Many years have passed since capitalism entered its imperialist phase. From the moment that monopoly capital replaced free competition, capitalism was in its imperialist stage, which, as Lenin has defined it, is “the highest stage of capitalism”, i.e., its last stage.[10b]
The rise of imperialism as the principal tendency and aspect of capitalism dates from the beginning of the 20th century. The First World War marked the definite end of the era of competitive capitalism and its transformation into monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
Our present era is still defined by the domination of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. There has not been any fundamental change in the social relations of capitalist production. Imperialism is not a new mode of production, but a specific stage in the development of capitalism.
Nonetheless, we see in the imperialist stage, and more specifically in this period of imperialist crisis, a considerable heightening of the contradictions inherent in the capitalist mode of production. All contradictions present in today’s world are sharpening and are bound up with each other.
Imperialism has two fundamental characteristics: on the one hand, monopoly capitalism dominates as the principal aspect or tendency of the capitalist mode of production; and on the other hand, this domination by the monopolies extends to the whole of the capitalist world.
Imperialism is a stage of capitalist development in which, because of the extreme concentration of capital, as well as the extensive socialization of production on a world scale, its contradictions get aggravated to such an extent that the smallest crisis or instability which troubles it reverberates throughout the whole of the world economy. The repercussions in the political sphere of these disturbances in the economic base result in a growing instability both within the capitalist countries and in relations between them as well. There is, therefore, a permanent danger of a new imperialist world war.
As Lenin wrote, imperialism is capitalism at the stage of development where: 1) the domination of the monopolies and of finance capital is established; 2) the export of capital has acquired a major importance; 3) the international trusts have begun dividing up the world; and 4) the division of the world among the biggest imperialist countries has been completed.
As a result, Lenin continues, imperialism everywhere produces trends toward domination, not freedom. National oppression in particular is stepped up during this era.
Imperialism must always maintain itself through force of arms, systematic violence, and reactionary measures. Thus, it brings about war as the natural extension and the principal inevitable aspect of its policy – war to insure its hegemony in different parts of the world, reactionary civil war to crush peoples’ revolutionary movements, war for control of raw materials, and war to maintain control over communication and transportation networks. As long as imperialism exists, there can be no lasting peace.
The alliances between different imperialist powers, notwithstanding the pacifist and doubletalking representatives of the bourgeoisie – be they social-democrats, revisionists, or others – who see in them the only way to gain world peace, “...are inevitably nothing more than ’truces’ between wars”.
Imperialism is also characterized by the accumulation of enormous superprofits that allow the monopoly bourgeoisie:
“...to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time a fairly considerable minority of them, and win them to the side of the bourgeoisie of a given industry or given nation against all others.
“This stratum of bourgeoisified workers, or the ’labour aristocracy’, who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings, and in their entire outlook ... is the principal social [not military] prop of the bourgeoisie. For they are the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, real channels of reformism and chauvinism”.
Consequently, the struggle against the opportunist tendencies transmitted by the labour aristocracy has always been considered by real Marxist-Leninists as a necessary aspect of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle:
“... the fight against imperialism is a sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.”
The only way to rigorously understand the opportunism that has grown up in the labour movement since the period of the First World War is by examining its intimate links with the development of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. Imperialist war (which is the principal aspect of its policies) reinforces and sharpens the chauvinistic and reformist tendencies among the petit-bourgeois strata and the bourgeoisified strata of the working class, as well as in the communist movement itself. Lenin explains this in speaking of the social-democratic revisionism of that epoch:
“Since the specific political features of imperialism are reaction all along the line and increased national oppression resulting from the oppression of the financial oligarchy and the elimination of free competition, a petit-bourgeois democratic opposition to imperialism arose in the beginning of the 20th century in nearly all imperialist countries. The desertion of Kautsky and of the broad international Kautskyan trend from Marxism consists precisely in the fact that Kautsky not only did not trouble to oppose, was not only unable to oppose this petit-bourgeois reformist opposition, which is really reactionary in its economic basis, but becomes merged with it in practice.”
This “petit-bourgeois democratic” tendency, along with social democracy and modern revisionism, are reactionary. Faced with the domination of monopoly capitalism they basically preach a return to the competitive stage of capitalism. As for modern revisionism, although it dare not openly advocate a return to competitive capitalism, it defends the very same reactionary policy in practice. Its program of opposition to the monopolies leads to a policy of protecting the non-monopolist sectors of middle range capitalism and small national capital which would coexist in harmony with a strong state capitalism.
Thus, in the face of imperialism’s last resort for achieving its hegemony (i.e. war in all its forms), the democratic petit-bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisified sections of the working class (the labour aristocracy and the organizations or parties basing their opportunist leadership on it) are “pacifist” and “patriotic” in their vocabulary. They preach “understanding”, national and international harmony, class collaboration, nationalism, the defence of the homeland, etc. But in practice they are the keen promoters of the most reactionary chauvinism, identical in all respects with the interests of the monopoly bourgeoisie, which makes use of the nation and war between “nations” to further its plans for hegemony. The “patriotism” of the chauvinist social democrats and of the revisionists is a reactionary, not a revolutionary, patriotism.
The struggle against opportunism in the workers’ movement today inevitably takes the form of a struggle against “modern revisionism”, i.e., against the opportunist line put forward by the “Communist” parties of the Soviet Union, France, Italy, Canada, etc. (which are in no way communist except in name). These parties come ever closer to the theses, positions and practice of those earlier revisionists, the social democrats. Chauvinism, reformism, class collaboration and, for the Soviet Union, its “great power” politics under cover of “peaceful transition to socialism” and “peaceful coexistence”, have completely replaced the revolutionary theses, strategy and tactics of Marxism-Leninism within these parties.
A new imperialism has thus taken its place on the world scene: Soviet social-imperialism. Just like American imperialism, it is struggling for hegemony in the different parts of the world. It does this to the detriment of other nations and peoples, which it doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice in order to satisfy its hegemonist and expansionist ambitions. Having abandoned the socialist road for the capitalist road, the Soviet revisionists oppress both the proletariat and the working masses of Russia as well as the other peoples and nations of the Soviet Union.
Since 1963, the Communist Party of China has drawn a firm line of demarcation between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism and all other forms of opportunism, reformism, and collaborationist policy within the international communist movement. As stated in their Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement:
“In the last analysis, it is a question of whether or not to accept the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism, whether or not to recognize the universal significance of the October Revolution, whether or not to accept the fact that the people still living under the imperialist and capitalist system, who comprise two-thirds of the world’s population, need to make revolution, and whether or not to accept the fact that the people already on the socialist road, who comprise one-third of the world’s population, need to carry their revolution forward to the end.”
The current international situation is characterized by a sharpening of the four fundamental contradictions of the contemporary world:
1) The contradiction between the dominated nations and peoples on the one hand, and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other.
2) The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist and revisionist countries.
3) The contradiction between imperialism and social-imperialism, and between imperialist countries.
4) The contradiction between the socialist countries on the one hand and the imperialist and social-imperialist countries on the other.
All of these contradictions are founded on the very existence of imperialism, the final stage of capitalism; the exiČtence of a handful of rich countries dominating the great majority of poor and weaker countries; and the domination on a world scale by a small, parasitic and decadent class – the monopoly bourgeoisie – over the innumerable masses of workers and peasants.
It is therefore only by destroying the very foundations of imperialism and capitalism (i.e. private ownership of the means of production and exchange, and the state of the supposedly democratic bourgeois dictatorship) that the proletariat and the working masses of the dominated nations and peoples will attain freedom. Only the socialist revolution of the proletariat and the masses of the people can fully secure this liberation.
All around the world the dominated and oppressed peoples and nations are resisting and rising up in arms against imperialism and the puppet regimes it supports. The evolution of the world situation confirms more and more the positions of Mao-Tse-tung in his Declaration of May 20th, 1970:
“At the present time, a new rise of the struggle against American imperialism is asserting itself throughout the world. Since the end of World War II American imperialism and those who follow its lead, have not stopped waging wars of aggression, and the peoples have always resorted to revolutionary war to defeat the attackers. The danger of a new world war is still with us and the peoples of the world must be prepared for it. But in the world today, the principal tendency is revolution.”
Faced with the rise of armed resistance of the Third World countries, American imperialism and the secondary imperialist powers are increasing the oppression and intensifying the exploitation of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries. As their margin of superprofit decreases because of the people’s struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the monopoly bourgeoisies try to shift the burden of the crisis of imperialism onto the backs of the proletariat in their own countries. For some years now we have also witnessed increased class struggle in the very heart of the imperialist metropolises. The increasing frequency of political crises, inflation, unemployment, recession, high cost of living, corruption, super-exploitation of immigrant labour and of national minorities, etc. – these are all signs that testify to a general crisis of imperialism. They also herald its end.
This situation also explains the ascent of opportunism and the ever-greater convergence between modern revisionism and old-style revisionism (social democracy). The monopoly bourgeoisie is frantically searching for a solution that will not undermine its power base, while allowing it to temporarily stifle the demands of the people and the proletariat either by systematic repression or by minor concessions and reforms (usually both at the same time). Social-democratic and revisionist reformism and opportunism are precisely the insurance the bourgeoisie needs to dupe the workers.
It is very necessary to realize that the conditions which presently encourage the growth of social-democracy in the labour movement are also favourable conditions for the development of fascism. In fact, in a situation of acute crisis, the bourgeoisie never hesitates to fall back on military dictatorship and fascism to protect its power. In such a situation the same social forces that ordinarily are the main support of social-democracy may go over to fascism, as they did in Germany in 1930.
Since the coming to power of the revisionists in the USSR, it is no longer possible to speak of the “socialist camp” as it existed after the Second World War. It ceased to exist from the moment that the capitalist road triumphed over the socialist road, transforming the USSR from a dictatorship of the proletariat to a dictatorship of the new bourgeoisie.
The appearance of social-imperialism and the crumbling of the imperialist bloc signal a profound change in the balance of forces on the world scene.
Our Chinese comrades analyse it in this way:
“Judging from the changes in international relations, the world today actually consists of three parts, or three worlds, that are both interconnected as well as being in contradiction to one another. The United States and the Soviet Union make up the First World. The developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions made up the Third World. The developed countries between the two make up the Second World.”
Although the existence of three worlds or three principal parts defines the present world situation, the four contradictions mentioned above remain the moving force of contemporary history.
The situation is thus as follows: American imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism are engaged in a relentless struggle for world hegemony. The stakes in this contest are twofold. The first and most important is the Third World with its abundant natural resources, its cheap labour, and the highly important strategic positions there. The second, growing in importance, is Europe with its significant productive forces and its particularly coveted strategic position.
The analysis of the Chinese comrades seems to be the following: In this struggle for world hegemony the key strategical question is whether the countries of the second world, i.e. the second order of imperialist and capitalist countries, will lean towards the Third World (in which the Chinese comrades include China), or towards one or the other of the imperialisms. This, of course, explains China’s attitude to second order capitalist countries. In fact, the world proletarian revolution must count on all factors that weaken the two superpowers: insofar as their drives towards hegemony are frustrated, conditions for revolution will be more favourable.
For Marxist-Leninists of the capitalist and imperialist countries of the second world this conception of strategy on the world level poses certain problems of which we absolutely must be aware.
It is extremely important that the Marxist-Leninist communists of the capitalist and imperialist countries not only understand well the forces acting in the world today, but also know and understand, the degree of influence the international situation has on the nature and direction of the revolution in their respective countries. How exactly are we to take into account the international situation and keep to the theoretical principle according to which ”it is through internal causes that external causes become operative” (Mao Tse-tung).
The central problem for Marxist-Leninists of secondary capitalist and imperialist countries is not a matter of knowing whether or not the non-monopoly bourgeoisie of these countries will resist one or the other of the superpowers, but rather one of preparing the revolutionary forces in each country. Furthermore, the revolutionary forces assemble and form themselves in struggle with the immediate enemy, the internal enemy, which is precisely the main social prop of imperialism in each country. In the secondary capitalist countries, this role is played neither by a comprador bourgeoisie, big landowners, nor feudal lords, as in some semi-feudal countries of the Third World, but rather by the non-monopoly bourgeoisie, of which the majority is more dependent on monopoly capital and imperialism than it is opposed to them.
The demands of the non-monopoly bourgeoisie for a greater share of the riches and the power’ arising from the exploitation and domination of working people are only the form that its own monopoly and imperialist designs (“dominated” at the moment) take. The “nationalism” of this bourgeoisie is reactionary nationalism. If we do not destroy the social base of imperialism in each country (i.e. the fraction of the local bourgeoisie which props up imperialism) it is impossible to complete the revolution. The example of Chile confirms this.
Except in the countries where the socialist revolution has already triumphed, the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production have become the fundamental contradictions in the world as a whole. The socialization of production on a world scale, and the international division of labour that goes with it, make all countries, nations and peoples interrelated in a world-wide economic network. The principal character of this economy being imperialist, and imperialism being (in Lenin’s words) “economic in its essence” and “monopoly capitalism”, each country, each nation, and each people can be seen as a link in a chain, each link occupying a specific place in relation to the monopoly and imperialist bourgeoisie.
Thus, in a world shaped by the ascendancy of monopoly capital, the fundamental antagonism of the capitalist mode of production (i.e. the opposition of the bourgeoisie to the proletariat, of capital to labour, and of the socialization of production to the private ownership of the means of production and exchange) becomes the contradiction that determines all others. For this reason we can state that no country, people or nation, whatever its particular national or cultural characteristics may be, can remain outside the world-wide process of the struggle between the socialist (proletarian) road and the capitalist (bourgeois road).
Any attempt to soften this antagonism, and every effort made to find a supposed ”third road” to resolve it, can only lead to a weakening of the proletarian and popular forces in favour of the reactionary forces.
As a result, Marxist-Leninists the world over must carry out their tasks in the context of this unprecedented sharpening of the contradictions between the imperialist and social-imperialist forces and all the reactionary governments in their service on the one hand, and the revolutionary forces of the proletariat and people on the other.
For Canadian and Quebec Marxist-Leninists, the way to truly appreciate the effects of the international context on the development of our revolution is to concretely identify the manner in which external causes act on internal causes, to understand that the revolutionary battle in which the Canadian people is engaged, side by side with all the peoples of the world, follows the resolute struggle against the Canadian bourgeoisie and American imperialism.
[10b] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism , Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1970. It should be noted that the expression ”highest stage” suggests at one and the same time the idea of the “most developed” stage and the “last” stage. According to the dialectical laws of history, every phenomenon comes into being, develops, grows, reaches its peak, and then declines and wastes away. Thus the most developed stage (its highest stage) is also the stage when it begins to decline (its last stage).
 Lenin, ibid.
 Lenin, ibid., p. 152.
 Lenin, ibid., p. 10.
 Lenin, ibid., p. 153.
 Lenin, ibid., p. 153.
 A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement. – The Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Reply to the Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – March 30, 1963. FLP, Peking, 1963, p. 3.
 Mao Tse-tung, Declaration of 20th May.
 Speech by Teng Hsiao-ping, Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China at the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on April 10, 1974, China Reconstructs, June, 1974, p. 2.