Financial Capital, Imperialism and War-The rebirth of capitalist competition. Militarism

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  Financial Capital, Imperialism and War 

The rebirth of capitalist competition. Militarism

From Alexandr Koh, Financial Capital 1927

On the world market, large banking concerns act as competitors, each of which dominates the economic life of several countries and has the armed power of several states.

Competition extends decisively to all areas of life where the interests of competitors may collide.  

First of all, there is industrial competition, with each of the competitors striving to strengthen and develop its industry indefinitely and weaken the industry of its rivals.

At the same time, there is a struggle for raw materials markets and capital investment markets. This struggle is connected with the desire to expand one's territory and entails "competition of conquests."

The struggle for territory requires each side to strengthen its armaments, and this sphere becomes an independent sphere of competition. Each of the competitors strives to be stronger than the others. The arming of one entails the strengthening of the other.

In order to expand its possessions, each power needs to have an armed force - an army and a navy. Since the big capitalist powers in their policy of conquest encounter only the resistance of the populations of the backward agrarian countries whose territory they encroach on, they do not have to excel in armaments for this purpose: a small handful of people armed with firearms is enough to break the resistance of the largest countries that have not embarked on the path of capitalist development.

It suffices to recall how handfuls of armed Spaniards and Portuguese conquered America in the 15th-16th centuries, or how in the 19th century almost all (90%) of Africa was divided among the major European powers for 25 years, to make sure of this completely.

However, as the possessions of the capitalist states expand, there are fewer and fewer "free lands" left on the globe. The appetites of a number of the biggest capitalist competitors rush to the same plots of land.  And now, in order to acquire one of these "scraps", the capitalist power has not only to overcome the resistance of the local population, but also scare off with an armed hand all competitors who claim to seize this tidbit.

As an example, let us cite the following case: in 1878, Russia succeeded in the "Liberation" war to crush the resistance of Turkey. The traditional aggressive-imperialist policy of tsarist Russia, aimed at conquering Turkey, is close to being realized.  March 3, 1878,Russia concludes peace with defeated Turkey in San Stefano, according to which Turkey was almost completely expelled from Europe.

But here Germany, on the one hand, and on the other, England, Russia's longtime rival in relation to the Turkish heritage, entered the scene. England mobilized the fleet; the lower house voted for war credits; all-out military preparations began.

England declared that she demanded a revision of the San Stephans treaty, otherwise she would go to war with Russia. In Russia, passions flared up. At first, Russia was, as it were, ready to accept a war with England.

But Bismarck (Chancellor of Germany) "friendly" warned against this risky step. Russia was forced to submit, and the famous "Berlin Conference" was convened in Berlin. Russia's conquests were cut to a minimum; on the other hand, England, Germany, Austria, and other powers, who did not take any part in the war, profited greatly.

 In order to make conquests in such a situation, it is necessary to have an armed force not only sufficient to carry out the seizure, but also capable of silencing any competitor. A sharp competition in arms begins. Each power strives to be stronger than any of its opponents, and, if possible, all opponents are taken together.

Arms competition associated with the competition of conquests escalates especially strongly by the beginning of the 20th century when the entire globe turned out to be. divided without remainder. By this time, there were no “free” lands left, each piece of land has its own “owner”.

The entire territory of the globe suitable for human habitation is 134 million square kilometers. From this territory in 1914 r. belonged to:

(Stats Data)

In order to expand its possessions, each power now has to wrest the acquired plots of land from the hands of a more or less powerful enemy, at the same time encountering the resistance of all competitors.

That is why, since the end of the last century, and especially since the beginning of this century, the growth of armaments has taken on catastrophic proportions. All states strain their budgets to the point of impossibility in order to keep up with their rivals in armament.

The following table shows the rise in military spending by the largest imperialist states of Europe on the eve of the war.


For 30 years, the costs of European states for the war have more than doubled. However, tsarist Russia (which increased its military budget by more than 3 times), Great Britain (almost keeping up with Russia in this respect) and Germany (more than doubling its military spending) show especially intensive growth in military spending. The absolute figure for the military expenditures of the six powers over the entire period is enormous, it amounts to 8% of the value of all the property of these countries in 1914.

The comparison of military spending with the total national income suggests that at least 4-5% of the total national income of the capitalist countries was annually spent on military purposes.

In 1909-10, as can be seen from the following table, about 10 rubles of military expenditure fell per capita in the main capitalist countries.


The imperialist war, whose ostentatious slogans were the struggle for peace, the defense of freedom and culture, not only did not put an end to this waste of the people's wealth, but, on the contrary, contributed to an even greater increase in armaments. This can be seen at least from the following figures.


The total number of armies of the most important 16 states reached on the eve of the war (in peacetime) a huge figure of 6,000,000 people.


Despite the almost complete disarmament of the defeated countries, the size of the armies has not been reduced, since the victorious and neutral countries keep under arms much larger masses of troops than before the war. By the end of 1923, there were 6,315,280 people in the ground armies all over the world (excluding the USSR). Thus, the years of the post-war peace did not lighten the burden of militarism.

We will not dwell in the same detail on the naval armaments of the capitalist powers. In parallel with the growth of land armaments, both the number of warships and their size are growing.

Each of the capitalist powers strives to overtake the other in its armaments.

At the same time, it is ridiculous to look for the perpetrators of the militaristic fever in the face of this or that state.

The very nature of competition in the epoch of monopoly capitalism obliges each imperialist power to multiply and increase its military might indefinitely. Each state, being surrounded by armed neighbors, ready to attack it at any moment and take away from it all the seized property, is forced to arm itself.

However, his armament, in turn, alarms the neighbors and forces them to produce new weapons. Armed competition is degenerating into arms competition.

If in the epoch of imperialism armaments are in themselves only an instrument of struggle for sales markets, raw materials, and investment of capital, then armed competition, turning into an independent field of competition, can also become a cause of war. The sibilance of this or that power is a constant threat to its competitors, and it is not surprising that they seek to take advantage of every moment when the balance of forces develops in their favor in order to put an end to their rival by war.

There is reason to believe that such reasons played no small role in the emergence of the war of 1914-18.

However, arms competition is not limited to competition in the number of armies and navies or in the quality of their weapons. Each power seeks to occupy the most advantageous strategic position possible.

Therefore, the attention of all opponents is directed to all points on the globe, which, by virtue of their geographical position, can be of strategic importance. And in their striving towards the same points on the globe, the capitalist powers inevitably collide with each other.

It is known, for example, what role in the last imperialist war and in most conflicts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was played by the struggle for mastery of the "straits") - the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. Russia, and Germany, and England, and Austria simultaneously aspired to this narrow strip of land. Meanwhile, these straits had more political than economic significance for each of the contending parties. Russia needed the straits to get rid of the threat of penetration of foreign fleets into the Black Sea. Germany, for the construction of the strategic Baghdad Road and for military pressure on Russia and Turkey.

England, for dominance in the Black Sea and for countering the aggressive plans of Germany and Russia, etc. We see that militarism, generated by competition for markets, raw materials, and capital investment in conditions where the instruments of competition are not only economic, but and political means, itself turns into an independent field of competition and becomes a source that strengthens the imperialist, predatory tendencies of modern states.