The Other Imperialists: Britain and Russia

While it is clear to most progressives that US imperialism is the most aggressive and hegemonic imperialist power in the world today, many have overlooked or even tailed the other imperialists and their machinations. All the imperialists are a source of war as they were in 1914 and 1939. None offer progress or liberation for the peoples. Some leftists down play or white wash the other imperialist great powers and their aggression, Two of the main rival imperialists are Britain and Russia. The past four years has seen Britain and Russia militarily posturing with each other in the English Channel, in the air off the coast of East Anglia and in the Baltic. They have both accused each other for the poisoning of a former double agent in Salisbury, England and Britain has encouraged other European countries to expel Russian diplomats and impose economic sanctions.

British imperialism is today still one of the most powerful and aggressive imperialist countries. The British military is the fifth largest in the world; it possess bases in a number of countries. It is involved directly or indirectly in fifteen countries and islands abroad; in Cyprus, Brunei, Germany and the South Atlantic. It is still occupying six counties in the north of Ireland and has troops in Afghanistan.

From its bases in Cyprus British imperialism has access to the Mediterranean in order to guard against its Russian rival and has easy access to the current conflict in Syria. The people of Ireland and Afghanistan have been terrorised up to the present day by the British military.

Lenin analysed that the underlying fundamental condition of imperialism is economics, the absolute need of monopoly capitalism to expand markets and obtain resources and labour for exploitation. However he also demonstrated that once imperialism gets going it cannot allow any other imperialist rival and will attempt to take and dominate any territories it believes are of strategic importance, even if they are not, to secure domination. The ideological motivation through national chauvinism and racism take on a material force of its own and determine many activities of the imperialist state. Where, for example, is the logic in the British imperialists continued occupation of Ireland?

In order to maintain strategic dominance British imperialism has bases and troops ever ready for combat in Germany, long after the end of the Cold War, in order to maintain pressure on the Russian imperialists. In recent years Britain through the NATO alliance has troops stationed in the Baltic states and RAF bombers close to the Russian border. Along with their US counterpart the British claim they uphold ‘international law’ against ‘rougue states’. This means that in reality they want to discipline other nations in their favour!

London is the centre of world finance capital. There is a vast recycling of debt and trade of commodities and shares in the City. Much of the accumulated debt and interest of the world flows through the City making large profits and salaries for brokers, traders and middling elements in finance, banking and corporate legal advice. Much of this debt is extracted from the oppressed nations and this enriches the City financiers. The parasitic nature of the British economy means that it will never allow its prominance in the world to diminish while it still can defend it. As a result, much of the tax paid to the Treasury by the working class and middle strata in Britain goes on ‘defence’ and ‘deterrence’, something which Marx had observed nearly a century and a half ago. The British monopoly capitalist class and their servants benefit from this domination. The working class in Britain is exploited and oppressed by them as well as the people in the nations it oppresses. Obviously in the latter the terror and oppression is far more extreme.  However these terror methods employed in countries such as Ireland and Afghanistan soon make their way to Britain as ‘anti-terror’ laws or methods to contain working class resistance or unrest.

There are some leftists in Britain such as the left in the Labour Party and the Stop the War coalition who ignore Britain’s imperialist role in the world and have claimed it is the US which controls Britain. The old Labourcrat Tony Benn claimed that Britain is now a colony or aircraft carrier to the US but this is whitewashing the power and strength of British imperialism.

The other Great Power in Europe and the main antagonist of Britain and the US is Russian imperialism. Much of the left in the West whitewash Russian imperialism. It is correct to oppose our own imperialist masters first and foremost but we cannot ignore the others as they must all be defeated. The principal contradiction in the world is the imperialists oppressing the Third World countries, that is, all the imperialists. Modern Russian imperialism emerged from the ruins of Soviet social imperialism and is an attempt to revive Tsarist imperialism which lasted until the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. At the present time Russian imperialism is challenging the US hegemony and has intervened in several countries bordering Russia, most recently Syria, and forming alliances with the countries moving away from US influence.

The oppressed countries, the neocolonies pass from one imperialist to another.  As Lenin said, they can never really be independent. Within the imperialist system there is a hierarchy of nations. Lenin was also quite clear that no modern imperialist could be acting on behalf of any ptogtrssive movement in his article ‘Under a False Flag’. The means by which the representatives of modern revisionism overcome this is to claim that neither Russia nor China are imperialist at all through all kinds of theoretical summersaults. This revisionist argument ignores the uneven development of capitalism. In this instance Russian imperialism has a lower percentage of export capital than the US or Britain. It also does not have colonies but certainly countries like Georgia, Uzbekistan and Syria are neo-colonies. The Russian imperialists maintain a large conscript army and under Putin are moving towards a professional army like Britain, already introducing a better equipped volunteer service. They also have sophisticated ballastic missile systems and a large stock pile of nuclear weapons which they can use to blackmail other countries as and when such a time arises.

Historically Russian imperialism has always been less successful, it has always arrived at the dinner table when all the seats have been taken by other imperialists as is the case now. It therefore needs to grab a place at the table and Britain and the US want to stop them getting a seat for fear of losing their own seats. Hence all the imperialist Great Powers are a source of war and the proletariat can take no side in such a war. ‘Neither King nor Kaiser’ was the slogan of the Irish proletariat in World War One. All the imperialists exploit the ideology of Great Power chauvinism and threaten weaker nations. In Eastern Europe Poland and the Baltic states are now dominated by NATO and the European Union. Russia would rather it could dominate them through the new Eurasian Union. Neither side represents the interests of the proletariat and popular classes in these countries and none will uphold their independent development.

The current war in Syria demonstrates how the imperialists not only oppress the weaker countries but also fight their wars within these countries by proxy. The parasitism of imperialism now brings their military conflicts into the oppressed countries, making them pay a heavy price the imperialist rivalry.

In order to oppose all the imperialists and the threat of war communists must fight to overthrow their own imperialist state and in the meantime try as best as they can to disrupt its military adventures. The exposing of the crimes of all the imperialists and and showing solidarity with those who oppose the other imperialists is also essential.