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The SWP, imperialism and the "real Marxist tradition"

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Paul Morris surveys the twists and turns of the Socialist Workers Party on the theory of imperialism, permanent revolution and the "permanent arms economy"

In his article "What is the real Marxist tradition?" John Molyneux answers his own rhetorical question by claiming that a line runs from Marx and Engels, through Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky, to today's SWP. He lists the SWP's major theoretical contributions to the development of that tradition as:

"the state capitalist analysis of the Stalinist states, the theory of deflected permanent revolution in the third world, the analysis of the arms economy boom and the new economic crisis, the critique of the trade union bureaucracy."

We have dealt with the SWP's theory of state capitalism elsewhere.2 The purpose of this article is to show that on imperialism and all questions related to it "deflected permanent revolution" and the permanent arms economy the SWP's theory represents a break with the Marxist tradition, not a continuation of it. It will show that these errors flow from the failings of the theory of state capitalism when applied to the entire world system, and from the SWP's economism.

We look in detail at three related questions:

* Does the SWP support or reject Lenin's theory of imperialism as the starting point for a modern Marxist theory? Was it valid in Lenin's time; is it valid today?

* Does the "permanent arms economy" explain the post war boom?

* Does Cliff's theory of "deflected permanent revolution" help Marxists to understand the emergence of strong "Third World" capitalisms and guide revolutionaries in their practice?'

Lenin's theory of imperialism

What do we mean by the term "imperialism"? We can agree with Alex Callinicos when he notes that:

"Imperialism is neither a universal feature of human society nor a specific policy but 'a special stage in the development of capitalism', indeed, as the title of Lenin's pamphlet states, 'the highest stage of capitalism' ."4

Lenin and other Marxists, however, engaged in a series of debates during the first two decades of the century over the exact nature of imperialism. Often, they could not agree on an answer. But they were all motivated by the same question: what was the cause and consequences of the transformation that capitalism underwent between the mid i 890s and the First World War?

Surveying the new shape of the capitalist economy, Lenin drew what he called a "composite picture", which identified five features. They were to be found, in various stages of development, in all mature industrial capitalist countries:

* the concentration of capital into monopolies and cartels

* the merging of banking and industrial capital into "finance capital"

* the new importance of foreign investment (the "export of capital") as opposed to foreign trade

* the division of the world between international monopolies

* the territorial division of the world between the big imperialist powers.'

This was the highest and last stage of capitalism according to Lenin, one in which capitalism's own contradictions had begun to strangle it. Though the epoch could include periods of economic growth indeed, during the 20 years before Lenin wrote his famous pamphlet growth had prevailed over crisis for Lenin the overall trend in the imperialist epoch was one of stagnation and decline.

Imperialism had evolved as a systemic response by capitalism against deepening cyclical crises which, after 1873, became a prolonged stagnation phase. After 1896, capitalism entered its new epoch and achieved considerable success in restoring profit rates, stabilising the economies of the major powers and promoting the global spread of the system. But it had not succeeded in overcoming its own basic contradictions.

Indeed, for Lenin, imperialism constituted an intensification of these contradictions:

"The intensification of contradictions constitutes the most powerful driving force of the transitional period of history, which began from the final victory of world finance capital".6

Monopoly, the main defining feature of imperialist capitalism, produced a tendency to decay because it suppressed competition (and with it, innovation and productivity) within increasingly large areas of the capitalist economy, only to reproduce the contradictions at a higher level in the form of competition between monopolies and nation states.

It also produced a tendency towards parasitism, with greater and greater areas of the economy devoted to non-productive activity. Parasitism was a key feature of the imperialist epoch for Lenin, signifying the qualitative degeneration of capitalism as compared to its 19th century apogee. It signified a tendency to retard the development of the productive forces, and stimulate the growth of non-productive activity.

Politically, the imperialist epoch placed on the agenda repeated revolutionary opportunities, in marked contrast to the thirty-year period which followed the Paris Commune (1871). It imparted a revolutionary and progressive dynamic to bourgeois democratic struggles in the countries subjugated by imperialism.

Though Lenin's pamphlet Imperialism the highest stage of capitalism was only a "popular outline", and was written under conditions of semi legality, it remains the starting point for any modern Marxist attempt to understand the dynamics of imperialism.

Before we look at the SWP's relationship to Lenin's theory we must first outline our own attitude to that theory.

Of all the theories of imperialism developed in the first quarter of the century, Lenin's remains the most coherent and rounded explanation of the new epoch. But Lenin's theory did contain a number of weaknesses.

For example, he painted a picture of the imperialist heartlands becoming progressively more parasitic on world production, with entire countries and continents becoming devoid of productive industries with, as Hobson put it: "the staple food and manufactures flowing in as tribute from Asia and Africa".

In addition, Lenin heavily emphasised the export of capital as opposed to the export of commodities to the colonial countries. He predicated this on the inevitable unevenness of economic development in the colonial countries, predicting that imperialism was bound to leave much of the third world backward, underdeveloped and the site of high rates of return on capital compared to returns in the imperialist heartlands.

In fact, the imperialist heartlands did not become centres of parasitic consumption in contrast to a Third World dominated by production. Likewise the majority of capital exports were then, and are now, exported between the imperialist countries, notfrom them to the third world.

Lenin also closely identified the colonial conquest of the less developed countries with the overall tendency to export capital. Whilst he identified a category of "semi colonial" countries, giving the examples of Argentina, China, Turkey and other countries, which imperialism had been unable to conquer, he expected these to be eventually turned into colonies.

However, a contrary tendency emerged in the decades after the Second World War: a generalised system of semi colonies, nominally "independent" but in reality subject to varying degrees of political and economic subordination to the imperialist countries.

Despite the weaknesses mentioned above, Lenin's overall view of imperialism as a specific stage of capitalism, its declining stage, remains valid even though it must be modified to take account of new features produced in later periods within the imperialist epoch. It remains, as Lenin said, an epoch marked by the spontaneous self negation of the law of value; monopoly, state intervention, stagnation and parasitism.

The SR's recent theoretical output on this question, collected in the book Marxism and the New Imperialism, purports to defend and extend Lenin in similar terms'. But it does not. It has a different project entirely that of pure apologetics. The SWP has been forced by events over the last decade to have recourse to parts of Lenin's theory a theory which twenty or thirty years ago they explicitly rejected. This book is an attempt to square the circle between a current, pragmatic "orthodoxy" and the SWP's former very deep and open disagreements with Lenin.

Twice during the life of the IS/SWP tradition its major theorists Mike Kidron in the 1960s and Nigel Harris in the 1980s have launched frontal assaults on the Leninist theory of imperialism.

Today few of the SWP's recent "supporters" of Lenin dare even acknowledge the bald rejection of Lenin's theory once carried in the pages of ISJ by its then editor, Michael Kidron.

But, looked at more closely, the criticisms of Lenin they make today remain very similar, both to those made by Kidron in the 1960s and 1970s, and by Nigel Harris in the 1980s. This makes their "critical support" for Lenin seem more like the proverbial rope supporting a hanged man.

By way of approach to Marxism and the New imperialism therefore, we have first to outline the "history" of the theory of imperialism in the SWP/IS, focusing on the ideas of Kidron and Harris its principal economists for two decades or more.

Kidron versus Lenin

Kidron argued that Lenin's understanding of imperialism had been invalidated by the deep and sustained global growth of post war capitalism, and by the decline of colonialism.

He developed the theory of the Permanent Arms Economy (PAE) as a way of explaining the long post war boom (see box, page 30). The marked stability of capitalism in its main metropolitan centres, for Kidron, removed the impetus to export capital to the Third World and thus led to the decline of colonialism.

In a 1965 article for International Socialism Kidron concluded that:

"However correct the analysis in his day, and however justified the conclusion and these are essentially true even in retrospect [Lenin's theory] must be rejected on at least four counts: finance capital is not nearly as important for and within the system as it was; the export of capital is no longer of great importance to the system; political control in the direct sense meant by Lenin is rapidly becoming dated; and finally resulting from these, we don't have imperialism but we still have capitalism

If anything, it is the permanent war and arms economies that are the 'highest stage of capitalism'."8

What also disappeared, along with Lenin's theory, for Kidron, was any idea that the world's nation states could be divided hierarchically into imperialist powers on the one side, and subordinate, colonial or semi colonial ones, on the other. Instead, the picture emerges of:

"a far more homogeneous world in which many centres of capital and many more potential ones some large and powerful, others weak and willing, yet independent jostle and compete, forming, dissolving and reforming alliances of expediency where before division of labour and the labour of divisions imposed an immutable pattern of relationships ... the transition from imperialism into an arms economy in the mature capitalist countries has corroded a system in which backward countries fulfilled a special function in the world capitalist economy".9

What does this mean for revolutionary socialists? Quite simply, that Lenin and Trotsky were wrong when they said that the national bourgeoisie of backward countries could not lead a revolution against imperialist domination in the 20th century:

"To repeat, the national bourgeoisie or failing it the national bureaucracy has been rescued from oblivion by imperialism's withdrawal ... [the new conditions] demand a practical internationalism based on the growing uniformity in the conditions of exploitation, the growing irrelevance of national struggles and the growing similarity in the immediate aim of the working class the world over."10

The class struggle was becoming the same the whole world over. National struggles were a thing of the past. The Third World bourgeoisie did lead successful bourgeois revolutions against imperialism. These were the main tenets of Kidron's position.

Kidron's theory was modified under the pressure of major changes in the world in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The "long boom" gave way to a period of generalised world recession. The pattern of capital exports changed markedly. Kidron saw weaknesses in his own account of PAE. As an honest empiricist, finding its description of the world at odds with the new reality, he effectively abandoned it. He decided to return to the "classics", not to Lenin but to Bukharin. And to Tony Cliff, whose state capitalist theory rested on Bukharinite foundations.

Without repudiating his view that imperialism was outmoded as a theory, Kidron did reassert the fundamentally degenerate, declining character of the epoch. Free of the distorting effects of the boom period, and now in a period of "stagflation", renewed mass unemployment, and severe cyclical recessions, he rediscovered the essentially parasitic and declining character of world capitalism in the 20th Century. Looking to Bukharin, he decided it lay in the form of a universal state capitalism:

"which ultimately saps the sources of progressive growth (through accumulation) at the same time as it makes parasitic growth more dangerous".11

This, indeed, restored the theoretical status of the 20th century to that of a transitional epoch, and an epoch of decline. But it rested fundamentally on the notion that there was no division in the world economically or politically between imperialist states and their colonial or semi colonial subordinates. "There are no empires left", Kidron claimed with characteristic directness.

He chose to espouse an updated Bukharinite view of imperialism as a world state capitalism. Lenin was thus once more redundant. Anything that was valuable within Imperialism; the Highest Stage was already contained within Bukharin's work; what was distinctive in Lenin had been refuted by developments since the war.

In the mid 1980s, SWP leader Nigel Harris wrote a book called The End of the Third World, in which he reached much the same conclusion. He reiterated much of the later Kidron's understanding of modern capitalism. For Harris, state and capital were so fused as to change the classic relationship between the state and individual capitalists. Instead of the guarantor of a process of accumulation, the state in the West had become a prime actor in the accumulation process just as Tony Cliff had always insisted it was in the USSR.

The results, for Harris, undermined any notion that imperialism "underdeveloped" certain countries systematically. The emergence of the Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs), such as South Korea, signified for Harris a future in which the potential for bourgeois national development in the Third World was unlimited. Indeed, as the title of the book suggests, for Harris as for Kidron, the "imperialised" Third World no longer existed.

According to this view, imperialism was synonymous with "militarised state capitalism". Since this concept suggested that autarkic state capitalist industrialisation by a semi colony was impossible, Kidron and Harris saw Third World economic development as having destroyed the theory of imperialism.

Such blatant revisionism placed the SWP in a difficult position. They could hardly espouse a theory which said that capitalism was the way forward for the

"Third World". How could they continue to defend their theoretical tradition on the subject of imperialism when the very theorists responsible for it had come to this unpalatable conclusion? The SWP had to denounce Kidron and Harris but rescue their tradition. Enter a new generation of theorists.

Bukharin, state capitalism and imperialism

In 1987, in a reply to Harris, Alex Callinicos was forced to reconsider the relative strengths and weaknesses of Lenin and Bukharin's visions of imperialism. Callinicos wanted to draw back from the conclusions reached by Kidron and Harris.

He correctly attributes their break with the whole concept of imperialism to an "over reliance" on the Bukharinite view. Nevertheless, he has to reassert the view that:

"Bukharin's more rigorous version of the theory of imperialism proved to be a better guide to capitalism in the first half of the 20th century than Lenin's account". 12

More than that, with regard to the post 1945 world economy:

"...Bukharin's vision of the theory of imperialism provided the best framework for understanding the changes that had taken place".

Here the puzzled reader is entitled to ask a number of questions: if Bukharin's one sided theory of imperialism led to the dramatic errors of Kidron and Harris, how much of it can be used to understand post war developments? Which side was the good one? Wherein was it superior to Lenin's theory? Why is Bukharin's theory so central to the SWP's understanding of the world?

Callinicos himself provides a clue:

"Bukharin's analysis, with its vision of a world system composed of militarised state capitals, informed the cornerstone of our tradition, Tony Cliff's theory of state capitalism in Russia".13

But by the late 1980s the world no longer fitted that description. Stalinism was collapsing. Imperialism had, since the end of the long boom, been reordering production on a world scale. Not "crisis free, militarised state capitalisms" but crisis ridden multinational capitalism now confronted the SWP. It appeared that the cornerstone was crumbling. Bukharin has to be defended, lest the whole edifice of State Capitalism as a theory comes crashing down, but he must not be used as cover for Third World nationalism. At the same time, the "weak side" of his model had to be admitted to when it comes to analysing global capitalism in the 1980s and beyond.

Similarly, the Permanent Arms Economy (PAE) had to be defended as another cornerstone of State Capitalism the arms race between the superpowers as the "competition" which made Russia capitalist. It also explained the post war boom and partly underpins the SWP's dismissive attitude to national struggles in the Third World, both still in place today.

Finally, Lenin had to be reincorporated into the picture. After all, he cannot be left out without endangering their claim to stand in the Marxist tradition. Like the curate's egg, Lenin can be pronounced "good in parts". These parts can then be used to offset the one sidedness of Bukharin.

Mixing all these ingredients into a digestible dish is not easy and, in fact, the SWP have failed. All they have done is to arrive at a thoroughly eclectic and ramshackle theory of imperialism one that falls to pieces at the first inspection. It is one, moreover, that empties Lenin's theory of all that is unique and particular to it.

Callinicos "improves" on Lenin and Bukharin

In "Marxism and The New Imperialism" Callinicos, after examining Lenin and Bukharin's definitions of imperialism, makes his own attempt at a definition. It is worth quoting in full:

"1. Imperialism is the stage in capitalist development where

i) the concentration and centralisation of capital tends to lead to the integration of private monopoly capital and the state; and

ii) the internationalisation of the productive forces tends to compel capitals to compete for markets, investments and raw materials at the global level.

2. Among the main consequences of these two tendencies are the following:

i) competition between capitals takes on the form of military rivalries among nation states;

ii) the relations among nation states are unequal; the uneven and combined development of capitalism allows a small number of advanced capitalist states (the imperialist countries), by virtue of their productive resources and military strength, to dominate the rest of the world;

iii) uneven and combined development under imperialism further intensifies military competition and gives rise to wars, including both wars among the imperialist powers themselves and those arising from the struggles of oppressed nations, against imperialist domination. "14

Callinicos claims that, though more abstract than Lenin's definition, the above "captures the core of his conception" and "can be used to show how the dynamics of imperialism give rise to distinct phases in its development". 15

Certainly, any modern definition would have to abstract from the peculiarities of the particular phase of imperialism Lenin observed, in order to account for the distinct phases Callinicos refers to. But this definition, and the understanding it encapsulates, does not "capture the core" of Lenin's conception.

This is a definition of imperialism, which is missing two core features.

First, and crucially, it has nothing to say about the place in history of the imperialist epoch. For Lenin, imperialism was not just "a phase" of capitalism: it was the epoch of capitalist decline and socialist revolution. It was the epoch of transition to socialism in which capitalism's own spontaneous economic laws were operating to undermine and destroy the system as a whole. This merited a whole chapter in Lenin's book, entitled, "The place of imperialism in history".

Such an omission is no trivial blemish. It is akin to an analysis of a living organism which fails to place it within the life cycle of its species. It violates the most elementary laws of the dialectic. Imperialism, as the negation of free competition capitalism, not just one phase amongst many following the demise of free competition capitalism disappears as a concept. There is no mention of imperialism as the "highest stage". Parasitism doesn't get a look in either.

Secondly, this definition omits any concept of economic relations of exploitation between imperialist countries and the dominated countries. It is an exclusively political military definition.

Despite an implicit rebuttal of Kidron's view, that differences between capitalist states were now only ones of "degree", Callinicos suggests that what divides an imperialist power from an oppressed country is its level of productive resources and military strength. How it gets and maintains such resources, and what prevents lesser capitalist countries from gaining them, is not referred to.

Thus, whilst Callinicos' definition is an attempt to secure a Leninist orthodoxy for the SWP, at least at an "abstract" level, it fails from the very beginning. To preserve the "insights" of the PAE, Callinicos is obliged to give a definition which is so abstract as to allow Lenin's theory and Kidron's rounded rebuttal of it to co exist. In addition it attempts to preserve and defend Bukharin's theory. As we shall see, having to square so many circles does not help clarify anything about the shape of imperialism, old or new.

Do imperialist countries "exploit" Third World countries?

This is the central question, avoided by Callinicos' definition. Callinicos reiterates the critique of Lenin put forward by Kidron and others in the IS/SW tradition: that he overemphasised the role of the "export of capital" in his own time, and that this concept is not relevant for understanding imperialism today:

"Far from the prosperity of the capitalists (and workers) in the advanced countries depending on the poverty of the Third World, the main flows of capital and commodities... pass the poor countries by... As we have seen the colonies' chief importance under classical imperialism lay in the raw materials they provided for the increasingly specialised industrial economies of the imperialist metropolis. "16

Can it really be true that the only interest of the Lonrhos, the Unilevers, the Glaxos of this world, in maintaining the subordinate nature of the colonies/semi colonies, is to guarantee raw material sources? The example of India under the British Empire, cited by Kidron extensively in "International Capitalism", should allow us to deal with the question of whether colonies were exploited under the colonial form of imperialism.

For Kidron the British in India provided a textbook example of the imperialist system which Lenin had accurately described, but which had now disappeared.

Kidron had no problem with describing the cheap labour, the rigged terms of trade, the huge underdevelopment of Indian industry and agriculture, the massive net transfers of wealth from India to the British state, as "colonial exploitation".

Callinicos cannot have it both ways. Either colonial exploitation did exist in Lenin's time or it didn't.

All the evidence shows that relations of economic domination and subservience did exist. The result was surplus profits for the imperialist bosses, or "super profits": a higher rate of surplus value on capital invested in the colonies compared to the domestic imperialist economies.

That is why Lenin emphasised the export of capital in his "composite picture" of imperialism. It was the economic underpinning of the imperialist system. It was the secret of understanding why "imperialism is not simply a policy" of the bourgeoisie, to be reversed by a more benign, liberal capitalism. Colonialism was predicated on the need to protect the arena of foreign investment both from competition by other imperialisms and from the development of an indigenous bourgeoisie.

Here we come to another classic feature of imperialism which Kidron, because he believed it had been superseded, had no problem with. Imperialism, for Lenin, necessitated a struggle between the imperialist bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie of the colonial country.

To impose and maintain conditions of colonial exploitation imperialism had to wage a struggle against the nascent colonial bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie. It had to deny them access not just to political power and to democratic rights, but to the super profits produced by the highly efficient system of exploitation introduced by imperialism itself. Imperialism often had to destroy the traditional, and restrict the nascent modern, industries of the colonial countries to preserve them as markets for the industry of the "home country".

In summary, it is utterly wrong, not to say ludicrous, for Callinicos to deny, ignore or gloss over the economically exploitative nature of relations between imperialist and colonial states at the time Lenin and Bukharin were writing.

Does that mean imperialist capital's profits and wealth came predominantly from the exploitation of the Third World? No. If the centres of concentration of capital are the imperialist heartlands then it is here that the greatest mass of profits will be made, and the capital accumulation process will be strongest. Lenin's argument was that a differential rate of return on investment, in the first place, encouraged the export of capital.

The role of super profits in imperialism Lenin's theory of imperialism includes the linked concepts of "super profits" and, on the basis of their existence, "colonial exploitation". So, we might add, does Bukharin's "superior" theory. But these two concepts do not appear in Callinicos' definition. Whatever the theoretical rationale for this, the real reason is the SWP's fear of its political implications. They fear that, if imperialism can be shown to "exploit" the Third World, then the class struggle has to be subsumed into the national struggle. They fear that, if superprofits exist, this will confirm the positions of "Third Worldists" who describe the British working class, as a whole, as "labour aristocrats". As we shall see, their fears are groundless (below).

The labour theory of value, and the Marxist understanding of capitalist profits, presuppose, at the highest level of abstraction, equal exchange.

The extraction of surplus value from the labour of the worker takes place through the exchange of wages equal to the value of the labour power of the worker. It does not involve any kind of theft by the bosses. The surplus value originates from the capitalists' ability to deploy the labour bought "fairly" on the market, to create more value than it, itself, embodies.

Nevertheless, at the very heart of Marxist political economy lies the concept of "surplus profit". This is dealt with by Marx in Volume III of Capital. Individual capitalists can make surplus profits.

This suggests that some capitalists can make more than the average, despite the fact that in general, and over time, these differences in profit levels are ironed out. So how do these surplus profits arise? As Marx explains, they arise:

"not because they some capitalists] sell their commodities above the price of production, but because they sell them at this price, because their commodities are produced, or their capital functions, under exceptionally favourable conditions, conditions that stand above the average level prevailing in this sphere."17
As Bukharin writes:

"...additional profit has its source in the difference between the social value of the goods (understanding under 'society' world capitalism as a united whole) and their individual value (understanding under 'individual' the 'national economy')."18

Surplus profits, in short, can be generated within a system of equal exchange.

When we turn to the real world, both in the 19th century and the 20th, it is clear that the process of competitive accumulation is, as Ernest Mandel puts it, "dominated by the indefatigable search for surplus profits."19

Mandel cites four mechanisms which allowed the extraction of surplus profits by imperialism from its colonial capital investments in the "classic" phase.

First, the low average organic composition of capital (capital spent on machinery and materials), compared to the manufacturing sector in the imperialist countries, allowed a greater rate of profit to be earned in the former, since the mass of profits had to be spread over less overall investment.

Secondly, the average rate of surplus value in the colonies often exceeded that of the metropolitan countries, especially because in the colonies the capitalists could extend "absolute surplus value" (which arises from making workers work harder and longer) rather than "relative" surplus value arising from higher productivity.

Thirdly, the presence of a larger reserve army of labour in the colonies allowed the capitalists to push the price of labour power systematically below its value something which could not be achieved for any length of time in a fully developed capitalist economy.

Finally, the colonial system transferred a portion of the cost of administrating the capitalist system onto the colonial peoples, including the bourgeoisie; reducing the amount which had to be raised through taxation in the imperialist heartlands and thus boosting profitability there. Callinicos himself gives a good example of this in his discussion of the role of the "Home Charges", by which Britain "settled more than one third of her deficits with Europe and the United States through India."

Mandel writes that, in all these cases: "We are dealing with surplus profits which do not enter the process of equalisation in the short term, and so do not lead simply to a growth in the average social rate of profit."21

He goes on to show that, whilst this impulse to search for super profits is inherent in all epochs of capitalism it only leads to capital exports on a wide scale in the imperialist epoch. During the free competition epoch, there were readily available sources of surplus profit in the developed countries themselves until the last quarter of the 19th century.

Mandel further demonstrates how the massive turn to capital export was instrumental in engineering a general, if temporary, rise in the average rate of profit, unleashing the long economic boom (1893 1914) which preceded the First World War.

However, alongside the generation of super profits through investment, classic imperialism also involved aspects of unequal exchange.

As Mandel puts it:

"The colonies and semi colonies tended to exchange increasing quantities of indigenous labour (or products of labour) for a constant amount of metropolitan labour (or products of labour). The long term development of the terms of trade was one gauge of this tendency, although other determinants also influenced them." 22

Thus it is clear that classic imperialism contained forms of unequal exchange. However, as Mandel writes:

"Before the First World War and in the inter war period unequal exchange was quantitatively less important than the direct product and transfer of colonial surplus profits ."23

But neither the concept of superprofits, nor of economic exploitation are present in Callinicos' definition of imperialism. "Super profits" and "colonial exploitation", are written off inside the SWP as concepts more akin to "Third Worldism" than to Marxism.

According to Nigel Harris, in an article commended by Callinicos himself:

"While the dominant states do indeed use their dominant position to attempt to transfer resources to themselves, employing brute force, political power, elements of monopoly against weaker states, it is a dangerous theoretical confusion to call this 'exploitation' as if it were the same as the relationship of capital to labour."14

Yet it was Lenin who wrote:

"The imperialism of the beginning of the twentieth century completed the division of the world among a handful of states, each of which today exploits (in the sense of drawing superprofits from) a part of the whole world only a little smaller than that which England exploited in l858."25

That is the "real Marxist tradition", like it or not. And as we shall see it still works as a basic definition of imperialist relations with the Third World.

Imperialist super profits today

Today the colonial system has, by and large, disappeared. But colonialism did not disappear because imperialist exploitation of the Third World disappeared. It did so because the mechanisms for achieving this changed.

Lenin had described "semi colonial" status, such as that enjoyed by China or Argentina pre 1914, as a "transitional form". Such countries were "formally independent but in fact enmeshed in the net of financial and diplomatic dependence.""

The emergence of a world hegemonic power US imperialism after World War Two necessitated the destruction of the colonial empires of its former allies, and the opening up of the colonial economies to US imperialist penetration. Instead of a "transitional" form, the semi colony formally independent but politically and economically dominated by imperialismbecame the norm.

Germany and Japan received the lion's share of investments due to the need to build them up as bulwarks against the USSR during the Cold War. This transformed the relative importance of super profits derived from the export of capital to the Third World and the forms of unequal exchange which existed alongside them. Ernest Mandel even went so far as to argue that:

"The proportions changed in the late capitalist epoch. Unequal exchange henceforth became the main form of colonial exploitation, the direct production of colonial surplus profits playing a secondary role. "27

Written in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mandel's work did not anticipate just how much this state of affairs was about to change once again as generalised recession hit world capitalism and the major multinationals resorted to different forms of exploitation of the semi colonies to offset this crisis. As profit rates began to decline in the late 1960s, there was a surge in foreign investment from the imperialist heartlands to the semi colonial world as the multinationals relocated parts of their production processes abroad.

In 1960 private direct foreign investment to developing countries stood at $1,741 million. By 1976 it was $7,593 million. Far from becoming "irrelevant" to the developed capitalist economies, the Third World increasingly became the site for direct investment by imperialist bosses who could not profitably invest capital at home or in another developed country. The "classic" phenomenon observed by Lenin and pronounced dead by Kidron had sprung back to life with a vengeance.

What drew the multinationals to Third World sites of direct investment? In 1915 Lenin had written:

"In these backward countries profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap."

As a result of experience over the last twenty five years one could develop each of Lenin's points:

Capital is scarce so the semi colonial bourgeoisie enforces a regime of low taxation to attract foreign investment. This regime is often imposed by supranational imperialist bodies like the IMF and World Bank as a condition of debt re scheduling. Elsewhere, it is the "voluntary" action of a local bourgeoisie pursuing vigorous "open door" policies. In the Republic of Ireland foreign investors are guaranteed a fixed rate of tax of 10% on profits until the year 2010. 28

The price of land is relatively low and huge government handouts are available for manufacturers relocating to Third World sites. Today it is not land prices alone which determine the location of foreign investment, but the willingness of semi colonial governments to bear the costs of that location. Again, using the example of Southern Ireland:

"There are plants of multinational companies sprinkled over the Republic like confetti, conforming to no economic logic but the carrot of tax holidays and massive incentives and the need of every member of the Irish parliament to boast his or her own piece of the action. 29

Wages are low, but post war infrastructural investment means that skills can be high. In addition, repressive regimes which undermine workers' ability to fight for higher wages enable the rate of exploitation to be pushed to its limits. The example of the Mexican maquiladores sector, located just across the border from the USA, shows what the benefits can be for imperialist foreign investors:

"The maquiladoras are manufacturing plants that assemble components imported tax free for re export. The chief lure is cheap labour. In the motor industry, for example, American workers still earn eight times more than Mexican workers. "30

Raw materials are cheap and their prices relative to industrial goods have decreased in the 1980s and 1990s. In part, energy saving technologies and processes have been consciously introduced which has lowered demand for them. In other countries traditional agriculture has been abandoned to be replaced with one cash crop export economies dominated by multinationals and servicing the needs of the metropolitan centres.

These few examples show that private foreign direct investment remains a fact of life in the semi colonial countries. Its motive is the search for higher profit rates, even if it remains a small proportion of total foreign investment world wide, and is concentrated in a few "Newly Industrialised Countries" (NICs).

A 1984 study by Wladimir Andreff describes the advantage the higher semi colonial profit rate gives to multinational corporations (MNCs):

"The profit rate of US MNCs is consistently higher in subsidiaries located in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). The high profitability of their overseas investments has allowed the MNCs to restore their overall profit rates, taking into account the consolidated results of parents and subsidiaries, after l972."31

Nevertheless, foreign direct investment always accounted for only a minority share of the flow of capital to the semi colonies. In 1976 for example it accounted for only 35% of capital exported to the Third World.

The mid 1970s saw a dramatic rise in loan capital exported to the Third World, a rise which culminated in the debt crisis of 1982 and which ushered in a decade of IMF "structural adjustment" programmes. In return for debt rescheduling, semi colonial governments were obliged to tear open their national economies for the benefit of imperialist investors.

According to Susan George:

"If payments of principal are included in the tally, then each of the 108 months from January 1982 through December 1990 witnessed payments from debtors to creditors averaging $12,450,000,000...

At the behest of the [World] Bank and the [International Monetary] Fund, debtor countries have deprived their people particularly the poorest among them of basic necessities in order to provide the private banks and public agencies of the rich countries with the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. This unprecedented financial assistance to the rich from the poor maybe startling but it is nonetheless arithmetically true. "32

The point of all this is to show that, while imperialist superprofits may not be decisive for the balance sheets of the multinational corporations and banks, their reasons for exporting capital to the Third World remain the same as under "classic" imperialism.

They do precisely what Kidron denied: they play a special function for modern capitalism. First, they are the source of super profits which, as Andreff shows, allowed the MNCs to maintain overall profit rates throughout the two recession cycles of 1973 and 1979. Second, they can be made to bear the costs of recession more harshly than capital in the metropolitan countries, through the terms of debt rescheduling and raw material price reduction.

But this is something Callinicos simply will not accept. Discussing the net transfer of value from semi colonial countries to imperialism, via debt repayment, he writes:

"It would be a mistake, however, to see the debt crisis as simply marking the imposition of a new form of 'dependency' on the Third World."33

He cites the phenomenon of capital flight from indebted countries to show how the Latin American bourgeoisie has tried to protect itself from the worst effects of depreciation during the debt crisis. From this, Callinicos draws an extraordinary conclusion:

"The debt crisis thus involves not so much a conflict between nation states, rich and poor countries, but a class struggle in which the Latin American bourgeoisie, increasingly integrated into the international financial circuits, aligns itself with the Western banks and multinational corporations in demanding solutions which further open up their economies to the world market ."34

This is wrong on two counts. First, what are the Latin American and imperialist bosses opening countries like Mexico up to? Collaborative, friendly trade on equal terms? No. The demands of the World Bank and IMF constantly emphasise the need for the removal of obstacles to imperialist exploitation and the imposition of further dependency.

One does not have to be a "dependency theorist" to recognise dependency when it hits you in the face. Imperialism demands the right to set the terms of trade (e.g. NAFTA). It demands the right to set exchange rates, raw material prices and interest rates. It demands guaranteed returns on investments.

It demands scores of mechanisms which make the economic development of countries like Mexico dependent on the imperatives of the imperialists. Listen to The Economist:

"The American economy is all important to the Mexican.

The reverse is clearly not the case, even though Mexico is America's thirdlargest trade partner after Japan and Canada... [In 1991] Mexico's exports to America came to $29 billion, or 11.9% of Mexico's GDP, but only 0.5% of America's.. . 70% of Mexico's trade is with its northern neighbour. Yet the Mexico economy is only one twentieth the size. Hence the fears of being swallowed up." 35

Secondly, the idea that capital flight signifies the absence of conflict between semi colonial bourgeoisies and the imperialists is false. The Financial Times' regular country surveys contain, with monotonous regularity, page after page of complaints about the "unfair" practices of the semi colonial bourgeoisie, its addiction to high taxes, its unwillingness to reform, its nepotism.

Capital flight, though a fact of life, does not negate either the relations of dependence of the semi colonies, nor the conflicts between their rulers and the imperialists. It has even become the subject of such conflicts. According to Susan George:

"One of the major stated goals of the Brady Plan [for debt rescheduling] is to encourage flight capital to return home. A country cannot even be considered for Brady relief, such as it is, until it has signed on for the whole series of IMF type measures: deregulation of markets, fiscal austerity, currency depreciation, lower wages and higher interest rates. Since the advent of Brady, the IMF has added a further ten items to this list of requirements: its support for future debt relief will be made conditional on success in reversing capital flight".36

In summary, imperialist exploitation does exist today albeit in the more sophisticated, semi colonial form. It is mediated through the agency of the semi colonial bourgeoisie as a local ruling class, which certainly takes its cut, but is also restricted to a subordinate role. The super profits are extracted, directly or indirectly, from the rural and urban workers. The point at issue is not, and was not for Lenin, how decisive the mass of super profits thus gained are for the imperialist economy as a whole. The system of colonial exploitation was decisive for the fate of the colonial and semi colonial countries themselves.

Today, as in "classic" imperialism, the export of capital to the Third World in search of surplus profits whether directly through investment, or indirectly through loan capital is a key feature of the imperialist system.

It is what allows us to understand and intervene into struggles in the semicolonies both against the local bourgeoisie and against imperialist economic, political and military domination.

By way of a negative proof of this, let us see what happens when Callinicos attempts such an explanation without the concept of imperialist exploitation.

Marxism and "sub imperialism"

"A key factor in the development of a more pluralistic and therefore more unstable world order has been the rise over the past two decades of the subimperialisms that is, of Third World powers aspiring to the kind of political and military domination on a regional scale which the superpowers have enjoyed globally", Callinicos writes.

The criteria Callinicos lays down for characterising "sub imperialisms" is, like his definition of the entire epoch, non economic. Sub imperialisms aspire to "political and military domination on a regional scale. "37

For Callinicos the term sub imperialism rests on the refutation of the possibility of "semi colonial" existence, and thus, of any possibility of economic domination continuing beyond formal independence. This idea formal independence masking economic subordination to imperialism is described as the "orthodoxy among left nationalists and Third Worldists for a generation.""

Callinicos is confident enough of the validity of the term sub imperialism, as defined by him, to make a list of "sub imperialisms". It includes "Israel, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, Turkey... India, Vietnam, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil and Argentina".

However, Callinicos cannot decide what makes a sub imperialism. Focusing on Argentina, he cites the work of Dabat and Lorenzano, who characterise Argentina as:

" emerging regional capitalist power, combining financial, commercial and technological dependence with the development of a capitalist monopolist economy with regional imperialist features".39

Although they clearly characterise Argentina as "dependent", Callinicos sees no problem using their arguments to label Argentina a "sub imperialism". His main purpose is to agree with their political conclusion, that the war between Britain and Argentina over the Malvinas in 1982 was reactionary on both sides:

"It was neither an anti colonial struggle nor a struggle between oppressed and oppressor nations."40

Callinicos then continues:

"Generalising from this broadly correct analysis of the Falklands War we could then argue that the same process of capitalist development which gave rise to imperialism in the first place now produces sub imperialism."

But he draws back from endorsing such a conclusion:

"While this analysis has a large measure of truth it is essential to qualify it. For the rise of the sub imperialism has not taken place in a vacuum. Nor has it created a world composed of capitalist states the differences between whose power are ones of degree rather than of kind. "41

This is the nub of the question, and it is far from just a theoretical one. If the concept of sub imperialism is to mean anything it has to allow us to identify the differences in kind between such countries and the big, established imperialists. It also has to be part of a theoretical system which allows us to understand countries like Bolivia and Rwanda, which are clearly not "subimperialisms".

But the term sub imperialism cannot do this, because it is abstracted from economic relations.

It is certainly true that a number of developed semi colonies have accumulated enough capital, and concentrated it in the hands of ambitious, national bourgeoisies, to attempt regional political domination independent of the wishes of imperialism, and economic development free of the constraints of economic dependence.

Iran and Iraq both fall into this category when we consider the Middle East. But what is the difference "in kind rather than degree" between these countries and the imperialist powers they have, from time to time, clashed with?

Kidron would have answered, none. Callinicos wants to refute that view but he cannot because from beginning to end his own definition of imperialism and imperialist relations remains stonily silent on economic questions.

We are never sure whether a subimperialism is a kind of imperialism or a kind of advanced semi colony. This is bad enough when we are considering Iraq, Argentina etc, but how does Callinicos categorise countries like Bangladesh and Bolivia, countries which clearly fit the definition "semicolony" as defined above?

Quite simply, he never considers the problem. The SWP's new theory of imperialism fails to characterise the majority of countries in the world at all, other than to say that they are "irrelevant" to the modern system of exploitation.

He rounds off his discussion of subimperialisms with the assertion that, with the war between the US led alliance and Saddam's Iraq:

"the difference between an imperialist and a sub imperialist power is being established beyond all serious dispute in the bombardment of Baghdad and the slaughter of fleeing Iraqi troops on the Basra highway. "42

It is, once again, a proof reliant on military political might rather than economic relations. Pointedly, it raises the question of the SWP's own position on the second Gulf War in 1991 and its relationship to the SWP's position during the Malvinas War of 1982.

Though the SWP did not once activate their position, they did on paper support Saddam's Iraq against the imperialist alliance. Citing Trotsky's support for Chiang Kai Shek against Japan in the 1930s, Callinicos wrote:

"It is necessary therefore in a confrontation such as the second Gulf War, to advocate the defeat of the imperialist side while continuing the political struggle against the bourgeois regime leading the anti imperialist side. Underlying this stance is Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution."43

This is correct. But how can Saddam's Iraq be both a sub imperialism and lead the "anti imperialist side"? Surely this makes the concept of subimperialism so flexible as to be meaningless? Only pages before this statement Callinicos writes, about the British domination of Iraq in the 1940s:

"Memories of such humiliating subordination to the imperialist powers survived long after the acquisition by these states of a much more effective degree of independence. They help to explain why anti imperialist rhetoric continues to have a massive popular appeal in countries which can no longer in any sense be regarded as semi colonies". 44

Now if Iraq is not a semi colony, and its anti imperialism is rhetorical rather than real, why on earth support it in a war with imperialism?

And why did "sub imperialist" Argentina not merit the same support against Britain in 1982? The SWP is left with nothing but a flat contradiction of "critical support" for Iraq against the US led coalition in 1992, and "defeat on both sides" between Argentina and Britain in 1982.

A cynic might conclude that this had something to do with the fact that in 1982 Britain alone was at war with Argentina and there was a wave of chauvinist support for the war effort in Britain Ten years later Britain played an auxiliary role in a war where the casualties were nearly all on the Iraqi side. But we are not cynics we prefer to wait and see how the SWP itself explains this contradiction.

Cliff and "deflected permanent revolution"

In 1963 Tony Cliff decided that the experience of the post war colonial revolutions compelled Marxists to "reject a large part" of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.45

But Callinicos, as we have seen, explicitly bases his support for Iraq in 1991 on that theory.

This is how Cliff sums up Trotsky's position:

"1. A bourgeoisie which arrives late on the scene is fundamentally different from its ancestors of a century or two earlier. It is incapable of providing a consistent, democratic, revolutionary solution to the problem posed by feudalism and imperialist oppression. It is incapable of carrying out the thoroughgoing destruction of feudalism, the achievement of real national independence and political democracy. It has ceased to be revolutionary, whether in the advanced or backward countries. It is an absolutely conservative force.

2. The decisive revolutionary role falls to the proletariat, even though it may be very young and small in number.

3. Incapable of independent action, the peasantry will follow the towns and in view of the first five points must follow the leadership of the industrial proletariat.

4. A consistent solution of the agrarian question, of the national question, a break up of the social and imperial fetters preventing speedy economic advance, will necessitate moving beyond the bounds of bourgeois private property. 'The democratic revolution grows over immediately into the socialist and thereby becomes a permanent revolution.'

5. The completion of the socialist revolution 'within national limits is unthinkable... Thus the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet'. It is a reactionary dream to try to achieve socialism in one country.

6. As a result, revolution in backward countries would lead to convulsions in the advanced countries. "46
It was Cliff's rejection of the Trotskyist theory of Stalinism in the late 1940s, in favour of his well known "state capitalist" analysis, that forced him to reject this second major cornerstone of Trotskyism. "State capitalism" in Russia had supposedly grown out of the degeneration and overthrow of a workers' revolution. But the new Stalinist regimes first Mao's China, then Castro's Cuba were created from scratch.

If these regimes were to be understood as bourgeois, the results of "state capitalist" revolutions by the national bourgeoisie against imperialist domination, then Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution had to be junked, at least for the post war period. After all:

"...two events of world importance, Mao's rise to power in China and Castro's in Cuba, seem to challenge practically all the assumptions of the theory."47

Cliff cited the absence of a revolutionary proletariat in China and Cuba as the key factor undermining Trotsky's position:

"Once the constantly revolutionary nature of the working class, the central pillar of Trotsky's theory, becomes suspect, the whole structure falls to pieces.

But this does not mean that nothing happens. A concatenation of national and international circumstances makes it imperative for the productive forces to break the fetters of feudalism and imperialism. "48

The needs of the productive forces, the rebelliousness of the peasantry, plus three contingent factors (the role of the state, the weakness of imperialism and the importance of the intelligentsia) actually bring about successful anti-imperialist, i.e. bourgeois revolutions in these countries. This variant Cliff describes "for lack of a better name" as "Deflected, state capitalist, permanent revolution".

Cliff's "contribution" was to abandon the whole basis for the Leninist critique of Menshevism.

Cliff's logic suggests that, had the Russian working class not been subjectively revolutionary in 1917, the productive forces plus the peasantry and the contingent factors of imperialist breakdown could have led, nevertheless, to a successful bourgeois revolution.

In the first place, Cliff is wrong to suggest that Trotsky's theory relied on the "constantly revolutionary nature of the working class". The working class, in Trotsky's theory, was allocated an objectively revolutionary role, irrespective of its consciousness. Trotsky, like Lenin before him, was only concretising the axiom that, in backward countries in the imperialist epoch, to paraphrase Plekhanov, the bourgeois revolution could only triumph as a workers' revolution. Only the workers could carry out the bourgeois tasks progressively.

Did that mean, for Trotsky, that in the absence of proletarian leadership "nothing would happen"?

No. Trotsky was clear that, left to "national bourgeois" or "petit bourgeois" leadership the anti imperialist struggle could only result in the reactionary solution of the bourgeois democratic tasks. The national bourgeoisie would turn against their allies in the working class and peasantry far earlier than their Russian counterparts in 1917. They would replace feudalism not by land redistribution but by capitalist agriculture under their control. They would compromise with the landlords. They would win national "independence" only at the price of real semicolonial servitude and the oppression of their own national minorities.

When we look at every anti imperialist revolution in the post war years other than the ones which resulted in Stalinist states, Trotsky's theory is confirmed.

The experience of Ghana, India, Egypt, Indonesia and Algeria confirms the above prediction to the letter. They did not solve the national question fully; they did not free their countries of the mechanisms of colonial exploitation; democracy was a sham; agrarian relations remained backward, with limited land redistribution serving the rich and the middle class.

Only the Stalinist led anti imperialist revolutions (and Cuba, where the petit bourgeois Castroite movement embraced Stalinism) had a different outcome. Weak and compromised by imperialism, their bourgeoisies were liquidated. These degenerate workers' states were certainly no paradises, either in terms of workers' democracy or a democratically planned economy. But private property in the means of production, feudal agrarian relations, were all abolished and imperialism was deprived of the possibility of exploiting them.

How were these social gains, this independence from imperialism possible? Those who adhere to the "real Marxist tradition" on Stalinism can explain this fact: it was because Castro and Mao, Kim II Sung and Ho CM Minh abolished capitalism .49

Cliff thinks that he remains true to Trotsky's analysis of the 20th century bourgeoisie by reducing the theory of permanent revolution to its first point; namely:

"The conservative, cowardly nature of a late developing bourgeoisie (Trotsky's first point) is an absolute law. "50

Trotsky's "first point" was not unique to his theory. Marx and Engels discovered only too well the "conservative, cowardly nature" of the German bourgeoisie of 1848. But the bourgeoisie which ran away from its own revolution did not remain forever in cowardly dependence on the large landowners. Germany was turned from a feudal patchwork into a unified state because Bismarck and a section of the landowning class carried out the bourgeois revolution "from above".

But Germany would never have become a powerful imperialism without the upward swing of the productive forces.

Thus, capitalism found a way past the cowardly liberal bourgeoisie and transformed it into an aggressive imperialist bourgeoisie. Trotsky's point was that the imperialist epoch had closed off this road in the colonial and semi colonial world: that a Chiang Kai Shek in his day, or a Saddam in our own, cannot be Bismarck, no matter how brutal or decisive they may be.

Cliff's "deflected permanent revolution" miraculously opens this road up again. It says that the semi colonial bourgeoisie and intelligentsia whether in Stalinist guise like Mao, or nationalist guise like Nkrumah can ride the progressive tide of the productive forces and bring about really independent capitalist states.

It is easy to see the relationship of this theory to Kidron's view of post war capitalism. Kidron believed that the ending of imperialism had "rescued the national bourgeoisie". Not only could it make a national revolution, but it was pushing at an open door:

"national independence has come to it, in many cases without a struggle and therewith have come the levers of economic development and its own growth."51

Cliff's abandonment of Trotsky and Lenin's view of the semi colonial bourgeoisie is at one with Kidron's abandonment of Trotsky and Lenin's view of the imperialist epoch.

So are his programmatic conclusions. Cliff writes:

"Marxists should cease to argue over the national identity of the future ruling classes of Asia, Africa and Latin America and instead investigate the class conflicts and future social structures of these continents. The slogan of class against class will become more of a reality. "52

No matter how "abstractly" Callinicos wants to define imperialism, his mere use of the term, and of the term "anti imperialist struggle", in relation to Saddam's war of 1992, and of the theory of permanent revolution to underpin his pro Iraq stance, means he cannot avoid confronting and refuting Cliff's "contribution to the real Marxist tradition" that is if there was an ounce of consistency in his method.

The SWP seems to operate on the principle that, if nobody notices the flat contradictions and implicit refutations of Cliff by other theoreticians, then in time these will simply pass over into a new party "orthodoxy".


"...the theoretical level of the reviving revolutionary left reflects the decades of isolation when the attempt to maintain the basic tenets of Marxism in a hostile environment with few resources inevitably produced a certain primitivism."53

Nothing better reflects the truth of this comment, by SWP leader Duncan Hallas, than the twists and turns of his own organisation on the question of imperialism. In those early years of isolation Cliff rejected Trotsky's theory of Stalinism and replaced it with a theory of bureaucratic state capitalism based on the assertion that Russia's "militarised state capitalism" was only an extreme example of a global phenomenon in the transitional epoch.

Cliff and his followers were obliged to adopt Bukharin's theory of imperialism in preference to Lenin's. Bukharin, in the 1920s emphasised the relative absence of crisis within the state capitalist blocs and located imperialist crisis mainly at the level of its drive to war.

Once the post war boom was underway, and with it the Cold War, Cliff and Kidron felt able to dump Lenin's theory of imperialism altogether in favour of the permanent arms economy.

But this schema fell apart in three stages. First, crisis gripped the imperialist world in the early 1970s, forcing Kidron to abandon the PAE as a global theory. A new generation of SWP theoreticians clung to the PAE, not as a global theory but as an "insight" into what had caused the long boom.

Next, the crisis forced imperialism to embrace the neo liberal economic strategy, breaking up "state capitalism" in both the imperialist countries and the former colonies and undermining the Bukharin model of imperialism.

Finally, Stalinism collapsed, rendering nonsensical any attempt to comprehend the world according to Bukharin's "superior" theory. To understand the reality of "multinational capitalism" the SWP theorists were forced into a shamefaced and partial return to Lenin. But they could not openly attack Kidron and, above all, Cliff. Hence Callinicos' attempt to define imperialism so abstractly as to include Bukharin and Lenin, in one all embracing "definition" which excluded any notion of an economic basis for imperialism.

The SWP today runs scared of the twin spectres of "Third Worldism", and its mirror image, the modern Menshevism of Nigel Harris, who now insists that 20th century capitalism could develop the Third World without dependency and economic domination. But the SWP has no coherent theory with which to reject either tendency.

Mike Kidron wrote in 1977:

'Without theory no organisation can do more than ride the tides of working class consciousness, which might be exhilarating as sport but is irrelevant as revolutionary politics."54

As long as the SWP has no coherent theory of imperialism, and no honest critique of the Cliff/Kidron tradition, it will be tossed about on the waves of war, revolution and counter revolution. Its theory will never rise above the status of crude apologetics for past mistakes. It will continue to ride the surges in working class consciousness with a wild and arrogant optimism only to fall into deep depression at the "downturns" of militancy caused by severe defeats. But it will not build the revolutionary party we need to overthrow capitalism. It will neither defend the theoretical gains of the genuine Marxist tradition nor prove capable of making any of its own.

1 John Molyneux, "What is the real Marxist tradition?", 1S2:20, p47. In this article we will deal with the development of the SWP's positions as expressed in various issues of International Socialism (IS) and it's predecessor International Socialism Journal (ISJ) [these are designated as in the journal's own reference system as IS I XX or IS 2:XX]

2 See P Morris, "The Crisis of Stalinism and state capitalist theory" Permanent Revolution 9 (London 1991)

3 For a full critique of the method, theory and practice of the SWP see The Politics of the SWP: a Trotskyist critique, by Workers Power, London 1994.

4 A Callinicos, "Marxism and Imperialism" 1S2:50, London 1991

5 see VlLenin, Imperialism the highest stage of captialism Collected Works (CW) Vol 22, Moscow 1964, p185304

6 VI Lenin, ibid p 300

7 A. Callinicos, J. Rees, C Harman & M. Haynes, Marxism and the New Imperialism , London 1994

8 M Kidron, "International Capitalism" ISI:20, London 1965, p159

9 ibid p159

10 ibid p164

11 ibid p164

12 A Callinicos "Imperialism, Capitalism and the state today", 1S2:35, London 1987 p82

13 ibid p 82

14 A Callinicos et al, op cit p16

15 ibid p16

16 A Callinicos op cit in IS:50, London 1991, p21

17 K Marx Capital Vol III London, 1968 p780

18 N Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy, London 1987 p84

19 E Mandel, Late Capitalism, London 1975, p77

20 Berrick Saul, quoted in Callinicos "Marxism and Imperialism Today" op cit p14

21 E Mandel, op cit p78.

22 ibid p78 23 ibid p345

24 N Harris "Theories of unequal exchange", 1S2:33 London 1987, p 119

25 VI Lenin Imperialism, op cit p284

26 VI Lenin Imperialism, op cit p263

27 E Mandel op cit p346

28 see A Johnson and M, Gallagher "The paradox of Irish economic development" in Class Struggle No 22, Dublin 1994

29 W. Hutton The Guardian, 31 January 1994

30 A survey of Mexico,The Economist, 13 February 1993

31 W Andreff, "The international centralisation of capital and the reordering of world capitalism" Capital and Class No 22 London 1984 p74

32 5. George The Debt Boomerang, London 1992 pXV

33 Callinicos et al. op cit p

34 ibid

35 A survey of Mexico,The Economist op cit

36 S George op cit p90

37 Callinicos et al op cit p45

38 ibid

39 Dabat and Lorenzano Argentina, The Malvinas and the end of military rule (London 1984) quoted in Callinicos et al op cit p45

40 ibid

41 A Callinicos et al, op cit p45

42 ibid p52

43 ibid

44 ibid p49

45 T. Cliff "Permanent Revolution" reprinted ISI:61 London 1973 p18

46 ibid p19

47 ibid p20

48 ibid p27

49 For a full explantion of the process of Stalinist social overturns see Workers Power/Irish Workers Group, The Degenerated Revolution, London 1981

50 T Cliff, "Permanent Revolution", op cit p 27

51 M Kidron, "International Capitalism", reprinted IS1:61, London 1973 p16

52 TCliff opcitp29

53 D Hallas, Review of M Kidron's Western Capitalism Since the War, in IS1:44, 1974, p36

54 M. Kidron "Two insights don't make a theory" in IS 1:100 London 1977,