gschofield at one.net.au
Mon Jun 18 10:00:17 MDT 2001
Mine I have just sent a post replying to John Enyang which covers some of
things I would express here. So keeping that post in mind, I would like
just to give a number of very short comments and questions. If you want to
take up some of the points raised I think you could treat this post and the
other as joined.
At 03:40 18/06/01 -0400, you wrote:
> > Which brings me to imperialism, which as Lenin rightly termed the
> > stage of capitalism", but which ended somewhere in the mid 1970s, so
> > than refer to books try and explain to me how imperialism works once the
> > monopolies no longer have homelands and the finance capital is free of
> > borders (which is more or less the situation of today)?
>This is certainly not true. In the entire history of capitalism, monopolies
>had always needed homeland. The simple fact is that big multinational
>corporations need the capitalist _state_ to promote their interests abroad.
There are contradictions - first of all there is no such thing as a
multinational company strictly speaking each part of such a company is
locked into various states, however, insofar as its capital is liquid and
tradable, as capital they can fly in an instance to anywhere and in another
sense by buying and selling swiftly transform themselves from one company
As far as promoting the interests of these large capitals via the state,
they don't need a homeland (that is something they are absolutely cemented
into as was the case in classical imperialism) so long as they can command
the forces of the state.
This is an inversion of Imperialism where the imperial state was the board
of directors, the power of capital lie only partly in any particular state,
otherwise they stand above the state and by their power command its actions
- that is why reformism disappeared so quickly up its own orifice - this
form of capital does not want social compromise, just compliance - what
have reformists really got to trade on - they can only hold themselves up
as softer conservatives.
The formula that because they need a state they most occupy the same
relation to the state as they previously did is reductionist. Yes they need
complaint states, but no they do not have to belong to the state, hegemony
in a particular state is not their business, they do not need reformists to
integrate dissidence into a social whole (which by the way is their
greatest weakness), if things are not to their liking they will go
elsewhere, that is their threat and power, moreover they do it often enough
to be actively woed by states - even the US.
>Consider the very nature of capitalist states like US. Its multionationals
>are all wrapped up in the same imperialist blanket. How do you think would
>the US banks survive globally without a strong national currency into which
>their earnings can easily be converted-- that is without the power of
Well how is the US dollar strong? It is convenient but not necessary, their
wealth is in credit not currency if by some fluke the US government did
something requiring punishment that dollar would fall overnight and hardly
any wealth would be lost. Big capital rarely needs to convert anything but
a tiny fraction into currency - the US dollar is convenient for
calculations, but not necessary for them.
>or how do you think financiers like Soros would promote
>so called democracy in Eastern Europe without the back up of the US
>government? Think about the issue dialectically. That US _corporations_
>have become global does not mean that their interests are antagonistic to
>the US _state_. We are talking about an imperial power here, not a free
>floating nation state system where states compete equally.
But Mine turn this on its head and you get the same answer - the interests
of the US state are not antagonistic to global capital - indeed the very
idea of state compliance to big capitals wishes ensures that the US will do
everything in its power to keep in the good books. This is different, very
different to classical imperialism - the British state once did call the
shots and there was no one section of capital capable of becoming
antagonistic to it - reverse the formula - capital has become so powerful
that not even the biggest state can stand up to it.
I would argue my formulation fits much better the reality with which we are
familiar. Of course this stemmed from within imperialism, specifically
within US imperialism so most of the trappings remain but no one can
mistake who is calling the shots - I really believe it was seeing this
emerging after WWII which made Eisenhower issue his famous military
industrial complex warning - of course this was but the fetus - Eisenhower
could never be described as anything but an extremely patriotic American
imperialist - I believe he saw the writing on the wall far earlier (he was
closer to its birth) than we have.
>Also, there is a danger with the idea that capitalism has truly become
>_global_ and _stateless_. It renders working class organizing at the nation
>state level meaningless, including the limited gains of the working
>classes. If capitalism has become global, which is true to a certain
>extend, it means that we have to oppose further downsizing of the state,
>not see globalization as a progressive or an irreversible development.
Well this is the crunch and you have come to the real point, the logic is
sound but it needs turning, for there is another aspect to it. The big
bourgeoisie may believe they are free agents, they certainly act as if that
was the case but only so far as they remain in the stratosphere of finance
capital. Production has a much more earthy existence, production takes
place in states, in fact the property itself (public companies) is a form
of state property (that is regulated and defined by the laws of the state).
The conservatives and neo-conservatives (the old reformists) surely want to
wither the state down to its bear repressive features, they obey general
commands issued from the financial stratosphere, the dream is to make class
struggle meaningless, they say as much, but the reality is very different.
The state becomes more politically important - more important to directly
use and proletarianise, I have no fear of pure globalisation as capital
dreams for it is a fantasy derived from the total predominance of financial
capital over productive capital. The same logic you have already used only
needs to flipped over and the other side exposed - the situation is not
stable, not sustainable the dream is unachievable, Bourgeois Socialism will
have a very short life if we just do things half right.
The greatest achievement of capital is to link workers across the world
practically together as direct competitors for it is but a short step from
there to some real international unity exercised through national states.
Again this is something classical imperialism could never achieve within
>The nature of imperialism has surely changed, but imperialism itself has
Well that may be an assertion, or at least a truism - imperialism reduced
to a catch-all category. In the stages of change in any organic concept, at
some point it becomes something else - that point is when the logical
essence of the idea no longer holds and is evaporated into a complete
abstraction. Imperialism as a catch-all concept is a complete abstraction
(ie we have exhausted the logic of the idea). To hold onto it further would
be to force the world to fit it rather than use the concept to reveal more
>Lenin's theory of imperialism, as I read it, was not only
>making a case that capital was organized nationally. Lenin saw a tendency
>towards state monopoly capitalism at the time. But, from a dialectical
>point of view, this was also global trend that Lenin observed in the
>nature of capitalism as a world system-- intense _competition_ among major
>capitalist powers to PARCEL that or this part of the world economy.
Lenin's contribution was a precise definition of the essence of a period
that was new. It is the precision which is important - Lenin and he was
absolutely right in this saw Imperialism as the highest stage of Capitalism
- I would insert "Private". 90 years ago he could not foresee that capital
would last long enough to expropriate itself - to socialise itself as Marx
pondered in the Grundrisse. Yet by the simplest categories of property form
- we find this is exactly what leading capital has done.
Imperialism in order to preserve is precise meaning has to be buried - in
your summation of his view you grabbed the heart of his definition but we
must look at it carefully:
"Lenin observed in the nature of capitalism as a world system-- intense
_competition_ among major capitalist POWERS to parcel that or this part of
the world economy. "
Competition amongst POWERS (ie powers invested in imperial states), to
parcel up the world as state provinces (as territories) - not competition
amongst capitals! We have competition amongst capitals on a world scale and
much of this is about parcelling up production. Please note PRODUCTION not
territories - this is a very significant change.
My point is that capital has burst through Lenin's imperialism. It does not
make it any nicer, in fact I believe it makes it far more reckless, the
consequences may well be both bloody and grinding.
>Regarding what you say about the 1970s, we can see a similar kind of
>inter-capitalist competition--rise of Japan, Germany-- among Atlantic
>economies that Lenin observed long ago.
Mine in with respect (as I conceded this is based on a reasonable
historical observation), the difference is the central role of the state
amongst these rising imperialisms of Lenin's day. Now Japan and Germany
(well the EU it amounts to the same thing) are substantial bases of
international financial capitals (the placement and size of stockmarkets
gives a relatively good idea of which cities the HQ reside in), but the
relation to the state is simply no-where near similar, it is almost the
complete opposite - capital is woed by states, not used by states, the
difference is profound - in a political sense the states have all been
third worlded in relation to finance capital (I hope this strained
expression conveys the meaning)
I do not mean that the first world has become the third (far from it though
the tendency is there), rather that the position of a third world state to
capital is similar to the position of a first world state to capital
(subservient) and this was not the case under imperialism for imperialism
to serve capital, national capital had to submit to the state. It is
something that bears thought.
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