Greg schofield g_schofield at
Thu Jun 21 17:53:39 MDT 2001

In reply to Phil - the currency of Lenin's Imperialism

Phil the broad characteristics Lenin outlined are not only true (in general
terms) of today but also Imperial Rome which is a sure sign that to
generalise to this degree is to loose the particular essence of the stage
of Imperialism in the final development of private capitalism - which is
the context of his writing.

It is very important to recognise the time-bomb Lenin attached to his
theory - the last chapter of "Imperialism Highest Stage of Capitalism"
Chapter 10 "The Place of Imperialism in History" specifically limits the
concept by stating its logical end.

Of course the logical end of any concept is becomes its opposite, loses its
essence and transform into a new essence demanding a new concept of the
relationships which give it life. Now my argument is that we have reached
such a time with the concept of Imperialism for exactly the same reasons
Lenin outlined and moreover is yet another reason why this period should be
considered Bourgeois Socialism, to quote:

"If we imagine the development of those tendencies we have noted carried to
their logical conclusion we will have: the money capital of the nation
united in the banks; the banks themselves combined into cartels; the
investment capital of the nation cast in the shape of securities. Then the
forecast of that genius Saint-Simon will be fulfilled: 'The present anarchy
of production, which corresponds to the fact that economic relations are
developing without uniform regulation, must make way for organisation in
production. Production will no longer be directed by isolated
manufacturers, independent of each other and ignorant of man's economic
needs; that will be done by a certain public institution. A central
committee of management, being able to survey the large field of social
economy from a more elevated point of view, will regulate it for the
benefit of the whole of society, will put the means of production into
suitable hands, and above all will take care that there be constant harmony
between production and consumption. Institutions already exist which have
assumed as part of their functions a certain organisation of economic
labour, the banks.'  We are still a long way from the fulfilment of
Saint-Simon's forecast, but we are on the way towards it: Marxism,
different from what Marx imagined, but different only in form."

Now I propose we take this negating concept very seriously indeed. Lenin is
specifying that what is now a tendency (1916) within imperialism has a
conclusion (has its own negation). Saint-Simon's "Socialism" seems to fit
the bill so Lenin simply brings him in to illustrate the logic.

Now given the general thrust of this form of "Socialism" my argument is
that it parallels very closely the features that have developed today. Now
I doubt for a minute that Lenin was by this illustrating the idea that
Imperialism was the final stage of private capitalism and this logic
intimated socialism, which he would have viewed as a pre-image of
proletarian socialism, but the emphasis is clear - imperialism lapses into
this form of socialism (the class in control being a mute question).

At such times one can really believe that Lenin had a crystal ball, because
Saint-Simon was himself a Bourgeois Socialist to quote Engels' "Socialism:
Utopian and Scientific",

"that was the scholars; and industry, that was, in the first
place, the working bourgeois, manufacturers, merchants, bankers. These
bourgeois were, certainly, intended by Saint-Simon to transform
themselves into a kind of public officials, of social trustees; but they
were still to hold, vis-a-vis of the workers, a commanding and
economically privileged position. "

Phil my position is that Lenin's work is scientific, in fact rigidly so. It
is not a matter of simply using a few categories which can be forced to
fit, rather it is following the logic to the letter. Lenin's logic gives a
precise time when Imperialism has out-lasted itself: " the money capital of
the nation united in the banks; the banks themselves combined into cartels;
the investment capital of the nation cast in the shape of securities" Now
if this does not describe the situation we are presently in I do not know
what does.

Now the rest of what Lenin says could equally apply to both a conception of
Bourgeois Socialism and Proletarian Socialism - however no-one could
disguise the nature of the present ruling class. This is why I am amazed -
staggered, by the fact of all people to quote Lenin chooses Saint-Simon the
very model of the Bourgeois Socialism!

Now on other matters raised I agree as general characteristics Lenin's
categories still hold, after all it is the bourgeoise in power and they do
not so easily change their spots - exploitation, brutality and violence
will in all probability rise rather than lessen and I take this for granted
- along with the disparities that will also grown.

However, the problems are that such categories are now ONLY generally
useful, the essential relationship that made Imperialism imperialism has
changed, thus the term has limited, and I would say at the moment
obscuring, usage - better in such circumstances to drop it altogether and
confine its use to the historical periods it properly belongs.

I might point out in order to temper what I have just said, that
transitions are never entirely clean in history and even when other
relations are thoroughly dominant, old superceded relationships give them
their outward form - in this case the history of imperialism is vital in
understanding aspects of present reality but not the dominate form itself.

Phil I don't pretend this discussion satisfactorily be resolved in a few
quick emails, but I think if we are patient and rigorous we can cover an
enormous amount of ground - fter all we do live in revolutionary times.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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