An analysis of most of the appeal of imperialism

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An analysis of most of the appeal of imperialism

An analysis of most of the appeal of imperialism

The critical procedure has by now become routinized. Capitalism, these academic Marxists assure us; has passed beyond the stage of bellicose imperialism and is now a relatively peaceful system, still somewhat progressive, though of course imperfect. Or, if we do start here, we should read the preface very carefully.

The work was written in and published only after the fall of the tsarist government in early In the preface Lenin says: Hence, I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution, by hints.

Analysing Imperialism

It is painful, in these days of liberty, to reread the passages of the pamphlet which have been distorted, cramped, compressed in an iron vice on account of the censor. That the period of imperialism is the eve of the socialist revolution; that social chauvinism.

The only work which he evaluates is the Imperialism pamphlet. He is hardly alone in this practice; see, for instance, Arrighi, ; Barone, ; Brewer, ; Warren; Weeks, II Lenin developed his theory of imperialism mainly in andwhen he was in exile in Switzerland.

This was a time of profound crisis for socialists.

A History of the World in Six Glasses

Lenin and other revolutionaries were trying to prevent socialists from supporting a war in which workers killed other workers on behalf of capitalism. Most socialist leaders and parties were succumbing to national chauvinism, and were trying to justify their position by appeals to Marxist theory, including arguments about a new stage of capitalism developed by Hilferding, Kautsky, and other theoreticians, arguments that seemed to suggest the likelihood of a quick and fair peace and a future in which capitalism would peacefully develop into socialism.

The core of these arguments was the economistic thesis that, since capitalism as an economic system "has become fully international," "has transcended the bounds of the national state" much-used expressions at the timewars between states are no longer functional for capitalism.

Lenin set out to demonstrate that this thesis was false. At the same time, Lenin had to counter a strangely similar argument that was being propounded by some revolutionaries, including Bukharin: Since capitalism has become fully international as an economic system, has transcended the bounds of the national state, merely national issues are no longer important, and revolutionaries should discard the "minimum program" of struggles for democracy and self-determination within the capitalist state.

These articles, together with Imperialism, present a coherent theory of capitalist society, and the capitalist world, in the era dominated--politically and socially as well as economically by monopoly capitalism. It is best, I think, to examine the theory-building process as a whole.

An analysis of most of the appeal of imperialism

At the center of the world system, capitalism had matured, and the conditions for its transformation into socialism were ripening. In the periphery, capitalism was advancing outward, effectuating the bourgeois revolution as it proceeded.

Most Marxists viewed this as a smooth outward flow of basically economic forces Bernstein, ; Bauer, ; Luxemburg, Most of them though not Bernstein deplored colonialism. In The Development of Capitalism in Russia Lenin was describing a diffusion process within a state, a process of uneven economic development across a politically undifferentiated landscape, quite unlike a landscape of multiple states on which political boundaries and social forces modify, obstruct, and redirect economic flows a process not reducible to "uneven development".

In various writings between andLenin developed a strikingly different theory of economic and political tendencies at the world scale; this was the germ of his theory of imperialism. The spread of capitalism ignites bourgeois-national movements, producing a tendency toward the proliferation of independent national states.

While these movements are primarily anti-feudal, they are also struggles against colonialism and semi-colonialism, hence counters to the spreading power and the accumulation strategy of metropolitan capitalism.


Marxists who disagreed with Lenin argued the economistic, diffusionist position: And he came to reject the idea that big states are progressive: This is not yet a theory of imperialism but it contains most of the elements for such a theory.

Some time around OctoberLenin developed the central propositions of his theory see Lenin, c, Monopoly capitalism no longer can survive without continuously increasing investment and exploitation of labor in colonies and other peripheral regions. Note here the intertwining of politics and economics.

But all of this merely set the stage for the great crisis of monopoly capitalism: The world is finite in extent, and the "partitioning" of the peripheral regions into colonies and semi-colonies has been completed. This, said Lenin amade a World War inevitable and indeed was the primary cause of the war.

Why did the workers agree to fight in the war? One reason was ideological obfuscation, which Lenin blamed partly on the working-class leadership, now bribed, submissive, and dutifully chauvinist.

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