Russia as a Great Imperialist Power

The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18 March 2014,






I.             What are the Criteria for an Imperialist State?

Imperialism and Super-Exploitation


II.            Russia: The Nature of its Monopoly Capital and its Status as a Great Imperialist Power


State Capitalism

Excurse: The Breakdown in the 1990s and Putin’s Solution of a Bonapartist-Restorationist Regime

Russia’s Rise as an Economic Power

Capital Export of Russian Monopolies

Russia as a Great Political and Military Power


III.          Rebuilding the Empire: Putin’s Drive to Expand the Grip of Russian Imperialism

Russia’s Internal Colonies

Putin’s Eurasian Union: An Imperialist Attempt to Subjugate Central Asian and Eastern European Semi-Colonies

Migration and Super-Exploitation


IV.          The Distinguishing Characteristics of Russia as an Imperialist Power


V.            The Arguments of Our Critics

WIVP (South Africa): Russia is a Semi-Colony of German Imperialism

LCFI: From “Imperialist” to “Pre-Imperialist” China and Russia

The LCFI Schematic: An A-historic and Un-dialectical Understanding of Imperialism

The Great Imperialist Powers before 1914

Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks on Russia as an Imperialist Power

An Ultra-Left Version of Kautskyianism

Inverted Social-Imperialists


VI.          Appendix: Political and Economic Problems of Capitalist Restoration in Russia (2001)

The Putin regime as a strong bonapartist-restorationist regime capable of pushing through capitalist restoration

Russia as a weak imperialist power

On the concept of restorationist Bonapartism

August 1998: a pre-revolutionary crisis which ended in a counter-revolutionary defeat for the workers movement

Whiter Russia?

The democratic question and permanent revolution





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The political crisis in the Ukraine and the civil war in Syria have recently shown once again the significance of Russia as an imperialist power. In fact Russia’s and China’s rise as great imperialist powers has been one of the most important developments in world politics of the recent decade. It has substantially increased the inner-imperialist rivalry and hence forms the background for the intensification of various regional conflicts and civil wars. We specifically point to the Georgia war in 2008, the conflict in the East China Sea between China, Japan and the US, the Syrian civil war, and now the events in the Ukraine.

Yet, huge sectors of the workers movement completely ignore Russia’s and China’s imperialist character. Most Stalinists and Bolivarians consider the Russian and the Chinese states as a progressive forces which oppose Western imperialism – the US, EU, and Japan – and hence deserves critical (or not so critical) support. A number of “Trotskyist” centrists – like the Morenoite LIT-CI, the FLTI or the South African WIVP – consider Russia as a “semi-colony.” Others – like the LCFI – have invented a new category and judge Russia and China as “pre-imperialist states” which deserves critical support as part of the anti-imperialist struggle against the great Western powers.

We think that ignoring the imperialist character of Russia (and China) is a serious mistake which unavoidably leads to confusion in assessing major world political events and even taking the wrong side of the barricades in the class struggle. We have already stated in the RCIT’s program that the increasing orientation of sectors of the workers’ movement towards the allegedly less imperialistic great Eastern powers leads to a new version of the reformist popular front and of social-imperialism, i.e., pro-imperialist policy covered with “socialist” and “anti-imperialist” rhetoric.

A dangerous development in the recent past is the open or semi-open support for the imperialist power China by (petty-) bourgeois forces who describe themselves as socialist. (e.g. a number of the Stalinist parties, Chavez and the Bolivarian movement) The working class has not the slightest interest to support a fraction of monopoly capital (e.g. China and its allies) against another (e.g. USA). The support of sections of reformism to the emerging Great power China is nothing more than “social imperialism” – that is an imperialistic policy disguised with social or even “socialist” phrases.[1]

Indeed, such a polarization is increasingly taking place inside the workers’ movement. The social democratic and ex-Stalinist forces side with their imperialist masters, i.e., the Western imperialist powers. Other, like the more orthodox Stalinists, the Bolivarians, and various centrists sympathize with the new imperialist powers Russia and China. The Stalinists and the Bolivarians obviously hope to benefit from the Eastern imperialists rise by an intensification of trade and investment. The pro-Russian and Chinese centrists are guided by a totally erroneous understanding of anti-imperialism: in effect they replace anti-imperialism with anti-Americanism or anti-Westernism.

In effect, contrary to their intentions, these centrists end up in an ultra-left version of Kautskyianism: they ignore the increasing rivalry between the imperialist camps US/EU/Japan and Russia/China and believe in an increasing harmony between the imperialist powers (which they believe are only the great Western powers). On the level of strategy they end up advocating a popular frontist support with one imperialist camp against the other – repeating the Stalinist treachery of the 1930s and 1940s.

The new revolutionary workers’ international, which in our opinion will be the Fifth Workers International, must be free from all forms of social-imperialism. It is only the interests of the international working class and the oppressed people which must be the guiding light for the class struggle and the program of world proletarian revolution. This is the goal for which the RCIT is fighting and which we call all authentic revolutionaries to join.


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