Re: [OPE-L] Imperialism in our century.

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Dec 31 2007 - 18:08:19 EST

 Dave Z
However, there are two issues that I think lack analysis:

What is the relation between the capitalism and the nation state,
especially once capitalism has reached a truly global scale? From a
purely abstract capitalist logic one would expect a decay of smaller
nation states and the formation of larger blocs of juridical and
military power, e.g. as the EU. But the reverse seems to be true. 

Paul C
What do you mean by the last sentence Dave?

Dave Z
the integration of global capitalism today I have a hard time to see
that the rivalries between capitals  themselves will translate into
rivalries between nation states (except for the case of state-capitalist

Paul C

Could one not have argued the same thing in 1908?

Remember that states are something quite different from capitalist firms.
States are territorial organisations that appropriate a significant, often
major, part of the surplus product in the teritories that they control.
As such they have distinct interests as surplus appropriators. They are 
typically controlled by the propertied classes within that territory, but,
in parliamentary states, have also to respond to the interests of other
classes. They also have the power to create money, upon which power the
whole process of capital accumulation ultimately depends, since capitalist
wealth is denominated in the money created by these states.

It is quite exceptional for a state to be controlled by and in the service
of 'capital' they are typically in the service of 'national interests' and
influenced primarily by firms based in their territory. In recent years the
UK state has come to approximate a state in the service of 'capital in general',
but that reflects the particular preponderance of finance capital within the
UK economy. Few other capitalist states approach this British level of openness to
foreign capital.

Consider the degree wo which the US state and the US currency are dependent on German
Chinese and Japanese credit. The creditor states could, with adjustment to their
internal policies remove these lines of credit. 

Kalecki teaches us that the mass of profit in a capitalist economy is determined
by the sum of capitalist consumption, net investment and the trade surplus.
The trade surplus that China runs with the US constitutes a huge boost to
the profits of Chinese firms, even if from the standpoint of a rational
Smithean calculus, it constitutes nothing more than a huge loss, a huge subsidy
to the US. From the standpoint of individual chinese firms the trade surplus
is a big gain, it boosts their profits. From the standpoint of the state however,
as personified by the state bank, it is of much more dubious benefit. It causes
an accumulation of dollar holdings of increasingly perilous real  value.

One response is to set up large state venture funds so that China can convert these
surpluses into equity capital, but such equity capital need not be invested in the USA.
Another response could be for the state to step up internal infrastructure investment -
but with 50% of Chinese gdp currently going on investment there is little room for this to go much further.
Alternatively the surplus could be expended as internal state spending on either armaments or
welfare as happened in for example the UK during the 50s.

But if these things happen, what position does that put the USA in?
Suppose that the financing available for the current US deficit of some $700 billion
dried up.
Will it still be able to sustain its current level of imports of manufactured
goods and oil?
What would be the implications for the US state if it could no longer finance
anything near current levels of oil imports?

The free market value of the dollar would decline much further than it has already.
Costs of oil and manufactured goods in US shops would rise even more drastically.
What would the implications of this be for political stability with the state?
What would the implications be for the continued viability of the US armed forces
if they could no longer afford the oil they currently use?

These factors alone would seem to provide ample motivation for the revival of
imperialism in its most classic form -- the seizure of territories rich in raw
materials, first Iraq, then perhaps Iran, then Venezuela. If all these countries 
were under US occupation they would have to supply oil in dollars, however depreciated
the dollar becomes on the world market.

We should not be using the imperialism of 1908 as our model, but the imperialism of

Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 3125

//Dave Z

on 2007-12-30 21:33 clyder@GN.APC.ORG wrote:
> Have members seen Paul Cerni's article on the political enconomy of
> imperialism in the 21st century
> I was very impressed by it but it raises many controversial issues.

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