Imperialism means three things
2. Parasitism and general decay.
3. Moribund capitalism.
The economic aspects of imperialism are fivefold:
1. The general victory of monopoly.
2. The formation of financial oligarchies that unite industrial and bank investment.
3. The primacy of capital export over goods export.
4. Formation of monopolies which split the world among themselves.
5. Accomplishing the division of the entire world among the different major capitalistic states.
Notes on V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Spring 1916
PREFACE TO THE FRENCH AND GERMAN EDITIONS
1. CONCENTRATION OF PRODUCTION AND MONOPOLIES
2. BANKS AND THEIR NEW ROLE
3. FINANCE CAPITAL AND THE FINANCIAL OLIGARCHY
4. EXPORT OF CAPITAL
5. DIVISION OF THE WORLD AMONG CAPITALIST ASSOCIATIONS
6. DIVISION OF THE WORLD AMONG THE GREAT POWERS
7. IMPERIALISM AS A SPECIAL STAGE OF CAPITALISM
8. PARASITISM AND DECAY OF CAPITALISM
9. CRITIQUE OF IMPERIALISM
10. THE PLACE OF IMPERIALISM IN HISTORY
There are a few important preliminary things about this work which Lenin highlights in the preface
1. Lenin was writing this with an eye to tsarist censorship so there were things he could not spell out as clearly as he would have liked.
I was forced to quote as an example—Japan! The careful reader will easily substitute Russia for Japan, and Finland, Poland, Courland, the Ukraine, Khiva, Bokhara, Estonia or other regions peopled by non-Great Russians, for Korea.
2. Lenin, though he consulted a myriad of sources, felt that he did not have access to enough literature, especially Russian. He therefor hinges his work around various French and English works especially that of of J.A. Hobson.
3. A major trend of Lenin’s writing on imperialism is introduced: his absolute disdain for Karl Kautsky, who he saw as betraying the proletariat by his chauvinistic support for the first world war.
PREFACE TO THE FRENCH AND GERMAN EDITIONS
Here Lenin iterates one of his main aims with this work, first, dunking on kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism
to explain the utter falsity of social-pacifist views and hopes for “world democracy”.
And secondly, by looking at its class nature, proving that the first world war was imperialist in nature on both sides. This is different to the majority of imperialist wars we have seen such as the gulf war, the Vietnam war, the wars of amerika settlerism and so on.
That means that both sides were seeking to gain the upper hand over the other to enable them to gather a larger proportion of the colonies and spheres of influence of the other. It seems obvious that when “friendly capitalist competition” doesn’t go your way a good way to out-compete your financial opponent is just to march your soldiers into a region and declare that it is yours now.
There was a pressing need to explain what on earth was going on with the first world war, why it was happening and what it meant for proletarian revolution, this pamphlet was lenin's lasting contribution.
This quotation is used a lot because it sums up Lenin’s view of the world:
Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the overwhelming majority of the population of the world by a handful of “advanced” countries. And this “booty” is shared between two or three powerful world plunderers armed to the teeth (America, Great Britain, Japan), who are drawing the whole world into their war over the division of their booty.
We see the key elements of imperialism: a world system, financial strangulation, colonialism (or neo-colonialism now), the division of the world into global north and global south (core and periphery), absolute plunder of the south to assuage the north, a few powers with military might the likes of which has never been seen.
I. CONCENTRATION OF PRODUCTION AND MONOPOLIES
The enormous growth of industry and the remarkably rapid concentration of production in ever-larger enterprises are one of the most characteristic features of capitalism.
Here we see the first characteristic features of imperialism
1. Enormous growth of industry
2. Rapid concentration of production into larger and larger enterprises (combines)
Lenin looks at the concentration of enterprise in Germany. He classes large enterprises as those employing more than 50 workers, which seems rather quaint in 2020 but the point is solid:
[in Germany] Less than one-hundredth of the total number of enterprises utilise more than three-fourths of the total amount of steam and electric power! Two million nine hundred and seventy thousand small enterprises (employing up to five workers), constituting 91 per cent of the total, utilise only 7 per cent of the total amount of steam and electric power!
a very important feature of capitalism in its highest stage of development is so-called combination of production, that is to say, the grouping in a single enterprise of different branches of industry, which either represent the consecutive stages in the processing of raw materials
This is interesting because in 2020 the combination is often hidden through the core-periphery relationship. Plenty of combines exist, but you also get plenty of companies like apple, adidas etc. etc. which do not actually do any manufacturing at all, they are pseudo-combines which rely on outsourced peripheral manufacturers. These peripheral manufacturers are entirely subordinate to core demand, they compete with each other, but they do not compete with core companies – core-core competition and periphery-periphery competition is there but peripheral companies do not compete for core markets. Thus, when you do see periphery companies competing in core countries it becomes doubly interesting. The whole thing about Huawei being retroactively banned from installing Britain’s 5G infrastructure using “national security” claims is a good case study.
As far as combines go there is tendency to forget what this actually means in relation to older outdated method of production and see combines as only being disparate industries combined together. This is not the case – combines develop among the old-style capitalist industry of “handicraft and domestic industry”. To take steel manufacturing as an example this is a combine even if it does not seem like it. Steel manufacturers take iron ore, and other raw materials and output steel products. There are lots of individual processes here: blast/arc furnaces for smelting iron, Bessemer process of whatever for de-carbonising the iron, re-adding carbon to make steel, then producing steel bar, sheet, wire, or ingots for sale. The combination of iron and steel production and semi-finished products (bar, sheet &c) is an example of a combine, we live in a world of huge combines.
We can see these especially in heavy industry: chemical production, oil refining, steel manufacturing, mining, metalworks such as ship and automobile manufacturing and so on – many of these are very mature combines. Marx predicted this, showing that by its very nature capitalist competition will concentrate production more and more into combines.
Lenin then moves on from combines to look at monopolies, that is the "next stage" of combination, establishing monopoly:
the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general and fundamental law of the present stage of development of capitalism.
Lenin quotes extensively to show that the development of monopolies occurs in times of financial crisis, crash, and depression. The bankruptcy and failure of small businesses during crises allows for the growth of cartels and monopolies, and as crises are a part of capitalism then the growth of monopolies and cartels is an essential part of capitalism.
Cartels become one of the foundations of the whole of economic life. Capitalism has been transformed into imperialism.
Cartels come to an agreement on the terms of sale, dates of payment, etc. They divide the markets among themselves. They fix the quantity of goods to be produced. They fix prices. They divide the profits among the various enterprises, etc.
This is important because here Lenin is quite resoundingly saying that as cartels become the norm then capitalism has become imperialism. Oversees investment/FDI are often used in discussion of imperialism but at this point Lenin has not talked about oversees investment at this point, only combinations and cartels (monopolies).
Lenin then moves on to talk about the great contradiction of monopoly: production is social, but appropriation of profit remains private.
This is something quite different from the old free competition between manufacturers, scattered and out of touch with one another, and producing for an unknown market. Concentration has reached the point at which it is possible to make an approximate estimate of all sources of raw materials (for example, the iron ore deposits) of a country and even, as we shall see, of several countries, or of the whole world. Not only are such estimates made, but these sources are captured by gigantic monopolist associations. An approximate estimate of the capacity of markets is also made, and the associations “divide” them up amongst themselves by agreement. Skilled labour is monopolised, the best engineers are engaged; the means of transport are captured—railways in America, shipping companies in Europe and America. Capitalism in its imperialist stage leads directly to the most comprehensive socialisation of production; it, so to speak, drags the capitalists, against their will and consciousness, into some sort of a new social order, a transitional one from complete free competition to complete socialisation.
Production becomes social, but appropriation remains private. The social means of production remain the private property of a few. The general framework of formally recognised free competition remains, and the yoke of a few monopolists on the rest of the population becomes a hundred times heavier, more burdensome, and intolerable.
Here we see another characteristic of imperialism: “the most comprehensive socialization of production”
Lenin now talks about something very interesting: the division between heavy industry (processing of raw materials) and light industry (producing of finished goods from processed raw materials) and the methods which combines and cartels use to secure and advance their positions in struggle.
”To this observation we must add that the industries which process raw materials (and not semi-manufactures) not only secure advantages from the cartel formation in the shape of high profits, to the detriment of the finished goods industry, but have also secured a dominating position over the latter, which did not exist under free competition.”
The words which I have italicised reveal the essence of the case which the bourgeois economists admit so reluctantly and so rarely, and which the present-day defenders of opportunism, led by Kautsky, so zealously try to evade and brush aside. Domination, and the violence that is associated with it, such are the relationships that are typical of the “latest phase of capitalist development”; this is what inevitably had to result, and has resulted, from the formation of all-powerful economic monopolies.
This is interesting and I think needs further investigation – the domination of the raw materials production over finished goods industry. I wonder what this means in today’s world, a quick look at the largest corporations in the world shows that six of the top ten are oil and gas, the lubricating blood of capitalism.
Lenin explains that the rise of cartels occurs particularly easily in industries where the monopolisation of acccess to limited sources of raw materials is possible, but that it is wrong to assume that capture of sources of raw material is is a requirement for the formation of cartels and monopolies. The German cement industry is used as an example of a cartelised industry where the raw materials are abundant. These often rely on other "underhand" methods to establish monopoly
In order to prevent competition in such a profitable industry, the monopolists even resort to various stratagems: they spread false rumours about the bad situation in their industry; anonymous warnings are published in the newspapers, like the following: “Capitalists, don’t invest your capital in the cement industry!”
Monopoly hews a path for itself everywhere without scruple as to the means, from paying a “modest” sum to buy off competitors, to the American device of employing dynamite against them.
Lenin then goes on to argue further against Kautsky’s idea that monopolies can somehow abolish crises—this is a bourgeois fable to paint capitalism in good light. Instead Lenin states
On the contrary, the monopoly created in certain branches of industry increases and intensifies the anarchy inherent in capitalist production as a whole.
This hinges on the theory of the unequal development of capitalism—at any one-time different industries are more or less developed than others. The main divide between industry and agriculture as well as divisions within agriculture and within industry. Lenin in fact goes one step further to say that the large monopolies within heavy industry serve to cause a greater lack of coordination among light(er) industry.
The privileged position of the most highly cartelised, so-called heavy industry, especially coal and iron, causes “a still greater lack of co-ordination” in other branches of industry—as Jeidels, the author of one of the best works on “the relationship of the German big banks to industry”, admits
I think this is particularly interesting, but I don’t know how it manifests today. It does make sense though. If you are in heavy industry you do not necessarily want a highly cartelised buyer for your goods you want lots of smaller buyers as this means that the power is with you, not with the buyer. Again, I am unsure how this plays out, but buyers cartels tend to secure better prices from suppliers than individual purchasers which is why everyone individually negotiating with their electricity/gas provider is stupid shit which capitalists fucking love. Production is socialised but consumption in individualised. It would make sense that heavy industry would wish a more fragmented finished goods industry in order to secure a greater proportion of profit.
At the very end of the chapter Lenin mentions the outflow of capital. As a system becomes more developed it results in a prodigious increase of capital, which “overflows the brim” i.e. flows abroad. This is discussed in later chapters.
He finishes his discussion of monopoly with this:
Monopoly! This is the last word in the “latest phase of capitalist development”. But we shall only have a very insufficient, incomplete, and poor notion of the real power and the significance of modern monopolies if we do not take into consideration the part played by the banks.
Imperialism means monopoly. What is the general characteristic of imperialism: the general victory of monopoly.
Edited by tears ()
Chapter 2 can be distilled down quite significantly:
1. What are banks
2. The development of banking monopolies
3. The new role of monopoly banks
What is/was the primary function of a bank?
The principal and primary function of banks is to serve as middlemen in the making of payments.
They transform money capital into active capital that yields profit. As banking grows they become monopolies which have control over almost all money capital:
As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments, the banks grow from modest middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and sources of raw materials in any one country and in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous modest middlemen into a handful of monopolists is one of the fundamental processes in the growth of capitalism into capitalist imperialism; for this reason we must first of all examine the concentration of banking.
However it can’t be forgotten that banking is not productive. it produces nothing which fulfils human needs.
The development of banking monopolies
Like Industry, banking tends towards conglomeration and monopoly due to the inherent functioning of capitalism
It is obvious that a bank which stands at the head of such a group, and which enters into agreement with half a dozen other banks only slightly smaller than itself for the purpose of conducting exceptionally big and profitable financial operations like floating state loans, has already outgrown the part of “middleman” and has become an association of a handful of monopolists.
We see the rapid expansion of a close network of channels which cover the whole country, centralising all capital and all revenues, transforming thousands and thousands of scattered economic enterprises into a single national capitalist, and then into a world capitalist economy.
When, however, this operation grows to enormous dimensions we find that a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society; for they are enabled-by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations—first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate, determine their income, deprive them of capital, or permit them to increase their capital rapidly and to enormous dimensions, etc.
Through the concentration of banking into monopolies the circle from which it is possible for industrial capitalists to obtain credit is thus reduced. As well as tending towards monopoly itself, banking itself accelerates the process of capital concentration and formation of monopolies in general.
The bit I most like in this chapter is Lenin’s highlighting of Marx’s characterization of banking as book keeping: a universal book keeping for the capitalists. A giant, world spanning book-keeping operation.
The new role of monopoly banks
When a bank discounts a bill for a firm, opens a current account for it, etc., these operations, taken separately, do not in the least diminish its independence, and the bank plays no other part than that of a modest middleman. But when such operations are multiplied and become an established practice, when the bank “collects” in its own hands enormous amounts of capital, when the running of a current account for a given firm enables the bank—and this is what happens—to obtain fuller and more detailed information about the economic position of its client, the result is that the industrial capitalist becomes more completely dependent on the bank.
Here banks and industry inter-pollinate so to speak. The people of the banking bourgeoisie and the industrial bourgeoisie merge on boards of directors, through the acquisition of shares, and also socially, they go to the same social events, they inter-marry. The also merge with the people of the government
The building and development, so to speak, of the big capitalist monopolies is therefore going on full steam ahead in all “natural” and “supernatural” ways. A sort of division of labour is being systematically developed amongst the several hundred kings of finance who reign over modern capitalist society
This chapter builds on the previous chapter on industrial monopoly to show how industrial-banking monopolies grow out of the formation of, on the one hand industrial monopolies and on the other hand banking monopolies.
The final part of the chapter addresses the "complaint against the banks", which is in Lenin's word “small capital’s old complaint about being oppressed by big capital” The argument against ”the banks” is the argument of small capital (though this ‘small’ capital can still be large.) A confusion I have seen on this point is that it is not banks "in control" but the fusion of industrial and banking capital with the fusion of the banking and industrial bourgeoisie, along with fusion with the administration of government. That is a sure sign of imperialism.
There are some interesting tit-bits in this chapter which are not developed properly
1. on state monopolies (as opposed to private monopolies):
state monopoly in capitalist society is merely a means of increasing and guaranteeing the income of millionaires in some branch of industry who are on the verge of bankruptcy.
2. On the relationship between the stock exchanges and banks:
The domination of our big banks over the Stock Exchange ... is nothing else than the expression of the completely organised German industrial state.
In other words, the old capitalism, the capitalism of free competition with its indispensable regulator, the Stock Exchange, is passing away. A new capitalism has come to take its place, bearing obvious features of something transient, a mixture of free competition and monopoly.
Lenin clearly sees the traditionally operating stock exchange as a relic of "free capitalism", with its capital raising function supplanted by banks. So what role do the stock exchanges actually play in 2020?
A lot of this chapter is of its time since it seems to be orientated around providing evidence which now appears self-evident, so there are lots of figures about German and other countries finance. This means my notes are shorter
What is “finance capital”?
The fusion of industrial and banking capital is a two-way thing: banks are forced to sink their capital into industry since that is what creates value, while industrialists are more and more forced to obtain capital from banks.
Thus you get finance capital: In Hilferding’s words, bank capital that is transformed into industrial capital; or, capital controlled by banks that is employed by industrialists. This is part of the concentration of capital and production into industrial-banking monopoly: “the coalescence of the banks with industry.”
Again, as far as I understand the financial oligarchy should not be confused with a banking oligarchy—this might be a nuance of the language and seem like a small division, but this is not the dominance of banking, but of finance.
Something like: industrial capital + banking capital -> finance capital
Finance capital is not banking fettering industry as small capital might decry, finance capital is industry. I think I have labored this point enough.
How does the inevitable domination of a financial oligarchy occur?
We now have to describe how, under the general conditions of commodity production and private property, the “business operations” of capitalist monopolies inevitably lead to the domination of a financial oligarchy.
Lenin talks a lot about subsidiaries, and sub-subsidiaries, their usefulness in allowing control of large number of sub companies with a smaller pot of capital. The idea here being the controlling interest of 40% being sufficient to control the direction of a company.
There is a very important point here regarding the role of “small companies.” One company with a 40% share in ten smaller companies serves to keep these smaller companies fragmented but linked to the parent company, under its control. The first thing that comes to mind for me in 2020 is the theory of balkanisation – where states are kept deliberately small and weak by an imperialist country to prevent the rise of an challengers to the dominant country, as see in the fragmentation of Yugoslavia into the Balkan states. See lenin’s quote here (emphasis mine):
The “democratisation” of the ownership of shares, from which the bourgeois sophists and opportunist so-called “Social-Democrats” expect (or say that they expect) the “democratisation of capital”, the strengthening of the role and significance of small scale production, etc., is, in fact, one of the ways of increasing the power of the financial oligarchy.
Holding companies are also discussed in also their usefulness in limiting liability of the parent company: allowing more risky undertakings and shady swindles than an individual businessperson might make. This in turn allows for speculation. I think a term for this might be a trend towards byzantinism since idk who has any idea who’s fingers are in which pies in 2020.
Lenin then goes on to discuss the effects of finance capital:
Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever-increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., strengthens the domination of the financial oligarchy and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolists.
A monopoly, once it is formed and controls thousands of millions, inevitably penetrates into every sphere of public life, regardless of the form of government and all other “details”.
This finance capital can then take full advantage of the cycles of overproduction and crisis:
During periods of industrial boom, the profits of finance capital are immense, but during periods of depression, small and unsound businesses go out of existence, and the big banks acquire “holdings” in them by buying them up for a mere song, or participate in profitable schemes for their “reconstruction” and “reorganisation”.
Fusion of bank capital with rentier-capital is part of finance capital and partly how finance capital takes on a rentier nature:
Speculation in land situated in the suburbs of rapidly growing big towns is a particularly profitable operation for finance capital. The monopoly of the banks merges here with the monopoly of ground-rent and with monopoly of the means of communication, since the rise in the price of land and the possibility of selling it profitably in lots, etc., is mainly dependent on good means of communication with the centre of the town; and these means of communication are in the hands of large companies which are connected with these same banks through the holding system and the distribution of seats on the boards.
Lenin ends by again stressing this combination and fusion of different monopolies into larger, more encompassing monopolies:
It is characteristic of capitalism in general that the ownership of capital is separated from the application of capital to production, that money capital is separated from industrial or productive capital, and that the rentier who lives entirely on income obtained from money capital, is separated from the entrepreneur and from all who are directly concerned in the management of capital. Imperialism, or the domination of finance capital, is that highest stage of capitalism in which this separation reaches vast proportions. The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the predominance of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy; it means that a small number of financially “powerful” states stand out among all the rest. The extent to which this process is going on may be judged from the statistics on emissions, i.e., the issue of all kinds of securities.
Finance capital has thus become dominant above all other forms of capitalism as part of first the growth of combines, then monopolies then combination of industrial and banking monopolies into finance capital, along with the combination of finance capital with rentier capital. Finance capital takes on a rentier nature. The dominance of this finance capital is imperialism.
So what role do the stock exchanges actually play in 2020?
as far as i can tell, it's betting on the misery of others - i laugh my ass off every time i see the dow going up these days
good notes, is this something you think we can put up as a webpage?
good notes, is this something you think we can put up as a webpage?
thanks, I'd like to finish the whole thing, then go back and edit it, since I am writing as i go through the book and have not read it for a while. id also like any criticism because i am concerned about things. after that it can go anywhere
tears posted:karphead posted:
good notes, is this something you think we can put up as a webpage?
thanks, I'd like to finish the whole thing, then go back and edit it, since I am writing as i go through the book and have not read it for a while. id also like any criticism because i am concerned about things. after that it can go anywhere
of course, sounds gut
This is a very important chapter so I have gone through it in more detail than the previous chapter.
Typical of the old capitalism, when free competition held undivided sway, was the export of goods. Typical of the latest stage of capitalism, when monopolies rule, is the export of capital.
Lenin states that export of capital is typical of monopoly rule, of finance capitalism, or imperialism. As stated in chapter one, the “cup brimeth over” and capital overflows outwards from the monopoly core. Export of goods is typical of capitalism, and it does not disappear with imperialism, but export of capital becomes typical, "how it is known".
The export of goods under capitalism can by typified by 19th century England as the “workshop of the world,” importing raw materials and exporting finished goods. This was a monopoly, but of a different type to that which Lenin has been discussing thus far. It could be seen as a monopoly on capitalist production itself, due to unequal development.
Capitalism is commodity production at its highest stage of development, when labour-power itself becomes a commodity. The growth of internal exchange, and, particularly, of international exchange, is a characteristic feature of capitalism
Note that “The growth [...]particularly, of international exchange,” it is a fallacy of understanding of capitalism to think that it is not international in its earlier stages, in fact Lenin highlights international exchange as characteristic. States did not exist in autarkic isolation prior to imperialism.
Now, with the development of capitalism into imperialism as shown in the previous three chapters we see the result of the development of these finance capitalist monopolies, capital export:
On the threshold of the twentieth century we see the formation of a new type of monopoly: firstly, monopolist associations of capitalists in all capitalistically developed countries; secondly, the monopolist position of a few very rich countries, in which the accumulation of capital has reached gigantic proportions. An enormous “surplus of capital” has arisen in the advanced countries.
With these monopolies comes a colossal accumulation of finance capital. This “surplus finance capital” has to go somewhere—it has to take part in circulation or else it cannot realise profit.
Why Export Capital?
As long as capitalism remains what it is, surplus capital will be utilised not for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses in a given country, for this would mean a decline in profits for the capitalists, but for the purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward countries. In these backward countries profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap.
Capital goes wherever profit is highest. That is like a law of capitalism, it literally has to. Profit maximisation is the game. Capital in the core is over-ripe: there is no profitable field for investment within the core, so finance capital must look elsewhere.
I thought this could be summed up using this:
Capitalism -> Monopolies -> finance capital -> surplus capital -> capital export in search of the highest profit
Lenin now raises a very important point about the development of infrastructure. Infrastructure is required in the periphery in order to facilitate exploitation - capital export requires infrastructure:
The export of capital is made possible by a number of backward countries having already been drawn into world capitalist intercourse; main railways have either been or are being built in those countries, elementary conditions for industrial development have been created, etc.
Development of infrastructure in the periphery allows finance capital to penetrate into new markets. The “elementary conditions for industrial development” – roads, rail, electricity generation, even education.
The export of capital influences and greatly accelerates the development of capitalism in those countries to which it is exported. While, therefore, the export of capital may tend to a certain extent to arrest development in the capital-exporting countries, it can only do so by expanding and deepening the further development of capitalism throughout the world.
It has been noted by e.g. Nkrumah (Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism, 1965) that the capitalist development that occurs in the periphery is not a “true” capitalist development but a neo-colonial one. The capitalism that develops in the periphery is of a particular type, enmeshed in the imperialism of the core. What does happen, obviously is that the export of capital facilitates drawing more and more of the periphery into global capitalist circulation.
Finance capital has created the epoch of monopolies, and monopolies introduce everywhere monopolist principles: the utilisation of “connections” for profitable transactions takes the place of competition on the open market.
The export of capital thus becomes a means of encouraging the export of commodities.
Here control of finance capital, this gigantic pot of "surplus capital" grants great power. This is exported and in doing so used to gain favorable conditions in the periphery. For example:
France, when granting loans to Russia, “squeezed” her in the commercial treaty of September 16, 1905, stipulating for certain concessions to run till 1917.
I suspect everybody will be familiar with modern examples of the so called “aid” of the core, doled out through the IMF, but this capital export is not limited to the IMF-World Bank, or USAID/DFID style of “charitable loans” but the general trend of capital to leave core countries in search of the highest profit.
Finance capital, through capital export, spreads it net over all countries of the world, roping them into imperialism. And finally, as the result of this process which began in chapter one with capitalist firms conglomerating:
The capital-exporting countries have divided the world among themselves in the figurative sense of the term. But finance capital has led to the actual division of the world.
I think the following is important on a global scale when we consider destructive imperialist wars, this was mentioned in the chapter but it did not fit into the flow of notes:
It goes without saying that if capitalism could develop agriculture, which today is everywhere lagging terribly behind industry, if it could raise the living standards of the masses, who in spite of the amazing technical progress are everywhere still half-starved and poverty-stricken, there could be no question of a surplus of capital. This “argument” is very often advanced by the petty-bourgeois critics of capitalism. But if capitalism did these things it would not be capitalism; for both uneven development and a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production.
Uneven development and “a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production”. Anywhere the masses are not barely scraping by is a target for imperialist destruction. Yes, part of the game is looting the wealth that has been created (primitive accumulation) but absolute destruction is a goal in itself. This is a theme which Lenin touches on repeatedly but not explicitly thus far: destruction, fragmentation, balkanisation all inherent to imperialism.
This chapter strives to bring the content of the previous four together to give the first explanation of what the first world war was and why it was occurring. Lenin uses numerous examples to show inter-monopoly competition and conflict.
Monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates and trusts first divided the home market among themselves and obtained more or less complete possession of the industry of their own country. But under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market. Capitalism long ago created a world market.
Again Lenin reiterates the international nature of capitalism in its “lower stage”. But imperialism as a stage is “incomparably higher than the previous stages” in regard to world concentration of capital and production.
Next, he uses the concrete example of the world divided into competing monopolies to show that this is a fluid situation governed by unequal development.
But the division of the world between two powerful trusts does not preclude redivision if the relation of forces changes as a result of uneven development, war, bankruptcy, etc.
This is important: control is transient, uneven development occurs, oil fields run out, new discoveries are made, the rota fortunae turns as it will. And sometimes, as we can see, monopolies take fate into their own hands through inter-imperialist war. Lenin discusses in detail the struggle between Amerikan Standard Oil Co and Deutche Bank in 1907 which I have quoted in full because of its salience for Lenin’s overall aim: to explain the origin of the first world war.
A struggle began for the “division of the world”, as, in fact, it is called in economic literature. On the one hand, the Rockefeller “oil trust” wanted to lay its hands on everything; it formed a “daughter company” right in Holland, and bought up oilfields in the Dutch Indies, in order to strike at its principal enemy, the Anglo-Dutch Shell trust. On the other hand, the Deutsche Bank and the other German banks aimed at “retaining” Rumania “for themselves” and at uniting her with Russia against Rockefeller. The latter possessed far more capital and an excellent system of oil transportation and distribution. The struggle had to end, and did end in 1907, with the utter defeat of the Deutsche Bank, which was confronted with the alternative: either to liquidate its “oil interests” and lose millions, or submit. It chose to submit, and concluded a very disadvantageous agreement with the “oil trust”. The Deutsche Bank agreed “not to attempt anything which might injure American interests”. Provision was made, however, for the annulment of the agreement in the event of Germany establishing a state oil monopoly.
German interests then mobilised the German state to drum up patriotic indignation against the amerikan trust utilising the German press. Lenin rails justly against the “state socialists” of Germany, those so-called socialists who saw German finance capitalists demands for state monopolies as “socialism”. Laughable, but we see the same thing today with pressure to nationalise institutions in the UK, to create new state monopolies to promote “national interest”, and these are put forward as “socialist” by the milquetoast excuse for socialists which exist in the UK.
Such are the valuable admissions which the German bourgeois economists are forced to make. We see plainly here how private and state monopolies are interwoven in the epoch of finance capital; how both are but separate links in the imperialist struggle between the big monopolists for the division of the world.
This is something I touched on in the first chapter--the interplay between private and state monopolies in the age of imperialism. State monopolies should not be thought of as somehow independent from imperialism, they are part of imperialism
chapter 1 posted:
"state monopoly in capitalist society is merely a means of increasing and guaranteeing the income of millionaires in some branch of industry who are on the verge of bankruptcy."
The last part of this chapter is dedicated to refuting Kautsky’s theory that the growth international cartels give hope of peace among nations—the idea that giant monopolies would eliminate competition. Lenin has a lot of disdain for this: he says that monopoly conflict cannot disappear until classes disappear. This theory was leading to socialist theorists making a distinction between war and non-war conflict. Lenin is resolute that war and non-war conflict between monopolies are all part of the same struggle.
International cartels show to what point capitalist monopolies have developed, and the object of the struggle between the various capitalist associations. This last circumstance is the most important; it alone shows us the historico-economic meaning of what is taking place; for the forms of the struggle may and do constantly change in accordance with varying, relatively specific and temporary causes, but the substance of the struggle, its class content, positively cannot change while classes exist.
As far as I understand what he is getting at here, as long as classes exist, whatever the form which struggle takes, so long as there is class conflict there will unequal development and so long as there is unequal development there will be intra-bourgeoisie conflict. You could probably relate this to the class being comprised, at its base, of individual humans each seaking to realise profit from their capital.
To substitute the question of the form of the struggle and agreements (today peaceful, tomorrow warlike, the next day warlike again) for the question of the substance of the struggle and agreements between capitalist associations is to sink to the role of a sophist.
The essence here, as Lenin strives to explain the first world war is that the different forms of imperialist struggle has the same substance—and this the first world war is simply this struggle in and different arena: war.
Here is the key to the whole chapter and to understanding what occurs under imperialism:
The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “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.
Thus if someone wanted to examine the strength of various bourgeoisie groups under lenins criteria they would look at how the world is divided. This is understandable harder under then conditions of neo-colonialism than colonialism. The final point is important as well—development is continuous and ongoing, everything is in motion, the wheel of fortune turns constantly.
In this chapter Lenin covers the division of the world into exclusive domains of the imperialist powers, and also the ability for re-division to occur. This was in the age of colonialism, now, in the age of neo-colonialism things are somewhat different but spheres of influence still exist: France in west Africa, the united $nakes in the Americas, and some colonies do exist such as Britain’s colony of northern Ireland
Because the world is of finite size, the division of the world occurs up to a point where it is completly divided between the great powers, the imperialist countries:
As there are no unoccupied territories—that is, territories that do not belong to any state in Asia and America, it is necessary to amplify Supan’s conclusion and say that the characteristic feature of the period under review is the final partitioning of the globe—final, not in the sense that repartition is impossible; on the contrary, repartitions are possible and inevitable—but in the sense that the colonial policy of the capitalist countries has completed the seizure of the unoccupied territories on our planet. For the first time the world is completely divided up, so that in the future only redivision is possible, i.e., territories can only pass from one “owner” to another, instead of passing as ownerless territory to an owner
This is important since I have come across the argument that such and such a country cannot be imperialist because the division of the world is complete and there is nowhere left to expand into. Lenin is clear here and in the previous chapters that it is monopoly that should be looked at in the first instance and once the world is fully divided—as it was by the beginning of world war 1—it is the struggle for redivision, not expansion, which is key.
Imperialism is not a static thing, as per unequal development, and redivisions can occur in the future through war and non-war means, as discussed in the previous chapter.
Is an intensification of colonial policy, a sharpening of the struggle for colonies, observed precisely in the epoch of finance capital?
Lenin appears to say that there are two reasons which cause the sharpening of this struggle: the search for markets and the search for exclusive access to raw materials which can help establish, entrench, and solidify monopolies. The requirement for both is intensely sharpened in the time of imperialism (due to the nature of inter-monopoly conflict?). There was something of an about turn in the ruling class approach to colonies in a short period of time:
In the most flourishing period of free competition in Great Britain, i.e., between 1840 and 1860, the leading British bourgeois politicians were opposed to colonial policy and were of the opinion that the liberation of the colonies, their complete separation from Britain, was inevitable and desirable. M. Beer, in an article, “Modern British Imperialism”, published in 1898, shows that in 1852, Disraeli, a statesman who was generally inclined towards imperialism, declared: “The colonies are millstones round our necks.”
My unformed thoughts on this revolve around the relative advantages of colonies and neo-colonies. What specific conditions favour the one or the other, and did the sharpening of inter-imperialist rivalry in the 1860-1900 period increase the need for demarcated exclusive regions of a particular imperialist influence in the form of colonies, rather than “free exploitation.” There are certainly great disadvantages to colonies rather than neo-colonies. The anti-colonial liberation struggles of the mid-20th century demonstrates that, so what was it that prompted the need for these colonies, and how do neo-colonies fit into the reasons which prompted the need for colonies in the first place?
"If you want to avoid civil war; you must become imperialists"
At this point Lenin drops one of the most prescient quotes from Cecil Rhodes which explains the advantage/requirement of imperialism.
"I was in the East End of London (a working-class quarter) yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread! bread!’ and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism.... My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e., in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.”
Remember that for capitalism,
a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production.
And yet, for me, living in the core, life is fine, its is not even remotely “a semi-starvation level of existence.” That is not to say that life in the core is good for everyone, there is a strata who reap very little benefit from imperialism, but the strata which do benefit from it is large, bloated, even if things are getting worse for them. That is why this quotation is so important because it reconciles the basic premise of capitalism with the contradiction of this expensive computer I am typing on. “If you want to avoid civil war; you must become imperialists.” – in short: facilitate parasitism
To expand on my little flow chart:
Capitalism -> Monopolies -> finance capital -> surplus capital -> capital export in search of the highest profit -> superprofits flow back -> social unrest is avoided in the core
The class known as the bourgeoisie is tiny, far less than 1%, more like 0.001% That would be about 70,000 people. And they are people, they have to live somewhere, on earth 2020 there is no-where to hide, and they definitely do not want pitchforks at the door. The only way 70 000 people can in any sort of safety possess the wealth that belongs to 7 000 000 000 people is if they surround themselves in a loyal cadre. That’s what Cecil Rhodes is saying. It’s like living in the imperialist equivalent of a castle.
The more capitalism is developed, the more strongly the shortage of raw materials is felt, the more intense the competition and the hunt for sources of raw materials throughout the whole world, the more desperate the struggle for the acquisition of colonies.
finance capital in general strives to seize the largest possible amount of land of all kinds in all places, and by every means, taking into account potential sources of raw materials and fearing to be left behind in the fierce struggle for the last remnants of independent territory, or for the repartition of those territories that have been already divided.
Capitalist industry must secure raw materials if it is to continue production and reproduction. The struggle for acquisition of colonies is [partly] about securing raw materials, both known and potential sources. It is interesting that Lenin highlights that the more developed capitalism is the more strongly shortages are felt.
The non-economic superstructure which grows up on the basis of finance capital, its politics and its ideology, stimulates the striving for colonial conquest.
It is quite obvious that the people of Britain in general supported British colonialism for the reasons above. Just like the people of France in general supported the colonial war in Algeria, and so on. The superstructure which grows over parasitism is an ideology which aligns with the cause of imperialism.
We must now try to sum up, to draw together the threads of what has been said above on the subject of imperialism.
Imperialist represents a special stage in the development of capitalism, not a policy to be enacted:
1. Imperialism emerges through the development of capitalism
2. Capitalism only becomes imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development when certain fundamental characteristics begin to change into their opposites—e.g. free competition is displaced by capitalist monopoly.
3. Monopolies come to play a decisive role in economic life
4. Bank capital fuses with industrial capital to produce finance capital
5. Export of capital acquires exceptional significance
6. International monopolist associations share the world among themselves.
7. the division of the world between the imperialists is complete.
8. monopolies exist above and alongside free competition, leading to “a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts.”
If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.
Much of the rest of the chapter is about refuting two theories of kautsky who firstly, claimed that imperialism was solely the actions of industrial capital, it was about annexing agrarian regions, and crucially it was policy, detached from economics which runs contra to Lenin’s theory of imperialism.
Secondly, kautsky claimed that a phase of ultra-imperialism would supersede the phase of imperialism. “the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital”
If the purely economic point of view is meant to be a “pure” abstraction, then all that can be said reduces itself to the following proposition: development is proceeding towards monopolies, hence, towards a single world monopoly, towards a single world trust. This is indisputable, but it is also as completely meaningless as is the statement that “development is proceeding” towards the manufacture of foodstuffs in laboratories. In this sense the “theory” of ultra-imperialism is no less absurd than a “theory of ultra-agriculture” would be.
I think the essence of Lenin’s argument here is saying that yes, but that’s so far in the future to be irrelevant, ultra-imperialism is a "lifeless abstraction." It is interesting that Lenin does say that imperialism is trending towards “one world trust."
I would add to Lenin's comments by saying that since WW2 the pax amerikana has held the imperialist powers in check, against each other, since 1945, in a sort of pseudo-ultraimperialism but certainly it has not been peace on earth, so even if “one world trust” existed it would still be in the conditions of class-conflict and in fact Lenin recognises this:
Kautsky’s utterly meaningless talk about ultra-imperialism encourages, among other things, that profoundly mistaken idea which only brings grist to the mill of the apologists of imperialism, i.e., that the rule of finance capital lessens the unevenness and contradictions inherent in the world economy, whereas in reality it increases them. Kautsky’s utterly meaningless talk about ultra-imperialism encourages, among other things, that profoundly mistaken idea which only brings grist to the mill of the apologists of imperialism, i.e., that the rule of finance capital lessens the unevenness and contradictions inherent in the world economy, whereas in reality it increases them.
This chapter contains a lot on parasitism and its effect on class, opportunism and modes of thought. I have encountered people who really really like to gloss over this, but also, as from the previous notes there is a lot more in this short work than just the discussion on parasitism, and parasitism should not be used to dismiss the revolutionary potential in the core. I think that the recent wave of insurrection across amerika should have put paid to blanket dismissal of revolution in the core countries.
We now have to examine yet another significant aspect of imperialism to which most of the discussions on the subject usually attach insufficient importance.
I refer to parasitism, which is characteristic of imperialism.
Lenin reiterates that the foundation of imperialism is monopoly in “permanent and insoluble contradiction” to the general environment of “free” capitalism. Monopoly, tends towards stagnation and decay.
Why does monopoly tend towards stagnation and decay?
Lenin explains that monopolies, through their ability to establish monopoly prices remove the motive force for investment in new technology. The opposite in fact occurs greater profits are to be realised through deliberately holding back technological progress.
Certainly, the possibility of reducing the cost of production and increasing profits by introducing technical improvements operates in the direction of change. But the tendency to stagnation and decay, which is characteristic of monopoly, continues to operate, and in some branches of industry, in some countries, for certain periods of time, it gains the upper hand.
Here lenin explains that it is a tendency not a constant. Technological progress can and does occur under imperialism, but “for certain periods of time” the tendency gains the upper hand, holding back development.
“a stratum of rentiers”
imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries
This leads to the development of a stratum of rentiers. Remember that for capitalism,
Chapter IV posted:
a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production
But the immense accumulation of money capital in the imperialist countries means that a small portion of this capital can be put into non-profitable developments: healthcare, social housing, unemployment payments, higher wages. These benefits are paid for by the usury of the imperialist state.
The rentier state is a state of parasitic, decaying capitalism, and this circumstance cannot fail to influence all the socio-political conditions of the countries concerned, in general, and the two fundamental trends in the working-class movement, in particular.
There is, due to the immense accumulation of capital, an accumulation of capital by the middle strata. This comes in the form of wages which are greater than the vaue of their labour – Very often a reward for playing a role in “administering to imperialism” The “wages of imperialism” are then encouraged to be invested in production through investment funds, savings accounts and the like, or to invest to become landlords. This middle stratum is thus bound to the fate of imperialism itself.
Capitalism -> Monopolies -> finance capital -> surplus capital -> capital export in search of the highest profit -> superprofits flow back -> social unrest is avoided in the core -> a middle stratum becomes “partial-bourgeois” with modest capital investments
These people supplement their wages with the “coupon clippings” of their investments. Or else bank on a retirement paid for via the “clippings” of their production invested pension.
The Rentier State
Loans give the creditor power over the debtor. Lenin highlights this as a very important fact in the ascendency of imperialist states:
In my opinion it is precisely this that forms the economic basis of imperialist ascendancy. The creditor is more firmly attached to the debtor than the seller is to the buyer.
Imperialist states wield power by the money which is owned to them. This is of course ultimately backed up by force of arms. The country can then become at semi-united behind the cause of imperialism.
“While the directors of this definitely parasitic policy are capitalists, the same motives appeal to special classes of the workers. In many towns most important trades are dependent upon government employment or contracts; the imperialism of the metal and shipbuilding centres is attributable in no small degree to this fact.”
These profits of imperialism which flow back them strengthen opportunism within the working class movement. Basically any “left” party in Europe fits the bill here.
Lenin recognises two interesting trends which occurs under imperialism Firstly,
the “danger” of imperialism lies in that “Europe will shift the burden of physical toil—first agricultural and mining, then the rougher work in industry—on to the coloured races, and itself be content with the role of rentier, and in this way, perhaps, pave the way for the economic, and later, the political emancipation of the coloured races”.
We see that this has absolutely come to pass accellerated during the period of "neo-liberalism"
As for the second circumstance, Hobson writes: “One of the strangest symptoms of the blindness of imperialism is the reckless indifference with which Great Britain, France and other imperial nations are embarking on this perilous dependence. Great Britain has gone farthest. Most of the fighting by which we have won our Indian Empire has been done by natives; in India, as more recently in Egypt, great standing armies are placed under British commanders; almost all the fighting associated with our African dominions, except in the southern part, has been done for us by natives.”
I think this is very interesting, since this has been a trend, more and less at certain times. But in the case of the amerika it was recognised, after the Vietnam war, that an armed force consisting of more loyal professional troops was required. A huge proportion of the profits of the rentier state of amerika have to go towards maintaining its deified professional armed force. Calls to redistribute the military/police budget towards more humane use are both good—in that the weakening of the imperialist armed forces is a good thing, but also represents a simple re-shuffling of the of imperialist superprofits towards other avenues within the imperialist countries. A truly revolutionary thing would be to repatriate this profit back to those whom it was stolen from.
The upper and lower starta of workers in imperialist countries
And in speaking of the British working class the bourgeois student of “British imperialism at the beginning of the twentieth century” is obliged to distinguish systematically between the “upper stratum” of the workers and the “lower stratum of the proletariat proper”. The upper stratum furnishes the bulk of the membership of co-operatives, of trade unions, of sporting clubs and of numerous religious sects.
One of the special features of imperialism connected with the facts I am describing, is the decline in emigration from imperialist countries and the increase in immigration into these countries from the more backward countries where lower wages are paid.
Here we see the issue of race raised: immigration into the parasite countries increases under imperialism. This forms part of, though not exclusively, the “lower stratum of the proletariat proper”. And if it is divided along racial lines then all the better for it to be demarcated in society I suppose. It is still a class issue at its base, but if the class issue cannot be ignored then nor can the racial aspect.
Imperialism splitting the working class is not a new thing but has been around as long as imperialism has. Nowhere is this more obvious thn in the oldeset imperialist country, England
It must be observed that in Great Britain the tendency of imperialism to split the workers, to strengthen opportunism among them and to cause temporary decay in the working-class movement, revealed itself much earlier than the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries; for two important distinguishing features of imperialism were already observed in Great Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century—vast colonial possessions and a monopolist position in the world market
The effect of imperialism can be summed up as this:
This clearly shows the causes and effects. The causes are: (1) exploitation of the whole world by this country; (2) its monopolist position in the world market; (3) its colonial monopoly. The effects are: (1) a section of the British proletariat becomes bourgeois; (2) a section of the proletariat allows itself to be led by men bought by, or at least paid by, the bourgeoisie.
In short, any revolutionary movement in the core has to recognise that there is a powerful opportunistic movement. We see this recently in amerika: after the revolutionary uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd there was a reformist counter-revolutionary movement led by opportunists.
But in the crisis of global climate crisis and the plague that is sweeping the globe:
The distinctive feature of the present situation is the prevalence of such economic and political conditions that are bound to increase the irreconcilability between opportunism and the general and vital interests of the working-class movement
By the critique of imperialism, in the broad sense of the term, we mean the attitude of the different classes of society towards imperialist policy in connection with their general ideology.
The chapter serves up turn of the century examples of political attitudes towards imperialism, attitudes which Lenin was arguing against. My notes here are shorter.
The enormous dimensions of finance capital concentrated in a few hands and creating an extraordinarily dense and widespread network of relationships and connections which subordinates not only the small and medium, but also the very small capitalists and small masters, on the one hand, and the increasingly intense struggle waged against other national state groups of financiers for the division of the world and domination over other countries, on the other hand, cause the propertied classes to go over entirely to the side of imperialism. “General” enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defense of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times. Imperialist ideology also penetrates the working class. No Chinese Wall separates it from the other classes.
A key term is introduced: social-imperialists. That means socialists in name, but imperialists in deeds. In Lenin’s original form it does not appear to indicate any sort of "actual socialism", but afaik it sometimes is used to refer to paying for you “socialism” through imperialism while claiming to be socialists.
Non-proletarian arguments against imperialism seem to coalesce around:
1. Bourgeois Reformists, promising e.g. oversight of imperialism:
Bourgeois scholars and publicists usually come out in defense of imperialism in a somewhat veiled form; they obscure its complete, domination and its deep-going roots, strive to push specific and secondary details into the forefront and do their very best to distract attention from essentials by means of absolutely ridiculous schemes for “reform”, such as police supervision of the trusts or banks
2. Petty bourgeois opposition to imperialism. This is a manifestation of small capital’s railing against big capital – reactionary at its base. A modern example might be 1. what we see with rightist petty-bourgeois opposition to amerikan interventionism in e.g. Syria and 2. The petty bourgeoisie railing against monopolies “what we have now isn’t real capitalism”
3. Arguments against the inevitability of violent imperialism (c.f. Kautsky)—the possibility of a benign path to ultra-imperialist peace.
Kautsky’s theoretical critique of imperialism has nothing in common with Marxism and serves only as a preamble to propaganda for peace and unity with the opportunists and the social-chauvinists, precisely for the reason that it evades and obscures the very profound and fundamental contradictions of imperialism: the contradictions between monopoly and free competition which exists side by side with it, between the gigantic “operations” (and gigantic profits) of finance capital and “honest” trade in the free market, the contradiction between cartels and trusts, on the one hand, and non-cartelised industry, on the other, etc.
No matter what the good intentions of the English parsons, or of sentimental Kautsky, may have been, the only objective, i.e., real, social significance of Kautsky’s “theory” is this: it is a most reactionary method of consoling the masses with hopes of permanent peace being possible under capitalism, by distracting their attention from the sharp antagonisms and acute problems of the present times, and directing it towards illusory prospects of an imaginary “ultraimperialism” of the future. Deception of the masses—that is all there is in Kautsky’s “Marxist” theory.
The core of Lenin’s refutation of Kautsky:
The question has only to be presented clearly for any other than a negative answer to be impossible. This is because the only conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, interests, colonies, etc., is a calculation of the strength of those participating, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the division does not change to an equal degree, for the even development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries is impossible under capitalism.
This I feel is of crucial importance when considering the inter-imperialist peace of pax amerikana—Lenin states that under capitalism, division is based on strength. The reason of the peace of the last few decades was the emergence of amerika as the strongest force, both militarily and economically, in the wreckage of the second world war. But development does not occur evenly, especially with imperialism’s trend towards stagnation and decay.
Everything is in constant motion and the law of unequal development holds out:
Half a century ago Germany was a miserable, insignificant country, if her capitalist strength is compared with that of the Britain of that time; Japan compared with Russia in the same way. Is it “conceivable” that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? It is out of the question.
no matter what form they may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers, are inevitably nothing more than a “truce” in periods between wars. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics.
The core here is that war is as inevitable as peace. Both pursued by imperialist countries in national oppression but also between imperialists. I do wonder how nuclear weapons play into this since the means to militarily eradicate all human life have been developed after Lenin was writing this.
this is the final chapter, and is considerably shorter than the others
We have seen that in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This in itself determines its place in history, for monopoly that grows out of the soil of free competition, and precisely out of free competition, is the transition from the capitalist system to a higher socio-economic order. We must take special note of the four principal types of monopoly, or principal manifestations of monopoly capitalism, which are characteristic of the epoch we are examining.
Lenin identifies four manifestations of monopoly.
monopoly arose out of the concentration of production at a very high stage
monopolies have stimulated the seizure of the most important sources of raw materials, especially for the basic and most highly cartelised industries in capitalist society
monopoly has sprung from the banks. The banks have developed from modest middleman enterprises into the monopolists of finance capital
monopoly has grown out of colonial policy. To the numerous “old” motives of colonial policy, finance capital has added the struggle for the sources of raw materials, for the export of capital, for spheres of influence
How can the domination of finance capitalism (imperialism) be summed up:
Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations—all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.
What does this lead to:
More and more prominently there emerges, as one of the tendencies of imperialism, the creation of the “rentier state”, the usurer state, in which the bourgeoisie to an ever-increasing degree lives on the proceeds of capital exports and by “clipping coupons”. It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the rapid growth of capitalism. It does not. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie and certain countries betray, to a greater or lesser degree, now one and now another of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before; but this growth is not only becoming more and more uneven in general, its unevenness also manifests itself, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital
Note that Lenin highlights that decay occurs most in the countries which are richest in capital. The richer a country is in capital the more parasitic, moribund and decaying it is.
To add to my little flow chart:
Capitalism -> Monopolies -> finance capital -> surplus capital -> capital export in search of the highest profit -> superprofits flow back -> social unrest is avoided in the core -> a middle stratum becomes “partial-bourgeois” with modest capital investments -> the imperialist country becomes moribund and decaying due to the domination of monopolies/finance capital (-> war to redistribute spheres of influence?)
In this age of imperialism we now have completely socialised production, where:
private economic and private property relations constitute a shell which no longer fits its contents, a shell which must inevitably decay if its removal is artificially delayed, a shell which may remain in a state of decay for a fairly long period (if, at the worst, the cure of the opportunist abscess is protracted), but which will inevitably be removed.
That is why imperialism is the age of proletarian revolution.
Some Final points that don’t fit in with the above.
Monopolies raise the cost of living:
The extent to which monopolist capital has intensified all the contradictions of capitalism is generally known. It is sufficient to mention the high cost of living and the tyranny of the cartels
What is a sphere of influence:
spheres for profitable deals, concessions, monopoly profits and so on, economic territory in general.