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Lenin's Empirialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism - Short Critique

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Oliver Posted: Wed, Jul 22 2009 11:03 AM

I have just read Lenin's Imperialism and given a small lecture on it for a bunch of socialists I know. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The research is very well compiled and gives a great historical account of how we progressed. My one criticism however is very potent. And it's one no doubt many learned Austrians will be all too familiar with.

Lenin recounts the progression of society from "free-competition" capitalism to "monopoly capitalism". Lenin refers to the rise of industry and (commercial) bank combines, and corporations, the globalization of finance and the new intensified competition for natural resources and the increased exploitation of the workers. He also makes many snide remarks about the bourgeois class, usually referencing some primitive neo-liberal economist of sorts.

Lenin does not provide any explanation for the rise of these monopolies other than the supposition that monopoly capitalism naturally grew out of "free competition" society. He fails to pinpoint the literal trigger/cause for the blossoming of these corporations. Rather than Monopoly Capitalism (or corporate fascism as I would call it) coming to fruition out of Free Competition Capitalism (or free market conditions as I would call it), it actually emerged because of government intervention. Where the power to issue legal tender bills had been granted to institutions such as the Fed/BoE, and where this power is enforced by government statutes, there is not a situation of free market conditions.

As Mayer Rothschild believed, "Give me the power to issue a nation's money, and I care not who writes the laws". Rothschild was supposed to have taken this power through the Bank of England (although I haven't read it yet, if Dr Carroll Quigleys account of history in "Tragedy and Hope" is correct, then these rumors are true). The taking away of free market conditions in the issuing of currency is to create the conditions for "Corporate Fascism"  (or monopoly capitalism) to grow.

The fascinating fact about Lenin's book however is how close his research goes into areas, that if he studied these areas closer, this book would have been advocating the Free Market rather than the Socialist Revolution. 

Lenin refers to many examples of the most powerful and influential of the early combines/corporations. These examples however are also examples of where the largest amounts of financing occurred. And where did this financing come from? From those very institutions which had been granted the power by government to produce the money. 

In his examples (under "concentrating monopolies" and "the division of the world among capitalist combines"), that is to say reducing costs and accumulating of capital, Lenin lists Rockefeller's Standard Oil and Rothschild & Nobel, the first major Oil cartels, and US Steel Corporation. But Standard Oil was financed by Rothschild through National City Bank. By the very person sitting on the power to issue money. Talk about an unfair advantage! US Steel through Carnegie was also a Rothschild take-over. The railroads and even the US currency eventually conglomerated, essentially with institutions that issued currency, the very commodity used to finance these corporations. If Lenin had studied more into the financing of these first corporations, and if he understood money and credit as well as he did the society problems of Monopoly Capitalism, how could he not advocate Free Competition Capitalism (the free market)?

In deed the book refers many times to the prosperity enjoyed in times of free competition. Even going so far as to highlight that natural resources were not as sought after as under Monopoly Capitalism.

Despite getting frustratingly close to the reasons for the rise of monopolizing corporations, Lenin's Imperialism still has loads of great information which has really helped me understand the economy today. It's also fairly easy to read if you are economy minded and are familiar with marxist vocabulary. What stuns me now is how Socialists are still slating the free market when according to their own Lenin, we haven't had a free competition for over 100 years.

I used to be a minarchist, but then I ran out of excuses.


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