Empire on Lenin

Greg Schofield g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au
Sun Dec 9 22:43:36 MST 2001

Craig reading Lenin closel on Imperialism does indeed pay off. Your point:
"he refers to the Roman empire as imperialist, which I was not aware had "national finance capital"."

I agree with and so does Lenin, but he refers to it as imperialism precisely to disntguish it from capitalist Imperialism, not to conflate the two. The last sentence of the quote below is criticially important.

This is Lenin's quote (Imperialism the Highest Stage opf Capitalism Chapter 6) "Colonial policy and imperialism existed before the latest stage of capitalism, and even before capitalism. Rome, founded on slavery, pursued a colonial policy and practised imperialism. But "general" disquisitions on imperialism, which ignore, or put into the background, the fundamental difference between socio-economic formations, inevitably turn into the most vapid banality or bragging, like the comparison: "Greater Rome and Greater Britain." [5] Even the capitalist colonial policy of previous stages of capitalism is essentially different from the colonial policy of finance capital."

Following this is Lenin's Chapter "IMPERIALISM AS A SPECIAL STAGE OF CAPITALISM" which hones in on what is peculiar with this form of Imperialism and why IT IS NOT similar to other forms of Imperialism found in other societies - indeed why it is not even similar to the Great Britian's previous imperial ambitions.

I have inserted "national" before financial capital, because there was no international financial capital in Lenin's day, all financial capital was essentially national (belonging to the imperialist homeland) otherwise I can see no sense whatsoever of the vital concept of one of the primary characteristics of Imperialism being the EXPORT of capital. One could hardly EXPORT something that is already internationalisied.

If someone could raise a reasonable argument that this, given the growth of capital from Lenin's day, is not an accurate reading, I would be very much interested in hearing it. As the export of capital was for Lenin a vital componant to Imperialism (chapter 4):

"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."

A few sentences later:

"...secondly, the monopolist position of a few very rich countries, in which the accumulation of capital has reached gigantic proportions. An enormous "surplus of capital"  has arisen in the advanced countries."

Lenin has not said national fianancial capital, but he does say the basis for this fianancial capital rests in the gigantic proportions of accumulated capital in a few VERY RICH COUNTRIES. The rest of the chapter is devoted to the export of this capital as an expression of Imperialism. I would argue that given the contemporary growth of international credit capital (a form of finance capital) that it behoves us to be precise and that national financial capital is an accurate identifiction of that feature which Lenin was drawing attention to as distinct from forms which have grown since then.

That these are vital to Lenin's historical conception of Imperialism as a stage in the development of capital and not some ahistoric category applicable to any form of state dominance over another state I need not argue. Take this necessary conditions between state policy and the existence of a dmoninant financial capital section, then the export of capital as an aim dissolved and along with it the particular historical features of Lenin's Imperialism.

Craig the misreadings and traditional understandings of Lenin's thesis are common, in fact I think you have demonstrated an instance of this. If we had given Negri-Hardt their due then this would be explored - instead by dismissing them as a whole we continue to wallow in our mistakes. Again I am using Empire because it is in print and out there, I had been trying to raise such matters well before their book. As for Socialism and Barbarism, the first I heard of it was Fosters article, (I will get a copy as soon as fianances allow) but I am under the impression it did come out after Empire. My original point was that Foster's article itself had missed the point when by his summation of SorB it shared the same broad conclusion as Empire.

On what you have written on ideology I find nothing at all disagreeable.
Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

--- Message Received ---
From: Craig Brozefsky <craig at red-bean.com>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Date: 08 Dec 2001 17:07:54 -0600
Subject: Re: Empire on Lenin

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