“Russia, the Imperial Ghost”, the Rise in Raw Materials, and the Imperial Club
After the direct Russian military intervention in Syria at the end of 2015, “left theorizations” began to surface, which saw Russia as an “imperialist country” and its intervention in Syria the same as the American intervention there and elsewhere.
The political and propaganda objective behind this type of theorizing was clear from the outset, and it can be summed up by saying that if the right-wing currents, in their various forms, including liberalism and neo-liberalism, had their clear pre-position and alignment with the American side and against any force opposing it, it was necessary to invent “an ideological cover” that expands the American, and in general Western, ranks to include a portion of the “left” as well.
Today, with the Ukrainian events, this proposition is resurfacing (that is, saying that Russia is imperialist) more intensely and focused, albeit even more superficially than it was in 2016, and the objectives are the same and remain unchanged.
“The Imperialist Ghost”
In 2017, Kassioun published a study that I prepared in this regard, entitled “Russia, The Imperialist Ghost” (Arabic). The study was later published in a booklet by Damascus-based al-Tali’a al-Jadeeda publishing house. The aim of the study was to try to answer two questions that were popular at the time: “Is Russia an imperialist country? And if not, can it turn into an imperialist country?”
Since the topic, against the backdrop of the Ukrainian events, has resurfaced to again become the talk of the hour in a number of “leftist” circles, there is no harm in recalling the aforementioned study. This is mainly because I believe it is still valid in principle, even if the figures on which it was based are somewhat outdated, of course, because it was based on the figures that existed at the time, particularly for the years 2014-2016.
We will present herein and very briefly the logic based on which the study was one as well as some of its results, before moving on to presenting a few additional general observations based on the developments.
“Russia, the Imperial Ghost” was an initial attempt to present a contemporary understanding of imperialism, based on the Leninist definition thereof, and taking into account the variables of a whole century post that definition.
Accordingly, the study began by presenting Lenin’s definition of imperialism, and then trying to understand it in light of major changes in the twentieth century, the most important of which are:
1- The transition from old colonialism to neocolonialism (economic-unequal exchange), and from there to post-neocolonialism that merges the two previous forms thereof, which started to appear since the mid-1990s, and more clearly in Iraq and beyond.
2- The dollar is a global currency, and what this means in the overall international trade and political relations.
3- The intermarriage and interdependence between the dollar and the unequal exchange, as it is the most important tool in sweeping the largest possible amount of re-produced values around the world, not only in the periphery countries, but also in the countries of the center themselves.
In a word, the tool, or rather, the “dollar-unequal exchange” system, which is supported by more than 800 US military bases around the world, has become the backbone of imperialism today, and it is not possible to see and understand it concretely without understanding it and knowing its extensions and working mechanisms.
After the theoretical introduction, the study moved on to pondering Russia’s situation at the time on two levels. The first level is among the five determinants of imperialism according to Lenin, and the second is Russia’s situation within the “dollar - unequal exchange” system, that is, practically within the international division of labor at the time, which has not change much since, even though these days it has begun to drastically change (the deal of 3 million barrels of oil between Russia and India using the Indian currency is an example and an indication of the beginning of the global upheaval that we are experiencing in the international division of labor, and in the roles of the dollar and the unequal exchange).
The study proved with figures that it is not possible in any way to consider Russia imperialist, at neither the first level nor the second level of reading. On the contrary, the study made it clear that Russia’s position within the international division of labor is that of the plundered and economically colonized by the West. The study also recalled what the People’s Will Party had previously said and predicted in its documents in 2008 and more clearly in 2013, regarding the future development of Russia. The basic idea was and still is – and we see it now has begun to be realized, although it is not yet possible to be certain that it will proceed all the way in the same way – the idea in short is the following:
There is no way out (even temporary) from the deep crisis that imperialism is experiencing today, primarily with its American head, except by completely putting its hands on Russia and its underground resources, which are estimated at about 40% of the total underground resources in the world. These resources are twice the total underground resources of each of the US, Europe, China, and Japan combined. A complete takeover requires ending the existence of Russia itself as a single state, and this is what Madeleine Albright had already publicly said.
In light of this existential threat, and what we see concretely today in the framework of historically unprecedented economic sanctions, the Russian people, in the context of defending their national security, and to be able to preserve themselves and their country, will have no other choice but to turn against capitalism in their own country. This is not new, but rather a great prophecy by Lenin, in which he said that the peoples, in the context of their struggle against imperialism, will objectively turn to the struggle against capitalism in their countries.
In the next two paragraphs, we will present two additional observations on the same topic, getting closer to reading what is going on around the world today.
Raw Materials and Unequal Exchange
The explanation we see in the media is limited to the huge increases in prices globally for all raw materials (oil, gas, minerals...), as well as products with relatively little added values (such as grains and some basic crops, as well as fertilizers, etc.). The explanation is limited to the relationship between supply and demand, as part of saying that the attempt to isolate Russia and its products from these materials, will automatically eliminate from the global market a large part of the supply with the demand remaining the same, or even rising, which was already the case with the global wheels resuming partial motion after a significant slowdown during the COVID years This interpretation is highly incomplete and misleading.
As a start, it is quite true that the definition of price, according to Marx, is a “deviation from value” up or down according to the relationship between supply and demand. Value, in turn, is the amount of socially necessary labor embodied in the commodity.
The substance of Marx’s definition of price is still completely correct, but we believe the form of its appearance has undergone two major developments since his time. The first was covered by Marx himself in his talk of monopolies, and then Lenin covered it more clearly with his talk of monopolistic profit in the age of imperialism, and the second is price in the world of unequal exchange.
As a start, monopolization is an essential tool in controlling supply (not to mention demand controls as well, which include a complex and long list of elements, among the most important of which is conscious control). When monopolization controls supply and often to reduce it against demand, the price as a deviation from value turns from a spontaneous process (resulting from the chaos of production that is resulting in turn from capitalist blindness led by the pursuit of higher profit) turns into a planned and managed process, so that the price is almost always higher than the value and so that the price turns into an additional plundering tool in addition to the plundering basically done through the value itself. That is, capitalist plundering exists even if any commodity is sold at a price exactly equal to its value, and in that case the plundering is the excess value, i.e. the free working hours that the laborer is forced to give daily to the employer because private ownership of the means of production deprives the laborer of the possibility of renewing his labor power, and more simply deprives him of the possibility of producing his food, clothing, and means of life, except through the means of production and the capital he owns. This drags the laborer by the neck with heavy and invisible shackles to be able to merely live through capital gain.
In the era of “unequal exchange – dollar”, the process of controlling supply and demand goes much further, particularly by controlling the markets and mechanisms for exchanging raw materials, and by pricing them in dollars.
What is really happening is that the dollar gets its value from the pricing of raw materials in dollars, and not the other way around. As a result of the astronomical inflation of the dollar, the pricing of raw materials in it makes their prices dramatically deviate from their true value.
In short, what we see today in the rise of raw materials prices is the beginning of a historical correction process of these prices, approaching their actual values, in a world where all currencies are absolutely inflated. Perhaps more importantly, this rise is the beginning of breaking the unequal exchange process. More clearly, the countries of the Western center, which for centuries lived on plundering raw materials from Asia, Africa, and Latin America at prices far below their value, in exchange for exporting manufactured materials at prices far above their value, are now facing a new situation: go and manufacture air if you want to, because the raw materials and the countries and peoples that own them are now moving towards pricing their materials in currencies other than the dollar, and are therefore moving towards ending the process of historical plundering based on which you flourished and then decayed.
The Imperialist Club
Talk about the club of imperialist countries, led by the US, Britain, Japan, Germany, and France, is still true in principle, but it has become more symbolic than concrete and precise.
What we mean is that the stage in which a country would be described as imperialism may have ended completely. The imperialism of the Western center; the imperialism of banks, military industrial complexes, and major companies; all of these have become larger and stronger than the apparatuses of Western countries and the countries themselves. These same countries as lands, resources, weapons, borders, etc., have become to a large extent just a tool in the hands of these big monopolies, and the politicians we see on the screens, including the heads of Western countries, are just high-ranking and highly paid employees of the imperialist elite.
Under imperialism, not only societies are hierarchical in terms of possession of wealth, but also the elite is hierarchical in its possession of wealth, and also in its possession of power. As a result of the interdependence between unequal exchange and the dollar, the global elite has within it an elite of the elite, i.e. 1% of the 1% and perhaps less, and these manage the main directions of the work of the European and American economies and states, as well as international trade.
In more direct terms, today’s talk about “German imperialism”, for example, is metaphorical, and cannot be treated as a scientific description. The policies carried out not only by Germany, but also all European countries these days, are probably irrefutable evidence that these countries and their politicians are not working to achieve their interests, even from the point of view of capitalist opportunism. The policies that Europe engages in today within the framework of sanctions against Russia, will have a clear and certain result of causing catastrophic damage to the economies of Europe, its peoples, and its capitalists. This result has started to appear quickly and before too long it will appear more clearly with its comprehensive effects, including major social and political upheavals.
In other words, the so-called “German imperialism” or “French imperialism” does not act as imperialism, simply because we do not believe that there is such a thing as German or French imperialism. Today there is only one imperialist club, and it has one main boss, who is the owner of the dollar, and the club members are not countries but rather big companies and monopolies. This same club is sacrificing Europe and the euro today, for nothing but an attempt to delay the collapse of the dollar, and to have the euro and the euro economies foot the bill that the dollar was supposed to pay.
In this sense, the European countries themselves, peoples and capitalisms, and although they are involved in plundering relations through unequal exchange with “third and second world countries”, are themselves also subject to plundering by the “dollar - unequal exchange” system. This plundering will increase in the coming days, because Dracula’s ability to suck the blood of the peoples of the third and second world will decline significantly in the foreseeable near stage, and therefore Europe’s blood, figuratively and literally, will be the main dish on the dollar’s table. Nevertheless, even if the owners of the dollar suck the euro economy to the last drop, that will not be enough to cover the exposure of the real inflation of the dollar, only the initial beginnings of which we are now experiencing, represented by the prices of raw materials. Even devouring all of Europe, if that happens, will only temporarily delay this process.