Learn from Lenin : Corporates and Finance Capital

“Imperialism : The Highest Stage of Capitalism” is one of the seminal revolutionary works produced by Lenin. (Links to book 1. Marxists dot Org online text 2. PDF Download 3. To Buy print version

Lenin wrote this book on the latest stage of world capitalistic development when the First World War was devastating the world and Russia was on the eve of the great socialist revolution.

Laying bare the nature of global monopolies, domination of less developed countries by developed capitalist countries, and their competition to divide and redivide the world among themselves, this book remains a guiding light to understand global politics even today.

We give below some extracts from the book which give insights into corporate domination and globalized finance capital. (page no from edition by People’s Publishing House, Delhi – 2010)

Monopolies and Financial “geniuses”

    1. “Concentration of production is much more intense than the concentration of workers, since labour in the large enterprises in much more productive” (P 16)
    2. “state monopoly in capitalist society is merely a means of increasing and guaranteeing the income of millionaires in some branch of industry who are on the verge of bankruptcy” – (P 37)
    3. “The concentration of production; the monopolies arising therefrom; the merging or coalescence of the banks with industry—such is the history of the rise of finance capital and such is the content of that concept.” (P 46)
    4. “Finance capital is capital controlled by banks and employed by industrialists.” (P 45)
    5. “they [banks] are enabled-by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations—first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate, determine their income, deprive them of capital, or permit them to increase their capital rapidly and to enormous dimensions, etc.” (P 34)
    6. “Thus the beginning of the twentieth century marks the turning-point, not only in the growth of monopolies (cartels, syndicates, trusts), of which we have already spoken, but also in the growth of finance capital.” (P 58)
    7. “although commodity production still “reigns” and has in reality been undermined and the bulk of the profits go to the “geniuses” of financial manipulation. At the basis of these manipulations and swindles lies socialised production; but the immense progress of mankind, which achieved this socialisation, goes to benefit … the speculators.” (P 26-27)
    8. “The principal feature of the latest stage of capitalism is the domination of monopolist associations of big employers. These monopolies are most firmly established when all the sources of raw materials are captured by one group, and we have seen with what zeal the international capitalist associations exert every effort to deprive their rivals of all opportunity of competing, to buy up, for example, ironfields, oilfields, etc. Colonial possession alone gives the monopolies complete guarantee against all contingencies in the struggle against competitors, including the case of the adversary wanting to be protected by a law establishing a state monopoly. The more capitalism is developed, the more strongly the shortage of raw materials is felt, the more intense the competition and the hunt for sources of raw materials throughout the whole world, the more desperate the struggle for the acquisition of colonies.” (P 78)
    9. “Finance capital and the trusts do not diminish but increase the differences in the rate of growth of the various parts of the world economy. Once the relation of forces is changed, what other solution of the contradictions can be found under capitalism than that of force?” (P 91)
    10. “The income of the rentiers is five times greater than the income obtained from the foreign trade of the biggest “trading” country in the world! This is the essence of imperialism and imperialist parasitism.”
    11. “little clusters of wealthy aristocrats drawing dividends and pensions from the Far East, with a somewhat larger group of professional retainers and tradesmen and a larger body of personal servants and workers in the transport trade and in the final stages of production of the more perishable goods;” (P 97)
    12. “a group of advanced industrial nations, whose upper classes drew vast tribute from Asia and Africa, with which they supported great tame masses of retainers, no longer engaged in the staple industries of agriculture and manufacture, but kept in the performance of personal or minor industrial services under the control of a new financial aristocracy.” (P 97)

Technology and Development under Monopoly Capital

  1. “The building of railways seems to be a simple, natural, democratic, cultural and civilising enterprise; that is what it is in the opinion of the bourgeois professors who are paid to depict capitalist slavery in bright colours, and in the opinion of petty bourgeois philistines” (P 10)
  2. “the monopolies have never pursued the aim, nor have they had the result, of benefiting the consumer, or even of handing over to the state part of the promoter’s profits; they have served only to facilitate, at the expense of the state, the recovery of private industries which were on the verge of bankruptcy”
  3. “We see plainly here how private and state monopolies are interwoven in the epoch of finance capital; how both are but separate links in the imperialist struggle between the big monopolists for the division of the world” (P 69)
  4. “simply” improving conditions in agriculture means improving the conditions of the masses, raising wages and reducing profits. Where, except in the imagination of sentimental reformists, are there any trusts capable of concerning themselves with the condition of the masses instead of the conquest of colonies?” (P 79)
  5. “Since monopoly prices are established, even temporarily, the motive cause of technical and, consequently, of all other progress disappears to a certain extent and, further, the economic possibility arises of deliberately retarding technical progress.” (P 94)

International domination by a handful of countries

  1. “The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the predominance of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy; it means that a small number of financially “powerful” states stand out among all the rest.” (P 57)
  2. “In one way or another, nearly the whole of the rest of the world is more or less the debtor to and tributary of these international banker countries, these four “pillars” of world finance capital.” (P 59)
  3. “finance capital, literally, one might say, spreads its net over all countries of the world.” (P 63)
  4. The capital-exporting countries are nearly always able to obtain certain “advantages”, the character of which throws light on the peculiarity of the epoch of finance capital and monopoly.” (P 62)
  5. “In these international transactions the creditor nearly always manages to secure some extra benefit: a favourable clause in a commercial treaty, a coating station, a contract to construct a harbour, a fat concession, or an order for guns” (P 62)
  6. “The most usual thing is to stipulate that part of the loan granted shall be spent on purchases in the creditor country, particularly on orders for war materials, or for ships, etc.” (P 63)

Colonies, Semi Colonies and Dependant countries

  1. ““semi-colonial” states, they provide an example of the transitional forms which are to be found in all spheres of nature and society. Finance capital is such a great, such a decisive, you might say, force in all economic and in all international relations, that it is capable of subjecting, and actually does subject, to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence;” (P 77)
  2. “Even the capitalist colonial policy of previous stages of capitalism is essentially different from the colonial policy of finance capital.” (P 78)
  3. “Finance capital is interested not only in the already discovered sources of raw materials but also in potential sources, because present-day technical development is extremely rapid, and land which is useless today may be improved tomorrow if new methods are devised (to this end a big bank can equip a special expedition of engineers, agricultural experts, etc.), and if large amounts of capital are invested. This also applies to prospecting for minerals, to new methods of processing up and utilising raw materials, etc., etc. Hence, the inevitable striving of finance capital to enlarge its spheres of influence and even its actual territory.” (P 79)
  4. “In the same way that the trusts capitalise their property at two or three times its value, taking into account its “potential” (and not actual) profits and the further results of monopoly, so finance capital in general strives to seize the largest possible amount of land of all kinds in all places, and by every means, taking into account potential sources of raw materials and fearing to be left behind in the fierce struggle for the last remnants of independent territory, or for the repartition of those territories that have been already divided.” (P 79)
  5. “in the colonial market it is easier to employ monopoly methods (and sometimes they are the only methods that can be employed) to eliminate competition, to ensure supplies, to secure the necessary “connections”, etc.” (P 80)
  6. “Finance capital does not want liberty, it wants domination,” (P 80)
  7. “the diverse forms of dependent countries which, politically, are formally independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and diplomatic dependence, typical of this epoch.” (P 81)
  8. “to contrast them with the concrete economic realities of the present-day world economy.” (P 89)

Real estate bubbles

“Speculation in land situated in the suburbs of rapidly growing big towns is a particularly profitable operation for finance capital. The monopoly of the banks merges here with the monopoly of ground-rent and with monopoly of the means of communication, since the rise in the price of land and the possibility of selling it profitably in lots, etc., is mainly dependent on good means of communication with the centre of the town; and these means of communication are in the hands of large companies which are connected with these same banks through the holding system and the distribution of seats on the boards.” (P 54)

Parasitic nature of Capitalism

  1. “Capitalism is commodity production at its highest stage of development, when labour-power itself becomes a commodity. The growth of internal exchange, and, particularly, of international exchange, is a characteristic feature of capitalism.” (P 59)
  2. “both uneven development and a semi-starvation level of existence of the masses are fundamental and inevitable conditions and constitute premises of this mode of production. As long as capitalism remains what it is, surplus capital will be utilised not for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses in a given country, for this would mean a decline in profits for the capitalists, but for the purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward countries.” (P p60)
  3. “The export of capital influences and greatly accelerates the development of capitalism in those countries to which it is exported. While, therefore, the export of capital may tend to a certain extent to arrest development in the capital-exporting countries, it can only do so by expanding and deepening the further development of capitalism throughout the world. (P 62)
  4. “under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market” (P 64)
  5. “The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits.” (P 71)

Apologists of Imperialism

  1. “grist to the mill of the apologists of imperialism, i.e., that the rule of finance capital lessens the unevenness and contradictions inherent in the world economy, whereas in reality it increases them.” (P 89)
  2. The enormous dimensions of finance capital concentrated in a few hands and creating an extraordinarily dense and widespread network of relationships and connections which subordinates not only the small and medium, but also the very small capitalists and small masters, on the one hand, and the increasingly intense struggle waged against other national state groups of financiers for the division of the world and domination over other countries, on the other hand, cause the propertied classes to go over entirely to the side of imperialism. “General” enthusiasm over the prospects of imperialism, furious defence of it and painting it in the brightest colours—such are the signs of the times. Imperialist ideology also penetrates the working class. No Chinese Wall separates it from the other classes. (P 103)
  3. “since the bourgeois representatives of the oppressed nations go no “further” forward, the bourgeois representative of an oppressing nation goes “further” backward, to servility towards imperialism under cover of the claim to be “scientific”.” (P 104)
  4. “Since the specific political features of imperialism are reaction everywhere and increased national oppression due to the oppression of the financial oligarchy and the elimination of free competition, a petty-bourgeois-democratic opposition to imperialism arose….” (P 104)
  5. “Monopolies, oligarchy, the striving for domination and not for freedom, the exploitation of an increasing number of small or weak nations by a handful of the richest or most powerful nations—all these have given birth to those distinctive characteristics of imperialism which compel us to define it as parasitic or decaying capitalism.” (P 117)

Socialisation of Production
“When a big enterprise assumes gigantic proportions, and, on the basis of an exact computation of mass data, organises according to plan the supply of primary raw materials to the extent of two-thirds, or three-fourths, of all that is necessary for tens of millions of people; when the raw materials are transported in a systematic and organised manner to the most suitable places of production, sometimes situated hundreds or thousands of miles from each other; when a single centre directs all the consecutive stages of processing the material right up to the manufacture of numerous varieties of finished articles; when these products are distributed according to a single plan among tens and hundreds of millions of consumers (the marketing of oil in America and Germany by the American oil trust)—then it becomes evident that we have socialisation of production, and not mere “interlocking”, that private economic and private property relations constitute a shell which no longer fits its contents, a shell which must inevitably decay if its removal is artificially delayed, a shell which may remain in a state of decay for a fairly long period (if, at the worst, the cure of the opportunist abscess is protracted), but which will inevitably be removed.” (P 120)

Extracts from “Imperialism : The Highest Stage of Capitalism” by  Lenin (Links to book 1. Marxists dot Org online text 2. PDF Download 3. To Buy print version)

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