Lenin cleans house, but I think he missed a spot
What is the best way to understand what we call imperialism, which is basically the economic and political relationship between the first and third world? Lenin has been the main starting point around this question for most on the revolutionary left. Are there basic problems with the understanding of imperialism that derives from Lenin? I think so.
Below Wallerstein describes the centrality of unequal exchange to capitalism as a system, which is the process of how profits are reaped from the third world (which he calls the periphery zones within the capitalist world economy) and the western or first world nations (which he terms the core zones). First are several points that I think are worth highlighting based on how Wallerstein explains this process and which are in contrast with the much of the left’s understanding of imperialism as it is derived from Lenin.
Feedback is welcome.
a) Capitalism has always been an international system and as much so today as it was in the sixteenth century.
b) Capitalism as a system has always been based on the relationship of core and periphery regions in the world whereby through the process of unequal exchange surplus flows from periphery to core regions.
c) As production processes move down a hierarchy of processes they move from core to periphery regions.
d) Core regions use their accumulated capital to build strong states and ensure that states in periphery area remain or become weak and therefore compliant in accepting the relationship of unequal exchange.
e) There are no stages of capitalism whereby capitalism as a system moves from a presumed more localized, peaceful and competitive phase to a more international, militaristic and monopoly based phase, which what Lenin asserted in his writings on imperialism, which he called the ‘highest stage of capitalism.’
f) While Lenin’s analysis is useful to explain the political moment that faced the world at the early twentieth century, it does not explain well the system of capitalism as it has existed historically.
g) Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, which is focused on economics and how the imperialist states must use violence in colonization and will eventually resort to war in competition between each other over colonial spoils, offers a weak explanation of how imperialist and colonial states relates to one another.
Filed under: Left Organizations, Marxism, Theory | Tagged: capitalism, colonialism, core zones, Imperialism, Lenin, periphery zones, third world, Wallerstein | 2 Comments »