[Marxism] Lenin's definition of imperialism

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sun Oct 21 17:33:08 MDT 2007

I largely agree with Fred's post criticizing Paula's position on imperialism
and China. 

However, I think we need to get beyond Lenin's description of imperialism in
a pamphlet he wrote more than 90 years ago:

"Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the
domination of monopolies in which the dominance of monopolies and finance
capital has established itself; in which the division of the world among
international trusts has begun; in which the division of the whole world
among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of ail
territories of the globe among the great powers is completed."

The main reason for this is that imperialism CHANGED some essential
characteristics after World War II -- first and foremost the tendency of
imperialism to generate inter-imperialist wars. World War II was the most
recent inter-imperialist war, yet world politics in the preceding decades
was dominated by inter-imperialist wars or the tensions that led to such

Until the fall of the Berlin Wall, it could be argued that the conflict with
the socialist block forced all the imperialist powers to subordinate their
rivalries. But as we approach the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin
Wall, it is clear that the removal of the "threat of communism" has not led
to the re-emergence of imperialist rivalries like those that led up to WWI
and WWII. 

Key to this, in turn, was the anticolonial revolution, yes, but also the
creation of a world financial and trading system. To differentiate it from
Lenin's "classic" imperialism we might call this neoimperialism, just as the
subordination of technically independent states in the Third World is called

This stage of imperialism is differentiated from the previous chiefly in
that he exploitation of colonies and semicolonies no longer necessarily
takes place through the direct control of a single country, but rather
through the mechanisms of the world market and world financial system. It is
further characterized by the existence of a single quasi-hegemonic
imperialist power.

The strategic objective of revolutionary forces that operate on the level of
the world system of states is the constitution of a multi-polar world in
which U.S. designs are checked by counterweights like the EU, Russia and
allies among the former Soviet Republics, India and China, and, eventually,
a South American bloc allied with some countries in Central America and the

Without a real analysis of what the world imperialist system is really like
today and how it extracts value from the Third World, political conclusions
drawn from a 90-year-old analysis of the situation THEN is likely to be

Especially missing from Lenin's pamphlet is the protagonism of the masses of
the colonial and semicolonial world, which since his time to our day has
been the mainspring of world revolution.


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