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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri May 30 2003 - 09:53:50 EDT

gerald_a_levy wrote:
> 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.
> Yes, a high proportion of the investment by corporations from
> imperialist nations is within other imperialist nations.  This in no way
> undercuts Lenin's theory of imperialism, since it was a process that he
> (and Hilferding, Luxemburg,  Bukharin, Preobrazhensky and others)
> understood well.

There is a serious point here, at present capital export among
advanced countries is pretty well negatively correlated with

US is main imperialist power and main capital importer.

> > 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.
> I agree that the trend towards cartelization that Lenin highlighted has not
> been a major trend in world markets for many decades.  So, to the extent
> that there is this "identification", then I agree that it is no longer
> satisfactory.
> OTOH, one can argue that there is a long-term trend -- a consequence of
> the concentration and centralization of capital -- for markets to become
> increasingly dominated by *oligopolies*.  Oligopolies are not (to use a
> mainstream  economists' expression) 'pure monopolies' (and they are not,
> typically,  cartel members),  but they do have 'monopoly power' (i.e. market
> power resembling that of monopolies).
> btw, I think that Lenin (and the others cited above) used the expression
> 'monopoly' more broadly than it is used today by mainstream economists.
> I.e. for Lenin, and other Marxists writing at the same time or before, there
> could be more than one monopoly in a market and rivalry could exist
> among monopolies in the same market.  Thus, Lenin and many other
> Marxists considered monopolies to be more like what was later called
> oligopolies -- although the dynamic of product differentiation as a
> competitive strategy was not highlighted by Lenin and others whereas
> it became an essential, defining characteristic of  oligopolies within the
> tradition of writers on that subject.
> > 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.
> Anti-trust policies within advanced capitalist nations are typically
> directed at cartels and 'pure monopolies' (which are rare) rather than
> oligopolies (which are common).
> > 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.
> One has to examine the transfer of surplus value internationally and
> rent to more concretely make the connections and explain this process.
> One also has to, relatedly, consider different national and regional
> standards for SNLT including different standards for labor intensity
> and the value of labour-power.  This study implies -- indeed requires
> -- a comprehension of the history and dynamics of class struggle in
> different nations and regions. The state, foreign trade  and the world
> market and crises also have to be systematically comprehended.
> One has to remember that Lenin's pamphlet was a self-described "popular"
> work in which he explicitly recognized -- and called for -- the need for
> more  research to  be done (he singled out Bukharin as one of those who
> needed to investigate imperialism further).  So, in that sense _Imperialism_
> was not  a very advanced  "theoretical" work (nor did it claim to be).
> Rather, it was an attempt to comprehend what was in that time the "latest"
> stage of capitalism.
> Whether the "imperialism" that Lenin described is  (essentially) the
> "imperialism" of today (or even, as you ask, whether there is imperialism
> today) are serious questions that need to be grappled with.  There is indeed
> a whole literature among Marxists that attempts to answer these questions,
> e.g. Bill Warren's _Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism_ (Verso, 1980) and
> critiques of Warren's book.
> Sorry, but I don't have time for more now.
> In solidarity, Jerry

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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