MSZ (March 1981)
A topical but erroneous classic
Lenin: Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
In this series, we discuss classics of Marxism that have attained some standing in the history of the labor movement or the bourgeois sciences: either as ideological courts of appeal or as proofs for conditional usefulness. The old writings should be given the honor that their remarks are occassionally noticed – which might tell us something about why some are considered so useful and others so reprehensible. It has been apparent to us for some time that acquaintance with the classics has little to do with whether they are correct or not: that’s why they are trendy with friend and foe alike! That’s why Capital appeals to so many philosophers, The German Ideology to sociologists, Lenin’s What is to Be Done to not a single Green – and since the People’s Republic of China converted from a socialist model to a developing country, nobody wants to know Mao’s views any more. In a sense, as a correction to this fussy treatment of the revered and hated teachers of revolution, we would like to advise a dogmatic treatment of their ideas without any obligations, which will perhaps settle the problem of whether the Marxist Group is a Marxist-Leninist sect: “We don’t believe in any of them, and if L says something true, it is just as dear to us as M...”
Lenin wrote his widely circulated essay – it entered the training canon of the West German M-L parties in the golden 70s, unlike Marx’s Capital, from which only the chapters on the working day and original accumulation ever attained such an honor – in the middle of World War I. In view of this fact, he aimed to prove something rather peculiar. He wanted to show
“that imperialist wars are absolutely inevitable under such an economic system, as long as private property in the means of production exists.”
At a time when the slaughter of nations was in full swing, a theoretical pamphlet to demonstrate the necessity of war, to show that private property is the reason for the imperialistic resort to violence, with the help of, and at the expense of, millions of people doing their national duties – for a revolutionary, this was not at all an obvious thing to do. This type of argument is in no way addressed to the affected people who are just concerned with killing and dying in a very practical way. It does not agitate the victims of imperialism to show what wrong things they are thinking and what they are doing to their own detriment, that is, it is not a theoretical message aimed at changing the practical position of the class whose interests the communists want to carry out. How could deliberations about how enormously the contradictions of imperialism are sharpening under the rule of finance capital be a practical guide of any use for an uprising by those who are currently suffering those contradictions?
Lenin’s theory of imperialism is a polemic of a different kind. It was meant to be a reasoned reckoning with the politics of the parties which, as organizations of the workers’ movement, had made their peace with the class state and had themselves advocated war to enforce its foreign policy concerns. Social Democratic politicians who had just agreed to the Basel resolutions turned out to be zealous advocates of their nation’s projects, so that Lenin wrote “with feelings of the deepest bitterness” in 1914:
“The most influential socialist leaders and the most influential organs of the socialist press of present-day Europe hold views that are chauvinist, bourgeois and liberal, and in no way socialist.”
With his analysis, which was intended to present “a composite picture of the world capitalist system in its international interrelations,” he objected to the patent development of formerly communist parties into the now standard social democracies, into parties competing with reform alternatives for the government of the class state. After ideologies for a leftist nationalism had been provided by the major theorists of the Second International, as well as by scholars from the bourgeois camp, Lenin wanted to fundamentally refute these partisans of the class state and its foreign policy activity. With a correct theory of imperialism, he wanted to clarify what socialist parties were dealing with, what they had to stand for, and which illusory objectives they had to correct:
“Unless the economic roots of this phenomenon are understood and its political and social significance is appreciated, not a step can be taken toward the solution of the practical problem of the communist movement and of the impending social revolution.”
In such methodological remarks, which are frequent not only in the preface, Lenin insists that communists must know what they are up against; that political decisions must follow from insight into the reasons and purposes of imperialist activity and not from hopes and ideals of peace. He therefore polemicizes against the Kautskyian compliment to the politics of capitalist nations that they contain within themselves the possibility of peaceful dealings with the rest of the world; he castigates the farewell to class struggle and the concern with better political alternatives in foreign policy which is only consistent for a party if it considers the safeguarding of peace to be a state mandate:
“The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy ‘preferred’ by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which, he alleges, is possible on this very same basis of finance capital.”
Moreover, Lenin here addresses the substance of the argument he wants to make as to the necessity for the violent incursions of capitalist states. For him it lies in the economic laws of motion, the decisive business interests of “finance capital.” These interests and their developing forms determine the course of international disputes – finance capital casts “its nets in the literal sense out over all countries of the world,” and it “also leads directly to the subdivision of the world.”
The reason for imperialism: the economy of modern capitalism
Lenin’s argument against the theorists of opportunism in the Second International – that they would separate politics from its economic basis – is the prelude to the analysis of capital and its business practices, in which politics and its purposes do not even appear in the first place. Lenin generously dispenses with the distinction between economics and politics out of the “orthodox” certainty that the latter consists in nothing but the execution of the business interests of capital. In this respect, his essay belongs to that branch of Marxist theory which, in its commitment to the “economic base” that “determines” everything else, very consistently avoids the specific subject and makes a wrong “determination” of politics. The few remarks on the relationship between state and capital under imperialism illustrate how Lenin sees the connection between the capitalists’ interest in profit and the foreign policy of the ideal collective capitalist:
“Salvation lies in monopoly, said the capitalists as they formed cartels, syndicates and trusts. Salvation lies in monopoly, echoed [!] the political leaders of the bourgeoisie, hastening to appropriate the parts of the world not yet shared out.”
And on this basis, the self-critical regret in the preface is rather superfluous –
“I shall not be able to deal with the non-economic aspects of the question, however much they deserve to be dealt with”
– because with the deduction of imperialism from monopoly and finance capital, Lenin succeeds in the great feat of presenting the necessity of annexations and wars between imperialist states as a business operation – and, vice versa, passing off international business for the continuity of capitalist enrichment as carried out beyond all state actions and means. Lenin deals with the world market and the forms of foreign policy not as consequences of capitalist private property and its promotion by the class state, but as a change in capitalism; and for him the undeniable service of the class state for the nation’s wealth which exists as capital is – according to the title: imperialism as a stage – settled with the innovations he ascribes to capital. Ironically, the methodological credo of Marxism – that one has to understand the “economic roots,” the “separation” of the political superstructure from the economic base – is the error in his view that leads to a distinct revision of precisely Marx’s explanation of the economy. This revision begins with Lenin’s discovery of
These are economic entities which escape competition, which their enormous size permits them to do. Lenin, for the purpose of demonstrating his discovery that capitalism has fundamentally changed – “competition turns into monopoly” – refers on the one hand to Marx’s statements about concentration and centralization; on the other hand, he draws quite odd conclusions from the statement that the size of capital represents a means of business. Suspension in competition is something completely different than its abolition, and the fact that a monopoly is the ideal of every entrepreneur does not mean that this ideal has long been reached with price and market agreements. Or to let Lenin himself to deny it: competition (for the others who still exist!) is difficult and “monopoly” is a tendency:
“Almost half the total production of all the enterprises of the country was carried on by one-hundredth part of these enterprises! These 3,000 giant enterprises embrace 258 branches of industry. From this it can be seen that at a certain stage of its development concentration itself, as it were [!], leads straight [!] to monopoly, for a score or so of giant enterprises can easily arrive at an agreement, and on the other hand, the hindrance [!] to competition, the tendency [!] towards monopoly, arises from the huge size of the enterprises. This transformation of competition into monopoly is one of the most important—if not the most important—phenomena of modern capitalist economy …”
Neither the statistics about the size of companies or about the number of firms involved in competition prove the transition to its absence; and much less is this proved by agreements between competitors used as temporary means for their profits. Lenin also seems to know this, which is why he makes the contrast between “transitory” and “foundational”:
“instead of being a transitory phenomenon, the cartels have become one of the foundations of economic life.”
But no matter how many “monopolist manufacturers’ associations [?], cartels, syndicates” are counted and named, they do not prove the “replacement of capitalist free competition by capitalist monopoly,” and if the motor of cartel formation is served in some times by industrial protective tariffs and in other times by free trade, then there is explicit talk of a means of competition from which Lenin admittedly again elicits the “monopoly capitalist tendency.” He stubbornly holds to this tendency, and that it is not logic that inspires him to declare the age of monopoly “the direct opposite of free competition,” but a peculiar sort of moralism, is showed by the achievements which he attributes to the monopolies: they make “super profits,” and if then, nevertheless, troublesome competitors prevent the “direct opposite,” they even sacrifice profits, taking up dumping, “throttling those who do not submit to them, to their yoke, to their dictation [!].” Again and again, Lenin succeeds in demonstrating from the data on competition the power of monsters unhampered by any solvent demand, by any market barriers: in the end, domination and omnipotence are the quite uneconomic characteristics of the monopolies, their ruthlessness knows no bounds, violence is their motto – as if the lovely “early capitalism” based on “free competition” with its old economy had been a place of veneration for humankind:
“Domination, and the violence that is associated with it, such are the relationships that are typical of the ‘latest phase of capitalist development’; this is what inevitably had to result, and has resulted, from the formation of all-powerful [!] economic monopolies.”
Here Lenin praises a very bourgeois man from whom he take the term “dominating position,” although the quoted man speaks of the domination of one industry (!) over another. And this manner of constantly calling on bourgeois witnesses for his discovery of the profound change to monopoly corresponds quite well to the bourgeois, and not at all to revolutionary, rhetoric of the Big Players who do what they want, which a Marxist had better not concur with. But Lenin knows very well how to recite a moral denunciation in “Marxist” terms. After once again using competition to castigate the loathesomeness of the monopolies –
“In order to prevent competition in such a profitable industry, the monopolists even resort to various stratagems …”
he proceeds to the damage that the monopolies do, and to the whole society. He takes the ideology of the “elimination of crises by cartels” as the occasion to condemn the “chaotic character” of capitalism and to let the intensity of the main enemy – monopoly – sink in:
“On the contrary, the monopoly created in certain branches of industry increases and intensifies the anarchy inherent in capitalist production as a whole.”
And who benefits from this damage? The monopolies, of course, at least if concentration is the same as centralization and in turn the same as monopoly:
“Crises of every kind—economic crises most frequently, but not only these—in their turn increase very considerably the tendency towards concentration and towards monopoly.”
The capitalism of monopolies only seems properly decadent to a Marxist if it increases the historic bonus points of capitalism but nevertheless fails in the end. The result of the monopolies is
“immense progress in the socialization of production. In particular, the process of technical invention and improvement becomes socialized. This is something quite different from the old free competition between manufacturers, scattered and out of touch with one another, and producing for an unknown market … Skilled labor is monopolized, the best engineers are engaged …”
But nevertheless mankind does not really enjoy the progress of socialization despite the overcoming of competition, which Lenin considers to be a defect of capital and not the motor of accumulation and the complaint of capitalists who are just rationalizing! After all, while production is ... socialized, the appropriation remains private – and so the “gigantic technical progress” is definitely confronted with “stagnation and decay”:
“Since monopoly prices are established, even temporarily [!], the motive cause of technical and, consequently, of all other progress disappears to a certain extent [!] and, further, the economic possibility [!!!] arises of deliberately retarding technical progress.”
So the monopolies accomplish the trick of retarding the progress that they themselves organize, but still unload a huge amount of pressure on the “rest of the population,” and the theory of state monopoly capitalism is already half complete for the epigones. Now all that is necessary is the accusation that the state is working for the monopolies instead of for the oppressed, i.e. the “underprivileged” as would be appropriate for a genuine class state – and the “social revolution” takes to the stage of ideas in the name of the “majority” on the way to an “anti-monopoly democracy.”
So imperialism has yet to be identified, but a new criticism of capitalism is launched in the name of Marx. The record that Engels liked to play all the time about social production (good!) and private appropriation (bad!) lends support. This popular contradiction, which has precious little to do with the antagonism between private and social labor designated in the analysis of the commodity, is already based in its original version on a high opinion of the social character of production, for which capitalism reaps a big plus, although it shares this quality with every mode of production. Its social form of production, the thing with private property, in which wealth confronts its producers as capital and makes them work for it, then turns into the bad side of capitalism, which, like all transient things, needs two sides. In Lenin’s work, this dialectic in the commodity analysis – which, by the way, is called sociology when turned around: “capitalism is a society” is tenet number 1, “everything is social” is tenet number 2, and progressive sociologists with their concern to see everything socially still believe themselves to be following in Marx’s tracks – rises to a new level. The monopoly, which is striven for in order to increase private wealth exclusively against others, makes everything more social – ultimately, more and more the property of others is used for common purposes – so that private appropriation only really becomes an outrage.
It is similiar in the relationship between entrepreneur and banker. Each alone is not very nice; if they merge, however, and one becomes the servant of the other – at least in the view of a Marxist – capitalism enters its imperialist stage. At least according to Lenin’s famous second characteristic,
Lenin, the theorist of imperialism, does not discover imperialism in the bourgeois credit system either, but finds enough opportunities to accuse the capitalist mode of production of a further tendency toward the reprehensible. As in the section on “monopoly,” correct statements about economic processes, sometimes explicitly extracted from Marx’s Capital, are not suitable for this purpose: just as it is not possible to demonstrate the replacement of competition and the new quality of monopoly capitalism from the laws of concentration and centralization, so it is difficult to have an epoch of finance capital dawn by means of the logic of explanations of the relationship of industrial capital and money capital. That’s why progress in the moral condemnation of capitalism is made by another well-known means of evidence:
“It is characteristic of capitalism in general that the ownership of capital is separated from the application of capital to production, that money capital is separated from industrial or productive capital, and that the rentier who lives entirely on income obtained from money capital, is separated from the entrepreneur and from all who are directly concerned in the management of capital. Imperialism, or the domination of finance capital, is that highest stage of capitalism in which this separation reaches vast proportions.”
For a new role of the bank capitalist and his “parasitic” existence, as well as that of the “coupon clippers,” it is useless to reproduce remarks on the separation of money capital and industrial capital; in this context, moreover, Marx speaks of the necessity of the separation, therefore also of its economic function: through the credit superstructure, which as share capital allows the size of a capital to come into its own as a means of competition, capital obtains the freedom to make itself independent of its investment in a specific sphere, whereby its ties to specific persons and its entanglement in a specific trade are also stripped away. Marx was quite indifferent to the fact that bankers and shareholders live off their money capital; rather it seemed interesting to him that they do this at the expense of the working class – and in this they by no means differ from their industrial colleagues. Applying the moral standard of good, because useful, “productive” capitalists and using that to criticize the latest state of exploitation only makes sense to a theorist who wants to prove the progress of capitalism by the “decline” of its ruling class!
In this way, the “innovation” consists, as we said before, first of all in the extent of something usual for capitalism. Lenin, who repeatedly comes up with the “deep” and “deepest” essence of imperialism, discovers it in statistics and charts which, in view of the size of bank assets and the vast quantities of circulating securities, show the reader the new era.
True to his claim as a Marxist, he gives the missing argument for a definition of imperialism in a dialectical reading aid: We have
“detailed statistics which enable one to see to what degree bank capital, etc., has grown, in what precisely the transformation of quantity into quality, of developed capitalism into imperialism, was expressed.”
He lands the third blow with statements by bourgeois economists who embrace the concerns of part of the business world and bemoan its unhealthy developments – which he claims make his “conclusions” irrefutable facts:
“To enable the reader to obtain the most well-grounded idea of imperialism, I deliberately tried to quote as extensively as possible bourgeois economists who have to admit the particularly incontrovertible facts concerning the latest stage of capitalist economy.”
Using these tools, of course, one arrives at astonishing insights about masters and servants within the ruling class. Banks are something other than what they seem; in fact, they are what they are, quite over-sized, which is a measure of their power:
“When carrying the current accounts of a few capitalists, a bank, as it were, transacts a purely technical and exclusively auxiliary operation. [Now comes maybe, like in Marx, the concept of the bank, no] When, however, this operation grows to enormous dimensions we find that a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society; for they are enabled-by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations—first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate …”
Without the slightest hint as to what is going on between banking and industrial capital when capital is lent and securities are traded, the search for the subject that dominates everything and in its omnipotence is responsible for imperialism arrives at its destination. One almost starts to pity the nice industrialists in view of the moloch of finance capital. The poor fellows must show their books if they want to prove their creditworthiness – and it is not that their business is promoted with the help of credit, but that their fate is completely determined! Not even the simple thought that the bank too is “dependent” on the demand for credit and that is “dependent” on industry’s course of business, that in the competition between money capital and industrial capital, therefore, two sections of the ruling class bring about their economic success and fight over the share of profit produced, occurs here! The decent industrial exploitation of former times is confronted with the “dark and dirty” machinations of the banks of today; instead of a respectable interest rate, there is again “usury,” by which the economic role of credit for capitalist production is dissolved into its moral vileness.
At times, reading this, one wonders if there are any industrialists left at all – because the competition between money capital and productive capital, which suits both quite well, does not actually exist for Lenin:
“the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this ‘finance capital’, of a financial oligarchy”
Surely he would also take the personal identity of bankers and industrialists as proof that the latest economic stage has brought about the disappearance of credit and factory and insist, as his epigones do, that even the poor class state is “under the thumb” of finance capital and “must” go into debt! But the invocation of a ruling authority whose omnipotence imposes a terrible toll on the rest of society also requires the existence of victims. So there is a “preponderance of finance capital over all other forms of capital,” a “supremacy of the rentiers and the financial oligarchy”– a small hint that even the nastiest parasite is dependent on a victim, just as a fraudulent speculator needs something to speculate on. Which would also confirm the foolishness of the theorem that capitalism is characterized by its mode of production:
“The characteristic feature of imperialism is not industrial but finance capital.”
The export of capital and the subdivision of the world
Imperialism is for Lenin the business of the monopolies. Finance capitalists have everything under control inside the nation – “Germany is governed by not more than 300 magnates of capital” – as well as abroad, where they come into contact and organize an “imperialist battle between the biggest monopolies over the division of the world.” So the theorem deems that every phenomenon of international trade, every contact between states, every war is merely an example of the machinations of the monopolies, merely a “link in a chain” of the “operations of world finance capital.” Having located the subjects of imperialism, Lenin is deliberately objective and names the ends and means of their actions:
“The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it ‘in proportion to capital’, ‘in proportion to strength’, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism.”
In this way, the theorist of imperialism makes it clear that he is constantly dealing with economic and political procedures of their own kind – “capital” and “power” – but thinks that clarifying the relationship between economics and politics to be pure hair-splitting in view of the factual situation that is obvious to him:
“But strength varies with the degree of economic and political development [a fine discovery!]. In order to understand what is taking place, it is necessary to know what questions are settled by the changes in strength. The question as to whether these changes are ‘purely’ economic or non-economic (e.g., military) is a secondary one, which cannot in the least affect fundamental views on the latest epoch of capitalism. To substitute the question of the form of the struggle and agreements (today peaceful, tomorrow warlike, the next day warlike again) for the question of the substance of the struggle and agreements between capitalist associations is to sink to the role of a sophist.”
It is true that business, exploitation and war do not relate to each other like content and form, it is true that completely different subjects are at work in making profit and waging war – but what does that matter! Not even colonialism proves the equation politics = “business” of the monopolies; if France and England argue about the occupation of the southern Sahara and Germany gets hold of the Namibian desert as a southwestern Germany; if the English state has good relations with the Portugese; if England maintains trade relations with Argentina or Egypt; if France supplies war material to Serbia – “in the end” everything is one and the same. Lenin has the monopolies doing their business abroad even in the middle of war, as if finance capital regards the conquest of “still to be developed sources of raw materials” an investment opportunity and not a state-decreed mobilization! Which is why, whenever the equation war = profit is attacked, Lenin’s upstanding supporters always think of the speculation on the fictitious accumulation that a state sets in motion when going to war – if not the weapons industry directly.
So what does “the epoch of late capitalism” show to someone who knows finance capital is at work and who has exposed the political leaders as second fiddles? Just this:
“The epoch of the latest stage of capitalism shows us that certain relations between capitalist associations grow up [that’s for sure!], based on the economic division of the world; while [!] parallel to and in connection [which?] with it, certain relations [again!] grow up between political alliances, between states, on the basis of the territorial division of the world, of the struggle for colonies, of the ‘struggle for spheres of influence’.”
Whoever accepts this much certainty as a joke of imperialism and can imagine the division of the world twice and in this context, will also find the historic comparisons Lenin makes for his stage illuminating:
“Typical of the old capitalism, when free competition held undivided sway, was the export of goods. Typical of the latest stage of capitalism, when monopolies rule, is the export of capital.”
Exports are of least interest in this important historical development, that is, the fact that goods and capital cross borders between states that take care of business, open it by force, encourage it or hinder it. English colonial history, which really was not an exchange of finished goods for raw materials (who mined and cultivated these raw materials and by what means; what were the names of the Indian investors, what was used to pay for them?!), occurred there easily as trade, and for the rule of the monopolies Lenin invents investment criteria that turns “backward countries” into capitalistic markets with low prices:
“In these backward countries profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, raw materials are cheap.”
It is incomprehensible why this economy has to go to so-called “backwards countries” in the world market, why capitalists cram their home countries with industry and do not want to use the cheap workforce of Africa who are available for 20 pennies per week and would rather let them die! That the mentioned countries do not become a “market” due to their political and economic use by capitalist nations; that with the destruction of the traditional modes of production many South American and Asian people do not become a useful workforce; that the export of capital also does not “tend to a certain extent to arrest development in the capital exporting [!] countries” – Lenin could have noticed all this without living to see how the competition of the monopolies for wonderful investment sites is supplemented by the competition of umpteen nations seeking capital and development aid. Just a simple analysis of the customs that characterize the world market on which nations take care of the competition of capital would have screwed up the perspective. Lenin’s idea that capital’s foreign business dealings are, first, made just like investments at home and, second, are particularly favorable in calculation, is only the continuation of his favorite idea that monopoly capitalism has long since come into contradiction with its own principles. Some of its basic qualities have long turned into their opposite, so that one can only speak of a “parasitic,” “rotting and decaying” capitalism, etc. – in every chapter, Lenin tries to make the decadence and overripe days of imperialism credible. Here, in the export of capital, he manages to show the freedom of imperialist nations owing to the successful accumulation of wealth – which also provides the state with the necessary faux frais! – to tap the whole world for its economic, political and military usability, to transform it into pure misery:
“The need to export capital arises from the fact that in a few countries capitalism has become ‘overripe’ and (owing to the backward state of agriculture and the poverty of the masses) capital cannot find a field for ‘profitable’ investment.”
Of all things, the phase of colonialism that Lenin lived through is supposed to point to helplessness, to a shortage in accumulation. The “striving towards violence and reaction,” which by his own definition of finance capital is supposed to be a sign of decline – and every conquest a new expression of the contradictions that intensify and strengthen. How old the theory of the paper tiger is already! In the controversial question of the labor movement, in the matter of
War and peace
Lenin didn’t become an opponent of reformism and bourgeois illusions about peace out of his “deep” insights into the political economy of imperialism. On the contrary, his conviction that finance and monopoly capital, on the one hand, represent the decline of capitalism and, on the other hand, therefore act aggressively, become addicted to conquest and world domination in order to grab everything for themselves, leads him to his theory of the necessity of war. As regards the – rather stupid – question: “Is peace possible?” his mistakes in the explanation of the world market make any knowledge of the reasons for wars, the developing forms of international business with the specific service of states for capital, superfluous. For him, war and peace are both means for the same strategy of conquest, of greed for loot; he even goes so far as to consider peace as the inauthentic mode of competition and to define the competition of arms as the unsuitable way to monopolistic profits, which he does not even bother to characterize in terms of the relationship between state and capital. The occupation of any desert is listed under the column of extra profit, in case of doubt it is a “possibility,” and these errors can by no means be excused with the facts of colonial conquest. In any case, the World War I was not about conquering new lands...
The fact that a modern war between imperialistic states – and they deny each other, first, their means of sovereignty and then, in the competition of weapons, where only military “calculations” are made and not commercial ones, sovereignty itself must bring material gain, or at least the promise of it – is the revisionist way of asserting the economic reason for acts of state violence. The fact that the class state, in its services to capital, in which the military is an important weapon of competition even in peacetime, encounters a barrier in another sovereign that can no longer afford or wants a mutual “dependence” or “use” – this simple truth, which makes peace so laden with arms, adherents of Lenin’s theory of imperialism still do not want to admit today. In exact reversal of the dogma that war, of all things, must settle the accounts of businessmen, such an enlightened person with his dogma immediately misses every gain from war, denies the materialism of the state and proves the “madness” of the path to weapons with the costs of weapons – of course, not without referring to the revenues of the weapons monopolies.
Talk of the folly and madness of war, its stylization as a pointless thing that is good for nobody, least of all “humanity,” measures mass killing by the same standard of economic profitability that defines “peace” and, according to revisionist doctrine, applies even in war. In this respect, Lenin’s epigones, who spent a decade learning his imperialism essay in training courses and now participate in peace initiatives, are indeed consistent citizens, but converted revisionists. Because an ideology is always bourgeois that confronts the state’s purpose in war with, of all things, consideration for what will come from it and for whom … ?
A document of the revisionist worldview
Admittedly, Lenin’s imperialism essay is a little treasure chest of “bourgeois moralism” which hurls the most righteous and reactionary reproaches at the world of capital and state not only in this respect. And its decades-long success in the state-loyal workers’ movement all over the world is based solely on the method of this worldview, which allows no objective judgments:
- Hence, even after the fascist distinction between parasitic and productive capital, the epigones do not refrain from considering Lenin’s finance monopolists quite reprehensible and charging them with being useless coupon clippers who dupe the good industrialists and fleece the whole society.
- Even less does it occur to the followers of Lenin’s theory to stop appealing to the “decaying,” parasitic character of monopoly capitalism. They see themselves, as members of an opposition movement, a group of people actively fighting for a revolution, in conformity with – as informed by Lenin – the tendency of the world’s ways. Overdue capitalism justifies the anti-monopoly capitalist democracy, the real people’s state; the main tendency = revolution ... (No wonder; the slow pace of the tendency makes such people turn into Greens and worse!)
- Just as popular remains the promise that bad experiences, which only have to be pointed out when “peace-loving” people have them, will work miracles:
“The tens of millions of dead and maimed left by the war … and those two ‘peace treaties’, are with unprecedented rapidity opening the eyes of the millions and tens of millions of people who are downtrodden, oppressed, deceived and duped by the bourgeoisie.”
As if a class state with its political preparations for war during peacetime and its conduct in war does not show such friends of peace how far it will go in preparing its victims for the successful continuation of its rule! As if an essay about the character of imperialism and anti-war agitation were necessary at all if corpses and war movies would have such an eye opening effect!
And Lenin’s reactionary turning point in explaining the experience that the working class (“of all people”) hands itself over in service to monopoly capitalist factories and barracks and campaigns still enjoys great popularity today. In the remaining leftist movement, in Lenin’s version of the popular saying “the people have it too good!” the bribery thesis:
“The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc., makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time a fairly considerable minority of them…”
Apart from the fact that the proles are not dragged into war on the side of the government with wage increases, but with wage cuts and the ideology of: “we are comparatively well off!” or from the mouth of Helmut Schmidt: “The people are spoiled!”
If Lenin could not explain the agreement of the European workers and their parties with the war – which, in his view, only finance capital was interested in – and if he wrote a wrong theory of imperialism and it could not do anything to counter the “bourgeoisification” of the communist parties and labor unions, there is no reason to despair. First, there is now a correct explanation of exploitation, imperialism and war. And, secondly, Lenin will forgive us, because nationalistic signature collections for peace do not follow from this explanation.