Photo: South Ossetians celebrate independence maintained with the help of Russia. In 2008, an unprovoked military attack by the U.S. and Israeli sponsored Georgian government on the tiny country of South Ossetia left 2,000 civilians dead. Russian military backing of the Ossetian people maintained their independence and ended imperialist aggression in a 5 day war.
By any legitimate Marxist analysis, neither Russia nor China is imperialist. Russia is a weak capitalist country in the crosshairs of U.S. and EU imperialists who have targeted Russia for isolation, regime change, and to be broken up into three more easily controlled neo-colonial governments. This plan was even laid down on paper by top Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. China is a deformed workers state facing a combined imperialist policy of economic engagement, military encirclement, and threats.
Is Russia Imperialist?
Examples of supposed Russian imperialism do not stand up to scrutiny. Ukraine, for instance, was one of Russia’s close allies before the U.S. and EU sponsored a coup that overthrew their elected government a year ago. This is a country with a long and close relationship with Russia. If we were to find an example of Russian imperialism, it would be in Ukraine. Yet at the time of the imperialist sponsored coup, Russian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Ukraine was extremely low.
According to 2011 figures, nearly 80% of Ukrainian foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ukraine came from the European Union. The actual number is actually a little bit lower because about 22.2% of that is comes from Cyprus, a location Ukrainian capitalists use for tax avoidance. Still, that leaves about 60% of Ukraine’s FDI coming from the EU. Russia, on the other hand, accounted for only 7.6% of FDI. This is a very low number given the historic ties of former Soviet influence. Much lower than could possibly give credence to claims that the Euromaidan “revolution” liberated Ukraine from Russian imperialist control.
Today, the relatively weak capitalist class that has developed in Russia since the Yeltsin capitalist counterrevolution in 1991 is standing up, in its own national self-interests, against a U.S. engineered and fascist infested coup government in Kiev. That government hates Ukraine’s national minorities and seeks to hurt the entire working class of Ukraine through imposing the austerity and other dictates of the IMF, EU, and USA. It is a deadly threat to the working class of Ukraine and is a dagger aimed by the U.S. imperialists at Russia itself. A victory by relatively weak Russia against U.S. imperialism will be a blow for the world’s working class which suffers under deeply under the terror and exploitation of U.S. / E.U. imperialism. An anti-imperialist victory in Ukraine will also serve to protect the oppressed Russian nationality of Crimea, protect Russia from imperialism, and protect the deformed workers state of Belarus.
The capitalist government of Russia has many problems, and needs to be overthrown in a proletarian revolution that brings back the socialist planned economy and brings workers democracy. Yet, Russia’s support for the sovereignty of South Ossetia, Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria from the religious fanatics, genocidal maniacs, and extreme nationalists sponsored by the imperialist governments of the U.S. and E.U. are relatively minor actions by a weak capitalist country (Russia), against the real imperialist powers of the United States and European Union. In these situations, Leninist-Trotskyists side with the weaker countries against the imperialists, as Lenin pointed out:
‘If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be “just”, and “defensive” wars irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.’
(Socialism and War, July 1915)
Leninist-Trotskyists side with Russia against the great powers. This does not mean we support the capitalist system in Russia. Today, Russia still needs a socialist revolution despite Russia under Putin moving away from the total capitulation to imperialism found in the years of the Yeltsin-led capitalist counterrevolution.
Is China Imperialist?Regarding China’s foreign investments, they are in their vast majority socialist state investments, not capitalist investments. Here is part of a piece I’ve been writing on Vietnam and Laos that takes up this question:
In 2014 the People’s Republic of China became the biggest investor in Laos with the Laotian government announcing $5.1 billion in investment from China in January, 2014. Among the Chinese projects are a massive project developing rail from China through Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Massive hydroelectric projects are also being developed with benefits both for development and the fight against global warming, but also unfortunate disruptions and damage to the environment as well.
In 2013 the People’s Republic of China also announced it is providing Laos with $49 million (US dollars) in aid and an additional $32 million (US dollars) in interest free credits. This will help keep Laos free of some of the debt slavery suffered under the loans countries are given by the World Bank and the International Development Bank. Under those imperialist capitalist loans, poor countries subsidize the wealthy ones with exorbitant interest rates on unpayable loans, causing the flow of wealth to be from poor countries to the rich. Robin Hood in reverse. In addition, restructuring is contingent on harmful policies of austerity and privatization. A form of colonialism.
For many on the left, China’s investments bringing development to numerous underdeveloped countries are seen as a form of imperialism. This ignores a few basic facts. First of all, the vast majority of these investments are by the Chinese mainland state run banks or other state owned sectors. Instead of being short-term speculative investments based on the profit motive, as imperialist capitalist investments are, they are investments that seek needed commodities for China’s economy which is still largely planned and socialist. Unlike the USSR’s planned socialist economy, which was built in a resource rich country, China is now building up its economy, largely through the vast advantages of socialist planning, in a country that is relatively resource poor. To do so they must invest in other countries in order to import needed resources for their collectivized enterprises back in China.
To extract these resources China makes investments. For many in Africa and Asia these investments in schools, roads, railroads, and other needed infrastructure and enterprises are generally seen as a welcome change from the neglect and underdevelopment imposed by the imperial capitalists. This is not to say that there have not been abuses, but these well known abuses have come from the small minority of private Chinese enterprises functioning abroad.
The socialist character of Chinese investments was even recognized by U.S. State Department official Princeton Lyman in a 2005 presentation to the Congressional U.S.-China Commission, who said:
“China utilizes a variety of instruments to advance its interest in ways that western nations can only envy. Most of China’s investments are through state-owned companies, whose individual investments do not have to be profitable if they serve overall Chinese objectives. Thus the representative of China’s state-owned construction company in Ethiopia could reveal that he was instructed by Beijing to bid low on various tenders, without regard for profit. China’s long term objective in Ethiopia is in access to future natural resource investments, not in construction business profits.”
This has produced radically different ways of operating that have been highly praised by important African academics. Chinese investments in Laos, which includes socialist construction, aid, and interest free loans, are also likely to prove mutually beneficial for the people of Laos.
Imperialist Pivot Asia and the Paracel Islands Dispute
A profound capitulation of the Vietnamese Communist Party to U.S. imperialism is cooperation with Obama’s aggressive military maneuvers aimed at the People’s Republic of China as a part of Pivot Asia. This has included the Vietnamese Coast Guard carrying out attacks on Chinese oil drilling in the South China Sea. These are attacks on the $1 billion deepwater oil-drilling platform that has been deployed in exploratory operations by the People’s Republic of China near the Paracel Islands. The Paracel Islands are about equidistant from the coastlines of China and Vietnam. The People’s Republic of China seized one inhabited section of the Paracel Islands in 1950 from the U.S. backed Chinese Kuomintang government, a government that was overthrown on the mainland and reduced to only maintaining power in Taiwan after the 1949 Chinese Revolution. Another uninhabited section of the Paracel Islands was seized by the French imperialists and became a claim of the South Vietnamese puppet governments thereafter until 1974. At that time, in a brief war between the People’s Republic of China and the U.S. imposed Thiệu dictatorship of South Vietnam, the PRC took control of the entire chain of islands. The islands include the Chinese city of Sansha with an estimated 3,500 inhabitants and infrastructure investments from the PRC, including the 2014 completion of a solar powered desalinization plant that now provides the additional freshwater that the city’s inhabitants needed.
“Obama’s policy of Pivot Asia involves the military encirclement of China, military provocations against China, and an attempt to dominate resources in the China Sea…”
Until very recently, the only people raising a fuss over the PRC’s control of the Paracel Islands have been counterrevolutionary Vietnamese and Chinese. This has changed with Vietnamese cooperation with Obama’s policy of Pivot Asia. Obama’s policy of Pivot Asia involves military encirclement of China, military provocations against China, and an attempt to dominate resources in the China Sea while at the same time carrying out capitalist economic engagement with China as an means of undermining the Chinese Revolution from within. Imperialist aggression towards China includes wrongful Japanese claims and military build up in the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. These islands are Chinese, but with the current Japanese military occupation of the islands, they could be used in military attacks against the industrialized east part of China. The islands are also crucial the PRC’s self-defense from potential naval blockade from U.S. and Japanese imperialism if imperialist war breaks out against the People’s Republic of China. In addition, in 2014 within days of U.S. threats against the PRC, the United States, Japan, and South Korea all flew aircraft over Chinese airspace, including nuclear capable B-52 bombers, to test Chinese defenses for a potential imperialist attack on China. The Vietnamese also joined in this imperialist campaign by attacking Chinese claims to the Paracel Islands and even allowing the U.S. Navy to dock in Vietnam.
2014 actions of the Vietnamese government included sending Coast Guard and fishing vessels out to aggressively interfere with Chinese oil exploration. This has led to confrontations with China spraying water on these boats and an allegation, denied by the Chinese, of the Chinese sinking one of the Vietnamese fishing boats involved in the confrontation by ramming it. China says the boat “capsized after harassing and colliding with a Chinese fishing boat”.
One sided coverage of these events in the West helped fuel unfair anti-Chinese prejudices that have been pushed by the U.S. government and western corporate media for decades. Likewise, the Vietnamese whipped up a nationalist frenzy that included violent chauvinistic riots as 20,000 people marched against Vietnam’s ethnic Chinese minority and carried out nationalistic anti-Chinese violence that left over 20 people dead and a hundred people injured.
The Vietnamese Coast Guard who have been participating in these attacks are themselves now partially funded by the United States, including $18 million dollars in assistance in 2014. They also receive training from the Japanese and U.S. imperialists. In addition, despite the hard fought anti-imperialist victory of 1975, U.S. naval ships are now even allowed to dock in Vietnam. This, as well as massive capitalist inroads into the Vietnamese economy, are a betrayal of the 2.8 million Vietnamese lives given to rid Vietnam of bloodthirsty imperialist troops and overthrow the capitalist system and throw the imperialists out of Vietnam.
Ultimately, what will be necessary to defend the remaining gains of the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Chinese Revolutions will be political revolutions that overthrow the repressive Stalinist bureaucracies of those countries, institute systems of workers democracy, end Vietnamese capitulations to western and Japanese imperialism, end capitalist inroads into their economies, and build an internationalist revolutionary movement to break the socialist countries out of isolation without capitulations to imperialism. This is part of a Trotskyists program that also defends these three countries from imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution as well. The lie that China is imperialist only aids U.S. and Japanese counterrevolutionary aggression directed at the People’s Republic of China.
The false notion that China is imperialist only aids U.S. and Japanese counterrevolutionary aggression directed at the People’s Republic of China. Likewise, the lie that Russia is imperialist only aids western imperialist ethnic cleansing of the Russian speaking minority in Ukraine, imperialist aggression against the people of Syria as part of an intervention that formed ISIS and continues to back religious fanatics against the Syrian and Kurdish people, and aids imperialist sanctions against Belarus with its remaining socialist economy, as well as other western imperialist acts of aggression against the world’s working class and farmers.
End U.S. and EU Imperialist Sanctions Against Russia!
End U.S. and Japanese Military Threats and Encirclement of China!
[box] —Steven Argue is a member of the Revolutionary Tendency (Trotskyst persuasion). https://www.facebook.com/RevolutionaryTendency [/box]