BRICS: an anti-imperialist critique

Paul Eccles 13 November 2023

There’s a new kid on the block in the international scene that’s kicking up a storm and it’s name is BRICS, with the convention taking place in Sandton, Johannesburg, and many countries seemingly eager to join.

There’s no doubt that the global south is rising, at last, as it should be! Africa has been the last global region to finally develop and is still mired in atrocious poverty and exploitation. hopefully starting to develop and become independent from the clutches of the U.S.-led global western empire. In a sense this was inevitable – thought the decades since Bandung the global south has struggled to assert itself as it has been repeatedly beaten back by the hegemon. However the tide has grown, the global majority can no longer be co-opted or suppressed so easily.

Since the Ukraine war this process has accelerated, as Russia has been forced to turn away from Europe and America, it has strengthened its ties to the rest of the world. Much to the westerners chagrin the rest of the world has responded to the war with a collective shrug as they continue to maintain their own relations with Russia and China.

What is BRICS? Is it an alliance, an economic agreement? It’s a marriage of convenience of disparate countries, with varying levels of indepedence, political and economic philosophies – bound only by their opposition to the global hegemonic rule of the the west. As Patrick Bond has explored, they are complicit in their own way of practicing sub-imperialism in different forms.

Sub-imperialism – Mulitipolarity is not necessarily anti-imperialist To understand this critique, I think it’s important to understand the nature of the current global order. We are not just ruled by governments or states, but by a state-corporate nexus. The governments are the public face and facilitators of the global elite, there is also the corporations, which affect us all, whether through employment of consumption. Their internal structure are completely anti-democratic and tyrannical. Corporations exert a great deal of power in the world, and they all all driven by the same imperative – obtaining profit for the owners and unlimited growth.

Their logic of growth and profits has been assimilated by governments, who generally enable corporate power and do their bidding.

China is easily the most powerful and independent member, and the natural leader of the pack. It has the highest degree of direct state rule, with every corporations held firmly in check by the powerful government. Although a limited degree of independent capitalism is permitted in China, the state still retains a strong degree of authority. To its credit China has achieved remarkable levels of growth and has pulled its entire, once-impoverished population into prosperity and stability, a remarkable achievement. It is also stubbornly independent on the global stage, as it has grown, hence the “threat” of China so commonly invoked in U.S. propaganda. China has achieved this growth through a balancing act – while attracting foreign investment, it has still retained a large degree of state-socialist control. Many large corporations in China are state owned, including for instance their new electric car manufacturing, which has exploded.

In terms of its foreign policy, China has mostly a hands-off philosophy. They look to make mutually beneficial agreements, without dictating to countries how they should manage their economic affairs, unlike certain other nations (cough cough – you know what I mean!)

Brazil, India and South Africa are also formerly colonised countries which have achieved nominal independence but due to their liberal ruling elite, they have developed in a more western oriented manner, that is they have maintained shocking levels of inequality, poverty and are very much beholden to the international investor class, which constitutes the real ruling class of the globe. They have weak states, which exist mostly to facilitate capitalist growth at the expense of their population.

This is most evident in South Africa, which is a country which continues to hobble along with some of the worst levels of poverty, inequality, ignorance as well as violence and crime.

South Africa is a fully captured state, always has been. We are firmly in the clutches of international capital. We have internalised the logic of neoliberalism, austerity and the Washington consensus. Terrible levels of exploitation are rife, thanks to the desperation of the population, approaching slavery in some instances. The same could be said, to some degree about India and Brazil.

Instead of succumbing to this logic, which benefits the elites at the expense of the ordinary population, we should be spending more, creating local industry, feeding our population instead of exporting food, repairing the crumbling infrastructure and building more. These are the steps which China and other Asian countries took to extricate themselves from poverty and become dynamic, prosperous entities.

You’re not going to hear much about socialism, democracy, the environmental destruction or anti-imperialism from any of the BRICS members at the summit. It’s simply not on the agenda. Instead it’s about strengthening the existing ties between the countries, which are elite and corporate-oriented. Instead if you want a proper anti-imperialist critique you need to go outside to where the protestors are, or listen to dissident academics like Patrick Bond and others. Of course these voices are largely ignored by the media and the establishment, consistent with doctrinal imperatives.


Links Search