The new world disorder: war and imperialism

Submitted by martin on 21 December, 2002 - 4:32

Number 2/3 of Workers' Liberty magazine is a special issue on "The new world disorder: war and imperialism". For contents, and links to download articles from the magazine as pdf files, read on.

The USA as hyperpower by Colin Foster.
"Rome fell. Babylon fell. Scarsdale's turn will come". The super-plutocracy of the US rich, symbolised by such posh commuter towns as Scarsdale (near New York), is fated to decline. Thus Paul Kennedy summed up the message of his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which was the central reference point for discussions of the shape of the world at the time it was published, in 1987.
Fifteen years on, the USA's military spending exceeds (since 1997) the total of the world's nine next-biggest powers. The US has military bases in around 60 countries around the world. The US government is so little bothered by the cost of such firepower that it plans large increases in military spending. The USA claims the right to wage what it calls "pre-emptive" war to keep the world in what it considers proper shape, and has named Iraq as the first target for this doctrine.
It is not quite the old high-imperialist doctrine according to which Britain and other powers claimed the right to conquer territories and rule them in the cause of taking civilisation to the "lesser breeds". But it is not far off it.
The USA is a hyperpower. For now, it has something like world dominion. It does not follow that socialists and consistent democrats should adopt a stance of mechanical opposition to the USA - "Yankophobia", saying yes when the Yankees say no and no when the America says yes - still less that we should give positive support to all and any forces opposing the USA.
Iraq: trajectory of a state by Rhodri Evans.
Since the 1970s, at least, Iraq's state policy has been essentially about trying to establish itself as a regional big power - a "sub-imperialist" centre. To do so it has repeatedly repressed smaller peoples - the Kurds, the population of Kuwait - and made war against its neighbours. Its policy towards Israel represents the worst Arab chauvinism, mitigated only by distance. The state's rule of fear against its own people goes hand in hand with its reactionary external policy.
Capitalism, nation, classes, Empire: practice and theory of the new movements by Akis Gavriilidis.
World capitalism is not a criminal offence; it is a productive system, an unequal articulation of social formations, each of which is characterised by conflicts of class interests. If we want to fight against it, we have to fight not for or against this or that country (e.g., "Greece" or "Brazil" against "the USA"); we have to fight against exploiters, even - or, rather, most of all - if these are in our own country. And we have to fight in alliance with all other people subject to exploitation, even - or, rather, most of all - if these are in a foreign country.
Why isn't Hamas the same as the Algerian FLN? by Clive Bradley.
Islamism represents despair. It is not an alternative economic and political programme, but a retreat from having one, trusting instead in God.
Old-style nationalism was for something positive and concrete in the real world. The Islamists of course have their ideology (or ideologies, plural, ranging from that of Sayyid Qutb to that of Khomeini) - but what it represents is essentially negative.
Two critiques: "Empire" and "new imperialism" by Martin Thomas.
This article discusses the issues round "globalisation" by way of two critiques, of Negri-Hardt and of the "new imperialism" theory of John Rees, Alex Callinicos and other writers associated with the British SWP.
Both accounts have a theological taste to them. But where Negri's and Hardt's is enthusiastic, mystical theology, Callinicos's is the theology of the worldly-wise, "moderate" prelate of a modern established church.
Both Hardt/Negri and Callinicos/Rees slide off the narrow and slippery path of scientific analysis - substituting speculative construction for empirical investigation in one case, dragging the ill-fitting costume of yesterday's theory onto today's reality so as better to be able to agitate about "imperialism - just like Lenin condemned" in the other.
Empires and war – Karl Kautsky's famous article from 1914 on "ultra-imperialism", and an extended introduction discussing its relevance for today.
Under the banner of "anti-Kautskyism", paradoxically, the more valuable bits of Kautsky's theorising - including those where Lenin had common ground with him - have been lost, and reworked versions of some of his errors have become common. Re-examining the actual texts can help us better understand the world today.
The Marxists against colonialism – the classic Marxist statement in favour of revolt for national liberation against colonialism, written by Karl Kautsky while still a revolutionary, reprinted here with an introduction on the lessons for today.
Polemicising furiously against Karl Kautsky in 1916, Lenin took a footnote to praise the pamphlet we reprint here, "written by Kautsky in those infinitely distant days when he was still a Marxist".
Karl Kautsky was "the Pope of Marxi sm" for two decades between Engels' death in 1895 and World War One in 1914, when he committed socialist suicide by excusing and rationalising for the German socialist leaders' support for their own ruling class in the war. Most of his writ ings were rather professorial - judicious summings-up, dispassionate investigations, historical excursions. This pamphlet was different.
Written in the heat of a political crisis within the socialist movement, it was the first comprehensive statement of a militant Marxist politics of combat against the imperialism which saw most of the world, from the late 19th century through to the mid 20th, made into possessions of a few rich states of the Northern hemisphere.

The older Kautsky and his no-longer-revolutionary Social Democratic Party had little use for the pamphlet. The early Communist International, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, felt no need to reprint it. They condensed Kautsky's analysis into urgent injunctions for revolutionaries in the imperial countries to champion the revolts of the colonial slaves, and those in the colonies to strive for working-class leadership in those revolts.
Almost a century on, the case stands differently. Socialists emerging from the long night of Stalinism strive to rediscover the authentic ideas of pre-Stalinist Marxism and rework them in a world that has changed greatly. We need to study the analytical basis which underpinned the terse calls to anti-imperialist action made in the heroic years of the Russian Revolution and then repeatedly adapted, bowdlerised, used and abused by Stalinists of different stripes.

Old empire against new: the Marxists and the place of the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese war in the evolution of the slogan of "revolutionary defeatism", by Hal Draper.
The "principle" about supporting a war of "progress" versus "reaction" which cannot be found in Marx is there, in an important programmatic article by Plekhanov, on the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. Was this where it really started life as a "principle of Marxism"?
The ABC of national liberation movements by Hal Draper.
For most people, including liberals, social demorats and opportunists of every stripe, "support" means support, period. For Marxists, it never has. This is one reason why, not infrequently, political leaders of a national struggle have been almost as unhappy about being supported by revolutionists as by being opposed.
Typically, the official leaders demand "civil peace" below in the ranks of their supporters, by which they mean unquestioning acceptance of their own domi-nance; they call for the end of "partisan politics," by which they mean they want unquestioning support of their own partisan politics.
But Marxists see no more reason to give political support - to a government, to a party, or to any other political organisation - in wartime than in peacetime, and do not believe that basic differences in social policy become irrelevant just because policy is to be carried out by arms rather than by "normal" means.
Dossier: socialists and wars.
Four wars between 1982 and 2001 posed new questions for socialists, both about changes in the world system over recent decades and about our basic political concepts. This dossier introduces some of the issues raised by the Kosova war of 1999, the US-Iraq war of 1991, and the British-Argentine war of 1982. The Afghan war of 2001 was discussed in Workers' Liberty 2/2; an analysis of the Socialist Workers' Party pamphlet on the Kosova war, Stop the War, was carried in Workers' Liberty 2/1.
Introduction to the dossier on Kosova: Babel-socialism in the light of the Kosova war by Sean Matgamna: also online here.
Dossier on Kosova
The US-Iraq war of 1991
The British-Argentine war of 1982.

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