Imperialsm: "Weakest Link" in Post-Lenin Marxism

T G Jacob

Lenin's Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism written in the midst of the 1st World War is often considered as a high point in the history of Marxist epistemology. It came out on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution as a political pamphlet polemical against Karl Kautsky who was the leading theoretician of the reformist social democratic stream of thinking within the international communist movement. Kautsky had propounded the theory of "supra-imperialism" or "ultra-imperialism" which predicted the unity of capitalism all over the world and emergence of a world system in the future politically implying a crisis free system which indirectly rules out violent conflagrations. The gist of his argument was that it is not in the interest of capital and capitalism to perennially go on the path of arms race and conflicts which makes it mandatory that sooner or later unity of interests will emerge as the dominant trend in the world which makes peaceful transformation of systems a lively, realistic possibility. His pacifism/reformism originated from this understanding of the world system. For quite some time he could carry the Second International on this pacifist line. From this point he graduated to one of denouncing the Russian Revolution and calling on the social democrats to fight the Bolsheviks. This called forth another bitter polemical work from Lenin in which he called Kautsky a renegade. But this happened later.

Lenin did not completely rule out the theoretical possibility of unity of capitalist interests worldwide but for him it was a far distant theoretical possibility with no political value at all. In his understanding the conflicts and contradictions in the real world are so intense that much before the possibility of unity of the interests of capital it will break up leading to its opposite which is socialism. The immediate post First World War political developments validated Lenin's position on imperialism awarding a predictive character to his formulation. This is the reason why his theory of imperialism became the pride of Marxist epistemology for at least some time until it was tested against concrete developments from the 1950s onwards. The success of revolution in Russia and the outbreaks in other European countries themselves validated his thesis. But this validation remained in its unassailable position only for three decades after he wrote his book in 1916. That is why for us who are living more than a century after 1916 Lenin's political thesis is not, to say the least, sufficient at all.

Lenin was not the only one who studied imperialism during early 20th century. Kautsky of course pre-dated Lenin. Not only Kautsky, but many Marxists and non Marxists studied the question. This was because the historical situation was so compelling that serious social analysts could not but try to grasp the undercurrents of those stormy times. In fact, Lenin himself depended decisively on other political and social analysts for his "sources of information". This was acknowledged in clear terms by Lenin in the preface to Imperialism... Among these sources the liberal bourgeois intellectual Hobson and the Marxist Hilferding were prominent. Both these intellectuals were pioneering analysts of imperialism and were trying to evolve rigorous theories of imperialism. In Russia itself Bukharin also tried to do the same. Looking at the history of studies on imperialism we can see that up to the 1960s and 1970s there were no serious attempts from the side of Leftists to develop the understanding on imperialism because they, especially Marxists, held Lenin as the last word on the subject. In other words, investigations were not considered necessary and Lenin was fossilised though he himself had repeatedly warned about the extreme conditionality of definitions and formulations and emphasised on the great need to test theories against concrete historical conditions.

Lenin's analysis had clear-cut political imperatives and that is why it ought to be considered a political pamphlet written for a political purpose, not a professional analysis of the political economy of imperialism. That is why it can be interpreted variously. Words are used synonymously. The key words "highest stage of capitalism" is interchangeable with "last stage of capitalism" which reveals the theoretical vagueness of the entire text. What is formally called the "Marxism of the imperialist age" is described by Lenin not only as the "highest" or "last" stage of capitalism but also as "moribund" and "parasitic and decayed" capitalism. His position was unmistakably politically correct in the given political context, but this by itself does not mean any infallibility for all ages to come. Contextual political correctness does not always mean eternal theoretical correctness. In fact, this is a basic understanding of Marxist methodology which Lenin also upheld.

Whether it was the "last" or "final" stage of capitalism one thing was clear. It was that it was the direct colonial stage of capitalism. Due to its inexorable laws of accumulation of capital capitalism as a system had to thrust outwards which meant to societies and territories outside its ambit involving export of capital to facilitate and intensify looting. The much talked investment/export of capital to colonial countries or territories had this logic of profit behind it. It was crude but worked for centuries enormously enriching the home bourgeoisie and depleting and pauperising the resource base and peoples of the subject countries. To begin with it was merchant capital which rejected any freedom in trade, and then it was industrial capital which did not abandon the coercive character of mercantilism. This means that under colonialism capital passed through different phases in its purposes and impacts though grossly unequal terms of trade was the uniform hallmark of colonialism throughout its history. The markets were distorted to suit maximum economic extraction ably aided by control of political power producing famine or near famine conditions for the producing peoples all through. That is why colonial history is often characterised as the age of famines. It was the age of empire for the colonialists but the age of famines for the colonised peoples.

The export of finance capital, territorial division and redivision of the world in the interests of the bourgeoisie of European nation states who competed with each other, uneven development of capitalism, and the rising tide of liberation movements in the colonised territories characterised the main body of imperialism for Lenin. This was more or less the same for all the analysts of the period. While the components of what constituted as imperialism was the same the conclusions were different. It was the specific conclusion drawn by Lenin that made his analysis distinct, not the analysis as such. Also it was only the conclusion that was original with his writing; other vital components were extracted from the writings of Hobson and Hilferding mainly. This conclusion that failed to stand the test of time in the post 2nd World War epoch was precisely what was fossilised and eternalised by his so called followers. It was unfortunate but tells much about the stultifying sterility of dogmas and hence ought to be a valuable lesson for all those who want to understand reality. The most outrightly negative result of this dogma is the cap put on investigations into the changing nature of imperialism and that is why Marxist epistemology is so backward in understanding the present world system. The Marxists buried the weak points of Lenin's analysis and propagated that his analysis is complete by itself and will stand for ever even when it became obvious that the weak points had become glaring over a period of few decades. The only possible exception to this manufactured self complacency was the attempts by Bukharin to develop the theory of imperialism. And we know what happened to his attempt and himself. He was called a counter revolutionary, his writings were blacklisted and finally he was executed by the Stalin regime.

 By the time the Chinese revolution became a possibility substantiating Lenin's prediction concerning the challenge to imperialism the Bolshevik party and the state controlled by it had already become an anti thesis to socialism and communism. Moreover, using ideological and fraternal relations it was consistently trying to impose own programs on the fighting party in China. Mao recognised this and steered clear of the pernicious influence though only after paying a heavy price. Though catchy phrases like "imperialism is a paper tiger" on imperialism came from China almost no substantial analysis of imperialism came from China. Mao brilliantly analysed the class structure of China which certainly involved reflections on the role of imperialism on class formations. But no study came out on the essential nature of imperialism itself though several realistic slogans were popularised. Only when the ideological and political rift with the Soviet Union came out in the open during the early 1960s the expressions "social imperialism" and "neo colonialism" were used to explain the rationale of the political rift. Though social imperialism connoted a phenomenon of imperialism masquerading under the garb of socialist rhetoric no serious effort went in to analyse the class nature of the phenomenon itself. Of course such 'purely' political polemics could not throw much light on or advance the theory of imperialism. Western scholars like Charles Bettelheim later attempted to open up this topic but by then events had overtaken such attempts. The collapse of Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union itself were events that redrew basic parameters.

During the 1960s and '70s a trend in social sciences emerged in South America analysing the economic relations prevalent in a highly unequal world. Political economists like Günter Frank and Samir Amin pioneered this school of thought which could not be identified with any specific political stream though broadly leftist in orientation. Independent journals like Monthly Review and Latin American Perspectives became effective platforms for this trend of thought. This school broadly called the "dependency school" popularised several interesting formulations like dependent accumulation, centre periphery approach, development of underdevelopment and many of the theorists had the political background of the student revolts and anti-war movement of the 60s. Those were the days when the Vietnam War had a global polarising impact among radicals once again bringing Lenin's ideas on world system into sharp relief. At the same time the post World War scenario presented the US as the hegemonic super power with the Soviet Union trying to rival it in terms of ideology.

Even during the War period the US had already reaped the fruits of indirect or neo-colonial imperialism in South and Central Americas which did not necessarily warrant or need territorial control. This was clearly a transition for which the "backyard of the US" became the laboratory even a century back because the conditions were considered ideal there. But clearly the conceived scope was the globe. Intellectuals in the backyard recognised this phase of capitalism for what it actually meant to their national cultures and political existence which during the phase of colonialism never fully underwent the ethnic cleansing process. Though the US resorted to territorial direct control only as the last resort the phenomenon of puppets was widely resorted to. A large variety of disposable puppets came into being. They were reared, nurtured and maintained and their fiefdoms came to be known as "banana republic". The operating handle was invariably the Central Intelligence Agency which became a byword all over the world for covert operations. The dependency analysts made several country studies elucidating the mechanics of the world system, unravelling the various strands that make up the web of a patently unjust and wasteful setup.

No doubt these analysts brought in the much desired fresh breath to the languishing body of study on imperialism but unfortunately the effort stopped short of a basic breakthrough. But it has to be emphasised that the theory of imperialism remained where Lenin did his investigation. In South America political independence came a century before that in Africa and Asia but along with this political independence came economic dependence too. It was on this cardinal point that the dependency theorists failed in the political task of developing the theory of imperialism. Instead of developing a theory of imperialism what happened was that questions concerning the intricacies of the specific economic history of South America came to be focussed upon. They were more of pedantic value than political discoveries. One such question which engaged a lot of brain storming was why South American countries like Argentina, Peru or Chile did not develop like their counterparts in North America into capitalistic imperialism though both were subject to migrations from Europe around the same period and both attained political independence much before the decolonisation wave started in the second half of the 20th century. To date no conclusive answer has been offered by the dependency school except that it was the class character of the immigrants that mattered than the fact of immigration itself. The Spaniards and Portuguese who colonised the South were considered feudal in character while those who went to North America were considered capitalist in character who developed capitalism there. Well, this can at best be an admission of lack of theory to explain actual historical processes.

Neo-colonialism is Qualitatively Different
The failure of the dependency theorists to advance the theory of imperialism cannot be charged against them because they never promised any such advancement. In their own words their task was mainly to understand the dynamics of the dependent nature of their economies and hence the politics leading them. They never promised anything beyond academic explanations or clarifications which may have more rigorous treatment of themes but may be limited in political scope. The export of finance capital as distinct from export of goods and services could be identified as a distinguishing character of imperialism for both Lenin and Kautsky and combining with the monopoly stage of capitalism expansion outwards becomes a mandatory condition for survival of the capitalist system itself. We have this much as a solid foundation for a Marxist theory of imperialism, something good enough for further development. But looking back from the first quarter of the 21st century we see that this potential development never happened which plays no small role in the vociferous claims on the invincibility of the capitalist system and capitalist ideology. This of course includes the philosophy concerning the nature of man which is considered inherent and inalienable to the capitalist man that Homo sapiens are by the unalterable laws of nature selfish, greedy and self seeking and it is sheer impossible idealism and foolishness to expect anything else. So by laws of nature themselves the system we have is the most suitable as well as desirable one that mankind can strive for.

But unfortunately such a naive self satisfaction flies in the face of our history and everything that is real around us. After the 2nd World War the constitution of several international organisations, conventions, treaties, and economic and financial regulators like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank with very large participation of countries belonging to different layers raised hopes that the world is stepping into an era of stability and peace. But within no time these hopes proved naive and unreal and things started in earnest to become the opposites of expectations. Moreover, the dimensions of these opposites were hitherto unheard of. Predatory methods of direct domination and exploitation gave way to sophisticated hidden methods which embodied far more vicious dependency and parasitism on the global level. Which is more desirable or more exploitative is an irrelevant question because it is not the degree of dependency and parasitism that is important but its absoluteness. Political independence has always proved wishful and incompatible with economic dependence and there is nothing to suggest the contrary in the contemporary situation. In fact, economic dependence is imparting its complicated viciousness to political independence giving it a confusing facade often hiding the real face to the great advantage of hidden interests.

The journey of merchant capital to industrial capital and colonial capitalism was not a seamless one but marked by tumultuous catastrophes like world wars. The travel from colonial capitalism to neo- colonialism is also not a once for all event with a sharp cut-off point. On the other hand it took time and trials to become a dominant system with galore ideological confusions. We saw how even a century before decolonisation became a wave in Africa and Asia post 2nd World War it had become a political reality in South America with the dual character of economic dependence and political independence. Moreover, in this region the ideological prestige of a country that waged war against colonialism and slavery masked the economic dependence well for quite some time. Democracy and freedom as against totalitarianism and fascism could be used as catch words to justify domination over weaker neighbours. Communist totalitarianism and fascism versus democracy could become a world-wide slogan for establishing world-wide hegemony. Neo colonialism is the cause and effect of this new hegemony.

When the period of decolonisation in Africa and Asia gained momentum during the mid 20th century anti colonial aspirations of the subject peoples were very strong in the world wide background of weakening of the colonial powers and the emergence of ideological and political alternatives represented by the Soviet Union, its satellites and China. Political freedom from colonialism had become an irreversible trend in world politics; and the United States, the most powerful economic and political entity after the 2nd World War, while opposing the Soviet Union in the name of democracy and freedom was also for unshackling the colonial tentacles and opening up the colonial world to competitive economics and politics. The Declaration of Independence was still an inspiration to the oppressed people all over the world. Also indirect colonialism or neo-colonialism had already proved a success under its aegis over a significant part of the world and that too predominantly inhabited by people of European origin.

The end of the 2nd World War also witnessed the marching of China, the most populous country of the world, towards liberation from imperialism and archaic relations of production. This was certainly a very ominous and disquieting sign to world-wide imperialism. India, the next most populous country of the world was being rocked by mighty waves of anti imperialism though different in form from China. India's case was unique and at the same time highly significant in that the freedom struggle was led by the ideology of non violence while in China it was the people's war. It was not that in India there were no other ideological streams but the dominant stream was that of Gandhian non violence with non cooperation being developed as an effective weapon against imperialism even while the colonial rulers were unleashing violence on a large and indiscriminate scale. While developing the strategy of throwing out imperialism Gandhi was also involved in designing the kind of future society fit for post colonial India.

During the post War period India and China was being keenly watched by the world. China attained liberation while India attained political independence from colonial rule. A whole new crop of India watchers and China watchers mushroomed in the capitalist/imperialist world. China faced isolation from the western bloc, while the Soviet bloc and India were supportive. India with the colonial legacy of an agrarian economy in shambles and severe dislocations and trauma due to the partition of the sub continent was facing enormous problems mainly economic in nature and the world was watching how the new rulers were handling it. Stability was fickle though emotions were strong. Gandhi's assassination and the resultant disorientation in the Gandhian camp effectively put an end to constructive debates on the kind of economic and political system to be built among the ruins left by the British. Ideologically, the field was left to western-oriented liberal democrats with some social-democratic inclinations, epitomised in the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister and top leader of the Congress party. There were serious attempts to establish friendship and cooperation with China, but the annexation of Tibet by the latter opened the Pandora's Box of border disputes which resulted in an India-China war with unpleasant consequences for India. Of course, this was welcome to the US because it opened up possibilities for their big power manipulations.

Nehru, with Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of Egypt, mooted the Non Aligned Movement in the face of the Cold War which was on and often threatening to turn hot. This was mainly a diplomatic conclave of newly independent countries calling for equal distance from rival imperialist blocs led by the US and USSR respectively. It was not an economic alliance but a diplomatic and cultural one with the wishful ambition of emerging as an influential bloc in international politics. Non alliance was also conceived as a means to utilize the global situation to bargain for advantageous agreements and deals from the rivals. This also proved wishful thinking as proved by concrete developments which effectively nullified the claims of non alignment, not to speak of any "movement", fairly soon. But we have to accept that it was a wish with idealistic overtones to steer clear of imperialist entanglements. But such an idealistic scheme was not workable because of global factors totally beyond the control of the initiators. Moreover, state capitalism of the USSR relied on the basic capitalist mechanism of surplus extraction and sans the rhetoric it proved as imperialistic as anyone else. Ultimately, its state capitalist system imploded from within due to systemic crisis thus cleaning away the rhetoric part once and for all. The Chinese Communist Party rooted in Han nationalism saw through this rhetoric of Soviet Union early enough to make them label the USSR as "social imperialist" and apologist of "neo-colonialism". In India "Nehruvian socialism" equated socialism with developing a state sector with global cooperation in terms of capital and technology and called the economic system as a whole as "mixed economy". Five year plans, emphasis on core sectors, various poverty amelioration programs formed the components of his populism without seriously disturbing the existing socio-economic power balance.

The policy of non alignment also meant alignment with all denominations of imperialism without showing any partiality to any one denomination. In fact, this was what happened in India. British India was called jewel on the British crown but post colonial era it became jewels on the varied crowns of global capital. The emergence of transnational/multinational business organisations and capital facilitated this process enormously. Even before the 2nd World War multinational corporations as a specific form of business organisation had emerged in the Americas but after the War it was pushed on a world scale. Decolonised countries like India had guaranteed the protection of established colonial capital interests and nationally the native business class called compradors were dominant politically and economically. This social base of erstwhile colonialism could well adapt itself to the changed political conditions. Of course, changes are inevitable and the scale of operations is also different. As an illustration we can take the background of the big business houses of India. Most of them began as procurers for colonial capital who graduated to the position of manufacturers and owners of industrial capital due to the pressures of the two world wars. The Tatas started as opium and liquor procurers/traders and subsequently became steel and textile producers too.

Though Nehru was sought to be projected globally as a dashing leader of the third world, the situation was bleak internally. Agrarian relations in this predominantly agrarian country were wretchedly backward which was grinding the vast masses in feudal oppression and acting as a severe fetter on the development of productive forces all around. The peasantry was rebelling and in some places turning into armed rebellion against the state. Immediately after independence the Nehru government had to send in the military to the large erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. Similar, though not so big, rebellions happened in other places too. Kashmir was truncated and the North East was certainly not at ease with Delhi. The new government in Delhi was unwilling to initiate radical changes in land relations for fear of earning the hostility of the feudal classes and the pre- independence promises of federalism were being brushed aside and even linguistic organisation of States was sought to be indefinitely postponed with the result that a mass-based movement for linguistic reorganisation of the colonial structure broke out on a pan-Indian basis. This was particularly intense in peninsular India. The Nehru government faced all these and more problems in the immediate post-1947 period. The annexation of Tibet and the Chinese position that vast regions administratively in India are part of Greater Tibet and hence belong to China created a war in 1962 and political freedom itself was immediately followed by a war with Pakistan over Kashmir. This was certainly a compelling reason for further and further militarisation, a very severe drain on the impoverished and dilapidated economy that was inherited from the colonialists but highly lucrative to the arms brokers and producers and their economies.

Apart from the struggles for overhauling agrarian relations, which had direct political implications, another sort of struggles rooted in the day-to-day misery of the people also came up widely. These were popularly known as "food riots" demanding the most essential staple food items, a phenomenon engulfing both rural and urban areas. These riots had the potential to turn political, a frightening possibility staring at the fledgling government of Nehru. The scarcity of food was absolute in the sense that the food output was grossly insufficient to meet the minimum needs of the people. To mellow the discontent which had every possibility of going out of control the government was compelled to request for food aid from external sources. The US had enormous surplus which they were even ploughing back into the fields. Under Public Law 480 they obliged the Nehru government with shiploads of coarse grains as "aid". This was the first major macroeconomic intervention of the US in independent India. But this was only the beginning; major whole packages were in the pipeline. They had already studied how comprehensively the package for Indian agriculture can be greatly advantageous to their big bourgeoisie. For this purpose the Ford Foundation started their first overseas office in Delhi in 1961.

This package heralded as Green Revolution was not simply one of exporting modern chemicals based agriculture tools into India. Initially areas with sufficient water availability were chosen for intensive agricultural development using hybrid seeds, insecticides, pesticides, agricultural machinery like tractors to increase marketable surplus of food crops to tide over the food scarcity crisis. None of these inputs were familiar or produced in the country. The objective was clearly to overturn and destroy the traditional agricultural methods and production processes in favour of imported technology and inputs. Voices of dissent demanding developing the time-honoured agricultural methods were sidelined and a whole crop of new agricultural research institutions started at public expense were converted into effective propagandists of the imported model. Gandhians like JC Kumarappa had stridently warned against this possibility as one of suicidal dependency as early as the early 1950s when the American 'experts' were perpetually fluttering around Nehru. But Nehru treated such critics with contempt and even called them insane. As far as economic policy was concerned Nehru proved to be very much aligned with the American 'experts'; his macro agrarian policy was one of entangling the primary producers in the complicated web woven by the agro-chemical multinational corporations who were doubling up as producers of chemical warfare weapons.

What was significant for the multinationals was the crisis they were facing during the 1950s and '60s. They are generally known as "dirty industries" facing the ire of the growing environmental movement in the context of the Vietnam War in which chemical weapons like Agent Orange were being liberally used to the disgust of the whole world. In the post 2nd WW period, research as a high profit industry had registered spectacular leaps with the chemical industry leading the list. It was a typical capitalist crisis and creation of demand was the way out. Conscious attempts were made to relocate the dirty industries to poor countries to save this vital component of capitalist industry from collapse. Maintaining the profit levels or even increasing them was possible by relocating or selling the products of research into which so much has already been sunk. Remodelling and recasting the agriculture of poor countries to cater to the chemical multinational corporations thus became a key component of imperialist strategy during the 1960s. Naturally enough, India was tipped as a very significant variable in this imperialist economic calculus. This imperialism is certainly not the same as colonial imperialism under which creation of famines through revenue farming and forced changes in the crop mix was the means of looting. Here the method of increasing production through creating a market for technological products by means of which surplus extraction gets institutionalised on a higher level of the development of productive forces becomes the systemic character.

Colonial plunder kept the productive forces backward and stunted, but neo-colonial plunder is sophisticated and complex. However, it is no less vicious. During colonial times the enemy was fully visible with a direct presence. Now it is the market with its various components that is the medium of surplus extraction, siphoning, and impoverishment. That is why the primary producers are up against the market conditions even without fully recognising the magnitude of the mechanism that is driving them to bankruptcy and suicide. This was exactly what staunch Gandhians had warned Nehru about when he was presiding over the entry of multinational corporations into Indian agriculture. Things have turned full circle, neo-colonial relations have matured. It took some time, but then these systemic transformations are always a process. We call it mature because the contradictions engendered are now out in the open, or, they are politically visible. Identical trends are observable if you analyse any other sector of the economy. Corresponding manipulations of ruling class politics have also become clearly observable. Resorting to shameless lies every time when shock treatments are administered to economy for hiking the extraction from the people has become routine in our country. Some people call it the characteristic consolidation process of fascism; we are calling it the coming to maturity of the neo-colonial status of the society and economy. After all, fascism is a political weapon to facilitate structurally rooted exploitative channels to perform to full capacity. History tells us that it can very well be other isms also. Neo-colonialism also is some sort of an ism after all.

The armoury of neo-colonialism has a vast and varied repertoire of weapons. The simplest and most commonly practised of these is the widespread practice of bribery, which has become a perfected system. The grabbing of resources like land and what is in the land is invariably facilitated through bribes to the political bureaucratic class. The payment for getting contracts or licences is accounted for by the multinationals as a mandatory part of the operating cost. The large-scale export of weapons invariably involves astronomical bribes or what is euphemistically called kickbacks. In countries with a Constitution that is democratic, as in India, this well-developed system of bribery subverts whatever democratic content is there in the polity and converts the electoral system to a money-based one in which the common man can be outrightly bought and sold or intimidated. The political class in such countries invariably becomes super rich and the offices tend to become hereditary mainly on the basis of money power. It is also to be noted that where no democratic revolution occurred the vestiges of feudalism continue to be very strong, and combined with money power, power holding becomes continuous and hereditary. Politics is a money spinning activity and to get established money has to be spent. It is a vicious cycle, the viciousness of which gets strengthened from generation to generation. Money is decisive in every democracy, for example, in the United States, but in neo-colonies the parliamentary social management system is more often feudal too. Taking India's case we see that corruption in public life was there during the first government after 1947, nay at the time of the pre-47 so-called popular governments too. It grew as the maturity as a neo-colony grew, and now it has become an intrinsic and vital component of the management system of society and polity covering every layer from the top downwards. It is a matter of course, and only when it assumes amazing dimensions the rivals in power politics, who are also well educated in the operating mechanism, make use of this issue to hoodwink the people and come to power. The struggles at the ground level against corruption are an altogether different story.

No neo-colony can have an independent armed force capable of defending its borders on its own because of the simple factor that they are all crucially dependent on multinational arms makers and brokers for their weapons, operating knowhow and spares. In any war with any neighbours this dependency can be crippling. What this means is that the so-called national defence and the patriotism invoked in its name is sham because this national defence is outrightly dependent on the will and pleasure of the powerful, and weapons procurement is also a great field for large-scale corruption for the political bureaucracy. In outrightly puppet controlled states the basic and advanced training of the armed forces officers itself is conducted by experts from the imperialist countries and often in the imperialist military academies themselves. This is equally true for scientific personnel including economists and planners. The neo-colonial bosses consider it important to have their own experts in key positions, and not simply among the political bureaucracy. That is how the system becomes complete and works without hitches. Only the common people who are the victims are located outside. Even among the workers a cultivated worker aristocracy is maintained in many sectors. And labour laws are made or altered to suit the general scheme and if and when the common people rise against any multinational corporation because they are disease-spewing dirty ones, or threaten their bare livelihood, the neo-colonial state reacts with the utmost barbarity. We have any number of examples to validate these characteristics of the neo-colonial system in our country or anywhere else in the world. Only, such a narration does not fit the scope of this paper.

Unbelievable inequality is the hall mark of the neo-colonial system. It is not unusual to find a dozen persons or entities controlling or owing the bulk of the national wealth of a country of crores of people. America is often considered the country of worst inequalities. But that is a past story. A country like India or a state capitalist country like China now tops the list, though in conspicuous obscenity India is unmistakably first. It is so visual that any analysis is simply superfluous.

As imperialism in its colonial phase is the product of the built-in crisis of the capitalist system of realisation and accumulation we can say that neo-colonialism is also the result of the crisis in the production and reproduction of capital. Under conditions of tremendous global centralisation of finance capital and technological monopoly what is called imperialist globalisation becomes a cushion to lessen the impacts of the crisis for the owners and controllers of capital. The argument that imperialist capital itself suffers great losses due to this structural crisis is not relevant because we have to see that that the impacts would have been much worse or even crippling if the cushion was not there. At the pressing of a few keys in the global financial markets like New York or Tokyo billions of dollars can vanish from the neo-colonial economies plunging them into great crisis. The volatility of the financial market is phenomenal and it can be manipulated by the sharks to maximise profits or minimise losses. This kind of killing fluctuations have become so regular that we can say with assurance that the system is living in permanent crisis. During the last few decades we have witnessed the utter collapse of several national economies resulting from such manipulations of finance capital. Of course these manipulations are necessitated by the crisis in the production and reproduction of capital giving it a predominantly speculative character. The distinction between speculative and real very often vanishes entirely. And the time gap between one collapse and the next one is getting remarkably shorter and shorter. In the language of finance capital such collapses are called "melt downs".

The Bretton Woods meet at the end of the 2nd WW had clearly seen the worldwide replacement of colonialism by neo-colonialism as the agenda of the principal victor in the world war. The formation of the super banks-World Bank and International Monetary Fund-was visualised as the forging of two instruments for this transition as was clear from their laws and bye-laws. Control/ownership of these international super banks was on a shareholding basis, which simply means that the one who makes the maximum investment controls their working and policies. Of course, the US far surpassed anyone else in this respect and to date the situation remains unchanged. What it means is that the policies of these institutions become only an extension of the monetary and international economic policy initiatives of the US Treasury Department. At the same time, the other countries also are shareholders but in the position of very junior partners, which signifies that the neo-colonies also foot the bill for the management of their exploitation. This is not crude as the colonial policy of making the colonies pay the cost of colonisation. But, theoretically speaking, it is the same thing phrased in sophisticated banking and economic jargons. Both IMF and WB are conceived as lenders of last resort and development financiers and apparently sovereign countries are their clients. Over a period of time IMF has become quite notorious in its role as a physician of foreign exchange ailments of poor countries.

The populist economics of newly independent countries were "aided" by the rich ones, especially by the ex-colonial masters and the US. As shrewdly foreseen, soon they all invariably landed in incorrigible debt traps. During the 1970s and 1980s the term "debt trap" became enormously popular in the world. To put it simply, a country is in debt trap when it is compelled to borrow for servicing the earlier debts. India reached this position by the early 1970s and the situation became unmanageable by the second half of the '70s. It went with the bowl to the lender of last resort and was told nothing doing unless the currency is devalued. It was done but that was not at all enough. Then came the question of actual borrowing from the IMF and that was a turning point. IMF clearly told that money has a cost, that is, not just interest, but more fundamental economic policy changes is the cost, because the wrong economic policies and priorities that are identified by it as contributing to the balance of payments crisis and its recurrence have to be resolved. This means that silly populism has no place in economic policy. Export and more export should be the rationale of the economy. For this, structural adjustments and liberalisation in the economy are the watchwords. In 1991, India accepted these conditions. Since then the country is going on in this track of opening up every nook and corner of the economy to international capital which is given preferential treatment as a policy matter itself. This is how neo-colonialism attained maturity in this country of subcontinental dimensions. We are precisely at that point now. Political leaderships better behave properly, or they can have the fate of the Congress Party.

Neo-colonialism as a global order is inhumanly brutal in a highly invidious manner. It swears by the name of human rights, democracy, dictatorship, military rule, with unparalleled duplicity. Using the global media its agents propagate lies after lies to justify military interventions in countries that do not play the game according to their rules. The dominant proponents can easily arm twist international bodies like the UN Security Council and impose economic sanctions against erring countries. During the post 2nd WW period such economic sanctions which are nothing short of war have killed millions, especially children and the ill. In fact, the number of people killed through economic sanctions by the US is estimated to be more than the combined casualties of the two world wars.

 Iraq is a vivid illustration of the limits of neo-colonialism. First there was gross provocation of Iraq through stealing its oil reserves using slant drilling methods from Kuwait. When Iraq retaliated it fitted in well with the US plan to attack. Even before all this started rolling propaganda about weapons of mass destruction being stockpiled by Iraq was aired globally. The occupation of this oil rich country served more than one purpose for the multinational corporations of US. First and foremost, it was demanded by big arms manufacturers like Halliburton, who were facing an acute crisis of realization. It is only logical that in highly militarised economies like the US the weapons lobby will have decisive say in foreign policy. They were demanding fairly big scale fireworks to avoid collapse. They got it when Iraq was occupied after pounding it to smithereens. Second, the oil oligopolies were demanding annexation of Iraqi oil fields to stabilize their shaking supremacy in the world. Iraq was at that time planning to shift the trade of oil away from the dollar denomination which would certainly have a cascading effect throughout the world. Remember that the first thing that the occupier did after gaining control was to auction five trillion dollars worth oil reserves of Iraq to the very same companies that were asking for military action. There were no talks about weapons of mass destruction once the purpose was served, as if such a lie was never hammered without let-up. The US was simply not bothered about world opinion. ooo

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Vol. 53, No. 22-25, Nov 29 - Dec 26, 2020