Preface of the Korean Translation of “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry”


By Michael Pröbsting, 30 April 2020




I am very pleased to see the publication of the Korean translation of our book on the Great Power rivalry. This is already the second language – after Portuguese – in which this book has been translated after its original publication in English language a bit more than a year ago.


It does not need many words to explain why the issue of Great Power rivalry is a highly urgent subject for socialists on the Korean Peninsula. It is literally located in the midst of four of the worlds five Great Powers – Japan, China, Russia and the U.S. (due to its strong military presence in South Korea itself as well as in other East Asian countries). Hence, the acceleration of rivalry between these imperialist powers can not but has direct consequences for the Korean people.


The recent events of the global triple crisis will no doubt further accelerate the antagonisms between the imperialist powers. Faced with the Third Depression, i.e. the worst economic slump of the capitalist world economy since 1929, a global anti-democratic turn towards chauvinism and state bonapartism; and the COVID-19 pandemic, the ruling classes all over the world are determined to strengthen themselves at the expense of their rivals. [1] The escalating exchange of chauvinist accusations between Washington and Beijing in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (racist slur of “the Chinese Virus”, speculations about the US resp. the Chinese military being responsible for the creation of the virus, demands for financial compensation, etc.) demonstrate that the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers – in particular the two strongest, U.S. and China – will be one of the most important feature of world politics in the coming period.


However, there is also another reason which is mentioned in this book but not elaborated in much detail. South Korea itself has become an imperialist state in the 2000s. As the Korean comrades of the RCIT have emphasized – and the author of these lines also contributed a pamphlet on this issue [2] – the capitalist class was able to strengthen itself to such a degree that it could overcome its traditional semi-colonial position and became a monopoly bourgeoisie. Hence, South Korean corporations have become major players on the world market and participate in the imperialist super-exploitation of poorer nations.


A political expression of South Korea’s rise in the league of imperialist states has been the trade war with Japan which began in summer 2019. [3]


These developments demonstrate that the fundamental programmatic conclusions elaborated in “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry” are highly relevant not only for the five Great Powers but also for smaller imperialist states like South Korea. In summary, these conclusions are that South Korean revolutionaries must not lend any support to their own imperialist bourgeoisie (or any other like that of China). In any political, economic or military conflict with other imperialist states, socialists must act on the old maxim elaborated by the German communist Karl Liebknecht: “the main enemy is at home”. Hence, the Marxist principles which are valid in other imperialist countries are also relevant for South Korea: Any concession to the domestic monopoly bourgeoisie, any adaption to Korean nationalism is paramount to social-chauvinism.


And there is also another issue which makes the analysis of this book relevant for Korean Marxists. As the Peninsula is divided in two states since the devastating war in 1950-53, socialists need to take a clear stance on the long-standing conflict between the U.S. respectively the ruling class in Seoul and North Korea. In contrast to the South, North Korea is not an imperialist state. Since the Stalinist regime implemented the restoration of capitalism, North Korea has become a poor semi-colony. Hence, Marxists have to duty to defend North Korea against the aggression of the U.S. as well as other imperialist powers. Hence, revolutionaries oppose the sanctions against North Korea and call for the military defeat of its enemies in case of a war. Naturally, such defense must go hand in hand with resolute opposition against the bureaucratic, state-capitalist dictatorship in Pyongyang. Such tactics are part of the strategy for the revolutionary unification of Korea and the struggle for the overthrow of the South Korean bourgeoisie as well as of the North Korea Stalinist-capitalist ruling class.


We conclude this brief preface by expressing our hope that the analysis and conclusions of this book will stimulate a fruitful discussion among socialist activists in South Korea. We are aware that due to the traditional strong influence of the Stalinist “National Liberation” current, large sectors of the left oppose the idea that South Korea has become an imperialist state. They rather continue considering the state as a semi-colony (or neo-colony) oppressed and exploited by the U.S. and Japan. However, the dangerous consequence of such a wrong position is – as the recent trade war with Japan demonstrates – that such leftists support the Korean monopoly bourgeoisie. As we have repeatedly emphasized, in practice, such an approach is equivalent to social-imperialism. Korean socialists must break with such a treacherous position and take a firm, internationalist and anti-imperialist stance!


Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to comrade Hong Su-Cheon who is not only an excellent translator but also a Marxist theoretician in his own right who has already published two works on the issue of imperialism. [4]


[1] See on this the new book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. A Marxist analysis and strategy for the revolutionary struggle, April 2020,; see also the RCIT Manifesto: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive. We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes, 21 March 2020, The RCIT has published several dozen documents on the COVID-19 crisis which are all collected at a special sub-page in our website:

[2] Michael Pröbsting: South Korea as an Imperialist Power. On the nature of South Korean monopoly capital and the ensuing programmatic tasks of the workers vanguard, December 2019,; in Korean language: 제국주의 열강으로서의 남한. 한국 독점자본의 성격과 그에 따른 노동자 전위의 강령적 임무, 미하엘 프뢰브스팅, 혁명적 공산주의인터내셔널 동맹 (RCIT) 국제서기, 2019 12,

[3] See on this e.g. Down with the Imperialist Trade War between Japan and South Korea! Down with all chauvinist boycott campaigns! Class War instead of Trade War! Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Communists of South Korea and the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 19 July 2019,^; in Korean language: · 제국주의 무역전쟁 분쇄! 모든 배외주의·민족주의 보이콧 캠페인 반대! 무역전쟁이 아니라 계급전쟁으로 나아가자! 남한 혁명적 공산주의자 · 혁명적 공산주의인터내셔널 동맹 (RCIT) 공동성명, 2019 7 19,

[4] 홍수천: 한반도 전쟁 위기와 · 제국주의 패권 쟁투 (Hong Su-Cheon: War Crisis on the Korean Peninsula and the Rivaly between US and Chinese Imperialism, Article in Korean language, Spring 2019),; 홍수천: 시기 격화하고 있는 제국주의 패권쟁투와 사회주의자의 임무 (Hong Su-Cheon: The Acceleration of the Great Power Rivalry in the Present Period and the Task of Socialists in Korea, Article in Korean language, March 2019),