Imperialism and the Great Reset Part I: Introduction and the Marxist Method

Lese­zeit20 min

This is the first install­ment of a mul­ti-part series curr­ent­ly seria­li­zed in the Mag­Ma. It con­ta­ins the fol­lo­wing parts:

1. Intro­duc­tion & the Mar­xist Method

2. Clas­si­cal Impe­ria­lism (1895 – 1945)

3. Late Capi­ta­lism (1945 – 1989)

4. The Expan­si­ve Pha­se of Neo­li­be­ral Capi­ta­lism (1989 – 2007)

5. Neo­li­be­ra­lism in Cri­sis (sin­ce 2007)

6. China’s Rise and the Decli­ne of the West (until 2020)

7. A Fourth Impe­ria­list Epoch?

8. Con­clu­si­ons on Imperialism

The ori­gi­nal text in Ger­man can be found here.

1.1 Introduction

The Ukrai­ni­an war rai­ses fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­ons about how impe­ria­lism ope­ra­tes today. Some com­mu­nist par­ties, such as the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Greece (KKE), frame it as a war bet­ween two equal­ly impe­ria­list powers when they write:

The decis­i­on of the Rus­si­an Fede­ra­ti­on to initi­al­ly reco­gni­ze the ›inde­pen­dence‹ of the so-cal­led ›Peo­p­les’ Repu­blics‹ in Don­bas and then to pro­ceed to a Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry inter­ven­ti­on, which is taking place under the pre­text of Russia’s ’self-defen­se‹, the ›demi­li­ta­riza­ti­on‹ and ›defa­scis­tiz­a­ti­on‹ of Ukrai­ne, was not made to pro­tect the peo­p­le of the regi­on or peace but to pro­mo­te the inte­rests of Rus­si­an mono­po­lies in Ukrai­ni­an ter­ri­to­ry and their fier­ce com­pe­ti­ti­on with Wes­tern mono­po­lies.[1]

De fac­to, the KKE thus sides with the West, bran­ding Rus­sia as the aggres­sor. At the Impe­ria­lism Con­gress orga­ni­zed by the Com­mu­nist Orga­niza­ti­on KO in Sep­tem­ber 2022, some spea­k­ers, espe­ci­al­ly many young par­ti­ci­pan­ts, argued simi­lar­ly.[2] Among many of them, the wil­ling­ness to embark on a new Rus­si­an cam­paign tog­e­ther with the Ger­man govern­ment is unmistakable.

How could it have come to this? At any rate, this kind of »ana­ly­sis« pro­ves the gene­ral decay of Mar­xist thin­king. Many »Mar­xists« try to trans­fer the insights of Lenin’s work on impe­ria­lism more intui­tively than sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly… Newer Mar­xist lite­ra­tu­re is sim­ply not taken into account.

Ano­ther pro­blem is the gre­at media cre­du­li­ty of today’s youth. They do not ques­ti­on the offi­ci­al nar­ra­ti­ves on CO2 and Coro­na at all. They like­wi­se tend to swal­low who­le media nar­ra­ti­ves on Chi­na and Rus­sia, or at best trans­la­te them into pseu­do-Mar­xist dic­tion. The media, they belie­ve, by and lar­ge report the truth and at most reve­al a poli­ti­cal bias in their com­men­ta­ry. Even the term »main­stream media« is frow­ned upon.

With the ver­dict of »con­spi­ra­cy theo­ry,« the media and govern­ments have impo­sed tho­rough­go­ing dis­cour­se bans on many cru­cial events of con­tem­po­ra­ry histo­ry, inclu­ding 9/11, MH17, the Gre­at Reset, CO2 , Coro­na, and the affairs of olig­archs like Bill Gates in gene­ral. The­se are dutiful­ly accept­ed by the KO, for exam­p­le. No won­der it rea­ches the wrong conclusions.

In par­ti­cu­lar, the emer­ging latest pha­se of impe­ria­lism, pro­pa­ga­ted by the Wes­tern olig­archs under the »Gre­at Reset« slo­gan, is com­ple­te­ly igno­red by them. On the one hand, this is under­stan­da­ble becau­se of the bound­less media cre­du­li­ty of today’s »com­mu­nists.« But it is also fatal, becau­se the mons­trous plans una­b­as­hed­ly and open­ly expres­sed by Klaus Schwab and Co. cast a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent light on both the Coro­na hys­te­ria and the Ukrai­ne war. From this it fol­lows that rea­ding Lenin’s impe­ria­lism pam­phlet alo­ne is not suf­fi­ci­ent to under­stand today’s imperialism.

This text takes a dif­fe­rent approach. Dra­wing on Mar­xist and bour­geois lite­ra­tu­re, the peri­ods from 1895 to 1945, 1945 to 1989, 1989 to 2020, and the fourth pha­se emer­ging sin­ce 2020, are unders­tood as spe­ci­fic epochs of impe­ria­lism with spe­ci­fic eco­no­mic, social, poli­ti­cal and mili­ta­ry Laws.

Sin­ce today’s deba­te – as alre­a­dy men­tio­ned – is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by a lack of know­ledge, some basics of Marx’s method shall be dis­cus­sed first.

1.2 The Marxian method

1. 2.1 The Relationship between History and the Laws of Motion of Capital According to Mandel

To under­stand what fol­lows, it is important to keep in mind the main fea­tures of Marx’s method. As is well known, the laws of deve­lo­p­ment of capi­ta­lism dis­co­ver­ed by Marx are the result of a dialec­ti­cal ana­ly­sis ascen­ding from the abs­tract to the con­cre­te.[3]

Howe­ver, the Mar­xi­an method can­not be redu­ced to this, because:

  • The con­cre­te was both the »real start­ing point« and the final goal of know­ledge, which is an acti­ve and prac­ti­cal pro­cess; the »repro­duc­tion of the con­cre­te in the cour­se of thought«
  • the ascent from the abs­tract to the con­cre­te was pre­ce­ded in the cour­se of the inves­ti­ga­ti­on by an ascent from the con­cre­te to the abs­tract, sin­ce the abs­tract its­elf is alre­a­dy the result of ana­ly­ti­cal work
  • the­re is unity bet­ween both pro­ces­ses, bet­ween the ana­ly­ti­cal and the synthetic
  • the suc­cessful repro­duc­tion of the con­cre­te tota­li­ty can beco­me con­clu­si­ve only by its prac­ti­cal appli­ca­ti­on, i.e. at each step of the ana­ly­sis must be con­firm­ed by the facts or by prac­ti­ce.[4]

Accor­din­gly, Mar­xist dialec­tics imply a two­fold ana­ly­sis, one deduc­ti­ve and one induc­ti­ve, one logi­cal and one his­to­ri­cal.[5]

Accor­ding to Marx, sci­ence is neces­sa­ry becau­se essence and appearance do not coin­ci­de direct­ly. Howe­ver, its task is not only to unco­ver the essence of the phe­no­me­na, but also to explain the phe­no­me­na them­sel­ves through the describ­ing of the media­ting inter­me­dia­te links. If this does not suc­ceed, the theo­ry is redu­ced to the con­s­truc­tion of abs­tract models.

The empi­ri­cal appro­pria­ti­on of the mate­ri­al is pri­or to the ana­ly­ti­cal pro­cess of cogni­ti­on, just as the empi­ri­cal veri­fi­ca­ti­on preli­mi­na­ri­ly con­cludes it.[6]

Marx sta­tes:

the method of pre­sen­ta­ti­on must dif­fer in form from that of inquiry. The lat­ter has to appro­pria­te the mate­ri­al in detail, to ana­ly­ze its dif­fe­rent forms of deve­lo­p­ment, to trace out their inner con­nec­tion. Only after this work is done, can the actu­al move­ment be ade­qua­te­ly descri­bed. If this is done suc­cessful­ly, if the life of the sub­ject-mat­ter is ide­al­ly reflec­ted as in a mir­ror, then it may appear as if we had befo­re us a mere a prio­ri con­s­truc­tion.[7]

Accor­ding to Man­del, app­ly­ing Marx’s dialec­ti­cal method to the rese­arch pro­cess should ide­al­ly look like this:

  • Acqui­si­ti­on of the empi­ri­cal material
  • Ana­ly­ti­cal break­down of the sub­s­tance into its con­sti­tu­ti­ve abs­tract elements
  • Rese­arch of the decisi­ve over­all con­nec­tions bet­ween the­se ele­ments, which are to cla­ri­fy the abs­tract laws of moti­on of the sub­s­tance, its essence.
  • Dis­co­very of the midd­le links that make it pos­si­ble to rea­li­ze the media­ti­on bet­ween essence and appearance
  • Prac­ti­cal-empi­ri­cal veri­fi­ca­ti­on of the ana­ly­sis on the con­cre­te his­to­ri­cal movement
  • Dis­co­very of new empi­ri­cal­ly rele­vant data and new rela­ti­onships, often even new abs­tract ele­men­ta­ry deter­mi­na­ti­ons, thanks to the appli­ca­ti­on of the results of know­ledge to the com­plex rea­li­ty.[8]

The rela­ti­onship bet­ween the gene­ral laws of moti­on of capi­tal and the histo­ry of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion has not yet been satis­fac­to­ri­ly cla­ri­fied. Howe­ver, Marx alre­a­dy poin­ted out that the world mar­ket cri­ses must be unders­tood as the real con­cen­tra­ti­on and for­ci­b­le adjus­t­ments of all con­tra­dic­tions of the capi­ta­list eco­no­my.[9]

It fol­lows that in the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion, con­cei­ved as a dyna­mic tota­li­ty, the inter­play of all basic laws of deve­lo­p­ment must be considered.

All basic varia­bles of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion can play the role of inde­pen­dent varia­bles to some ext­ent. The­se basic varia­bles are:

  • The orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal in gene­ral and in the two depart­ments, »which also includes the volu­me of capi­tal and its dis­tri­bu­ti­on bet­ween the departments«
  • The dis­tri­bu­ti­on of con­stant capi­tal bet­ween fixed and cir­cu­la­ting (in gene­ral and in the two depart­ments, this also appli­es to the fol­lo­wing points).
  • The deve­lo­p­ment of the value added rate
  • The deve­lo­p­ment of the rate of accu­mu­la­ti­on (ratio bet­ween pro­duc­tively and unpro­duc­tively con­su­med sur­plus value)
  • The deve­lo­p­ment of the tur­no­ver time of the capital
  • The exch­an­ge rela­ti­ons bet­ween the two depart­ments (which are most­ly, but not exclu­si­ve­ly, a func­tion of the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal in the depart­ments).[10]

The histo­ry of the unfol­ding of the inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions and regu­la­ri­ties of capi­ta­lism can only be unders­tood as a func­tion of the inter­play of the­se six variables.

The fluc­tua­tions of the rate of pro­fit is only the »seis­mo­graph« of this deve­lo­p­ment. It can only be explai­ned by the varia­bles men­tio­ned above.

Man­del gives some examp­les of this:

  • The rate of sur­plus value is, among other things, a func­tion of the class strugg­le. Accor­din­gly, it is wrong to see it as a mecha­ni­cal func­tion of the rate of accu­mu­la­ti­on, for ins­tance accor­ding to the for­mu­la: Hig­her rate of accu­mu­la­ti­on = lower rate of unem­ploy­ment = sta­bi­liza­ti­on or decli­ne of the rate of sur­plus value. This con­fu­ses fac­tors which favor an out­co­me with the out­co­me its­elf. The histo­ry of the working class shows the many pos­si­ble varia­ti­ons The situa­ti­on of the U.S. in the 19th cen­tu­ry, for exam­p­le, con­tra­dicts ano­ther over­sim­pli­fied for­mu­la: Low labor pro­duc­ti­vi­ty = low rate of sur­plus value, high labor pro­duc­ti­vi­ty = high rate of sur­plus value. In the U.S., high wages were the result of labor shorta­ges and only later led to high labor pro­duc­ti­vi­ty. The rate of sur­plus value, howe­ver, was low.
  • The level of the rate of sur­plus value is also influen­ced by the his­to­ri­cal start­ing posi­ti­on of the indus­tri­al reser­ve army: »Depen­ding on the size of this reser­ve army, a gro­wing rate of accu­mu­la­ti­on may be accom­pa­nied by an incre­asing, a con­stant, or a decli­ning rate of sur­plus value.«
  • The growth rate of the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal can­not be defi­ned exclu­si­ve­ly as a func­tion of the tech­ni­cal pro­gress brought about by com­pe­ti­ti­on. This is becau­se con­stant capi­tal con­sists of two parts: fixed and cir­cu­la­ting con­stant capi­tal. If labor pro­duc­ti­vi­ty in the com­mo­di­ty-pro­du­cing sec­tor grows fas­ter than that in the con­su­mer goods-pro­du­cing sec­tor, »then a rela­ti­ve che­a­pe­ning of cir­cu­la­ting con­stant capi­tal may take place which has the effect that, despi­te acce­le­ra­ted tech­ni­cal pro­gress and despi­te acce­le­ra­ted sur­plus-value accu­mu­la­ti­on in fixed capi­tal, the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal grows more slow­ly than befo­re.«[11]

This means: All basic varia­bles of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion have to be con­side­red simul­ta­neous­ly as semi-inde­pen­dent varia­bles. The effect of the­se varia­bles must be pla­ced in a con­cre­te his­to­ri­cal frame­work in order to ana­ly­ze and explain the suc­ces­si­ve pha­ses of the histo­ry of capi­ta­lism. The com­bi­na­ti­on of all the­se uneven deve­lo­p­men­tal ten­den­ci­es, i.e., the semi-inde­pen­dent varia­bles, makes it pos­si­ble to grasp the histo­ry of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion, and espe­ci­al­ly that of its impe­ria­list pha­se, from the laws of moti­on of capi­tal its­elf and not from any exo­ge­nous fac­tors for­eign to Marx’s ana­ly­sis of capital.

1.2.2 The tendential fall of the rate of profit

Capi­ta­lism has exis­ted as an inde­pen­dent social for­ma­ti­on for 233 years. Impe­ria­lism for 127 years (as of 2022). The decisi­ve ques­ti­on must the­r­e­fo­re be why it did not col­lap­sed long ago due to the law of the ten­den­ti­al fall of the rate of pro­fit. Sin­ce this ques­ti­on is of extre­me importance for the fol­lo­wing pre­sen­ta­ti­on, the law dis­co­ver­ed by Marx will be explai­ned in detail and in a gene­ral­ly under­stan­da­ble way in the fol­lo­wing:[12]

Every capi­ta­list who starts a new indus­tri­al enter­pri­se must divi­de his capi­tal into two dif­fe­rent parts. One part for the purcha­se of machi­nes, buil­dings, raw mate­ri­als, auxi­lia­ry mate­ri­als and so on. The value of this part of the capi­tal goes into the value of the final pro­ducts in the cour­se of the pro­duc­tion pro­cess and is pre­ser­ved. It is the­r­e­fo­re cal­led con­stant capital.

The second part of the capi­tal must be used for the purcha­se of labor power. This part increa­ses by the sur­plus value pro­du­ced by the workers. It is the­r­e­fo­re cal­led varia­ble capi­tal.[13]

Only the com­mo­di­ty labor power is capa­ble of crea­ting value and sur­plus value. The value of con­stant capi­tal, for exam­p­le of machi­nes, can in turn be tra­ced back to the value of the com­mo­di­ty labor power that was used for its pro­duc­tion.[14]

The ratio bet­ween the con­stant and the varia­ble part of capi­tal is cal­led the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal. The more deve­lo­ped a com­pa­ny, an indus­tri­al sec­tor, or a coun­try is, the hig­her the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal, i.e., the share of con­stant capi­tal, i.e., the capi­tal spent on the acqui­si­ti­on of machi­nery, etc., is.


Orga­nic Com­po­si­ti­on of Capi­tal = c / v

Whe­re: c = con­stant capi­tal, v = varia­ble capi­tal[15]

If the avera­ge orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal increa­ses, then – all other things being equal – the avera­ge rate of pro­fit decreases.


The value of a country’s annu­al pro­duc­tion is 300 bil­li­on c, 100 bil­li­on v and 100 bil­li­on m (sur­plus value). Then the rate of pro­fit is 25%.


m / c+v = 100 / 300 + 100 = 100 / 400 =25%

If the value of con­stant capi­tal increa­ses from 300 to 400 value units in a deca­de, the fol­lo­wing applies:

m/​c+v = 100 / 400 + 100 = 100 / 500 =20%

Whe­re: c = con­stant capi­tal, v = varia­ble capi­tal, m = sur­plus value

This deve­lo­p­ment can inde­ed be obser­ved in rea­li­ty, becau­se the increase of con­stant capi­tal in rela­ti­on to varia­ble capi­tal is a cha­rac­te­ristic fea­ture of capi­ta­lism. The ten­den­cy of the rate of pro­fit to fall is thus a law of deve­lo­p­ment of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion.[16]

Karl Marx, howe­ver, deli­bera­te­ly spo­ke of the ten­den­cy of the rate of pro­fit to fall, becau­se it is slo­wed down by a num­ber of coun­ter­ac­ting factors.

  1. increase in the rate of sur­plus value: growth in the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal impli­es growth in labor pro­duc­ti­vi­ty, which may amount to an increase in the rate of sur­plus value. Example:
    m/​c+v = 125 / 400 + 100 = 125 / 500 = 25%

In the long run, howe­ver, it is not pos­si­ble to achie­ve an equi­va­lent increase in the value-added rate and the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on. For the increase of the rate of sur­plus value encoun­ters abso­lu­te limits. The­se lie in the impos­si­bi­li­ty of redu­cing the neces­sa­ry labor to zero, while the­re are no limits to the increase of the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal.[17]

  1. the decrease of the pri­ces of the con­stant capi­tal. When the gene­ral pro­duc­ti­vi­ty of labor increa­ses, the value of each com­mo­di­ty decrea­ses. Of cour­se, this also appli­es to machi­nes and other means of production.
  2. expan­si­on of capi­ta­list pro­duc­tion. When capi­tal is inves­ted in count­ries or indus­tries whe­re low orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on initi­al­ly pre­vails, the avera­ge orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of world capi­tal falls and the rate of pro­fit rises.[18]

1.2.3 The long waves in capitalism

It stands to reason that the rate of pro­fit rises as a result of a decli­ning orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on, espe­ci­al­ly when two or even all of the­se fac­tors coin­ci­de. In this case it can hap­pen that pro­fits sud­den­ly shoot up, a lot of hither­to idle capi­tal is inves­ted and thus a self-sup­port­ing pha­se of capi­ta­list boom sets in for some time – until, final­ly the law of the ten­den­ti­al fall of the rate of pro­fit reas­serts its­elf.[19]

In fact, the­se pha­ses can be tra­ced in histo­ry. They are mark­ed by rough­ly 20 year ascents as well as 20 year decli­nes. The long waves of capi­ta­list deve­lo­p­ment exist in addi­ti­on to the ordi­na­ry busi­ness cycle of 5 to 10 years with its peren­ni­al sequence of revi­val, boom, over­pro­duc­tion, crash and cri­sis. They pre­vail pre­cis­e­ly through the­se »ordi­na­ry« cycles and in such a way that in an expan­si­ve pha­se the cycli­cal peri­ods of boom are lon­ger and more inten­se, the cycli­cal cri­ses of over­pro­duc­tion shorter and less deep. Con­ver­se­ly, in the »long wave« pha­ses which tend toward sta­gna­ti­on, the peri­ods of boom are less fren­zied and shorter, while the peri­ods of over­pro­duc­tion cri­sis are lon­ger and deeper.[20]

So far, the fol­lo­wing long waves existed:

Table 2.3.1. long waves in the histo­ry of capi­ta­lism. The abbre­via­ti­ons of the value com­pon­ents mean: cf: Con­stant fixed capi­tal, e.g. machi­nery, cc: Con­stant cir­cu­la­ting capi­tal, e.g., raw mate­ri­als, v: Varia­ble capi­tal, i.e., wages, m/​v: Rate of sur­plus value.[21]

Thus, the law of the ten­den­ti­al fall of the rate of pro­fit has so far cau­sed a wave-like move­ment of capi­ta­lism. Long peri­ods of strong growth of capi­tal accu­mu­la­ti­on were con­tras­ted with peri­ods of sta­g­nant ten­den­ci­es. Howe­ver: as we have seen, trig­gers for a long wave of expan­si­ve cha­rac­ter were geo­gra­phi­cal, geo­lo­gi­cal and poli­ti­cal fac­tors. The­se have always been spe­ci­fic, and it is by no means gua­ran­teed that so many fac­tors will come tog­e­ther again to trig­ger a new long wave with an expan­si­ve ten­den­cy. The chan­geo­ver to a long wave with a sta­g­nant ten­den­cy, on the other hand, is cau­sed by the increase in the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal as descri­bed in the law of the ten­den­ti­al fall of the rate of pro­fit.[22]

In addi­ti­on, the­re is ano­ther fac­tor: Capi­ta­lism is based on the extra­c­tion of living human labor. Through the incre­asing orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal as a result of auto­ma­ti­on, it under­mi­nes its own foun­da­ti­ons. Here we have arri­ved at the abso­lu­te inner limit of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion. It lies whe­re the sur­plus-value mass its­elf ine­vi­ta­b­ly decli­nes – becau­se of the eli­mi­na­ti­on of living labor from the pro­duc­tion pro­cess which takes place in full auto­ma­ti­on.[23]

Capi­ta­lism is incom­pa­ti­ble with ful­ly auto­ma­ted pro­duc­tion in the who­le of indus­try and agri­cul­tu­re, becau­se then the­re could be no crea­ti­on of sur­plus value and thus no capi­tal valo­riza­ti­on. Accor­din­gly, auto­ma­ti­on can never extend to the enti­re pro­duc­tion sec­tor. Howe­ver, the anti­ci­pa­ted major chan­ges, name­ly Indus­try 4.0 and arti­fi­ci­al intel­li­gence, would once again radi­cal­ly acce­le­ra­te the eli­mi­na­ti­on of humans from the pro­duc­tion process.

Karl Marx writes:

As soon as labor in the direct form has cea­sed to be the gre­at well-spring of wealth, labor time cea­ses and must cea­se to be its mea­su­re, and hence exch­an­ge value [must cea­se to be the mea­su­re] of use value. The sur­plus labor of the mass has cea­sed to be the con­di­ti­on for the deve­lo­p­ment of gene­ral wealth, just as the non-labour of the few, for the deve­lo­p­ment of the gene­ral powers of the human head.[24]

It has been deba­ted among Mar­xists for deca­des whe­ther this point has alre­a­dy been rea­ched or whe­ther it is to be expec­ted in the next few years.

Trots­ky alre­a­dy reco­gni­zed that impe­ria­lism has crea­ted an inte­gra­ted world eco­no­my in which the gre­at powers are enga­ged in a strugg­le for hegem­o­ny. The nati­on-sta­te eco­no­mies are clo­se­ly inter­con­nec­ted. The world eco­no­my forms a com­plex hier­ar­chy of the divi­si­on of labor in which even non-capi­ta­list modes of pro­duc­tion are not extin­gu­is­hed but adapt­ed to the needs of capi­tal. The world mar­ket and the natio­nal eco­no­mies are cha­rac­te­ri­zed by uneven and com­bi­ned development.

Accor­ding to Man­del, the long waves of capi­ta­list deve­lo­p­ment with their ups­wings and downs­wings are at the same time to be regard­ed as spe­ci­fic his­to­ri­cal peri­ods. They exhi­bit not only a spe­ci­fic eco­no­mic con­stel­la­ti­on and spe­ci­fic tech­no­lo­gy, but also a spe­ci­fic inter­na­tio­nal balan­ce of power and class strugg­le con­stel­la­ti­on, and even a spe­ci­fic cul­tu­re and men­ta­li­ty. In this respect, they are very dif­fe­rent from one ano­ther.[25]

The­re have been five such peri­ods in the histo­ry of capi­ta­lism so far:

  • Peri­od of the long indus­tri­al revo­lu­ti­on (1789 to 1848)
  • Free Com­pe­ti­ti­ve Capi­ta­lism (1848 to 1895)
  • Clas­si­cal Impe­ria­lism (1895 to 1945)
  • Late capi­ta­lism (1945 to 1989)
  • Neo­li­be­ra­lism (1989 to 2020)

The peri­od of the long indus­tri­al revo­lu­ti­on was also the time of the gre­at bour­geois revo­lu­ti­ons (1789, 1830, 1848), the Napo­leo­nic wars, and the estab­lish­ment of the world mar­ket for manu­fac­tu­red goods.[26]

The for­ma­ti­on of clas­si­cal impe­ria­lism was the ans­wer to the alre­a­dy incre­asing dif­fi­cul­ties of free com­pe­ti­ti­ve capi­ta­lism. Late capi­ta­lism, in turn, emer­ged from the tita­nic strugg­le of two impe­ria­list power groups. It was the result of, on the one hand, a gre­at defeat for the working class by fascism and war, but also, on the other, of a gre­at vic­to­ry for the working class, orga­ni­zed in the form of a sta­te in the Soviet Uni­on, against Ger­man impe­ria­lism. This gave this peri­od a spe­ci­fic character.

This fact alo­ne illus­tra­tes that it is com­ple­te­ly impos­si­ble to under­stand the pre­sent form of impe­ria­lism after rea­ding Lenin’s trea­tise on impe­ria­lism. Rather, the peri­ods must be con­side­red in their enti­re­ty, which pre­sup­po­ses the stu­dy of the rele­vant lite­ra­tu­re and a grea­ter scho­lar­ly effort, which, admit­ted­ly, can only be made in this text in rudi­men­ta­ry form. Much would alre­a­dy have been achie­ved if it could pro­vi­de one or two sug­ges­ti­ons for fur­ther research.

One more word about the peri­odiza­ti­on used: the names do not actual­ly fit. The term late capi­ta­lism impli­es that it is the last peri­od of capi­ta­lism, which was refu­ted in 1989. Neo­li­be­ra­lism was ori­gi­nal­ly an eco­no­mic theo­ry deve­lo­ped after World War II by Karl Pop­per, Mil­ton Fried­man and Fried­rich August von Hay­ek. Howe­ver, it is also the name of a capi­ta­list peri­od who­se ideo­lo­gy is based on neo­li­be­ral eco­no­mic theo­ry. Alter­na­ti­ve names, such as high-tech­no­lo­gy capi­ta­lism by Manu­el Cand­ei­as, have not caught on, espe­ci­al­ly sin­ce clas­si­cal impe­ria­lism and late capi­ta­lism could also be cal­led high tech­no­lo­gy capi­ta­lism. They, too, were based to a lar­ge ext­ent on the latest tech­no­lo­gy of the time, which they deve­lo­ped further.


[1] »Joint State­ment of Com­mu­nist and Workers’ Par­ties: No to the impe­ria­list war in Ukrai­ne!,« Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Greece, 24.02.2022, https://​inter​.kke​.gr/​e​n​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​N​o​-​t​o​-​t​h​e​-​i​m​p​e​r​i​a​l​i​s​t​-​w​a​r​-​i​n​-​U​k​r​a​i​ne/.

[2] Kom­mu­nis­ti­sche Orga­ni­sa­ti­on, »Live-Streams vom Kom­mu­nis­mus-Kon­gress« (You­tube, Ber­lin, 22.09.2022), https://​kom​mu​nis​ti​sche​.org/​a​l​l​g​e​m​e​i​n​/​l​i​v​e​-​s​t​r​e​a​m​s​-​v​o​m​-​k​o​m​m​u​n​i​s​m​u​s​-​k​o​n​g​r​e​s​s​-​2​0​22/.

[3] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974) S. 11.

[4] Ibid. S. 12

[5] W.I. Lenin, Aus dem phi­lo­so­phi­schen Nach­lass (Ber­lin 1949) S. 249f, as cited in Ibid.

[6] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974) S. 13

[7] Karl Marx, Das Kapi­tal, Vol. I (Ber­lin: Dietz Ver­lag, 1988), MEW 23, S. 2.

[8] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974) S. 14f

[9]Karl Marx, Theo­ries of Sur­plus Value, Vol. II, Stutt­gart, 1919, S. 282, as cited in Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974), S. 36.

[10] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974), S. 37

[11] Ibid. S. 37

[12]Jan Mül­ler, »Dark Win­ter – The­sen­pa­pier zur Coro­na­kri­se,« Freie Fun­ke: Stim­me Der Frei­en Lin­ken, Freie Lin­ke, 19. 02. 2021,

[13] Ernest Man­del, Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. 1 ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972) S. 181.

[14] Karl Neelsen, Kapi­tal und Mehr­wert: Lehr­hef­te Poli­ti­sche Öko­no­mie des Kapi­ta­lis­mus (Ber­lin: Dietz Ver­lag, 1973) S. 17.

[15] Ernest Man­del, Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. 1 ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972) S. 182.

[16] Ernest Man­del, Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. 1 ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972) S. 196.

[17] Ernest Man­del, Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. 1 ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972) S. 198f.

[18] Ernest Man­del, Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. 1 ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972)S. 199f.

[19]Jan Mül­ler, »Dark Win­ter – The­sen­pa­pier zur Coro­na­kri­se,« Freie Fun­ke: Stim­me Der Frei­en Lin­ken, Freie Lin­ke, 19. 02. 2021,

[20] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974), S. 115.

[21] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus ( Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974)„ S. 122ff. Sup­ple­men­ted from 1975 on by the pre­sent author.

[22] Ibid., S. 106ff.

[23] Ibid. S. 191.

[24] Karl Marx, Grund­ris­se: Foun­da­ti­ons of the Cri­tique of Poli­ti­cal Eco­no­my (Pen­gu­in Books: 1973) Note­book VII – The Chap­ter on Capital

[25] Ernest Man­del, Die lan­gen Wel­len im Kapi­ta­lis­mus, ( Frank­furt am Main: ISP-Ver­lag, 1987), S. 91ff

[26] Ibid. S. 98

Works Cited

»Joint State­ment of Com­mu­nist and Workers’ Par­ties: No to the impe­ria­list war in Ukrai­ne!« Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Greece. 24.02.2022. https://​inter​.kke​.gr/​e​n​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​N​o​-​t​o​-​t​h​e​-​i​m​p​e​r​i​a​l​i​s​t​-​w​a​r​-​i​n​-​U​k​r​a​i​ne/.

Kom­mu­nis­ti­sche Orga­ni­sa­ti­on. »Live-Streams vom Kom­mu­nis­mus-Kon­gress.« You­tube, Ber­lin, 22.09.2022), https://​kom​mu​nis​ti​sche​.org/​a​l​l​g​e​m​e​i​n​/​l​i​v​e​-​s​t​r​e​a​m​s​-​v​o​m​-​k​o​m​m​u​n​i​s​m​u​s​-​k​o​n​g​r​e​s​s​-​2​0​22/.

Man­del, Ernest. Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus. Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974.

—- Mar­xis­ti­sche Wirt­schafts­theo­rie, Vol. I. Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1972.

—-Die lan­gen Wel­len im Kapi­ta­lis­mus. Frank­furt am Main: ISP-Ver­lag, 1987.

Marx, Karl. Das Kapi­tal, Vol. I. Ber­lin: Dietz Ver­lag, 1988, MEW 23.

—– Grund­ris­se: Foun­da­ti­ons of the Cri­tique of Poli­ti­cal Eco­no­my. Pen­gu­in Books: 1973. https://​www​.mar​xists​.org/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​/​m​a​r​x​/​w​o​r​k​s​/​1​8​5​7​/​g​r​u​n​d​r​i​s​s​e​/​c​h​1​4​.​htm

Mül­ler, Jan. »Dark Win­ter – The­sen­pa­pier zur Coro­na­kri­se.« Freie Fun­ke: Stim­me Der Freien
Lin­ken. Freie Lin­ke, 19. 02. 2021. https://​back​up​.frei​elin​ke​.net/​r​e​d​a​k​t​i​o​n​-​f​l​/​2​0​2​1​/​0​2​/​d​a​r​k​-​w​i​n​t​e​r​-​t​h​e​s​e​n​p​a​p​i​e​r​-​z​u​r​-​c​o​r​o​n​a​k​r​ise.

Neelsen, Karl. Kapi­tal und Mehr­wert, Lehr­hef­te Poli­ti­sche Öko­no­mie des Kapi­ta­lis­mus. Ber­lin: Dietz Ver­lag, 1973.

Lenin, VI. Aus dem phi­lo­so­phi­schen Nach­lass, Ber­lin, 1949.

Cover image: Con­s­truc­tion (1922) by Gus­tav Klutsis

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