Russian Imperialism: Economic Analysis

The Need for Clarity on the Nature of the Capitalist Economic Structure of Russia

Emiliano Cervi and Salvatore Vicario

The fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism,” Lenin

We already know: the world is in constant flux, the United States is an empire in decline (and of course, for this reason it is more dangerous) and it is faced with more and more influence on the international scene from other countries that tend to undermine those who now hold a dominant position. This is definitely a good thing, from a certain point of view: the more economic and political clashes between these powers, which Lenin called the ”most profound contradictions of imperialism”,1 the more space for those the system tries to overcome making tactical use of any opportunity that the national and international political scenarios in flux can offer.

Communists must be pragmatic and flexible in applying tactics from time to time, just as Marxist-Leninist theory is not a theological dogma but a tool that gives us the ability to understand and analyze the world around us. However, in the bleak scenario that the small circle of communists nowadays provides, it is not uncommon to argue with those who, by carrying this to extreme pragmatism, eventually abandon not only the revolutionary theory to arrive at opportunism, but distort the facts. And this is perhaps even more dangerous.

The USSR, Russia and Putin’s new course

One of the most disturbing (and bizarre, let me say) distortions consists in comparing what the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was with Russia today. The “rehabilitation” of a glorious past, which also includes the revival of the symbols and rituals of real socialism and its open antagonism with the United States has incredibly confused many comrades. It is not uncommon to read comments such as: “Long live Comrade Putin!” or “Putin is rebuilding the USSR!”, “I knew it (the Soviet Union, ed.) would come back.”

Undeniably Russia has concluded the first post-Soviet period of the massive sell-off of the economic, political and cultural wealth of the people to the large speculators, profiteers and gangsters intertwined with the USA and the West in general. These are no longer alcoholic traitors leading the country but a “statesman”, competent and prepared (note his past training in the KGB). These combined factors have helped to create this image, this distortion of reality. Without wishing to dwell on the history of the USSR, we must ask ourselves first, what makes a state a socialist country. It is a fact that the Communist Party must lead the country (as the political vanguard of the proletariat), but this is not essential to determine the nature of the system: instead we focus on the economic structure, which can allow us to dispel all doubt.

Either the means of production are in the hands of the workers, and therefore they have been socialized, or one cannot and should not speak of socialism. One should also pay attention to the difference between the concept of socialization of the means of production and that of nationalization: the latter indeed includes the expropriation of the means of production in order to hand it over to a state entity, but without this affecting the ownership of the property by the bourgeoisie, if we are talking about a capitalist country. For example, in the 1960s many strategic enterprises in Italy were state-owned (energy, steel, etc.), but did this mean that Italy was a socialist country? Who owned the wealth of the country? Was it the workers or the exclusive elite group of entrepreneurs who controlled, and still control, the reins of the economy and national politics?

So the first factor to emphasize, for a communist, is the change of the economic structure in Eastern Europe, primarily in Russia. This was a reversion to capitalist relations of production, as a result of the counter­revolution, where the ownership of the means of production is in private hands and where the production and distribution of wealth is not designed to meet the needs of the people, but to increase the profits of the capitalists, that is, those who hold the means of production in their hands. While the wealth of the USSR was for the benefit of the Soviet peoples, bringing industrialization, services, healthcare, transportation, education, security and peace, today the wealth of the former republics goes to fatten the wallets of the satrap in office, the speculators, banks and the large companies. They are linked with the monopolies (think of Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, Rusal, etc.), banks (Sberbank, VTB-Bank,Alfa Bank, Raffeinse Bank, the private pension fund Blagosostoyanie etc.) and political institutions that actually creates a higher stage, as we shall see in more detail.

We use numbers and statistics to support the argument: in the graph below we can see the evolution of the export of capital for capitalist Russia. In the early 90s and substantially until the first years of the new Russia, decade, the share of Russian capital exported to the rest of the world was essentially irrelevant, both from a statistical and an economic point of view. As mentioned earlier, these were the years in which the wealth of the former Soviet Union was sold off and when the resurgent capital of the country was used to re-appropriate what the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the building of socialism afterwards had conquered. There was in essence a flight of capital (approximately $15-20 billion per year) to Western banks by the “neo-capitalists”. From this point onwards, however, Russian capitalism opened a new phase, one in which banking and industrial capital began to merge and where the export of capital begins to play a major role: this is the trend that, by consolidating year by year (the global economic crisis only slowed this process between 2007 and 2008) is making Russia a completely imperialist country.

Foreign Direct Investment 1991-2012

Beginning in 2000, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of the Russian monopolies has grown tremendously, reaching $406.2 billion in 2012 (it was $44.2 billion in 2001).2

Russia and the characteristics of imperialism

According to Forbes’ list, today there are 110 billionaires in Russia, whose private property is about $320 billion, putting Russia in third place (after the USA and China) in this ranking. The so-called Gini coefficient of the statistical analysis of inequality is equal to 41.7 in Russia.

In analyzing point by point the characteristics of imperialism (we will focus on the first three) expounded by Lenin, we can verify that the concentration of production in Russia was already well developed in the USSR; therefore, the formation of capitalist monopolies did not need many decades, but its concentration was inherited from the socialist economy by imposing private ownership on the means of production.

In Forbes’ list of the largest monopolies in the world there are 28 Russians, including Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft and Sberbank. The Russian economy is highly concentrated; in many sectors the level is higher than in the USA and in Germany. For example, in 2006 the proportion that the 10 largest monopolies in Russia contributed to the GDP was 28.9%, while in the USA it was 14.1%. Most sectors of the economy, energy, mechanical engineering, transportation and food production are highly monopolized. We can conclude that in Russia we are dealing with monopoly capitalism, highly concentrated, with a strong state presence.

As for the fusion between bank capital and industrial capital, this took place over time. Sberbank is one of the largest banks in the world, but VTB-Bank, Alfa Bank and the Bank Raffeinse also play a crucial role in the Russian economy: the large banking monopolies are closely linked to or belong to the industrial monopolies themselves. This is the case with Gazprom Bank, Uralsib, Promsvjas Bank. Recently, the Russian Communist Workers Party (RKRP-RPK) released a survey on this issue on its website, highlighting some 20 cases,3 which we describe below.

The industrial group Gazprom owns Gazprombank and the private pension fund “Gazfond.” This largest Russian industrial monopoly group also owns the insurance group “Sogas” and runs the “Leader”, investment companies and pension funds. The well-known oligarch Vekselberg owns Renova Holding (based in the Bahamas), which owns the Russian group “Renova”, an international private business company consisting of wealth management companies and investment funds that own shares in metal mines, oil companies, construction machinery, mining, energy, telecommunications, nanotechnology and in the financial sector in Russia and abroad. The Renova Group has strong investments and presence in major Russian and international companies, including world-renowned companies such as UC Rusal, Integrated Energy Systems, Oerlikon, Sulzer and SCHMOLZ + BICKENBACH. Moreover, Renova, has integrated direct investment funds and management companies operating in the energy sector (IES, Avelar Energy), in real estate development, in investment – “Columbus Nova”, telecommunications – “Akado Group”, the chemical industry – “Orgsyntes Group” and precious metals – “Zoloto Kamchatki.” The Renova Group invests in Russia, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Ukraine, Latvia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, etc. The group also owns Metkombank, one of the largest banks in Russia, which aims to become one of the top 50 banks attractive to investors. This large banking group owns the “Non-Ferrous Metals Plant Kamensk-Ural”, a construction company – the “Kortros”, and participates in other major Russian companies.

At the same time, the oligarch Vekselberg owns a part of “UC Rusal”, the largest aluminum producer in the world, and is co-owner of “Norilsk Nickel”, a Russian nickel and palladium mining and smelting company,. The oligarchs Alisher Usmanov, Vladimir Skoch and Farhad Moshiri own ”MetaUoinvest”, one of the largest mining and metallurgical groups in Russia, specializing in steel production, which owns the “Lebedinsky Michajlovskij” ore enrichment plants, the “Oskol Steel Works “, “Ural Steel” and other industries. At the same time until last year they owned the ”Round Bank” (formerly Ferrobank), which was sold to their “friend” Leon Semenenko, who owns Hessen Holdings Ltd and Nenburg Finance Ltd, based in Cyprus, which each own 50% of SibConsultGroup LLC, currently the sole owner of Round Bank. In 2012, Usmanov, one of the richest men in the world, formed USM Holdings which includes numerous investments in telecommunications companies such as “Garsdale”, which controls about 50% of “MegaFon”, the second largest mobile phone operator in Russia, which in turn owns 100% of the “Scartel/Yota” company, a 4G provider, 50% of “Euroset”, the largest retailer of mobile phones in Ru­ssia. All these companies have interests and men in the Round Bank.

The oligarch Prokhorov owns a multitude of companies; to name just some of them, “Onexim Holdings Ltd” (based in Cyprus), which owns the group “OptoGaN”, producer of high-luminosity LEDs. This group, with headquarters in St. Petersburg and active in Finland and Germany, which is owned by various private investment funds (including particularly those of Prokhorov) and state funds. Prokhorov also owns one of the leading real estate companies in Russia, the “Opin” and “Quadra Power Generation”, leader of the Russian electricity sector. At the same time Prokhorov owns the “Renaissance Credit” bank and the largest investment company, “Renaissance Capital”. He also owns part of “Rusal”. Vladimir Yevtushenko, one of the richest men in Russia, owns a controlling part (64.2%) of the shares of “AFK System”, which owns “MTS-Bank” (which directly controls ”RTI Group” the largest Russian industrial holding company that develops and manufactures high technology and microelectronic technology products), 89% of ”Bashneft”(one of the major Russian oil companies) and 92% of the electricity distribution networks ”Bashkiria”.

In addition to media and retail chains. Oleg Deripaska owns the investment company ”Basic Element”, with shares in the energy, industrial, aviation, agro-business, textile, network and financial services sectors. He owns one of the major insurance (joint-stock) companies, ’’Ingosstrakh”, the big bank ”Soyuz”, the private pension fund ”Socium”, which serves the largest production facilities of “Basic Element”, one of the largest leasing companies in Russia, Element Leasing. He also owns the GAZ Group, leader in the Russian market for commercial vehicles, which produces buses, cars, electric trains, components, etc.

The “vodka king” Roustam owns the ’’Russian Standard Bank”, one of the largest Russian banks, the insurance company ”Russian Standard Insurance” and ’’Russian Standard Vodka”, the most important company producing vodka. Agalarov owns the Crocus Group, a leading Russian real estate company, with dozens of construction and logistics companies, and the Crocus BankRussian Railways, one of the three largest transport companies (freight and passenger) in the world, owns the private pension fund “Blagosostoyanie”, which is wholly owned by Absolut Bank and a good part of the KIT Finance Bank. Dimitry Pumpyanskiy, through the Group ’’Ekaterinburg”, owns 98% of the ”SKB-Bank”, and 71.1% of “TMK Steel”.

Anatoly Sedykh owns 80% of “United Metallurgical Company” (one of the largest Russian manufacturers of pipes, railway wheels and other steel products for energy, transportation and industrial companies) and 60% of the capital of “Metallinvest Bank”. Mikail Shishhanov owns 98.6% of “Bin Bank” as well as 95% of the construction company ”INTEC”Alekperov and Leonid Fedun have shares in Lukoil and in the IFH Capital group that owns the Bank PetrokomertsAlekperov also has a stake in the finance company “Uralsib” and in the bank with the same name. The “Vneshtorg Bank”, which is state-owned, owns a construction company, “VTB- Development””Sberbank”, state-owned, owns the auto assembly plant “Derveis” in Cherkessk, the construction companies “Krasnaya Polyana” and “Rublyovo-Arkhangelsk” and others. “Rosneft” (part of “Rosneftegaz”) owns the ’’Russian Regional Development Bank.” The MDM Bank (that began as a foundation and now is one of the largest private banks in Russia) owns the “Siberian Coal Energy Company” (the largest coal producer in Russia and one of the leading exporters). They are shareholders of MDM Bank, large international financial institutions such as the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as one of the largest investment companies in Russia, Troika Capital Partners.

The Guta Group is one of the largest industrial and investment corporation and owns the United Confectioners Holding Company, leader in the confectionery market, owning most of the brands in this sector (about 1,700). The company is vertically integrated and performs the complete cycle of operations, from agriculture to the sale of the processed products. The Group owns Guta Insurance and Guta Bank (one of the top 20 Russian banks). It also owns hotels and even hospitals and private clinics. The holding company ”Don Invest” includes the Commercial Bank Doninvest, and owns companies in the sectors of engineering and production of food, buses and cars. The Joint Stock Company, Federal Research & Production Center ALTAI, owns the ’’National Industrial Land Bank” and a wide range of industries.

Most of the oligarchs have seats in the Duma, direct links with the state functionaries and with the political parties of the Russian bourgeoisie. We can therefore conclude by affirming the existence of a financial oligarchy in Russia, which is reflected in oligarchic political power, not homogeneous in the sense that there are certainly contrasts with oligarchic sectors linked to the “West” which advocate greater liberalization and privatization (already widely foreseen), which over the years have tried to also promote a “colour revolution” in Russia.

We have already mentioned the export of capital, pointing out the distinct change over the year 2000. The steady growth of the national economy and the relative strengthening of the main national enterprises have contributed to the rapid increase in the volume of investment, making Russia one of the leading international investors (without a doubt among the first ever in the “emerging” countries). With the acquisition of companies in other countries, Russian companies have access to new sources of resources, technology and markets, increasing their international competitiveness. It is an expansion that reinforces Russia’s geopolitical influence and strengthens its position in the global economy.

According to UNCTAD data, in the first half of the decade of 2000, foreign direct investment increased 3 or 4 times compared to the previous decade, exceeding $10 billion a year, in 2011 increasing 3 times compared to the previous period, where participation in capital and reinvested earnings rose to over $67.2 billion. In the last 3 years, Russian companies have been able to double the size of their foreign assets, as well as increase the size of their revenues more than two and a half times from their own assets.

Russian companies employ more than 150,000 workers abroad, more than twice as many as in 2000. As a result, the accelerated global expansion of major Russian companies has led them to assume the intrinsic characteristics of global multinationals.

The leading position in foreign assets is occupied by the oil, gas and steel companies: Lukoil, Gazprom, Severstal and Rusal, with a total value (referred to as the 4) of more than $50 billion in foreign assets. However the data, in relation to the global economy place Russia below the other powers. In 2012, Russian companies invested more than $139 billion in the acquisition of foreign companies (including the acquisition by Rosneft of BP for $56 billion), ending up with about 427 major operations; many of these operations have absorbed companies engaged in the same activity, so the Russian companies tend to focus their expansion at their core business and not on the diversification of their activity.

Although this trend has been changing since 2012, according to the data of 2012, the volume of direct investment by Russian companies abroad represented 17% of the total value of their domestic investment, and about 20 companies control 40% of all foreign assets.

The export of capital by Russian banks is carried out either in the form of direct investments or of acquisition of foreign services, or by inve­sting in foreign financial instruments, including securities, deposits in foreign banks or loans to legal entities. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, the volume of exports of funds by Russian credit institutions was relatively small, amounting to no more than $3.4 billion a year (but one must not forget that already at that time there was the acquisition by Alfa Bank of the Trade Bank of Amsterdam). Since 2005, the export of capital by the banking sector has accelerated sharply. In 2011, it reached $32 billion, an increase of more than nine times over 2000 (data from the Bank of Russia). With the increase in the financial capacity of the major Russian banks, which have increasingly invested in the expansion of their own international presence through the acquisition of existing foreign companies and the creation of foreign subsidiaries, so that in the first months of 2013, most of the major Russian banks owned their own subsidiary banks abroad. In particular, over the past four years VTB-Bank has established branches in Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Georgia, investing more than $400 million, and also consolidating its participation in Western European banks, and opening branches in India, China, Vietnam and Angola. VTB is now able to provide a high level of financial support to Russian companies in over 15 countries of the CIS [Confederation of Independent States], Western Europe, Asia and Africa, , aiming by 2020 to be the first and only global financial institution in banking services of the post-Soviet era.

Furthermore, a special feature of the banking sector. which the World Bank has expressly “recommended” as a remedy (advice that was promptly implemented), is to present a high break down of institutes due to barriers to entrance in very low sectors. Also in its report on Russia the World Bank noted this difference with the other BRICS countries, but emphasizes in each case, made the necessary interventions, that the large Russian banks (including the state-owned ones) play a dominant role and have no problems supporting requests for large amounts of capital.

Therefore we can conclude that the economic structure of the USSR and that of Russia are totally opposite and not comparable. It is not a matter of being for or against Russia, or for or against Putin, but of scientifically analyzing the real nature of each country, without the mystification or idealism typical of the opportunists who seek to separate imperialism from its economic base. Starting from this, even the current conflict on Ukrainian territory has to be seen from the viewpoint of a dispute between capitalist giants (such as for example Chevron and Gazprom) and in more general terms of a dispute between the great imperialist powers competing in the division of territories and markets, looking for a better po­sition in the imperialist pyramid, with the bloody intervention on Ukrainian territory by the United States and the EU (whose warmongering escalation has even led to the downing of an airplane with more than 300 dead), which have instigated, financed and organized a sector of the Ukrainian oligarchy that has established a fascist warmongering junta, to put themselves under the influence of the Atlantic bloc and market by preventing Ukraine from joining the Customs Union led by Russia, as was instead desired by another sector of the bourgeoisie.4

It is this contention over markets, resources, labour power, routes and territories that is linked to the needs of the institutions of transnational capitalist associations, the various Free Trade Agreements, military accords, etc. whose nature is always determined by the relations of production and the interests of the monopolies, not (exclusively) of geographic position. At the same time, this does not mean that “every imperialism” has the same characteristics, but they do have the same origin in the development of monopoly capitalism and the need to go beyond national confines.

Another enemy or an opportunity?

At this point we can judge that the real nature of this country is well-established, it is by now completely imperialist (though not at the top of the pyramid), where industrial capital has merged with bank capital, and where the big monopolies play a fundamental role. Obviously, however, this country, besides being totally opposed to a socialist system and far from representing any “model” to adopt, is opening up interesting scenarios at the international level: the confrontation with the United States, up to now the most powerful and hegemonic imperialism at the global level, the advance of other “emerging” great powers such as China, Brazil, China, India and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) is creating huge rifts in the economic and political balance.

We can therefore say that Russia, as well as China, are the main “enemies” of Yankee unipolarity, which was manifested in particular after 1989 with the barbarity of the wars in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. To what is this situation related? First, this is due to the uneven development of capitalism, and the crisis which, since 2008 in its most acute phase, has affected the major imperialist centres (USA, EU and Japan), while the countries now grouped in BRICS have experienced a rapid development (although this varied among them) to the point that today they have founded a new international bank, an alternative to the IMF and World Bank, overturning Bretton Woods5 after 70 years

These events can be considered positive in the sense that they weaken US domination and open spaces and diplomatic confrontations that can be very useful. For example, the Russian and Chinese opposition to the UN “peace” intervention in Syria, prevented the repetition of the Libyan scene of a few years earlier. This allowed the Syrian government to effectively cope with the hordes of Islamic mercenaries, supplied by the USA and other imperialist powers (such as France), which are now bloodying Iraq. (For further reading, see:

This is an indication of the change in the balance of power at the international level, but does it indicate a change in the level of opposition between the “imperialist camp” and the “anti-imperialist and socialist” camp, as in the years of the existence of the socialist camp? But why was Syria defended while Gaddafi’s Libya was shamefully abandoned? Have the supporters, if one can define them as such, of Putin already forgotten the heroic resistance of the Libyan people, “abandoned” by everyone?

The division of Libya’s economic resources, oil in the first place, among the great powers (without exception) has in fact condemned the experience of the Libyan Jamahiriya: US, European, Russian and Asian monopolies have flung themselves like vultures on the ruins of a country and a people martyred by NATO with the consent of the UN. A socialist country, based on the principle of proletarian internationalism, would never have allowed such a massacre: indeed it was the very existence of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc that allowed the emancipation and liberation took place in Asia, Africa and Central and South America, accelerating the process of decolonization, establishing an “international law”, based on a balance of power favourable to the people.

Another very recent example is what is taking place in the Middle East: “I support Israel’s fight in an attempt to defend its citizens. I have also heard of the shocking murder of the three young people. This is an act that cannot be permitted, and I ask you to convey my condolences to the families,” Putin said during a long meeting held in Moscow with a delegation of rabbis, led by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and composed of the former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, and the rabbis of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).6

Without going into too much detail on the Palestinian issue (for further reading, see: it is evident that, perceiving the various diplomatic tightropes, these are some incredible claims (for an “anti-imperialist”): ”I support Israel’s fight” to ’’defend its citizens”. While the masses of people around the world took to the streets (and are still doing so) to support the right to self-determination and freedom of the Palestinian people against the shameful and terrible acts of war of the Israeli armed forces, the Russian president not only declares support for Israel but adds that this is necessary to defend its citizens. It is clear to everyone how bombing a ghetto (which they did in the Gaza Strip), killing hundreds of women and children, is an act of defence, isn’t it? We are still asking, why “comrade” Putin?

There are economic interests at stake (among the many actions taken one can also count the agreement signed by the Russian president with large financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and BlackRock?7 in support of the national companies, the exchange of favours, the different situations of equilibrium to be maintained or changed, and every government legitimately plays the game. That, once again, however, is not that of the popular masses, of the workers and of course of the communists. An example is the struggle for the exploitation of gas and oil fields off the coast of Israel (such as Leviathan, Dalit and Tamar), with Russia’s Gazprom intending to set its sights on these supplies to the Asian markets to prevent them from being exploited by the European monopolies, which would put at risk the monopoly of Russian supplies to Europe. These are the real interests at stake.

The crux of the issue to be resolved is the following: in what way and to what extent can the “New Architecture” (proposed by BRICS) of the world order be beneficial to the people?

One myth to be dispelled is the question of “independence”. We Marxists cannot assess the role played in recent years by BRICS in the international division of labour, with many multinationals that have been established in some of these countries, and the relations of interdependence and dependence developed by these countries with the others, on the basis of which we can state that one cannot speak of “two worlds” but of old and new (monopoly) capitalist powers that converge at the top of the pyramid of the international imperialist system. To repeat what was mentioned before, the uneven development of capitalism, the internal dynamic of capitalism is leading today to a slowdown in these economies, which are suffering from the contradictions and effects of the general crisis. The birth of BRICS Bank can only be seen within the inter-imperialist dynamics of the trade in raw materials (the fall in prices of raw materials), the erosion of the heavy investment of the imperialist centres in these cou­ntries and their development, which requires “disengaging” from the danger of the financial control of the USA (IMF and WB), developing new economic and political strategies to offset the losses on the European markets and strengthen the interdependence between them, developing their respective markets and carving out more space in the global framework.

The growth of the BRICS has indeed slowed down compared to previous years; China, which in the period 2006-2012 had maintained an average GDP growth of 10.4% is today at 7.4%, the same applies to India, which went from 7.8% to 4.6%. Russia went from 4.3% to 1.4%, while Brazil went from 2.7% to 2.3%. It is in the observation of these dynamics that some comrades often fall into error, that is, they consider today all existing relations as a domination of the “colonial” type by a few imperialist powers (mainly the United States and Germany), defending in this way the supposed common interests between the “bourgeoisie” (which is in fact monopolistic and internationalized) and the “proletariat” of these countries, marginalizing the class struggle, ignoring the analysis of the economic structure of each country (monopoly capitalism) and the objective necessity of extending it to the global market, of connecting it to the processes of globalization of capitalism, of the expansion of international trade and the attraction of investment capital.

The UNCTAD data8 for the years from 2000 to 2012 show that the inflows of FDI (a very important criterion for determining the internation­alization of production) towards the BRICS has more than tripled, reaching $263 billion dollars in 2012, increasing during the period of crisis and in 2012 coming to represent 20% of world flows compared to 6% in 2000. At the same time the BRICS countries have also become important investors, with their Foreign Direct Investment, going from $7 billion in 2000 to $126 billion in 2012, accounting for 9% of world flows. Only ten years ago, their share was 1.1%. China is the largest investor among the BRICS countries (the third overall), with a total of almost $425 billion of FDI in the whole world. Almost half (46%) of the FDI inflows in 2012 towards the BRICS went to China, followed by Brazil (25%), Russia (17%) and India (10%), while the largest share of investments by the BRICS went to the developed economies, particularly the European Union (34%), driven by market research, mergers and acquisitions. Another important share is towards Africa (where China is the largest investor) with a share of FDI that has gone from 14% (in 2010) to 25%, with a particular increase in manufacturing.
The expansion of Russian multinationals in Africa is fairly recent but growing rapidly. Russia, the largest aluminium producer in the world, is present in Angola, Guinea, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as banks such as Vneshtorgbank, which opened in Angola, Namibia and Ivory Coast, while Renaissance Capital holds 25% of the shares of Ecobank, one of the largest Nigerian banks. The investment among the BRICS was relatively limited until 2012, although it has grown rapidly rising from 0.1 in 2003 to 2.5 in 2011 and this will be the characterization of the next few years (with the BRICS Bank).

In 2013, the FDI by the multinationals from countries classified as on the road of development reached $454 billion, a record. Along with the economies classified as in transition, they represent 39% of global FDI outflows, compared to only 12% at the beginning of the 2000 decade. Increasingly, the multinationals of the countries on the road of development are acquiring foreign subsidiaries of multinationals from the developed countries.

Figure 5. FDI inflows: top 20 host economies, 2013
(Billions of US dollars)

Russia has taken a big leap forward, both in terms of its own outflows as well as in inflows of FDI, which rose from 9th place to 3rd (behind the USA and China) for a value of $94 billion.

The share of FDI inflows towards the BRICS in 2013 represents 21% for a total value of $304 billion, 10% more than in 2007. The most important fact is that trade among the BRICS countries today already represents 17% of world trade, amounting to $6,140 billion dollars.

Figure 4. FDI Inflows to Selected Regional and Interregional Groups
average 2005-2007 and 2013
(Billions of US dollars and per cent

Source:UNCTAD , World Investment Report 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean have been the region where foreign direct investment has grown most in 2010 (15-25%), in a crisis, at the expense of the industrialized countries, which recorded a regression (­1%) in the same period. These capitals have been transformed into new plants, offices, productive units, etc. In this way, the region has seen an increase in production of 13%, while at the same period the developed economies have recorded an increase of 8%.

Investments in South America were mainly in natural resources (43% of FDI inflows into the region have gone into the area that produces 31% of world production of bio-fuels, 48% of soy, 47% of copper and 31% of meat), while in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean into the manufacturing industry (54% in the case of Mexico, mostly to the aerospace, food processing, automotive, medical equipment, electrical, electronics and energy sectors, in that order), in both cases, in order to supply the international market. This flow has strengthened the role assigned to these countries in the international division of the market, strengthening the interdependence of these economies, both compared to the economies where the capital is transferred as well as compared to the economies in which the products of these investments are realized, are consumed. The capital is intertwined, and has been redirected from the major centres of production to the peripheral countries, in search of maximum profit.

Let us look at the example of Brazil (the largest recipient of foreign investment and the country with the second largest foreign investment in South America). Immediately evident to the eyes (but often forgotten), the occupation of Haiti by Brazil together with the USA, as well as the sale of arms to Colombia, which contributes to the repression by the regime against the FARC-EP and the popular masses, the peasants and workers. Staying on this issue, in recent years the importance of industrial monopolies of arms has grown significantly in Brazil, as has happened in Israel, one of the countries from which there originated a considerable part of the resources invested, with large capital flows and supplies of resources and arms from Israel to Brazil, for business which during the past 12 years amounted to 1 billion reals.9 To continue our analysis of the relations with Israel, one can look at the free trade agreements and the consequent flow between the Zionist state and Mercosur (the same type of analysis could be made of the relations between the latter and the EU).

To better understand the relation between international and national capital in the monopoly stage, in reference to Brazil, we continue with the description by Edmilson Costa:

“If we look from the point of view of ownership, we can also see that of these 100 largest economic groups, 58% are of mostly domestic capital, while 42% are controlled by foreign capital. But if we look, for example, at industry, which is the most dynamic sector of the economy, one that creates new wealth, we see that the participation of foreign capital is higher than that of national capital […] the vast majority of the national capital groups are associated, at a certain point of their economic activity, with foreign capital, as long as it is functional, because it opens up areas for action in the international market and to become a major player in international financial flows. These data also clearly show not only the degree of concentration of the Brazilian economy, but above all the level of the relations between national and foreign capital, that is, the organic link between the Brazilian economy and the central economies. In almost all the dynamic sectors of the economy, such as the automobile industry, information technology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metallurgy, among others, international capital hegemonises the production process. Similarly, even in the traditional sectors, where national capital has always been in the majority, such as finance, commerce and agribusiness, foreign capital is advancing dramatically in recent years. Monopoly capital is generally concentrated in the large cities, organizing in its logic all the other more vulnerable sectors of capital and interconnecting the Brazilian economy in a subordinate manner to the leading centers and to the financial flows of international capital. The same thing happened in the countryside […] Consequently, this situation puts an end to the old illusions of a possible alliance between the proletariat and sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, as some forces of the left imagine, because this national bourgeoisie is not national and its interests are organically linked to the interests of large international capital.”10

Such examples should make it clear that what is developing is a struggle within the global capitalist market for the conquest of shares and positions of the same, on the basis of monopoly interests in search of better conditions for the increase in value of their capital, with strong relations of interdependence (which also achieved temporary international agreements) and at the same time with (ever greater) antagonism at certain levels11 with the major imperialist powers that exploit alliances with other capitalist countries in one or another region through economic, diplomatic and military means to increase their influence and reduce the support for their adversary.

There is no doubt that the characteristics of the BRICS are different from the imperialist centres (in particular the USA and the EU), but this is only derived from the current level of development of the former. And this often leads to errors. In this later period comes the news of the strengthening of relations between Germany, Russia and China, another clear indication of the change in the international relations of power among the global capitalist powers.

With the Tran Eurasia Express the huge Chinese market will be connected to Europe, passing through Russia; at the same time, these three powers are linked by strong relationships in the supply of gas going from Russia to Germany and in 2018 to China. The manoeuvres of the German bourgeoisie show the attempts to become a world (and not just regional) power, unlocking itself (up to a certain point) from the Western bloc to navigate in the global market with more and more interlinking with China and Russia.

The flag of multipolarity cannot be a communist flag, since this is an illusion in relation to the interests of the people, the proletariat and peace, ’’because there are two worlds in contention, but the continuation of capitalism in its imperialist phase in all these cases […] The new architecture is the prolongation of imperialism through a new division of markets, labor power and raw materials. The change from one imperialist center to another, from one exploiter to another, is not an alternative. […] One cannot deny the communist movement or any country in which it is possible to break the imperialist chain at its weakest link (this is properly the role of the active participation of the class forces in the struggle of the popular militias in the nascent People’s Republics of Novorossija that we support), the implementation of tactics in this sense, but sooner or later antagonisms will be clear”}”.12 As mentioned at the beginning, Leninism teaches us a sense of reality to make use of every contradiction produced by the imperialist system, but keeping well in mind the strategic vision in which every step must end up with the strengthening of the independent class perspective, which requires the distinction between the interests of the opposing classes in each and every event that takes place.

To try to unravel the tangle, let us learn from Lenin and from his approach to “multipolarity” and the First World War (it is not unnecessary to note that there has never been such a multipolar world as that which led to the First World War). In “Under a False Flag”13 (written in 1915, during the First World War), the great Russian revolutionary responded forcefully to the arguments of A. Potresov according to whom (on the basis of Marx) it was necessary ”to determine the success of which side opened up broader vistas for possibilities desirable from their point of view”. It is true, replied Lenin; Marx explicitly poses the question of ”the success of which side is more desirable”. But it is misleading, he said, to reiterate that statement a half century later, in which Marx was referring to the confrontation between progressives in the bourgeois movements and feudal, monarchical and absolutist forces.

Therefore, says Lenin, “Marx’s method consists, first of all, in taking due account of the objective content of a historical process at a given moment, in definite and concrete conditions; this in order to realise, in the first place, the movement of which class is the mainspring of the progress possible in those concrete conditions. In 1859, it was not imperialism that comprised the objective content of the historical process in continental Europe, but national-bourgeois movements for liberation. The mainspring was the movement of the bourgeoisie against the feudal and absolutist forces.” […]

“Let us suppose that two countries are at war in the epoch of bourgeois, national-liberation movements. Which country should we wish success to from the standpoint of present-day democracy? Obviously, to that country whose success will give a greater impetus to the bourgeoisie’s liberation movement, make its development more speedy, and undermine feudalism the more decisively. Let us further suppose that the determining feature of the objective historical situation has changed, and that the place of capital striving for national liberation has been taken by international, reactionary and imperialist finance capital. The former country, let us say, possesses three-fourths of Africa, whereas the latter possesses one-fourth. A repartition of Africa is the objective content of their war. To which side should we wish success? It would be absurd to state the problem in its previous form, since we do not possess the old criteria of appraisal: there is neither a bourgeois liberation movement running into decades, nor a long process of the decay of feudalism. It is not the business of present-day democracy either to help the former country to assert its ‘right’ to three-fourths of Africa, or to help the latter country (even if it is developing economically more rapidly than the former) to take over those three-fourths.

“Present-day democracy will remain true to itself only if it joins neither one nor the other imperialist bourgeoisie, only if it says that the two sides are equally bad, and if it wishes the defeat of the imperialist bourgeoisie in every country. Any other decision will, in reality, be national-liberal and have nothing in common with genuine internationalism.” […]

“We are undoubtedly living at the juncture of two epochs, and the historic events that are unfolding before our eyes can be understood only if we analyse, in the first place, the objective conditions of the transition from one epoch to the other. Here we have important historical epochs; in each of them there are and will always be individual and partial movements, now forward now backward; there are and will always be various deviations from the average type and mean tempo of the movement. We cannot know how rapidly and how successfully the various historical movements in a given epoch will develop, but we can and do know which class stands at the hub of one epoch or another, determining its main content, the main direction of its development, the main characteristics of the historical situation in that epoch, etc. Only on that basis, i.e., by taking into account, in the first place, the fundamental distinctive features of the various ‘epochs’ (and not single episodes in the history of individual countries), can we correctly evolve our tactics; only a knowledge of the basic features of a given epoch can serve as the foundation for an understanding of the specific features of one country or another. ”

The proponents of today’s theses on “multipolarity”, namely the progressive role of the monopoly bourgeoisie that is antagonistic to “strong Western imperialism,” reiterate the same opportunist theses which Lenin fought against as they are placed on the positions ”of another class, and moreover of an old and outmoded class […]”. Therefore it is not a coincidence that the proponents of this thesis are those who speak of “intermediate steps” between capitalism and socialism, who postpone the revolutionary tasks of the working class to an indefinite future, advocating inter-class alliances with a presumed (in fact non-existent) “national bourgeoisie”, that they should form an alliance with one imperialist camp instead of another. A political camp that hides or tries to insinuate itself into the international workers’ and communist movement, sowing confusion, tailism and demobilization, including the Party of the European Left (known for its support, for example, of the European Union and in fact also of NATO) or the proponents of interstate (bourgeois) alliances of southern Europe to end up with the open (so-called) red-brown infiltrating groups [Nazi-Bolsheviks] and a supposed Italic national-bourgeois struggle linked to the “new Eurasian power.” To always say with Lenin, they ”have betrayed the standpoint of the class which they are trying hard to represent, are fo­llowing in the wake of the bourgeoisie.”

At 100 years since the First World War, it is once again the struggle between revolutionaries and opportunists concerning the international situation. The recent declaration of the World Federation of Democratic Youth says:

The First World War ”was the terrifying revelation of the results of the monopoly stage of capitalism. The millions of deaths and huge disasters involving countries from all continents, will forever be a reminder of the results of the imperialist conflicts and aggression; it will always be a reminder of the fact that the imperialist alliances serve the interests of the bourgeoisie of each country, but not the interests of the people […]

“Today we can see how history repeats itself, with new imperialist alliances, regroupments and continuous increases in military actions. Changes in frontiers and alliances that take place, usually violently, are creating sparks which may lead to wider conflicts and international wars [… ]

“As part of the international anti-imperialist movement, as progressive young men and women, we honor the victims of the great imperialist war. Our struggle for peace and friendship among the peoples, our struggle to overthrow imperialism is what brings the hope of a better future for humanity, for a necessary progress. As the Great October Revolution was born from the ruins of the First World War, we are committed to defeat imperialism to bring peace between the peoples.”14

To really understand all these events we have no other way than to study imperialism and Lenin, who often enlightens us wisely. It is precisely because the world is constantly changing that we need clarity in the process of internationalization of the productive forces, of the competitive struggle and resulting wars between capitalist countries for the redivision of the world on the basis of the uneven development of the capitalist countries and the relation of interdependence between them (the world imperialist system). This means to be politically, ideologically and organizationally consistent in performing the tasks that history imposes on the communists. And these tasks cannot be other than those of fighting the “imperialism at home” (which means, overthrow of the bourgeois power in Italy, withdrawal from the EU and NATO) by all means (rejecting rancid imperialist pacifism), the active solidarity of the proletariat and real international cooperation (for example, with the People’s Republics of Novorossija), the formation of the international unity of the communists, the class independence in the struggle against “any inter-state capitalist alliance” in the realization that the future of the people will be in their own hands only with the overthrow of the bourgeois power in each country, the socialization of the means of production, production and distribution not for profit but for the satisfaction of the needs of the people. The “communist’” organizations and their companions who support the Islamic and terrorist rabble in Syria, the Nazi-fascists in Ukraine in the name of “democracy”, the liberator “comrade Putin” have only two alternatives. Either use Marxism-Leninism as a “toolbox” or finally and honestly declare, which side are you on.

Credit: Revolutionary Democracy

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