[OPE-L:1924] Re: Accumulation of capital and Imperialism

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 19:32:11 -0700

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Paul Z wrote in [OPE-L:1923]:

> Jerry, I believe everyone on this list thinks that accumulation of
capital is a necessity of the capitalist mode of production. If one goes
> with Marx's understanding that it means increasing labor power exploited
> by capital, then that necessity of accumulation is also a necessity for
> imperialism (among other phenomena). However, if accumulation of capital
> does NOT mandate increasing labor power exploited by capital, then
> imperialism is a "policy" as opposed to a necessity. You can imagine all
> the political fights that can be generated over such as issue, and thus
> the theoretical import of being clear on the concept.

OK, thanks Paul. The above certainly makes it clearer for me why you
consider the issue important.

I hesitate to reply in depth to your comments since that would almost
certainly require us to define and explain the process of imperialism,
which, I guess we could all agree, is a "post-Capital" topic.

A few brief comments, though:

(1) It would appear that we on OPE-L (not necessarily you and I) understand
both imperialism and its relevance to contemporary capitalism differently
(you might recall a long post that Paul C wrote a few months back on this

(2) I would suggest that it might be useful to ask, before asking about
the necessity of imperialism, whether we agree that there is - at a later
level of analysis - a necessary dynamic leading to the
internationalization of capital. In terms of V1, where this topic is not
discussed systematically, I would suggest that in addition to the
accumulation of capital the related processes of the centralization and
concentration of capital, as well as the production of relative surplus
value and the increasing organic composition of capital, have relevance
for that topic. Then, of course, there are Volumes 2 and 3 ....

(3) Given the above, we can not establish the "necessity" of imperialism
at this time since:

a) We have so far remained (mostly) focused on the process of capitalist
production rather than moving forward to the process of capitalist
circulation and later capitalist production as a whole. For
instance, we would certainly need to develop an understanding of
competition prior to establishing whether imperialism is
necessary, wouldn't you agree? Other subjects such as foreign
trade, the state, and the world market are also of relevance.

b) We would have to have a (what I suspect will be a lengthy)
discussion on the meaning of the term imperialism (and perhaps
necessity as well as it relates to conjunctural and epochal events)
- which, btw, I look forward to.

c) How we understand the relation of the accumulation of capital to
the impulse for imperialism is, as you are aware, a rather large
topic debated in the literature. To give one example, Luxemburg argued
that the accumulation of capital gave rise to imperialism, through an
analysis of the reproduction of capital and the realization of surplus
value, yet I suspect that her understanding of the necessity of
imperialism is quite different than your own.

Of course, if people really want to discuss these issues now or soon, we
can. However, I suggest that if we decide to do so, we all brace
ourselves for what could be the mother of all threads.

Finally, I would like to thank Paul for what has been a very interesting
and lively thread - even if the two of us were somewhat repetitive at

In OPE-L Solidarity,