Basic Economic Law of Monopoly Capitalism - Transition to Imperialism

Marx-Engels |  Lenin  | Stalin |  Home Page

  Basic Economic Law of Monopoly Capitalism - Transition to Imperialism

Ostrovityanov K.V. Shepilov D.T. Leontiev L.A. , Laptev I.D. Kuzminov I.I. Gatovsky L.M

State publishing house of political literature. Moscow. 1954

PDF Download

Transition to imperialism- P17
Concentration of production and monopoly- P21 
Concentration and monopolies in banking– P27
Financial capital and financial oligarchy- P29
The export of capital- P32
The economic division of the world -P35
Completion of the territorial division of the world between the great powers and the struggle for its redistribution- P37
Basic economic law of monopoly capitalism- P40
The historical place of imperialism- P49
Imperialism is parasitic or decaying capitalism- P51
Imperialism is the eve of the socialist revolution- P57
State monopoly capitalism- P58
The law of uneven economic and political development- P61
The essence of the general crisis of capitalism- P69
World War I and the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism- P71
The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the split of the world into two systems- P74
The crisis of the colonial system of imperialism- P78
Aggravation of the problem of markets- P82
Deepening crises of overproduction and changes in the capitalist cycle – P86
Economic doctrines of the era of capitalism
Bourgeois classical political economy- P95
The emergence of vulgar political economy- P100
Petty-bourgeois political economy -P102
Utopian socialists- P103
Revolutionary democrats in Russia- P105
Revolutionary upheaval in political economy- P107
Modern bourgeois political economy -P114
Economic theories of the opportunists of the Second International and contemporary right-wing socialist -P123



The definition of “imperialism” used in order to determine if a country is imperialist or not generally is limited to its economic aspect, disregarding the “political” aspect. Lenin in his forward to Imperialism stated that “pamphlet was written with an eye to the tsarist censorship. Hence,” he said, ”I was not only forced to confine myself strictly to an exclusively theoretical, specifically economic analysis of facts, but to formulate the few necessary observations on politics with extreme caution… I trust that this pamphlet will help the reader to understand the fundamental economic question, that of the economic essence of imperialism.” (1) 

Lenin was pointing this out by saying; “imperialism can and must be defined differently if we bear in mind not only the basic, purely economic concepts—to which the above definition is limited..” (1) 

It was Lenin himself saying that his "imperialism" and definition is limited to economic aspect of it. In reference to Imperialism, and importance of this question Lenin points out that;

“The problem of imperialism is not only a most essential one, but, we may say it is the most essential problem in that realm of economic science which examines the changing forms of capitalism in recent times. Everyone interested not only in economics but in any sphere of present-day social life must acquaint himself with the facts relating to this problem, as presented by the author in such detail on the basis of the latest available data. Needless to say that there can be no concrete historical analysis of war, if that analysis does not have for its basis a full understanding of the nature of imperialism, both from its economic and political aspects. Without this, it is impossible to approach an understanding of the economic and diplomatic situation of the last decades, and without such an understanding, it is ridiculous even to speak of forming a correct view on the war.” (2) 

In his critique of Kautsky he summarized the policy in one word- use of force.


“”Imperialism is a striving for annexations… It is correct, but very incomplete, for politically, imperialism is, in general, a striving towards violence and reaction.”.. The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics…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?” (1) 

Bukharin in his book which the introduction is written by Lenin, deals with the definitions of imperialism. He states;


The second very widespread "theory" of imperialism defines it as the policy of conquest in general Simple as this theory may be, it is absolutely untrue. It is untrue because it "explains" everything, i.e., it explains absolutely nothing.


Every policy of the ruling classes ("pure" policy, military policy, economic policy) has a perfectly definite functional significance… War serves to reproduce definite relations of production. War of conquest serves to reproduce those relations on a wider scale. Simply to define war, however, as conquest is entirely insufficient, for the simple reason that in doing so we fail to indicate the main thing, namely, what production relations are strengthened or extended by the war, what basis is widened by a given "policy of conquest… Bourgeois science does not see and does not wish to see this. It does not understand that a basis for the classification of various "policies" must exist in the social economy out of which the "policies" arise. " (3) 

Defining imperialism as a “specific historic category”  he points out the mistakes of approach which coincidently mistakes  of our days too. He states that Imperialism; “upholds the structure of finance capital; it subjugates the world to the domination of finance capital; in place of the old capitalist, production relations, it puts the production relations of finance capital. Just as finance capitalism (which must not be confused with money capital, for finance capital is characterized by being simultaneously banking and industrial capital) is an historically limited epoch, confined only to the last few decades, so imperialism, as the policy of finance capital, is a specific historic category.”


war is a continuation of politics by other means… Politics itself, however, is an active "continuation." (3) 

An abstract repetition of “war is a continuation of politics by other means”,  as if it explains everything is a common ready-made solution used to all questions of wars, however, without actually studying the given “politics” itself under that given concrete conditions. 

“Capitalist society” says Bukharin, “is unthinkable without armaments, as it is unthinkable without wars. And just as it is true that not low prices cause competition but, on the contrary, competition causes low prices, it is equally true that not the existence of arms is the prime cause and the moving force in wars (although wars are obviously impossible without arms) but, on the contrary, the inevitableness of economic conflicts conditions the existence of arms. This is why in our times, when economic conflicts have reached an unusual degree of intensity, we are witnessing a mad orgy of armaments. Thus the rule of finance capital implies both imperialism and militarism. In this sense militarism is no less a typical historic phenomenon than finance capital itself… even where there are relatively equal economic structures, but the military powers of the state capitalist trusts differ considerably.” (3) 

Thus, Imperialism and war are inseparable twinsThat is why the issue of “imperialism” and attitude to it cannot be studied independently from its political aspect- that is (militarization of industry and) war- in each given concrete condition and situation. Lenin was saying that “Abstract theoretical reasoning may lead to the conclusion at which Kautsky has arrived .. by abandoning Marxism. It goes without saying that there can be no concrete historical assessment of  war, unless it is based on a thorough analysis of the nature of imperialism, both in its economic and political aspects.” (1) Connecting the two Lenin points out that  “The character of a war and its success depend chiefly upon the internal regime of the country that goes to war, that war is a reflection of the internal policy conducted by the given country before the war. “ (4)  

“If they are both sides of the same coin” some will say, ” then our attitude to a “war” will not be different than our attitude to “imperialism”. However, Lenin clearly points out that  “depending on historical conditions, the relationship of classes and similar data, the attitude towards war must be different at different times. " (5) That, dialectically means, the attitude to “imperialism” will be different at different times.  There will be times, conditions, and situations  where there is no “interests of proletariat in general”  but only the “interests of proletariat” in particular. There will be times, conditions, and situations where, because of the existence of a “general interests of proletariat”, the interests of particular will be subordinated to the interests of the general.  In a constantly changing world the conditions and situations will change, so the attitude to each will have to be changed.   That is why, “it is not surprising” says Lenin, “ that Marx and the Marxists confined themselves to determining which bourgeoisie’s victory would be more harmless to (or more favourable to) the world proletariat, at a time when one could not speak of a general proletarian movement against the governments and the bourgeoisie of all the belligerent countries.” (6) 

Lenin in his critique of Potresoy clarifies the old and new epochs and their class context in regard to Marx attitude to the wars and the question of the “the success of which bourgeoisie is more desirable” says; “ Potresov has failed to notice that Marx was working on the problem at a time when there existed indubitably progressive bourgeois movements, which moreover did not merely exist, but were   in the forefront of the historical process in the leading states of Europe. Today, it would be ridiculous even to imagine a progressive bourgeoisie, a progressive bourgeois movement, in, for instance, such key members of the “Concert” of Europe, as Britain and Germany.” (12) 

Marx’s view and approach to the Tsarist regime as the main focus of reaction and counterrevolution in the world, and had to be fought harder than any other was not his general political line on war and peace but related to the that given concrete situation and conditions. 

In the first epoch,” says Lenin, “ the objective and historical task was to ascertain how, in its struggle against the chief representatives of a dying feudalism, the progressive bourgeoisie should “utilize” international conflicts so as to bring the greatest possible advantage to the entire democratic bourgeoisie of the world… the possession of colonies and the expansion of colonial possessions… The second epoch is...the deep contradictions in modern democracy… the cities were attracting ever more inhabitants, and living conditions in the large cities of the whole world were being levelled out; capital was becoming internationalized, and at the big factories townsmen and country-folk, both native and alien, were intermingling. The class contradictions were growing ever more acute… in the third epoch, no feudal fortresses of all-European significance remain… it is the task of   present-day democracy to “utilize” conflicts, but this international utilization must be directed, not against individual national finance capital, but against international finance capital.” (13) 

Aside from being “the bygone period of bourgeois democratic revolutions against feudalism”, during the first world war Lenin’s attitude was not the same before the revolution and after the revolution. The attitude derived from not by generalized theories but from the interests of proletariat and of their struggle. First period, in the case of Russia, consideration was the interests of revolutionary struggle, second was the interests of revolution itself. 

Marxist dialectical method forbids the employment of “ready-made schemes” and abstract formulas, The dialectical method demands, first, that we should consider things, not each by itself, but always in their interconnection with other things.  That means even in the same epoch, the same war attitude may change as the character of war may change with the possible changes in the belligerent countries.  

While criticizing Rosa Lenin was saying; “we remain dialecticians and we combat sophistry not by denying the possibility of all transformations in general, but by analysing the given phenomenon in its concrete setting and development… This "epoch" has made the policies of the present great powers thoroughly imperialist… Objectively, the feudal and dynastic wars were then opposed by revolutionary democratic wars, by wars for national liberation. This was the content of the historical tasks of that epoch. At the present time, the objective situation in the biggest advanced states of Europe is different…From the standpoint of progress, from the standpoint of the progressive class, the imperialist bourgeois war, the war of highly developed capitalism, can, objectively, be opposed only with a war against the bourgeoisie, i.e., primarily civil war for power between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.. Marxist dialectics call for a concrete analysis of each specific historical situation… Civil war against the bourgeoisie is also a form of class struggle.. (7)

Based on his analysis of concrete situation in that given time and conditions, the “Revolutionary Defeatism” stand of Lenin worked. “Civil war became a fact” said Lenin on Extraordinary Seventh Congress. “ The transformation of the imperialist war into civil war, which we had predicted at the beginning of the revolution, and even at the beginning of the war… circumstances in which we found ourselves in October…” (8) 

 The “defeatist” stand transformed in to “Defencist” stand. “Yes, we are now defencists” said Lenin. “We have been defencists since October 25, 1917; we have won the right to defend our native land… it is a policy of preparation for defense of our country, a steadfast policy, not allowing a single step to be taken that would aid the extremist parties of the imperialist powers in the East and West.” (9) Following, Lenin states that this “right” to “defend” from the “defeatist” stand “is not achieved by issuing declarations, but only by overthrowing the bourgeoisie in one’s own country. In that matter, he states; “ it would be absurd to concoct a recipe, or general rule that would serve in all cases. One must have the brains to analyze the situation in each separate case.” (10) 

Either defeatist, or defencist or (active) neutral, stands of Marxist Leninists derive from the fundamental principle of having the interests of proletariat and of its struggle in mind when we make an evaluation for the policy and stand. It is never a narrowminded, mechanical question of which side or more like which bourgeois will be beneficial to us, it is the question of where the interests of proletariat lie – not based on abstract general theories but- based on concrete conditions. 

This principle  was what Stalin followed and applied during the second world war. In a very similar way to First World War, he  made agreement with aggressive (Lenin calls extremist) Imperialist Germany to prepare for the 2nd imperialist World War. He reached to non-aggressive  imperialists for an alliance for peace. He states;


“A distinguishing feature of the new crisis is that it differs in many respects from the preceding one, and, moreover, differs for the worse and not for the better. …the present crisis has broken out not in time of peace, but at a time when a second imperialist war has already begun.. when all the other big capitalist powers are beginning to reorganize themselves on a war footing.”


“…as distinct from the preceding crisis, the present crisis is not a general one, but as yet involves chiefly the economically powerful countries which have not yet placed themselves on a war economy basis. As regards the aggressive countries, such as Japan, Germany, and Italy, who have already reorganized their economy on a war footing, they, because of the intense development of their war industry, are not yet experiencing a crisis of overproduction, although they are approaching it. This means that by the time the economically powerful, non-aggressive countries begin to emerge from the phase of crisis the aggressive countries, having exhausted their reserves of gold and raw material in the course of the war fever, are bound to enter a phase of very severe crisis.

… It is no longer a question of competition in the markets, of a commercial war, of dumping. These methods of struggle have long been recognized as inadequate. It is now a question of a new redivision of the world, of spheres of influence and colonies, by military action...the bloc of three aggressive states came to be formed. A new redivision of the world by means of war became imminent. 


After the first imperialist war the victor states, primarily Britain, France, and the United States, set up a new regime in the relations between countries, the post-war peace regime. ..  However, three aggressive states, Japan tore up the Nine-Power Pact, and Germany and Italy the Versailles Treaty, and the new imperialist war launched by them, upset the entire system of this post-war peace regime… The new imperialist war became a fact.” (11) 

The determination of the type of war was not different – it was an “imperialist war,” but  with distinctions from the previous imperialist war. Stalin evaluated the character of this distinction with the questions;

To what are we to attribute this one-sided and strange character of the new imperialist war?

How is it that the non-aggressive countries, which possess such vast opportunities, have so easily and without resistance abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?


Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the non-aggressive states? Of course not! Combined, the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and militarily.

To what then are we to attribute the systematic concessions made by these states to the aggressors? (11)

Stalin was clearly making a distinction between the (extremist) aggressive imperialists and non-aggressive imperialists. He explained;


“The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries, particularly Britain and France, have rejected the policy of collective security, the policy of collective resistance to aggressors, and have taken up a position of non-intervention, a position of "neutrality." (11) 

In reference to “neutrality,” “non-intervention” which is so widely used as a ready-made formulas,  Stalin’s explanation was enlightening; 


Formally speaking, the policy of non-intervention might be defined as follows:

"Let each country defend itself against the aggressors as it likes and as best it can. That is not our affair We shall trade both with the aggressors and with their victims."


But actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war, and, consequently, transforming the war into a world war. The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the aggressors in their nefarious work. (11)

Stalin did not have the illusion that the non-aggressive imperialists will not change its character. His policy was the policy of “utilizing” the contradictions between the imperialist powers for the best interests of the proletariat in particular and in general. Existing conditions and situations required for the duration the task to be “utilizing”  the conflict, not against all international finance capital but against individual national finance capital, whereas before the October Revolution, during the first world war , it was the other way around. 

Stalin clearly stated that “  the Second World War began not as a war with the U.S.S.R., but as a war between capitalist countries…the inevitability of wars between capitalist countries remains in force… To eliminate the inevitability of war, it is necessary to abolish imperialism. (14) 

In brief, “imperialism” by its general and economic “definition”  is not decisive in every situation and condition to determine the specific stand to be taken against. 

Widely quoted and repeated definition of imperialism by Lenin is largely limited to its economic aspects of it. Especially the fifth condition “already completed division of the world”, refers to the “victories imperialists” for an epoch that is completed. One cannot use that for China, for example, because China was a colony at that time. It is a bygone period that defines the victorious of the  imperialists of that given era. As Stalin noted; “The redistribution of the world and spheres of influence, carried out as a result of the last imperialist war, has already managed to become "obsolete". Some new countries have come forward.. A furious struggle is going on for sales markets, for markets for the export of capital, for sea and land roads to these markets, for a new redivision of the world… the growth of all these contradictions means the growth of the crisis of world capitalism, despite the fact of stabilization, a crisis incomparably deeper than the crisis before the last imperialist war… It is not surprising that imperialism is preparing for a new war, seeing in it the only way to resolve this crisis.” (16) 

 Due to the law of uneven economic development new “imperialist” countries emerge against the old-victorious ones. “The law of uneven development in the period of imperialism” says Stalin, “ means the spasmodic development of some countries in relation to others, the rapid ousting of some countries from the world market by others, the periodic redistribution of the already divided world in the order of military clashes and military catastrophes... the fact that the world has already been divided among imperialist groups, there are no more “free”, unoccupied territories in the world, and in order to occupy new markets and sources of raw materials, in order to expand, one must take from others this territory by force… the unprecedented development of technology.. made it easier for some countries to leap ahead of others, for the more powerful countries to be ousted by less powerful but rapidly developing countries. The old distribution of spheres of influence between individual imperialist groups each time comes into conflict with the new alignment of forces on the world market… The world imperialist war was the first attempt to redistribute an already divided world. Needless to say, the first attempt at redistribution must be followed by a second attempt, for which preparatory work is already underway in the imperialist camp.” (15) 

 Old imperialist countries already have their “military industry” and ready for a new war militarily. New ones are in the process of building their military industry and getting ready for a new war. That’ s why they choose the “appeasement policy” against the ”old” as much as possible to do so. Here comes the question of “policy” that is repeated abstractly without answering the question of; what is the actual (domestic and foreign) policy that is being followed by each belligerent  country  before the war.?

Without studying this “policy” concretely, repeating the statement that “war is a continuation of policy in different form”, “explains absolutely nothing.” 

Finishing up with Stalin’s words;


Many people think that imperialist pacifism is an instrument of peace. This is fundamentally wrong. Imperialist pacifism is an instrument for preparing for war and for covering up this preparation with Pharisaic phrases about peace. Without such pacifism...the preparation of wars under present conditions is impossible.


There are naive people who think that if there is imperialist pacifism, then there will be no war. This is completely false. On the contrary, whoever wants to get the truth must reverse this situation and say: since imperialist pacifism …flourishes, there will certainly be new imperialist wars and interventions. (17)

Svitlana M, Erdogan A


(1) Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

(2) Lenin, Introduction to “N.I. Bukharin: Imperialism and World Economy”

(3) N.I. Bukharin, Imperialism and World Economy

(4) Lenin, Address To The Second All-Russia Congress Of Communist Organisations Of The Peoples of The East

(5) Lenin, Lecture on the Proletariat, and War

(6) Lenin, The Social-Chauvinists’ Sophisms

(7) Lenin, Junius Pamphlet

(8) Lenin, Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)

(9) Lenin, Report On Foreign Policy

(10) Lenin, Left-wing Communism

(11) Stalin, Report on the Work of the Central Committee to the Eighteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.)

(12) Lenin, Under a False Flag

(13) Lenin, Speech At A Meeting In Butyrsky District

(14) Stalin, Economic Problems of the USSR, 1951

(15) Stalin, 7th Extended Plenary Session of the ICCI

(16) Stalin, Notes on modern topics

(17) Stalin, On the results of the July Plenum of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks