This book deals with the super-exploitation and oppression of the semicolonial world (often referred to as the “Third World”) by the imperialist powers and monopolies. It is based on the conviction that the relationship between the small minority of rich capitalist countries and the huge majority of mankind living in the semi-colonial world forms one of the most important elements of the imperialist world system we are living in. Rightly, Lenin stressed nearly one hundred years ago that a focus of the Marxist programme must be the "division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism“ (1).
Today this assessment is still and even more valid given the increasing relevance of the imperialist super-exploitation for the functioning of globalised capitalism, the drive towards imperialist wars and occupation and the rise in opposition and armed resistance against them. We in the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) believe that the past decades have been a complete confirmation of the validity of Lenin’s theory of imperialism as have been the programmatic conclusions which the Third and later the Fourth International in their revolutionary periods drew from it.
However, the world did not stand still since the days of Lenin and Trotsky. Indeed, an important issue for the advancement of the revolutionary working class movement and the Marxist theory is the issue of the relationship between the imperialist countries and the semi-colonial world. The reason for this is that there have been important changes in this relationship in the recent decades.
Never before has such a big share of the world capitalist value been produced in the South. Never before were the imperialist monopolies so dependent on the super-exploitation of the semi-colonial world. Never before has migrant labor from the semi-colonial world played such a significant role for the capitalist value production in the imperialist countries. Never before has the huge majority of the world working class lived in the South – outside of the old imperialist metropolises.
Therefore a correct understanding of the nature of imperialism as well as of the program of permanent revolution, which includes the tactics of consistent anti-imperialism, is essential for revolutionaries today. Similarly important is a correct understanding of the consequences of the shift of the world proletariat towards the South for the building of the revolutionary party and the new working class International.
From this position we unambiguously reject those numerous pseudo-Marxist, centrist currents that either repudiate the orthodox Leninist theory on imperialism and its programmatic conclusions and claim that imperialism today – compared with the times of Lenin and Trotsky – has a qualitatively different essence, or they distort the Leninist theory of imperialism and transform it into a semi-Kautskyian imposture.
As examples we will deal with the positions of the International Socialist Tendency (IST, which is led by Alex Callinicos’s Socialist Workers Party, SWP, in Britain), the Committee for a Workers International (CWI, which is led by Peter Taffee’s Socialist Party in Britain) and the International Marxist Tendency (IMT, led by Alan Woods’s Socialist Appeal in Britain and Lal Khan’s The Struggle in Pakistan). We will also discuss the arguments of the British-based Committee for Marxist Revival (CMR), respective to its main component, the exiled Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency (IMRT) which is also related to the Turkish group Marxist Tutum. These comrades published a polemic against the RCIT in early 2012 which was also translated into the French language and published by L’Etincelle, a former faction of the centrist Lutte ouvrière which is currently working inside the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. (2)
The purpose of this book is therefore to defend the Leninist theory of imperialism in particular on the position of the semi-colonial world in the world system, to prove its validity in the analysis of the past decades against the centrist critiques and to analyse the changes and new developments which have taken place in the forms of imperialist super-exploitation and oppression.
We will also analyze the emergence of a new imperialist power – China. We in the RCIT consider this book as a contribution to an overdue discussion. On one hand such a discussion is urgent given the need to update the scientific analyses of Marxism. On the other hand we consider it as fundamentally important that revolutionaries possess a clear theoretical compass to take a consistent working class stance in the various conflicts and wars between the imperialist powers and semi-colonial countries.
Let me add another remark on the purpose of this book. As stated before we want to analyze the relationship between imperialist powers and monopolies and the semi-colonial world. We show the validity of the Leninist theory of decades. This is a scientific effort which demands a concrete study of the subject as well as of the Marxist theory. However, the book is not a purpose in itself. Marx stated in his famous Thesis on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (3)
Therefore, if some readers of this book will accuse the author of not being “neutral” and “objective”, I plead guilty. In fact, a Marxist can not be neutral, he or she must partisan. He or she stands on the point of view of the working class. As Lenin once stated in one of his first works: "On the other hand, materialism includes partisanship, so to speak, and enjoins the direct and open adoption of the standpoint of a definite social group in any assessment of events.“ (4)
Many intellectuals treat thinking as a purpose in itself. But in fact everybody thinks for a purpose. The purpose might be to solve problems of a job or of daily life. In the sphere of politics, economy or philosophy the purpose might be personal career interests or to promote a political cause. Naturally, bourgeois politicians and petty-bourgeois intellectuals usually conveniently manage to combine both - personal career and promoting a political cause. However Marxists, who are worth such a name, are different. For them, scientific work is part of a strategic goal: the liberation of the working class and the oppressed.
This lies in the nature of Marxism itself as it is the scientific doctrine of the working class to enable them in achieving liberation from exploitation and oppression. Hence it is the task of Marxists to study and internalize the method and fundamental doctrines of Marxism as it was elaborated by the revolutionary workers movement and its most outstanding theoreticians; Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Furthermore, the Marxist method becomes a dead doctrine if it is not constantly enriched by studying new developments in the class society
and if it is not continuously developed on the basis of the genuine method of materialist dialectics. Finally, Marxism exists and breathes as the unity of theory and practice, knowledge and action. Abram Deborin, the leading Marxist philosopher in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, rightly emphasized in a study on Lenin: "Marxism is such a theory, distinct from all others, a philosophical Weltanschauung, which demands the conversion of theory into practice as well as of practice into theory. Marxism does not know a separation between theory and practice. The dialectical unity between theory and practice demands, that the theory is practical and the practice is explained by theory and becomes itself theory." (5)
Therefore, the purpose of advancement of Marxist theory is to serve as a guide for action and hence to fuse with the revolutionary working class movement. The embodiment of such a unity of theory and practice is and can only be the collective of communist man and women who know and act and who fuse this into a collective program and politics – in other words, the revolutionary workers party respectively its pre-party formations. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) is dedicated to the task of building such a party.
Finally, I would like to express my deep thanks to those comrades who contributed to this book. Generally speaking the ideas elaborated in this book are the product of our political work and discussions in the Marxist workers movement for three decades as the reader will see from various references to past writings of our organizations and of me. However, only in the past period have I found the time and had the possibility to elaborate and discuss with my comrades in detail the questions of imperialism and semi-colonies which form the subject of this book. Therefore, I want to thank first of all my comrades who took over so much work from my shoulders in order to allow me to write this book. In particular I would like to thank my comrades Marc Hangler and Maja Borisavljević. Additionally I want to especially thank my comrades Nina Gunić, Johannes Wiener, Adam Beltz and Shujat Liaqat who helped me in numerous discussions to develop and improve the ideas I present in this book. While my mother language is German, I wrote this book in English to enable a broader international discussion of its ideas. Comrade Adam Beltz took on the difficult task of correcting my insufficient English which is too much influenced by German grammar. I thank him a lot for this and state that all possible remaining grammatical mistakes are my fault alone since I have the bad habit of making last minute additions and re-formulations.
Let me finally state that we look forward to discuss the issues of this book with revolutionary organizations and activists around the world in order to clarify and improve ideas and programs but also to join hands wherever possible in our common struggle for the liberation of the working class and the oppressed.
Vienna, 8th February 2013
(1) V. I. Lenin: The revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1915); in: LCW 21, p. 409. A short note on our procedure of quoting in this book: Given the fact that the mother language of the author is German, he possesses and knows the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin from the German-language publication of their works. In the case of Trotsky much more has been translated into English language than into German language. However the author possesses nearly all Writings of Trotsky which have been published in German language and many of those in English-language. In those cases where we obtain the English-language Works of the Marxist classics in book form, we will refer the quotes to the pages in these publications. However we do not possess a number of the Marxist classics works in English language in book form (the Marx Engels Collected Works, some Volumes of Lenin’s Collected Works as well as some Writings of Trotsky). Where we refer to quotes from these works, we will refer to the German language publications as well as the title of the respective books and chapters in English language. The quotes can be found in the internet (in particularly at www.marxists.org)
(2) Maziar Razi and Morad Shirin (IRMT): Where should we stand if US-Israel attack Iran? 25 January 2012, in: Marxist Revival No. 12, December 2011/January 2012, http://marxist.cloudaccess.net/mideast/233-where-should-we-stand-if-us-israel-attack-iran.html. The French translation appeared on L’Etincelle’s website http://etincellenantes.org/?p=2213.
(3) Karl Marx: Thesen über Feuerbach (1845); in: MEW 3, p. 535; in English: Karl Marx: Theses on Feuerbach (emphasis in the original)
(4) V. I. Lenin: The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve’s Book (The Reflection of Marxism in Bourgeois Literature) (1894); in: LCW Vol. 1, p. 401
(5) Abram Deborin: Lenin – der kämpfende Materialist, 1924, p. 11 (our translation into English)