A Marxist Position Regarding Russian Imperialism

Georgian Communists

In the history of the early development of Marxism, the question of imperialism was central, shared. The final demarcation between the opportunistic line of the Second International and revolutionary Marxism occurred in 1914, at the beginning of the First World War. Under Lenin, the left-wing minority of the socialist movement signed an agreement in Zimmerwald, the commitment of which to all the Communists means adherence to the basic principles of the class struggle. This agreement meant an implacable struggle against imperialism and the Social Democrats subordinate to it. Based on this history, we adhere to the position that Leninism is the Marxism of the era of imperialism. Today, in the early era of the aggravation of inter-imperialist antagonism, the strengthening of Russian and Chinese imperialisms, the beginning of the international imperialist conflict, Georgian Marxists are obliged to immediately raise the issue of Russia, assess the attitude of the Georgian and international working class towards Russia and oppose the opportunistic mystification of the issue.

The beginning of Russia’s transformation into a modern imperialist country must be sought first of all where Russian capitalism begins. This in turn will lead us to the Soviet Union. After the coup of 1953, the revisionist layers of the Communist Party were finally able to completely consolidate power, thereby starting in the country of October a process of complete restoration of capitalism and the elimination of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It was difficult to bring this process to its logical conclusion within the framework of the socialist system, so the collapse of the Soviet Union became necessary. In recent years, under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union began to make huge concessions to the Western imperialist powers. Decades before Gorbachev, the Communist Party adopted an idealistic and opportunistic thesis about “peaceful coexistence”, but this policy took on a completely different scale under his leadership. In 1987, as a result of the new political course of Yakovlev and Shevardnadze, the conflict between the Western and Soviet worlds forever disappeared.

Together with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Gorbachev, with the support of the leaders of the world counter-revolution, became one of the founding fathers of the new era, in which the antagonistic ‘two’ came into harmony, “ideal” global capital. In the 1987-90s, the Soviet Army was halved, the Council of Economic Mutual Assistance and the Warsaw Pact were abolished. Restructuring destroys the economy, the East Bank collapses and the Soviet Union eventually breaks up. The leadership of post-Soviet Russia passes into the hands of the comprador bourgeoisie, unshakably standing on guard of Western neocolonial interests. The then comprador bourgeoisie, with its politicians and ideologists, with its Yeltsin and separatism, advocated the neo-liberalisation of the entire post-Soviet space. Under President Yeltsin, Russia took over the debts of not only the Soviet Union, but also the Provisional Government and tsarist Russia, thus becoming the vassal state of the West. In 2000, a young, charismatic, pro-American president, Vladimir Putin, left the ranks of the comprador bourgeoisie. Putin spoke at international conferences about the western choice of Russia and cooperation with NATO, which in the eyes of the West portrayed him as a sober successor to Yeltsin. At this point, at least in the eyes of the West, everything was going according to plan, although changes in Russia’s domestic policy were gradually beginning to radically change the situation in the country. In exchange for the fact that the oligarchs ceased to hide their income, the state abolished its tax policy; the government guaranteed the ruling class the preservation of the achievements of privatization. New rules were established, and the naughty Putin capitalists left the game. The Russian oligarchy invited representatives of the repressive state apparatus (the police, the army, security) to the political elite. Their number in ministries increased from 11.2% to 42.3% from 1993 to 2008. In other words, Putin begins to consolidate the national bourgeoisie in Russia, which will gradually develop into an imperialist bourgeoisie. Putin’s rise in power coincides with a huge increase in oil prices, especially in 2007. The oligarchs, who retained control of oil and gas, suddenly found themselves in a favourable position. The economy began to grow by 5-10% per year. The number of dollar billionaires has increased since 2001 by 14 times (8 in 2002, 111 in 2014). The growth of wealth has reduced the demand for external debt, and Russia has become a bold player in the international arena. Relations between Russia and the West were further complicated by the fact that Western capital has reigned in the post-Soviet space on a devastated restructuring since the 1990s.

After the “Rose Revolution” The Kremlin felt it was losing influence in neighbouring territories. Russia has intensified its role in Abkhazia and Ossetia, distributing Russian passports to local residents, launching special services and laying the foundation for the conflict, culminating in the 2008 war. Where today is “liberated” Russia Abkhazia and Ossetia? Ossetia — is the economic puppet of Russia, which it uses to smuggle sub-sanction goods. For example, in order to avoid sanctions, Donbass coal mining companies are registered in Ossetia, from where goods are transported to Russia, and from Russian ports — to Europe. The situation in Abkhazia is even more interesting: in 2020, the “Programme for the Formation of a Common Socio-Economic Space between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia” was signed. First of all, the agreement provides for the “resolution” of the issue of Abkhaz and Russian citizenship. 90% of the population of Abkhazia already has Russian citizenship, so the question arises of what to “decide” here”? The purchase of real estate in Abkhazia is limited for foreign citizens, but the agreement will greatly facilitate the acquisition of citizenship of Abkhazia for Russian investors. In addition, the conditions for creating the legal framework necessary to attract investment in the energy sector are indicated. According to the agreement, the activities of Russian banks in Abkhazia will be intensified, financial assistance will be provided to Russians wishing to acquire real estate in Abkhazia, it will be easier for banks to own real estate in Abkhazia. Russia also assumes responsibility for the health care, education and social security of Abkhazia. In addition, the conditions for creating the legal framework necessary to attract investment in the energy sector are indicated.

Now let’s go beyond our region and analyze the place of Russian capital in the international market. Based on empirical data, facts that reveal the imperialist nature of the Russian state can be cited. The concentration of capital in Russia is reflected not only in production, but also in trade: small entrepreneurs and traders are actively crowding out trading networks belonging to monopolies from the market. For example, “Beer», «Crossroads», «Carousel» and «Kopeika» are part of group X5. The share of financial assets concentrated in the banking sector in Russia is 85-90%. Given that the largest corporations and banks are wholly or partially owned by the state, we can say that capitalism in Russia has a state-monopoly form.

We can start analyzing capital exports with direct investment. Russia’s foreign direct investment amounted to $500 billion in 1998-2013, which amounted to 23.4% of Russia’s gross domestic product in 2013 (4.9% in 1999). Figures for other G7 countries: United Kingdom – 74.4%, France – 59.7%, Germany – 47.1%, Canada – 40.3%, United States – 37.5%, Italy – 28.9%, Japan – 20.1%.

On the other hand, we can observe indirect investments (portfolio investment), which means passive ownership and purchase of shares by an investor. Information on indirect investments of Russia is available for 2002-2013. During this period, 256 billion dollars were exported from Russia.

The export of capital in the form of the import of labour is one of the most obvious examples of imperialism. While part of the worker’s wages is returning to his home country, the surplus value received from their labour goes into the profits of the imperialist country. Russia ranked seventeenth in the world in exploiting the cheap labour of migrants in 2000, and remittances sent by workers to their homeland amounted to $1.1 billion. In 2013, with a fortune of $37.2 billion, it came out on second place (after the United States), ahead of Saudi Arabia ($35 billion), Switzerland ($30.1 billion), Germany ($19.6 billion) and France ($13.4 billion). Luxembourg ($11.9 billion) and the Netherlands ($11.4 billion).

We will be asked: “after all, Russia forgives the debts of the countries of the global South?” to which we will be happy to answer: how it forgives. The Soviet Union actively financed the countries that were again freed from Western colonialism, and after the collapse of the socialist camp, the role of the debtor went to the Russian Federation. Since 2000, there have been reports in the media that an impoverished, devastated and devastated Russia has begun to forgive debts to different countries. Forgiveness of debts to developing countries — are old tactics of the imperialists, guaranteeing preferential conditions for their future investments. The Putin bourgeoisie quickly learned this lesson and set to work. Russia has forgiven various countries $140 billion in debt for 18 years. North Korea was forgiven for $11 billion in debt, but in return, Russian corporations got the right to restore the railway network, which totaled a project of $25 billion. They forgave debts to Guinea in exchange for gaining control over the extraction of bauxite in their territory. She forgave Syria’s debts for 2005, and in return received a contract for the purchase of military weapons, so the Russian military industry receives good profit from the war in Syria. The debt was forgiven in Iraq, in exchange for which the private company “Lukoil” was allowed to work in Iraq. Russia is focused on enriching its own bourgeoisie by writing off public debt and external expansion of Russian capital.

Let’s get back to the post-Soviet space. In Ukraine (till the Maidan), Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Uzbekistan, Russian capital was mainly invested in metallurgy, mining, oil and oil refineries, real estate, wholesale networks, food industry, telecommunications and finance. The largest volume of Russian investments was concentrated in Ukraine, as one of the largest economic regions of the post-Soviet space. By 2014, Russian business in Ukraine controlled 80% of oil refineries and military-industrial complex, transport and engineering, gas and metallurgical complexes. It also owned 150 objects in Crimea. A materialistic view of the question makes it possible to understand what intentions are behind the expansionist policy of Russia in Ukraine. In 2014, the “Maidan revolution” takes place, which frees Ukraine from the grip of Russian capital and puts it in the greedy throat of Western capital. You do not need to be a Marxist to understand that the subsequent events were not a coincidence. Imperialist aggression against Ukraine on February 24 — was another attempt by Russian capital to regain «its» tidbit.

Speaking about modern imperialism, it is enough to discuss economic and political aspects, but no less important for our analysis should be the consideration of the ideology — of this greatest weapon of the bourgeoisie. Ideology is a reflection of the base, expressing its interests, serving to maintain its sustainability. Here, Russia has two most important mechanisms: one international and the other local. The Russian ideological apparatus is not satisfied with the expropriation of the Great Patriotic War; at the same time, Putin’s Russia was able to rehabilitate the imperialist white generals who personified the enchanting form of Russian fascism. Right-wing imperialist forces today — Russian national heroes, proud warriors. Unlike Lenin and his revolution, which, according to President Putin, was a conspiracy and a coup, hated Russian people. It is easy to understand why Putin hates Lenin: Lenin was an anti-imperialist and supporter of the nation’s right to self-determination, which is incompatible with the modern Russian state, its ideology and politics.

The second ideological trick of the Russian bourgeoisie (much more dangerous, given its international influence) —is the exploitation of the Soviet heritage. Russia is actively using the old concept of Soviet Russia, according to which Russia is a state which is supporting the anti-imperialist struggle of oppressed peoples. The primary task of imperialism is — to destroy or absorb its main enemies. The West has known this for a long time. This function is performed by American and European NGOs in imperialised countries. To counter them, Russia has its own agencies. Russia Today, for example, often provides a platform for those radical left-wing thinkers who are becoming less and less acceptable in Western media. The Russian bourgeoisie with characteristic treachery and manipulativeness speaks in its country about the virtues of tsarism, about an unhappy royal family, the kindness of fascist groups, the greatness of the Church, and at the international level uses its stands to criticize homophobia in Eastern Europe, expose the outrage of conservatism, criticize liberalism, and highlight information about international left movements. “Obviously, — some Russian communists will say, — that we do not agree with the cultural propaganda of the Russian government, but we will not forget how Russia helps international anti-imperialist movements». They remind us of Syria, about Venezuela, point to the sweetened partnership of “communist” China with Russia. In fact, the struggle for Venezuela and Syria — is an inter-imperialist conflict, where Russia uses antagonism with the West for the sake of its economic and geopolitical interests. We have already mentioned Russia’s relations with Syria, but in fact this story does not end with the purchase of military equipment. In Syria, “The Islamic State” seized most of the oil field and began selling local oil at a low price through Turkey, which Russian corporations could not allow. Russia had the opportunity to seize oil companies itself, and she did it. In the best traditions of imperialism, tanks have always been followed by capital, and since 2015, Russian companies have invaded Syria. In 2019, the Syrian parliament adopted a resolution allowing two Russian companies to develop oil and gas. The total area occupied by these oil companies is up to 12 thousand square kilometers, and the volume of gas in these fields is 3.4 trillion cubic meters. In Syria, these corporations use the Wagner Group to defend themselves, but we will talk about it later. Russia also hunts for oil in Venezuela, where the United States threatened to impose sanctions against the Russian company “Rosneft” in an attempt to curb Russian influence, in response to which “Rosneft” transferred oil companies in Venezuela to a Russian state corporation. The bourgeois-democratic governments that have won in countries oppressed by Western imperialism are gradually losing their status and moving to the positions of the comprador bourgeoisie, this moves them to the control of the capital of Russia and China.

Before moving on to the conclusion, let’s say a few words about the “Wagner group”. Wagner’s group, whose name is inspired by the Third Reich, was founded by Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian lieutenant. Its current leader is Putin’s closest supporter, Russian billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin. The group is a private military company that directly armed itself and participated in various international conflicts in Crimea, Donbass, Syria, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Second Civil War in Libya, Mozambique, Mali; has armed groups in Zimbabwe, Angola, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau. An interesting parallel — is the American private military company Blackwater, which conducted similar “Wagnerites” operations in Iraq. The company that belongs to Prigozhin «Lobaye Invest» is engaged in diamond mining, gold and other minerals in the Central African Republic since 2018. On July 31, 2018, Wagnerians killed a group of journalists who arrived in the Central African Republic to investigate the military and economic activities of «Lobaye Invest» and Wagner’s group. Such operations are carried out with the full support of the Russian government.

In conclusion, we must return to the beginning, to the Second International, Zimmerwald and Lenin. From the very first day of the European Social Democratic movement, disputes have been ongoing on important theoretical and practical issues, although the main reason for the collapse of the International lies in the First World War. The international socialist movement legitimized fundamentally anti-Marxist, anti-internationalist discourse, which sought to distinguish and support “the best” or “the less bad” empires. Today, like a hundred years ago, socialists can sit down and decide which empire is the most «evil» and «harmful». They can, and as socialists, have the right to do so, but not as Marxists. The counter-revolutionary discourse of the empire deceived not only the right-wing social democrats, but also momentarily such ideologists of the proletariat as Antonio Gramsci. That is what Lenin stood out for saying that in the imperialist war we must fight not only against any international manifestation of imperialism, but also that the working class of the imperialist country (in this case, the Russian proletariat) must do everything so that his country is defeated. This, of course, can mean material and physical sacrifices for the proletariat, but where was liberation, revolution and internationalism without such victims? Real Leninist Marxists are different from the ideological successors of the Mensheviks, the social imperialists and revisionists of “21st Century Socialism” in that they remain committed to communist theory and principles. Communists have always opposed any country whose prosperity and strengthening is due to the subordination and enslavement of the world proletariat.

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