Empire on Lenin

Greg Schofield g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au
Mon Dec 10 22:19:29 MST 2001


--- Message Received ---
From: Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 20:20:35 -0600
Subject: Re: Empire on Lenin

Carrol these are all good points and I can only offer a qualification which may or may not dispell the problem.

Clearly there is no autonomous international zone in which capital can exist in stasis. All you points are spot on.

"I disagree with Greg's description of the present: I believe capital
_still_ does not exist "internationally" in Greg's sense. The so-called
"transnatinals" could not/would not exist except from a national base.
But his distinction is valid. "International Capital" (Greg's use of
terms) would be capitals (corporations) that existed autonomously of and
prior to any nation-state. I don't believe such capital exists or ever
will exist, but since some analysts of the last 20 years (some of whom
are marxists) claim that such exists we ought to have a name for it.
Charles's comment does not really oppose Greg's material claim but
merely argues for priority in the use of a name ("international"). In
Lenin's term, _national_ capital _operates_ "internationally" through
the export of capital. In Greg's version, there are capitals which in
and of themselves are "international," not being tied to any national
base."

Now my first qualification is this. "Tied to" in the sense I have tried to use it does not deny connection, but necessary connection. Old capital was tied to a nation state as a necessary expression of its existence. Obviously new international capital is expressed in terms of capital that is connected with particular states, otherwise it would be entirely nebulous. Your point is true, but only if we view capital in stasis (denied part of its own circulation). But what of capital's international circulation. In one sense part of it is ether (when caught in an actual instance of transference) but this is just capital export done at tremendous speed with little state intervention (but defacto dependant on state to state relations).

The next point, which I have alluded to but because of my poor economic knowledge have avoided making too specific is International Credit Capital. Now I do not want to appear more stupid then I am so please take this as a very preliminary concept and a very primitive one.

I am struch by the ability of the bourgeosie (note bourgeoisie, not capital) to move around the world and just by suggesting an interest or plan for some development of super-monopoly, to raise in these "froiegn" states most if not all the capital required for the corporate plan. Capital export goes on, but in a sense Credit capital dominates, the mere promise of future production being sufficient to draw out capital from the "foriegn" state so that the capital actually imported is often more symbolic than essential (this is most often achieved by launching a subsidary as a public company).

Effectively, much more capital becomes siphoned off into profits (read dividends) and the project becomes micracously self-funding.

Credit Capital also enables capital itself to move, that is by closing down production in one part of the world while opnening it up in another. The amount of export capital needed to do this would be very great indeed, as actual production cannot fall, the trick is to minimise the amount of capital required, while simulatneously starting production elsewhere while production is being wound down - I believe this is achieved by a heavy reliance on Credit Capital.

The interesting paradox is that such credit can only be mainatained by good dividend payouts (which is a siphoning off of active capital - which of course can latter be re-invested and become active again). Good dividend payouts which support high share prices temporarily give power to the bourgeoisie to reinvest capital by liquidating stock in one place and conjuring it up in another stock (electronic sales being what they are, the currency values being used as an accounting measure rather than an excahange into any particular currency) while large amount of capital are taken out of actual circulation to appear as dividend profits (the rate of which determines the amount of available credit which is a far more versitile form of capital).

The paradox, is that companies become Credit rich by becoming (relatively speaking) capital poor.

Without Credit Capital being bestowed on indivduals and corporations, international capital would only exist insofar as actual exports in transaction occur.

Carrol, this may not be a satisfactory solution to the problems you pose, and I admit that unless some mechanism can be found which makes international capital live in international space, then talking about internatiuonal capital does more harm then good. I do not propose that my working out of the problem is the final solution - but I think something in this area needs desperately to be explored.

The central importance of the stock market in this (and the cosmopolitian centres in which these markets sit) means that it is more than simply a speculative add on to the necessary  movement of capital through stocks, but is a central aspect of the socialisation of the means of acquistion as part of capital's development.

The stock market (really the network of them across the globe) become the means for the existence of international capital as international credit capital.

"To jump several stages -- if this were true, then inter-imperialist war
would no longer be a threat, because the individual imperialist nations
are no longer tied to the interests of a distinct national capital."

"If this is so, if there is no longer any danger of inter-imperialist
war, why is the U.S. so determined to maintain armies of occupation (not
called that of course) in what would be its two most likely enemies in
such a war, the EU & Japan?"

All facts which speak against the thing I am trying to establish - or does it? History hates moving in straight lines, each new development comes overburdened with the contradictions of the past. Surely the real question is not whether there will be such wars, but whether such wars are the necessary expression of the highest forms of capital. Now on this, I would say many factors are at work, but none that makes any of these necessary conditions, indeed some are just plain unproductive burdens. The US for historical reasons will not vacate the throne willingly, but is the force used to secure such a kingdom esstential to capital or is this just the price to be paid for greater ascendency it has obtained?

The US is on a paraniod course, Lear-like in its madness. It may well turn its attentions to the EU and Japan, or anywhere else, but can the EU or Japan match it as an Imperial power? It would seem that only by combining can such countries escape the absolute power of the US, how can they combine? Militarily they are defeated before they begin, they can court the monarch eager to go along with the next mad scheme, but their future lies in threading the monster in lilputian style, tying the US down into international agreements, international courts, international civility.

The point being is that this logic can be seen at work, the threads become broken the allies become courtiers for a while, all the time trying to affix new threads. They are not internationalists from conviction, nor do they move in this direction for a better world, but they act in this way for they have precious little room to act in any other. None will give us socialism on a platter - however, are we to be passive viewers of this courtly game and all the while count the bodies that are trampled, or can we move it along in a better direction and in such a way that proletarian socialism becomes a logical next step.

In international politics the determination of the US to use unilateral actions to mainatin its absolute dominance, is matched by attempts to mire it in international accords and multi-lateral agreements. This is the logical outcome of Imperialist contention - that there would be a single winner - but the others do not march off the stage simply because they have been defeated. The battle itself is directionaless, a mere reaction to each new move, the class elements are weak easily succombing to the powers that be (in this case the madness of the US state).

Carrol, anything is possible, history has been know to make the odd u-turn, but seriously what are the prospects of the EU, Japan or any other combination being able to become a forceful threat ( adiffernt question to any one of them being declared an enemy)? My reading is that only in combination can the US be calmed, but in combination where is the distinct imperialist character the likes of which gave rise to the Great War (part 1 and 2).

The means they have available mire them also, victory against the US does not make room for another winner but for a new type of game - we live on the cusp of this transition, the winner does not know what to do next, but knows they will no longer be the winner if they sit down too long.

Explaination for the ignorance, the leanings towards fascist irrationalism, the promise of never-ending war, this is the legacy which the US wishes to impose, but even if all this is achieved, is it in any recognisable extent Imperialism or is it the begining of the descent into Barbarism. We are at a historic point of development, a choice is given to all classes whether it proceeds to doom or some form of general social improvement (I mean this in the narrowiest sense), the old dominates the stage the new has barely said a line.


"Lenin originally conducted the research for _Imperialism_ in order to
explain the outbreak of the Great War? Greg, if I understand him
correctly, does not believe another such war is possible, and hence
Lenin's original hypothesis is no longer politically relevant."

Of great wars between major imperialist powers I would say is clearly not possible (the US against whom?), of wars of other kinds, well we don't have to look to far to find them (the US against everybody else? it remains a possiblity, more likely the US against who-ever it likes - a position of absolute power only given if there is no other contender). In any case, even with Imperialism the concept fully in place, we have some really big questions to answer on the nature of Imperialism without imperial contenders (the world becomes just one division no matter how the largess is consumed by lesser states - they divide only what is owned by another and  is theirs by superior let  - the Baronial states have a long length to grow to match the King's).

Carrol you have fairly summed-up a general reading of my posts on Lenin, but the qualifiers I would add are these.

Political relevancy would be odd after such a lapse of time, it would be more in keeping with the spirit of Lenin's thought that we criticially assess just what holds up and what does not. Am I against the logic of Lenin's position, no I heartedly deny this, it is because of the logic of his concept that we must move-on. The denial of Lenin's contribution lies in prolonging the appearance of his political understanding while neglecting the essence of it.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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