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


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 1 August 2019,




Lenin once noted “that the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory. [1] In order to fulfil such a role Marxists have to constantly review their theoretical arsenal and, if necessary, develop it further.


In the recent period, the theory of sub-imperialism has become increasingly fashionable among Marxists. The notion of “sub-imperialist” has been used to characterize such diverse various states as China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Iran, Greece and Turkey.


The RCIT considers this theory of sub-imperialism as mistaken and incompatible with Marxist theory as articulated by V. I. Lenin. We have discussed this theory and elaborated our critique in various documents. [2] We have also demonstrated in a number of special studies that countries like China and Russia are imperialist Great Powers. [3] We have also alternately shown that the countries in question are semi-colonial states (albeit often with peculiar features). [4]




Brief summary of the main defects and dangers of the theory of sub-imperialism




Leaving aside its methodological flaws, the theory of sub-imperialism suggests that states (like China and Russia) are qualitatively weaker than and, consequently, subordinate to imperialist Great Powers. Such a conclusion has always been essential to the theory of sub-imperialism as it was developed by its originator, the Brazilian socialist, Ruy Mauro Marini. He insisted that “[t]he tensions which arise among these various integrationist centers cannot today, as they did in the past, reach open hostilities, and must remain within the framework of antagonistic cooperation. [5] Or, to put it in the words of another author standing in the tradition of Marini: “Antagonistic cooperation means that a sub-imperialist country never leaves the state of a dependent economy. It is not an imperialist country: ‘Without being able to question imperialist dominion itself (otherwise it would mean questioning capitalism itself) the national bourgeoisie can only bargain for better relations within its subordinate status – better prices, better agreements, the appropriate areas for exploitation, etc.’. [6]


In short, such a theory is incapable of understanding the role of China and Russia as imperialist rivals that have emerged to challenge the U.S. status as long-time world hegemon. Worse, it encounters obvious difficulties when confrontations between these rival Great Powers actually occur (in contrast to their own theory). Such theories misdirect socialists into siding with the “sub-imperialist” camp (i.e. China and Russia) – a consequence that immediately becomes a social-patriotic capitulation to an imperialist power.


We are aware, and appreciate, that not all supporters of the theory of sub-imperialism draw such tactical conclusions for the class struggle. But we think that such dangerous and wrong-headed conclusions are implicit.


In the case of countries that are actually semi-colonies, the theory of sub-imperialism negates their relationship of subordination and super-exploitation by imperialism. From this it follows (and this is the most important issue in the whole debate) that such a theory can mislead supporters into abandoning the defense of such “sub-imperialist” (actually semi-colonial) countries against imperialist aggression.


We have seen this in the case of the British Socialist Workers Party and its affiliates in the International Socialist Tendency (SWP/IST). This centrist current, known as “Cliffites” (after their founder, Tony Cliff) has argued that many countries in the South have actually become “sub-imperialist” states. Alex Callinicos, their leading theoretician, characterized in 1991 the following countries as “sub-imperialist”: “Israel, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Turkey (...) India, Vietnam, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil and Argentina.[7] One can easily imagine that he could continue adding to this hodge-podge list, nearly three decades later.


This crude theory was used by the Cliffite SWP/IST to refuse support for a supposed “sub-imperialist” country when it faced aggression by an imperialist Great Power. This was the case in 1982 when Britain attacked Argentina in the Malvinas War. [8] The Cliffites used their version of sub-imperialism to justify their neutral position when the actual duty of anti-imperialist Marxists was to side with Argentina and advocate the defeat of the British: “It was neither an anti-colonial struggle nor a struggle between oppressed and oppressor nations. The contending parties were an emergent capitalist country with regional and continental imperialist features, and a longstanding imperialist power which, though in marked decline, is still a powerful force. There was not a progressive and a reactionary camp.[9]


The same approach inevitably led to a similar, treacherous position of neutrality in the instance of US aggression against Iraq in 1990/91 and 2003 or during the present imperialist provocations with Iran. [10]


A similar and very actual example is the approach taken by sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which currently experiences a devastating split into three parts. Its U.S. section, Socialist Alternative, recently published an article on the accelerating conflict between Washington and Teheran and the threat of war in the Middle East. In this article, the CWI characterizes not only the U.S. as “imperialist” but also Iran. “While the Iranian government is responding to threats from U.S. imperialism, Iran also plays a regional imperialist role in the Middle East.[11] While the CWI correctly opposes the warmongering by the Trump Administration and the sanctions imposed against Iran, it refuses to say a single word about the necessity for socialists to defend the Middle Eastern country against the U.S. in any military confrontation.


Not only this, the CWI goes even further and opposes military armament of Iran: “Nor do we support Iran developing nuclear weapons.” As is well known, opposition to developing nuclear weapons by Iran is one of the key demands of US as well as Israeli imperialism.


In short, here is another example of a centrist organization which invents the label “imperialist” (“sub” or “regional”) in order to justify its refusal to defend a semi-colonial country against the aggression of an imperialist Great Power.




Approximation to the problem




There are a number of Marxists who sympathize with the theory of sub-imperialism but refrain from drawing such treacherous conclusions. With such comrades we wish to enter a dialogue.


In this essay we will not repeat our arguments against the theory of sub-imperialism. We would like to discuss, however, a proposal for a new category that may better characterize rising semi-colonial states.


First, it’s essential to differentiate between China and Russia and countries with significantly different histories and attributes. In the case of the former, it’s undisputable that China and Russia have become rivals to the Western Great Powers. In fact, there are adherents to the theory of sub-imperialism who accept this fact and who also agree that this challenge from China and Russia does not possess a “progressive” nature. Such an approach implies that Marxists not only do not side with one camp or another but also take a revolutionary defeatist position against all Great Powers. We consider agreement on this point as fundamental. With this presumption as a foundation we can progress to the further challenge of theoretical analysis and related conceptual categories.


It is helpful in this regard to probe the specifics of Iran, India, and Greece. In the case of Iran it plays the role of a regional power. This is evident from the political influence it has exercised in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In the case of India it is clear that this state – based, at the very least, on the sheer size of its population in relation to its South Asian neighbors – is a factor in regional and even global politics. In the case of Greece we have seen a significant penetration of Greek capital into several poor countries of the Balkans. The supporters of the theory of sub-imperialism see a basis in such countries for that conception. [12]


We think that these thinkers overestimate the “imperialist” features of these countries and underestimate their profoundly semi-colonial status. This contradiction deserves further examination.




On some requirements of dialectical categories




Theoretical clarity is an essential precondition for Marxists, not only in general matters of philosophy but in politics quite specifically. A Marxist category must help in clarifying a given phenomenon and address potential confusion.


The purpose of a category, from the standpoint of the materialist dialectic, is to serve as a “reflection of real things” as Abram Deborin, the leading Marxist Soviet philosopher in the 1920s (before Stalin’s purge) accurately formulated it. [13] This means viewing “things” not as static and isolated from each other, but as things in relation to each other and, as result of that interaction, things in their movement, in their development. This is what Engels meant when he wrote in Anti-Dühring: Dialectics, on the other hand, comprehends things and their representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin, and ending. Such processes as those mentioned above are, therefore, so many corroborations of its own method of procedure [14]


Furthermore, a category must encapsulate the essence of a matter without negating its particularity, i.e. it should identify the main character of a given phenomenon as well as specific features (the “concrete totality, the unity of the universal and the particular” as Deborin puts it). [15]


Such specific features must include contradictory elements, not only for principal reasons (“the thinking of contradiction is the essential moment of the Notion” as Hegel wrote [16]) but also because only such a reflection of the contradictory nature of a given phenomenon can aid revolutionaries in grasping its specific nature and its possible process of development (as Lenin emphasized, development is based on “the unity and struggle of opposites [17]).


This brief summary of the requirements of notions for Marxists should help us to understand that the category of “sub-imperialism” frustrates the development of truth. It suggests that such states are qualitatively weaker than and subordinate to the imperialist Great Powers. This is a fundamentally wrong characterization when we take China and Russia (and their relationship with the old imperialist powers). Or it suggests that the respective countries are primarily not oppressed and super-exploited by imperialism but rather primarily themselves oppressors and exploiters of other countries. This, again, is misleading if we talk about position of countries like Greece, Turkey, India, Brazil, etc…. from a global point of view.




Proposal of new category




The RCIT has always emphasized the importance of understanding the dialectical and contradictory nature of political and economic developments. We have done so when we differentiated between new, emerging imperialist powers (like China and Russia) that have been, because of their late-coming status, more backward in their general capitalist development than the old imperialist powers of the West. [18] We also differentiated “between advanced or industrialized semi-colonies such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Iran or Thailand on one hand and poorer or semi-industrialized semi-colonies like Bolivia, Peru, the Sub-Saharan African countries (except South Africa), Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia etc. [19]


We dealt with the contradictory nature of India and Iran by characterising them as non-imperialist or semi-colonial regional powers. [20]


We have always attempted to dialectically identify and conceptualize the peculiar, contradictory nature of states. [21] It seems to us that the category of advanced or industrialized semi-colonies is appropriate and identifies the relative degree of capitalist development for a country like Greece or Iran. However, it is not sufficient as it does not deal with the regional and international relevance of such countries. The category of non-imperialist or semi-colonial regional powers is more useful for such a purpose and we will continue using it where it applies.


However, it might be useful to introduce, in addition, the category of semi-colonial intermediate powers for specific states like India or Iran. Such a notion points out that these states wield an influence in global politics that has not only regional but also international significance. The reasons for this can include control over important raw materials (oil and gas in the case of Iran), size in terms of population (India), geographic location (Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz, India is centrally located in the Asian-Pacific region which in turn has become the most important part of the world economy), etc.


It seems to us that the notion of semi-colonial intermediate powers could be a useful addition to the theoretical arsenal of Marxism. It dialectically grasps – as a “moving category [22] – both the determining class character of such states (i.e. that they remain semi-colonies) and, at the same time, it identifies a relative strength that enables them to play an influential role in regional and world politics.


The case of Iran demonstrates how important it is to insist on the continued characterization of such countries as semi-colonies. This country is strongly dependent on the export of oil and gas and is easily subject to economic pressure.


In the case of India its non-imperialist nature is underscored by the fact that Indian capital has not been able to play any significant role as a foreign investor in the neighbouring countries of South Asia. This is not only the case with Pakistan (which is not surprising given their historically hostile relationship) [23] It is also illustrative that Indian capital in neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka amounts to only a paltry 1% and 4% of total foreign investment. [24]


Greece is a different case. While it is a relevant factor in regional politics in the Eastern Mediterranean, its significance in world politics is certainly smaller than that of Iran or India. On the other hand, Greek capital has successfully penetrated several smaller Balkan countries and plays a significant role in their economies.


What arguments could be put forward in opposition to the category semi-colonial intermediate powers? One could say that the words “intermediate power are purely descriptive. However, we think that such a criticism would be misplaced as we add the notion “semi-colonial” which is a clear and precise class characterization. Furthermore descriptions are not implicitly wrong. Another, well known, Marxist category used by Lenin and Trotsky, namely “imperialist Great Powers”, contains the very same combination of class characterization, “imperialist”, as well as the descriptor, “Great Powers”.


One could also say that it is self-contradictory to characterize a state on one hand as a semi-colony and on the other hand as a power. However, we think that such a criticism is also without merit. Marxists have been always aware that even the bourgeoisie of a semi-colonial state can act as an aggressor and oppress (or attempt to oppress) other peoples. A few of many examples of this would include Greece’s historic policy of ethnic cleansing against Macedonians and Turks, Turkey’s policies against the Kurds, the oppression of Eritrea by the Ethiopian state until 1991, the historic oppression of the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, the oppression of national minorities in Iran, the oppression of the indigenous peoples in various Latin American countries, the oppression of the Amazigh (Berbers) in North Africa, the discrimination of the Somali Bantu community in Somalia, etc.


As Trotsky emphasized, the bourgeoisie of colonial and semi-colonial countries is a semi-ruling, semi-oppressed class. [25] Hence the semi-colonial bourgeoisie always tries to increase their profits and to consolidate their power. This includes, necessarily, their attempts to oppress other peoples. The difference from imperialist powers is not that the semi-colonial bourgeoisie does not desire to oppress other peoples but rather that it possesses much less means and power to implement such goals.


Marxists have always defended such national and religious minorities against the bourgeoisie in semi-colonial states. It is not necessary to invent such categories as “sub-imperialist” in order to provide a theoretical basis for such an anti-chauvinist approach. Support for national liberation and opposition against reactionary chauvinism are a sufficient basis in order to implement such a policy of proletarian internationalism.


Finally, let us also briefly deal with a possible analogy in defense of the theory of sub-imperialism. Could one not say that the category of sub-imperialist states is the equivalent to the category of the petty-bourgeoisie in the field of international politics? As is well known the petty bourgeoisie is a third class, in addition to the two main classes in capitalist society – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Might the sub-imperialist states not also be a legitimate conception on the premise that there is also a third type of state in the field of world relations between countries – that is, in addition to imperialist and semi-colonial states?


We think that such an analogy is not useful as these two phenomena – petty bourgeoisie and “sub-imperialist” states cannot be compared with each other. First, the petty bourgeoisie is a class that historically stems from pre-capitalist social formations and the formative period of capitalism. The so-called sub-imperialist states are, according to their theoreticians, exactly the opposite – they are a new phenomenon stemming from the epoch of parasitic, decaying, and overripe capitalism.


Secondly, and related to this, the petty bourgeoisie is a historically outlived class that is declining in size and significance (albeit this is, naturally, not a linear process without contradictions). It continues to function in niche areas of capitalist production. The “sub-imperialist” states, according to their theoreticians, are the opposite. They are a new phenomenon that is spreading and increasing in significance, taking more and more an active and important place in the world capitalist system.


Thirdly, capitalism is an economic system based on a specific form of exploitation of the laboring class by the class that owns the means of production (i.e. the bourgeoisie). Marx emphasized this numerous times: The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave labour, and one based on wage labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer. [26]


The classic petty bourgeoisie is the class of small owners of private means of production with no or hardly any employed wage laborers. They primarily do not life from the exploitation of the labor power of another class (i.e. the proletariat) but rather of their “self-exploitation”. This is exactly what differentiates the petty bourgeoisie from the bourgeoisie.


Hence we see again that the petty bourgeoisie cannot be used as an analogy to the “sub-imperialist” states. According to the defenders of this conception, it is exactly the ability to exploit other countries that differentiates “sub-imperialist” from semi-colonial states, i.e. to extract a surplus value from these countries. [27]


In this context, what may emerge from the networking of the sub-imperialist elites, as witnessed in the BRICS bloc in its initial formation period, is an agenda that more systematically confirms super-exploitative practices within their hinterlands. Just as the political carving of Africa in Berlin at the 1884-85 conference hosted by Bismarck drew the continent’s irrational boundaries mainly in order to benefit extractive enterprises – mining houses and plantations as well as construction firms associated with England, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany – BRICS appears to follow colonial and neo-colonial tracks. Identifying port, bridge, road, rail, hydropower and other infrastructure projects in the same image, the BRICS 2013 Durban summit had as its aim the continent’s economic carve-up, unburdened – now as then – by what would be derided as ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights. [28]


In summary, we think that it would be utterly wrong to justify the theory of sub-imperialism by viewing such “sub-imperialist” states as a kind of petty bourgeoisie on the stage of world relations between states.


We rather think that the dialectical conception of semi-colonial intermediate powers avoids the shortfalls of the theory of sub-imperialism as the latter lacks a dialectic approach but rather adheres to the Anglo-Saxon defects of “crawling empiricism" (Deborin).




Consequences for tactic




Let us conclude this essay by briefly discussing the consequences in the field of revolutionary, class struggle tactics.


As we have stated many times, Marxists subscribe to the principle that in a conflict between imperialist powers and a semi-colonial country, they have to side with the later. This can mean defending it in a war (e.g. Iran against the US), fighting against sanctions directed against such a country, supporting specific demands that counter the attempts of imperialists to strangle this country (e.g. the EU Memorandum against Greece, Greece membership in the EU), etc.


Of course, as we have also elaborated, such a conflict can take the character of a proxy conflict where the semi-colonial country involved acts objectively as the proxy of an imperialist power. This was the case during the standoff between India and China in the Himalayas in summer 2017. In that situation Delhi operated as a proxy of U.S. imperialism against China. In such cases, revolutionaries cannot lend support to the proxy nation but have to take a defeatist position on both sides. [29]


It is also clear that in cases where such a semi-colonial intermediate powers acts as an oppressor against weaker semi-colonial countries or oppressed people, revolutionaries must defend the later. The RCIT has always defended the Syrian people against Iran and its proxies or Macedonia against Greece. [30]


It is crucial to always make a concrete analysis in such conflicts in order to exercise correct tactics. Revolutionaries must analyze each conflict in its concrete totality, its various (and varying) factors, and their relationship to each other. This is required in elaborating the correct tactical conclusions. As we said somewhere else: “This is why a conflict or war has to be studied in all its aspects, with the general, fundamental, as well as its secondary, particular, characteristics. Such an approach must follow Lenin’s dialectical method to study a thing or a process ‘from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence.’” [31]


In summary, we think that the category of semi-colonial intermediate powers can aid Marxists to better grasp the contradictory nature of states like Iran and India and to develop the necessary tactics appropriate to the class struggle.




[1] V. I. Lenin: What Is To Be Done? (1902), in: LCW Vol. 5, p. 370

[2] See e.g. chapter IV. The Marxist Criteria for an Imperialist Great Power in our recently published 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,

[3] On the RCIT’s analysis of China and Russia as emerging imperialist powers see the extensive literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website: In particular we refer readers to the above mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. See also 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,; Michael Pröbsting: 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, August 2014,; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, March 2014, Special Issue of Revolutionary Communism No. 21 (March 2014),

[4] See e.g. on India our pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences. What are the background and the nature of the tensions between China and India in the Sikkim border region? What should be the tactical conclusions for Socialists and Activists of the Liberation Movements? August 2017, Revolutionary Communism No. 71, (chapter V); 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,; Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, (chapter 9); on Brazil see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry (pp. 151-152).

[5] Ruy Mauro Marini: Brazilian "Interdependence" and Imperialist Integration, in: Monthly Review Vol. 17, No. 7 (December 1965), p. 12. See also Ruy Mauro Marini: Brazilian Sub-Imperialism, in: Monthly Review Vol. 23, No. 9 (February 1972)

[6] Mathias Luce: Sub-imperialism, the highest stage of dependent capitalism, in: Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia (Ed.): BRICS. An Anti-Capitalist Critique, Pluto Press, London 2015, p. 39. Luce states elsewhere in the same essay: “The socio-economic formations that ascend to the sub-imperialist condition succeed in displacing the very conditions of dependent capitalism in a way that ensures expanded reproduction and mitigates the effects of dependency through forms that are specific to the pattern of capital reproduction and a policy of antagonistic cooperation with dominant imperialism in different situations; they claim relative autonomy for the sub-imperialist state without, however, questioning the framework of dependency.” (p. 29).

Adrián Sotelo Valencia, another supporter of Marini’s concept, argues in a recently published book in the same spirit: “To understand sub-imperialism Marini used a concept he called antagonistic cooperation. The term reflects the relationship between an imperialist country (the United States) and a sub-imperialist country (Brazil), in which there is a degree of conflict between powerful national bourgeoisies but without leading to a breakdown in relations or open confrontation. Instead inter-bourgeois cooperation and collaboration prove more the rule than the exception in relations between sub-imperialist bourgeoisies and their counterparts in the US and other dominant centres of power.” (Adrián Sotelo Valencia: Sub-Imperialism Revisited. Dependency Theory in the Thought of Ruy Mauro Marini, Brill, Leiden, Boston 2017, pp. 76-77). See also: “Antagonistic cooperation does not mean that a country might at some point end or overcome its relationship of structural dependency on the dominant centre. As Marini noted, ‘Reproducing on a global scale the antagonistic cooperation practised internally, these regimes become extremely dependent on their hegemonic centre – the United States – whilst continually clashing with it as they seek to reap greater rewards from the restructuring processes they are immersed in.’” (p. 80)

[7] See Alex Callinicos: Marxism and Imperialism today, in: A. Callinicos, J. Rees, C Harman & M. Haynes: Marxism and the New Imperialism, Bookmarks, London 1994, p. 45

[8] For the position of our movement on this war see e.g. Workers Power (Britain): Arguments on the Malvinas (1982), See also our book by Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital. Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, (chapter 12 and 13).

[9] See Alex Callinicos: Marxism and Imperialism today, pp. 50-51

[10] For the RCIT’s position, and the respective literature, on these wars against Iraq at that time see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South (chapter 12 and 13). For our approach to the current tensions in the Persian Gulf see e.g. RCIT: Strait of Hormuz: Escalating Tensions between the US/UK and Iran. Drive the Great Powers out of the Middle East! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 22 July 2019,

[11] George Martin Fell Brown: No to War in the Middle East – U.S. and Iran Plunge into Conflict, June 29, 2019 The article has also been republished by the Australian section of the CWI,

[12] Lenin once noted that “theoretical work only supplies answers to the problems raised by practical work.“ (V.I.Lenin: What the “Friends of the People” are and how they fight the Social-Democrats. (A Reply to Articles in Russkoye Bogatstvo Opposing the Marxists)), in: LCW Vol. 1, pp. 297-298) Indeed, while we think that the supporters of the theory of sub-imperialism are mistaken, we do not deny that they give an answer to a burning issue of world politics.

[13] Abram Deborin: Lenin als revolutionärer Dialektiker (1925), in: Nikolai Bucharin/Abram Deborin: Kontroversen über dialektischen und mechanistischen Materialismus, Frankfurt a.M. 1974, p. 53 (our translation). Abram Deborin was the brilliant and leading figure of the dialectical materialist school in the USSR in the 1920s. Unfortunately while there exist numerous works of this great Marxist philosopher in Russian language and also a considerable amount in German language, the weakness of Marxism in the Anglo-Saxon world in the 1920s has resulted in the situation that hardly anything of his works at that time has been translated into English language. Some useful quotes and summaries of Deborin’s views in English language can be found in the following books: David Joravsky: Soviet Marxism and Natural Science 1917-1932, Routledge, New York 1961/2009; David Bakhurst: Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet philosophy: From the Bolsheviks to Evald Ilyenkov, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1991; Helena Sheehan: Marxism and the Philosophy of Science, Humanities Press International, New Jersey 1985.

[14] Friedrich Engels: Anti-Dühring. Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science, in: MECW Vol. 25, p. 23. In another classic work on Marxist philosophy Engels wrote: The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of readymade things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end -- this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted.“ (Friedrich Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886); in: MECW 26, p. 384) Engels based this important insight on Hegel’s elaborations on dialectics. In his “Science of Logic”, Hegel stated: It is of the greatest importance to perceive and to bear in mind this nature of the reflective determinations we have just considered, namely, that their truth consists only in their relation to one another, that therefore each in its very Notion contains the other; without this knowledge, not a single step can really be taken in philosophy.“ (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Science of Logic, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd, New York 1969, p. 438)

[15] Abram Deborin: Materialistische Dialektik und Naturwissenschaft (1925), in: Unter dem Banner des Marxismus 1. Jahrgang 1925/26, Verlag für Literatur und Politik, Wien, p. 452 (our translation)

[16] Lenin highlighted this phrase in his Philosophical Notebook. (V.I. Lenin: Conspectus of Hegel’s Book the Science of Logic (1914); in: LCW 38, p. 227)

[17] The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute. (...) Development is the “struggle” of opposites.“ (V.I. Lenin: On the Question of Dialectics (1915); in: LCW 38, p.358)

[18] See on this e.g. chapter II in Michael Pröbsting: 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, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 25, August 2014,

[19] Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, p. 228. Large parts of chapter 9 of this book discuss this issue.

[20] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences; RCIT: Iran: Down with Trump’s Sanctions and Military Threats! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 11 May 2019,

[21] The Marxist philosopher Ivan K. Luppol, another leading theoretician of the Soviet Deborin School in the 1920s, once noted that an important task of the materialistic dialectic is to “look for the unity in diversity but also for the diversity in the unity (Iwan K. Luppol: Lenin und die Philosophie. Zur Frage des Verhältnisses der Philosophie zur Revolution, Verlag für Literatur und. Politik, Wien 1929, p. 72; our translation). This is exactly a crucial challenge for Marxists in elaborating categories which shall identify the contradictory nature of political and economic phenomena!

[22] Iwan K. Luppol: Lenin und die Philosophie, p. 98 (our translation)

[23] See on this e.g. RCIT: India-Pakistan: Defeat the War Mongers! Free Kashmir! 27 February 2019,; Michael Pröbsting: Kashmir: Social-Patriotism Among the Indian Left. On the opportunistic adaptation of various “Stalinists”, “Trotskyists” and “Maoists” to the chauvinistic wave in the wake of the latest conflict between India and Pakistan, 02 March 2019,

[24] Sanjay Kathuria (Ed.): A Glass Half Full. The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia, World Bank 2018, p. 57

[25] Leon Trotsky: Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois State? (1937); in: Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1937-38, Pathfinder Press, p. 70

[26] Karl Marx: Capital, Volume One, in: MECW Vol. 35, pp. 226-227

[27] With such an approach, the supporters of the theory of sub-imperialism claim to relate to Lenin’s theory of imperialism. As is well known an essential element of Lenin’s theory is his concept of super-exploitation, i.e. the extraction of a profit above the average. Because monopoly yields superprofits, i.e., a surplus of profits over and above the capitalist profits that are normal and customary all over the world.“ (V. I. Lenin: Imperialism and the Split in Socialism (1916); in: LCW Vol. 23, pp.114-115)

[28] Patrick Bond: BRICS and the sub-imperial location, in: Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia (Ed.): BRICS. An Anti-Capitalist Critique, p. 24

[29] See on this our pamphlet mentioned above by Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict.

[30] As we elaborated in chapter II of our book World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings, there can be a number of cases in which revolutionaries have to side with one semi-colonial country against another because of the concrete character of the conflict. Hence, the RCIT defend the Yemeni people against the Saudi aggression, Qatar against the Saudi blockade and the Somali people against the Ethiopia-led AMISOM occupation forces.

[31] Michael Pröbsting: Dialectics and Wars in the Present Period. Preface to Rudolf Klement’s Principles and Tactics in War, June 2017,