60% to $400 billion - this was the official figure, using very narrow parameters and I think that the figure is only a fraction of the real amount. While individual companies and larger sectors may make a profit out of militarism and the arms industry, all this production is massively subsidised by the state to the cost of the national capital overall. This is waste and a further drain on capital but it is something that all capitalist nations have to engage in "under pain of death".

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Steven.
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Mar 4 2011 17:52
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I'm replying on my phone from my desk at work, I can't type anymore than one liners on different points without it either taking ages or stopping me getting any work done and I've got loads to do. I'll come back in more detail when I'm sat at a pc.

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Steven.
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Mar 4 2011 18:33

Right, sorry I assumed something else would be coming because that didn't actually seen to address anything. It certainly didn't contain anything which suggested that imperialism doesn't exist, or respond to the follow-up questions:

Steven. wrote:
So do you think that wars are occupations of other countries might have been imperialist before 2008 but now no longer are? How do you explain the conflicts which were ongoing before 2008 which have still continued, and they didn't all end when the crisis began?

to add to that, do you think that there will no longer be wars? If so, what would be the cause of them?

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Things that are actually happening: how about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? How about the Israeli occupation of Palestine? How about the skirmishes between India and Pakistan? What you think those are about then Jim?

Alright, well I'm not entirely sure about how I would describe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. US companies have clearly benefited from them but so have a number of others. Neither country was taking part in the global trading system in the way that they are now, but it seems pretty clear that the West has hoped to benefit from oil in Iraq or the pipeline running through Afghanistan. I think they're both worth discussing in more depth on other threads but I don't have the energy for it myself (I would follow them very closely though).

so do you accept that these are evidence of imperialism existing then?

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The Israeli occupation of Palestine is a fairly unique case, I wouldn't call it imperialism

on what basis wouldn't you call it imperialism? What definition of imperialism are you using to try to claim that it is not imperialist?

In terms of it being unique, I wouldn't agree with that, as there are a fair few places around the world where one country is occupying another militarily

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and it seems to be an exception to the general global trends.

what general global trends do you mean here?

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I can't think of any other states that are subjugating another nation in the way the Israeli ruling class is doing it to the Palestinians.

what about East Timor? Or the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

Even if it wasn't happening anywhere else, how would that mean it wasn't imperialist?

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well how do you explain it then? If all the bourgeoisies work together for the interests of global capital why do they mess up business by fighting each other sometimes? Kashmir would probably be in a better position to develop and get investment if people weren't killing each other, so why do they if not because two rival powers have claims on it?

Well I'm not saying that different ruling classes won't mess things up, I feel there has been a trend where localised ruling classes have become less powerful than they once were

while this may or may not be the case, it doesn't mean that localised ruling classes do not try to increase their power and influence. Why do you think nations still have armies?

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and the current crisis has really shown the power that financial markets have over nation states or regional ruling classes. Just look at Greece or Ireland. Nearly all the global austerity measures that are being introduced are because of the movements of financial markets. I'm thinking maybe the crisis has marked a point where global capital now has more power over the world than nation states, but that's only a thought based on anecdotal evidence.

This seems to indicate that you are confusing two completely separate issues (austerity measures, and imperialism). And you seem to be making the mistake which some radicals often make in which they look Some arbitrary date and think that it marks some sort of qualitative break with the past, and that now everything is different (decadence in 1918, the advent of the post-industrial society, etc). Then they tried to selectively pick at events which confirm their assertion - although to be honest you haven't actually identified any events which are evidence of your assertion.

Firstly, there were international financial crises in the 19th century.

Secondly, in terms of global capital having power - how do you think that international markets are ultimately backed up? It is by military force.

Earlier on in the thread you dismissively accused others of repeating mantras rather than looking at the real world. Myself and several others here have given you loads of real-life examples of imperialism, and illustrated fatal flaws with your suggestions here (the crisis having no impact on any ongoing imperialist conflicts, for example).

You have not presented any evidence at all for any of your views, or explained how your views explain or are related to any real-world events. You have just kept repeating your mantra!

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Zanthorus
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Mar 4 2011 20:21

I don't have much to contribute RE: the discussion of whether Imperialism still exists, however:

Joseph Kay wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
So you're trying to tell me I can't accept Lenin and thousands of other leftists since were right about something because I'm mystified. Nice, but also nonsense.

Although you probably don't realise you're siding with Kautsky over Lenin ;)

You mean the renegade Kautsky tongue

This piece from the Alliance for Workers' Liberty is interesting on the subject of Kautsky's pre-1910 view of imperialism:

http://archive.workersliberty.org/publications/readings/2001/empire.html

Scroll down to the section titled Imperialism and high finance: Kautsky builds on Engels to answer Bernstein. The gist of the important parts:

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Bernstein criticised the way the German government pursued its imperialist policy, but argued that the trend was towards peace and harmony between nations... Bernstein's scenario of peace and free trade was an illusion, replied Kautsky... Much of Kautsky's argument was a Marxist conversion of ideas which were to be summed up with great verve by the English radical liberal, J A Hobson, in a book motivated by the Boer War (Imperialism, 1902).
baboon
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Mar 5 2011 12:25

A report from China today suggests that China spends more on internal security than on arms production. I doubt this but the significant amounts given to internal security are part of the militarisation of society are a pure waste for capital accumulation and part of the basis of Chinese imperialism.

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Tojiah
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Mar 5 2011 18:04

Isn't expenditure on internal security the opposite of imperialism? It's an instance investment in internal control, not projection of control outside of national boundaries.

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Noa Rodman
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Mar 5 2011 21:13

Wendell Willkie, Republican anti-imperialist?

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Willkie criss-crossed the globe, bringing home a vision of "One World" freed from imperialism and colonialism.
baboon
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Mar 6 2011 12:58

Tojiah, I think that the projection of control , or influence, outside of national boundries is based on the internal repression or pacification of the domestic working class and in this sense the militarisation of society is an essential component, springboard even, of imperialism.

Spikymike
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Mar 25 2019 11:33

This discussion thread seems like a good place to link this text:
https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/what-imperialism-24032019