Re: (OPE-L) 1, 2, 3, how many imperialist powers?

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Wed May 28 2003 - 11:50:28 EDT

Cologne 28-May-2003

gerald_a_levy schrieb  Tue, 27 May 2003 18:26:40 -0400:

> Paul C, responding to Paul B, wrote on Tuesday, May 27:
> > He  (Michael E, JL) was making a fair point that Germany at
> > present is not an  imperial power. Clearly it was in the past,
> > it might be in the future but it is not one now.
> > The USA clearly is an imperial power, and so is France, and the UK
> > is in the process of re-establishing itself as such.
> We agree that the US, France, and the UK are imperialist powers.
> Why not Germany?  Why not Japan?  Why not many other
> advanced capitalist nations?  Why not e.g. Sweden and Switzerland?
> I gather you are presupposing that a military is a precondition for
> imperialism?  How so?  Can't the export of capital, the growth of
> finance capital, the territorial division of the world among the capitalist
> powers, etc. proceed without all of those great powers needing a military?
> While Germany doesn't have a military, what about the role of German
> banks and German-based transnational corporations in world markets
> and the EU?  Clearly Germany is the biggest economic power in the EU.
> Isn't the EU imperialist?
> In solidarity, Jerry


This and Allin's comment show that the concept and phenomenon of imperialism
are by no means clear.

Allin wrote Wed, 28 May 2003 00:09:28 -0400:
>To be an imperial power, you need an empire: foreign countries over
>which you exercise direct political domination, which requires
>military power as precondition or back-up.  Being home-base to banks
>with a wide international influence is not having an empire.

Direct political domination implies, as you have pointed out, colonies and
colonialism and thus the subjugation of foreign peoples to rule by a superior
state power, ultimately bolstered by military might.

Most empires the world has known have been based on a system of tribute. The
interest in conquering was to gain wealth. Capitalist colonialism exploited the
colonies more by way of the exploitation of natural resources and labouring
populations (whilst also shaping these societies decisively, not always for the

Capitalist colonialism more or less dissolved after WW II. To call what comes
after, neo-colonialism seems to be a paucity of concept.

The "export of capital" to other countries cannot be any criterion for
"imperialism", especially since most foreign investment is made among the rich
capitalist countries investing in each other.

Lenin says straight out, "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. ...
Monopoly! This is the last word in the 'latest phase of capitalist devlopment'"
(Lenin, _Imperialism. The highest stage of capitalism_ in Selected Works Vol. 1
Progress, Moscow 1970 pp.684, 690).

This identification of imperialism with the tendency toward the formation of
large monopolies and cartels seem highly unsatisfactory. Monopoly and cartel
are simply possible forms of capitalist competition. Even when national
capitals fuse together, they still compete against other big capitals on the
world market. Furthermore, in the meantime (since 1916), there has been a big
move against the formation of capitalist cartels, trusts and monopolies
overseen by the capitalist state and international organs have been set up for
the purpose of restricting monopoly practices.

So some other approach to the phenomenon is required in order to "bring it to
its concept".

Imperialism implies some sort of exploitation of foreign parts. If these
foreign parts are not directly subjugated (i.e. through the medium of political
and ultimately military power), then the exploitation must amount to some kind
of unfair capitalist competition. That is, the countries in which capitals from
rich, developed capitalist countries are invested must be at some kind of
structual or 'essential' disadvantage in the capitalist competition.

To claim simply that the investment of rich capitalist countries in poor
countries is already imperialism because a foreign workforce is exploited
presupposes that capitalist investment is exploitative in itself, i.e. it
presupposes the orthodox LTV and its associated TSV. But that is not very
helpful, for why should it matter, in that case, whether the domestic workforce
or a foreign workforce is exploited (i.e. 'surplus-labour' is pumped out of the
one just as much as the other). Or is it a matter of degree? Does imperialism
exist (within the bounds of the orthodox LTV and TSV) when the degree of
surplus-labour exploitation in the foreign country exceeds that of the domestic

As I say, the preceding presupposes the LTV in conjunction with the TSV which
lays down a priori that all capitalist gain is expropriated from labourers. The
phenomenon of imperialism (not to say, empire) disappears under such

It seems to me that imperialism in truth refers to a world political situation
among countries in which unfair rules for capitalist competition apply.
Monopolies and cartels are one instance of unfair capitalist competition.
Unfairness seems a far cry from imperialism, and is probably a 'bourgeois
falsification' of a Marxist concept, but no matter. Fairness, equity is
fundamental to any conception of justice and has been so since the ancient

If poor countries are systematically excluded from bettering their lot (i.e.
the lives of their populations) by virtue of the politically enforced rules of
play holding sway on the world markets, then there is something wrong with the
workings of capitalist competition.

A blatant current example of unfairness which keeps countries poor is the
Common Agricultural Policy in force in the EU. Politically motivated trade
barriers prevent poor countries from selling their agricultural products in
Europe. Moreover, their domestic agricultural industries can also be severely
damaged by the import of subsidized EU agricultural products (e.g. Italian
tomatoes imported by South Africa).

Such structural impediments to fair capitalist competition can be fought
against and are being fought against.

If one operates from the base of the LTV and TSV, then no good at all can come
from rich capitalist countries investing in poor countries. All investment of
capital is then exploitation of workers and therefore bad. But I say that it
all depends on the conditions of this investment. Providing people with jobs
and a better material standard of living and stimulating the rest of the
economy, especially by opening opportunities for small scale enterprise, can be
good things for a poor country whilst at the same time also being good for the
capitalist enterprise investing.

It must also be considered that the impediments to people improving their lots
are by no means imposed solely by rich capitalist countries. Not at all.
Indigenous populations are also responsible for their own misery, especially
through cultural legacies (cf. the sad cases of degenerated Muslim countries
from Morocco through to Indonesia). And dictatorships and war abound in parts
of the world such as Africa which cannot be conceived simply as puppet regimes
held in power by rich capitalist states. The abuse of political power by
dictators and tyrants is not a bourgeois-capitalist invention. The misery
inflicted on the populations of African countries by rapacious tyrants is
immeasurable, and this is not attributable to some kind of imperialist
conspiracy. That is too easy, too Manichaeistic to my mind.

You wrote above:
>We agree that the US, France, and the UK are imperialist powers.

I can't agree. It seems to me to be a misnomer. The struggle among nation
states on the world political stage does not already amount to something that
could be called imperialism, nor even that some capitalist nation states are
immeasurably more powerful economically, politically and, ultimately,
militarily than others in this struggle. It all depends on how (_pos_) that
power (_dynamis_) is actualized (_entelecheia_), i.e. how it becomes present in
the world. There is both just and unjust exercise of (economic, political,
military) power.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat May 31 2003 - 00:00:01 EDT