Imperialism has not changed its fundamental nature in the last 50 to 60 years. Despite the great victories of China and the national liberation movements which have brought about a considerable weakening of imperialism, it has managed to consolidate itself and maintain the deepest control over large of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
However; the world Capitalist crisis of the 1920s and the 1930s was a time of general setbacks for imperialism and of growth for the forces of socialism and progress. The fascist onslaught on the Soviet Union, Europe and the Far East gave imperialism a new lease of life. It was however a short lease and left the imperialists in a state of weakness, disunity and chaos. It also left socialism in the USSR seriously weakened. The strength of socialism in the world however was tremendously increased and for some time it was able to make considerable gains.
But no gains were made in the Western capitalist countries, the imperialist countries, where the programmes and tactics of the communists began more and more to resemble those of the social democrats who had betrayed the revolution at another time of great revolutionary opportunity, during the First World War. While communism surged ahead in China and other colonies and semi-colonies, communists in Europe were laying down their arms and making deals with their national governments and proclaiming the revisionist ’peaceful road’.
In the Soviet Union, there was a new upsurge of counter-revolutionary revisionism which had become strong during the war against fascism. The character of imperialism was being discussed, and the revisionists were proclaiming that imperialism had changed its character. Stalin struggled defiantly against these growing trends on economic and political questions, but the CPSU(B) began to make its first moves towards the policy that was finally adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPSU. The peaceful road, the party of the whole people the state of the whole people and the denial of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat in socialist construction all became CPSU policy under the infamous leadership of the renegade Khruschev.
International communism took a step back. Conscious class struggle was eased in the imperialist countries and the leadership of the national liberation struggles in the third world became disunited. The colonies and neo-colonies continued to struggle but the changed forms of imperialist hegemony, most particularly the economic and political subversion of ’independent’ states, was perfected so that the old imperialist relations remained intact. Independence without the leadership of a proletarian vanguard in newly independent states was independence only in the formal and diplomatic sense. The new rulers of India, West Africa, Egypt and other countries were bourgeois and compromised with imperialism. The consequence was that imperialism got its raw materials on the cheap without the need for an expensive administrative military apparatus in these neo-colonial countries. In those colonies where a strong non-revisionist proletarian vanguard existed, such as Vietnam, this made all the difference between easy sham independence and an all-out struggle against imperialism.
After the Second World War, the world power which had been least weakened and devastated was the USA. US imperialism used its strength to grab the predominant position of power and influence in the world. It temporarily submitted the other imperialists to its dictate and organise them into a reactionary economic order and military alliances. It sought to unify all imperialisms into a world bastion against communism and peoples’ liberation movements in the colonies.
The Soviet revisionists were unconcerned to counter this US scheme; they claimed that imperialism did not stand for war anymore. Unlike Stalin, whose leadership involved the exploitation of the difference between imperialism in order to ally the threat of war, weaken capitalism and buy time for the revolutionaries to organise and take power, the Soviet Revisionists compromised with US imperialism claiming that Russia’s ’moral example’ would weaken the imperialists’ plans for war.
’Pax Americana’ received severe set-backs with the liberation of China and its defeat in Korea. Later, a new contender for world hegemony entered the scene, as Soviet revisionism developed into fully-fledged social-imperialism – socialism in words but imperialism in deeds. The US attempted to maintain its world front intact in the face of an upsurge of national liberation struggles on the one hand and the attempts of the Soviet imperialists to grab a share of the plunder of the third world on the other. As the struggle in Vietnam developed, America’s difficulties grew. The Vietnamese brought the US eagle to its knees by refusing to accept neo-colonial status and by fighting people’s war to defend their right to self-determination along the road to socialism. The consequence of Vietnamese victories was that the US front against communism broke, and inter-imperialist economic war developed between the USA, Europe and Japan. The Soviet imperialists, who supported the Vietnamese when it suited them in order to weaken the USA, had their own grave problems in Eastern Europe and the third world, where they stood increasingly revealed in their true colours (not the least reason for this being the principled struggle on the diplomatic front by China). Today imperialism is in deep crisis; peoples all over the world are increasingly standing up for their rights and the lesser imperialisms are beginning to compete with both US and Soviet imperialism. Hence the emergence of a degree of European unity in the EEC. The two super-powers frantically attempt to gain the advantage while desperately colluding to prevent peoples’ struggles from destroying their shared world hegemony.
Despite its growing weakness, imperialism remains, and the relationship between oppressor and oppressed nations continues to exist. Super-profits continue to exist and as a consequence the labour aristocracy continues to subvert the workers’ resolve for revolution. What is more, there will always be a labour aristocracy while imperialism continues, and its influence may continue to exist for some time after a successful revolution against imperialism in the Western countries. It will take a lot of work to destroy all the unequal and oppressive ties that exist between Britain and the third world. It will take a long time to overcome the imperialist attitudes that exist in the minds of the vast majority of British people. But it must be done.
As for the party, the first ideological question when we consider unity for party-building must be the question of imperialism, all the aspects of it that affect international solidarity and all the other related questions. The old social-democratic approach to the class struggle in Britain disregards the facts of imperialism. This includes the Trotskyists, revisionists, anarchists and all other left trends. Effectively they see only two class forces in Britain which act upon each other in a more or less pure form. External matters are disregarded, even though it is the seemingly external fact of imperialism which gives the bourgeoisie its character. External matters are disregarded, even though it is the fact of imperialism which gives the leadership of the labour movement its peculiar character.