[Marxism] Lenin's definition of imperialism

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Oct 24 19:55:15 MDT 2007

Steve Palmer writes: "whether fundamental inter-imperialist rivalries exist
or not is a BIG issue."

I'm not sure what the word "fundamental" is meant to convey here, but I
would agree in this sense: that they're an inherent, inescapable part of the

HOWEVER ... despite being "fundamental" in this sense they do not
necessarily or automatically lead to war. Whether or not they do depends on
more factors than just the existence of rivalries and clashing interests. 

Post-WWII imperialism has several characteristics that make it less likely
for imperialist ruling classes to push things that far.

One is the experience of the previous World Wars, which ended as defeats for
the imperialist system as a whole, i.e., Russia/USSR (WWI) and
China/Korea/Vietnam/Yugoslavia ... etc. ... following WWII. Not to mention
the spread of anticolonial revolutions.

Two, the replacement of direct colonialism by neo colonialism and its
distinctive mechanisms of exploitation through the financial system and
unequal exchange on the world market. This means the different imperialist
share the spoils, to a greater or lesser degree, unlike a situation where
one power has complete control over a given nation or territory.

Three, the emergence of the U.S. as a superpower with pretty much unrivaled
military might. The U.S. may not be able to win all the colonial wars it
launches (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq) but that is a different matter than any
other imperialist power, or coalition, being able to defeat it in an
interimperialist war. The odds of anyone or any coalition being able to
defeat the U.S. in either conventional or nuclear conflict are slim to none.

In addition, there's been no capitalist crisis like the one in the 1930s,
either because the capitalists and their operatives have become more skilled
at running their system or they've had better luck, or some combination of
the two.

These are no GUARANTEE that rivalries and conflicts will not lead to war,
but they are an EXPLANATION ... at least my attempt at one ... for why there
haven't been inter-imperialist wars since WWII. 

The explanation that Steve seems to offer, which is that this is simply
because push hasn't come to shove, in part seems to beg the question, since
it now becomes WHY hasn't push come to shove. 

Of course, if something like the predictions of "Peak Oil" and a constant
decline in crude extraction thereafter come true, tensions will be
exacerbated many fold. That's why I make no PREDICTIONS but rather
observations about what has been and on that I base my expectation is that
if things remain more or less the same, the likeliest scenario is that the
inter-imperialist rivalries won't lead to war.


More information about the Marxism mailing list