Imperialism and Socialism in the

Imperialism and Socialism in the 21st Century

Imperialism Defined – Part Two

Don Currie, Chair CPS

July 4, 2001

“…capitalism has arrived at a stage when, although commodity production still “reigns” and continues to be regarded as the basis of  economic life, it has in reality been undermined and the bulk of the profits go to the “geniuses” of financial manipulation. At the basis of these manipulations and swindles lies socialized production; but the immense progress of mankind, which achieved this socialization, goes to benefit…the speculators. We shall see later how “on these grounds” reactionary petty bourgeois critics of capitalist imperialism dream of going back to “free”, “peaceful”, and honest competition.

V.I. Lenin: Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Volume 22 pages 206 and 207. Progress Publishers, Moscow 1964.

Imperialism is the final stage in the development of capitalism characterized by the dominance of the export of finance capital over the export of commodities. Modern imperialism is a system of global capital formation and expansion, resulting from the merger of finance and industrial capital marshaled in banks, investment groupings, networks of stock markets and the state and placed at the service of trans-national corporations for export to all corners of the globe. In the age of modern technology and instantaneous communication integrated stock markets and interlocking boards managing financial institutions, decisions on the movement of capital around the world is rapid.

Trans-national corporations and their investment backers, reach across all national boundaries to implant capital for the exploitation of labour and resources, for investment in all forms of private, state, and private-state enterprise, for the domination of markets for the construction, transfer, centralization and consolidation of world wide production facilities and processes and for the crushing and ousting of home market competition. Imperialism utilizes all forms of political pressure to achieve its aims not excluding war, counter-revolution, blockades, bribery and fomenting internal political and economic chaos.

Imperialism’s only enterprise is to perpetuate itself by the export of finance capital, the division and re-division of the markets of the world, the appropriation of the resources of the planet of which energy has become the principle prize. Imperialism attempts to remove all restrictions not only on the movement of finance capital but also and out of necessity, all barriers on the utilization and exploitation of human labour.

Finance capital cannot be set in motion to realize profit without an inexhaustible supply of mobile labour creating surplus value from the unpaid labour time of countless millions of workers. Finance capital uses labour selectively driving down its price without regard for the large armies of destitute, displaced, redundant and unemployable workers it creates as it destroys old economies and re-establishes new. In fact, finance capital requires large reserves of unemployed labour readily available to it anywhere on the globe. The wanton disregard for the human cost of its enterprise and expansion is the greatest of all crimes of the many criminal activities of imperialism.

Imperialism and Militarism

The aggressiveness of global imperialism is expressed in the frequency and ferocity of its military intervention, fomenting wars and occupations accompanied by the growth of systems of permanent military bases strategically located and connected by global satellite technology and communications under integrated command structures. Imperialist military aggression has become the principal threat to life on earth because of the vast quantities of nuclear weapons at its disposal and the ability to deliver them anywhere on the planet. 

Imperialism is a system integrated with and relying upon militarism to break down all political barriers and to police the movement of finance capital and to ensure its global dominance and expansion. Militarism is used by imperialism to intimidate and suppress opposition to its objectives, whether such opposition arises from the popular masses or from the reaction of indigenous ruling classes resisting integration into the one or another imperialist system or group. 

Moreover, the constant demand for the training of military personnel, its deployment, for weaponry, supplies, maintenance, transportation, science and technology has become a permanent integrated component of capitalist production demanding high volumes of capital investment and labour. The development of weapons systems is the antithesis of economic progress, drawing into its production and maintenance vast quantities of capital and resources that competes with the non-military sectors of the economy and robs and depletes the state of the financial resources it requires to function. 

The Struggle for Socialism in the Age of Imperialism

The process of struggle in which labouring humanity realizes that imperialism, capitalism in the 21st century, is the root cause of wars, the plunderer, the despoiler, the degrader of the planet, the system that prevents the achievement of peace, prevents the eradication of poverty and human misery and is the obstacle to creating a new, peaceful and truly human society; it is that process of struggle and that realization that is in fact the actual form and content of the modern revolutionary mass struggle for socialism.

Between imperialism and socialism there are no other intervening historical stages, no other historical “rungs in the ladder”. Imperialism is the final stage in the development of capitalism, the era of imperialist wars of expansion and occupation and the intense resistance of the people’s of all countries and regions of the planet. Imperialism is the era of anti-imperialist and socialist revolution.

The modern revolutionary mass struggle for socialism arises from within and is a reaction to aggressive imperialist global expansion. The aggressiveness of imperialism is its main characteristic expressed in the violation of the sovereignty of the people’s, contempt for the achievements of human labour, evolved civilizations, modern and developing societies, language, arts, customs and traditions and now, the ultimate aggression, the destruction of the natural environment that sustains all life.

The anti-imperialist struggle is epochal, non-uniform and develops in leaps, resulting in historic breakthroughs and counter-revolutionary setbacks. Its overall historical tendency is to unity and strength and its most powerful asset is the growing consciousness of the masses and their capacity to learn from the experience of struggle to overcome and defeat imperialism.

The process by which labouring humanity realizes that the modern revolutionary mass struggle for socialism today is rooted in, and is a continuation of, an objective historical materialist reality that is both understandable and predictable, the more readily the oppressed and exploited people will seek to take from past struggles what is useful and to creatively apply that experience to solve the modern problems of the struggle for socialism.

Moreover, as labouring humanity realizes that imperialism is moribund, decaying and dying capitalism, that it grows and develops as an excrescence on human development that is bound to be removed or bound to destroy the host, the human race, the more urgently will labouring humanity act to hasten its end. And as the labouring masses realize that they occupy in modern society the position of the growing and progressive majority of humanity the more readily they will embrace the concept of the necessity of revolutionary solutions to guarantee the future of human life and global survival.

The Crisis of Imperialism

The imperialist system is crisis ridden and is incapable of further progressive development. Imperialist development is anarchic and competitive. Competition among leading imperialist states to gain advantage in the struggle to re-divide markets, seize resources, and re-order the exploitation of the labouring masses, is an objective reality in which today's class struggles unfold. All classes and social groups are forced to take into account the speed and complexity of the changes taking place in productive forces of the world's capitalist economy, the main factor being its uneven development.

The threat of falling behind, of possessing insufficient military, economic or political influence in the struggle for profit share is a considerable driving force in the internal politics of imperialist states resulting in transitory alliances followed by periods of inter-imperialist stresses and antagonisms, proxy wars and the threat of inter-imperialist war.

US Imperialism 

A one dimensional or mechanistic view of modern imperialism descends into a descriptive analysis of what is rather than what is becoming. The description of the world as unipolar, dominated by the leading imperialist state, US imperialism is simplistic and inadequate to explain all of the contradictory contending forces at play. Imperialism in its evolution to its present phase has seen the rise and decline of several imperialist alliances and collaborations leading to inter-imperialist wars and realignments of imperialist power and that process is not over. 

The long period of ascendancy of US imperialism following WW1, and its meteoric rise to dominance following WW2 has entered a period of quantifiable stagnation and decline that it cannot stop. The much heralded new phase in US imperialist dominance following the counter revolutionary undermining and fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist system of states, dubbed the “end of history” that should have resulted in US imperialism ascending to an unassailable zenith of power has happened only in the minds of the authors of the “New American Century”.

The reality is that the post WW2 processes that made the global imperialist system dependent upon the growth of the US economy for its further development, has become its opposite where the US economy has now become dependent for the maintenance of its economic growth on the further development of the global economy. The inability of certain US imperialist forces to accept and adjust to the new objective reality causes internal political crisis within the USA and realignments among imperialist states.

The crisis phenomena in the US economy have become a liability that many of its capitalist competitors can no longer afford. The strident demand of US imperialism, backed up by US military power, for the lion's share of global markets, energy and raw material resources, investment capital, and labour power, is neither realistic nor sustainable in the context of overall global capitalist competition and expansion. There are no imperialist power elites that have voluntarily given up their drive for a growing share of the exploitation of the world's people and resources and there are new ones, such as Canada, arriving at the global imperialist table demanding more.

War and Imperialist Expansion

War, always an option of imperialism to project its power now includes the persistent demand by the US ruling elite to elevate war as the preferred option to project imperialist power. Since the USA has the most powerful military, it follows that "allies" are expected to subordinate their military doctrines to the general aims of US imperialism. This expectation adds to inter-imperialist irritations and differences and in particular becomes a driver of internal political contradictions as has happened in Canada where the ruling class is not united on the form of the use of military power to project its economic power abroad.

Committing domestic forces to US wars is anathema to the masses in the advanced capitalist countries that have had enough of US fomented wars. The commitment of US-NATO or EU troops on the ground, in foreign countries, engaged in aggressive warfare, operating under contrived and illegal mandates is rejected by the masses and is a source of growing friction in the imperialist camp and inside each of its member states.

The intent of US imperialism to destroy the very idea of the management of international conflict and its attempts to impose unilateralism in matters of war and aggression are a source of political conflict among the imperialist powers. While there is a large measure of unanimity among the imperialist states on the goal of restructuring the United Nations to undermine its Charter and convert it to a rich nations club, there is no agreement to abandon it entirely, recognizing the resulting chaos.

Imperialist strategy cannot be fully understood from studying only the world view of its most extremist elements such as now hold power in Washington. The sum total of imperialist views must be considered including those that out of self-interest may have an appraisal of international economic and political developments that can be used by the progressive forces in the interests of weakening the war option.

The people of the planet oppose imperialist war and its consequences for their lives and their future. The working people are coerced into imperialist war, misled into imperialist war, and instinctively seek out and support options to prevent and end it once it is instigated. 

The struggle against militarism and war is a powerful and unifying element among all of the anti-imperialist forces because it combines many progressive causes in one concentrated demand, to ban war in the 21st century as an acceptable means of settling international conflict. What may not have been possible in the pre-nuclear age has emerged as a necessity in the current century of imperialist development, because of the presence of vast stock piles of deployable nuclear weapons. Banning war has been posed by history as a necessity for its survival and further development.

Next: A Revolutionary Theory of Mass Struggle for Socialism