Imperialism in the 21st Century

Resistance Books 2002
By Doug Lorimer

”The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy [are] to prevent collusion and maintain security among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”1 This statement was not made by an official in the ancient Roman imperial bureaucracy. It was made by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a central figure in the US foreign policy elite, national security adviser to us President Jimmy Carter and chief architect of Washington’s policy of creating a network of fanatically anti-communist Islamic terrorists to spearhead the counter-revolutionary war against the Afghan workers and peasants’ government in the late 1970s. It was Brzezinski who infamously defended US support for the ultra-reactionary Taliban with the comment: “What is more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”2

Brzezinski’s statement about the “grand imperatives” of US imperial policy gives a candid insight into how the us ruling elite views the world. The “vassals”, among whom it is necessary to “prevent collusion and maintain security”, are the other imperialist powers. Like the vassals of medieval Europe, the other imperialist powers hold sovereignty within their own “fiefs” but are required to render general support, and particularly military service, to the supreme lord in Washington.

The “tributaries” who are to be kept “pliant and protected” are the semicolonial capitalist regimes of Asia, Africa and Latin America, from whom the imperialist powers extort tribute in the form of colonial super-profits, debt service payments and cheap raw materials, oil in particular.

The “barbarians”, whom it is necessary to keep “from coming together”, are the oppressed and exploited mass of humanity, since when they do “come together” – that is, act collectively in their own interests–pose a threat to the very existence of “civilisation” as the Brzezinskis conceive of it. That this is the real view of the propertyless mass of humanity, of the workers and poor peasants of the world, held by imperialist statespeople and strategists is confirmed by the argument given to US President Woodrow Wilson by his wartime secretary of state, Robert Lansing, in 1918 as to why the United States should send troops, money and arms to Russia to overthrow the Bolshevik government. The Bolsheviks sought, Lansing wrote, “to make the ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth”; they were appealing “to a class and not to all classes of society, a class which does not have property but hopes to obtain a share by process of government rather than by individual enterprise. This is of course a direct threat at existing social order in all countries.”3

Of course, Lansing did not express this view in public, only in his private letters to Wilson. In public, he argued that the Bolshevik leaders were German agents and therefore US military aggression against Soviet Russia was not a counter-revolutionary intervention, but a subsidiary part of the Allied war against German imperial expansion.

Lansing, it is interesting to note, also concocted a now familiar ruse to provide cover for this counter-revolutionary intervention after Germany had surrendered in November 1918. He proposed to Wilson that Herbert Hoover, the US food administrator, take charge of a commission to organise the delivery of food parcels to Russian children. As Lansing noted: “Armed intervention to protect the humanitarian work done by the commission would be much preferable to armed intervention before this work had begun”.4

The pamphlet Imperialism in the 21st Century is based on two talks given by Doug Lorimer in 2000 and 2002: