Red theory: imperialism or monopoly capitalism
Now that we’ve spent some time reviewing the basic concepts of Marx’s critique of political economy, let’s move on to Lenin’s analysis of imperialism. Towards the end of the 1800s, the internal laws of the movement of capitalism brought it into a new and final stage of its development – monopoly capitalism. In the essay “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, Lenin defines it as follows:
“Imperialism is a specific historical stage of capitalism. Its specificity is threefold: imperialism is monopoly capitalism; parasitic or decaying capitalism; moribund capitalism. The supplanting of free competition by monopoly is the fundamental economic characteristic, the quintessence of imperialism. Monopoly manifests itself in five main forms: (1) cartels, syndicates and trusts—the concentration of production has reached a degree which gives rise to these monopolistic associations of capitalists; (2) the monopolistic position of the big banks – three, four or five giant banks manipulate the entire economic life of America, France, Germany; (3) the seizure of the sources of raw materials by the trusts and the financial oligarchy (finance capital is monopoly industrial capital merged with banking capital); (4) the (economic) partitioning of the world by international cartels has begun. There are already more than a hundred international cartels of this type, which control the entire world market and share it “amicably”, until the war divides it again. The export of capital, as opposed to the export of commodities under non-monopoly capitalism, is a highly characteristic phenomenon and is closely linked to the economic and political territorial partition of the world; (5) the territorial partition of the world (the colonies) is complete.
Lenin goes on to point out that “imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalism in America and Europe, and later in Asia, took its final form in the period 1898-1914. The Spanish-American War (1898), the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and the economic crisis in Europe in 1900 are the main historical milestones of the new era of world history. .”
It is important to emphasize that, as Marxist-Leninists understand, imperialism and monopoly capitalism are identical. You can’t have one without the other.
In The misery of philosophy, Marx writes that monopoly derives dialectically from competition. Marx argued that, through the process of capitalism’s own internal laws of motion, capital becomes more and more centralized, more and more concentrated, in the hands of fewer and fewer capitalists. But it was Lenin who saw the practical results of this process and well understood the relationship between imperialism and proletarian revolution.
Every modern industry is currently dominated by only a handful of monopoly firms. The big banks mingled with industry, creating finance capital and with it a finance oligarchy. They exploit workers both at home and abroad. These financial oligarchs have come to dominate the bourgeois states, using their money to manipulate the media and buy off politicians, and thus use the imperialist army to partition and divide the world according to their own economic interests. This led to two world wars in the name of imperialist re-distribution of the world.
A main characteristic of imperialism is national and colonial oppression. We will come back to this in more detail later, but for now it is important to understand that national oppression is a product of monopoly capitalism. Seeking relief from the chronic crises of capitalism, monopoly capitalists seek to dominate markets and export capital around the world. They rob and plunder the so-called third world and bring the spoils of super-profits home. This process locks and strengthens semi-colonial and semi-feudal relations in these countries, hampering their development. American imperialism lives as a parasite of the oppression of entire nations and peoples. The United States has colonies in the Caribbean like Puerto Rico and in the Pacific like Guam and the Marshall Islands. Within its own borders, imperialism also uses national oppression to dominate the Hawaiian Nation, the Chicano Nation in the Southwest, and the African American Nation in the Black Belt South.
At the end of World War II, the United States became the dominant imperialist power. However, it has since racked up a series of military defeats against rising national liberation struggles, most notably Vietnam in the 1970s, which marked the beginning of the decline of US imperialism. The rise of socialist countries has largely contributed to this decline. And while the United States is currently at the forefront of the imperialist powers, inter-imperialist rivalry still exists, and other imperialist blocs, such as the European Union and Japan, are also seeking market dominance. global.
Currently, however, the main contradiction on a global scale is the contradiction between imperialism on the one hand and national liberation movements on the other. It is the anti-imperialist struggles of the masses of the oppressed nations that are today the main force against imperialism.
National liberation wars that weaken imperialism are progressive. As Stalin said in Foundations of Leninism“The fight led by the Emir of Afghanistan for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary fight, despite the monarchist views of the emir and his associates, because it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism”. Revolutionaries in imperialist countries should be what Lenin called “revolutionary defeatists”, opposing and seeking the defeat of their own country in imperialist wars.
Modern imperialism has many tools at its disposal. It relies on and maintains a vast network of military bases and military alliances such as NATO, imposes sanctions and uses economic coercion and blackmail through institutions such as the IMF, WTO and the World Bank. It uses direct military intervention and instigates coups for destabilization and regime change purposes, or pours billions of dollars into proxy wars across states like Israel and Ukraine. Because he is in decline, he becomes more belligerent and desperately seeks every possible way to restore the balance of power in his favor.
Marxist-Leninists analyze imperialism because we want to put this analysis into practice. We must understand who our friends and enemies are, and we must understand how and why our enemies do what they do so that we can act most effectively to bring down the imperialist monster of slaughter and plunder once and for all.