Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

"Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" (1916) by Vladimir Lenin is a classic Marxist theoretical treatise on the relationship between capitalism and imperialism. In this work Lenin identifies the merging of banks and industrial cartels as giving rise to finance capital. According to Lenin, in the last stage of capitalism, in pursuit of greater profits than the home market can offer, capital is exported. This leads to the division of the world between international monopolist firms and to European states colonizing large parts of the world in support of their businesses. Imperialism is thus an advanced stage of capitalism, one relying on the rise of monopolies and on the export of capital (rather than goods), and of which colonialism is one feature (Bowles 2007).

According to Lenin as a result of the super-profits generated by this colonial exploitation, capitalists are able to bribe labour leaders and the upper stratum of the labour aristocracy in the home country thus avoiding the risk of worker revolt there. The new proletarians are thus the exploited workers of the third world. In his preface to the French and German editions (1920) Lenin indicates that it is with the "thousand million people" of the colonies and semi-colonies that the revolt against the capitalist system is to begin rather than in the advanced western societies as these are the weak links of the chain of global capitalist control. (V.I. Lenin 2000: 37-8). Lenin prophesised that it was from these countries, and from backward Russia, where he himself had seized the revolutionary inititiative in the October Revolution that the revolution would spread to the advanced capitalist states (Read 2005: 116-26).

Lenin derived a lot of his analysis from English economist John A. Hobson's (1902) and Austrian Marxist Rudolf Hilferding's "Finance Capital" ("Das Finanzkapital", Vienna: 1910) but applied it to the new situation of World War One - in which imperial capitalist competition was exemplified by the clash between the German Empire and its allies and the Anglo-French bloc. Lenin saw Russia as a subsidiary, less socially advanced ally of the latter advanced capitalist countries. In the post war edition Lenin pointed to the punitive treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Versailles as proving his thesis about the economic motivation of the warring powers (Read 2005: 116-26).

Publication history

"Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" was written by Lenin in Zürich between January and June 1916. It was first published by Zhzn i, Znaniye Publishers, Petrograd in mid 1917. Lenin wrote a new Preface for the French and German editions, dated July 6th 1920, first published in the "Communist International" No 18, 1921 (V.I. Lenin 2000).


*Paul Bowles (2007) "Capitalism", Pearson: London.
*Vladimir Lenin (1948) "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism", London: Lawrence and Wishart.
*Vladimir Lenin (2000) "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism", with Introduction by Prabat Patnaik, New Delhi: LeftWord Books
*Christopher Read (2005) "Lenin". London: Routledge.

See also


External links

* [ Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism]

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