Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital

Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism



Written by Michael Pröbsting

(International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency)


Published in 2013



Download the Book "The Great Robbery of the South"

Great Robbery of the South.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 8.3 MB




List of Tables

List of Figures

List of Abbreviations





1. Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism


“…as precise and full a Definition of Imperialism as possible”


Trotsky’s View of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism


The Division of the World into Oppressing and Oppressed Nations


The Semi-Colonial Countries: a modified Form of Imperialist Subjugation or Independent Capitalist States?


The Role of the Superstructure and its Relationship with the Economic Basis


Imperialism and the Semi-Colonial State



2. Monopolism and the increasing Role of Monopolies in the World Economy 


Imperialism as Policy or as Monopolism based on Economic Laws?


Monopolism and Monopoly Profit


The ever-increasing Grip of Monopolies in the World Economy



3. The Decline of Capitalism since the 1970s



4. Capitalist Value Production and the Working Class Move to the South


The Marxist Classics on the Industrialization of the South


Value and Price on the World Market: The Grand Distortion of the Value Creation in the South


The increasing Importance of the Proletariat in the South and the Emerging Imperialist Countries



5. Rising Exploitation, Super-Exploitation and the Lowering the Value of Labour Force


Marx and the Depressing the Wages below the Value of the Labor Force


Impoverishment and Précarisation of the World Working Class in the past Decades


The Rise in the Rate of Exploitation



6. Marxist Theory and Imperialist Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial Countries 


Unequal Exchange


Capital Export


Migration and Super-Exploitation


Centrist Objections


The Role of the Foreign Market



7. Various Forms of Imperialist Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial Countries and their Development in the past Decades (Part 1)


An Overview on the Financial Net Transfer


Importance of Raw Materials and Food


The Role of Imperialist Capital Export to the Semi-Colonial World


Excurse: Capital Export and Capital Export is not the same



8. Various Forms of Imperialist Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial Countries and their Development in the past Decades (Part 2)


i) Extra Profits via Capital Export as Productive Investment


Underestimation of surplus value and extra-profits extracted from the South


ii) Extra profits via Capital Export as Money Capital (Loans, Currency Reserves, Speculation, etc.)


Losses from Currency Exchange


Capital Flight


iii) Value Transfer from the Semi-Colonial South to the Imperialist North: Unequal Exchange


iv) Value Transfer from the Semi-Colonial South to the Imperialist North: Migration


Dramatic effects for semi-colonies: Brain Drain and Remittances


Direct and Indirect Exploitation of Migrants


Attempt for Total Calculation of Imperialist Plundering


Excurse: The Role of the Plundering of the Colonies for the Formation of


Capitalism in Western Europe in the 16th to 18th Century



9. Revisionist Critiques of the Leninist Theory of Imperialism


The Essence of Centrism


Denial of Concept of Semi-Colonies


Did Lenin and Trotsky know of Semi-Colonies?


When did the Epoch of Imperialism begin?


“Sometimes the Creation of ‚Independent’ States leads to a Strengthening of Imperialism.” (Lenin)


Backward Countries without Industry and Proletariat?


The CWI and the “imperialist” Argentina


The Example of Argentina


The SWP/IST and the Debt Dependency


Is there still a National Question of the Semi-Colonial Countries?


The new Theory of “Sub-Imperialism”


The Example of Turkey


“Sub-Imperialism” or Advanced Semi-Colonies?


Rejection of Concept of Labor Aristocracy


LFI: A formal Defense of Lenin’s Theory which disembowels its revolutionary Content



10. China‘s Transformation into an Imperialist Power


What are the Criteria for an Imperialist State?


China’s race to a World Major Economy


China’s Monopolies


Exploitation and Super-Exploitation of the Working Class


Capital Export as Bond and Loan Capital


Capital Export as Foreign Direct Investment


A Note on Hong Kong’s Role in Foreign Direct Investment


Where is China investing abroad?


Super-exploitation of the semi-colonies


China’s Military Forces


The Struggle for Control over the South China (or East) Sea


Where should the Working Class stand in possible Wars involving US and Chinese Imperialism and South-East Asian Nations?


Why did China’s Rulers succeed in becoming imperialist where others failed?



11. The Theory of Permanent Revolution and its Program for the Working Class Struggle



12. The Struggle against Imperialist Aggressions and Wars:


The Programme of the early Communist International and the Fourth International


i) Reactionary Wars and Conflicts between Imperialist States


ii) Just Wars and Resistance of the Oppressed


For the Destruction of the Apartheid State Israel!


Excursus: Capitalism as a unity of economic, political and ideological Spheres


iii) The Struggle for Class Independence and the Anti-imperialist United Front Tactic


iv) Liberation Struggles, Imperialist Interference and the Dual Military Tactics


The Public Opinion in the Imperialist World must not be the Starting Point for developing a Position towards a War!


How to approach various Forms of imperialist Military Interventions?


Consequences for the Military Tactic 


The Marxist Classics on Contradictory Factors in Wars



13. Centrism’s Failure in the Struggle against Imperialist Wars


i) The Malvinas War in 1982


ii) The Gulf War in 1991


iii) The imperialist War on Terror since 2001


Social-Imperialist ex-Stalinists


The IST’s specific Form of Opportunism 


How to fight for anti-imperialist Position and how not to fight for it


IST policy: Give us some Posts and we stop fighting for our Principles


CWI and their Capitulation to Imperialism


Socialist Zionism a la CWI


Is Revolutionary Defeatism too much for the Working Class?


On the CWI’ and IMT’s Falsification of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s Method


CMR/IRMT: Rejection of Anti-Imperialism in ultra-left Clothes



14. Some final remarks on the Perspectives for Class Struggle


i) A world historic revolutionary period


ii) The present historic period and its consequences for the semi-colonial world


The Shift to the South


The shift to Asia


Increasing Migration and Internationalization of the working class in the North


Great Power Rivalry and increasing imperialist leverage and wars of aggression against semi-colonies


Tendency towards Colonialism or more room to maneuver for the semi-colonial bourgeoisie? 


Globalization, regionalization and protectionism


The Prospects of Revolution and the Crisis of Working Class Leadership



15. Summary



Preface for the Portuguese Translation of “The Great Robbery of the South”


By Michael Pröbsting, 14 March 2021




It is a great pleasure to see the Portuguese-language translation of “The Great Robbery of the South”! It has been clear to us for a long time that the super-exploitation of the South by the imperialist monopolies has become an increasingly important feature of global capitalism. This has been the case because the imperialists not only have exploited the natural resources of the (semi-)colonial countries (which they have done since centuries) but also because capitalist value production has increasingly moved to the South.


Another, corresponding feature of the very same fundamental development has been the increasing migration from the South and the resulting growing importance of migrants for the class struggle in the imperialist countries. This issue played an important role in the faction struggle in our predecessor organization and our resulting bureaucratic expulsion in April 2011. [1] Our book-like “Theses on Migration” became one of the earliest major works of the RCIT which we founded soon after our expulsion. [2]


As said above, it was clear to us that the increasing role of migration and the increasing shift of capitalist value production to the South were two sides of the same coin. Hence, we soon decided to deepen our theoretical understanding of the second aspect of this major topic. The result was, after several months of writing and discussions, the publication of the “The Great Robbery of the South” in April 2013.


Naturally, some figures in the book could be replaced by more actual data. But basically, the book has not lost its actuality because all the main developments with which dealt it, their theoretical analysis as well as the issues of program and tactics remain of crucial importance for a proper Marxist understanding of the world situation.


In this brief preface we will not summarize the content of this book, not least because its last chapter contains already such a summary. At this place we shall draw attention only to two issues which, in our opinion, are particularly relevant for a Brazilian audience (but also for others).


First, the book critically deals, among others, with the so-called theory of sub-imperialism (see chapter 9). [3] This theory was initially developed by the Brazilian socialist Ruy Mauro Marini in the 1960s. Rejecting Lenin’s conception which divides the world in oppressor and oppressed nations, imperialist and (semi-)colonial countries, this theory claims that a third category of countries (“sub-imperialist”) has emerged. Actually, he viewed Brazil as such a country. [4] As we show in this book, such a view is utterly wrong since Brazil was and remains basically a semi-colonial – albeit an advanced and industrialized – country dominated by imperialist powers.


However, since the days of Marini, this theory of sub-imperialism has become increasingly popular – mainly among Marxist academics but also among some socialist organizations. All kind of countries are now characterized as “sub-imperialist”: China, South Korea, Russia, Iran, Greece, Turkey, South Africa, Argentina, etc. [5]


Naturally, Marxists are intransigent enemies of the national bourgeoisie of their country. Hence when the capitalist government conducts a reactionary military operation abroad, revolutionaries will rigorously oppose it. For example, when Brazil socialists opposed the leading role of the Brazil army in the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti (“United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti”) in 2004 to 2017 we fully shared such a stance. All socialists and sincere anti-imperialists had to oppose what was effectively a military occupation force in the service of the Great Powers.


Hence, if socialists, under such conditions, flirt with the application of the theory of sub-imperialism for their own country as an expression of their anti-patriotic approach, this could reflect – to a certain degree – a healthy class instinct.


Nevertheless, the theory of sub-imperialism as such is wrong and can only result in utter confusion and might even lead to dangerous practical consequences. The denial of the semi-colonial character of a country might easily result in the refusal to defend it against an imperialist power. Take the example of the pseudo-Trotskyist currents associated with the names of Ted Grant, Peter Taaffe and Alan Woods (once united in the CWI, they have split over the years in different international organizations like the CWI, the ISA and the IMT with Liberdade, Socialismo e Revolução and Esquerda Marxista – both currents within PSOL – as the Brazilian sections of the latter two internationals). This tradition openly or in disguised fashion utilized the concept of sub-imperialism in order to refuse the defense of Argentina against Britain in 1982 or of Iraq against Western imperialism in 1991.


On the other hand, the concept of sub-imperialism can also be applied to states which are in fact imperialist states (e.g. to China, Russia or South Korea). In such a case this might result in refusal of taking a revolutionary defeatist position in a conflict between such a state and an imperialist rival (e.g. the U.S. or Japan).


Unfortunately, such an approach is highly popular among many leftists – in Latin America as well as globally. Many reformist and populist currents – from social democracy like the PT, Chavismo/Bolivarianismo to Stalinism – they all consider China as a welcome ally against Yankee imperialism. It should not go unnoticed that most forces of Latin American Trotskyism share such denial of China’s imperialist character. The Argentinean PO (both factions) even fancies that capitalist restoration still has not been completed in China! Others – like the PTS/FT, PSTU/LIT and UIT – recognize its capitalist character but also categorically reject the theses of Chinese imperialism. [6]


These brings us also to the second issue to which I would like to draw attention in this brief preface. As the reader can see, we deal extensively with the process of capitalist restoration in China in the early 1990s and its subsequent transformation into an imperialist power in the late 2000s. We can state, not without pride, that the RCIT was nearly alone in recognizing this process from early on. We took such position already in summer 2010 and, two years later, we published our analysis in a substantial study. [7] Chapter 10 in the present book is based on this study. Since then, we have published a number of additional analytical works on China’s class character which are all compiled on the special page on our website. [8]


As said, at that time we were nearly alone in recognizing the imperialist character of China. Today, an increasing number of activists as well as intellectuals recognize this fundamental fact which is the basis to understand the character of the Cold War between the U.S. and China as a form of inner-imperialist rivalry. In fact, the example of Chinese imperialism demonstrates how important it is for a Marxist organization to undertake serious theoretical work in order to recognize new developments – and to recognize them when they are taking place and not only a decade later when everyone can see it!


Such recognition of the imperialist character of the rivalry between the Great Powers (U.S., China, EU, Russia, and Japan) is particularly crucial today. As we have said repeatedly, it is impossible to grasp the dynamic of the world political developments without understanding the key role of the antagonistic interests and conflicts between the imperialist Great Powers.


This is all the more true as we have entered a period characterized by 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. Against such a background, an acceleration of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers – in particular between the two strongest, U.S. and China – is unavoidable.


In such a period, socialists – in Latin America as well as globally – must not lend support to any imperialist bourgeoisie. They need to fight against imperialist domination by any Great Power – the U.S., China or others. In any political, economic, or military conflict between imperialist states, socialists must take a revolutionary defeatist position against each of these reactionary enemies. Latin America can become free only in the struggle against all imperialist powers and not in alliance with one of them!


Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to comrade Joao Evangelista. As the reader can see, this is an extensive book, and it is easy to imagine what an arduous work this translation must have been! It is a pleasure to work along such a comrade so gifted in speaking several languages!




[1] On the history of the RCIT and its predecessor organization see our book by Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice. Looking Back and Ahead after 25 Years of Organized Struggle for Bolshevism, December 2014,

[2] Michael Pröbsting: Thesen zu Rassismus, Migration, der Lage der MigrantInnen in Österreich und der Strategie der revolutionären Integration (2011), Unfortunately, this work exists only in German language. However, we published a summary of it in English: Marxism, Migration and revolutionary Integration,

[3] See on this issue also the essay by Michael Pröbsting: Semi-Colonial Intermediate Powers and the Theory of Sub-Imperialism. A contribution to an ongoing debate amongst Marxists and a proposal to tackle a theoretical problem, 1 August 2019,

[4] See e.g. Ruy Mauro Marini: Brazilian "Interdependence" and Imperialist Integration, in: Monthly Review Vol. 17, No. 7 (December 1965); Ruy Mauro Marini: Brazilian Sub-Imperialism, in: Monthly Review Vol. 23, No. 9 (February 1972)

[5] We have elaborated a concrete analysis of these countries in numerous works. See on this – beside the relevant chapters in the present book – the following: On China and Russia see the extensive literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website:; on China see also the essay of Michael Pröbsting: Chinese Imperialism and the World Economy, in second edition of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham 2020,; on South Korea see e.g. our pamphlet: 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,; on India see our pamphlet The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences, August 2017, Revolutionary Communism No. 71, (chapter V); see also Michael Pröbsting: Is India a New Emerging Great Power? In: Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, Vol. 48, Issue 1 (2020),; on Iran: RCIT: Iran: Down with Trump’s Sanctions and Military Threats! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 11 May 2019,; on Greece see our book by Michael Pröbsting: Greece: A Modern Semi-Colony. The Contradictory Development of Greek Capitalism, Its Failed Attempts to Become a Minor Imperialist Power, and Its Present Situation as an Advanced Semi-Colonial Country with Some Specific Features, RCIT Books, Vienna 2015,; On the RCIT’s analysis of Turkey as an advanced semi-colony see: Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries (Chapter V), RCIT Books, Vienna 2018,

[6] See on this e.g. the book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,; see also Michael Pröbsting: How is it possible that some Marxists still Doubt that China has Become Capitalist? (A Critique of the PTS/FT). An analysis of the capitalist character of China’s State-Owned Enterprises and its political consequences, 18 September 2020,; by the same author: Unable to See the Wood for the Trees. Eclectic empiricism and the failure of the PTS/FT to recognize the imperialist character of China, 13 August 2020,

[7] Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4 (August 2012),