File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 317

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 11:03:45 +0100
Subject: M-I: Marx and Lenin

Jim Blaut misunderstands both Lenin and Marx

'Lenin replaced one of the tenets of classical Marxism which came out of
19th century thought: that European capitalist society naturally flows,
*diffuses*, outward to the rest of the world, bringing modernization and
civilization to the colonials in return for their wealth and labor

Marx was a forthright critic, perhaps the original critic of harmonist
theories of economic growth. Marx's polemic against the capitalist
depopulation of Ireland is a model of the criticism of imperial
domination. Far from having a naturalistic conception of economic
development, Marx inaugurated the criticism of such thinking.

Since Marx did not hold to any such tenet, it comes as no surprise that
Lenin's theory of imperialism is a development of Marx's theory, not a
reversal of it. Are we really to believe that as rigorous and polemical
a thinker as Lenin would have sought to hide his differences with Marx
by smooth phrases and insincere flattery if he really did disagree with
him? Jim holds Lenin in a contempt that he does not deserve - whatever
one thinks of  Lenin's policies and theoretical development, even his
harshest critics agree that he was a model of intellectual honesty.

In particular Lenin's 'Imperialism - Highest Stage of Capitalism' is a
development of Marx's theory. It was Marx who, in vol 3, argued that
Capital, when unable to develop under its own characteristic rules,
would take refuge in rules alien to it, like monopoly, or joint-stock
companies (that Marx referred to as socialisation of production within
the confines of private property). Marx's theory that capital is its own
barrier is the basis of Lenin's theory of the transitional forms that
capital takes. He pointed to monopoly, capital export, coalescence of
banking and industrial capital, the struggle for the division of the
world and so on. It was these investigations into the dreaded world of
political economy (or the critique of political economy - a distinctioon
that Jim makes too little of) that allowed Lenin to reconsider the
subjective expression of capital's limits in the struggle between
imperialist powers and the peoples of the less developed world.

Jim is right of course to say that Marx could not have anticipated the
division and redivision of the world market that Lenin describes. But he
never claimed to be a crystal ball gazer. What he did anticipate was
that the development of capital would increasingly combine destructive
trends with productive ones. Lenin's work is wholly within that

James Heartfield

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