Harpal Brar: Lenin is still key to understanding imperialism and war

Claims that the world is no longer characterised by the contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nations are patently absurd.

Read this interview in Spanish on the Haizea Gorriak blog.

In this interview for the podcast of Germany’s Kommunistische Organisation, Comrade Harpal Brar discusses VI Lenin‘s theory of imperialism, Nato‘s current aggression, and the tasks and demands of anti-imperialist politics today.

Global capitalism is once again in deep crisis and the imperialist powers are driving towards war, but the question of imperialism is revealing another deep crisis – one within the communist movement itself.

This question has driven a deep wedge between opposing sides during the year since Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine, as was reflected by the two very different resolutions (here and here) on the war that were discussed at the meeting of communist and workers’ parties in Havana last October.

Some parties (led by the KKE of Greece) now argue that the old division into dependent and imperialist states is no longer relevant, claiming that all capitalist countries in the modern era are at some level of imperialist development within a world imperialist system.

Comrade Harpal’s analysis, on the other hand, has consistently upheld the theory of imperialism worked out in 1916 by Lenin, demonstrating that it remains the best guide to understanding our world today. In this interview, he points out that anyone with eyes to see must continue to recognise the division of the world’s nations into two fundamentally opposing groups: exploiting imperialist nations on the one hand and oppressed nations on the other.

Imperialist countries use the huge power of their historically-accumulated stores of finance capital to exploit weaker countries by both economic and military means, and they conduct regime-change operations against any country that tries to follow its own independent path, free from the shackles of finance capital. Debt slavery, technological subservience, economic sanctions, military threats … these are just some of the tools the imperialist powers, led by US imperialism, use to reinforce their dominance over the world.

This is why, even though old colonial powers of Europe were forced to retreat in the face of the wave of national liberation that followed WW2, the majority of nominally independent countries remain in a neocolonial subordinated state both financially and politically.

Harpal talks about why it is that the imperialists are so concerned with the independent stance taken by Russia and China in particular, and why they should feel so threatened by China’s steady development and rising prosperity. And about why it is that so many oppressed nations are welcoming trade and cooperation with China as a route to developing their economies and boosting their own technological levels and infrastructure development.

Comrade Harpal also discusses the founding of the World Anti-imperialist Platform and its role in working towards theoretical clarity and practical unity in the anti-imperialist and communist movements – work that is essential if we are successfuly to oppose and defeat the Nato war machine worldwide.


The recorded interview above was followed up by a second part in written form, which we reproduce below.

What is your position on the war in Ukraine?

It is not a war between Ukraine and Russia. It is a war waged by Nato against Russia; Ukraine is being used as a proxy.

This war has a two-fold purpose: first, to weaken and disintegrate Russia and divide it into more easily digestible parts so that it may be looted by imperialism – especially US imperialism; and second, to prevent all possible economic cooperation between Russia and Germany, thus weakening Germany and eliminating it as a competitor to US imperialism.

Nothing frightens US imperialism more than the possibility of any accommodation, let alone alliance, between Russia and Germany.

What is the state of the workers’ movement in Britain? What are their reactions to the war?

The workers’ movement is in a pitiable state at the moment thanks to the near-total control of the workers’ organisation by social democracy: that is, the imperialist Labour party, combined with the non-stop anticommunist propaganda put out by the bourgeois media, both in print and electronically.

Social democracy has been facilitated in consolidating its grip over the working-class movement by the bourgeoisie channelling through social-democratic outfits sufficient funds – a tiny proportion of its imperialist superprofits – to buy the loyalty of working-class leaders with the lure of a comfortable lifestyle and to make just enough concessions to working-class demands to assuage any threatening militancy.

Because of the deepening crisis of overproduction the bourgeoisie today is less able to manipulate the working class than it has been over the last several decades, but the social-democratic mindset that manifests itself as opportunism will only fade gradually, and requires to be fought strenuously so as to speed up the process of its elimination from the working-class movement.

As to the labour movement’s reaction to the war in Europe, the anti-Russia hysteria being daily spewed out by the propaganda arms of British imperialism has persuaded large sections of the working class to think of Ukraine as the victim of Russian aggression.

Nevertheless, there is change in the air. The economic sanctions imposed by the USA and EU imperialism, though hurting Russia, are hurting the imperialist countries even more. As a result, the masses are engaged in a very serious cost of living crisis, while the bourgeoisie rakes in fabulous profits from the war.

All this is helping to develop resentment against, and resistance to, the austerity to which the working class is being subjected. The present wave of strikes, including railway and postal workers, nurses and ambulance workers, teachers, civil servants and many others, are eloquent testimony to this development.

The war has served to exacerbate the imperialist crisis of overproduction, with all its ramifications.

What do you think about the participation of Great Britain in the war?

The British bourgeoisie is joined to US imperialism as the latter’s junior partner. Ever since Britain lost its dominant position following the second world war, the British bourgeoisie has reconciled itself to playing this junior role as the only means of profiting from the imperialist predatory wars – from the Korean and Vietnam wars to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – launched by the USA. The interests of British finance capital and its oil and armaments industries are clearly intertwined with those of Wall Street and the USA oil and armaments industries.

Can you tell us something about the strategic positions of the UK after leaving the EU? How do you evaluate the UK’s strategy?

Brexit, as was to be expected, has been a disaster for British, EU and US imperialism. It had the effect of adversely affecting all of them. That is precisely the reason that our party – the CPGB-ML – supported Brexit, which delivered a powerful blow to the British ruling class, and is bound, in the long run, to be beneficial to the working class, weakening as it does the British bourgeoisie.

The ruling circles in Britain have no strategy other than that of hitching themselves to the war chariot of US imperialism and tying themselves to the apron strings of US finance capital. The whole idea of Britain playing the role of an independent imperialist power has been shown to be delusional.

How do you assess the discussions within the international communist movement on the war in Ukraine and on imperialism?

The international communist movement is deeply divided on the question of war. There are those who assert that Russia is waging a predatory imperialist war against Ukraine; still others claim that it is an interimperialist war between Russian and the western imperialist powers led by the USA.

My party, on the other hand, is firmly of the view that Russia, though a capitalist country, is not an imperialist power; that it is defending itself against the combined forces of the Nato imperialist bloc, which is attempting to subdue and dismember it. While being imperialist on Nato’s part, Russia’s war is one of self defence, defence of its sovereignty. It is a war that has been forced on Russia through Nato’s relentless march towards its borders ever since the collapse of the erstwhile and glorious USSR, thanks to the triumph of Khrushchevite revisionism following the death of Josef Stalin.

Why was it necessary to found the Anti-imperialist Platform? What are its objectives?

The World Anti-imperialist Platform, in which our party plays an important role, was formed precisely to expose the driving forces behind this war, as well as to lay bare the renegacy of those communists who are either denouncing Russia or holding it equally responsible for the war in Europe.

In the few months since its launch, the Platform has gathered considerable support and is helping to galvanise communist and socialist organisations in Europe and Latin America. We appeal to all genuine communists to sign the Platform’s Paris Declaration and bring greater strength to the noble cause of fighting against imperialism and war.

What are the difficulties but also the role of the workers’ movement in the imperialist core countries?

The main difficulty is that the workers’ movement in the imperialist countries has allowed itself to come under the wings of the imperialist bourgeoisie and, as such, has failed to play a revolutionary role, merely acting as an adjunct of the ruling class.

The only way out is for it to assert its independence under the revolutionary science and theory of Marxism-Leninism and to create truly revolutionary communist parties in each country, fight against opportunism, and devote itself to the task of overthrowing the rule of imperialism and working for its own social liberation.

The working class is faced with the choice: either submit to the dictates of capital, eke out a miserable existence and sink lower and lower; or pick up the banner of Marxism-Leninism and overthrow imperialism.