May 20, 2024

The Institute for the Critical Study of Society (ICSS) has announced its video session for Nov. 5, 2023. Joti Brar will speak on “The Theory of the Imperialist Pyramid.” Fortunately, she has written an article on the same topic.

The ICSS’s advance announcement coyly identifies Brar as a member of the World Anti-Imperialist Platform. That she is. She is also a vice chair of the CPGB M-L and daughter of Harpal Brar, a founder of the group (be sure to include the “G” for Great Britain in order to avoid mistaking it for the CPB M-L).

Brar thinks that “imperialist pyramid” is nothing less than a full-fledged anti-Marxist theory. She has written nearly 7000 words on “How the KKE uses Marxist terminology to cover its retreat from Marxism,” Oct. 1, 2023. The article appears on a website of the CPGB M-L and also on the website of the World Anti-Imperialist Platform.

The first order of such an article would be to document the Communist Party of Greece’s use of a pyramid analogy. Already Brar must clutch at straws. She cites Aleka Papariga, who was the secretary of the KKE — until she retired in 2013. Brar mainly refers to one article by Papariga, “On Imperialism – The Imperialist Pyramid.” From internal remarks, the article appeared in early 2013 or perhaps late 2012.

Brar found one more KKE article, also from 2013: “The Leninist approach of the KKE on imperialism and imperialist pyramid: Written contribution of the KKE at the 9th International Conference of the CWPR.”

That’s it. Incidentally, two or three other groups within the so-called World Anti-Imperialist Platform pile onto the pyramid image by citing the same two articles.

Brar offers no evidence that the KKE uses the pyramid image for anything more than a suggestive analogy. As both articles note, world imperialism “is illustrated with the scheme of a pyramid in order to show the various levels occupied by the capitalist countries.” (emphasis added) If you find the analogy helpful, good; if not, no one insists on it. It is an aid in visualizing that “The capitalists divide the world … ‘in proportion to capital,’ ‘in proportion to strength,’ because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism. But strength varies with the degree of economic and political development.” (Lenin, Imperialism, ch. V)

The image is an adaptation of a famous poster, Pyramid of Capitalist System, published in Russia in 1901 and republished widely by the International Workers of the World (the Wobblies).

Why does the imperialist pyramid upset Brar? She sees that it allows “that Russia and China are imperialist countries.” Brar cannot stomach the thought, since she, the CPGB M-L, and the World Anti-Imperialist Platform are publicists on the left for the two regimes.

This note is no place to pick apart Brar’s long article. Suffice it to observe that she applies one method over and over again:

“Take a phrase in passing. Impute an elaborate theory to it. Sprinkle with heaps of generalized lecturing and invective.”

As Gertrude Stein said of her vanished childhood home, “There’s no there there.”