Debate in the Fourth International Part II: There Is No Equal Sign Between U.S. Imperialism and Chinese and Russian Imperialism: An Alternative to the FI majority text entitled “The World Geostrategic Situation”  

By Jeff Mackler, National Committee/Socialist Action USA

[Editor’s note: The text below was adopted by Socialist Action’s National Committee for presentation to the annual February 2022 meeting of the delegates to the Fourth International’s elected international leadership. Representatives of some 56 parties across the globe were present at this five-day zoom gathering. Socialist Action participates only in a fraternal capacity due to reactionary U.S. legislation that bars membership in international socialist organizations. In addition to the text below, Socialist Action, a small minority in the FI today and for many years, presented two additional counter-resolutions to the texts prepared by the Fourth International majority leadership. The first text dated May 22, 2022 appears on this website. All three texts were overwhelmingly defeated, a further indication of the ever-widening gap between the present leadership’s increasing abandonment of the FI’s historic Trotskyist program and practice and Socialist Action’s allegiance to it.]

Fundamental to the FI Bureau’s 2022 IC third text, “The World Geostrategic Situation,” is their assessment of “a new course to the geopolitical struggle for hegemony between the United States and China.” 

Russia is similarly included in the Bureau’s assessment. “Inter-imperialist conflicts of great powers” is the dominant aspect of today’s unfolding reality, the Bureau asserts.   

 “Although China’s social formation does have [unstated, JM] subordinate features, the country has become the world’s second largest power, changing geopolitical relations. As for Russia, it reaffirms its intention to maintain its zone of influence around what was once the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union.”

“China and Russia are integrated into the same world market as the United States or the European Union.” The Bureau adds, “Capitalist globalization is an essential fact.” 

That Russia and China are capitalist/imperialist states is not in dispute. But the conclusions we draw from this assessment often, as we shall demonstrate, differ widely. 

The law of identity’’ does not apply to politics

In our view, the mathematical formula of Identity, that is, “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other,” cannot be fully and formally applied to U.S. imperialism, on the one hand, and to Chinese and Russian imperialism on the other. 

The Bureau text recognizes this reality, at least in part, when it reports that:

“U.S. imperialism… has the largest army in the world (by far) and an unparalleled network of state alliances and 750 military bases over 80 countries. China, on the other hand, has only one real military base abroad.”

As a matter of fact, a number of credible sources put the number of U.S. foreign military bases at 1,100 in 120 countries. But why quibble? 

We add that it is generally agreed that a number of U.S. bases are not reported, that is, are secret. But President Joseph Biden did affirm in a required report to the U.S. Congress a few months ago that there are 159 countries where U.S. military operations are underway today!

Might we add to the balance sheet that U.S. military operations include deadly sanctions wars against 40 countries, not to mention drone wars, “Special Operation Wars,” death squad assassination wars, and CIA secret wars? And what of the secret CIA wars in Africa, where some five military coups have been registered in the past year? No doubt the U.S. AFRICOM  (Africa Command) with military operations in some 53 African countries, including drone wars against “terrorists,” operates with impunity to advance U.S. imperialist interests.

We will add only that U.S. imperialism spends more on its military, at least $1 trillion annually, including the CIA budget, than most of the rest of the world combined. The Pentagon is also the world’s largest fossil fuel polluter. 

But again, China has but one military base outside its borders, in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, where the U.S., France, Japan and other nations also maintain military bases. 

Similar statistics pertain to Russia, which maintains some half dozen foreign military bases, mostly in the former Soviet Republics and today in Syria.

A more accurate assessment of the global military state of affairs demonstrates that China and Russia are virtually surrounded by U.S. military bases. 

The mathematical law of identity obviously does not apply with equal force when evaluating the respective actions of U.S. imperialism and its Chinese and Russian variants. 

Again on Syria, Iraq and Libya: The right of oppressed nations to self-determination

The Bureau text purports an evenhanded stance when it comes to what it calls, the “urgent militant task to build an international antiwar movement that builds solidarity and puts at the forefront the rights of peoples threatened by the interventions of competing imperialisms.” 

As we explore this dubious assertion, we will soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth! 

In its opposition to “campism,” which the Bureau text defines as supporting anything and everyone opposed to the U.S., ” the Bureau writes, “In the last two decades, the necessary mobilization in the face of imperialist interventions also led some [who are the “some”?] to silence the reactionary nature of the regimes of Saddam Hussein, Bashar El Assad or Gaddafi, ignoring the necessary solidarity with the democratic currents of resistance to these regimes and setting up dictators as champions of the anti-imperialist struggle.” 

This “anti-campist” jargon obscures the fact that U.S. imperialism/NATO conducted regime change wars against Iraq, Syria and Libya, wars that destroyed the vast infrastructure of these poor and oppressed nations and murdered millions! The alleged “democratic currents of resistance” to these governments has proven to be either non-existent or creations of U.S. imperialism and its “coalitions.” 

The U.S./NATO “coalition of the willing” wars against these poor and oppressed nations included the Saudi and other reactionary Gulf State monarchies. They combined to hire, transport, arm and finance thousands of jihadist fighters to do U.S. imperialism’s bidding, while the U.S. imperialist beast itself actively led the onslaught, covertly or overtly. 

In Iraq, the U.S. wars were conducted in the name of removing Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” That war is today considered a “mistake” by its then leading perpetrators, from the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, to two U.S. presidents, Obama and Biden. In Libya, today a ruined state, the U.S./NATO slaughter was conducted in the name of saving the lives of an alleged but non-existent 50,000 Benghazi civilians who Gaddafi was alleged to be on the verge of slaughtering. Subsequently released British Intelligence reports have put the lie to that imperialist pretext. 

Soon after that horror, Gilbert Achar, today touted by the FI Bureau as a Middle East authority, rose at an FI IC meeting to support the Libyan U.S./NATO bombing. He stood alone at that IC. Today, his views on Syria, supporting a non-existent opposition, touted by a group of pro-war Syrian ex-pats, are the views of the Bureau, published in International Viewpoint as well as in various liberal and social democratic publications, including The Nation and New Politics. Achar himself has been exposed for his research relations with a British military-intelligence agency.  

The U.S. war against Syria: Which side are you on?

In Syria, the U.S. intervention – arming and financing a war that killed, over ten years, 500,000 Syrians – including 50,000 Syrian Army soldiers, – and saw the U.S.-backed jihadists occupying some 3/4 of Syria – was based on the initial 2011, U.S. imperialist pretext of protecting Damascus civilians against an alleged Assad slaughter. That pretext has today been exposed as a U.S.-instigated action to justify its subsequent, almost successful regime change war aimed at establishing, under U.S. auspices, its own subservient government in Syria. Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry literally presided over the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia conference aimed at dividing Syria and establishing a U.S.-orchestrated government. 

This U.S./NATO coalition regime change war was only thwarted after the Syrian government exercised its right to self-determination and asked for Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah aid. We will only add here that the British-based Gallop-associated polling organization put Syrian support for U.S./NATO and its “coalition” at less than 10 percent in contrast to its finding that the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad had majority support. 

History has put the lie to all these U.S. pretexts and associated horrors. Socialist Action’s multiple pamphlets, and today, much of the corporate media, including the New York Times, has documented these lies. Today, the latter almost routinely refutes yesterday’s U.S- invented pretexts. We have previously documented this in great detail. 

Yet, the U.S. remains in all these countries, ever intent on stealing their resources, especially oil. It would do the same in Venezuela and Iran, were it not for the opposition of the bourgeois leaders of these nations and the mass hatred of the U.S. imperialist beast. Without exception revolutionary socialists should have been in the forefront of all these antiwar struggles, opposing these U.S. imperialist atrocities, regardless of the fact that all these nations are or were headed by bourgeois or bourgeois nationalist forces. This elementary proposition, based on the Fourth International’s, and the Bolshevik’s before us historic defense of the right of poor and oppressed nations to self-determination, has been today tragically abandoned by the current FI mis-leadership.  

The Bureau on ‘‘Campism’’

The Bureau text codifies the above departures from our historic program in the name of its version of “Campism.” The Bureau text is explicit: “Campism” represents a major obstacle to the development of this internationalism. By placing itself on the level of relations between states, before that of solidarity between peoples, it leads to the sacrifice of populations that are victims of a great power (in this case China and Russia…) or of repressive regimes (or counter-revolutionary movements) as long as they are more or less anti-American.”

Millions of antiwar activists, including major trade union federations around the world, mobilized against the U.S. wars against Iraq, regardless of the fact that Iraq was headed by the bourgeois nationalist Saddam Hussein. They demanded U.S. Out Now! and Self-determination for Iraq. These were the same demands later raised by the major antiwar forces around the world with regard to the U.S. imperialist slaughters in Syria and Libya, not to mention to the U.S.-backed coups in Venezuela and Bolivia.

With regard to Venezuela, we condemned the U.S. coup, blockade and sanctions aimed at starving the Venezuelan people and forcing the Maduro government into submission. With regard to Russia, our stance should have included the right of the Venezuelan government to ask for and receive aid from Russia and China – aid in the form of food, medicine and arms. We placed no “equal sign” between U.S. imperialism’s actions in Venezuela and Russian imperialism’s actions, regardless of what imperialist Russia’s future intentions might be.

Summary of our positions on disputed questions

Before moving on to other serious departures from the FI’s historic Trotskyist program it is helpful to state our position on all the disputed questions clearly:

• Russia, China and the U.S. are today imperialist nations but at vastly different levels of military, economic development and influence on a world scale. With regard to all three and with regard to all capitalist nations on earth, we stand for socialist revolution and reject all notions that these nations have any inherent progressive character. Indeed, China today has over 1,000 billionaires while the U.S. has some 700. Russia has 80. The vast wealth accumulated by these plundering capitalist elite is directly attributable to the capitalist nature of their societies.

• We are for the formation of revolutionary socialist, Leninist parties in all these nations, and all others, aimed at the organization of the working class to fight for socialist revolution.

• We support the right of all poor and oppressed nations to self-determination, that is, to be free from imperialist war and conquest. 

• This includes the right of these poor and oppressed nations to seek aid from other nations, to help defend their sovereignty. 

•While we lend no political support to the capitalist governments of poor and oppressed nations we stand with them as they defend themselves from imperialist intervention and war. 

• Where we have comrades in these nations beleaguered by imperialism, they would be in the forefront of opposing the imperialist interveners. 

• We stand for the military victory of all poor and oppressed nations attacked by imperialist forces.

• We stand 100 percent opposed to the Russian imperialist intervention in Kazakhstan on behalf of the Kazakhi capitalist oligarchs. 

• We stand in solidarity with the struggles of the Kazakhstan workers against their capitalist government exploiters and against the Russian invaders.

Afghanistan: The Bureau’s tragic position 

The single Bureau text statement on Afghanistan masks more than it reveals. The statement reads: “Although the Afghan debacle did not mean the U.S. withdrawal from the Asian zone, it strengthens China’s hand in Central Asia.” 

Pure sophistry! First and foremost, after 20 years of U.S. imperialist war and devastation, the destruction of the countryside and some one million Afghans dead, the U.S. imperialist beast was forced to withdraw – defeated. The same with the 20 years of the Russian war before it. Both these defeats, at terrible costs, represented victories for the Afghan people, regardless of the fact that the victory was led by the obscurantist forces of the Taliban. It was, nevertheless supported by the vast majority of the Afghan people, who had no taste for imperialist tutelage. The fact that the Bureau is incapable of acknowledging these facts informs us once again that it has lost its fundamental bearings – that it once again proves itself incapable of understanding the dynamics of the struggles of oppressed people for self-determination and sovereignty. 

With the forced withdrawal of the U.S. imperialist occupier, the Afghan people stand better positioned today to challenge the reactionary Taliban government. The Bureau’s conclusion that the “debacle” will only “strengthen China’s hand in Central Asia” comes close to informing us that the Bureau stands opposed to the U.S. withdrawal!  We will only add here that the aid of China and Russia to the Taliban, contributed to the U.S. defeat and cannot be condemned, regardless of the motives of these imperialist nations. 

We note further that the defeated U.S. beast is now imposing a monstrous blockade aimed at starving the Afghan people, not to mention, in the words of President Biden, regarding maintaining a U.S. military capability “over the horizon” from where it continues to drone bomb the Afghan people. Need we add the most recent U.S. decision to steal the $9.4 billion in Afghan funds stored in U.S. banks?  

The task ahead for revolutionaries around the world and inside Afghanistan is the patient construction of a Leninist party aimed at winning the Afghanistan masses based on a program of full equality for all working people, especially women, and all minority ethnic groups as well as the panoply of democratic and transitional demands leading to the socialist future, plus total opposition to every form of U.S. imperialist intervention and its planned bloodthirsty revenge.

Ukraine: Reviewing the history since 2014

The Bureau characterizes U.S. imperialist and the Biden administration policy in Ukraine as an expression of  “moderation,” yet it points out Ukraine ranks third in the world regarding U.S. military aid. Perhaps the Bureau has not noticed that the entire world became keenly aware that a U.S. war against Russia, perhaps a nuclear war, was posed as a serious possibility. Having surrounded Russia and expanded NATO to its borders, having sent billions to the Ukrainian army, and thousands of U.S. troops to NATO nations, the U.S. thrust was clear: to send military forces to conquer the Donbas regions in eastern and southeastern Ukraine, to bring Ukraine into NATO and to substitute super expensive U.S. fracked natural gas for the present Russian pipelines and the planned Nordstream 2 bypass to Germany and Western Europe that will deliver Russian gas at a third the cost of the U.S. best price.

Background to Ukraine confrontation

Here, we note that the Bureau neglects to present some invaluable background to the present U.S.-Russia standoff, that is, the events surrounding the 2014 U.S.-backed fascist-led coup in Ukraine that removed the pro-Russian elected capitalist Yanokovych government and replaced it with one oriented to alliances with the European Union, NATO and U.S. imperialism.

The events that transpired in Ukraine in 2014 were not a matter of speculative interpretation. Our Ukrainian FI comrades were on the scene during the Maidan Square (Independence Square) protests, that is, until they were attacked by fascist gangs, who destroyed their Trotskyist literature, physically assaulted them and drove them from the scene. They reported all this, soon after, to the 2014 IC meeting, to the horror of the comrades present. They explicitly rejected the U.S. and world corporate media scenario that Yanukovych snipers fired on and murdered peaceful Maidan protestors. 

Indeed, U.S. representative to the European Union, Victoria Nuland‘s intercepted email corrected such corporate media reports and explicitly stated that it was the anti-Yanukovych fascist gangs who came to dominate the Maidan rallies who had fired on the crowds with the objective of providing a pretext to march on the Parliament. The fascists did exactly that. They physically banned the Yanukovych majority of the Parliament from entering the building, convened a rump minority government, declared themselves the leaders of the nation and immediately passed a series of “laws.” 

These focused on rejecting the government’s signed agreements with Russia for bailout loans (on terms far more favorable than offered by the EU), formally banning the Russian language as one of the two official languages previously recognized for centuries, and organizing fascist-led militias (led by members of the pro-Nazi Svoboda and Right Sector parties) to march on eastern Ukraine to challenge the Russian majority in those regions.

Revolutionaries around the world, including Socialist Action/USA soon after became aware of the above scenario. They rejected the U.S.-backed fascist-led coup and its perpetrators aligning with the EU, not to mention the fascists incorporation into the Ukrainian Army and their thrust to driving out the anti-coup Russian–speaking population, almost half the population of Ukraine.

Russia occupies Crimea

Soon after Russian forces entered Crimea and fortified its major port that had always, by agreement, been under Russian control since Ukrainian independence in 1991. The Russians organized a referendum on Crimea joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved. Wikipedia reported, “The official result from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was a 97 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83 percent voter turnout, and within the local government of Sevastopol there was also a 97 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 89 percent voter turnout.” Few doubted the legitimacy of the vote.

Faced with orders to the fascist-led coup government’s soldiers in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea to attack the Russian forces, virtually the entire Ukrainian Army deserted, with the vast majority joining the Russian Army. Barely a shot was fired.

Faced with broad resistance from traditional U.S. allies, especially Germany and France, the Biden administration has been relatively isolated in its efforts to form a broad coalition aimed at war with Russia, although its objective to advance the interests of its giant oil monopolies remains unchanged. [Editor’s note: This resolution was approved by Socialist Action’s National Committee before Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Our position on this intervention appears on our website in an April 11, 2022 article entitled “Where We Stand: Ukraine: No to the U.S.-orchestrated fascist coup. “]

U.S. imperialism and oil

The same with its relations with Iran and Venezuela, the nations with the world’s two largest fossil fuel reserves. More than any other factor, U.S. imperialism pursues any and all means and employs endless pretexts, to justify its pursuit of domination of the world’s energy supply, not to mention to increase the production of fossil fuels regardless of the cataclysmic consequences to life on earth itself. In this context, the Russian imperialists, not to mention the Iranians and Venezuelans, are minor players. Indeed, U.S. imperialism has virtually assured that the latter’s oil/fossil fuel resources are increasingly kept off the world marketplace. Here again, there is no equal sign between Russia and the U.S. The former, as the Bureau notes in passing, is a bit player on the world market place with regard to virtually every commodity and world supply chain, except those emanating from its extraction-based economy. 

The Middle East 

Here, the Bureau text is a marvel of omission and obfuscation. It reads: ‘‘The relative stability of the situation in the Middle East may only be temporary. It may soon give way to a ‘hot’ crisis, at least as far as the Iran issue is concerned.’’ And just what is ‘‘The Iran Issue?’’ Could it be that the U.S. unilaterally broke its sanction-imposed treaty agreements with Iran restricting Iran’s nuclear reactors from producing material for its power plants, or perhaps the U.S./Israel-planned assassinations of Iran’s nuclear scientists, or the U.S./Israel periodic bombing of Iran’s reactors, or maybe the U.S. Navy’s sequestration and/or harassment of Iran’s oil fleet, or the virtual embargo on Iranian oil? In all these matters the FI should stand squarely opposed to the U.S. imperialist beast, regardless of the fact that Iran is headed by clerical capitalist regime.

Today, U.S. and U.S.-orchestrated overt wars and sanction wars are ongoing in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iran, as well as the ever-present open and covert wars orchestrated by U.S. imperial allies in the region, including the Zionist, racist, colonial settler state of Israel. This seems to have escaped the attention of the Bureau, who passes over U.S imperialism’s daily, deadly deeds in the Middle East with but two blithe words, ‘‘relative stability.’’ 

Revolutionary Cuba

The same with the Bureau’s remarks on Cuba, or rather their absence. We find no assessment of the July 2021 events regarding the U.S.-backed and corporate media championed demonstrations in Cuba, where participants ranged from the majority, who expressed discontent over food and vaccine shortages – a direct product of the U.S. embargo/blockade – to openly counterrevolutionary currents allied with U.S. imperialism. We note here only that the Bureau’s focus at that time, including adding the names of FI leaders to public statements attacking Cuba initiated by a range of liberals and social democrats, was more on opposition to the arrest of a handful of dissidents than it was to the horrors associated with the six decades of war, ongoing sanctions, the embargo/blockade, bombings and the assassinations perpetrated by U.S. imperialism against the Cuban workers’ state.

Abandoning FI’s historic view on deformed and degenerated workers’ states?

The Bureau text reads with regard to its critique of  “campism’’: ‘‘During the Cold War, and until the end of the 1980s, campism led left-wing currents to forget or justify the crimes of the Soviet and Chinese bureaucracies by defending regimes that had emerged from socialist revolutions.’’

Need we recall that until capitalist restoration during the late 80’s and early 90’s,  the FI’s historic stance was against the ‘‘third campists’’ who rejected defense of the deformed and degenerated workers’ states against world imperialism, regardless of their Stalinist leaderships? We were not neutral during that Cold War period. We derived our position from its Trotskyist origins and from the FI’s founding principles. These were based on our assessment that the new deformed and degenerated workers’ states were qualitatively different in social character than capitalist states, that is, they came into existence via the revolutionary abolition of capitalist property relations led by mass working class forces and the associated establishment of a planned economy aimed primarily at the satisfaction of human needs, not capitalist profits. 

Yes, we also called for political revolution in these states and the establishment of workers’ democracy based on soviet-type organizations directly accountable to the working class. That is, we fought for political revolution to remove the reactionary Stalinist bureaucracy and not for a social revolution to fundamentally change property relations. 

In sharp contrast, the ‘‘third campists,’’ who insisted that the workers’ states were ‘‘state capitalist’’ or ‘‘bureaucratic collectivist,’’ not only rejected their defense, but more often than not found themselves in the imperialist camp, as with the Vietnam War when they declared that it was a war between “Soviet social imperialism’’ and U.S. imperialism. They tended to prefer the latter because it was ‘‘more democratic.’’ We will only add that our current, while defending the workers’’ states against imperialism, always supported the working class when it rose up against the Stalinist bureaucracies as in Poland 1953, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Romania and China in 1989.

The Bureau’s political ambiguity on Biden-Trump

The Bureau text contains a section describing international divisions in the world ruling classes between alliances among the traditional capitalist/imperialist ‘‘democracies’’ (multilateralism) and the emerging more overtly reactionary currents represented by Trump and others with an overt neo-fascist, rightwing nationalist character. Their heading introducing this section reads:

‘‘The crisis of international capitalist governance (“multilateralism”), which Donald Trump has detonated, but which the election of Joe Biden does not make it possible to overcome easily.’’ 

The Bureau offers no explanation of this, at best, descriptive section of its text. At worst, there is an implication of a Bureau preference for ‘‘Joe’’ Biden’s perspectives. Ambiguity on this central class question, which class shall rule, is deadly in the revolutionary movement. We await the IC to learn more on this vital issue. Is the Bureau warning us that the defeat of Trump’s unilateralist, ‘‘America First,’’ overt reactionary perspectives by Biden’s ‘‘multilateral capitalist-imperialist democracy’’ is its perspective?


The Bureau text concludes with a vague call for ‘‘internationalism,’’ but again with no reference point on why the construction of the FI on the basis of mass Leninist revolutionary parties is not the indispensable requirement for any serious internationalism. Instead, the Bureau text calls on everyone – including all anti-imperialist fighters – to join in this abstract unity that now formally negates as impractical in this period, building disciplined mass working parties aimed at socialist revolution. 

The IC will have the opportunity to once again discuss and debate fundamental issues of revolutionary politics of world import.

Related Articles

Rage Against the War Machine: A Reactionary “Right-Left Antiwar” Alliance 

In these momentarily difficult times, tragically a small layer of antiwar personalities and a few well-meaning organizations have been drawn into the reactionary “right-left coalition” that is planning a February 19 “Rage Against the War Machine” Washington. D.C. demonstration. In the unlikely event that this effort meets with even a modicum of success, it will represent a serious defeat for antiwar, anti-racist, anti-sexist, LGBTQI and social justice activists as well as all groups that have been fighting against the inherent horrors of the capitalist system for a lifetime. 

Kevin McCarthy’s 15-Round Victory: Capitalism’s Puppet Politicians Perform in Public

After 15 raucous votes spanning almost two weeks, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-California, was elected House Speaker on January 7. The vote was 216-212, a party-line vote with six Republicans voting present. From the beginning, former President Donald Trump pressured his 20 super-supporters, mostly in the Republicans’ “rightwing” Freedom Caucus, to back McCarthy. They refused until several behind-the-scenes deals, and a new “rules package” governing House operations, were negotiated.

Hoisted on His Own Petard: Biden’s Hidden Classified Documents Set to Expose U.S. Instigation of 2014 Ukraine Coup  

The political score sheet between Republicans and Democrats now appears even, with both investigating and exposing each other’s illegal confiscation of classified documents, implicitly in both cases, to cover up heinous deeds, the least of which involves exposing the truth about the U.S. role in orchestrating the bi-partisan war in Ukraine. No doubt, the lead up to the 2024 elections will see capitalism’s twin parties once again exposing each other’s duplicities to garner votes in the nation’s periodic contests between the billionaire elite. But on critical questions like the “right” and obligation of U.S. imperialism to impose its will on the world’s people, there is no dispute.