Re: [OPE] theories of imperialism

From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
Date: Mon Mar 28 2011 - 09:49:19 EDT


One of the first multinationals was the Dutch East India Company established
in 1602, which operated almost like a state of its own. It operated its own
ships, schools, hospitals, monetary currency, security force, military
policy etc.; it enacted treaties; and it organized the production and
distribution of commodities along a trading route spanning half the world.
But contrary to a popular myth, the Company did not invent the joint-stock
principle, which is in fact vastly older. Prior to that time, there were
already multinational trading houses of various sorts operating in places
like Amsterdam, London, Hamburg, and Genoa.

When Lenin lived, not only was much of Marx's writing not available; the
historical information about the human past was also often sketchy, and
distorted by colourful "interpretations" which could not be verified.

What you say about MNCs is quite a popular idea on the Left, in fact Robert
Went wrote it up as a thesis before accepting a position with the Dutch
Treasury. I suppose there is a grain of truth in the argument, since there
is a difference between the expansion of the world market and the expansion
of the capitalist mode of production, transforming peasants into
proletarians. However, the point is that a large share of the multinationals
which operate today in capitalist environments worldwide already existed as
multinationals in the early years of the century (although some were taken
over by others). So all we are really talking about here is a change in the
scale of corporate operations and a change in the relations of production of
the host country.


----- Original Message -----
From: "GERALD LEVY" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Monday, March 28, 2011 3:20 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE] theories of imperialism

>> 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.
> Hi Jurriaan:
> I agree with this point, although I don't think this dispute is
> most clearly focused by looking at Lenin's theory but rather by critically
> examining the Baran-Sweezy perspective.
>> In addition, there is almost no connection between his theory of
>> imperialism and the laws of motion of capital specified by Marx.
> Virtually all of the Bolshevik and social democratic theoreticians of that
> time accepted disproportionality and/or underconsumptionist theories
> of crisis. Although Engels edited and published the drafts for Volume
> III of _Capital_ in 1894 (in German), it was quite some time before
> the perspective advanced there was accessed by Marxists of the time.
> (Speculative question: maybe this is because many of them having read
> Volume 2 had already accepted the [partial] 'story' of the laws of
> motion based on the reading of that, especially related to the
> reproduction
> schemes? Maybe also it fit in better with their already presented
> political
> perspectives? It is an undeniable fact, I think, that once Marxist
> authors [not just academics, but leading political figures] have
> accepted a particular narrative of a process, they are generally loathe to
> change their perspective.)
> In your 3/23 post responding to Paula, you referred to multinational
> corporations (MNCs). You seemed to suggest that MNCs have been around for
> hundreds of years. I agree that there have been international businesses
> around since the dawn of capitalism (and in some cases even before)
> so in that sense the internationalization of capital has a very long
> history and certainly did not begin with what Lenin refers to as the
> epoch of imperialism. However, I think that MNCs are NOT simply a
> continuation on an increased scale of this already existing trend.
> What distinguishes MNCs from prior forms of international businesses
> is that with MNCs there is both production and distribution within
> many different t countries. THe older forms of businesses which had
> existed had a different division of labor - for instance where you
> had raw material extraction processes in colonies or 'developing'
> capitalist nations and then manufacture and sale within the advanced
> capitalist nations. Before MNCs could arise, there had to be the
> creation of more of a global market for means of consumption and
> means of production. With the advent of MNCs the same commodity
> types which were produced in the advanced capitalist economies
> were increasingly produced - and sold - in many different countries
> experiencing differing levels of capitalist development. In this
> sense, there was something qualitatively new about MNCs - even
> though this trend which really took off in the 1960s (and 70's and
> 80's) could be seen indeed as an extension of the logic of
> the tendencies for increased centralization and concentration of
> capital.
> In solidarity, Jerry
> _______________________________________________
> ope mailing list

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Received on Mon Mar 28 09:50:13 2011

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