The theory and practice of Alan Woods’ IMT demonstrates its continuing adaptation to pro-Russian social-imperialism
By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 15 October 2022, www.thecommunists.net
Talleyrand, the famous diplomat in the epoch of the French Revolution, said about the House of Bourbon that "they learned nothing and forgot nothing." A similar statement could be made about the “International Marxist Tendency” (IMT) – an organisation led by Alan Woods.
Since years, they deny the imperialist character of Russia. Likewise, they have repeatedly failed to defend oppressed people against the aggression of one or the other Great Power. The IMT’s failure to do so in the Ukraine War is just the latest example, as we demonstrated in several articles. 
It seems that the words “international” and “Marxist” did find their way into this organisations’ name only because of a big misunderstanding, caused by the vulgar empiricist tradition of royal “socialism” in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The latest article on Russia’s imperialist war against the Ukraine fully confirms that this organisation has not only learnt nothing – in fact it increasingly adapts to the Putinist world view as it is promoted by the Kremlin and its spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Effectively, Jorge Martín – the author of the article and a key leader of the IMT – presents semi-Putinist ideas in semi-Putinist terminology. 
Inspired by “Russia Today”, Jorge Peskov calls the recent strike against the Kerch bridge, which killed four people, a “Ukrainian terrorist attack”. However, one will not find such a damning characterisation for the daily missile strikes which Russia has launched against the Ukraine since then and which have already killed dozens of civilians!
Russian people – “particularly workers” – support Putin and his war?
Likewise, the article denigrates the anti-war movement in Russia as “negligible and completely dominated by pro-Western liberal forces which are out of touch with the general public.” Why is it “out of touch”? The Kremlin’s Press Service – pardon, the IMT website – knows the answer: “The increasing involvement of NATO in the war, western sanctions on Russia and very provocative statements by opinion makers in the west, to the extent that Russia should be broken up, have helped solidify public opinion support for the war. Large sections of public opinion in Russia, particularly amongst the working class, now see the war as an existential threat to the country.”
Let us first note in passing that the IMT’s author abhorrence for the “negligible” anti-war movement is so strong that he can not even utter a single word of solidarity with the thousands of activists who are victims of the regime’s repression.
Anyway, the IMT seems to be uninformed – maybe their Russian comrades don’t tell them? – that the Putin regime fully controls the media since many years and brutally suppresses any anti-war activities since 24 February. People can be thrown into prison even for calling the war by its name instead of using the official terminology “special military operation.” Hence, it is hardly surprising that sectors of the masses passively accept the official propaganda. Everyone with some knowledge of history knows that this was usually the case in the first period of large wars – not only in the case of the two World Wars but also the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War or the Iraq War.
However, what is far more remarkable is the fact that opposition against the war and mass protests are already increasing – despite the severe repression and state control of media! As a result, thousands of activists have been arrested. It is estimated that about 700,000 Russians have fled since Putin declared partial mobilization on 21 September. In areas which are most affected by the mobilisation – North Caucasus, Yakutia, Buryatia and other regions populated by oppressed national minorities – large rallies, street blockades and clashes with the police have already taken place.  Again, the IMT article tries to denigrate these protests by claiming that Dagestan is “the only place where significant protests against mobilisation” have happened.
Looking at reality via the Kremlin’s glasses, Jorge Peskov claims that the regime is under no pressure of the increasing popular opposition against the war. No, since the war is – at least in the imaginary universe of the IMT – so popular amongst the masses, Putin can only come under pressure from those who demand an even more ferocious and deadly war! “In terms of public opinion, as a result of the Ukrainian advances in September, Putin has been under pressure, not from the anti-war camp, but rather from the pro-war Russian nationalist right, which was demanding harsher action, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons!”
One wonders why federal and regional authorities have been repeatedly forced to publicly apologize for mobilising all kind of people irrespectively if they fit to the official criteria of Putin’s “partial mobilization” or not. And why was Putin forced to publicly announce a decree emphasising that a number of groups are exempted from the mobilisation? Does the regime fear that too many people volunteer for the war against the Ukraine?! Or could it be the case that a growing number of workers and middle-class people don’t want to join the war and become increasingly suspicious or even hostile to its goals?! The IMT leaders in London should know a bit about Sherlock Holmes – they might get some inspiration from him to find out if the Putin regime suffers from too much opposition to the war or from too much enthusiasm for the war!
In fact, it is not the anti-war movement but rather the IMT and the leaders of its Russian section who are “out of touch!” However, the problem is not so much a lack of intelligence but rather the political method of this organisation. Incapable to understand the nature of imperialism and national oppression, they orientate to the backward sectors of the masses, those who still believe in the regime propaganda. In contrast, Marxists – i.e. authentic Marxists, not those who are still not out of the Woods – orientate to the advanced, progressive sectors of the masses, those who oppose the reactionary war of aggression and who do not trust any longer the bonapartist regime.
True, the IMT leadership is not without criticism of the bonapartist Putin regime. But it has clearly more sympathies for Moscow than for Washington and Brussels. Hence, it claims that “Putin is not wrong in his criticism of the west, though even these are partially couched in terms of harping back to Russia’s Czarist past.” However, you would not find a similar notion saying something like: “Biden is not wrong in his criticism of Russia, though even these are partially couched in terms of Cold War rhetoric.”
Russia is (still) not imperialist?
However, the problems of the IMT article are not limited to its one-sidedness and its semi-Putinista terminology. Since the leaders of this organisation have nothing learned and nothing forgotten, they repeat the dogmatic pillars of their position on the Ukraine War. These are, first, that “the conflict is fundamentally a proxy war between NATO and Russia.” And, secondly, it denies the imperialist character of Russia. 
As we have explained in numerous documents, the conflict which opened on 24 February has dual character. It is an imperialist, colonial war waged by Russia against the Ukraine. At the same time, it is combined with the rivalry between the Great Powers of West and East. From such a dual character of the conflict follows the dual tactic which the RCIT and its comrades in Socialist Tendency (Russia) have advocated since the beginning of the war: Defend the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion! Against Russian and against NATO imperialism! 
This has been the method which Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International applied in similar conflicts in the 1930s and 1940s (for example, the Italo-Ethiopia War, the Sino-Chinese War or various national struggles within World War II). 
Unfortunately, the IMT understands neither one nor the other. They refuse to recognise the reactionary war of oppression which Putin has waged against the Ukrainian people. (Dis)armed with such ignorance, they repeat their failure to defend nations oppressed or attacked by imperialist powers. They did so already in the Malvinas War in 1982 when Britain sent its navy against Argentina, and they have repeated such a policy of adaptation to social-imperialism since then. 
At the same time, Alan Woods and his clique who run the IMT since decades stubbornly deny the imperialist character of Russia. They are ready to admit it is “a power”, that it has “imperialist ambitions” – banal insights which you can hear from some vanilla commentator at a news TV show. However, Marxism requires a bit more and, in particular, it demands the ability to make a scientific analysis of the major states and the relations between these. In other words, Marxists have to be able to analyse imperialism in the 21st century. However, this is impossible without recognising the imperialist character of Russia and China and without understanding the inter-imperialist character of the rivalry between the Great Powers of West and East. Surely, it will do no harm to the IMT leaders if they spend less time watching “Russia Today” and, instead, read some modern Marxist literature on these issues!
But since the IMT leaders seem to have a phobia of these books, they repeat – like Jorge Peskov does in the article under discussion – their dogma that Russia is “a regional power with imperialist ambitions of its own.” In other words, it has ambitions to become imperialist but is not imperialist.
From this follows logically, that Russia is the “lesser evil” in the Great Power conflict.  Hence, the IMT leadership has sympathies for the Kremlin as a kind of opposition to the one and only “real” imperialist camp, i.e. NATO.
Sometimes, supporters of the IMT leadership reply to our critique that there exist one or the other document in which the IMT occasionally mentions “Russian imperialism.” However, as we demonstrated in various articles, such exceptions have been the result of internal pressure by sectors of the Russian members of the IMT which forced the international leadership to make some concessions. However, one swallow does not make a summer and a few words mentioned in passing do not replace a clear Marxist analysis and characterisation. No, as a matter of fact, the IMT leadership considers Russia a) not as an imperialist power and b) as the lesser evil in the Great Power rivalry. Critical members in the IMT need to overcome any illusions in the political method of its leadership!
The IMT’s policy in practice: support for the Stalinist KPRF, a champion of Great Russian chauvinism
The IMT’s ignorance or downplay of Russia’s imperialist character is not only a “theoretical mistake”. It has a very concrete and practical purpose as it serves as an excuse for its orientation to the Stalinist milieu. This is most relevant for Russia itself where the IMT’s section leadership has been looking for alliances with the Stalinist KPRF since many years.
This has become a particularly scandalous enterprise since the very beginning of the war as Zyuganov and his KPRF have played the role of an ultra-reactionary whip! It was Zyuganov and his party which initiated the chauvinist bill in the Duma calling for the recognition of the so-called “Donbass Republics”.  And it was Zyuganov and his party which played a major role in pushing for Putin’s “mobilisation” so that Russia could accomplish its imperialist goals in the Ukraine.  And it was this party which unanimously supported the laws in the Duma which formally annexed the four occupied regions of eastern and southern Ukraine (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia).
However, the arch-reactionary policy of the social-imperialist KPRF did not stop the IMT section in Russia to support this party at the regional elections taking place in early September. Worse, several of its leaders participated on the KPRF’s electoral list in a district in Moscow. One of them was elected and represents now this war-mongering party in a municipal council!
In short, while the IMT leadership in Russia formally rejects Putin’s invasion, it is in bed with a Great Russian chauvinist party which has unconditionally supported this war since the very beginning! What an outstanding example for political hypocrisy!
Recently, we noted in an article: “The cycle of the IMT’s social-imperialist opportunism has come to its end and the chain of connection is simple and clear: Zyuganov’s KPRF acts as a servant of Putin and the IMT Russia acts as a servant of the KPRF. The centrist opportunist serves the social-imperialist and the social-imperialist serves the imperialist.” There is nothing left to be added.
We repeat our appeal to authentic Marxists that they need to decisively break from those who collaborate with the “Ruskij Mir” social-chauvinists in the name of Trotskyism! Supporters of “Socialist Tendency” – the RCIT section in Russia – have published an “Open Letter to Russian Socialists” in which they call revolutionaries to join us in the struggle against social-imperialism and chauvinist patriotism.  This is the only way forward for authentic revolutionaries!
 For a critique of the IMT’s policy during the Ukraine War see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Do the Ukrainian People in the Occupied Territories Really Want Annexation by Russia? Alan Woods’ IMT continues its opportunist adaption to pro-Russian social-imperialism in face of Putin’s mobilisation, 22 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/imt-in-face-of-putin-s-mobilisation/; by the same author: Zyuganov’s Servants. IMT leaders in Russia join list of Zyuganov’s KPRF – Putin’s pro-war “communists” – for upcoming municipal elections, 25 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/zyuganov-s-servants-imt-russia/; Ukraine War: Mr. Woods Warns Authentic Socialists. “There is absolutely no room in our ranks for weak elements who bend under pressure in wartime.”, 2 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-mr-woods-warns-authentic-socialists/; Russia and the Theory of “Lesser-Evil” Imperialism, On some Stalinists and “Trotskyists” who formally recognize Russia’s class character but reject the political consequences, 28 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/russia-and-the-theory-of-lesser-evil-imperialism/; The IMT and the Ukraine War: A Shameful Betrayal. Alan Woods and the IMT fail to defend the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion and effectively refuse to recognize Russia’s imperialist character, 2 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-imt-and-the-ukraine-war-a-shameful-betrayal/; Introductory Notes on the Russian translation of this article, 14 June 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-imt-and-the-ukraine-war-a-shameful-betrayal/#anker_3; Ukraine War: Stalino-“Trotskyist” Chamber of Horrors. On a recently held “anti-war” conference organised by some “Trotskyists” as well as Russian Stalinist parties, 29 June 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/stalino-trotskyist-chamber-of-horrors/; Ukraine War: The Outcome of the Stalino-“Trotskyist” Conference. On the official conference declaration in support of Russian imperialism and on some “Trotskyists” participants (IMT, OKDE Spartakos), 13 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-outcome-of-stalino-trotskyist-conference/
 Jorge Martín: Ukraine: is Russia losing the war? IMT, 12 October 2022, https://www.marxist.com/ukraine-is-russia-losing-the-war.htm. All quotes are from this article if not indicated otherwise.
 The latest RCIT documents on these developments are: Putin Announces Colonial Annexation of Ukrainian Territories, 30 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/putin-announces-colonial-annexation-of-ukrainian-territories/; Russian Empire Escalates its Colonial War against the Ukraine. Down with the shame-“referendums” in the Russian-occupied territories! No to “mobilisation”! Defend the Ukraine - Defeat Russian imperialism!, 21 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/russian-empire-escalates-its-colonial-war-against-the-ukraine/; Revolutionary Tactics in the Struggle against Putin’s Mobilisation. On some issues of the program of defeatism under the current conditions of Russia’s war against the Ukraine, 28 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/revolutionary-tactics-in-the-struggle-against-putin-s-mobilisation/
 The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. The most important ones are several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/; by the same author: 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, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014 (this pamphlet contains a document written in 2001 in which we established for the first time our characterisation of Russia as imperialist), http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; see also these essays by the same author: Russia: An Imperialist Power or a “Non-Hegemonic Empire in Gestation”? A reply to the Argentinean economist Claudio Katz, in: New Politics, 11 August 2022, at https://newpol.org/russia-an-imperialist-power-or-a-non-hegemonic-empire-in-gestation-a-reply-to-the-argentinean-economist-claudio-katz-an-essay-with-8-tables/; Russian Imperialism and Its Monopolies, in: New Politics Vol. XVIII No. 4, Whole Number 72, Winter 2022, https://newpol.org/issue_post/russian-imperialism-and-its-monopolies/; Once Again on Russian Imperialism (Reply to Critics). A rebuttal of a theory which claims that Russia is not an imperialist state but would be rather “comparable to Brazil and Iran”, 30 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/once-again-on-russian-imperialism-reply-to-critics/. See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/.
 We refer readers to a special page on our website where more than 120 RCIT documents on the Ukraine War and the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/compilation-of-documents-on-nato-russia-conflict/. In particular we refer to the RCIT Manifesto: Ukraine War: A Turning Point of World Historic Significance. Socialists must combine the revolutionary defense of the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion with the internationalist struggle against Russian as well as NATO and EU imperialism, 1 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/manifesto-ukraine-war-a-turning-point-of-world-historic-significance/
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: A Marxist Slogan and its Caricature. On the social-imperialist distortion of the slogan “The Main Enemy Is At Home” in the context of the Ukraine War and the Taiwan Strait Crisis, 17 August 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-marxist-slogan-the-main-enemy-is-at-home-and-its-social-imperialist-distortion/; by the same author: The Ukraine War and the Second Sino-Japanese War: A Historical Analogy. The dual tactic of Marxists in the Ukraine War today draws on the approach of their predecessors in the war between China and Japan in 1937-41, 10 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-second-sino-japanese-war-a-historical-analogy/
 See on this e.g. See on this chapter 13 in the 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, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/great-robbery-of-the-south/; see also chapter XXVIII in another 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, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/.
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Russia and the Theory of “Lesser-Evil” Imperialism, On some Stalinists and “Trotskyists” who formally recognize Russia’s class character but reject the political consequences, 28 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/russia-and-the-theory-of-lesser-evil-imperialism/
 The RCIT has published a number of polemics against the KPRF’s social-chauvinist policy in the Ukraine War; see e.g. the pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: Putin’s Poodles (Apologies to All Dogs). The pro-Russian Stalinist parties and their arguments in the current NATO-Russia Conflict, 9 February 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/nato-russia-conflict-stalinism-as-putin-s-poodles/; by the same author: “Socialism” a la Putin and Zyuganov. On a telling dialogue between the Stalinist party leader and the Russian President, 13 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/socialism-a-la-putin/.
 See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Russia: Zyuganov Calls for “General Mobilisation” to defeat the Ukraine. The “communist” KPRF leader joins the long-standing demand of the hard-core sector of the Great Russian chauvinist camp a la Igor Strelkov, 13 September 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/russia-zyuganov-calls-for-general-mobilisation-to-defeat-the-ukraine/
 Open Letter to all Socialists in Russia: Unite in Fighting Russian Imperialism! Open Letter by the Socialist Tendency (Russia) and the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 12 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/open-letter-to-all-socialists-in-russia-12-07-2022/