Three New Reads – October

Philip Roddis
Aptly enough – one hundred and two years to the month since those ‘Ten Days that Shook the World’ – all three (four if you’re on the ball) of my read recommends today are about Russia. I chose them not because it’s October though. I chose them because one way or another Russia – ask Tulsi Gabbard – is very much in the news.

Other things have been happening of course. There’s always Brexit. There’s Ecuador.

There’s Catalonia, on which subject In Defence of Marxism – with whom I don’t always see eye to eye – has been excellent. Try this, and then hop around that corner of the site pertaining to Spain.

And there’s the Middle East, on which a few days ago the always lucid Jonathan Cook gave a withering overview sparked by the nauseating Democrat responses to Trump’s make-it-up-as-you-go decision to pull out, allegedly, of Northeast Syria.

But see how sneakily I’m breaking the three-reads limit! The above links are all out of bounds, off-limits, verboten. Under no circumstances should you follow them, far less read the articles they point to! Got that? Good. Below are the four three official reads this month.

As ever I chose them because I think they advance understanding, not because I necessarily share their writers’ worldviews. Still less because I endorse, always, the editorial positions of their platforms.

*

One effect of Trump’s alleged intent to withdraw from Syria is that it raises the question: how will Russia manage the conflicting needs of Syria and Turkey when Damascus demands total sovereignty of its territory, Ankara a cordon sanitaire to cut off the YPG from an outlawed PKK?

The October 22 deal between Putin and Erdogan, with Assad’s “full support” says the Kremlin, is to be welcomed but does not alter the fact of Russia’s balancing act over Syria and Turkey. My first read recommend, then, is this brief analysis by Andrew Korybko in One World.

*

My easy read this month is The Key to Understanding Vladimir Putin by John Evans, in the ‘Wild East’ nineties the U.S. Consul General in St. Petersburg. As I do Stephen Cohen, I find Mr Evans naive in believing US policy on Russia – from Clinton through Obama to Trump being put in his place – is just a misguided set of wrong turns which the more enlightened policy makers of future US administrations will put right.

Like many a well meaning soul, Evans does not “get” imperialism. But like Cohen he is honest and in the know. He had a ringside seat at Russia’s descent into gangsterism and, to cap it all, knew Putin at a time when no one could foresee how far the man from Leningrad would go.

Evans rightly decries the reductionism of mainstream media which would have us see so highly developed a nation, fast recovering from the Shock Doctrine chaos under Yeltsin, as one man’s fiefdom. But as Evans argues – while offering a fascinating glimpse into what makes Vlad tick – this one man has done much to earn our respect.

*

My recent post on The Kurds in Syria prompted a below the line debate on OffGuardian.

The context was a Leftist attack, one I’ve grown familiar with in recent years, on those like me who defend Damascus in the face of US might. In the course of flurried exchanges the nature of the Russian economy came up, my debating adversary offering this:

Is Russia imperialist? It isn’t only if it isn’t capitalist. Capitalism expands or it stagnates and withers. Imperialism is willy-nilly the result of capitalist expansion.

Which struck me as illogical, a perverse application of a truth we both agree on.

Capital’s laws of motion do indeed propel it towards monopoly and ultimately imperialism. But to conclude from this that if a nation is capitalist then it is ipso facto imperialist seems doubly problematic.

First, it overlooks the contradiction – one of capitalism’s many – that not all capitalist nations can be imperialist. Just the most successful ones.

Second, to conflate today’s situation with tomorrow’s destiny is profoundly ahistoric and hence – I say this since we both look to Marx in our methods and categories – profoundly unmarxist.

I responded:

You say if Russia isn’t imperialist then it isn’t capitalist. Wrong … Of course Russia is capitalist – as is Bangladesh. Is that also imperialist? If so, words have lost their meaning.

I agree of course that the vector of all capitals is toward monoply [sic] and imperialism – as you put it, ‘willy nilly the result of capitalist expansion’ – but not only does that vector mark the biggest of its many contradictions, it begs a more immediate question.

If end and start points are the same – a kind of buddhist attitude to path and goal as one – why have separate terms? A caterpillar then is not to be distinguished from a butterfly, nor life from death.

More relevant here than reasoning, however, is my appeal to evidence. I followed with:

Logic and the meaning of words aside, serious empirical work needs to be done before we say Russia is imperialist. A good start was made by Renfrey Clarke and … Roger Annis.

I recommend that Clarke-Annis piece, an eight thousand worder, at every opportunity. It makes a fine antidote, given how enthusiastically the far left – with equally scant regard for empirical analysis – embraced the idea of Russia as imperialist. Given too how this unexamined notion has aided that same far left (with honourable exceptions) in as wrongheaded an assessment of the carnage in the Middle East as one could possibly make.

But more recent, and shorter, is my third read. Under the header, Is Russia imperialist?, author Stansfield Smith pays tribute to Clarke and Annis, and takes as its start point precisely what we might have expected SWP, Workers Power and other marx-leninist groups to have done.

In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin writes:

without forgetting the conditional and relative value of all definitions in general, which can never embrace all the concatenations of a phenomenon in its full development, we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features:

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;

(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;

(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;

(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and

(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.

Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

Smith uses Lenin’s five defining features as a template, against which available data on the Russian economy can be measured. You may say Lenin was wrong, or that his polemic – no one holds it up as a major work of theory – on the eve of WW1 is outdated. You may say that his five defining features no longer apply, that they’ve been overtaken by newer and better definitions.

I haven’t heard them but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Please let me know.

The fact remains, however, that the BTL exchange cited above was sparked by a piece on the Middle East, on which most of the West’s avowedly marx-leninist groups have chosen not to defend the Ba’athist states against imperialist onslaught. They may not have cheered on that onslaught, though some have come perilously close. But their “solution”, the slogan of “neither Washington nor Damascus but international solidarity with the Syrian working class”, is pulled like a rabbit from the magician’s hat.

Who on the Left could argue? International solidarity would be a fine thing indeed! It’s just that – like the police – it’s seldom there when you need it.

Hence this recommended read. For those wondering how the Left got it so badly wrong on the Middle East, Smith’s account, like that of Clarke and Annis, is an important piece of the puzzle.

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BigB
BigB

You may say that his five defining features no longer apply, that they’ve been overtaken by newer and better definitions.
I haven’t heard them but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Please let me know.

Phillip; (Jen):
To take the definition of imperialism away from these five categories – toward a broader ecological and humanist definition – is necessarily going to involve a complexity of argument and length of commentary. Especially after digesting 1,500 words of reference before I even start. Which then leads the author, Phillip, to be unwilling to enter a protracted exchange – because of the generalisation of the dialogue. How am I supposed to redefine ‘imperialism’ in a nutshell: responding to two rather dry defining articles?
I am tempted to ask: why pose the question if you do not want to enter into an exchange to validate the point being made? I obviously failed to engage: but I have raised more than enough talking points. And some that where not raised: which I had hoped to raise later. If we do not talk: nothing changes. And there are some rather dark implications to Russia/China’s technocracy rising that are being obfuscated by glib analysis. I can include the editorial policy that keeps pushing Vltcheks imagined geography: which thankfully – he did not air in his most recent piece. China rising on a mountain of debt does not bear real world econometric analysis. Nor is it ‘Western propaganda’; an increasingly used ploy to stifle dialogue. But I digress.
If words matter, Phillip – and they do – if Russia is not imperial …what is it? A simple enough question – with no ecological overtones (they have been silenced once again; and disbarred from the definition) – that should have a simple answer. A negative definition – ‘not-imperial’ – is highly unsatisfactory to me. What shall we call Russia moving forward?
It is a deliberately loaded question, though. Because I do not accept the definitions given. Which so far have been upheld by reticence (from you) and circularity of argument (from Jen). No one else is even listening.
Last week VVP held a lovely forum where he shook the blood-soaked hand of every living African compradore dictator alive. I will highlight just three: Musevini, Kagame, and el-Sisi – who was the co-host. It is all on the Kremlin website. I do not know how many murders these men have been responsible for in their ongoing rolling genocides – shall we call it 12 million? No one actually knows how many have died in the UN’s secret genocides: what we do know is that they were resource based genocides. I’m not even going to go into details: but it has been relatively well documented: but absolutely and completely ignored by the media (credit where credit is due: Monbiot was one of the few Western journalists who ever dared mention it). Circa 12m murdered so we can have conflict minerals and cheap technocracy. Is that imperialism?
So: what is VVP talking about? Extractivism; geo-exploration for more extractivism of energy, oil, and gas; $15bn worth of arms sales; extended trade in conflict minerals; in return for arming murderous Tyrants and training their military for free. So that Kagame’s militia can rape, murder, prostitute, and force children to mine coltan at gunpoint before stealing their wages and raping their sisters. All of which has adequate backing in fact. Is that imperialism?
So, if this is not imperialism: what is it? If words matter: what should this be called? I feel we got bogged down in definitions. If one considered the overall implications of Russia’s expansionism: it is as dark as it is deadly. One might consider the Tyrants Erdogan and Netanyahu in this to. If Russia is not imperial: what is it?
We need broader definitions to replace 19th century categories that are academically defined to the point of obfuscating the truth. As a Marxist: you absolutely know what capitalism is. We need an ecological and humanist centred redefinition of ‘imperialism’ which makes the crimes of capitalist imperialism apparent for all to see. And not hide behind outdated definitionism.
I often feel hemmed in by the depth of my research. For instance: I spent four months reading Dugin and cross-comparing VVP’s speeches – particularly on ‘Tradition’. Do you know what is meant by ‘Tradition’? Neither does anyone else. And so there is a total misinterpretation of what Russia stands for. Anyone who shakes Kagame’s blood-soaked hand without first wringing his neck is no friend of humanity. You have all got it wrong and seem to want to project a false personae to the Russian/China expansionism project.
They are not humanities or ecologies friends. They are not building an ‘ecological civilisation’. That is pure corporate revolutionary propaganda. They are destroying all life on earth. Whilst supporting genocide and training soldiers to protect their economic interests. Economic interests that are worth more than human lives, biodiversity, and a poisoned environment. Exponential extermination for immoral profit. And people are slow to pick up on the true nature of their econometrics of murder, genocide, ecocide, and extinction because they believe in the propaganda they spout: rather than make their own critical and independent assessment …as I have done.
So if not ‘imperialism’: what should I call this? Because I will be calling Russia/China out by whatever word we can agree.

davemass
davemass

Lenin was so right. 1913? or 1914?
Surely this is where the world is now, with entities like Facebook, Google, Msoft,
HUAWEI(?!), Boeing, Siemens, etc.
Carving up the world’s wealth for themselves, not the workers.

Jen
Jen

Dear Philip,

I am glad you skewered Norman Pilon’s argument that capitalism = imperialism.

Hopefully that’s the last we see of him for a while. Maybe he is beginning to tire of taking on the Off-Guardian BTL commenters. I wonder if my horse-whipping of him with that New York Times opinion editorial by his favourite Syrian intellectual activist, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, in which the esteemed Saleh admits to having lived with the White Helmets jihadists for a period in 2013, unhinged him somewhat. Unfortunately I’ve used up all my free articles with the NYT and can’t link back to that Saleh article. (Sigh.)

BigB
BigB

Jen; Philip (again):

Did he, though? The article Phillip relies on is three years out of date and seems to have more links to the Moscow Times than an academic article – so highly vaunted as to be ‘definitive’ – actually should.

So if I concede that Russia’s puny economy is not canonically ‘imperial’ – I will not concede that its ambition – along with partner in crime China – is not imperial. Russia wants to replace the UK in terms of GDP: and in terms of arms deals with dictators it seems too. China wants to be Number One – nothing else.

The first ‘academic’ article considers Russia on its own: which carries its argument. I argue this is unreasonable: and Russia and China’s ambition has to be considered together – which makes the small size of Russian capital moot when allied to Chinese capital, manufacturing, and extractivism. Between them: Russia and China have colonised Eurasia; much of SE Asia; the China Pakistan Economic Corridor; and a pivot to Africa, MENA, and South America. Korybko, Escobar, and Vltchek can’t stop bragging about it.

Russia and China’s ambitions are global: but under the very Breton Woods ‘Washington Consensus’ neoliberal institutions: that is the WTO/IMF/WB/UN/BIS/WEF. And for now: the dollar. As shown below: the CRA and NDB are dollar denominated for loans. BRI lending is in dollars. In fact: they do nothing other than extend the dollar hegemony – even refinancing the IMF.

When considered together: the BRI expansionism has to be considered as China’s attempt at creating a high-end bourgeois consumer culture – exporting its manufacturing capacity around Asia Pacific …whilst turning to financialisation, trade in services, IT and fintech, AI, cybertech …and capital credit imperialism. There is more to detail in TASIM – the Eurasian Information Infrastructure, or information superhighway. But that is enough.

Are Russia and China imperial? Do bears defecate near trees?

I can further argue that capitalism is now so networked and interlinked – highlighted trade differences not to the contrary – that capitalism cannot be considered mereologically – that is in its parthood relations. It is a single information entity that is a self-organised, complex, dynamic system. Which is all the more globally systemically fragile and structurally crisis prone because of it [see Jack Rasmus].

A fact that the article uses as a neat little run around: arguing that Russia’s capital exports can’t be described as “real” if they are round tripping through BVI and Cyprus. But as I show below: no one knows where that money goes. That is why it is run through so many secrecy jurisdictions …so no one CAN know – except the sender or recipient.

Which hints at how capitalism/neoliberalism REALLY works – offshore. It is not regulated; not overseen; not limited by legality; etc. This is entirely how capital became globally hegemonic over humanity – illegally and immorally. Anything goes offshore.

No one can model this or even find data on it. There is none. Or very little. The Eurobond markets – which are the largest capital markets – are self-regulated …by the banks essentially. There is no legal jurisprudence that can touch them. Is this imperial: the highest form of monopoly capitalism?

This has led a few academics to propose the Trans-National Superclass (TNS): which along with Glatfelder’s 147 strong ‘superentity’ of highly integrated TNCs. One such academic is William I Robinson who updated Wallerstein circa 2002. A small elite group of high net worth individuals and interlinked financial institutions (banks; shadow banks; hedge funds; capital management funds); etc that control the global economy through the Breton Woods WTO/IMF/UN neoliberal nexus – that Russia and China are allegiant with: not an alternative to …is that imperial?

This whole debate has been rather disappointing. Phillip – of whom I remain deeply respectful – nonetheless makes a rather suspect claim, based on some overlapping articles that consider Russia in isolation. The question is: is Russia isolated anymore? Was it when the articles were written? Or has Russia been in a burgeoning strategic partnership since circa 2001?

The Stansfield Smith article is only 9 months old – but was written before SPIEF 2019 when Russia and China’s globalisation went global …so to speak. Trump is now the ‘anti-globalist’. Most of the data classes include data for China – which is more than likely at the top of the list each time. Here is the bottom line. If you perform a reductionist materialist exercise on Russia alone: I would have to concede that the argument is carried by the data. I attempted to argue cogently – before I got tired and stopped making sense – that this is an illegitimate argument. What does it tell us? If we update the argument today – by considering the EAEU/BRI/SCO/CPEC Eurasian integration …we have to include Russia in strategic partnership. Now recalibrate Smith’s data-set – the most recent – adding Russia and China together. Is that imperial?

Jen: what no one can make from any data-set is that capitalism does not equal imperialism. Capitalism is imperialism and fascism by manifestation. From the same ugly, dehumanist ethics and perverse perpetual growth logic that will kill all life on earth …or itself die trying. Everyone alive today better hope that capitalism fails before the Earth System does. There is a 2007 redux collapse in motion as we speak: if my claims seem too exorbitant. They should not to anyone paying attention.

Phillip: I’m sorry – but our views seem to be diverging fast. Which is not helped if you do not respond. I cannot agree with your claim here. I was up to two trying to make a cogent response …which does not read well I know. But now I’ve made three reasonably reasoned responses. Your data is out of date. It all changed at SPIEF. Russia and China are now heading the globalisation agenda for ‘neoliberalism 4.0’ …straight from the WEF net-zero-SDG-technocratic-fourth industrial revolution playbook. This is not only imperialist – or green imperialist – with or without Dugin …it is neo-Volkisch blood and soil fascist racism. With which you do not have to agree: but it is definitely not humanist. It is imperialist.

Russia’s strategic partnership with China makes it the biggest ‘green’ imperial threat to humanity there is. WE CANNOT KEEP EXPANDING. Why no one can accept this is beyond me. The Laws of Capital in Motion are FATALLY CONTRADICTORY. Exponential debts are FATALLY CONTRADICTORY. A metabolic rift is definitely FATALLY CONTRADICTORY.

Nothing comes after capitalism. It is eco-socialism or barbarism. Why we still have capitalists among us is also beyond me. The entire humanist knowledge base – including Zen – has passed everyone that most needed it by. While they were dreaming of wealth they will never have and progress that will never come. It is not me that is the pessimist: capitalism has stolen everyone’s options and reduced their net worth to zero. And yet it seems I am tarred with being angry for them: while they still dream of progress – that was never real – but real or unreal stopped circa the millennium. Some day they will notice. Some day they will wish we at least talked about it.

à la tienne.

(not sarc)

Jen
Jen

I’d be careful in conflating capitalism in Russia and China, or whatever it is that those nations practise that we are calling “capitalism”, with “imperialism”. It is easy to accuse those nations of being “imperialist” because of the size of their territory , the size of their populations , the size of their economies and the size of their resource bases. The West also has had a fraught history with these two countries that began centuries before they became Communist: a history that has included outright conflict with these two nations when they were empires. To say that because Russia and China were imperial in the past, they are “imperial” now due to their current adoption of some form of “capitalism”, is not a good argument for conflating “capitalism” and “imperialism”. This is just a weird form of circular argument that gets us nowhere.

We need to know what Russian and Chinese motivations might be, what their political, economic, social or other agendas may be as construed from their actions over the past 30, 40 years. Do Russian and Chinese motivations fit into a pattern or a framework that conforms or comes close to conforming to something that is both “capitalist” and “imperialist”? We haven’t even defined what we mean by “capitalist” and “imperialist” that Off-Guardian.org BTL commenters can even agree on. If we can’t agree on the definitions of what we are discussing, then how can we pass judgement on what motivates Russia and China to pursue what they are pursuing.

We don’t even know what those nations’ agendas, much less their motivations, are. As for those who claim to know what Russia and China are up to, what their agendas are, what their objectives and goals are, those people could be relying on regurgitated Cold War propaganda demonising those nations.

Your comment makes a lot of assumptions about Russia and China and their supposed ambitions to the extent that it comes across as unhinged and hysterical.

BigB
BigB

Jen:

Thanks for the last bit. Russia and China are neoliberal. Russia has a neoliberal constitution and Central Bank. Refer to PCR; Hudson; or the Saker: “Putin is a neoliberal”. For China: Harvey has written entire chapters on “Neoliberalism with Chinese Characteristics”. So let’s not hide behind definitions? Or history.

As for ambitions: these are not secret or subject to question. “China wants globalisation” has been stated by Xi many times. From WEF 2017 to SPIEF 2019. It is just a simple matter of verification. As for VVP: his ambition is clear too. In his interview with FT: the Editor Lionel Barber asks:

“I definitely want to come back to the Russian economy. But what you said is absolutely fascinating. Here you are, the President of Russia, defending globalisation along with President Xi whereas Mr Trump is attacking globalisation and talking about America First. How do you explain this paradox?”

From the ongoing answers: many drew the spurious interpretation that VVP is ‘anti-neoliberal’. From the takeaway quote: “Liberalism has outlived its purpose”. This is not borne out by anything that was said or Barber’s question. Russia is neoliberal and globalist: committed to the ‘rules based order’ of the WTO. No, not that ‘rules based order’ – the rewritten and expanded ‘rules based order’ based on an ‘enhanced’ WTO and an extended G20 – not the G7. It is all in black and white and never in doubt. Russia and China want globalisation.

As for definitions of imperialism: they were given in the articles under review. Did you read them? The criteria are all laid out. The issue is whether we take Russia in isolation: or in strategic partnership with China? As even VVP takes the latter view: there can be no doubt that Russia and China’s strategic partnership is imperial – in precisely defined terms. Russia and China are imperial and want globalisation.

The interpretation of this cannot be easy though. Capitalists have to believe that resources are functionally infinite and such globalist expansionism is ‘sustainable’. Anti-capitalist ecologists know without thinking it is not even possibly sustainable. It is at the very opposite pole of sustainable: it is an overcomplexified collapse model as Tainter et al have shown. So imperialism and globalisation is extinctionism: which is dismissed as deranged …for all the science based research that has been provided and ignored.

To settle this: all the SDG; GND; fourth industrial revolution; net zero carbon emissions scenarios rely on non-existent and impossible technology – all of which has been debunked. They also rely on imaginary dematerialisation of economies from energy, resources, and labour …which has also been debunked. So how do we continue to understand the future implications for Russia and China’s imperial expansionism and globalisation: when capitalists refuse to even look at the data? Do we just pretend they are benefiting humanity as Andre Vltchek does: with absolutely no critical appraisal? We cannot just pretend that we can decouple and grow into leisure societies such as Bastini’s ‘fully automated luxury communism’. This just comes across as increasingly deranged and hysterical to believe with absolutely no supporting data.

Here is a recent overview of the literature that examines over 300 other papers. Russia and China cannot expand. No one can. We need a new appraisal of economics – that I have been arguing for decades for – if we truly want to survive. Will you even review the evidence?

https://eeb.org/library/decoupling-debunked/

Jen
Jen

I think that in the case of Russia, you confuse the instutions of its government and the Central Bank with the policies they follow. The institutions themselves are not “neoliberal” in the current sense of the term; the head of the Central Bank (Elvira Nabiullina), the current Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and some individuals in the Russian government (such as First Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov and Chairman of Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin) may be neoliberal in the policies they choose to pursue. But while Medvedev, Siluanov and Nabiullina hold quite senior positions, that fact in itself is no guide to where they will be in the future. There are other people in the Russian government who are no fans of neoliberal economic / political policies.

The possibility exists that Vladimir Putin as President prefers to surround himself with people expressing very different opinions on how to direct the Russian economy and its resources, rather than follow one set of opinions, so as to find the most optimal solutions to solve problems and issues. There is no harm in considering “neoliberal” solutions as well as solutions based on ideas and ideologies opposed to the neoliberal way. This does not make the Russian government “neoliberal”.

I have looked up online articles on Russia by Paul Craig Roberts, Michael Hudson and The Saker (separately and together) and nothing in them suggests that either of these authors describe Russia or Putin as “neoliberal”. I find suspicious that you give no links or cite sources where the authors describe Russia or its constitution as neoliberal. (For that matter I have also perused the Russian Constitution in its English-language translation and find nothing neoliberal in its articles.) Your work is cut out to demonstrate that you are not cherrypicking information and selectively quoting authors out of context to bolster your opinion regarding Russia. Ditto for China: who is this “Harvey” you speak of and is he an objective commentator on the Chinese economy? (I speak rhetorically.)

Are you sure that when Russia and China talk about “globalisation”, they are both talking about the same thing or are they actually talking about two different phenomena? Are you sure that what those nations mean by “globalisation” is the same phenomenon that you call “globalisation”?

I am not confident that you are not selectively quoting or referring to sources just to suit your own arguments, and I am not confident that your sources are not biased against Russia and China simply because of the prevailing Russophobia and Sinophobia that currently exist in Western societies. Your argument that Russia and China are imperial does not wash because you appear not to have examined your own biases and instead have simply gone along with the agenda of those prejudiced against those nations.

I do not wonder that in the past when you had your own blog that you were subjected to abuse and people failed to engage with your arguments: you do not argue very coherently, you fail to quote your sources accurately and you do not provide appropriate evidence to back up your arguments. When challenged, you simply react by producing more incoherent floods of verbiage.

BigB
BigB

Jen:

Who is producing ad how verbiage now? I moved my critique on from the definitions of imperialism and globalisation to the consequences: which are far more cogent than the definitions. Which is why I set out to address them: because the coreect appraisal of Russia/China’s expansionism is a survival issue: a fact both you and Phillip astutely refuse to engage with.

So Phillip made the point that Russia is not imperial: based on two spurious articles then refuses to engage with the high complexity of the issues raised …because engaging with them entails long comments. And you seem to want to argue circularly: rather than engage with the actual impossibility of expansionism of the sort that Russia/China have embarked on is anything but extinctionary. To which empiric conclusion I provided empiric evidence: which you ignored.

I find it ironic then that you advise me below to let the comments develop away from the theme: when you want to remain stuck in jargon. Jargon that becomes superfluous if the dialogue develops on passed the definitions of imperialism: to the repercussions of such colonisation and expansionism. Is Agenda 2030/2063 SDG technocratic expansionism beneficial to humanity if it compromises our species viability? No.

As you will not let the dialogue develop to the consequences and reframing and redefining of Russia/China in the light of the ecological sustainability data – of which only a taster has so far been provided – you and Phillip have shut down an important dialogue to make an ideological point that does not stand any scrutiny. Especially if the dialogue broadens ecologically: then there is no dispute that you are both completely wrong.

It seems to be becoming common to attack my methodology rather than engage with my main argument: In this case that Russia/China’s economic expansionism is extinctionism. To say this is based on bias and Russophobia/Sinophobia rather than on a deep sense of connectionism with all life; a deep, empiric and science based understanding of ecology and economy; a love of humanity; a love of biodiversity; and a deep desire for us ALL to survive …is really a rather monstrous inversion of my motivations. You may want to consider your own motivations in the light of the now incontrovertible sustainability literature. We will not survive on the current trajectory. We cannot expand or grow at all. The switch to renewables is being deliberately retarded because of our continuing growth obsession. There is no way to transition our current energy dense and resource hungry civilisation to renewables without degrowth. The attempt to replicate this civilisation with renewables – the Agenda 2030/2063 SDG 4IR or GND – will destroy the very civilisation it seeks to save.

Of everything I have posted: there have been references. Only I am supposed to carry my references forward every time? Then we will have to have unlimited references: which causes other problems like spam.

I have been posting the same set of references under every Vltchek article for ? No one reads them. No one changes their opinion. Here is a PCR article that contains some of the detail I cherrypicked. It contains three more internal links. That’s four. I then had a quick look at the Saker. There is a rich debate between PCR, the Saker, and sometimes Hudson. I cannot find the exact article where the Saker siad Putin is a neoliberal. PCR has said the same. So have plenty of others, pejoratively, I agree.

On Harvey: who might I ask is ‘Stalinsmoustache’? And what are his credentials? Third party opinionated obfuscation aside: Harvey makes some very cogent points that are worth reiterating before they are blurred by pseudo-Marxist ideology. Another time maybe?

https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/05/25/americas-fifth-column-will-destroy-russia/

It is really a dull form of argumentation to accuse someone of bias. It pretty much means that you have nothing to say: but say it anyway. Apart from the lack of engagement and letting the dialogue develop into the real meaning of imperialism over humanity and the Earth System: I find it very disappointing that Phillip’s reticence and your circularity conceal a very dark heart of Russia/China expansionism. I feel you are both hiding behind definitions because you do not want to explore what Russia really stands for. Accusations of bias; Russophobia and Sinophobia are weaponised defence mechanisms. Keep your definitions: but if Russia is not imperial – what is it? Benign and beneficial it certainly is not.

Philip Roddis

BigB I will not be drawn into a protracted exchange with you. Your comments are always long, often insightful and often either eyebrow raising, or else right but at so high level of generality as to furnish no practical conclusions. I’ve twice suggested you argue your case ATL precisely because (a) I think you have things to say that are worth airing and (b) you’d then be subject to a discipline you can evade BTT – that of making clear points, supported or at least not refuted by empirical data, and leading to coherent and logical conclusions.

Meantime, three fast responses. One, you say Clark and Annis is three years out of date but fail to address their arguments. That Smith is all of nine months out of date, and so rendered valid by SPIEF. So why not tell us how SPIEF negates the arguments of those writers? That’s what you’d have to do, point by point, were you to write above the line.

Two, in your paragraph to Jen you go all over the place. Sorry, but that is often how you come across. The reason I’ve stayed with you so long, my friend, is that I do have respect for your insights but all too often they lead you either to what strike me as bizarre conclusions, else to no decipherable conclusion at all. This paragraph to Jen is a case in point. You do not deal with the two logical arguments I made – that not all capitalisms can become imperialist, and that today and tomorrow are two different things – and nor have you addressed the empirical arguments of those three authors: rather, you conjure up SPIEF and, hey presto, a nine month piece is hopelessly out of date. What? We’re all meant to fall in line?

To be clear, you say things to Jen with which I wholeheartedly agree. Capitalism is indeed by its nature life negating but, as is your wont, you bundle in non sequiturs that go nowhere. For all your sincerity, intelligence and erudition, the lack of discipline in your comments leads you to Mystic Meg Land.

Three, you offer no way out. Suppose we – those aready critical of wars waged on the middle east by the planet’s supreme imperial power – embrace your take on things, on Russia and on the plight of the Syrian people. What then? Since you reject Russia and USA both, what is your way forward for the Syrian people? Right here? Right now?

Philip Roddis

PS – I’m sorry BigB that you find the “debate” “disappointing”. More than any other ATL writer I know, I engage with readers BTL. Indeed, I often wonder whether those other ATL writers know something I don’t. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Why do it then? Call me naive, but I welcomed the online age for its democratising potential: in this case a shift from one-to-many communication to a many-to-many digital conversation model. On the whole my enthusiasm is unabated but have learned that the whole business can be tiring and even tiresome.

Tell you what. Why don’t you respond to my three times challenge and express yourself above the line? Even you might find your appetite for lengthy discussion with any and all comers has its limits.

BigB
BigB

My friend: you made a claim I cannot endorse. In order to fully respond: I had to digest, what, 1,500 words and densely packed data? And you pick me up on the fact that my brain turned to jello more than once? Which I admitted.

But you see the power of words yourself. Jen was about to take away a verification of a an unsubstantiated point: that capitalism=imperialism had been debunked. When it had not.

The point I have hopefully made is that Russia and China are in strategic partnership: and have to be considered as an entity. As even VVP does. And I did show what you ask about SPIEF: around the date of SPIEF. Much of what I have posted is repeat posting over several years. It has all been documented. I think you might be a little naive to think that because you and I would follow someone elses data and arguments: that everyone else does. They do not. Opinions are sacred: not facts. Even that is borne out in the psychological literature on narrative constructivism.

I have posted time after time that the economy is a fantasy. A dangerous fantasy where spurious ‘infinite’ growth is destroying the very fabric of life. Mostly to morons who deny and mock. What can anyone do? Nothing: until enough people actually admit the problems are real and actually threaten the viability of life on Earth. The evidence is crystal clear but look at the response. It is all corporate control and deceit. We literally do not have a chance because our deceit of ourselves is all but complete.

The answer is as impossible as it is simple. Everyone in the high resource consuming and high emitting/wasting/polluting countries – that’s us; all of us – have to take upon themselves to stop what they are doing and demand energy and resource justice for all …including the Unborn. We have to leave some int the ground for them and design a transition to a neo-agrarian solar lifestyle. The sooner we do it: the more we can take with us. If we carry on the pretense much longer: it doesn’t bear thinking about.

I’m sure you knew this already. Now you know why I will not commit to write ATL. I used to before in a previous life. I had my own blog. I got sick of the abuse and lack of engagement. No one wants to give up their lifestyle. They want more. There is no more to be had. So we will tear ourselves apart for what is left. I’d also say fascism is pretty much assured. By many modified definitions: it is already here in the UK. The corporate revolution is forming an autarky to protect itself: incorporating the state and para-state into a nexus. It is all but complete. Even with show trials and political prisoners like Julian. Not much of a vision to share.

Jen
Jen

BigB, in the last few paragraphs of your most recent comment you make quite sweeping prescriptions about what people should do – never mind about what they could do – but you don’t offer any suggestions or scenarios, or point to some examples of how they could change their lives and practise sustainability. Even just suggesting that people could try growing a tomato or strawberry plant in a pot on their balconies, instead of buying everything from the supermarket, is a small start, a small change in their daily rituals that could eventually lead to major changes in their lives and lifestyles.

Instead what happens is that when people challenge your opinion or even ask how they can go about changing their lives, you take a defensive stance such that it ends up inviting abuse. You will not gain many supporters or have much engagement if this is the approach you take. You just need to step back a little bit, remind yourself that when people challenge what you say that they are not attacking you personally, and don’t try to “own” or “control” whatever argument or discussion develops from when people try to engage with or confront whatever you said originally.

Discussions can only develop when you let go of the original argument and allow people to say what they believe (and maybe bitch about something just to get it off their chests), within certain limits of etiquette. Of course you will need to remind people not to swear unnecessarily, or to make abusive, racist or other discriminatory statements.

You also need to acknowledge that there is only so much that individuals and even communities can do, to change their lives. In fact, Western governments and corporations rely on people being told to change their lives, as long as they (the governments and corporations, that is) can continue their polluting and wasteful practices, and moreover take over the resources that we individuals have given up because we’ve been told to do so by those claiming to champion environmental issues.

Why do you think there are so many people who are suspicious of self-proclaimed or designated environmental defenders like Greta Thunberg? Because the venues at which she appeared in making her “our house is on fire” speeches that made her famous were sponsored by major world political and business elites, some of whom would profit financially from people being made to live under austerity programs masquerading as sustainable lifestyles.

Zoran Aleksic
Zoran Aleksic

‘Russia’s strategic partnership with China makes it the biggest ‘green’ imperial threat to humanity there is. ‘ Spoken like a true Englishman.

BigB
BigB

Phillip:

Are two anti-capitalists and Marxist admirers playing extend and pretend on Russian imperialism? Are we then pretending that BRICS – obviously including Russia – was not set up by Goldman Sachs as global controlled opposition? A literal marketing and investment ploy invented by ‘Lord Jim’ O’Neill intended to extend a stalling globalisation project …as I have commented to dozens of times before?

If Russia is not imperial: then how about neoliberal and sub-imperial? The evidence being that the BRICS institutions – particularly the CRA and NDB – are dollar denominated loan mechanisms that extend the credit of the Bretton Woods institutions …and in no way delimit or offer an alternative to them. CRA loans are subject to an IMF neoliberalising privatising Structural Adjustment Policy – if more than 30% of the members deposit needs to be accessed. An SAP to get your own money: sounds sub-imperial to me. The BRICS finance ministers even approved their refinance of the IMF for $75bn.

http://www.cadtm.org/IMG/pdf/Bond_on_BRICS_at_UCT_School_of_Economics_seminar__16_November_2015.pdf

Then there is Russia’s sworn allegiance to the likes of an ”enhanced WTO”. That means neoliberal sub-imperialism on steroids to me. Then it gets a bit murky: deliberately so. Neoliberalism is set up to be everything but transparent. It is not broadcast that the largest pool of liquid capital is available ‘offshore’. Trans-national flows are rooted through secrecy jurisdictions to conceal their origin. Transactional analysis is all but impossible.

That said: outflowing Russian capital flight is legendary at $25bn a year since 1990 …mainly to the ‘global laundromat’ of Londongrad. Which route, according to Shaxson, was the very basis of globalisation and the Eurobond markets …starting in the late fifties. What little academic research their is supports a sub-imperial thesis:

Chinese and Russian investors, according to research by Henry (2012b) the largest and second largest holders of developing world flight capital respectively, have been shown to use similar two-stage structures. These consist of shell entities based in both a regional OJ—Hong Kong for China, and Cyprus for Russia—and in smaller tax and secrecy havens, primarily BVI and the Cayman Islands
for China, and BVI, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, and the Bahamas for Russia (La Franco and Sazonov 2013
; Ledyaeva et. al. 2013; Sutherland and Matthews 2009; Vlcek 2013).

https://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/events/Haberly%20and%20Wojcik,%20Regional%20Blocks%20and%20Imperial%20Legacies,%20Oct%202%20(WP).pdf

So if Russia is not imperial: it is a very good candidate as a sub-imperial regional power – part of the nexus of global hegemony of globalised capital over humanity and the Earth System. A globalisation the VVP avidly defends – for instance in this summers FT interview – and vows to extend. There is no mistaking China’s position. China wants globalisation has been declared by Xi since WEF 2017 …where every anti-imperialist goes to broadcast their intent to be an anti-neoliberal hegemon. Not.

Russia and China have become the spearhead of the anti-life hegemony of global capital since at least SPIEF 2019. Where their regional brands of the fourth industrial revolution and SDG ‘net-zero’ harmony of man and nature came straight from WEF 2019. Witness VVP and Xi’s keynotes at SPIEF being followed directly by Antonio Gutteres on ”Humanity: the Farewell Tour” global carbon emissions trading scheme promotion for the recent UN Summit.

I could go on late into the night and detail TASIM; the Eurasian Information Infrastructure; the integration of the EAEU and BRI into the Eurasian ‘supercontintent’; its further integration with CPEC; ASEAN; Mercosur; etc. Suffice to say: they have nearly all of the world under the free trade monopoly of capital over humanity.

I did want to argue that capitalism/neoliberalism cannot be considered as parts that constitute wholes or halves – but by its biological action of extraction and waste cycles is a whole that constitutes its parts. Russia is part of a self-organised complex networked system – often referred to as a ‘superentity’ …which Glatfelder’s reality based analysis goes some way to substantiate.

But at the end of the day: what are we really asserting? That capital is not totally globally hegemonic over humanity? It is: and exponentially extirminating all life on Earth …including its own. The bottom line is that fossil capitalist extractivism is poisoning the planet at exponential rates. Though this is almost universally denied because we do not want to deal with it. Which makes dealing with it impossible. And Russia and China are leading the march to globalisation: which is at the very opposite end of the ‘energy-complexity spiral’ than survivability. The option to which is denied by capitalism’s consensus denialism that capitalism itself poses a near-term collapse threat to all life on Earth. Should we maybe consider that in our definition of ‘imperialism’ …capitalisms war on all life including its own?

Is Russia capitalist? Yes.
Is Russia neoliberal? Yes.
Is Russia imperialist? Yes.

Can we give them a few brownie points for stopping the wider war in Syria on the way to extinction? We are universally in utter denial about capitalism and what it means and where it is leading us. A blindsight I have never been party to – no less now. Capitalism alienates us from ourselves – from our very humanity – and offers very little but destruction instead. And if we are going to apply the logic of *pratitya-samutpada* – where path and goal are one – how long could whole communities of people in permanent harmony with nature have survived on a planets worth of resources? Compared to split-communities that used everything exponentially until it ran out? In little more than a century. Which Russia and China have taken up the torch to light the narcissistic Bonfire of the Vanities that will be our funeral pyre.

Is Russia capitalist?
Is Russia imperialist?

Yes: over all life and all life will be much the shorter because of it.

vexarb
vexarb

BigB: “CRA loans are subject to an IMF neoliberalising privatising Structural Adjustment Policy – if more than 30% of the members deposit needs to be accessed. An SAP to get your own money: sounds sub-imperial to me.”

Sounds banker to me too. A more worldly friend than I told me that his bank told him that the money we deposit in our bank is no longer our money: it belongs to the bank. So he asked them if the money we borrow from the bank is no longer the bank’s money, so it belongs to us even if we cannot repay; the bank’s answer was, No way! your money belongs to us when you put it in, and our money belongs to us when we loan it out.

BigB
BigB

Actually, if you are dogged enough – and prepared to never have an account again – you can argue exactly that and win. A loan is a contract of equal exchange. The Bank created its part – the principal – by double-entry keyboard wizardry …that cost them functionally nothing. On which they charge interest. Money from nothing. Thus it is a contract of unequal exchange …because you have to supply something. It’s a Common Law principal.

If you are not worried about credit ratings: you can usually argue away bad credit card debt. Definitely does not apply to mortgage or some other classes of debt. Not good if you rely on Experion!

Many people have been advocating the Third World argue the case of Odious Debt. Where relatively small debts plus SAPs have kept mainly African countries in debt for decades. Tony Blair kindly let some of them off the interest: but kept the principal in place. Typically Bliar political (rhymes with) stunt!

Keen has shown that insisting all debts are paid in full causes financial collapse with no added factors. Hudson has shown this has been known for at least 4,000 years …the famous Mesopotamian “clean slate” or Debt Jubilee every 25 years.

https://michael-hudson.com/2018/11/everything-you-thought-you-knew-about-western-civilization-is-wrong/

When Keen runs MINSKY with just exponential debt: business cycles get shorter and shorter: crises more frequent and severe: employment trends to zero: wages trend to zero …sound familiar?

Labour – that is our wages – goes to subsidise debt service. We pay for the debt with our blood, sweat, and tears …and permanent austerity.
In this run: there is no household debt. When the system crashes: we also subsidise the restart. With all public assets privatised at firesale prices …Rasmus’ Carrion Capital.

Can someone remind me why are still supporting illegitimate capitalist regimes that alienate us from everything and deprive us of the very essence of life itself? Other than False Consciousness?

In its most basic ‘benign’ form: usury and compound interest transfer surplus value from debtor to creditors …not always: but mostly for marginal actual utility. As Hudson showed: interest becomes exponential while growth proceeds at a more leisurely pace along an S-curve …debts that cannot be paid: will not be paid. The purpose of privatised loans is to crate debt bondage. Capitalism creates debt slavery with no other structural defects such thermodynamic constraints or environmental concerns. In other words: it never works outside of its own propaganda and endocolonisation of our humanity.

I guess most prefer debt bondage to freedom? Imperialism is freedom.

Loverat
Loverat

I like this type of thing. Well done Mr Roddis.

mark
mark

Is Russia imperialist?
Russia gave away 2 million square miles of territory and nearly half its population when the 14 other republics broke away.
Doesn’t sound very imperialist to me.
Though the neocon dual nationals parachuted in by the State Department to run the Baltic states have convinced themselves that Putin is constantly scheming to march in and seize the Latvian peat bogs and the Estonian lap dancing bars.

Antonym
Antonym

Don’t kid your self: Novgorod was in one time zone, not eleven.
Russia gave away 2 million square miles of territory and nearly half its population when the 14 other republics broke away.
Translation: the Warchau pact fall apart and the USSR had to witdraw from 14 other nations, from Kazakhstan to East Germany. It was economically and ideologically exhausted.
But yes, the US didn’t follow suit to withdraw from Western Europe.

Antonym
Antonym

The hilarious part of that was that the CIA / MI6 were totally surprised by the quick demise of the East Block: they were that useless. Luckily secrecy covered up their failure, as usual.
To keep their fat and secret budgets up they had invent various “dangers” from abroad like Irak, Libya, Venezuela, Syria and rump Russia.
Obviously they missed the big ones again: Pakistan and China.

mark
mark

No, they did absolutely nothing to hold on to these republics and stop them becoming independent. They gave them each the set of free wine glasses. They couldn’t wait to get rid of them. They were all a financial drain on Moscow.

Britain should follow suit and get rid of the Jocks and the Paddies. We could save a fortune.

Philip Roddis

mark that’s a good point. SWP used its “state capitalist” thesis to distance itself from the USSR, seen as an embarrassment to the populist left. Hence the strapline, “neither Washington nor Moscow”. It followed as night does day that the Soviet Union was also imperialist – a common cold war epithet hurled by the West.

What you point to is the fact that due to the nature of the Soviet Union’s economy, the satellites were indeed a drain on the centre.

In the version on my own site, bevin makes the also useful point that SWP heavyweight Tony Cliff’s state capitalist idea aided the post 1990 far left in its conclusion that Russia was imperialist. It has done so on zero empirical basis as far as I can tell, but we may reasonably deduce that it has helped that far left dodge the “pro Assad” bullets fired from the same big guns as the “pro Putin” ones!

mark
mark

Places like Kazakhstan were robbing Moscow blind. They were basically just Mafia clans with a red star on their lapels.
Moscow sent a lot of its high technology sector to places like Ukraine and the Baltics. All this has collapsed since independence.
Yeltsin, in his few sober moments, couldn’t wait to ditch the 14 republics.
They were all given their independence with the stroke of a pen.
Absolutely nothing was done to retain them by force.
All the violence that followed, Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia, etc., was ethnically based and had nothing to do with Moscow.

Jen
Jen

Chechnya is an exception. That was Yeltsin’s pet project, to wallop the jihadis there, led by Shamil Basayev and others who were being aided and abetted by the CIA and Osama bin Laden, whenever things were going badly for him in the popularity polls or he wanted to deflect attention away from his own and his family’s corruption, and from his neoliberalisation policies that fed the political and economic corruption.

mark
mark

Whether it was Putin or Yeltsin, Russia couldn’t tolerate a caliphate in southern Russia controlled from Washington.

Wilmers31
Wilmers31

On closer examination you may find that Yeltsin withdrew the Russian Republic from the Soviet Union which left the other republics on their own.

I am not convinced that Russia is now imperialist in the sense that they want to control more territory and other countries. Which ones? Prickly Polish people? Belorussia has a hybrid status and not much interest in changing.

People who don’t want you cost an awful lot of money and manpower to keep obedient. Rumania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Kyrgistan – do they want to be ruled by Moscow? No, so there is no point in forcing yourself onto them.

The US found and still finds it an expensive exercise to rule over Iraqis, who have been demonstrating quite a bit against economic conditions that they seem unable to change while the US rules. Russia works with China now, their neighbour. Russia would be silly to adapt Russian conditions to what the US wants. It is not necessary either and with a next President it all changes again? From what I see, Russia is not interested in branching out.

mark
mark

Compare that with what our Fascist buddies in Madrid do to retain their grip on Catalonia.

Brianeg
Brianeg

Having seen a recent documentary about Moscow, I found it astonishing how it a few years it has been completely changed and upgraded. Most certainly this is based on capitalism and not from some government edict or five year plan.

To my simple thinking imperialism is when a country wants to expand by colonising or taking over the reigns of power of other countries.

As far as I can see Russia has done none of these things but maybe I am wrong.

I also believe that all Russian trade and loans are linked to physical things in the real world and on the whole have stayed clear of all the Wall St and City of London virtual reality dealings. Okay many of the Russian oligarchs are well involved with these cronies and I am sure at some later date, Putin would like to put a stop to many of their activities.

Haltonbrat
Haltonbrat

Is Israel the only current “imperialist” nation?

Philip Roddis

No.

Haltonbrat
Haltonbrat

Then perhaps the only existing colonialist?

Philip Roddis

Closer. But Britain still occupies a slice of Ireland and, alongside France, directly rules a swathe of tiny but highly strategic territories across the globe. As of course does the USA.

Haltonbrat
Haltonbrat

Ah yes, I forgot Northern Ireland. France has tight control of the finances of their former African colonies. To paraphrase Rothschild “control the money, control the country.

Jen
Jen

One surprise is that Italy still appears to act in a very colonialist / imperialist manner if this report (dated 14 October 2019) about Italy’s use of Sardinia to host military bases (its own and NATO bases) and to carry out military exercises and generally act and behave in ways that endanger and pollute Sardinia’s natural environments and impoverish Sardinian people and degrade their lives and culture, is accurate.

Even the Scandinavian nations have had their histories of owning colonies in the past – Denmark still has Greenland and the Faeroe islands – and Scandinavian governments and corporations are not above covering up their own sordid pasts or exploiting poor people working in factories in hellish conditions in poor nations.

Remind me which Scandinavian country used to sell weapons to Middle Eastern clients and others via Singapore to circumvent its own laws on selling weapons and other military materiel to countries at war?

Haltonbrat
Haltonbrat

I remember well in the 1980s that weapons were sold by a certain Scandinavian country via Singapore.

Moscow Exile
Moscow Exile

“But as Evans argues – while offering a fascinating glimpse into what makes Vlad tick – this one man has done much to earn our respect.”

Which Vladislav might that be?

Terje M

The point Moscow Exile obliquely makes is that “Vlad” is not and has never been a Russian short form of Vladimir, but is an Anglo-American slur to create the association with Romanian Vlad the Impaler (Dracula).

Just like William Jefferson Clinton is Bill Clinton, not Willi Clinton.

vexarb
vexarb

@TerjeM: “Willi Clinton”.

Apt.

vexarb
vexarb

PS Hard to find on New Google with Improved Misdirection, but can confirm that the diminutive of Vladimir is Vovo or Volodja.

Philip Roddis

Please excuse my ignorance.