THE MARXIST approach to understanding war as a product of economic rivalries spilling over into political and military conflicts has long been dismissed as out of date, even by some people on the left. But the military occupation and corporate takeover of Iraq has put this view back at the center of discussion. SHAUN HARKIN explains why the Russian revolutionary Lenin and the theory that Lenin developed about the rise of imperialism–remains so relevant today.
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LENIN WROTE his influential pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in 1916, during the carnage of the First World War. Sometimes, imperialism is defined very broadly to mean the domination of weaker states by stronger ones. But empire building, colonialism and military competition have existed ever since states have existed.
By contrast, Lenin’s definition of imperialism was historically specific. For Lenin, imperialism was distinct because it represented–and was the product of–a new stage in the development of capitalism.
The internal composition of capitalism had changed dramatically in the years around the turn of the last century. Responding to competition and economic crisis, capitalism in the U.S., Germany, Britain, Japan and France tended to become more concentrated and dominated by massive monopolies.