Impe­ria­lism and the Gre­at Reset Part 2: Clas­si­cal Imperialism

Lese­zeit17 min

This is the second 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.

Clas­si­cal Impe­ria­lism (1895 – 1945)

The main dri­ver of eco­no­mic growth under capi­ta­lism is the capi­ta­lists’ feve­rish search for sur­plus pro­fit, that is, pro­fits well abo­ve the avera­ge rate of pro­fit. In the peri­od of Free Com­pe­ti­ti­ve Capi­ta­lism (1789 – 1895), the main sources of sur­plus pro­fit were within the now indus­tria­li­zing count­ries of Euro­pe. At the begin­ning of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the­re was no lar­ge-sca­le capi­ta­list indus­try in the world at all. The value of a com­mo­di­ty was initi­al­ly deter­mi­ned by the far grea­ter labor time requi­red to pro­du­ce it by hand. The few capi­ta­lists who, for exam­p­le, had fabrics pro­du­ced with mecha­ni­cal, steam-dri­ven looms had far lower cos­ts and were able to make con­sidera­ble sur­plus pro­fits. Thus, at the begin­ning of the capi­ta­list era, the­se sur­plus pro­fits were achie­ved pri­ma­ri­ly in Depart­ment II, the pro­duc­tion of con­su­mer goods, while the means of pro­duc­tion were initi­al­ly still pro­du­ced by hand.

The slow decom­po­si­ti­on of the crafts – for exam­p­le, the wea­vers – and the enclo­sures in agri­cul­tu­re released lar­ge mas­ses of peo­p­le; far more than found employ­ment in indus­try. The indus­tri­al reser­ve army was thus very lar­ge. This cau­sed wages to be low and to con­ti­nue to fall until the midd­le of the 19th cen­tu­ry. The rate of sur­plus value was cor­re­spon­din­gly high.

With the gene­ra­liza­ti­on of lar­ge-sca­le indus­try in Wes­tern Euro­pe from 1850, the­se sur­plus pro­fits slow­ly dis­ap­peared. The value of goods was incre­asing­ly deter­mi­ned by indus­tri­al­ly manu­fac­tu­red pro­ducts and decli­ned. As a result, pro­fits also decli­ned. The indus­tri­al reser­ve army cea­sed to grow, or grew only slow­ly, as the dir­ty work of dis­mant­ling the tra­di­tio­nal craft and agri­cul­tu­ral sec­tors was lar­ge­ly done in the most high­ly deve­lo­ped capi­ta­list count­ries, Bri­tain, France and Bel­gi­um. Mean­while, the labor move­ment deve­lo­ped into a real power and fur­ther pro­pel­led this dyna­mic by its pur­su­it of hig­her wages.

New inven­ti­ons such as the Cow­per sto­ve, the Bes­se­mer and Tho­mas pro­ces­ses, and the Sie­mens-Mar­tin fur­nace made lar­ge-sca­le indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion of raw mate­ri­als pos­si­ble in Depart­ment I, i.e. the pro­duc­tion of manu­fac­tu­ring goods with a cor­re­spon­din­gly incre­asing mini­mum amount of capi­tal. The orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal increased signi­fi­cant­ly, espe­ci­al­ly in Divi­si­on I. This led to the fact that the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on in Depart­ment I slow­ly began to approach that in Depart­ment II, and then rapidly sur­pas­sed it. A trans­fer of sur­plus value from Depart­ment II to Depart­ment I, accom­pany­ing the equa­liza­ti­on of pro­fit rates, began. Howe­ver, the con­sider­a­b­ly increased pro­duc­tion capa­ci­ty of Depart­ment I could no lon­ger be ful­ly uti­li­zed in the 1870s and 1880s. A signi­fi­cant part of the sur­plus value rea­li­zed by Depart­ment I, and of the sur­plus value pro­du­ced in Depart­ment II and appro­pria­ted in Depart­ment I, lay idle.

At the same time, com­mo­di­ty pri­ces rose. This is becau­se, as the pro­duc­ti­vi­ty of labor rises, the out­put of the quan­ti­ty of goods that can be pro­du­ced by a given quan­tum of labor and machi­nery con­stant­ly increa­ses. This leads to a decrease in the share of con­stant fixed capi­tal (machi­nery) and varia­ble capi­tal (wages) in the value of goods. Accor­din­gly, the share of con­stant cir­cu­la­ting capi­tal, i.e. raw mate­ri­als, increa­ses. In the last deca­des of free com­pe­ti­ti­ve capi­ta­lism, this led to a rela­ti­ve, and later abso­lu­te, increase in com­mo­di­ty pri­ces. This ten­den­cy was exa­cer­ba­ted by the fact that com­mo­di­ties were pro­du­ced in many count­ries with pre-capi­ta­list modes of pro­duc­tion, such as slavery or serf­dom. All the­se fac­tors cau­sed a long-term decli­ne in the rate of pro­fit in the 1870s and 1880s.[1]

Capi­tal reac­ted to the­se cri­sis phe­no­me­na in various ways. Taken tog­e­ther, they led to the end of free com­pe­ti­ti­on capi­ta­lism and the emer­gence of impe­ria­lism, which had taken hold in the main indus­tria­li­zed count­ries around 1895.

In his work Impe­ria­lism: the Hig­hest Stage of Capi­ta­lism Lenin, descri­bes the fol­lo­wing cen­tral fea­tures of imperialism:

Mono­po­lies, car­tels and pri­ce agree­ments emer­ged in many sec­tors, espe­ci­al­ly in the mining, iron and steel indus­tries, from the cri­sis-rid­den 1870s onward. Initi­al­ly, they were still the excep­ti­on, but by 1900 at the latest they domi­na­ted eco­no­mic life. Initi­al­ly, agree­ments bet­ween inde­pen­dent com­pa­nies domi­na­ted, but later the­se com­pa­nies were more often com­bi­ned in groups or trusts. With mono­po­ly, com­pe­ti­ti­on in pri­ce and qua­li­ty came to a standstill in the effec­ted indus­tries By the begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, the­re were also inter­na­tio­nal mono­po­lies, for exam­p­le the elec­tri­cal mono­po­ly of 1907, which divi­ded the who­le world bet­ween the Ger­man AEG and the Ame­ri­can Gene­ral Elec­tric. Howe­ver, the­se inter­na­tio­nal mono­po­lies were still unsta­ble and often col­lap­sed – only to be for­med anew after a few years, of cour­se.[2]

Ban­king capi­tal and indus­tri­al capi­tal coale­s­ced into finan­ce capi­tal. The­re was also a mas­si­ve con­cen­tra­ti­on and cen­tra­liza­ti­on of capi­tal in the ban­king sec­tor. At the turn of the cen­tu­ry, the­re were only six lar­ge com­mer­cial banks in Ger­ma­ny, which were also stron­gly inter­con­nec­ted. The­se com­mer­cial banks, in turn, con­trol­led the majo­ri­ty of shares in the lar­ge cor­po­ra­ti­ons, on who­se super­vi­so­ry boards their direc­tors were regu­lar­ly repre­sen­ted. Lar­ge, clo­se­ly intert­wi­ned mono­po­ly com­ple­xes emer­ged, which could con­sist of hundreds of com­pa­nies. The modern »big three« Ger­man com­mer­cial banks – Deut­sche Bank, Dresd­ner Bank and Com­merz­bank – were alre­a­dy, then, among­st the top banks[3]– and they have in the inte­rim absor­bed their few past com­pe­ti­tors, such as Dis­con­to-Gesell­schaft and Darm­städ­ter Bank.

For free com­pe­ti­ti­ve capi­ta­lism, the export of goods was cha­rac­te­ristic. An important fea­ture of impe­ria­lism was the export of capi­tal. This was becau­se at the thres­hold of the 20th cen­tu­ry, a lar­ge sur­plus of capi­tal was crea­ted in the advan­ced capi­ta­list count­ries. This could no lon­ger be inves­ted pro­fi­ta­b­ly at home, so it was expor­ted to under­de­ve­lo­ped countries.

Capi­tal was inves­ted the­re pri­ma­ri­ly in the pro­duc­tion of raw mate­ri­als and in trans­por­ta­ti­on rou­tes such as rail­roads and ports. Howe­ver, the­re was litt­le incen­ti­ve to make signi­fi­cant use of machi­nery in such count­ries, becau­se of the very lar­ge amount of cheap labor. In com­mo­di­ty pro­duc­tion, an essen­ti­al­ly pre-indus­tri­al, manu­fac­tu­ring capi­ta­lism emer­ged. In other are­as, the degree of mecha­niza­ti­on was hig­her, but even the­re the empha­sis was on the pro­duc­tion of abso­lu­te sur­plus value. This deve­lo­p­ment pro­vi­ded for a con­sidera­ble che­a­pe­ning and acce­le­ra­ti­on of the export of raw mate­ri­als and thus con­tri­bu­ted to a lowe­ring of the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of world capi­tal.[4]

In the age of impe­ria­lism, the inde­pen­dent deve­lo­p­ment of capi­ta­lism in the colo­nies and semi-colo­nies was prac­ti­cal­ly impos­si­ble, becau­se the eco­no­mic struc­tu­re of the­se count­ries was shaped by capi­tal in a fashion com­ple­men­ta­ry to the needs of capi­ta­list pro­duc­tion in the metro­po­li­ses. Invest­ments emana­ted direct­ly from the metro­po­li­ses and were made only in tho­se sec­tors that cor­re­spon­ded to the inte­rests of the impe­ria­list bour­geoi­sie. The emer­gence of dome­stic manu­fac­tu­ring indus­tries in the peri­phery was often even direct­ly pre­ven­ted.[5]

In this peri­od, capi­ta­list were able to make sur­plus pro­fits becau­se of the fol­lo­wing factors:

  • In the less deve­lo­ped count­ries, the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal was lower, and con­se­quent­ly the rate of pro­fit was hig­her than in the West.
  • In the­se less deve­lo­ped count­ries the rate of sur­plus value was also hig­her, sin­ce due to the gro­wing indus­tri­al reser­ve army the pri­ce of the labor power fell far below its value, which was alre­a­dy signi­fi­cant­ly lower than in the alre­a­dy indus­tria­li­zed countries.
  • The con­cen­tra­ti­on of capi­tal exports in com­mo­di­ty-pro­du­cing sec­tors ensu­red signi­fi­cant sur­plus pro­fits for the capi­tal inves­ted the­re due to high com­mo­di­ty pri­ces. Later, it con­tri­bu­ted to a reduc­tion in the orga­nic com­po­si­ti­on of capi­tal in the metropolises.
  • The mas­si­ve export of capi­tal redu­ced the idle capi­tal in the metro­po­li­ses and for this reason led to an increase in the rate of pro­fit the­re as well.[6]

Towards the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the divi­si­on of the world among the six gre­at powers Eng­land, France, Ger­ma­ny, Rus­sia, the United Sta­tes and Japan had lar­ge­ly come to an end. The sta­te of affairs in 1914 is shown in the fol­lo­wing table cited by Lenin:

Table 3.1. divi­si­on of the world accor­ding to Lenin. Squa­re kilo­me­ters and inha­bi­tants in mil­li­ons.[7]

Semi-colo­nies were count­ries with an archaic social struc­tu­re, such as the Otto­man Empire, Chi­na, Per­sia and Ethio­pia. They were for­mal­ly inde­pen­dent, but could not coun­ter the eco­no­mic and poli­ti­cal pene­tra­ti­on of the gre­at powers.

In addi­ti­on to the smal­ler Euro­pean count­ries such as Bel­gi­um and Switz­er­land, the Latin Ame­ri­can count­ries should be men­tio­ned. The lat­ter were still more or less cha­rac­te­ri­zed by feu­da­lism in agriculture.

Gre­at Bri­tain was the lea­ding indus­tri­al power of the 19th cen­tu­ry. It was here that capi­ta­lism had estab­lished its­elf most ear­ly and radi­cal­ly, as ear­ly as around 1790. In1870, the coun­try still clai­med 32% share of world indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion, ahead of the USA with 23%, France’s 10%, and Germany’s 13%. Gre­at Bri­tain was also the most important world tra­ding power in 1870, with a 22% share of world trade, ahead of France’s 10% and Germany’s 13%. The U.S.’s share was only 12%.

Eng­land was able to secu­re the lion’s share of colo­ni­al acqui­si­ti­ons, while France was alre­a­dy fal­ling signi­fi­cant­ly behind and Ger­ma­ny was lar­ge­ly left empty-handed.

In the last deca­des of the 19th cen­tu­ry, the ran­king of the indus­tria­li­zed count­ries chan­ged con­sider­a­b­ly. New gre­at powers rose, espe­ci­al­ly Ger­ma­ny, the United Sta­tes and Japan. The old gre­at powers, France and Gre­at Bri­tain, which still domi­na­ted free com­pe­ti­ti­on capi­ta­lism, expe­ri­en­ced a rela­ti­ve decli­ne in importance. Aus­tria-Hun­ga­ry was still con­side­red a gre­at power in the 19th cen­tu­ry, but by the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry had decli­ned to the sta­tus of a midd­le power.

In 1914, the abo­ve count­ries’ respec­ti­ve shares of world indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion were as fol­lows: Gre­at Bri­tain: 14%, France 6%, Ger­ma­ny 16%, USA 36%. World trade at the time was simi­lar­ly divi­ded: Gre­at Bri­tain 15%, France 8%, Ger­ma­ny 13% and USA 11%.

Ger­man indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion had thus over­ta­ken that of Gre­at Bri­tain befo­re 1914 and con­tin­ued to grow at a rapid pace. In world trade, Ger­ma­ny ran­ked second, only slight­ly behind Gre­at Bri­tain.[8]

Bet­ween 1882 and 1907, the num­ber of indus­tri­al workers in Ger­ma­ny dou­bled from just under 6 to 11 mil­li­on, with a slight decli­ne in the num­ber of indus­tri­al enter­pri­ses. The num­ber of lar­ge[9] com­pa­nies grew par­ti­cu­lar­ly rapidly, employ­ing 47% of all workers.[10] Num­e­rous new lar­ge cities and indus­tri­al dis­tricts such as the Ruhr regi­on were crea­ted. Among the working class, howe­ver, living con­di­ti­ons were inde­scri­ba­b­ly miserable.

The elec­tri­cal indus­try and the che­mi­cal indus­try – both new at the time – deve­lo­ped rapidly in Ger­ma­ny. Mono­po­liza­ti­on was par­ti­cu­lar­ly strong in the­se sec­tors: the elec­tri­cal indus­try was domi­na­ted by AEG, Sie­mens & Hals­ke and Bosch; the che­mi­cal indus­try by Farb­wer­ke Hoechst, BASF, Bay­er and Agfa.

The back­ground to this strong growth of the pro­duc­ti­ve forces was the second indus­tri­al revo­lu­ti­on, which made par­ti­cu­lar­ly rapid pro­gress in the new indus­tria­li­zed count­ries such as Ger­ma­ny. It was based on the fol­lo­wing tech­ni­cal developments:

  • The deve­lo­p­ment of lar­ge-sca­le che­mi­cal syn­the­sis, which rai­sed che­mi­cal pro­duc­tion to a new tech­ni­cal level.
  • The pro­gres­si­ve harnes­sing of elec­tri­cal ener­gy after sol­ving the tech­ni­cal pro­blem of elec­tri­ci­ty dis­tri­bu­ti­on and trans­mis­si­on in the 90s. This made it pos­si­ble to pro­vi­de ener­gy at any place and in any desi­red quan­ti­ty, and spur­red the inven­ti­on of a wealth of new elec­tro­tech­ni­cal working and con­trol apparatus.
  • The per­fec­tion of the inter­nal com­bus­ti­on engi­ne enab­led the deve­lo­p­ment of the auto­mo­bi­le, the trac­tor and the air­plane. They sup­ple­men­ted the steam engine’s rela­tively rigid and limi­t­ed means of action with smal­ler, more mobi­le power units that could be used almost anywhere.
  • The­re was also a revo­lu­ti­on in news and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on tech­no­lo­gy (wire­less tele­gra­phy, tele­pho­ne, film).
  • Advan­ces in mecha­ni­cal engi­nee­ring led to the deve­lo­p­ment of a varie­ty of new, high­ly spe­cia­li­zed machi­nes that could pro­du­ce work­pie­ces of high precision.
  • Incre­asing soil fer­ti­li­ty through arti­fi­ci­al fer­ti­li­zers, agri­cul­tu­ral machi­nery, and sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly based crop rota­ti­on great­ly increased annu­al avera­ge yields per hec­ta­re.[11]

Indi­vi­du­al mono­po­lies and the sta­te set up rese­arch com­pa­nies both to con­duct basic rese­arch in the latest rese­arch fields and to advan­ce appli­ed rese­arch for the bene­fit of industry.

The Ger­man che­mi­cal indus­try used its sur­plus pro­fits from the pro­duc­tion of syn­the­tic dyes, for which it held a world mono­po­ly, to finan­ce ela­bo­ra­te rese­arch pro­jects that secu­red it a fur­ther mono­po­ly-like posi­ti­on on the world mar­ket in the pro­duc­tion of reme­dies, drugs and pho­to­gra­phic materials.

Ger­ma­ny was also one of the lea­ding count­ries in medi­cal rese­arch. In 1907, for exam­p­le, Paul Ehr­lich dis­co­ver­ed peni­cil­lin as a cure for syphilis.

In 1908, Fritz Haber deve­lo­ped a pro­cess for pro­du­cing ammo­nia from atmo­sphe­ric nitro­gen and hydro­gen, and Fritz Hof­mann dis­co­ver­ed the syn­the­sis of syn­the­tic rub­ber in 1909. Howe­ver, the high-pres­su­re pro­cess for coal hydro­gena­ti­on (Fischer-Tropsch) dis­co­ver­ed in 1913 was not rea­dy for pro­duc­tion until the 1920s. This meant that Ger­ma­ny was lar­ge­ly inde­pen­dent of raw mate­ri­als such as Chi­le salt­pet­re and natu­ral rub­ber, the sup­p­ly of which was blo­cked by the Bri­tish naval blo­cka­de during the First World War.

Start­ing in 1900, num­e­rous elec­tric power plants were built and inner-city trans­por­ta­ti­on was elec­tri­fied. From 1910, the light bulb beca­me wide­spread. In 1901, wire­less tele­gra­phy was pos­si­ble, and from 1916, radio­te­le­pho­ny. By the 1890s, Ger­ma­ny alre­a­dy had an exten­si­ve tele­pho­ne net­work, the lar­gest in Europe.

From 1900, the gas engi­ne beca­me wide­spread in Ger­ma­ny. By the begin­ning of the World War, it alre­a­dy had 9,000 trucks, 5,500 cars and 20,000 motor­cy­cles. Sin­ce 1890 air­ships were built, the Zep­pe­lins. From 1891 Otto Lili­en­thal car­ri­ed out flight expe­ri­ments. During the first world war the­re were alre­a­dy regu­lar air batt­les bet­ween ene­my planes.

Film scree­nings had been held in Ger­ma­ny sin­ce 1895. Until the World War, howe­ver, they most­ly con­sis­ted of short flicks.[12]

Pre­cis­e­ly becau­se of the con­sidera­ble sci­en­ti­fic and indus­tri­al advan­ces, the­re was a sur­plus of capi­tal in Ger­ma­ny, which means that, espe­ci­al­ly in Divi­si­on I, all accu­mu­la­ted capi­tal could by no means be pro­fi­ta­b­ly exploi­ted. Ger­man colo­ni­al pos­ses­si­ons were insi­gni­fi­cant. Access to the colo­nies of other powers was gene­ral­ly denied to Ger­man capi­ta­lists. The­r­e­fo­re, they expan­ded main­ly in the direc­tion of Latin Ame­ri­ca, the Bal­kans and the still inde­pen­dent semi-colo­nies such as Moroc­co, the Otto­man Empire and Chi­na. This put Ger­ma­ny in a con­flict of inte­rests with Gre­at Bri­tain, the stron­gest power in the world at the time. This was fur­ther inten­si­fied by the naval arms race that began in 1897. In order to be able to assert Ger­man impe­ria­list capi­tal inte­rests glo­bal­ly, Ger­ma­ny built up a strong oce­an-going fleet and thus direct­ly threa­ten­ed Bri­tish interests.

Under Kai­ser Wil­helm II (r. 1888 – 1918), Ger­ma­ny took a par­ti­cu­lar­ly aggres­si­ve and over­bea­ring pos­tu­re all over the world. In the pre-war peri­od, mili­ta­ry and diplo­ma­tic inci­dents with other gre­at powers beca­me more fre­quent. Ger­ma­ny set cour­se for the mili­ta­ry redi­vi­si­on of the world.[13]Cor­re­spon­ding ide­as are docu­men­ted in the so-cal­led Sep­tem­ber Pro­gram, which was adopted by Reich Chan­cell­or Beth­mann-Holl­weg in 1914 short­ly after the out­break of the First World War. It pro­vi­ded for the fol­lo­wing mea­su­res in the event of a vic­to­rious war:

  • Crea­ti­on of a Cen­tral Euro­pean eco­no­mic asso­cia­ti­on in the form of a cus­toms uni­on. It was to include: Ger­ma­ny, Aus­tria-Hun­ga­ry, Bel­gi­um, the Net­her­lands, France, Den­mark, Swe­den and Nor­way. The­se sta­tes were to remain for­mal­ly inde­pen­dent, but de fac­to belong to the Ger­man sphe­re of influence.
  • Annexa­ti­on of the French iron ore-rich ter­ri­to­ries around Briey and Longwy and the wes­tern slo­pe of the Vosges.
  • Annexa­ti­on of the Grand Duchy of Luxem­bourg exten­ded by some Bel­gi­an territories.
  • Res­to­ra­ti­on of Bel­gi­um, but it was to be redu­ced to the sta­tus of a vas­sal state.
  • Crea­ti­on of a con­ti­guous Cen­tral Afri­can colo­ni­al empire con­sis­ting of Bel­gi­an Con­go (now Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic of Con­go), Por­tu­gue­se West Afri­ca (now Ango­la) and Por­tu­gue­se East Afri­ca (now Mozambique)
  • A high war tri­bu­te from France.[14]

Aggres­si­ve capi­ta­list cir­cles rai­sed even more far-rea­ching annexa­ti­on demands. The cen­tral demand of the capi­ta­lists was the crea­ti­on of the Cen­tral Euro­pean Eco­no­mic Uni­on. With this, they wan­ted to crea­te opti­mal expan­si­on oppor­tu­ni­ties for them­sel­ves. Ulti­m­ate­ly, this was to lay the foun­da­ti­on for repla­cing Gre­at Bri­tain as the lea­ding impe­ria­list power.

All the other gre­at powers allied against this aggres­si­ve expan­sio­nist pro­gram. Ger­ma­ny was mili­ta­ri­ly stron­ger than each indi­vi­du­al power, but not stron­ger than all of them com­bi­ned. At the end of World War I in 1918, Ger­ma­ny was defea­ted and the old regime was over­thrown. The revo­lu­ti­on was pre­ven­ted by Social Demo­cra­cy from con­ti­nuing in the direc­tion of socia­lism, that is, the expro­pria­ti­on of the capitalists.

This set the stage for the rise of Ger­man fascism under Adolf Hit­ler, who sought reven­ge for the defeat of 1918 with even more adven­tur­ous poli­ci­es and plun­ged the world into World War II (1939 – 45). Ger­man fascism wan­ted to con­quer all of Euro­pe as a spring­board for its world domi­na­ti­on. On the basis of euge­nics, which was shar­pe­ned into an aberrant racial theo­ry, the enti­re Jewish popu­la­ti­on of the world was to be exter­mi­na­ted and the Sla­vic peo­p­les sub­stan­ti­al­ly deci­ma­ted by star­va­ti­on and mass exter­mi­na­ti­on. The anci­ent civi­liza­ti­on of Rus­sia was to be redu­ced to a nati­on of helots, with its enti­re intellec­tu­al eli­te desti­ned for anni­hi­la­ti­on. In place of the Slavs, Ger­mans were to be sett­led in the vaca­ted eas­tern ter­ri­to­ries. Ger­ma­ny allied its­elf with Japan, also fascist, which wan­ted to crea­te a lar­ge empire in East Asia.

Against this ins­a­ne cla­im to world domi­na­ti­on, the three gre­at capi­ta­list powers, the USA, France and Gre­at Bri­tain, allied them­sel­ves with the socia­list Soviet Union.

The lat­ter emer­ged from the Octo­ber Revo­lu­ti­on of 1917, the world’s first socia­list revo­lu­ti­on. Rapid Soviet indus­tria­liza­ti­on begin­ning in 1928 ulti­m­ate­ly made pos­si­ble the vic­to­ry of the anti-Hit­ler coali­ti­on. Its hea­vy indus­try pro­du­ced so many tanks, guns, rocket laun­chers, and air­craft that the Red Army was able to coun­ter the Ger­man war machi­ne. Nevert­hel­ess, the out­co­me of the Ger­man-Soviet war hung in the balan­ce during the batt­les for Moscow in 1941 and Sta­lin­grad in 1942.

Against Japan, the U.S. waged a bit­ter war in the Paci­fic, cul­mi­na­ting in the first use of ato­mic bombs against the cities of Hiro­shi­ma and Naga­sa­ki in 1945.

At the end of World War II, Ger­ma­ny had been defea­ted mili­ta­ri­ly once again, after tre­men­dous sacri­fices of human lives. Ins­tead of the six gre­at powers, the­re were only two super­powers, the United Sta­tes and the Soviet Union.


[1] Ernest Man­del, Der Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus, (Frank­furt am Main: Suhr­kamp, 1974) p. 54 (Hence­forth, Man­del, Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus).

[2] Der Impe­ria­lis­mus als höchs­tes Sta­di­um des Kapi­ta­lis­mus, Ber­lin, 1988, p. 20. Eng­lish Trans­la­ti­on: Vla­di­mir Lenin, Impe­ria­lism, the Hig­hest Stage of Capi­ta­lism, (Chip­penda­le NSW: Resis­tance Books, 1999) https://​www​.rea​ding​from​the​left​.com/​B​o​o​k​s​/​C​l​a​s​s​i​c​s​/​L​e​n​i​n​I​m​p​e​r​i​a​l​i​s​m​.​pdf (Hence­forth, Lenin, Impe­ria­lism).

[3] Ibid. p. 37.

[4] Man­del, Spät­ka­pi­ta­lis­mus, p. 56.

[5] Ibid. p. 51.

[6] Ibid. p. 76.

[7] Lenin, Impe­ria­lism, p.92.

[8] Fritz Klein, Deutsch­land 1897/98 – 1917, Lehr­buch der deut­schen Geschich­te, vol. 9, (Deut­scher Ver­lag der Wis­sen­schaf­ten: Ber­lin, 1972). p. 18 (Hence­forth: Klein, Deutsch­land 1897/98 – 1917).

[9] I.e., more than 50 workers.

[10] Klein, Deutsch­land 1897/98 – 1917, p. 18.

[11] Ibid. p. 395.

[12] Ibid. p.p. 401, 404.

[13] Fritz Klein et. al., Deutsch­land im Ers­ten Welt­krieg, Vol.1: Vor­be­rei­tung, Ent­fes­se­lung und Ver­lauf des Krie­ges bis Ende 1914, (Ber­lin, 1970), p. 60.ff (Hence­forth: Fritz Klein et. al., Deutsch­land im Ers­ten Weltkrieg). 

[14] Ibid. p. 366. It should be noted that in 1914, the­re were not yet demands for Ger­ma­ny to expand east­ward. This is becau­se the pro­s­pect of estab­li­shing a new king­dom in the ter­ri­to­ry of modern Pol­and, which was to be united with Aus­tria-Hun­ga­ry in per­so­nal uni­on, was still being con­side­red. When the weak­ne­ss of the Aus­tro-Hun­ga­ri­an army beca­me obvious in the fol­lo­wing years, the­se plans were obso­le­te and Ger­ma­ny shifted the focus of its expan­si­on plans to the East. This ten­den­cy was sub­stan­ti­al­ly increased during the Second World War.

Works Cited

Klein, Fritz. Deutsch­land 1897/98 – 1917, Lehr­buch der deut­schen Geschich­te, vol. 9. Deut­scher Ver­lag der Wis­sen­schaf­ten: Ber­lin, 1972.

Fritz Klein et. al., Deutsch­land im Ers­ten Welt­krieg, Vol.1: Vor­be­rei­tung, Ent­fes­se­lung und Ver­lauf des Krie­ges bis Ende 1914, (Ber­lin, 1970)

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

Lenin, VI. Der Impe­ria­lis­mus als höchs­tes Sta­di­um des Kapi­ta­lis­mus, Ber­lin, 1988.

Cover Image: »Impe­ri­al Fede­ra­ti­on, map of the world show­ing the ext­ent of the Bri­tish Empire in 1886«, wiki­me­dia commons

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