In Alan Freeman, Valdai Discussion Club, World Economy

“Stone as a weapon of the proletariat” by Ivan Shadr (1927)

By Alan Freeman,

Published on the Valdai Discussion Club, Oct 28, 2022:

All that has happened compared with colonial era and that of high imperialism is that this economic oppression – always the material basis of this profoundly unjust division of the world – has been perfected to the point where formal conquest is kept in the back pocket, writes Alan Freeman, Co-Director, Geopolitical Economy Research Institute, for the 19th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.

I will pose two questions, which I believe have the same answer:

1.     Why is there so little opposition in the Collective West to its suicidal and destructive course?

2.     Why does the United Nations no longer fulfil its original purpose?

The answer has two parts.

1.     The first is quite well-known: The world was, and is, a colonial order. It is divided into two great blocs in which the superior wealth of the Collective West comes from the economic plunder of the global South, achieved by the west’s monopoly of high-tech goods and its consignment, to four-fifths of the world of the status of the providers of raw materials and the products of cheap labour.

All that has happened compared with colonial era and that of high imperialism is that this economic oppression – always the material basis of this profoundly unjust division of the world – has been perfected to the point where formal conquest is kept in the back pocket.

2.     The second is rarely discussed, and I think it’s time to discuss it: in 1943 the Soviet leadership dissolved the Comintern.

Why does this matter? Why should we care about a distant and quite obscure historical event?

First, because the greatest liberation project of our times, that of Marx and Engels, to create an international organisation of the working class, has come to an end. There has been no such organisation for eighty years.

But second, until 1943 there was such an organization, whatever criticism one may make of it. Throughout the world, there were Communist Parties who organised both to fight for socialism and to oppose imperialism, and they were part of an international organisation. The Bolsheviks invested every bit as much in the creation of the Communist International, as they did in the creation of the soviet state. The two projects were in effect Siamese twins. So surely, now that Russia is re-evaluating the second of these great projects, it is time to reflect critically on the first.

True, this international organisation acted, in effect, as an instrument of soviet statecraft, and this is to be discussed. But there is no doubt it was a player on the world stage.

Its parties numbered tens of millions in Germany, Italy, France. We can judge their importance from the effect of their defeat: the way to World War II was prepared by destroying them. That was the purpose of fascism, which we should not forget in choosing our allies.

So why was the Comintern dissolved?

Because at the international conferences of Yalta and Tehran, between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, Soviet leaders believed the USSR would be allowed to develop peacefully, if they could assure the Allies that the USSR would not interfere in their affairs.

By dissolving the Comintern, the USSR undertook to cease acting as an organiser of the Communist Parties. They would act on their own, as purely national parties. But there was collateral damage, almost unnoticed because of the priority that Soviet leaders gave to its function as an instrument of statecraft, at the same time this dissolution also deprived them of the ability to work together for joint and mutually beneficial ends.

It deprived the world working class of the capacity to confront world capital on the world stage.

In return, they hoped, the West would respect the ideals of non-intervention on which the UN was founded.

For a long time, it seemed as if the deal was holding: the Collective West did little to interfere in the affairs of the USSR, and what little it did was ineffective.

But this was not because of goodwill. It was because of the military might of the USSR.

The collective West never respected non-intervention in the third world. And they conspired in every way to bring down the USSR and got a spectacular result: the USSR committed suicide. Its collapse didn’t appear to be their work, making it seem as if the West, even after the USSR was gone, would respect non-intervention.

The belief that the West would refrain from intervention if the USSR did, was hence a catastrophic misjudgement. It was a bargain that only one side kept.
As soon as the USSR was gone, the West’s pretence of non-intervention was unceremoniously dropped. It embarked on its aggressive programme of NATO expansion. It intervened militarily in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Haiti, and Syria, weaponised economic sanctions, and set about converting international agencies into instruments of its power, making regime change an explicit and public aim.

So, if time permits, I should now like to suggest a response.

This is to find ways to return to the agenda of Marx and Engels; to seek, jointly with our partners in the global south and based on their struggles, international organisations of Civil Society, including partners in the collective West, in which the peoples of the world will have their own say, independent of their governments.

The principles on which these are based should seek to rule out their being used by any government to pursue its own ends in other countries. They should renounce, and guard against this, in their statutes and actions.

This means that, like the Comintern, they will be committed first and foremost to put an end to the only actual and present real threat to national sovereignty: the Collective West’s military and economic interventionism.

That is, their first duty is to defend the rights of the pluripolar global South to pursue its course of independent national and mutual development.

The advantages to Russia, and all its partners, are obvious: it will put an end to ‘shopping for friends’ in the West – looking for some break in the ranks such as Trump. It will also put an end to the dangerous process in which the alliances sought by one country threaten another: let us not forget that Trump is far and away the most aggressive enemy of Latin America.

But second, because it will be genuinely independent of all governments, it will put an end to the Western practice of using civil society movements as instruments of statecraft. It will not violate the principle that one country should not intervene in the affairs of other countries; instead, it will restore the rights of the peoples of all countries of which national boundaries deprive them.

World capital acts globally; so should the world’s peoples.

This will give meaning to the oldest slogan of world liberation: workers of the world unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains.

I would make only two modifications. First, it makes more sense, and corresponds better to speak of the real structure of today’s world, to speak of the propertyless of the world than just its employed workers.

Second, I will add to that slogan the decisive contribution of the Comintern founders: Unite to defend your own rights by defending the rights of all nations oppressed by imperialism.


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