BRICS+: An Imperialist-Led Alliance

The expansion of BRICS reflects the rise of Chinese and Russian imperialism at the cost of their Western rivals
Michael Pröbsting Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) 29 August 2023

The expansion of BRICS – the acronym of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – by six new members was certainly the most important decision of the alliances’ 15th summit, hosted by South Africa. These new countries – Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – will join the alliance by 1 January 2024.

In fact, the BRICS summit in Johannesburg was a turning point not only because of the decision to expand its membership to 11 countries but also because of the unprecedented attention and attraction the alliance has got. Some 65 heads of state and leaders attended the summit. [1] More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 23 formally applied to join the bloc. Furthermore, the BRICS bank – the Shanghai-based New Development Bank – is supposed to increase its membership. According to its head – former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff – the bank was considering 15 new member states. [2]

With its additional new members, the global weight of BRICS – which is now often called BRICS+ - will further increase. With about 3.6 billion people, its share of the world population will grow from 41.2% to 46.5%. Its share of global GDP is said to increase from 23% to about 29-30% (in current US-Dollar) respectively to 36-37% (at Purchasing Power Parity). Likewise, BRICS will account for 38.3% of the total world industrial production – the main sector of capitalist value production. Furthermore, the expansion will grow its share of global exports (merchandise trade) from 20.2% to 25.1%.

It is also noteworthy that BRICS’ position in several key economic sectors is substantially increasing. For example, its share of oil production will grow from 20.4% to 43-44%. Likewise, BRICS+ accounts for almost half of world food production (in 2021, 49% of wheat and 55% of rice). Likewise, the 11 BRICS countries control crucial areas of the world production of metals necessary for high technologies (e.g. 79% of aluminium production and 77% of palladium production). [3]

All this makes BRICS+ substantially larger than the Western G7 alliance (U.S., Germany, France, UK, Japan, Canada and Italy) not only in terms of population but also in terms of economic weight. The G7 have a combined share of 29.9% of global GDP (in PPP) and 30.5% of world industrial production.

What is the class character of BRICS+?
For Marxists, the starting point of a political assessment of BRICS+ has to be an analysis of its class character. Obviously, all member states are capitalist since currently all countries on the planet are capitalist. However, its necessary to determine if these countries belong to those which dominate world politics and economy or not, i.e. if these are imperialist or rather semi-colonial states. [4]

The majority of the 11 BRICS+ members are not imperialist states but rather semi-colonies. Of course, there are important differences between these semi-colonies. Some of these are advanced industrialised countries (like Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Iran, Egypt), some have peculiar features as wealthy oil and gas rich states (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) or as a regional power (India), and in case of Ethiopia we have rather a poor semi-colony. [5]

However, the character of a political or economic institution is not determined by the majority of its member states but rather by those which dominate it. This is, by the way, why the United Nations is an imperialist-dominated institution – despite the fact that the five imperialist states with veto power constitute only a small minority among its 193 member states. Or, to give another example, this is why the Eurasian military alliance CSTO is has an imperialist character despite the fact that Russia is the only imperialist state among its six members.

In case of BRICS, it is China and Russia which belong to the small circle of leading imperialist Great Powers. Both are global political players which are permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power. China has become the most important challenger of the U.S. – the long-standing hegemon. It is the leading economic power within BRICS and accounted for over 70% of the alliances’ combined GDP in 2021. [6] While this share will now decline to 63.4% because of the expansion of the bloc, it remains by far the dominating force. [7]

Russia is another political and economic key player within the BRICS alliance, albeit weaker than China. [8] However, it is a leading military power with a stockpile of 5,889 nuclear warheads – even larger than the U.S. [9]

It is these two Great Powers which put their stamp on the BRICS alliance. It is telling that the expansion of the bloc from 5 to 11 member states was initiated by Beijing and Moscow which massively pushed for it while the governments of the other three countries were rather reluctant. However, Xi and Putin are determined to expand BRICS as a political alliance since they need an effective counterweight to Western-dominated blocs like the G7.

In summary, we can say that while BRICS is composed mostly of semi-colonial countries of the Global South, it is dominated by two imperialist Great Powers – China and Russia. Hence, it is an imperialist-led alliance.

“A meaningless acronym”?
While some intelligent Western observers are worried about the expansion of BRICS, many others downplay the bloc’s significance. Bloomberg, a major news agency of American monopoly capital, published a silly commentary titled “BRICS shows it's little more than a meaningless acronym.” It claims that the “doings and sayings” of the alliances’ leaders at the Johannesburg summit “ranged from the semi-farcical to the meaningless”. [10] Such statements reflect arrogant complacency of Western powers which are incapable of recognising their own crisis and decline. Such a deluded approach reminds one to the foolish “Herrenmenschen” mentality of the German Nazis which refused bluntly to recognise even in 1944 that that the Slavic “Untermenschen” were about to defeat them.

It is, of course, true that BRICS is still in a process of formation in order to become a fully functioning political bloc – in contrast to an established alliance like the G7. It is also correct to point to various inner contradictions within the BRICS alliance. Some of member states still have more or less strong relations with U.S. imperialism and are not strongly committed to side with China and Russia against their Western rivals. Furthermore, there exist long-standing tensions between China and India which occasionally result in border clashes.

While all this is true, one must not ignore the fundamental tendencies behind the expansion of BRICS. As we have repeatedly analysed in our works, the old imperialist states of the West are in a long-term process of decline since the production of capitalist value is increasingly moving to other places (most importantly to China). As a result, the majority of the worlds’ industrial production and merchandise exports does no longer take place in Western countries. Furthermore, the U.S. has already been overtaken (or nearly overtaken) by China when it comes to key indicators like the number of global leading corporations or billionaires. [11]

In addition, one must not forget that the Western G7 alliance has also been repeatedly characterised by various contradictions. Think about the economic power struggle between the U.S. and Japan in the 1980s; think about Trump’s threats against Western European “allies” in 2017-20; or about Washington’s sabotage of the Nord Stream Pipelines in 2022.

Sure, currently the G7 are relatively united in their policy of sanctions against Russia (and, to a lesser degree, in their opposition against China). But, first, this could easily change with the next Presidential elections in the U.S. in November 2024 if Trump enters the White House again. Secondly, the relative unity of the G7 states is based on their shared interests to stop the rise of the new imperialist powers of the East.

However, the same, opposite, interests unite the BRICS members as well as those that wish to join this alliance: they are determined to break up the long-term hegemony of Western powers in global political and economic institutions. This is reflected in the BRICS demand for reforms of the WTO and the Bretton Woods institutions which would allow “for a greater role for emerging markets and developing countries, including in leadership positions in the Bretton Woods institutions.[12]

More importantly, the BRICS states are determined to end to hegemony of the U.S. Dollar in global trade and financial institutions (like SWIFT). Such desire is reflected in the summits’ “Johannesburg II Declaration” where the alliance calls for the use of national currencies instead of the U.S. Dollar. (“We stress the importance of encouraging the use of local currencies in international trade and financial transactions between BRICS as well as their trading partners. We also encourage strengthening of correspondent banking networks between the BRICS countries and enabling settlements in the local currencies. We task our Finance Ministers and/or Central Bank Governors, as appropriate, to consider the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back to us by the next Summit.”) [13]

There is no doubt that such desire has been spurred even more by Western sanctions against Russia and the de facto seizure of hundreds of billions of Russia’s foreign currency reserves. [14]

In short, both alliances – the G7 as well as the BRICS – have their inner contradictions. However, they are equally united by shared interests. This does not mean that such inner contradictions could not lead to crisis and even a split by one or the other member of these alliances. While such regroupment would represent an important development, it does not alter the fundamental underlying process: the accelerating rivalry between the imperialist powers of West and East and the formation of political alliances around the respective leading rivals.

It is such inter-imperialist rivalry which has been the driving force in China’s and Russia’s determination to build BRICS as a political alliance. And it has been such rivalry which led to a certain reconsolidation of the G7. [15]

The reactionary program of the “multi-polar world order
It is only such a Marxist analysis of fundamental processes in the current world situation which allows for a correct understanding of the BRICS’ class character. Such an approach is diametrically opposed to the view of various Stalinist-Putinista parties or the populist and social democratic forces in the “Progressive International” (whose most prominent figures have been Sanders, Lula, Varoufakis and Corbyn). These forces either explicitly support “socialist” China and “anti-imperialist” Russia. Or they view Beijing and Moscow as “lesser evils” which supposedly play an objectively progressive role since they oppose the “American hegemon” as the sole representative of imperialism.

These forces advocate a “multi-polar world order”, i.e. a global situation which is characterised not by U.S. resp. Western domination but by the parallel existence of several Great Powers. In other words, they advocate a world order in which eastern Great Powers like China and Russia have an equal saying like the U.S., Western Europe or Japan.

We have characterised such a program as reactionary. A “multi-polar world order” in effect does not and can not mean equality for the countries of the Global South – it means, and can only mean, “equality” of a few new Great Powers with the old hegemon. It is a program advocating “multi-imperialism”, i.e. the parallel existence of several rivalling imperialist powers. As history has demonstrated since the late 19th century, such a situation inevitable leads to conflicts and, ultimately, world war. Objectively, advocacy of a “multi-polar world order” is the program of pro-Eastern social-imperialism as it supports the interests of China and Russia against those of the Western powers. [16]

In this context, we shall briefly add that the reactionary character of the BRICS alliance is also reflected in the fact that its extensive “Johannesburg II Declaration” (26 pages) does not utter a single word of sympathy with the Ukraine which has been invaded by Putin in February 2022 and which has been devastated by relentless Russian bombardment since then. [17] At the same time, the declaration states its sympathy for the Assad dictatorship (“We welcome the readmission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the League of Arab States.”) [18] This is particularly shameful as the Syrian Revolution currently experiences a dramatic revival with a new wave of mass protests calling for the downfall of the tyrannical regime! [19] So much for the “progressive” alternative to the Western imperialists!

No progressive alliance? Sure, but …
Finally, we shall briefly deal with the approach of an international Trotskyist organisation based in Latin America – the Fracción Trotskista” (Trotskyist Faction”) led by the Argentinean PTS (FT/PTS).

In contrast to the previously mentioned Stalinist-Putinistas, populists and social democrats, the FT/PTS comrades correctly refuse to whitewash the BRICS alliance as some kind of progressive alliance. They warn that “the challenge that this bloc may pose to the great imperialist powers does not turn it into an ally of oppressed peoples. BRICS does not represent an alternative of “benign hegemony” in the international order.” They also emphasise: “BRICS sows illusions that relationships and shifts in alliances between bourgeois states can offer a path towards liberation for the working class.[20]

Naturally, we can not but strongly agree with such statements. However, the FT/PTS analysis is far from sufficient. They write: “Additionally, whatever challenge the BRICS alliance poses to U.S. and Western imperialist hegemony is a challenge made with a capitalist logic. The countries in the alliance aim not to develop the power of the working class in their countries, but instead to develop their own position within the international relations of capital.

Of course, it is correct to say that BRICS+ is a “capitalist alliance”. But this is a general truism with little meaningfulness. In fact, each and every alliance of states today is a “capitalist alliance” because since the restoration of capitalism in the former Stalinist states, there exist only capitalist countries in the world!

Hence, it is not sufficient to recognise the capitalist character of a state or an alliance of states. It is essential to analyse which kind of capitalist countries are we talking about – are these imperialist or semi-colonial states. As we did elaborate above, we consider BRICS+ as an imperialist-led alliance. The FT/PTS comrades do not share such an analysis. The reason for this is that – in contrast to the RCIT – they do not characterise China and Russia as imperialist Great Powers. [21] Hence, the comrades fail to go beyond a superficial characterisation of BRICS+ as being “capitalist” and “not progressive”.

Consequences for Marxist tactics
This is a highly relevant issue as we are not discussing about abstract differences. In fact, such characterisation of states resp. alliances of states has profound consequences for Marxist tactics. In a conflict between an imperialist state (or an alliance of states) and a semi-colony (or several semi-colonial countries), we usually side with the latter. Sure, both sides are capitalist, but the imperialist power belongs to the dominating forces within the capitalist world system while the semi-colonies are rather being dominated by the former. This is why we sided with Argentina against Britain in 1982, with Afghanistan and Iraq against the U.S. (in 2001 resp. 2003) or with Chechnya and Syria against Russia (in 1994-96 and 1999-2009 resp. since 2015). [22]

In contrast, Marxists do not take a side in conflicts between imperialist states since “both are worse”. In such conflicts we advocate a program of revolutionary defeatism against both ("dual defeatism"). This means strict opposition against both camps with the goal to advance the class struggle against each government. (There exist also conflicts with contradictory character, but we will not deal with this issue at this place and refer readers to an essay which we recently published. [23])

So which position should Marxists take in conflicts between Western and Easter imperialism, between G7 and BRICS? Currently, such conflicts are limited to sanctions, protectionism, military armament, etc. But sooner or later, such diplomatic and economic tensions will provoke military clashes and wars. Since the RCIT considers both camps/alliances as imperialist, we take a dual defeatist position in such conflicts.

But which position will those comrades take who refuse to consider China and Russia resp. the BRICS+ alliance as imperialist? As they characterise only the Western powers as imperialist but not China and Russia, would they side with the latter against the U.S. and its allies? The FT/PTS comrades don’t say so, but it is irritating that they refuse to characterise the Eastern Great Powers as imperialist in contrast to their Western rivals. Or will they take a dual defeatist position like us? But if this is the case, why don’t they express such an approach explicitly? In fact, they are completely silent on the consequences of their analysis when it comes to program and tactics.

It is an urgent task for all socialists to clarify their analysis of major developments in world politics like the expansion of BRICS and the rise of China and Russia as imperialist powers. Those who share an understanding of all Great Powers – those in the West as well as those in the East – are imperialist and that these need to be intransigently opposed by socialists, should join forces in order to build a consistent anti-imperialist resistance!


[1] Jevans Nyabiage: BRICS adds 6: new ‘heavyweights’ boast oil and deep pockets, while others help ‘future-proof’ the bloc, analysts say, South China Morning Post, 24 August 2023,

[2] Philip Pilkington: An expanding BRICS should worry the West, 24 August 2023,

[3] For the figures see e.g. BRICS: Joint Statistical Publication 2023; BRICS: Joint Statistical Publication 2022; UNCTAD: BRICS Investment Report, 2023; Marcus Lu: Visualizing the BRICS Expansion in 4 Charts, 24 August 2023; BRICS Accounts for Almost 45% of Global Oil Reserves After Expansion, 25 August 2023,; Countercurrents Collective: BRICS Will Change The Power Balance In The Global Energy Market, 28 August 2023,

[4] Our most detailed works on the Marxist theory of imperialism are two books by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,; The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, 2013,

[5] For a discussion of semi-colonial countries which have certain peculiar features see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Semi-Colonial Intermediate Powers and the Theory of Sub-Imperialism. A contribution to an ongoing debate amongst Marxists and a proposal to tackle a theoretical problem, 1 August 2019,

[6] UNCTAD: BRICS Investment Report, 2023, p. 5

[7] For our analysis of capitalism in China and its transformation into a Great Power see e.g. the book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,; see also by the same author: “Chinese Imperialism and the World Economy”, an essay published in the second edition of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism (edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope), Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2020,; China: An Imperialist Power … Or Not Yet? A Theoretical Question with Very Practical Consequences! Continuing the Debate with Esteban Mercatante and the PTS/FT on China’s class character and consequences for the revolutionary strategy, 22 January 2022,; China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power (2012), in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4,; How is it possible that some Marxists still Doubt that China has Become Capitalist? (A Critique of the PTS/FT), An analysis of the capitalist character of China’s State-Owned Enterprises and its political consequences, 18 September 2020,; Unable to See the Wood for the Trees (PTS/FT and China). Eclectic empiricism and the failure of the PTS/FT to recognize the imperialist character of China, 13 August 2020,; China’s Emergence as an Imperialist Power (Article in the US journal 'New Politics'), in: “New Politics”, Summer 2014 (Vol:XV-1, Whole #: 57). See many more RCIT documents at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website:

[8] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. The most important ones are several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021,; by the same author: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014,; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014 (this pamphlet contains a document written in 2001 in which we established for the first time our characterisation of Russia as imperialist),; see also the following essays by the same author: 'Empire-ism' vs a Marxist analysis of imperialism: Continuing the debate with Argentinian economist Claudio Katz on Great Power rivalry, Russian imperialism and the Ukraine War, 3 March 2023,; Russia: An Imperialist Power or a “Non-Hegemonic Empire in Gestation”? A reply to the Argentinean economist Claudio Katz, in: New Politics, 11 August 2022, at; Russian Imperialism and Its Monopolies, in: New Politics Vol. XVIII No. 4, Whole Number 72, Winter 2022,; Once Again on Russian Imperialism (Reply to Critics). A rebuttal of a theory which claims that Russia is not an imperialist state but would be rather “comparable to Brazil and Iran”, 30 March 2022, See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website:

[9] SIPRI Yearbook 2023: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, p. 248

[10] Pankaj Mishra: BRICS shows it's little more than a meaningless acronym. The group seeks to counter US influence but mostly practices cynical expediency, Bloomberg, 25 August, 2023,

[11] For a detailed discussion of the economic and military relation of forces between the Great Powers with numerous figures see e.g. chapter V to VIII in the above-mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry.

[12] XV BRICS Summit Johannesburg II Declaration: BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism; Sandton, Gauteng, South Africa, 23 August 2023, p. 3

[13] XV BRICS Summit Johannesburg II Declaration, p. 14

[14] We have analysed this issue e.g. in Michael Pröbsting: Inter-imperialist rivalry and the specter of de-dollarization: On the decline of the US Dollar since the start of the Ukraine War, 12 May, 2023,

[15] The RCIT has dealt on numerous occasions with the inter-imperialist rivalry of the Great Powers. See e.g. RCIT: World Perspectives 2021-22: Entering a Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation, 22 August 2021,; see also our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,; see also the following works by the same author: “A Really Good Quarrel”. US-China Alaska Meeting: The Inter-Imperialist Cold War Continues, 23 March 2021,; Servants of Two Masters. Stalinism and the New Cold War between Imperialist Great Powers in East and West, 10 July 2021,; for more works on this issue see these sub-pages: and

[16] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: “Multi-Polar World Order” = Multi-Imperialism. A Marxist Critique of a concept advocated by Putin, Xi, Stalinism and the “Progressive International” (Lula, Sanders, Varoufakis), International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 24 February 2023,

[17] We refer readers to a special page on our website where all RCIT documents on the Ukraine War and the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled:

[18] XV BRICS Summit Johannesburg II Declaration, p. 5 resp. 6

[19] We refer readers to a special page on our website where all RCIT documents on the Syrian Revolution are compiled:

[20] Esteban Mercatante and Santiago Montag: The Expansion of BRICS Doesn’t Change the Capitalist Framework of the Alliance. Six new countries are set to become full members of the BRICS alliance. But the bloc’s challenge to the imperialist powers does not turn it into an ally of oppressed peoples, 25 August 2023,

[21] For our discussion with the FT/PTS about the imperialist character of Russia and China see some works in the two footnotes above about RCIT documents on these two Great Powers.

[22] For an overview about our history of support for anti-imperialist struggles in the past four decades (with links to documents, pictures and videos) see e.g. an essay by Michael Pröbsting: The Struggle of Revolutionaries in Imperialist Heartlands against Wars of their “Own” Ruling Class. Examples from the history of the RCIT and its predecessor organisation in the last four decades, 2 September 2022,

[23] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Marxist Tactics in Wars with Contradictory Character. The Ukraine War and war threats in West Africa, the Middle East and East Asia show the necessity to understand the dual character of some conflicts, 23 August 2023,


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