Imperialism of Crisis

Six theses presented here summarize some analyses of basis of this work.

Robert Kurz, editor and co - publisher of the theoretical magazine "Krisis", has just published (Mars 2003) in Germany "War of the world order, the end of the sovereignty and transformations of imperialism at the time of the globalisation". Now he is in EXIT:


The capitalism is not a Buddhist ceremony, an anhistoric look cannot apprehend it. The always identical logic of the principle of valorisation doesn't provoke its eternal return, but an irreversible historic process to the qualitatively changing conditions. Such a world constellation only must be explained in all time regarding the basis development of the world capital. Every time that a phase of valorisation is exhausted, the political institutions, afferent concepts and ideologies become also obsolete. This is verified especially for the stage of maturity reached at the end of the XXth century by the world system.

Since 80’s the third industrial revolution, the one of the micro computing, has begun to impose a historic limit to the valorisation of the human power work. The capital becomes then "unfit to exploit", meaning that a extended growth in a real economic concepts (expansion of the valorisation) to the height of production standards and irreversible profitability that it has itself reached, proves to be impossible. In metropolises, this "structural overaccumulation" of the world capital, caused by the use of the micro computing, leads to a structural mass unemployment, a global productive overcapacity and to the flight of the monetary capital in the financial superstructure (conjuncture of the financial bubbles). In peripheries the lack of capital prevents the microcomputing equipment; and so the national economies and whole regions of the planet collapse so quickly that they fall below of the standard of the capital logic and their social reproduction is declared "null" by the world market.

Then it happens a competition in the reduction of costs and in the closings of enterprises. Globalisation is nothing but a transnational rationalization and, in this sense it effectively represents a qualitatively new phenomenon. To take advantage of the difference of costs in the global ambit, the traditional export of capitals under the shape of expansion investments abroad, according to the Lego construction system, it is substituted by the outsourcing of certain economic functions of the owner’s economy. So on the one hand the transnational circuits of valorisation emerge while on the other hand elsewhere growing parts of the social reproduction dry up and die. This process is misled and is nourished by the capital, also globalised, of the financial bubble.

Under the conditions of globalisation crisis, the gap between metropolises and the periphery doesn't cut down; henceforth it is not more a gap in the degree of capitalistic development, but in the degree of social decomposition. The transnational creation of value concentrates in spaces of the " Triad " (USA/North America, European Union, Japan/Southeast Asia) while it reduces in the rest of the world. In the same way, in the transnational financial market context, the dynamics of the globalisation in the enterprise’s economy molds makes explode mechanisms regulation of national savings.

In metropolises the state doesn't disappear, but is no longer in the classic sense the " ideal global capitalist". Unlike the economy of enterprises it is not able to branch out in a transnational way, so it loses one after the other its functions of regulation and reduces itself progressively and crudely to the repressive management of the crisis. It is not only about the social deterioration of growing parts of the society. Because, in addition, the capital involuntarily destroys all one set of its own conditions of frame and existence. Not in last, it shows in the qualitatively new contradiction between the transnational valorisation of the capital and the national shape of the money (currency).

In the periphery the decomposition of state devices advances at the quicker rhythm than the most of capitalistic reproduction. The public services disappear almost entirely, the management capitulates, and the repressive devices become barbaric. In an ocean of disorganization and impoverishment, only small islets of productivity and profitability survive. All development of the national economy interrupts itself, and the big trusts annex these "insular" sectors in order to transform them in integrant parts of their transnational company economy. At the same time an economy of depredation emerges, cutting up the physical substance of the national delapided economy and according to the ethnic or religious criteria some groups of population hurls themselves against the others, in the perpetuating of the competition by other means. Gangs of sackers substitute the social institutions. Most elites turn into ethnic or religious gangs chiefs, or of clan militias, in warlords and in princes of terror.

Such evolutions only represent a transition stage in the advance of the world crisis towards the historic limits of the valorisation process. For the meantime, the economy of pillage can still link up to the world market and can make the economic spoils quartering appear like a perpetuation of the valorisation process, as well as in centres with the unceasing swelling of financial bubbles. But both phenomena already begin to dry up.


On this background the classic imperialism became a thing of the past. If on the one hand the managerial economy can no longer be formed and regulated at a national level, on the other the subjection and the incorporation of masses of the population, useless to the capitalism, make sense no more. The territorial shape of domination and expansion has become obsolete. The "hands" (manpower) in the global majority are disused without can extract itself to the capitalistic logic that as a system of world negative (de)socialization it that perdures against all odds.

Already, in the post war history, the competition among the old expansive powers (especially European) was been substituted by the bipolar competition of superpowers: USA and the Soviet Union. There, it was not anymore the conquest of national influence zones that was determining, but the question of principles of regulation and modes of the capitalistic reproduction. It was about the competition on the world market between the historic stragglers, the societies of the " recapture modernization " in the reference space of pax sovietica, and those of the capitalistic centre developed in the reference space of pax americana. USA, strong with their continental resources and holders of the biggest home market of the world, had become the unique dominant power of the West; they had acquired a definitive advance thanks to the dynamism of their military-industrial complex since the Second World War.

Now after the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the " recapture modernization ", in the context of the crisis of the third industrial revolution, we cannot return to the old inter-imperialistic conflicts among the national conquering powers. In return we are now confronted to the global unification of pax americana, but this in the context of a precarious capitalism of minorities based on the financial bubbles and an economy of depredation. It would be ridiculous to speak of a new inter-imperialistic competition between USA and Germany, or the European Union. The military device of USA, formed in the decades of post war bonanza, is without competition; every year, the US military budget surpasses more than twenty times the one of Germany. The military or economic conditions for the emergence of a rival power are not gathered.

In spite of a certain rhetoric in this sense and some isolated interests, USA don't act in the name of a national territorial expansion, but like a way of protective power of the imperative of valorisation and its laws in the crisis conditions of the world system. Everybody functions in the context of the transnational processes of valorisation and under the simultaneous pressure of a growing mass of "useless". Wherefore the role of USA as last monocentric superpower must not be explained externally exclusively according to its military weight, but also through the deterritorialised conditions of globalisation. The totality of the transnational capital, the financial markets and residues of state devices of the centre are dependent on the capacity of USA seizure as world policeman.

So an " ideal global imperialism" under the unique aegis of USA has crystallized, prolonged by the NATO and other world capitalistic institutions. The image of the enemy is not clearly associated to national interests internal to the imperialism, but to the democratic look ascribed to the imperial globalisation against the crisis spectres of the unified world system. The empire of the state capitalism of the " recapture modernization", that failed, is substituted today as a new "Empire of Evil" by a diffuse whole of trouble potentialities, ethnic and religious terrorism, situations of anomie etc.

"The ideal global imperialism" essentially acts, without ever succeeding, as imperialism of security and exclusion of the capitalistic democratic centre against the crisis states generated by the capital himself. It is tried to make security in order to guarantee the normal performance of the capitalistic transactions even in the valorisation precarious islets of the periphery. The guarantee of the fuel flux for the world capitalistic machine constitutes a priority. Not even there it is about specific national oil interests, but of the work of the transnational valorisation. Especially, there are outside of territorial power pretensions or the common exclusion interests of the centre in front of the global movements of flight and migration coming from downfall zones of the periphery.


Oppositions inside the setting of the democratic collective imperialism (for example the present dispute among Germany, France, Belgium etc. on the one hand and USA on the other) are secondary. Deducting the possibility of a new big inter-imperial conflict, according to the model of the world wars time, would be nearly such clear-sighted as to try to present divergences between the Nazi Germany and Franco's Spain (that, as we know, has hold aside from the Second World War) as the "real" conflict of this period.

It is not a relationship of national out of fashion competition that motivates the present inter-imperialistic quarrels, but the fear of certain subordinate governments of contingently uncontrollable consequences. The NATO and the remainder of States share between devotees and hesitant vassals, without the last ones being capable or only having the velleity of an open rebellion against USA. The hesitation is rather born of the fear of those that doesn't have themselves the finger on the trigger, whereas volunteers are rather recruited among those that don't have anything more to lose, but that anyway have nothing to say.

Whereas until the included intervention in Afghanistan, there was not any contestation against wars of the world order under the USA aegis, and that the red-green German government sent, under the "democratic" ideology, its Germanic auxiliary troops onto the front, now the preventative shot against Iraq provokes concern, because the international right, the UN and the principle of sovereignty -the guarantees of the famous international community of States and "peoples"- are openly trampled. Germany, France and Co begin to fear to be treated soon in the same way and that the ideological building of legitimation that has functioned until now could collapse.

That USA trample in a such rough way the game rules of the States world that they have themselves promulgated after 1945 results of the internal contradiction between the national constitution of the last world power and its transnational "mission" as protective power of the globalized process of valorisation. Meantime the deeper reason that is taken as contents is that the own principle of sovereignty has become obsolete, that consists on gathering populations in a territorial way as "total work strength". Even States of the centre, included USA, cede, while " privatising ", more and more internal functions of sovereignty and even the device of repression. Denying the "rowly States" sovereignty, USA does nothing but projecting the world crisis on the legal political level, and thus the end of the modern contractual relations in general (and even of the USA sovereignty) is announced. The conservative resistance in face of this dynamics of a part of European States is vowed to fail. It is probable that old anti-American sentiments play also here a role but certainly not decisive.


The problem of world gendarme of the "global imperialism" resides in the fact that it can act solely on the basis of the national sovereignty, but on the other hand it must destroy with its own hands to maintain its existence. It also concerns the hi-tech weapon systems that are conceived for the classic territorial conflicts: spectres of the crisis, the potential disturbances, the terrorist organizations, etc., cannot be touched by these systems, because they act themselves in the folds of globalisation. Al Qaïda is organized precisely like a big transnational trust. Facing it the military superiority becomes useless and "the war against the terror" proves to be a sword stroke in the water. Simultaneously with the imminent end of the conjuncture of the financial bubble it is felt the threat of an advance of the crisis even in the capitalistic centre, especially in its heart that is the US economy, and it risks to drag a serious depression at the world level. It would even question the financiation capacity of the hi-tech military device of the last world power.

It is for this reason that the US administration has retrogressed from the "war against terrorism" to the paradigm of the "rowdy States". The preemptive strike against Iraq represents a double escape forwards. On the one hand it is about "defeating" the Iraqi sovereignty already broken down, classic territorial State and easy adversary with its ruined army, to show to the world who is the on board master. On the other it is wanted to catch up the economic downfall threatening by the direct recuperation of oil Iraqi fields (and maybe also Saudi) and the dismantling of the OPEC. It is less about the material flux of oil that is quite foreseeable without military intervention, than of the short-term lifesaving of the financial markets. The retraining of the financial bubbles in the process of wear out, must be renewed which is not possible without a "future option" on a new secular prosperity. After that the one of the "century of the Pacific", with the downfall of the Japanese model and southeast Asia countries, was revealed a flop in the same way as the New Economy of the communication capitalism (Internet and Telecom), it is now the option "oil to prices before the OPEC" that is supposed to be assured under the direct control of USA.

But the shot could go backwards. Of course, the Iraqi army doesn't constitute a serious adversary. Yet if street fights in Baghdad and other centres cause a large number of victims, important destructions and millions of refugees, it would morally discredit USA all around the world. Above all, the installation of a stable regime is going to be impossible: Milosevic and Saddam's regime represents a finishing model of sovereignty. A military US management of Iraq and the entire oil region in the permanent confrontation with the guerrilla and the terrorism would not be financiable and endurable in a political and military way. In addition it would be the opposite of an euphoria signal for the financial markets. The "victory" on Iraq will be inevitably a victory in a Pyrrhus way, and will only reinforce the crisis of the world system.


Anyway, it is not only about the false rationality of certain "interests", always subordinated to the irrational end in itself of the valorisation principle. The vulgar materialism of interest doesn't see the "real metaphysics" of the capital like a secularised religion, whose irrationality to the system borders, crushes its immanent rational interests. The imperative of valorisation, indifferent to all sensitive content, finally requires the dissolution of the physical world in the formal and empty of the value abstraction, that means its destruction. To this level one can speak of a gnostic death impulse proper of the capitalistic system, that expresses itself as much in the destructive logic of the economy as in the potential violences of the competition. Since contradictions can be no more dissolved in a new model of accumulation, this impulse appears today in a direct and global way.

The defence of the system, cost what it may, turns into the

self-destruction of its actors. Individual murderous madness, mass suicides of sects and suicidal attempts achieve this objective madness: they are reactions to the crisis without perspective that take dimensions up to here unknown. The anti-Semitic syndrome, directly attached to this phenomenon, resurges as ultimate ideological reserve of crisis of the capitalistic subject shape, without links with a concrete history of national and imperial constitution (as it was the case in the past for the German and Austrian) but flood previously the world with diffuse post-modern, post national and in particular religious, amalgams.

Once the internal capitalistic rationality of the illuminist bourgeois subject is not exhibited anymore in a new model of accumulation, it doesn't constitute any immanent power against the impulse of death of the system, but it becomes itself immediately an element of this irrationality. Illuminism y counter-illuminism, reason and madness, democracy and dictatorship are de same. The democratic global imperialism is incapable of pacifying its own in crisis world and becomes then a "furious collective ideal madman", capable to go until the nuclear weapons use, threat that the US administration has already uttered openly, against insecurity zones, against the elusive spectres of the crisis or against masses of "useless ones".


It doesn't exist any more immanent alternative. But as the left doesn't know anything else that to extol immanent alternatives of the ontology and capitalist development of history, it takes cover mainly into the past and leads an absurd quarrel on the question to know whether we are in 1914 or in 1941. Both fractions remained stuck mentally at the time of the capital formed by the national economies by expansive national imperial potencies; both are illiterate about the theory of the crisis and more extensively about all criticism of the political economy; both cling to the immanent capitalistic rationality of the illuminist bourgeois subject.

The 1914 nostalgic ones, partisans of Lenin's mummy, invoke the ghost of an "anti-imperialistic" union " between the war objectors in metropolises and "sovereignist ones" and "people" of the Third World that need to defend their bourgeois independence against the US, German or European imperialism. Contrariwise the 1941 nostalgic ones rave with the idea of an "anti-Hitler" coalition under the aegis of the "good" western power against the " Islamic fascism " and of its German associates for the defence of Israel and the "civilization".

Meanwhile Saddam's regime is not worth as a Nazi empire threatening the world, nor as a strength full of hope of the national development and Ben Laden is neither Hitler, nor Che Guevara. The Palestinian state collapses before its foundation because state sovereignty doesn't represent

absolutely any more any option of emancipation; on the contrary, the Intifada and barbarian suicide attempts cannot be placed on the same level that the industrial destruction of Jews in Auschwitz. The false friends of the Third World integrate Israel to the imperialism being unaware of its essential quality, result of the global anti-Semitism; the false friends of Israel glorify reactionary and ultra religious strengths, responsible of the murder of Rabin and fall themselves into hateful, primitive and racist agitation. The first ones deny Israel like a place of shelter, the others are unaware of the fact that its existence is threatened more by its own barbarism of crisis that by the outside military threats.

Zombies of 1914 accept the nationalist and anti-Semitic, culturalist and anti-American barbarisation of the "class struggle" and of "anti-imperialism". Zombies of 1941 abandon all criticism of the imperial war of the world order, imperturbable and serene denounce the Israeli harassed opposition and the left opposition in USA, and transform the necessary criticism of the anti-Semitism and the antisionism into the legitimation of the democratic terror of bombs. What is needful is a radical opposition to the war that would face the real situation of the world and would develop a categorical criticism of the capitalistic modernity beyond these apparent alternatives, that represent nothing else but the different shapes of the same barbarism of cosmopolitan crisis.

(NdT: This 6 paragraph analyses the specificity of a German left part)

Robert Kurz. 2003

English version: Claudia Régissaert


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