Russian Imperialism

In these columns we have many times answered the empty claim that Russia is a Socialist country. Those who propagate the Russian myth usually claim that private enterprise has disappeared there, and that private ownership of land and houses does not exist. None of these statements is completely true, for a whole lot of small businesses have recently sprung up in Russia, especially for house repairing and the supplying and servicing of radio and television sets. Wealthy Russians own country houses, not to mention the fact that there are the millions of peasants who own land and farm it in competition with the state farms. But all this means little, anyway, when we consider that Russia has a gigantic army (the world’s largest), navy and air force, whose real purpose is to preserve property, even if it is the collective property of the ruling class. The police force, whose function it is to preserve the state (the executive committee of the ruling class), and the immense system of secret police and internal spies which has been in existence since Tsarist days, and still performs the same function—that of preventing the ruling hierarchy from being exposed or overthrown—all testify to the existence of two classes in society, and indicates that nothing of the nature of Socialism can exist there. On top of all this, there was a law laid down by the Stalinist constitution of 1934 and still applicable today, that every factory in Russia must make a profit! Where factories fail to accomplish this it has always meant serious trouble for the managers.

The making of profit is a fundamental of the capitalist system; socialism, of course, will not busy itself making profits and extracting wealth from the workers. This fact alone is enough to show Russia to be a capitalist state. All over the Soviet Union they have a monetary and wage system. Marx, in Value, Price and Profit, and elsewhere, made it clear that for him Socialism involved the abolition of the wages system, and showed that it is in the wages system that exploitation is veiled. Our pamphlet Russia Since 1917, and the many articles in the Socialist Standard make it indisputable that Russia could not be considered a socialist country.

During last November the Soviet Union celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Millions of words from the Moscow radio, and millions of words in the Soviet Press have publicised what they call the “success of Socialism.” Pamphlets and books have poured out all over the world and broadcasters in many languages have been shouting themselves hoarse with the achievements of the Russian state. But nowhere do they define Socialism.

Alongside of all this jubilation they have been attacking what they call “Imperialism”—the imperial war mongers of America and England. Again they do not tell us what they mean by imperialism. Fortunately Lenin wrote a little book on the subject—one of the few that he penned that is really worth reading—and which differs from his usual rubbish in that it is not one long attack on Kautsky and others, although even here he cannot completely refrain. Lenin’s usual defamatory vituperation gives place to some figures of capitalism’s development, especially in Germany, and, above all, he tells us what Imperialism is in no uncertain language.

The subtitle of Lenin’s Imperialism is “The highest stage of capitalism,” and in the text he defines Imperialism as the monopoly stage of capitalism. In the preface to the French and German editions (1920) Lenin states:—

    “Private property based on the labour of the small owner, free competition, democracy—all these catchwords with which the capitalists and their press deceive the workers and the peasants are things of the distant past. Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world by a handful of ‘advanced’ countries. And this ‘booty’ is shared by two or three world-dominating pirates armed to the teeth (America, England, Japan) who embroil the whole world in their war over the division of their booty.”

Today, we could put Russia in place of Japan. In the body of the book Lenin gives five facts that make up Imperialism, and these constitute the headings of the first five chapters. The first is the “Concentration of Production and Monopolies.” In this he points out the enormous growth of monopolies in Germany and the elimination of the small producer. This, of course, applies to Russia today. Chapter II is “The Banks and their New Role.” Here he states:—

    “In proportion as banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of institutions, the banks grow from modest intermediaries into all-powerful monopolists having at their command almost all the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen, as well as the greater part of the means of production and of the sources of raw materials of a given country or in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous small intermediaries into a handful of monopolists is one of the fundamental processes of the growing of capitalism into capitalist imperialism. For that reason we must first deal with the concentration of banking.”

Again, all this applies to Russia today. Consider the financing of the five-year plans and the last war.

Chapter III is headed “Finance, capital and financial oligarchy.” Here Lenin quotes Hilferding as writing:—

    “An ever-increasing portion of industrial capital does not belong to the industrialists who employ it. They obtain the use of it through the bank, which, as against them, represents the owner of the capital. On the other hand, the bank is forced to leave an increasing share of its funds in industry. Thus, to an ever-increasing degree the bank is being transformed into an industrial capitalist. This bank capital, i.e., capital in the form of money which is thus transformed into industrial capital, I call finance capital. . . . Finance capital is therefore ‘capital controlled by the banks and utilised by the industrialists’.”

Lenin remarks that this definition is incomplete, because it is silent on one of the most important points which is the growth and concentration of production and capital, otherwise he endorses it.

Chapter IV is “The Export of Capital.” This is almost too well known to need emphasising. Although Russia’s export of gold and of loans may be small compared to that of England in the past, loans have been made by Russia to China, capital invested in many Eastern European countries under Russian domination, and recently we have witnessed Russia’s loan to Egypt which has brought her directly into the Imperialist branch of the money-lending business beyond any dispute. Now comes the drive for the controlling interests in the Middle East with its oilfields, all clearly connected with the export of capital. A Financial Times correspondent (27/1/58) gave particulars of Russian aid and loans to foreign countries totalling £673 million.

Chapter V is “The division of the world among the capitalist combines.” Here the Soviet monopoly combine already controls Hungary, Rumania. Bulgaria. Czecho-SIovakia, a large chunk of Germany. Latvia. Lithuania and Estonia. Northern Korea—not to mention her enormous controlling influence in China and other territories in the Far and near East. If this isn’t full-blooded Imperialism—then what is?

Chapter VI is an extension of the fifth with the heading, “The division of the world among the great powers.” Witness the way Russia and Germany divided Poland in 1939 and Russia and America divided Germany and Korea since the second war, and Syria, Jordan and Egypt are all being pigeon-holed by the Imperialist vultures.

Towards to the end of the book Lenin writes:—

    “Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the domination of monopolies and finance capital has taken shape; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world by the international trusts has begun, and in which the partition of all the territory of the earth by the greatest capitalist countries has been completed.”

According to Lenin’s Imperialism, Russia is therefore a full-blown Imperialist state, and the giant powers are now about to re-divide the world. Russia is no longer a backward agrarian and semi-feudal land, but a highly developed and powerful capitalist state.

Horace Jarvis