Louis C. Fraina

Revolutionary Socialism

Imperialism and Capitalism


Imperialism characterizes the new, the final stage of Capitalism. It characterizes, equally, the unity of all the forces of Capitalism into a new and more formidable instrument of conquest and spoliation, the final desperate maneuvre of Capitalism to prevent its utter disintegration and collapse. [1] Imperialism, accordingly, is a fundamental manifestation of Capitalism, Capitalism at the climax of its development.

This fundamental character of Imperialism is the decisive factor in contemporary world-development. All forces and all tendencies, all aspirations of Capitalism, are being merged into the new imperialistic epoch, now definitely established as the dominant expression of Capitalism. This dominance is not a consequence of the war, but the war is a consequence of the dominance of Imperialism. As a major or minor factor, Imperialism controls the policy of states, and determines alignments in the social struggle. Economically and historically, the characteristics of Imperialism justify its designation as a new stage of Capitalism, not an accidental or transitory manifestation.

But this characterization of Imperialism is not generally accepted. Among the liberals, and among the liberal-“Socialists,” Imperialism is considered a temporary product of Capitalism, that may be disposed of upon the basis of Capitalism. The government Socialists in all belligerent nations, who represent groups of the working class seduced by Imperialism, accept wholly the conception of modifying and ultimately disposing of the antagonisms of Imperialism upon the basis of Capitalism: their policy of social-reformism is a policy that depends upon Imperialism, is a phase of social-Imperialism, and they wish to perpetuate the policy of social-Imperialism, while avoiding its horrors. Imperialism is conceived as being fundamentally alien to Capitalism, as the product of particular capitalist and militarist interests, and not an expression of unified Capitalism. This conception constitutes a total misconception of the historical character of Imperialism; it is, moreover, an expression of petit bourgeois Socialism, which, because of its policy of reformism, must adapt itself to Capitalism and avoid the revolutionary struggle. The characterization of Imperialism as a definite stage of Capitalism goes to the heart of contemporary problems, and of the revolutionary reconstruction of Socialism.

Imperialism is the contemporary expression of the requirements of dominant Capitalism. Industrial monopoly, finance-capital, the whole process of capitalist production as an historical category, all layers of the ruling class, the policy of social-reformism, are now dependent upon the adventures and conquests of Imperialism, financial, industrial, and military. The rapid development of Capitalism nationally has simultaneously limited its base internationally; the broadening of economic opportunity of one nation circumscribes the opportunity of a competing nation. While Capitalism is organized nationally and functions nationally, capitalist economy is becoming, is now dependent upon the facts of international production. Capitalism attempts to solve this contradiction through Imperialism, apparently successfully, but actually multiplying the contradictions of Capitalism. Competing Imperialism clashes with competing Imperialism; and the whole of Capitalism becomes absorbed in this clash, since the prosperity of a nation depends upon its Imperialism. Imperialism is the characteristic and unifying tendency of the final stage of Capitalism.

Out of competitive Capitalism develops monopolistic Capitalism; and out of monopolistic Capitalism develops Imperialism. The policy, the tendency, the ideologic-political forms of the imperialistic epoch differ in fundamentals from the epoch of competitive Capitalism. This alone characterizes Imperialism as a definite stage of Capitalism. Moreover, as the final stage of Capitalism, Imperialism imposes a stern obligation upon Socialism – the obligation of Socialism adapting itself to the revolutionary requirements of the new epoch.


The economic power of motion in capitalistic society is the accumulation of capital through competition, and the development of monopoly through the accumulation of capital. This process is dependent upon the production of surplus value by the workers. Capital yields profits, which are invested and in turn become capital. The accumulation of capital accelerates industrial expansion, and this expansion reacts upon and accelerates the accumulation of capital and the development of monopoly.

Historically, Capitalism comes into being through the expropriation of the peasantry from the soil, (by the brutal and infamous means of fire and sword,) the creation of a large body of proletarians which become the human raw material of industry, and the industrial development of the internal market. For a definite period, the requirements of the home market are largely sufficient for the purposes of industrial expansion and accumulation. The principle of competition, of laissez faire, dominates the activity of Capitalism, as well as, largely, the relations of nations to each other. The development of the national economy absorbs the capital and the efforts of the entrepreneur; capital is permanently invested in means of production, in machinery, through which the internal market is developed and the nation becomes industrialized. Trade between nations consists of the export and import of consumable goods. But capital accumulates, and is invested in more means of production; and the point is finally reached where the home market, the strictly national economy [2], no longer serves the purposes of industrial expansion, no longer absorbs the masses of investment capital, and the new means of production which become the permanent form of the investment of capital.

The accumulation of capital, in one sense, depends upon the existence of low wages, which in itself creates the contradictions inherent in the accumulation of capital and the capitalist economy. The prevailing low wages – the extraction of surplus value – implies the inability of a nation to consume all the products it produces. These surplus products are exported to other countries at a lower stage of industrial development; but thereupon these countries emerge definitely into the capitalist mode of production, become industrialized, and produce a mass of surplus products of their own.

“When the newcomer within the family of capitalist nations turns from a customer of its older capitalistic brethren into their competitor, it does not do so in all fields of production. On the contrary, it continues to remain their customer for a long time to come. Only it does not buy from them any more textiles and other consumable goods as it used to, but machinery and means of production generally. The competition of the newcomer in the production of consumable goods leads to a shifting of production in the older – industrially more developed – countries. These countries now produce, proportionately, more machinery and other artificial means of production and fewer consumable goods.” [3]

This development proceeds upon the basis of the accumulation of capital, which accumulates at a terrific pace. But this creates a mass of surplus capital, which is not absorbed by the development of the internal economy, exactly as surplus products are not absorbed. An impetus is provided this development by the appearance of monopoly, which unifies the industrial process of a nation, and aspires after world monopoly. Monopolistic Capitalism, having monopolized the national economy, becomes international and tries to monopolize the investment markets and sources of raw material throughout the world. This again accelerates the accumulation of capital, the production of means of production, the necessity of developing new industrial markets to absorb the accumulating mass of surplus capital and means of production. [4] An impasse is reached – capitalist production must break its national bonds and become international; new spheres of economy must be secured for industrial development, to absorb surplus capital and means of production; new sources of raw material must be conquered and monopolized, a new capitalism must be “created” and monopolized by the older Capitalism in order to prevent its disintegration and collapse. It is a desperate situation, and Capitalism resorts to desperate means to avert impending collapse. The peaceful economic partition of the world proceeds feverishly; but each partition produces new appetities, and narrows the economic opportunity of competing capitalistic nations. Contradictions multiply, antagonisms assume a more impelling and irreconcilable character; and the ultimate arbitrament of the issues in dispute becomes the arbitrament of the bayonet. Capitalism emerges definitely into a new phase of its existence, – Imperialism: the climax of Capitalism, the final stage of its supremacy.

This new stage of Capitalism completely alters the colonial policy of the great industrial nations. Commercial colonialism was a factor of the utmost importance in the development of Capitalism. The wealth filched from the colonies becomes an accelerator of the accumulation of capital in the mothercountry, contributes to the development of the internal industrial technology. At first the process is simply one of stealing gold, silver, and other precious articles from the natives, who are exterminated; but this policy, persisted in, produces an industrial stagnation in the mother-country that brings about its ruin, as in Spain. The country is choked in its own ill-gotten wealth. It is only where this appropriation of wealth coincides with a normal development of industry, as in England, that it promotes Capitalism. This development produces an ever increasing mass of products, which are exported to the colonies. The ability of the natives to consume is artificially stimulated, and they are compelled to use products which their primitive minds do not desire, and at the same time they are put to work to produce those special articles required by the nation that rules them. The natives are “civilized” in order that they may yield profits.

But the older colonies are incompatible with the capitalist mode of production, which pre-supposes the expropriation of the laborer. Laborers exported to the colonies become independent and refuse to submit to the capitalist mode of production, preferring to till the soil which is abundant and secured without cost. The trade in goods of developing nations with each other constitutes a more efficient means of capitalist accumulation. Capitalism begins to consider colonies as unprofitable, and they are largely retained because of the bureaucracy of officials for whom they provide employment, and because of special opportunities for robbery given to a few members of the ruling caste. This period, however, passes away in the measure that the capitalist mode of production enters a new phase. The colonies establish an organized life; the import of products is supplemented by the import of capital, and the colonies become active producing units by the import of means of production. The colonies are now active industrial producers, absorbing surplus capital; and the mother-country now fights to retain these colonies.

It is precisely the nations with an old established colonial system, such as England, that first pass into the epoch of Imperialism; or a nation, such as the United States, that has at its doors an undeveloped territory which plays the part of a colony. The colonial system under Imperialism undergoes another change, and that is the practical cessation of immigration to these domains. The natives are no longer exterminated to make room for the whites, but are expropriated from the soil and turned into wage-laborers, become the human raw material of industry, historically the basis of the capitalist mode of production. The migration of men to the colonies is supplemented by the migration of capital, of means of production; occupied territory is not to be colonized, but “developed” and exploited. The “pressure of population,” by which some explain the phenomenon of Imerialism, is a myth; Germany, which has been striving to carve out a colonial empire, has no desire to export its people, but to export its capital and machinery. France has been active in the struggle for territory, and France has no surplus population to export.

Imperialism does not concern itself with colonies alone. It extends its scope to countries whiich can in no sense be colonial possessions, but which because of an inferior stage of industrial development, provide opportunity for the investment of capital and the introduction of a modern industrial technology. Protectorates and “spheres of influence” become the new means of aggrandizing national capital; or if these are insufficient the country may be occupied, in order to assure stability and normal development. France did not occupy Morocco in order to colonize it, but to assure French investors security and a monopoly of the profits that come from developments. The great industrial nations transform their colonial possessions into producers and absorbers of surplus capital; and reach out to develop any other part of the world, civilized and uncivilized, in which the investment of capital will yield more than average profits. Not the least attractive feature of this policy for the capitalist is the existence of a mass of low-priced workers in an undeveloped territory – low wages being a particularly powerful accelerator of the accumulation of capital, other things being equal.

Having revolutionized industry within its own national borders, accordingly, Capitalism now revolutionizes industry within the borders of undeveloped nations, creates a new proletariat and a new Capitalism which become the base upon which are erected new systems of empires, financial and military. Hitherto, all that these undeveloped lands were required to do was to purchase the consumable products of the great industrial nations; but this is now insufficient, and Capitalism begins to develop and exploit the new markets through the investment of capital and the introduction of machinery. It becomes no longer sufficient, for example, that Mexico sell the United States its agricultural products and raw materials, and that it purchase the manufactured products of the United States. The Mexican home market must be developed; it must absorb the surplus capital of United States Capitalism, purchase its iron goods and means of production, which become dominantly the form of investment of accumulated capital. Then comes the period of the investment of American capital in Mexico, the building of railways, docks, and factories by American enterprise and American money. This is the export of capital, the animating factor in Imperialism. The domination and exploitation of undeveloped peoples becomes the characteristic of parasitic Capitalism. The climax of this development is a change in the economic policy of a nation, in the character of its politics. [5]

The great fact of international economics during the past thirty years is the investment of British, French, German and American capital in the undeveloped sections of the world, – China, Egypt, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, the Balkans and Asia Minor; a process of investment which rapidly emerged into definite Imperialism.

But this purely economic fact goes hand in hand with a vital political fact the struggle for and extension of political control over these undeveloped lands by the nations exporting capital. These nations do not simply compete in the export of capital, but a fierce rivalry arises to secure political control in the countries where capital is invested, a control that constitutes the mechanism of monopolistic Capitalism. The reason for this is dual:

  1. It does not matter so much to a capitalist whether a country has a stable government or not, as long as he is simply selling its people consumable products. Such a country may be convulsed by revolutions, disorder may reign, but it matters little if only the products are paid for, and that is the end of the transaction. As soon, however, as the foreign capitalist invests money in the countrty, either as loans to the state or in “projects of development,” its government and social order become of the utmost importance. Revolutions, and a pre-capitalistic social order generally, disorganize industry, and the invested capital yields no profits; may, moreover, become a dead loss. The export of capital and its investment immediately develops its ideology, – a horror of revolutions, the lamenting of disorders, a Crusader’s enthusiasm for making over the country in the image of sacrosanct Capitalism, and the pious desire that the people should live in “peace” and “prosperity,” under the domination of a “superior race” if necessary. The capitalist, accordingly, brings pressure to bear on his own government to maintain order in the country where his money is invested, and the government becomes guarantor of his investments. Imperialistic governments unblushingly and unashamed develop into agencies to collect debts and promote investments; the army and navy become adjuncts of the banks and of investment capital. It was the boast of imperial Rome that it protected its citizens wherever they might wander; it is the pride of imperialistic governments that the capital of their citizens is protected wherever it may be invested. These governments try to prevail upon a backward country to maintain order and the stability of industrial activity; this failing, a protectorate is established or the country bodily annexed. Peace and prosperity prevail – for the investor!
  2. Finance capital, which is the factor behind Imperialism, is essentially monopolistic, the nervecenter of monopolistic Capitalism. The investment markets of the world (and sources of raw material) are limited, and each national Capitalism seeks their control for itself and the exclusion of others. The finance and politics of Imperialism are indissolubly linked, and the political control of a backward country is indispensable to the purposes of Imperialism. There ensues, accordingly, a struggle between national Capitalism not only for investment markets, but for their political control. This is the meaning of the Franco-German clash over Morocco; Anglo-German rivalry in Mesopotamia; the schemes of Japan for control in China; and the transformation of the Monroe Doctrine into an imperialistic instrument for establishing American capital in monopolistic control of Central and South America. [6] The financial and the political facts, moreover, are linked together by the circumstances that it is not simply investments, but the development of a country which is the ultimate and necessary object of Imperialism.

In the operations of Imperialism politics are inseparable from economics. The Bagdad Railway, by which German Imperialism sought to insure its control of the development and exploitation of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, was as much a matter of politics, if not more so, as of finance; and it was this feature that produced the diplomatic clash between Germany and Great Britain, which prevented the railway being completed. Military conquest is a means of promoting Imperialism, and the operations of Imperialism, through control of territory, railways, etc., are calculated to promote ultimate conquest. Hence the political character of Imperialism and the antagonisms it develops between states. The loans that have from time to time been granted to China by the Great Powers have been political transactions in which finance, as an immediate factor and purpose, played a secondary role; the loans were used to secure political or territorial concessions from China; and it was through the medium of these political loans that national sovereignty largely passed out of the hands of China into the control of these other nations. Nor were these loans granted by finance alone, but by finance acting in co-operation with its particular national government. Finance promotes politics and politics promotes finance.

The export of capital to an undeveloped country, whether it assumes the form of loans to the Chinese government or the building of the Bagdad Railway, does not end with the particular immediate transaction. This immediate transaction, it is true, absorbs a certain amount of surplus capital; but it is secondary in importance to ultimate purposes, to the subsequent absorption of surplus capital. The Bagdad Railway constituted a means by which the whole region of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor was to be developed industrially, a development absorbing new surplus capital and products; it was to act much as the great transcontinental railway systems of the United States, – to open up new territory for industrial use and prepare the way for intensive development and exploitation. It was this subsequent development which was to justify the Bagdad Railway, the opening up of a new internal market, the development of a modern industrial technology in these capitalistically and wastes, and consequently the absorption of large masses of German capital and means of production. The political privileges wrung from China – usually “concessions” and “spheres of influence” – were claims upon the natural and industrial development and exploitation, which would require again the export of capital. It is this economic fact that produces the necessity of political control in an undeveloped country that is the objective of Imperialism.

Another animating cause of Imperialism, of minor or major importance according to the resources of a country, is the competition to secure raw materials, particularly iron, oil and coal. As a nation reaches the maturity of development of its internal market, it reaches the point where itst internal raw materials are either becoming exhausted or are insufficient for its industrial purposes. These raw materials must be secured abroad, in undeveloped countries. Iron is the basis of the modern industrial technology, the constituent element in the production of means of production, and oil is becoming a prime factor in transportation, since the invention of the Diesel engine. A supply of the raw materials necessary for industry, constant and uninterrupted, is a matter of life and death to Capitalism. In the earlier Colonial era, colonies were prized in the measure that they possessed silver and gold; in the iron age of imperialistic Capitalism, iron ore, copper and other industrial metals are of utmost necessity, and their possession may make a nation rich beyond the dreams of avarice. The development of mines in undeveloped countries performs a two-fold function – it absorbs surplus capital, and provides the mother-country with the raw material of industry, which is largely converted into means of production for export to undeveloped countries. China is simply bursting with iron ore and other metals, and Japan is hungry for their possession, as it has practically none within its own territory; the iron ore of Morocco [7] was the motive of the desire of Germany and France to secure control in that region; the inexhaustible oil wells of Mexico have for the past ten years been the source of a bitter struggle for their possession between American, British and German capital. Bismarck seized Alsace-Lorraine for political, territorial and dynastic purposes; but to-day Germany refuses to relinquish these provinces because, other reasons aside, they are rich in iron ore, having in 1913 produced 21,136,265 metric tons of iron ore as against 7,471,638 metric tons produced by the rest of Germany. This struggle for raw material, particularly iron ore, is, together with the export of capital, a distinguishing feature of Imperialism and a symptom of the fact that national Capitalism is now at the climax of its development.

Imperialism is a process of expropriation – the expropriation of a national Capitalism by its competitor. Imperialistic Capitalism may, by means of a particularly perfected monopoly, engage in competition against a rival Capitalism within its own nation, and expropriate it in its own markets. Moreover, Imperialism does not simply covet undeveloped territory, but may annex developed territory, providing it possesses raw materials and the capacity to absorb capital. Powerful industrial and financial interests in Germany urge the annexation of Northern France – the metallurgical and manufacturing centre of France; and the annexation of Belguim. The first would strike a terrific blow at French Capitalism; the second would expropriate a whole national Capitalism and aggrandize German Capitalism. Detaching Alsace-Lorraine from Germany, on the other hand, would mean economic disaster – unless Germany secured “compensation” by annexing the Baltic provinces of Russia, which are rich in raw materials. Monopoly – the monopoly of a particular national Capitalism – would be established in the conquered regions by means of the expropriation of nascent or dominant Capitalism; and, this monopoly organized, a new struggle would emerge for world monopoly and world power.


Monopolistic Capitalism and Imperialism are necessarily belligerent. As the expropriation of one capitalist by another was a means for the accumulation of capital, so the destruction of capital and the expropriation of a competing Capitalism through war becomes a means for the perpetuation of Capitalism. In this desperate way is Capitalism maneuvring to prevent a decrepit system from tottering to its collapse.

In the process of imperialistic competition, governments and their diplomacy and armed power become conscious and active agents in the promotion of the Imperialism of their particular capitalist class. In ways sinister and secret, open and unashamed, governments act as the panders of Imperialism, raping the peace of the world and the independence of peoples.

This competition in the export of capital is financial and political; and being political and promoted by governments, there arises a situation in which war becomes a perpetual menace. The ultimate economic fact develops an ideology and a justification, – the “white man’s burden,” the “defense of small nations,” the concept of a “superior race” invested with the mission of imposing its “kultur” upon the backward races, the aspiration of “making the world safe for democracy,” and the “defense of the nation and its institutions.” The activity of diplomacy and a recourse to war are justified through these ideologic concepts; but, in fact, it is the economic process of the export of capital and the expansion of industry, jointly with the necessity of crushing rivals by armed force and securing control of the exploitation of the undeveloped regions of the world, that act as the driving force of imperialistic diplomacy and war.

Imperialism is a revolutionizing factor; it sets the world in turmoil industrially and politically. The export of capital and the monopolization of the sources of raw materials, being an absolute necessity to an industrially highly-developed nation dominated by Capitalism, the interests of Imperialism become identified with the interests of the nation, interpreted by the ruling class; the government protects and advances these interests through diplomatic means; but a point may be reached where none of the antagonists yield, when the forces of diplomacy no longer reach a temporary solution, and the interests in dispute are put to the arbitrament of the sword. Soldiers slay and destroy, where diplomats intrigued.

The “armed peace” of Imperialism is the expression of the quintessence of capitalist hypocrisy and rapacity. Each nation dreads war, may anxiously attempt to avert war, but all relentlessly and unavoidably pursue a policy that inevitably brings war. The “armed peace” is an expression of the status quo; but the status quo limits the scope of Imperialism, is itself considered an “aggression,” and must be altered by means of war. The horrors of this “armed peace,” its torturing uncertainty, dreads and burdens are such that war itself becomes a sort of relief. All Imperialism cloaks itself in the garb of a “civilizing mission,” and all Imperialism produces a world catastrophe that drags civilization down to ruin. Imperialism is the brutal and final negation of all the ideal claims of capitalist hypocrisy, expressing the most rapacious projects in all history.

Wars waged under the conditions of imperialistic Capitalism present features of new and epochal significance. They are no longer national wars waged by nations, but international wars waged between groups of nations for international imperialistic purposes; they are wars waged not to preserve the nation but to break through the hampering limits of the nation; they are wars which are determined, not ultimately but immediately, by the economics of productive capacity, and which organize for military purposes the whole of the industrial technology; they are wars which are not simply waged by nations but by peoples, because of a partly actual and largely fictitious interest of all the people in the war, and the pervasive and compulsive ideology of Imperialism; and, finally, they are wars which require and project a rigid centralizing control of the process of industry by the government, the control of State Capitalism, for their prosecution. And it is precisely this State Capitalism, the social characteristic and political expression of Imperialism, that is the distinguishing feature of contemporary capitalist society. This circumstance alone indicates the universal, the fundamental character of Imperialism in relation to Capitalism. But it indicates, simultaneously, the desperate situation of Capitalism. Imperialism is the expression of a stagnant Capitalism, a Capitalism in process of disintegration and verging on collapse.

“The fact that Imperialism means Capitalism in a parasitic or stagnant stage is apparent from the tendency to disintegration which is characteristic of all private ownership of the means of production. The distinction between republican and democratic and monarchist-reactionary imperialistic bourgeoisie is nullified by the fact that both are rotting away while apparently in full bloom (which by no means prevents a striking rapidity of capitalist development in certain branches of industry, or in certain countries, or in certain periods.) In the second place, the decay of Capitalism is characterized by the creation of a huge rentier class, of capitalists who live by ‘cutting coupons.’ In the four advanced imperialist countries, England, North America, France and Germany, capital, in the form of securities, amounts to 100 or 150 milliards of francs, which involves an annual income of from five to eight milliards per country. In the third place, the export of capital is Capitalism to the second power. In the fourth place, ‘financecapital aspires to domination, not to freedom.’ Political reaction all along the line is peculiar to Imperialism: bribery, readiness to be purchased, the Panama case in all its forms. In the fifth place, the exploitation of the oppressed nations, indissolubly associated with a policy of annexations, and particularly the exploitation of colonies by a handful of ‘great’ powers, is progressively transforming the ‘civilized’ world into a parasite on the backs of hundreds of millions of uncivilized people. The Roman proletarian lived at society’s expense. But present-day society lives at the expense of its proletariat. This profound observation of Sismondi has been particularly emphasized by Marx. Imperialism has somewhat changed the situation. The privileged layers of the proletariat of the imperialistic powers are living partly at the expense of the hundreds of millions of uncivilized people. It is evident that Imperialism is dying Capitalism, preparatory to Socialism; that monopoly, which is an outgrowth of Capitalism, is already the agony of Capitalism, the beginning of the transition to Socialism. The tremendous socialization of labor, through Imperialism (which the bourgeois economic apologists call ‘the interlocking process’) has precisely the same significance ... On the one hand, the tendency of the bourgeoisie and of the opportunists is to transform the richest of the privileged nations into ‘permanent’ parasites on the body of backward humanity, to ‘rest on the laurels’ of the exploitation of Negroes, East Indians, etc., holding them in subjection by using the magnificent destructive powers of the newest military technique. On the other hand, the tendency of the masses, more oppressed than ever, and burdened with all the torments of imperialistic wars, to cast off this yoke and overthrow the bourgeoisie. In the conflict between these two tendencies, the history of the workers’ movement must really begin to move.” [8]

The more Imperialism expresses itself as stagnant Capitalism, the more violent will become the struggles of Capitalism to avert its collapse. But a system that must resort to the methods of Imperialism is a system that inevitably strangles itself in its own contradictions. The contradictions of Imperialism are the contradictions of Capitalism, multiplied and aggravated by the corroding stagnation of an economy that historically has persisted beyond its necessity.

A social system is often deceptive in its strength. The war, apparently, marks a strengthening of Capitalism, a new expression of the omnipotence of Capitalism: the state and Capitalism are supreme, control all things with iron despotism. And yet, historically, the war is an expression of the weakness of Capitalism, of its stagnant condition, of the fact that the situation of Capitalism is so desperate as to invoke the use of the most desperate, dangerous means to preserve itself. Imperialism, equally, marks an apparent renewal of the might of Capitalism, a new means for the prolongation of its supremacy. These are facts; but it is a form of renewal and prolongation worse than the disease; that imply new and more desperate struggles, acuter antagonisms, and a multiplication of the factors that produce Imperialism. A still more decrepit Capitalism, an unavoidable limiting of the opportunity for its preservation, – these are the inevitable consequences of the tendency of Imperialism.

Imperialism is the final stage of Capitalism: the two are interwoven, persist or collapse as one. The alternative is either the collapse of all civilization, or the coming of Socialism.


1. Imperialism is a specific historical stage of Capitalism. Its peculiarities are threefold: Imperialism means (1) monopolistic Capitalism; (2) parasitic, or stagnant Capitalism; and (3) dying Capitalism ... Imperialism, the most advanced stage of Capitalism in America and Europe, and later of Asia, became fully developed in the period from 1898 to 1914. The SpanishAmerican War (1898), the Anglo-Boer War (1900-1902), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and the economic crisis in Europe (1910), are the chief historical milestones of this new era of universal history. – N. Lenin, Imperialism and the Socialist Schism, Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata, December 1916.

2. The development and exploitation of the home market mean a revolutionary struggle against Feudalism, – the bourgeois revolution. At the earlier periods of capitalist society, when there was no class conscious proletariat, the bourgeoisie could afford to engage in this revolutionary struggle. But a nation that enters the orbit of capitalist production definitely during the imperialistic epoch pursues a different course. In Russia, for example, the bourgeoisie was afraid to develop intensively its home market, as it meant a revolutionary struggle against Czarism; the bourgeoisie feared this struggle, because it might offer an opportunity to the proletariat and proletarian peasantry to assume power – as has actually been the case. The Russian bourgeoisie, accordingly, dealt gingerly with the home market and sought means of exploitation and accumulation of capital through the control of undeveloped countries Imperialism. This imperialistic character of the Russian bourgeoisie explains many of the events in the Russian Revolution. Where in other countries Imperialism is the product of an over-developed Capitalism, in Russia, as in Japan, it is influenced by an under-developed Capitalism. “In Japan and in Russia,” says Lenin, “the monopoly of military power, a measureless extent of territory, or an unusual opportunity to exploit native populations, partly complement and partly replace the monopoly of present-day finance-capital.”

3. L.B. Boudin. Socialism and War.

4. Monopoly appears in five principal forms: (1) cartells, syndicates and trusts: in these the concentration of production has reached the stage that creates monopolistic leagues of capitalists; (2) the monopoly position of the great banks: three, four or five gigantic banks dominate the entire economic life of America, France and Germany; (3) the conquest of the sources of raw materials by the trust and the financial oligarchy (finance-capital means monopolistic industrial capital united with banking capital); (4) the beginnings of the partition of the world (economic) by the international cartells: of such international cartells, controlling the whole world market, and doing it “amicably” (until war began to redistribute it), there are already more than one hundred; the export of capital, a phenomenon distinct from the export of goods under pro-monopolistic Capitalism, is closely allied with the economic and politico-territorial division of the world; (5) the territorial division of the world (colonial era) has been completed. – N. Lenin, Imperialism and the Socialist Schism, loc. cit.

5. To the landed class ... broad acres and numerous serfs are the most natural expressions of wealth, it conquers and arms to acquire estates. With the development of manufactures and oversea trade, these cruder views are discarded. The landed class retains for a time its hereditary bias to think in terms of actual possession. But little by little the commercial standpoint modifies the attitude ven of the aristocracy. A trading community like Early Victorian England, which can still profitably employ all its capital in its mills and ships, becomes indifferent to the acquisition of territory, and even tends to regard the colonies previously acquired as a useless encumbrance. That was the normal state of mind of our commercial classes during the middle years of last century. They dealt in goods, and in order to sell goods abroad, it was not necessary either to colonize or to conquer. To this phase belongs the typical foreign policy of Liberalism, with its watchwords of peace, non-intervention, and free trade. The third phase, the modern phase, begins when capital has accumulated in large fortunes, when the rate of interest at home begins to fall, and the discovery is made that investments abroad, in unsettled countries with populations more easily exploited than our own, offer swifter and bigger returns. It is the epoch of concession hunting, of coolie labor, of chartered companies, of railway construction, of loans to semi-civilized Powers, of the “opening up” of “dying empires.” At this phase the export of capital has become to the ruling class more important and more attractive than the export of goods. The Manchester school disappears, and even Liberals accept Imperialism. – H.N. Brailsford, The War of Steel and Gold.

6. The early Imperialism of the United States, externally, was largely a reflex of the Monroe Doctrine. Originally promulgated as a bulwark of the new Republic, the Monroe Doctrine, as American Capitalism developed, was transformed into an imperialistic instrument, the definite impetus in this direction being given by President Cleveland, and completed by President Roosevelt. American capital and enterprises were established in Central America and the Carribbeans, the result being the creation of a de facto empire, based upon the financial control which ultimately leads to political domination. In his Mobile speech in 1913 President Wilson opposed granting oil concessions to non-American promoters by the weaker American states, as the granting of these concessions was a menace to the Monroe Doctrine, Here was formulated completely the imperialistic phase of the Monroe Doctrine, not intended to protect the political independence of the American continents against foreign aggression, but to aggrandize, financially, economically and politically, the Imperialism of the United States as against the other nations of the world. The rapacious expression of this doctrine is shown in the complete subjection of the Republics of Central America and the Carribbeans, completed and consolidated during the “liberal” administration of Woodrow Wilson. This administration tried to project a Pan-Americanism in the interest of American Imperialism, the chief purpose of which was to secure economic and governmental stability, as, in the words of Mr. Wilson, “revolution tears up the very roots of everything that makes life go steadily forward and the light grow from generation to generation.” This “Pan-Americanism” is, in a measure, an off-shoot of the Monroe Doctrine; but it is a contradiction, for as long as the Monroe Doctrine prevails, which is a strictly national doctrine, any attempt at Pan-Americanism is simply a scheme to promote the Imperialism of the United States. This Pan-Americanism and the Monroe Doctrine are merging into the definite continental expression of American Imperialism.

7. The “trade” of Morocco, if by that word is meant the exchange of European manufactured goods against the raw produce of its agriculture, is at the best inconsiderable ... What matters in Morocco is the wealth of its virgin mines ... A German firm, the Mannesmann Brothers, could indeed boast that it had obtained an exclusive concession to work all the mines of Morocco in return for money which it had lent to an embarrassed Sultan during its civil wars. That this was the real issue is proved by the terms which were more than once discussed between Paris and Berlin for the settlement of the dispute. A “détente,” or provisional settlement of the dispute was concluded in 1910, which had only one clause that German finance would share with French finance in the various undertakings and companies which aimed at “opening up” Morocco by ports, railways, mines, and other public works. No effect was ever given to this undertaking, and German irritation at the delays of French diplomacy and French finance culminated in the dispatch of the gunboat Panther to Agadir as a prelude to further “conversations.” – H.N. Brailsford, The War of Steel and Gold.

8. N. Lenin, Imperialism and the Socialist Schism, loc. cit. Another passage from this article will prove instructive:

“Our definition of Imperialism puts us in opposition to Karl Kautsky, who refuses to accept Imperialism as ‘a phase of Capitalism,’ and defines Imperialism as the policy ‘favored by’ finance-capital, as the tendency of the ‘industrial’ countries to annex ‘agrarian’ countries. This definition of Kautsky’s is theoretically all wrong. The peculiarity of Imperialism is the hegemony, precisely not of industrial, but of financial capital, the tendency to annex, not agrarian, but any countries at all. Kautsky tears the policy of Imperialism from its economy, severs monopolism in economy from monopolism in policy in order to pave the way for his base bourgeois reformism of ‘disarmament,’ ‘ultra-Imperialism,’ and other follies. This theoretical misrepresentation is completely cal culatod to obliterate the profound contradictions of Imperialism, and thus to prepare the theory of ‘unity’ with the apologists of Imperialism, the outright social patriots and opportunists.”


Last updated on 14.10.2007