The Leninist approach of the KKE
on imperialism and imperialist pyramid
Written contribution of the KKE
at the 9th International Conference of the CWPR
“Lenin and the contemporary era”
Source: Site KKE
The KKE has significant experience which absolutely confirms the Leninist position about the link between imperialism -as the highest stage of capitalism- and opportunism in the labour movement, an issue which of course is not related merely to Greece but to all capitalist countries.
It is not a coincidence that the economic essence of imperialism, which is the monopoly with its characteristic features, is underestimated or put aside by the communist parties which have adhered to opportunism either before or mainly after the victory of counterrevolution in the socialist countries.
The aim of this contribution is to present some basic positions of the Leninist approach of the KKE on imperialism, which are particularly valuable for the struggle against opportunism.
1.The term imperialism has become very fashionable recently, in Europe and in Greece, among forces which did not use this term that frequently or that easily in the previous years. The problem is that imperialism is being promoted as something different and discrete from capitalism, as a political concept detached from the economic basis, a position which was combatively advocated by the father of opportunism, Kautsky. Amongst other things, opportunism proves to be incapable of modernizing itself, it regurgitates Kautsky, resorts to anti-scientific arguments, focuses deliberately on the surface and not on the essence.
It is not in its interest and as a consequence it cannot see the total picture of the world capitalist economy in its international mutual relations. Whoever does not want to understand the economic essence of imperialism and on this basis to see the ideological political superstructure, is exonerating it, supporting it, fostering illusions among the workers and the people’s masses that there is both good and bad capitalism, good and ineffective bourgeois management. In the final analysis opportunism desires a capitalist society without its alleged deviations, labeling as a deviation the very laws of the capitalist economy and their consequences. It conceals from the peoples the class essence of war which it criticizes from a moral point of view due to its tragic consequences.
It fosters the illusion that capitalism can establish peace if the principles of equality and freedom are imposed, the political understanding between the rival capitalist counties, if rules are placed on capitalist competition.
2.Opportunism, reformism is repeating the most old, aged and outdated position as if it is something innovative namely that imperialism is identified with the military aggression against a country, with the policy of military interventions, blockades, with the effort to revive the old colonial policy.
In Europe the opportunists identify imperialism with Germany and what they call dogmatic authoritarian liberal viewpoint. The policy of the USA under the Obama administration is considered to be progressive due to its partial differences with its competitor Germany over the management of the crisis or it is considered to be imperialist only in relation to Latin America. The effort of the bourgeois class of France for instance or Italy to deal with the competition with German capitalism is regarded as progressive.
The basic position of opportunism in Greece is that the country is under German occupation, that it is being transformed or has been transformed into a colony and is being plundered primarily by Mrs. Merkel, the creditors. The triad of the representatives of the EU, the ECB and the IMF which supervise and determine the management of the internal or external debt, the fiscal deficits is seen as the main enemy apart from Germany itself. They accuse the bourgeois class of the country and the governmental parties as being treacherous, unpatriotic, subordinate and subservient towards Germany, the creditors or the bankers. Of course now that SYRIZA, as the new social democratic force, has undertaken the government, it has no problem with negotiating with the troika, Germany and signing new anti-people agreements.
3.Certain forces use arbitrarily the assessment of Lenin in his well-known work IMPERIALISM THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CAPITALISM that a handful, a very small number of states plunder the vast majority of the states across the globe. As a consequence, imperialism is being identified with a very small number of countries, which can be counted in the fingers of one hand while all the others are subordinate, oppressed, colonies, occupied due to their subservience to the liberal viewpoint.
Today there are few countries which are at the summit , in the first positions of the international imperialist system (it is illustrated with the scheme of a pyramid in order to show the various levels occupied by the capitalist countries) a handful of countries one could say according to the Leninist expression. But this does not mean that all the other capitalist countries are victims of the powerful capitalist states, that the bourgeois class of most countries has submitted to the pressure, despite its general interest that it has been corrupted. It does not mean that the struggle of the peoples must be directed against Germany in Europe while in the American continent it must have a direction merely against the US. It is not a coincidence that the opportunists in Greece present Brazil and Argentina as positive examples for the overcoming of the crisis, that they extol the policy of Obama.
Their persistence in denying the existence of the imperialist pyramid namely the existence of international imperialist system (talking about a very small number of countries which can be characterized imperialist mainly due to their hegemonic position and their ability to decide on the launching of a local or general war) is not at all accidental on the part of some people or a product of a mistaken view but conscious. Their willingness to undertake responsibilities in a bourgeois management government arises from this; sometimes in the name of the « country’s exit from the crisis » , the « salvation of the people from the humanitarian crisis », the « restoration of the country’s sovereignty » even the … « development of the productive forces, through state capitalism ».
Thus, in practice certain people defend the existence of a stage between capitalism and socialism, with the clear purpose on the one hand of ensuring that the working class will give up the struggle for working class power and on the other, to promise that in the distant and unspecified future capitalism will be transformed peacefully with reforms and without sacrifices into socialism, their own « socialism », which often provides for the cooexistence of capitalist ownership with some forms of self-management.
4.History shows that monopolies as a result of the concentration of capital, as a basic law of the contemporary stage of capitalism are the general tendency all over the world and that they can coexist along with pre-capitalist forms of economy and ownership. The emergence of monopolies and their development, their expansion and penetration is not taking place in all countries simultaneously, not even in neighbouring countries, but it definitely occurs in the same way, with capital export which prevails over the export of commodities. The emergence and strengthening of monopolies, even if they are restricted to several sectors at a national level, causes anarchy in the capitalist production as a whole. This was particularly characteristic in the 20th century and up to the present day in the imbalance of industrial and agricultural production, the imbalance regarding the development of the various industrial sectors. The policy of plundering, the policy of annexations, the policy of transforming states into protectorates, the policy of dismembering states is not a result of political immorality on the part of the strong imperialist, nor is it an issue of subservience and cowardice on the part of the bourgeois class of the country that experiences dependencies but an issue of capital export and unevenness at national and international level which is inherent in capitalism.
5.Greece is one of the characteristic examples which of course has a universal value because the phenomenon is not merely Greek. Our country has significant productive potential which was selectively developed in the course of capitalist development while the assimilation of the country in the EU and generally its relation with the global capitalist market led to an even bigger restriction of the utilization of its resources. We note briefly that Greece has significant energy resources, considerable mineral resources, industrial and agricultural production, crafts, that can cover a large part of the people’s needs. Nevertheless , as a result of the crisis and the whole course of the assimilation in the imperialist pyramid, Greece has been downgraded even further, it is dependent on imports while the Greek products remain unsold and are buried.
Like Kautsky contemporary opportunism divides capital into separate sections, it focuses its criticism on one of its forms. We remind ourselves that Kautsky regards as enemy merely a section of capital, industrial capital which follows an imperialist policy and attacks primarily on rural areas and thus it creates an imbalance between the development of industry and agriculture. The contemporary opportunists are supporting almost the same positions focusing their criticism merely on the banking system, the bankers, banking capital without taking into account –although they present themselves as Marxists- the merging of banking and industrial capital. The imbalances which manifest themselves even in powerful capitalist developed countries among the various sectors and branches are attributed to irrationality or to a tendency for speculation which they consider to be immoral as they make a distinction between profitability and speculation.
The opportunists and the nationalist parties in Greece are crying out that the bourgeois class the Greek state and the bourgeois parties are not patriotic, but treacherous. In reality the bourgeois class in our country as well as its parties are very well aware of the fact that the accession in an imperialist union is preferable, even under unequal conditions, because only in that way they can claim a part of the loot, and hope for an external political-military support in case that the class struggle rises, so that they can break the movement with the assistance of the military mechanisms of the EU and NATO. The patriotism of the bourgeois class is identified with the defense of the rotten capitalist system.
In conditions when the inter-imperialist and the global contradictions lead to a military conflict then the Greek bourgeois class will have to choose which powerful imperialist power to side with , on the side of which imperialist alliance it will fight alongside for the division of the markets, in the hope of taking even a small part.
It is impossible for the bourgeois class to defend the sovereign rights for the benefit of the people. It will even ignore its own particular interests so as not to lose its power, so that it holds onto it for as long as possible.
6.When Lenin spoke about a handful of countries that plunder a large number of countries, he was highlighting with many examples and details, a variety of forms of looting regarding colonial, semi-colonial and non-colonial countries. A small number of countries are found at the summit of the pyramid, as finance capital (one of the 5 basic characteristics of capitalism in its imperialist stage as the merger of banking and industrial capital) spreads its tentacles to every country in the world.
The position regarding a « handful of countries » defines various forms of relations between the capitalist countries which are characterised by unevenness, this is what the pyramid describes in order to illustrate the global capitalist economy.
Above all, Lenin clarified that imperialism is monopoly capitalism, it is the global capitalist economy, it is the prelude for the socialist revolution in every country.
Lenin clarified the characteristics of imperialism: concentration of production and capital, merger of banking and industrial capital and the creation of a financial oligarchy, the export of capital, the formation of international monopoly unions. As regards international relations, he connected imperialism directly with the emergence of finance capital in the imperialist stage of capitalism and its dire necessity to continuously expand the economic terrain and beyond the national borders, with the aim of driving out competitors. The displacement of competitors can take place more easily through colonization, as well as through the transformation of a colony into an independent political state so that the capitalist country-metropolis will displaced and another capitalist power emerging via the export of capital and direct foreign investments will take its place. A significant and extremely illustrative example was the difference in stance between the colonialist Britain and the emerging Germany as an imperialist power.
7.The re-division of the world at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century which Lenin referred to was between the strongest capitalist countries, but the other capitalist states were not at all uninvolved and passive regarding the game concerning the distribution of the markets. The strong capitalist countries divided up not only the colonies but also the non colonized countries, while next to the major colonial powers there were small colonial powers via which the new colonial expansion began. Indeed he mentioned small states that maintained colonies, when the large colonial powers could not agree over the division.
Indeed Lenin stressed that the colonial political line also existed in pre-capitalist societies, but that what distinguishes the capitalist colonial policy is that it is based on the monopoly. He underlined that the variety of relations between the capitalists states in the period of imperialism become a general system, they are part of the entirety of the relations in the division of the world, they are transformed into links in the chain of the actions of global finance capital. The relations of dependence and the looting of the raw materials appear at the expense of non-colonized countries, i.e. states with political independence even more so than in the period referred to by Lenin.
After the Second World War and the formation of the international socialist system, out of necessity there was the maximum rallying of imperialism against the forces of socialism-communism and its aggressiveness intensified. Under the impact of the new correlation of forces the dissolution of the French and British colonial empires rapidly began. The strongest capitalist states were forced to recognise the independence of the nation states, under the pressure from the national independence movements which enjoyed the many-sided support and solidarity of the socialist countries, of the labour and communist movement.
In the post-war period, a series of countries were not fully incorporated into the military-political and economic unions of imperialism, as they had the possibility of forming economic relations with the socialist countries, despite the fact that the correlation of forces remained in favour of capitalism. The variety of relations, interdependencies as well as obligations in the framework of the global capitalist market is borne out once again.
In the last decade of the 20th century the situation started to change. The now mature and strongest capitalist countries, which are at the top of the pyramid, follow a different pro-monopoly political line, particularly under the impact of the economic capitalist crisis in 1973. The contemporary strategy for supporting capitalist profitability, in conditions of emerging competition and more rapid internationalization, abandons the neo-keynesian formulas which were useful especially in countries which had suffered from the destruction of war. It proceeds with extensive privatizations, strengthens the export of capital, ceases and gradually abolishes concessions it had made particularly social ones, with the aim of curbing the labour movement which was influenced by the gains of socialism and mainly to buy off a part of the working class and intermediate social strata.
This is demonstrated by the fact that the contemporary pro-monopoly political line has a global character, and is not related to a contingent form of management but a strategic choice, as anti-worker and anti-people measures are being taken to deal with the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, in nearly all the countries, and not just in the EU, but beyond it, including Latin America. The measures which aim at abolishing working class gains are being taken both by liberal and by social-democratic governments, both by the centre-right and by the centre-left.
8.The capitalist restoration provided the opportunity for imperialism to unleash a new wave of attacks with less resistance, with the assistance of opportunism which had strengthened, while new markets were formed in the former socialist countries. A result was that the unity of the leading powers against socialism relaxed, something which had previously relegated the contradictions between them into the background. A new round of inter-imperialist contradictions flared up for the division of new markets, which resulted in the wars in the Balkans, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. States, which are not incorporated into the imperialist inter-state unions, took part in these wars, proof that the imperialist exists as a global system, and all the capitalist countries are incorporated in it, even countries with elements of backwardness and remnants of pre-capitalist economic forms. The leading powers are at its summit, there is a tough competition between them and whatever agreements they come to have a temporary character.
At the end of the 20th century there were three imperialist centres as they were formed after the World War, the European Economic Community which later became the EU, the USA and Japan. Today the number of imperialist centres has increased, while new forms of alliance have also emerged such as the alliance centred on Russia, the alliance of Shanghai, the alliance of BRICS, the alliance MERCOSUR etc.
The capitalist countries at the summit are not the only ones that implement an imperialist political line, the ones at the lower levels also do, even those which have strong dependencies on the stronger powers as regional and local powers. For example, Turkey is such a power in our region today, as well as Israel, Arab states and such forces through which monopoly capital acquires new terrain in Africa, Asia, Latin America, as a consequence we have the phenomenon of dependency and inter-dependency.
9.The dependency and interdependency of the economies are not of course equal and are determined by the economic strength of each country as well as certain other military-political elements, according to the particular bonds of an alliance.
And even if several countries are at the highest level in terms of capitalist internationalization, in the re-division of markets, they still exist in a regime of interdependence on other countries. For example, Germany may be the leading power in Europe but its exports of capital and industrial commodities are dependent on the capacity of the European countries to absorb them. The course of the US economy is dependent on China to a great extent as well as on the opposed interests in the EU. The battle of the dollar, euro and yen is visible.
The number of states is increasing which are regional powers, satellites of strong imperialist powers, countries which play a particular role in the alliance and partnership policy of the various powers in the pyramid. The inter-imperialist contradictions are in effect in every form of alliance, and all these multi-facetted relations, which embrace every capitalist country in the world without exception, constitute the imperialist pyramid.
10.Our reference to this does not at all imply that we agree with positions concerning « ultra-imperialism », as some mistakenly accuse us of. On the contrary! We always highlight that inside the imperialist system, which we liken to a pyramid, strong contradictions continue to develop and manifest themselves between the imperialist states, the monopolies for the control of raw materials, the transport routes, the market shares etc. The bourgeoisie can form a joint front for the most efficient exploitation of the workers, but it will always sharpen the knives, when there is imperialist « plunder » to be divided up.
Lenin as is very well-known had used the schema of the « chain ». The schema which we use on every occasion is a way for us to help the workers understand the reality of imperialism as monopoly capitalism, capitalism which is rotting and dying, in which every capitalist country is incorporated based on its strength ( economic, political, military etc.). Something of course, which comes in to clear conflict with the so-called « cultural approach » towards imperialism, which like Kautsky did, detaches the political line of imperialism from its economy. As Lenin stressed, such an approach will lead us to the mistaken assessment that the monopolies in the economy can co-exist with a non-monopoly, non-violent, non-predatory manner of activity in politics.
11.Uneven development becomes even more apparent not only between the strongest capitalist countries in comparison to the weaker ones and also in the hard core of the strongest countries. It is characteristic that in Europe the gap between Germany on the one hand and France-Italy on the other is widening. But the most important and characteristic phenomenon is the reduction of the shares of the USA, EU and Japan in the Gross World Product. The Eurozone no longer maintains the second position, it has fallen to third place, while it has been replaced by China in second place. The share of China, India in the Gross World Product has increased while the shares of BRICS remain stable.
The theses of the 19th Congress of the KKE underline that the changes in the correlation of forces between the capitalist states increases the possibility of a total repositioning of Germany regarding the issue of Euro-Atlantic relations and the realignment of the imperialist axes. Decisive factors for this development are on the one hand the relations of inter-dependence of the EU-USA economies, on the other hand the competition between the euro and dollar as international reserve currencies and the strengthening of the cooperation between Russia and China.
12.All this evidence confirms from this standpoint that the contemporary struggle must have an anti-monopoly, anti-capitalist direction, in no instance can it only be anti-imperialist with the content the opportunists give to this term, who identify imperialism with an aggressive foreign policy, with war, with the so-called national question – detached from class exploitation, from the relations of ownership and power.
13.The contemporary opportunists when they want to underline the need for their own bourgeois class not to be the poor relation in the division of the markets, remember the national question, however when the issue is the struggle for socialism they then proclaim that either socialism will be global or that it cannot be realized in one country, they eliminate the national terrain of struggle, i.e. they excommunicate the need to sharpen the class struggle, the need for the subjective factor to be ready in the revolutionary situation.
14.The struggle for the liberation of man from every form of exploitation, the struggle against the imperialist war, cannot have a positive development, when it is not combined with the struggle against opportunism. Regardless of the political strength of opportunism in each country, it must not be under-estimated or judged using parliamentary criteria, as the root of opportunism is to be found in the imperialist system itself, because the bourgeoisie when it sees that it cannot stably manage its affairs supports opportunism as a widespread view and as a political party, in order to buy time, to regroup the bourgeois political system, to undermine the stable rise of the revolutionary labour movement.
15.The concentration of forces, the alliance of the working class with the poor strata of the self-employed due to the objective conditions must develop in a stable anti-monopoly anti-capitalist direction, to be directed towards the acquisition of working class power. The anti-monopoly anti-capitalist direction expresses the necessary but advanced compromise between the interests of the working class in abolishing every form of capitalist ownership, large, medium, small and the strata that vacillate due to their nature (because of their position in the capitalist economy) but have an interest in abolishing the monopolies, socialising the concentrated means of production. At the same time they are permeated by the illusion that they have an interest in small-scale private ownership, they cannot understand that both their medium-term and long-term interests can be served by socialist power.
The KKE in the conditions of a non-revolutionary situation seeks not only to prevent the downward spiral, not only to win even some temporary concessions, but to prepare the subjective factor, i.e. the party, the working class and its allies for the realization of its strategic tasks in a revolutionary situation. In these conditions, which cannot be predicted in advance, the deepening of the economic crisis must be taken into account, the sharpening of the inter-imperialist contradictions which reach the point of military conflicts, it is possible that such pre-conditions and developments will be created in Greece. In the conditions of the revolutionary situation, the role of the organizational and political readiness of the vanguard of the labour movement, the Communist Party, is decisive for the rallying and revolutionary orientation of the majority of the working class, especially of the industrial proletariat, to attract the leading sections of the popular strata.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SECTION OF THE CC OF THE KKE