GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – Imperialism, the highest form of capitalism

Imperialist competition, imperialist rivalry and imperialist aggression and war, is capitalist competition writ large on the world stage.
Imperialism has been called the highest form of capitalism. Every country that has a capitalist economy, aspires to be an imperialist power. If a capitalist country can’t achieve imperialism on their own because they are too small, ie countries like New Zealand and Australia, or because they are defeated imperialists, like Japan, then they can align themselves to bigger more successful imperialist powers as junior partners to that imperialism. (and gain the benefits of imperialism that way).
First – there are countries that are imperialist powers in their own right, like America, and Russia, and China,
Second – there are junior partners to imperialism, like New Zealand and Australia and Japan..
Third – there are colony and neo-colonial countries, these are the countries that the big imperialist countries will invade and even fight each other, to bring into their sphere of influence. Ukraine fits into that third category. As do many of the smaller countries in Asia and Africa, Latin America and the Pacific.

Imperialism is endemic to capitalism

Every capitalist country with a growth economy, would like to be an imperialist power in their own right. Even us, here in little ol’ New Zealand once aspired to be an imperialist power in our own right.
The history of imperialist conquest and division of this part of the world is as ugly and violent as anywhere.

New Zealand’s part in the imperialist division of the South Pacific

New Zealand was once known as the “Prussia Of The South Seas”.   New Zealand’s past violent and oppressive colonialist and imperialist rule of our smaller Pacific Island neighbours is well documented.

When soft power fails war becomes inevitable

To gain advantage for themselves there are various methods in which the world powers compete and project themselves on the world stage, – trade – culture – diplomacy – war.  Most of these forms of imperialist competition are known as “Soft Power“.

When soft power fails, the imperialist capitalist powers, driven by their existential need for growth and expansion, almost always turn to Hard Power and military force. The only other option to capitalist expansion and growth, is contraction and economic collapse. (Very few imperialist powers and their junior allies choose this last option willingly, and so war becomes inevitable.

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There are two forms of imperialist war

The first form of imperialist wars (and the oldest) are the various wars fought by the imperialist countries to invade and conquer and loot smaller and weaker countries, and the popular peoples’ wars of resistance to keep their independence, often against insuperable odds.

The second form of imperialist war, is the war fought the between the various rival capitalist powers themselves, for the division and redivision of the world.

This second form of imperialist war also has two forms, – open global conflict between the opposing imperialist blocs, – indirect proxy conflicts fought in third countries.

Some wars are a mixture of both. The war in Ukraine has been called a proxy war. The Vietnam war was also called a proxy war. But primarily the Vietnam war was a popular people’s war fought for independence from French, Japanese and American imperialist invaders.

The war in Ukraine is also primarily first and foremost a popular people’s war against an imperialist invader.

Support the people of Ukraine – join the anti-war protest march in Auckland called for this Sunday.

Anti-War March To Commemorate Victims Of War In Ukraine

Press Release: Ukrainian Association

Sunday, 5 June 2022, 12:00pm (please gather from 11:30am)
Marching from Aotea Square to the Auckland War Memorial, Auckland Domain

The march will honour all those innocent victims who have lost their lives, relatives, and homes in Ukraine, Chairman of the Ukrainian Association of New Zealand, Yuriy Gladun says.
“We stand in solidarity with Ukrainians. This vicious and brutal assault by Russia on the Ukrainian people continues every day. We urge New Zealanders to send a clear message to our Government that we need to do more.
“Ukraine is fighting the force of a power-hungry dictator who wants to rule the world. We must not waiver in our unending support for the people of Ukraine.”  

Pat O’Dea is a unionist and human rights activist.


  1. Pat O’Dea: – ‘The only other option to capitalist expansion and growth, is contraction and economic collapse’.
    Google: – Can you have an economy without capitalism?
    Yes, a free market can exist without capitalism. It can exist under socialism, as long as there is an absence of coerced (forced) transactions or conditions on transactions, or in other sorts of communal/mutualistic societies, such as those that Native American tribes had.

  2. Pat O’Dea: “The war in Ukraine is also primarily first and foremost a popular people’s war against an imperialist invader.”
    Actually, the war had its origins in three events. First, the attempts by the Ukraine government to join the NATO military alliance. Second, its attempts to subjugate the Donbass separatists. Third its attempts to impose “Ukrainian” language and culture on those of its citizens who were culturally “Russian”.
    So “primarily first and foremost” (“primarily” on its own would have made the point) it was not a “popular people’s war”. It may or may not be a war that is popular among Ukrainians but it is primarily a war to advance western European imperialism. A people’s movement would have opted for state neutrality and devolution of state power and then there would have been no war.
    To ask your government to do more to help in the Ukraine war is to ask it to do more to help western imperialism, but the Labour government is already doing all it possibly can to advance the cause of imperialism and to stoke the fires of war. It can do no more than it is already doing.
    Despite its pretension to provide an implicitly Marxist political analysis this article follows the classic social democrat fallacy that by supporting the war aims and military institutions of “their own” imperialist overlords the working class can somehow make the world a better place.

    • Hi Geoff, Is it your contention that Russia is ‘not’ an imperialist power?

      If you could help me out here, I would appreciate it.

      Cheers Pat.

      • No, I have an open mind on that question. Tsarist Russia clearly was an imperial power. The Soviet Union between the two world wars was not, in my opinion. After the second world war it garnered an empire of sorts in eastern Europe and engaged in an imperial adventure in Afghanistan. In the fall of the Soviet Union it lost its empire in Europe and while one may argue that Syria is a client state of the Russian Federation, Russia is essentially left with only the trappings of empire. Germany and Japan which similarly lost their empires in the First and Second World Wars became junior partners in American imperialism, and therefore de facto imperial powers. Russia defied expectations and failed to incorporate itself into the American empire as a subordinate partner, and that is the root cause of its present problems with Ukraine. If Russia is an imperial power in its own right, all I can say is that it is not much of an empire.
        Of course we haven’t defined exactly what we mean by imperialism, given that I do not fully accept the Leninist definition. That definition of terms probably should have come first.

    • Very good Geoff.
      As well , both the rebel republics ,The “people’s republics “of Lugansk and Donetsk are more aligned to old fashioned socialism than neo liberal Ukraine or Russia .
      I’m also interested in Norman Finkelstein’s take on the invasion

      • Hi Francesca,

        The headline from the link you supplied reads:

        Norman Finkelstein : Russia has the historical right to invade Ukraine (updated with transcript)
        35710 Views May 15, 2022 143 Comments

        You may be interested in Finkelstein’s opinion, Francesca, but I’m not. No country has the right to invade any other country. They certainly don’t have any right to smash another country’s cities to rubble and kill thousands of its citizens. I don’t care what stupid excuse they use.

        No pasarán!

        • So I’m guessing you’d be happy for western Ukraine to keep on oppressing eastern Ukraine, totally subjugating it by force , as it has been doing for the last 8 years, with the enthusiastic military help of arguably the most imperialist nation of our times.
          Check out the citizens of Melitipol lining up to get their Russian passports and tell me they feel victimised by imperialist Russia

          • I think it makes good sense to have an escape route out of the territory, the only other route being through the front lines at the risk of being killed cross fire, and then, if I make it across the front lines without being killed or wounded, probably have walk for miles down bombed out roads empty of traffic till I was out of the war zone. Certainly not if I had to take my children with me, that is for sure.

            Francesca, If I was a Ukraine citizen and the Russian invader had just invalidated my Ukrainian passport and citizenship, I would be standing in that queue too.

            Wouldn’t you?

            • I think that your response misses Fransesca’s point. You apparently think it’s OK for the Ukranian army to bomb the Donbas, but it’s not OK for Russia to bomb Ukranian cities.

              A hypocritical attitude, wouldn’t you say.

              • Francesca provided no evidence that the Ukrainian Army had bombed the Donbas.
                So I disregarded it.
                if Francesca had provided some proof of her claim that Ukraine had “bombed the Donbas” then maybe that would be evidence that Ukraine welcomes the Russian invasion..
                The only proof Francesca offered up for her contention that Ukraine welcomed the Russian invasion, was people in the occupied Donbas queuing to get Russian passports, so they could vote with their feet and join the hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing Putin’s Russia.


                “You apparently think it’s OK for the Ukranian army to bomb the Donbas, but it’s not OK for Russia to bomb Ukranian cities.” Mikesh

                No Mikesh, It’s not OK. It is not right for anyone to bomb cities.

                But contained in you comment, is the meaning that you do think it is OK to bomb cities if someone else did it.

                There is lots of proof that Russia has bombed cities, but none of the apologists for Russia’s genocidal bombing of cities have provided any proof as yet that Ukraine had bombed cities.
                Just some pseudononymous person calling herself Francesca saying they have is not proof.

                • To obtain a peaceful solution to an international dispute cooperation is required by both parties. However, if one party refuses to cooperate, in this case the it was the Ukrainians, what is the other side to do. War seems inevitable as a result.

                  It is well known that a “civil war” has been going on between the Western Ukraine and Ukraine’s Eastern provinces since 2014 when the illegal booting out of Ukiraine’s democratically elected president.

            • So you didn’t read the translated comments of those lining up and how pleased they were to be freed of Ukrainian domination , how joyful as they realised their 8 years of oppression were over

              • “…Thanks to Russia. Thanks for the liberation, thanks for the passports.“

                See, I did read all the comments.

                Is that all you’ve got to prove the popularity of the invading Russian occupier?

                Your only proof is lines of people queuing for hours and days, desperate to get their hands on Russian travel documents?

                I read every over the top comment from the desperate people who had queued for hours to get their hands on Russian travel documents, expressing undying love for the Russian empire.

                I too would be making similar sycophantic noises to get my hands on a passport. If I found myself under Russian occupation, with useless credentials and needed Russian travel documents to get out of the country. If necessary, I would promise to kiss Putin’s arse.

                Because you have to be careful what you say in Russia.

                You just have to watch the following video. A women being interviewed on the street, who tries to say she supports the war, is dragged away by the Russian police.


                • Pat O’Dea: “I too would be making similar sycophantic noises to get my hands on a passport….If necessary, I would promise to kiss Putin’s arse.”
                  For 182 years we have refused to give allegiance to the British invaders. Any Ukrainian who takes the same principled stand with regard to Russia has my respect.
                  On the hand if as a Ukrainian you would say whatever the oppressor wants to hear, then sad to say you could be expected to do the same here in Aotearoa.

            • And no Pat, the Russian passports aren’t compulsory, and the Ukrainian passports haven’t been cancelled.Where did you find the evidence for this, because I can be persuaded if the evidence is solid

              • Francesca, anyone stupid enough to travel through Russia to the border holding Ukraine travel documents would be arrested straight away.

                • For goodness sake , you seem incredibly ignorant of what’s been going on for the last eight years
                  Russian passports for one have been offered since before the invasion, and taken up
                  You are disputing that Ukraine has been bombing the rebel republics since 2014??
                  What was the Anti terror operation launched in 2014 tasked with ?
                  How were the 14,000 dead killed ?
                  You want links?

                  • Everyone interested in this debate, needs to click on the two links supplied by Francesca to see her so called proof.
                    And realise that there is no substance at all in them. The first is of people in suits at a commemoration of the war dead. With no evidence of war damage.
                    The second video shows a city with no war damage and a crashed rocket casing in a a vacant city square. This second video then crosses to video of smashed apartment buildings that the narrator admits came from Russian attacks.
                    Zero proof of anything, except Russian Federation atrocity.

  3. oh here we go ., crisis actors is it Pat?
    The ATO just sent pamphlets not bombs to the people of the Rebel republics?
    The dead civilians(by far the majority on the rebel side) as recorded by the OSCE somehow self destructed?
    Scroll down to the civilian casualties by territory, and you will see, the vast majority(80%) of casualties are on the rebel side.They did this to themselves ?
    Are you still claiming there has been no bombing of rebel territory by the Ukrainian army?
    You are not doing your cause any favours

    • Again I recommend anyone following this debate to click on Francesca’s ‘evidence’. I have read the document in the link Francesca supplied, It is a UN compilation of casualties beginning from Russian Invasion and occupation of the Eastern Ukraine Donbas region.
      Nowhere in the UN document supplied by Francesca, is there any attribution to which side caused these casualties, they are just listed as casualties of war. I see that most of the deaths are the result of shelling and mines. Again the UN document doesn’t say who placed these mines or carried out the shelling.
      Again more fact free lies and bullshit from Francesca desparately trying to justify Russia’s genocidal turning of Ukrainian cities to rubble, and zero evidence at all that Ukraine bombed Donbas. For all I know Ukrainian forces did bomb Donbas, but there is no evidence of it in this document, not even a shred.
      I might mention here that none of these war casualties would have occurred without the Russian invasion.
      The overwhelming evidence is that the war in Ukraine is a merciless genocidal war of choice by the Russian imperialists bent on expansion and conquest.

      It’s long been known that Putin hankers for a lost age of Russian dominance over its neighbours. Calling the collapse of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” is one of his most-quoted (and most misunderstood) historical judgments.

      In his speech, Putin reached back far further than the cold war to find his grievances. He stated clearly that the processes that led to Russia losing territory a century ago must be reversed. He pointed out what he said were catastrophic mistakes by the Bolsheviks in recognising Ukraine as a republic, and ceding land to end the war with Germany in 1918. He lamented the loss not of the Soviet Union, but of the “territory of the former Russian empire”….
      ….This isn’t, of course, the first time Putin has said these things. But he has now removed all doubt that he is also intent on acting on them…..
      …..Russia prosecutes counterinsurgency campaigns and suppresses resistance with medieval viciousness because it knows this is effective. There is no reason to think the terrorising of civilian populations seen in Chechnya and Syria would not also be visited on the people of Ukraine.

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