V. I.   Lenin





K. Kautsky, “Imperialism”, Die Neue Zeit, 1914, 2 (32nd year), p. 908 et seq. No. 21 (September 11, 1914).

((A note to the article says it was written before the war, for the Congress, and has been slightly altered.))

? || It is not uncommon now to “identify with imperialism all the phenomena of present-day capitalism—cartels, protection, the domination of the financiers, and colonial policy” (908). In that case we have “the flattest tautology”, in that case “imperialism is naturally a vital necessity for capitalism”[1] (908).

The term, he says, must be taken “not in this generalised sense, but in its historical determination” (909), as in Britain, i.e., “as a special kind of political strivings”. ? Hobson! || “The British understand” (909) by imperialism the striving, on the one hand, to unite all parts of the empire with the metropolis, and, on the other, to extend the empire....

“Imperialism is a product of highly developed industrial capitalism. It consists in the striving   | no good at all of every industrial capitalist nation to bring under its control or to annex ever bigger areas of agrarian [Kautsky’s italics] territory, irrespective of what nations inhabit them”[2] (909)....

Further, he discusses the “production proportion” (heading of § 1) between agriculture and industry, between means of production and means of consumption.

§ 2: “Simple commodity production” (blather, old stuff).

§ 3: “Capitalist production”: capitalist industry requires that “the agricultural area serving it as supplier and purchaser” should “constantly expand” ((slipshod!)).

§ 4: “Accumulation and imperialism.”

The contradiction between industry and agriculture finds dual expression (917):

(1) over-production (in industry)....

(2) high costs (of raw materials and staple products)....

Imperialism was preceded by the “form” (striving for expansion) of free trade: “half-a-century ago it, too, was considered the last word in capitalism, as imperialism is today” (917)....

Free trade helped develop other countries (the United States + Europe); their protectionist policy: in place of the division of labour between British industry and the agriculture of all other countries, “they” (the other countries) “divided up the still free agrarian regions of the world among the big |||| N.B. industrial countries, because these regions were incapable of resistance. Britain reacted to this. That was the beginning of imperialism.

|| ? “It was especially assisted by the system, which arose simultaneously with it, of export of capital to the agrarian regions” (918)....

Railways in the new countries—the development of trade—their protection by the state—the striving for annexations (+ preventing the development of industry in them)....

“These are the most important roots of imperialism which replaced free trade”....

“Does it constitute the last possible form of capitalist world policy, or is some other form still possible?”

One “aspect of imperialism”, that is “a vital necessity for capitalism”, viz.: domination over and subjugation of agricultural regions, the construction of railways, can be overcome “only through socialism” (920)....

There is, however, another aspect of imperialism: the struggle waged by states, armaments, war, the resistance of India, Islam and Eastern Asia, the resistance of the proletariat—all this impels “the capitalists of all countries to unite” (920)....

|| ultra-imperialism[3] “From the purely economic point of view, therefore, it is not impossible that capitalism will yet go through a new phase, that of the ha-ha ||| extension of the policy of the cartels to foreign policy, the phase of ultra-imperialism, against which, of course, we would have to fight as vigorously as against imperialism, although it will bring dangers in another direction, not in that of an armaments race and threats to world peace” (921)....

This was written before the war. !! ||| Austria’s conflict with Serbia “did not arise exclusively from imperialist tendencies” (922)—it has “just as much (ebenso) a nationalist” “as an imperialist root” (922). ha-ha! [DITTO: ||| ] True, he says, there are “contradictions”, which imperialism created “between the other Great Powers”. Armaments might be increased and peace (after this war) will be only a truce.

“From the purely economic point of view, nothing any longer prevents this huge discharge of tension from || finally resulting in the abolition of imperialism through a holy alliance of the imperialists” (922).... The more prolonged the war and the exhaustion ..., the nearer we shall be to this solution....

[RIGHT BOX END:] Ibidem, p. 981—in the article on “Effects of the War”—internationalism “does not exclude” “national feeling” and defence of the fatherland, but requires their recognition “for each nation”; “in this sense” (sic!) the Germans and French voted the war credits. ]]

p. 975—ibidem—“our comrades” voted the war credits both to defend the fatherland and “liberate Russia from tsarism” (!!)....

|| ha—ha! p. 974—“there should be an appeal to the statesmen of the victorious countries to exercise moderation” (thrice).

p. 846 (August 21, 1914)—an article “The War” (dated August 8, 1914)—ends with an appeal for “trust”, but not for “criticism”—“discipline in the Party”....

“Two Articles for Re-study” (19152) § d: “The concept of imperialism.”

Opposing Cunow, he asserts that (Hilferding’s) “conclusions” about finance capital have been “unanimously [K. Kautsky’s italics] adopted by all socialist theoreticians”[4] (p. 107) (April 23, 1915).

Cunow equates imperialism with “modern capitalism” (109).

Kautsky rejects this. In Britain in the 1890s (110), imperialism meant the striving for a great Britain (110), for empire, “a special kind of imperial policy” (110. K. Kautsky’s italics)—colonies, protectionist policy.

|| ? “It [“this new policy”] was termed imperialism by everyone” (N.B.) (ibidem).

|||| N.B. Die Neue Zeit, 1897–98, XVIth year, Vol. I I was the “first” (he says) to study the “new imperialism” (Die Neue Zeit, 1897–98 (16, 1), “Old and New Colonial Policy”) and to point to the export of capital, to the role of the financial top stratum. Hilferding in 1910 did not call this new phase of capitalism “imperialism” (110–11). “He [Hilferding], too, |||| evasion, arguing over words uses the term ‘imperialism’ to mean a special kind of policy, and not a ‘phase of economy’. Imperialism for him [= Hilferding] is a policy preferred by finance capital” (111)....

We must draw this distinction: imperialism is not a “phase of economy”, but a special policy, like Manchesterism.[7] We must distinguish between finance capital and imperialism—“its policy” (111).

“Imperialism is a special kind of capitalist policy, as was also Manchesterism, well, that’s it! || which it replaced. The latter, too, did not denote a definite ‘phase of economy’, although it was necessarily connected with such a phase” (111).[5]

[[DOUBLE BOX ENDS:]] [[ Imperialism is the policy of the “economic phase” of finance capital!! Is that what you wanted? Pettyfogger and sophist, trickster,[8] twister—that’s what you are! You evade the essence of the matter. ]]

§ e) “the necessity of imperialism” (112 et seq.)

“That imperialism was inevitable and || therefore necessary—no one will deny.... The debatable question is whether it is necessary in the future”... (113).

And, further, the passages quoted by me in Kommunist[9] (pp. 144–45 and others[6] )....

(ultra-imperialism is also possible ... etc. See Kommunist....)

Inter alia:

Kautsky: “Kiao-chow”, Die Neue Zeit XVI, 2(1898)—(No. 27, March 1898)—inter alia that the “policy of conquest” in China, etc.,

{{2 sic!! || “is not a progressive, but a reactionary policy, not a modern bourgeois policy, but part of a newly revived feudal-absolutist policy ... a reaction against Manchesterism.... {{ N.B. ||| Even from a more advanced bourgeois standpoint, it must be combated, just as we combat taxes on consumer goods, bonuses, narrow departmentalism, restrictions on freedom of movement”, etc. (p. 25)....

N.B. Die Neue Zeit XV, 1 (1897). Lafargue, “Economic Functions of the Stock Exchange”.

N.B. 1915, 2 (33rd year), article on Gerhart G\"uttler’s book, The British Labour Party (Jena, 1914).


[1] Ibid , pp. 267–68.—Ed.

[2] Ibid., p. 268.—Ed.

[3] See present edition, Vol. 22, p. 271.—Ed.

[4] Ibid., p. 289.—Ed.

[5] See present edition, Vol. 22, p. 267.—Ed.

[6] Ibid., Vol. 21, pp. 223–24.—Ed.

[7] Manchesterism (Free Trade)—a trend of bourgeois economic policy which advocated freedom of trade and non-interference by the state in private economic activity. It arose in England at the end of the eighteenth century; in the thirties and forties of the nineteenth century the main support of Free Trade came from the industrial bourgeoisie of Manchester; hence the Free Traders were also called Manchesterites. The Manchester school was headed by Cobden and Bright. Free Trade tendencies in the era prior to monopoly capitalism also struck root in Germany, France, Russia and other capitalist countries. Free Trade was theoretically substantiated in the works of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. p. 288

[8] Lenin calls Kautsky a sophist and trickster for distorting the true nature of imperialism, evading the issue and using sophistries and spurious theoretical arguments to gloss over the deep-seated contradictions of imperialism and justify unity with the apologists of capitalism, the avowed social-chauvinists. p. 268

[9] Kommunist—a magazine founded by Lenin and published by the editorial board of the newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat jointly with G. L. Pyatakov and Yevgenia Bosh, who financed its publication. N. I. Bukharin was also a member of the editorial board. The only (double) issue, which appeared in September 1915, contained three articles by Lenin: “The Collapse of the Second International”, “The Voice of an Honest French Socialist” and “Imperialism and Socialism in Italy” (see present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 205–59, 349–56, 357–66).

Lenin drew up the plan for the magazine in the spring of 1915. He intended to make Kommunist an international organ of the Left Social-Democrats. However, serious disagreements soon arose between the editors of Sotsial-Demokrat and Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosh, and became more acute after the first issue was published. In view of the anti-Party attitude of this group, the Sotsial-Demokrat   editorial board, on Lenin’s proposal, decided that It was impossible to continue the magazine. p. 268


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