Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power

On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), August 2014, www.thecommunists.net




I.             Four Currents in the Workers’ Movement Concerning the Inter-Imperialist Rivalry

II.           Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and its Revisionist Distortions

Revisionist Confusion of the Nature of Finance Capital

Marx and the Centrality of the Production Process

Imperialism is Based on the Capitalist Value of Production and Not Financial Speculation

Is There a Capitalist Country which is Not Dominated by Finance Capital?

Monopolism as the Essence of Imperialism

The Role of the State in Monopoly Capitalism

Disparity between the Imperialist Powers

Can Only the Richest Countries be Imperialist?

The Disparity between the Great Powers in Lenin’s Time, before 1917

Are the US and British Models of Imperialism Pure Robbery?

Explaining Eastern Imperialist Power before 1914

A Brief Overview of the Imperialist Powers Today

The Theory of the “Transitional” or “Sub-Imperialist” State

Is Inter-Imperialist Rivalry Intensifying or Minimizing?

Excurse: The Maoist Origin of the Super-Power Theory

III.          Social-Imperialism as a Caricature of “Anti-Imperialism”

Third Campism” and the “Anti-Imperialist United Front with Putin and Xi” in the Struggle between Imperialist Rivals

Inverted Social-Imperialism as a Variation of Class-Collaboration

IV.          Again on Russia as an Imperialist Power

Russian and Foreign Monopolies in Banking

Who Controls Russia’s Monopolies?

Russia’s Foreign Investment and Foreign Policy

Excurse: Eurasianism and Putin’s Bourgeois Allies in Western Europe



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The accelerating decline of capitalism, which began with the opening of a new historic period in 2008, inevitably exacerbates the contradictions and tensions between the classes within each state and between the states themselves. This means that, in addition to the increasing antagonism between the ruling class and the working class and the popular masses; between the imperialist states and the semi-colonial countries and oppressed nations; the world is facing a heightened rivalry between the great imperialist powers. This rivalry is continually being exacerbated on the background of the decline of the US and the emergence of new imperialist powers, in particular China and Russia.

These fundamental transformations in world politics have caused widespread confusion among socialists. Many deny China’s and Russia’s nature as emerging imperialist powers, and either believe that Russia and China are semi-colonial countries, oppressed and super-exploited by imperialism; or consider them as “transitional capitalist countries.” There are even those who claim that China is “socialist” or a deformed workers’ state. While most socialists fail to recognize the imperialist nature of China, a number of them are prepared to accept that Russia, at least, has become an imperialist power. However, even among those who recognize the emergence of new great powers in the East, there are many who draw from this the incorrect conclusions: For them, national and democratic struggles in the semi-colonial world have become proxy-conflicts between the imperialist states in which socialists should take no side.

A clear understanding of the class character of the great powers, as well as of the various conflicts and civil wars in the semi-colonial countries, is an absolute precondition for the adoption of a correct strategic orientation and the elaboration of the necessary programmatic answers for each such conflict, whether current or potential. This is for this reason that it is critical for socialists to overcome the profound confusion on these issues which currently exists within the workers’ movement.

The RCIT recognizes the dire importance of these issues and has, therefore, elaborated its analysis and programmatic conclusions in a number of documents. Similarly, we have defended this Marxist approach against various critics. (1)

Recently, a number of new articles have been published by other organizations which argue that neither Russia nor China are imperialist powers and which attempt to revise or misinterpret Lenin’s theory of imperialism. Among these articles are some polemics against the RCIT. (2)

In this document we will respond to various arguments of our critics and further elaborate our own analysis. We will show that those who claim that Russia (as well as China) is not an imperialist power are forced, either openly or surreptitiously, to distort and falsify the Marxist theory of imperialism. Towards this end, we will analyze the contradictions between Lenin’s theory and these revisionist viewpoints. We will also provide an overview – based on relevant historical statistics – of the development and relations of forces between the imperialist powers in Lenin’s time. Finally, we will again examine Russia’s economy and address the individual arguments of our opponents. Given the prominent role played by the civil war in the Ukraine, the recent documents which we will be answering here have focused on Russia (and not China), and in particular they have focused on critiquing our study Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. Hence, we will also focus in this present study on Russia and refer those readers who are interested in China to the RCIT’S documents on that country (see footnote 1).

We sincerely hope that this booklet will assist readers in deepening their Marxist understanding of both Lenin’s theory of imperialism as well as of recent developments in the world situation, one marked by the increasing rivalry between the Western and Eastern imperialist powers. As we have indicated above, such an understanding is a vital precondition for socialists in their search for a correct programmatic and organizational orientation in the increasingly explosive world situation with which we are currently faced.



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