Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 156-157
Translation: John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Bluden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission
Comrades, when we debate the world economy and the crisis that the capitalist system of production is going through today, we cannot limit ourselves to Europe and the United States. We must leave the borders of these countries behind us, because capitalism, although doubtless centred in the aforementioned countries, is spreading to the most disparate parts of the earth and has subjugated the large non-European countries to its influence. This urge for imperial and colonial expansion has dominated all peoples for a long time and will perhaps play a role for a long time yet, since it offers the capitalist order valuable help in its struggles to survive. Without a doubt, capitalism finds itself in a very dangerous crisis today; and yet, it would be mistaken to believe the supposition that capitalism will give up its position with little resistance. The capitalists are making the greatest efforts to find a way out of these difficulties and free themselves from this crisis. Given that the world proletariat can exploit this crisis in order to bring about the world revolution and destroy the capitalist system, they are forced to mobilise everything they have to find a way out, if there is in fact any chance at all for the capitalist system to restore its stability.
The World War spared two capitalist centres, namely: Britain and the United States. The world today is in fact divided between these two states. The United States has annexed the entire New World, while the entire Asian and African continents are under British influence. The remaining European powers have been reduced to economic dependency on one or the other of these enormous imperial states. Therefore, we have to consider the possibility that both of these large states will solidify their capitalist structures, since they occupy a dominant position in capitalism today. The breakdown of Germany and of German industry had a great impact on British industry as well as on that of the United States. Before the War, Germany supplied Britain, the United States, and other countries with industrial products in enormous quantities. After the War, these markets have been captured by the United States, Britain, and Japan, compensating these countries in large measure for the losses incurred through the economic collapse of Germany.
The large capitalist states are gradually recognising the irrationality of the Versailles Treaty. They have gradually become aware that the conditions of the Versailles Treaty not only destroy Germany, but would probably also entail their own collapse. They are now trying to pull themselves out of this mess that they so short-sightedly got themselves into; they are making efforts to revive Germany’s industry and to stabilise it. If Britain were dependent on its own resources alone, it would have been unable to carry out its programme to revive Germany. Britain’s current economic and industrial structure bars the motherland from either supporting or reviving Germany without the extensive resources of its enormous colonial possessions. Britain finds the pillars of its power today not only in its own economic structure but also in its extensive colonial and foreign possessions. So in order to revive international capitalism, the drive for colonial and imperial expansion goes hand in hand with world capitalism. Up until the War, it was Britain’s policy not to alter the agrarian character of the large colonial countries because it created a receptive market for its industrial products and, on the other hand, was a good source of raw materials. Yet this policy has now been given up because the industrial development of large countries such as India or China opened up enormous markets for Britain’s industrial products. The overproduction that at present characterises Britain’s industrial system cannot be regarded as a ruinous weakness, at least not under present conditions.
The colonial countries are developing industries, with the result that living conditions of an increasing portion of the population are improving. For as low as wages in all industrialised countries may be, living conditions are undoubtedly better than in the other countries. The industrial development of countries that are now entering the world market is progressing, however, and at the same time, an increase in the buying power of the native population is evident. The industrial crisis is in large part the result of surplus from overproduction, which leaves large sums of capital unutilised. If the capitalists do not find a way to invest this capital usefully the consequences are dire, because the capital must then be invested in other industrial countries. The constant flow of capital from the motherland into other countries takes place in order to participate in their development. For that purpose, large military forces are retained – horrific military forces, which the government uses to terrorise the labour movement. Large profits are used to pay and bribe labour leaders and also to pacify the strong revolutionary forces that slumber among masses of the unemployed by paying high unemployment benefits, pensions, etc. Therefore, I suggest that a clause be added to the theses that refers to the important role that the colonial possessions play in the attempt to stabilise international capitalism. This clause must explain that the task of the International is to make clear on this point that the colonial possessions are resources that can be used by the capitalist system to rebuild its strength.
1. The translation here follows the Russian version. The German text reads, ‘can be regarded as a ruinous weakness’.