on imperialism

what are the differences on imperialism between you (ICT ) and (ICC)


It is always difficult to answer a question which refers to another organisation as there is always a danger you misrepresent the other one. I suspect that our basic framework is the same in the sense that we both see that capitalism is in its imperialist or decadent phase and that imperialism is not just a policy that the capitalists can change but refers to the stage that the system has reached. All communist left organisations are internationalist which means we condemn all powers as imperialist and don't identify or support any of the actors on the world stage as the Trotskyists frequently do (sometimes lining up on opposite sides as they vainly look for a progressive capitalist cause to support!). There are no progressive states to support (a position we all agreed on since at least 1914) but all participate at one level or another in internecine competition for the world's resources. Going by past polemics against us it seems that we stress more the materialist motives of imperialism whilst the ICC seem to insist that things like pursuit of energy security for example are less important than strategic considerations. We don't see much of separation between the economic needs and the strategic needs of capitalism. In the current period another difference appears to be the ICC's notion that after the Cold War the era of international alliances or blocs is now a thing of the past. For them we are in a world where it is a "war of all against all". We think this is short-term and premature. There have been periods in capitalist history where the the line up between imperialist powers has taken time to form (after 1870 for ecample) and sometimes different powers are dragged by different interest groups within their ruling class first towards one international alliance then towards another. The current post-1989 process is still ongoing but we can discern a permanent opposition to the US New World Order coming from China and Russia (they still have obstacles to overcome to take that relationship further but increasingly they work together in the international arena). Overall we share (with all communust left organisations) the same class positions in the international arena even if our methodological approach is slightly different. We are all agreed that capitalism in its imperialist stage is recurringly crisis-ridden and the ultimate outcome can only be socialism or barbarism.

This is a very nice and generous reply Cleishbottom. To a sort of outsider reader like myself I get the impression from it that there aren't really any great differences between you and the ICC at all - apart from a "methodological approach" which concept needs some elaboration to make it understandable. But I suppose what remains are bruises from the distant past, which still ache from time to time, and serve as reminders of past fights.

And thanks to Amir for asking the question.

But you, them and us, we all agree that capitalism in its imperialist stage is recurringly crisis-ridden, and the ultimate outcome can only be socialism or barbarism.

"we don't see much of separation between the economic needs and the strategic needs of capitalism " this kind of thought its origin comes from Lenin which insisted on prinicple aim of war as plunder, Lenin's thought is more description of some of imperialism's outward effects. this sound is little mechanical today. but ICC say in this period of decline of capitalism, war more and more represents an economic and social disaster. this absence of economic rationality of war doesn't mean that each national capital abstains from plundering the productive force of the adversary or the vanquished.

the economic balance sheet of the war in Iraq led by the USA is one example as many other that don't at all come down on the side of - profitability - .

Amir Your response appears to be disappointing in a number of ways. I say "appears" because it is not clear what you are trying to say but, in response to our attempt to avoid misrepresenting others, you appear to be putting arguments into our mouths which are not only not our arguments but are historically wrong. Our view is based on the historical materialist method of Marx who did not live to see the imperialist epoch but pointed to the need for foreign trade as one of the counter-tendencies to the falling rate of profit. Imperialism itself arises from the process of concentration and centralisation of capital (itself a result of the cyucles of accumulation produced by the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall) which over time transforms capitalist competition from the level of the individual firm to that of the nation state (you can read all this in the pdf of our basic statement For Communism you will find on the side panel of this site). You will find there too that we criticise the weakness of Lenin's view that colonialism was the only form of imperialism. And Lenin did not identify "plunder" (although he talks of it) as the mainspring of imperialism but the export of capital (in this he was substantially right). However imperialist motives are complex and do not necessarily follow an accountant's logic. In the Nineteenth century for example the only colony that produced a profit was British India. This did not stop the scarmble for Africa or other colonies because the EXPECTATION of the imperialists was that one day they would make a profit and, in any case, for the moment it was enough to deny their rivals from any possible gain. The example of Iraq is much more complicated still and you should check out our writings on this. Iraq was attacked on the most flimsy evidence by the US (with Blair's UK tagging along) not because it had weapons of mass destruction or supported international terrorism (Saddam had kicked Al Qaeda out of Iraq) but because Iraq had begun to trade its oil in currencies other than the dollar. This was not an immediate threat to the US buy if Iran, Venezuela and then others followed the whole US domination of the world economy based on everyone else using the dollar and thus paying for US debts then the whole edifice of the "American century" would be threatened. Thus it is not the fact that Iraq gave the US no financial gain but the fact that after Saddam was removed no-one else has threatened US domination by this means. You could say that in the short term the policy has been a success for US imperialism but a disaster for a good part of the people of the Middle East. In the longer term the results of US actions may end up biting it with unforeseen imperialist consequences but that remains to be seen.

On the subject of irrationality it is true that capitalism is a priori an irrational system (but it has been since it became the dominant mode of production!) and full of contradictions but as long as it can manage those contradictions (and prevent a unified working class response) then it can still exist on its irrational basis. Furthermore the way the ICC are using "irrationality" is troubling. It is like a substitute for an analysis. Just saying everything is chaos and we are in the period of decomposition is not a perspective and even less of an explanation. It is like the post-modernist deconstructional game of reducing every argument to nothing so that in the end all rational attempts to understand contradictory phenomena are pointless. As we have said many times, this is a long way from a Marxist materialist method. If you want to discuss with us the starting point is to read what we actually write and not accept the false arguments of others unquestioningly.

Dear Comrades, and Cleishbotham,

you talk about different " methodological approaches" with ICC have on imperialism. Could you please tell me what your method is and what is their method? this "methodogical approach" is different from Marx method?

what do you mean by ICC seem to insist that things like pursuit of energy security for example ars less important than strategic considerations? it seems, to me you insisted on the infrastructure of society is the economy.

I think the position of the ICC afther the collapse of Russia and collapse of the bloc - war of all against all- is a temporary situation, until new block appears. as you think


If you look at my first post in reply to your original question you will see that I lay out our method. Imperialism for us grows out of the concentration and centralisation of capitalism - as capital accumulates it becomes more centralised (as well as increasing in mass). This means that competition moves from between capitalism firms within states to the international level and instead of mere economic competition you get competition between states on many levels. This is the imperialist stage of capitalism (its period of parasitism and decay as Lenin put it). The ICC base their understanding of imperialism on Rosa Luxemburg's idea that by 1914 the capitalist world market was formed and there were no new extra-capitalist markets to absorb so competition between states arose over the need to win a bigger share of the world market. In short 1914 was the end of the period of positive growth of capitalism. In their earliest versions of this theory the ICC comrades tried to prove that capitalism had not grown since 1914 but I think that they have thankfully long abandoned that idea (given that 1945-71 saw the longest and biggest secualr boom in capitalist history it was never viable as an argument).

The ICC have always attacked us for putting the attempt to control oil and gas production and supply at the centre of our analyses of various conflicts but especially in the Middle East (I think mainly because the capitalist Left also will make that point in their fake "anti-imperialist" postures but that does not mean there is not a kernel of reality to the argument). In any case every situation has to be looked at concretely - Marx always started from the SPECIFIC situation and asked how it confirmed. denied or modified existing theory - we belief this is the scientific approach.

I would not know whether the ICC sees their current theory of "decomposition" and "chaos" of a "war of all against all" as permanent or not. For us it is just a stop gap idea to cover the collapse of their perspectives that proletarian revolution was on the agends from the 1970s to 1990. One bad piece of theory after another but that is the idealist method for you.

On the question of "blocs" the ICC again fail to recognise that the period 1945-90 was unique in the way the world was divided by the two greatest victorious powers to emerge from the Second World War. But even the "blocs" were not as solid as is sometimes thought (the Sino-soviet split for example). We have now returned to a more traditional diplomatic scenario where loose alliances are being formed and one day will be the basis for any new imperialist line ups that do emerge (the current international cooperation between China, Russia and Iran is tending towards ever closer cooperation). The US ruling class is very divided but it is united on one factor - hostility to the threat from China. Biden will be no different from Trump (but possibly more up front militarily instead of relying on a trade war).

Dear Comrade

As you mentioned in your first post. The basic framework of the imperialist positions of the left- communist internationalist are similar.

The way you (ICT) have chosen to analyze imperialism may be based on the concepts that Lenin did, and the way that the ICC does is based on the concepts that Luxembourg did. But these concepts of Lenin and Luxembourg have not remained at the same raw level. If at first the concepts of imperialism were crude and flawed for Lenin and Luxembourg due to historical limitations. It has evolved throughout history. The role of the internationalist left communist in the development of these two concepts of imperialism is remarkable. And they have reached almost the same result. The points of difference on the positions of imperialism among the international left communist are in the details.

These distinctions should not lead us to imagine the ICC outside the workers' and revolutionary camps, or vice versa, the ICT in the counter-revolutionary camp.

You wrote that: “ ICC have always attacked us for putting the attempt to control oil and gas production and supply at the center of our analyses of various conflicts…” well, today we see Afghanistan. How do you analyses that :”Denied or modified” it


We don't understand this sentence.

These distinctions should not lead us to imagine the ICC outside the workers' and revolutionary camps, or vice versa, the ICT in the counter-revolutionary camp.

There is no question that the issue of the discussion of imperialism between us and the ICC is about either of us calling the other "counter-revolutionary". We think they are wrong on many things and ultimately idealist, as we written many times, but they are part of the Communist Left (although sometimes we find them so embarassing that we wish they were not!). As to our view on Afghanistan we have written on it many times. This is just one leftcom.org

Internationalist greetings