Our Position on Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism


Jan Makandal


There is a fundamental non-correspondence between imperialism and anti-imperialism. They are not simply direct opposites. The struggle against imperialism (the advanced form of accumulation of capital), is not to be conflated with anti-imperialism (the struggle against the domination of one social formation by another).

Imperialism is an advanced stage of the development of capital. Capital is a form of organization of a social formation, and imperialism is a conjuncture, a period. Anti-imperialism is not an alternative form of societal organization, but rather a political struggle to transform a specific political relation (a relation that while not economic, does have an economic effect).

Imperialism is a conjuncture of capital in its process of development. And many imperialist social formations are relatively no longer in that conjuncture, even if they do maintain the political relation of domination with other social formations. In the inter-imperialist conflict for international territorial control, many imperialist social formations have lost some territories, while others are in the process of losing and gaining territories.

In the period of imperialism, capital is in no way progressive, revolutionary, or even humanitarian. Capital is a social relation. It is a social process of the production of goods, at the level of the whole social formation, in which waged labor is the internal determination essential for capital. Hence, imperialism is still based on and linked to the necessity of exploiting wage labor in the development of any social formation.

In fact, this is one of the reasons that makes the proletariat an international class. The proletarian, wherever s/he is, in whatever social formation, sells his/her labor power and thus shares the same fundamental relation with capital as all other proletarians. For example, during the past six years in Haiti, capitalists have accumulated more than $70 million of surplus value produced by the exploitation of labor power in the textile assembly industries, plus at least another $60 million from time illegally expropriated from workers. In the US, it is estimated that $250,000 of surplus value is appropriated by capitalists annually from the labor power of each worker (of approximately 7 million workers in the industrial sector). By super-exploiting the Chinese proletariat, China is slowly building itself up as the next new kid on the block, to be a major contender in the inter-imperialist struggle for accumulation of capital.

Our political current, in unity with previous proletarian revolutionaries, still upholds the position that we are in the same period as 100 years ago, in which the fundamental contradiction is between capital and labor. It is by addressing and pushing forward that contradiction, that we will weaken and defeat capital. In both dominated social formations and imperialist centers, at any stage of the development of capital, including the imperialist stage, capital can only be defeated by revolution involving all the dominated masses led by the working class.

The objective of defeating capital for the emancipation of humanity is the highest form of struggle at this time. We have also argued that the relations of capitalism, in its most extreme stage of imperialism, are based on two sets of contradictions:

  • 1) the contradiction between capital/imperialism and the dominated social formation,
  • 2) the contradiction inside each social formation.

In the dialectical relation between these two sets of contradictions, the second is determinant. This means that a dominated social formation’s internal contradiction will define and determine the form that domination takes. Since not all social formations are alike, or even similar, neither are their forms of being under domination. These are determined by the internal class struggle, by the ensemble of class relations that exist in that dominated social formation.

The struggle against domination, in the context of the internal unity and struggle of classes, will correspond to the form of the dominant mode of production in the dominated social formation. The concrete form of struggle tends to be a national form.

For the proletariat, this national form must be determined by proletarian internationalism. This means that the national form of struggle to defeat capital/imperialism needs to be waged from the interest of, and in coordination with, the internal proletariat—or at least in the objective interest of the international proletariat.

Many other classes will also offer their own national forms of struggle, including ultra-reactionary (i.e.: feudal) classes, and all the various sectors of the capitalist class. Only one sector of the capitalist class, in a very limited way, is capable of playing a progressive role: the national bourgeoisie—though it is only temporarily progressive, and only in the context of the struggle against imperialist domination. (Because of their intertwinement with and dependence on international capital, other sectors of the capitalist class, such as the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, cannot play any progressive role).

This struggle against imperialism (the advanced form of accumulation of capital) is not to be conflated with anti-imperialism (the domination of one social formation by another).

  • Anti-imperialism is a political struggle that combines two inter-related tasks: the struggle inside the dominated social formation, and the struggle inside the imperialist social formation (the capitalist social formation at its supreme stage).
  • Anti imperialism is a politically concentrated form of struggle against a relation of domination. Though in the political field, it will affect the economic field as well.
  • Anti-imperialist struggle is not anti capitalist. It is not addressing the fundamental structure of capital accumulation and reproduction. Rather, it addresses an effect of domination.
  • Though it doesn’t directly address the destruction of capital, anti-imperialist struggle will objectively weaken the capacity of capital to accumulate.
  • Anti-imperialist struggle in dominated social formations takes a national form. Because of this, it is determined by class struggle, and in particular by the class leading that struggle. When a reactionary class, such as feudalists or a fraction of the bourgeoisie, leads the struggle against domination, this nationalism can be reactionary. The most advanced form of nationalism is when it is under the leadership of the proletariat—then it has the content of internationalism.
  • Only the proletarian line can coordinate the anti-imperialist struggle on a path that can lead to emancipation, inside both dominated and imperialist social formations. When left to the petit bourgeoisie, the anti-imperialist struggle will inevitably be characterized by populism and opportunism, leading to a new round of domination of the masses, and the painful need to start the struggle again from scratch. We have seen this over and over again in history.