Re: [OPE] fascism / opposing imperialist military intervention in Libya

From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
Date: Mon Mar 28 2011 - 04:42:55 EDT

Hi Claus,

Thanks for your response. I can hardly be "in denial" of the Marxist theory
of imperialism, since "the" Marxist theory of imperialism does not exist

At most you could say that Lenin's political pamphlet on the "latest stage
of capitalism", written mainly in exile in Switzerland and based on extracts
from 148 books and 232 articles in four languages, and abbreviated to
accommodate Russian censors, has been most influential among Marxists. If
you care to look a bit further though, you will see that many prominent
Marxists published theories of imperialism in Lenin's era (Hilferding,
Bauer, Luxemburg, Bukharin, Sternberg, Grossman, etc.). A number of the
theories are unknown to English readers, since they were never translated.
Subsequently many more different theories were published.

I draw a sharp distinction myself between Marx and Engels on the one hand,
and Marxism on the other. Much of what Marx and Engels said was I think
perfectly valid, but the Marxist reinterpretation of that is often largely a
religion. Nobody these days accepts Darwin's theory completely literally,
though he was substantially on the right track with his findings. When
Michael Barratt Brown criticized Lenin' theory in a sympathetic way, he was
doing this in a non-religious manner.

Since we have available Lenin's notebooks which he used for the purpose of
writing his pamphlet, we can verify very exactly its connection with Marx's
theory of capital, and there just isn't much connection, other than the
empirical "concentration and centralization of capital" you mention. In that
sense, Luxemburg tried to be much more orthodox, because she tried to deduce
the logic of imperialist development from Marx's reproduction schema's.

It is not in dispute whether processes of monopolization and oligopolisation
occur, but rather with how pervasive they are exactly, and whether they
cancel out the laws of motion of capital identified by Marx, or whether they
cancel out business competition. Many of the relevant points in the
discussion can be verified straightforwardly by looking at the available
data about industrial concentration and business activity.

Lenin was not wrong to mention the characteristics that he does mention. He
could hardly be wrong there, since he merely retrieved them from scholarly
commentaries and analyses of the known facts. Nor was he wrong in his
assessment of the barbaric potential of imperialist violence. Where he went
wrong is, in his theoretical specification of a "new stage" of capitalism,
since the criteria he cites for this new stage do not suffice to mark it off
as a "new stage". At most they are quantitative changes, not qualitative
changes. In addition, there is almost no connection between his theory of
imperialism and the laws of motion of capital specified by Marx.

In Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, there was some scientific attempt to
rectify the problems of the Marxist discussion about the international
capitalist economy, as I pointed out many years ago (see further the article
of Oliver Nachtwey and Tobias ten Brink, "Lost in Transition: the German
World-Market Debate in the 1970s". Historical Materialism, issue 16, 2008,
pp. 37-70). But most of that discussion was never translated, and the
discussion mainly degenerated into a pomo "globalisation" soup. That is why
we now get theorists who claim that "the best way to support
anti-imperialism is to support the imperialists".


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