Anti-imperialism and the “to be or not to be” of the left, part 2

Alberto Rabilotta is an Argentine-Canadian journalist specializing in economic issues. This is the second installment of a two-part article that Workers World is publishing as a contribution to the discussion of contemporary imperialism and how to fight it. Translated from Spanish by WW managing editor John Catalinotto.

In the previous article (Social destruction and global chaos, essence of neoliberal imperialism), we proposed that the process of regional integration in Latin America and Eurasia, with the active participation of states and their institutions, is now the main anti-imperialist front, even given limitations arising from the fact that their strategy doesn’t plan a way out of capitalism. We concluded by noting that the other anti-imperialist front, that which Bolivian President Evo Morales demanded from the World Federation of Trade Unions, will have to be built by the people, by their political, trade union and social organizations (1).

Evo Morales hit the bull’s-eye when he demanded the identification of “the current instruments of domination of capitalism and imperialism” in order to develop “a new political thesis to free the peoples of the world,” which would go beyond “sectoral claims in order to deepen the crisis in capitalism and put an end to it, along with the oligarchies and hierarchies.”


This identification is crucial because neoliberal imperialism is more than the sum of its known and visible parts, such as NATO and the thousands of U.S. military bases present worldwide, or free trade agreements and protection of investments. This is a system of domination much more elaborate, destructive and totalitarian than it looks, and thanks to the conspicuous consumer society, control of the media and the promotion of anti-social individualism, it has the ability to “sneak in” everywhere, to contaminate cultures, to destroy all capability for opposition. The list of its dire consequences is too long to continue listing in this article.

For this reason, the “social intelligence” of the peoples, and of the left, should be directed to think of, analyze and formulate, in their respective fields, good questions to guide us in the search for the true image of neoliberal imperialism and to identify its allies, as well as classes and social groups that are its main victims and should be the protagonists in this struggle. They should designate the strategic aspects that make up their main objectives, and from there build a strategy to fight the anti-imperialist struggles on different fronts, a battle in which the peoples of the current or past periphery are already fighting — and it is extremely important to them that the peoples of the core countries of the empire wage this struggle and ensure that both converge on the common goal of overcoming capitalism.

In undertaking this task we must understand that a “regionalism” that includes the involvement of states in developing the productive forces of all national economies, be it under state, private or public ownership, will permit the continuous solution of the problems of social and economic backwardness, poverty and exclusion that were left by underdevelopment, which was in turn brought about by dependence and aggravated by the implementation of neoliberal policies in the last three decades of the 20th century, as is the case in most of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the case of Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, this type of regionalism — and to an even greater extent if complemented with one that includes China and other countries in Asia — will further develop the productive forces of all economies and reconstruction of states and institutions destroyed or dismantled by the application of neoliberal policies starting from the 1990s, which led to the mass impoverishment of peoples who had earlier achieved good standards of living, security and social justice.

China is a special case and model for the planned development of regionalism because it is a country that proclaims it is socialist and where socialist state property is dominant in basic economic sectors. This is combined with private property of a capitalist type — predominant in many branches of the economy, along with niches of community property. As such, China has allowed the entry of neoliberalism (through transnational corporations or trade agreements), but did not weaken significantly the capabilities of the state and its major institutions and companies, thus continuing a policy of defense of centralized state planning in this ancient country with its very long history.

China’s policy of enforcing state controls over subsidiaries of transnational corporations in the country has — as is indicated by sociologists Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver — raised doubts in the U.S. about the “loyalty” of these subsidiaries to U.S. interests. (“Chaos and Order in the Modern World-system,” Akal, 2001) One can interpret along these lines the goals of socialist countries with a long and true anti-imperialism, such as Vietnam and Cuba, in inserting themselves in regional integration processes involving openness to the foreign capital market.

Analysts envision that the recent negotiations between Russia and China to increase their cooperation, trade and investment, and to carry out that trade in their national currencies to escape the dominance of the dollar — an objective that is set out in the BRICS’ agenda [The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] — will create a critical mass for the expansion of regionalism with a robust state intervention to countries like Iran, India and Pakistan, creating or strengthening links with regional integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, and perhaps promoting something similar in Africa, as was the goal of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and probably the reason for his overthrow and murder in 2011 by the combined forces of France, Britain and the U.S.

However, all this depends on these experiences with regionalism materializing and showing results in the real life of the people, and that these countries resist the daily torpedoes launched by agents of neoliberal imperialism within these countries and the economic, financial and military aggression or subversion launched by imperialism and its allies from the outside.

An essential aspect of all these experiences of regional integration, it is worth underlining, is the manifested interest — visible in the speeches of many government leaders, among others those of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in “re-embedding” or keeping the economy “embedded” in society, which means that the economy reverts to being or remains subordinate to society; in that sense this is an attack on a central aspect of neoliberal imperialism, which British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher clearly defined in 1987, when she said “there is no such thing as society,” implying that since society doesn’t exist as such, one must implement the neoliberal slogan that “there is no alternative” to this system, as was also stated by Thatcher.

But we should clarify that the guarantee that these regional integration efforts will be more than episodic “anti-imperialist resistance” will depend on the level of participation and social and political pressure for development being directed towards the broadest possible social objectives, which the participatory democracies believe to be that which allows them to defend and deepen anti-imperialist policies. Following their class interests, the social, labor and political organizations of the working people, students and all social sectors that have been, are or may be the main victims of the neoliberal steamroller, should carry out this task.

Anti-imperialism in the core countries of capitalism


Under neoliberal imperialism it has become clear and beyond dispute that, collectively, the classes that live by selling their labor in the U.S., the countries of the European Union (EU) and other countries of the imperialist camp are quickly losing the benefits they won during the brief era (1945-1975) of welfare-state capitalism.

Unemployment and social exclusion increase, virtually no one has job security, and part-time and poorly paid jobs are the norm. And we are witnessing a phenomenon never seen before, a generation of young people with high levels of knowledge who remain largely outside the labor market, along with retired workers whose pensions decrease or are threatened with disappearing.

This is a result of policies applied in advanced capitalist countries to continue centralizing social wealth in fewer and fewer hands, causing the obscene income disparities we all know about, while in practice there has never been a greater capacity to produce socially necessary goods and services, thanks to the enormous development of the productive forces.

The transnational corporations of the countries central to the empire provide ever fewer jobs and pay ever lower wages in the societies in which they were founded and have transferred their operations to subsidiaries that have been created in countries near and far, where they employ poorly paid workers. From these operations come about half of the profits of these companies, arriving as differential income — the surplus value produced in another country comes home as a differential income [super profits] — to owners of the monopolies and the transnational corporations. This explains the increase in profits of transnational corporations, and the loss to wage labor is the key to the loss of final demand and the low growth of the real economy in the core countries.

There is no need to explain the social dramas that the majorities living in countries of advanced capitalism are going through. The rightists and leftists both know it in general and spell out its details frequently, but what is most amazing is the lack of deeper analysis of the structural change in the mode of production of capitalism and its effects on society and on the political system, which André Gorz and others described decades ago, and the little or no influence it has had on the thinking and programs of the main forces of the left.

However, it is in these countries where industrial capitalism has already run into systemic barriers that they are making a “leap into the abyss,” where they already cannot reproduce themselves as such and as a society, as Karl Marx raised, and where there already exist economic and social conditions for radical changes, to name what is so rarely named, to carry out the social revolution that completes the exit from capitalism in all its forms.

And if social revolution is in order, because the dominant capitalism has absolutely nothing positive to offer to societies and the people in the countries of central capitalism, we must note the serious absence of clear anti-imperialist politics worthy of that name in the speeches and programs of the parties of the radical left, because the U.S. neoliberal empire has many partners willing to participate in the plunder, as has been seen through the active participation of EU countries in military attacks in Libya and Syria, the support of the EU sanctions and harassment of Iran, and now support for the coup in Ukraine with the help of neo-Nazis.

And what about the support or the complicit silence of the radical left parties before these policies of the EU countries or directly from the EU itself?

The EU is a neoliberal project that is applying extreme neoliberalism in the countries that comprise it, and is part of the neoliberal empire. Its foreign policy, like that of Japan and other allies of the empire, is aimed at trying to grab the largest possible share of the “pie” of global exploitation, and in pursuit of that goal some EU countries or the EU itself are creating or exacerbating conflicts that are destroying the economies and societies of many countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Thus, instead of being denounced and fought as part of a policy to fight against imperialist policies “at home,” which is the first step to combat it on a world scale, it shines with its absence or does not have the place it should have in the programs and practice of many political forces and parties that are defined as part of the radical left.

Hence the importance of defining an anti-imperialist strategy that incorporates this reality, which erases the shameful ideological capitulations of the past and fully accepts revolutionary theories, that this anti-imperialist strategy should become the guide and the tool that orients political and social struggles at home and abroad, and helps give birth to effective international solidarity.

In short, to build a lucid and radical anti-imperialist policy, to call things by their name, is the “to be or not to be” question for the left and for other forces that struggle or claim to struggle, at this crucial stage of humanity and of our Mother Earth, to put an end to the neoliberal empire before it finally destroys civilization and the planet.

(1) Citation from Evo Morales speech taken from the Bolivian Information Agency,