Critical summary of a German bourgeois historian's rundown of Marxist literature on imperialism.
Marxism and imperialism1
Under the title of Professor of History at the university of Cologne J. Hashagen gives a fairly complete overview of Marxist literature on imperalism;2 although, Russian literature, including the works of M. Pavlovich, remained outside his purview.3 This is the first such attempt by bourgeois science and it is worth to stand still on it.
Hashagen begins by pointing out that at the time of Marx and Engels imperialism had not yet reached full development; 'For the old Marxism, imperialism was still like a concept from the domain of domestic policy, closely related to Caesarism: in the fight against the Second Empire of Napoleon III and against Russian Tsarism the political moment occupied the front row' (p. 195). In accordance with this Hashagen calls modern Marxist literature on imperialism 'neo-Marxist' and notes that it arises only very late. The first writer, considering the theme of imperialism, was not a Marxist, but the bourgeois pacifist and free-trader J. Hobson with his book Imperialism, a study (1902). Only the Russian-Japanese war gave impetus to the development of neo-Marxist literature on imperialism. So in 1907 there is the book by Otto Bauer, The question of nationalities and social democracy, and in 1910 Finance capital by Hilferding, both in Marx-Studien (Vienna): Hashagen therefore speaks of the 'Austro-Marxist'-school. Rosa Luxemburg's book The accumulation of capital, a contribution to an economic explanation of imperialism appeared already on the eve of the war itself, in 1913.
In Bauer's book the center of gravity is transferred to the concept of Wirtschaftgebiet, the economic domain, the market. It became the central point. And Hilferding declares the main carrier of imperialism to be finance capital. At the heart of imperialism is the export of capital. This phase of capitalism needs the more or less clearly expressed political subordination of the underdeveloped countries with colonial character, serving as market. In this spirit imperialism is also defined by Brailsford, The war of steel and gold, third ed. 1915 and L. Boudin, Socialism and war, 1916. So, in contrast to 'old Marxism', which saw in imperialism, mainly its political side, 'neo-Marxist' theory emphasises the economic basis and the nature of imperialism. However, Hashagen finds between the two doctrines a point of contact; they both equally note in imperialism the aspect of nationalism and militarism. Regarding the latter, Hashagen however failed to grasp, that since the time of Napoleon III militarism itself has changed, also transformed partly into the economic end-in-itself of heavy industry. New imperialism carries even a pure class character. In that sense in 1908 [sic: 1905] at the time of the Moroccan crisis Gustave Hervé (later a social-patriot of the purest water) in his Leur patrie! exposed patriotism, and Pannekoek (Neue Zeit, 1913) states: 'class struggle in its most general and comprehensive form today is the struggle against imperialism'.4
In his critique of neo-Marxist theory of imperialism Hashagen tries at any cost to reveal its 'contradictions'. In that matter the pioneer is Eduard Bernstein and the first target was the writer of these lines.5 'According to Kapelusz, the trade policy of finance capital would be liberal and pro free-trade; according to Hilferding, it is protectionist and imperialist'.6 I take the opportunity to answer my critics here. They take out of context one separate moment, silence its background and motivation and communicate it in its own way. I dealt with a concrete difference between the export of capital to developed capitalist countries of Europe and the export of commodities to semi-colonial non-European countries. Herewith I proceeded from the experience of England, mainly had in mind it. The English export of commodities increasingly was directed to colonial countries; so in 1886–90 the English export of commodities to Europe was 68.31% of English imports from Europe, this ratio in trade with the United States was 47.87 %, with colonial possessions of England, however, as much as 99%, and with other non-European countries even 124.25%. According to this characteristic tendency I wrote then: the program of the descendants of the Whigs and Tories, the so-called Radicals and Conservatives, no longer as before rests on the conflict of interests of landed property and industry; both big bourgeois parties in modern England differ among themselves, as supporters and opponents of an intensive colonial policy, in other words, of imperialist plans (DNZ p. 325). Proponents of such policies, I wrote, – are for the implementation of English influence with the help of military forces, colonial market demand can be easier acquired by military force, than the markets of civilised countries. This policy represented the interests of the British export of commodities, increasingly directed to the colonies, while the British export of capital, directed, mainly, to the young capitalist countries of Europe and North America, on the other hand, was interested in an independent development of these countries, even benefited from their protectionism, won [by] cheapness of British capital and did not need the aggressive policy. I suggested further, that the British Conservatives were (at the time) the representatives of industrial capital, and the Radicals – the representatives of finance capital. With this I explained the fact that the Conservatives were proponents, while the radicals – enemies of imperialist, colonial policy. – 'Of course, – I added – this is just a general trend, not sharply expressed facts, we only in broad strokes outline the presently occurring historic shifts, the mutually interlocking and intersecting interests can not always be explained by this scheme' (DNZ p. 327). Against these arguments Bernstein refers to the fact that the financial aristocracy of England was then entirely in the camp of the Conservatives and Liberal-Unionists. Moreover, Bernstein in general denies the practicability of the opposition of a conflict of interests of financial and industrial capital as special economic and social categories.
The opposition between industry and finance, – he said – is not at all greater, than between one branch of industry and other branches. ... Exactly the biggest finance people possess government securities and industrial securities of the most various kind [and nationality]. ... On the political party position the belonging to a certain interest group now has influence only in exceptional cases. ... Finance capital is not a homogeneous entity, industry is imbued with too dissimilar interests, to give the invested capital in it of the financial world that uniform entity.7
It is understood, that with this point of view of Bernstein should be reduced to naught any attempt of an economic explanation of imperialism. But whether my assumption with respect to the groups of the British parties then was true or not, that is not the issue, and such facts, that in the House of Commons at 14 bankers from the Conservative party there came up only one Liberal banker, does not change the matter. In any case, my assumption applied only to England, what is more – to a certain period of its economic history, and it was built on the one hand on the characteristic for England dismemberment of its exports into the export of commodities mainly to the colonies and the export of capital to European countries, on the other hand, on the easier possibility of military pressure in colonies, than in Europe. Bernstein like Hashagen, abstracts from this all, credits me the generalisation that the policy of financial capital in general is anti-imperialistic, always and everywhere. Meanwhile, I had already at that time noted the basic facts that the export of capital, inasmuch as it is not directed to developed capitalist countries, but to countries of a semi-colonial character, on the contrary, in much greater extent than the export of commodities, makes political and military pressure possible and necessary. Imperialism is not a dead formula, with it is possible the greatest variety of combinations, and the reproach of canonisation, dogmatisation of Marxism I return to Bernstein, just as the ironic title of 'a historico-theoretical Cuvier'.8
At present, after the world war there occurred some change of scenery; the export of capital again, evidently, fancied European countries, and particularly the states of the so called Little Entente.9 Britain offers Yugoslavia loans for the construction of a railroad from the Danube to the Adriatic Sea with the condition, that the materials will be ordered in Britain. British banks with the help of pressure of their government and causing a storm of resentment in Serbian press are seeking the return to them of all maritime transport of Yugoslavia for a lentil stew of 1 billion dinars, already provided to the disposal of the Belgrade government. Generally after war the Balkan countries are an Eldorado of the Entente bankers; though, even in Vienna it is completely dominated now by the British and French banks. France does not lag behind England. Le Crédit Lyonnais endeavors to receive in its hands navigation on the greatest lake of Hungary. The French consortium finances with its capital dock works on the Sava in Belgrade, Šabac and Semendri: Schneider-Creusot finances dock works in Budapest. In Hungarian railroads French have invested a billion francs. In its economic background the world war, perhaps, even to a larger extent was a war over the Danube and the Middle East, than for the hegemony over the sea.10 Similar facts are observed in Czechoslovakia; French capital claims to take in concession all municipal companies of Prague and even the entire official railroad network of the country – about this now negotiations are held with the government of Czechoslovakia.
So, if the export of capital to European countries a quarter-century ago was entirely conform to a free-trade platform, now the export of capital in the countries of the Little Entente takes place on a soil, fertilised with the blood of millions victims of war, on the grounds of military pressure and political influence. British capital no longer wins already, as before solely by its cheapness, it had first to oust the German competition by military force and create for itself the preconditions of political spheres of influence in Europe. On the other hand, if we take for example China, a country with no doubt semi-colonial character, the exports of European and American commodities to China, by contrast, now increasingly require a policy of 'open door', in contrast to what it was a quarter-century ago. The free-trade open door policy is beneficial to America and England in China, but France needs a policy of 'iron fist' in Syria. From its side, as shown by the Washington Conference, even the 'open door' has to be obtained from Japan by imperialist means. As we see, a double-edged sword, and Hashagen together with Bernstein too hurriedly make their conclusions and generalisations. Of excessive schematisation, are not guilty we Marxists, but our critics. The contradictions constructed by Bernstein in fact are not contradictions in theory, but the multi-faceted comprehension of all its dialectical contradictions in reality. However, with all its richness of colours, the painting of imperialism as latest phase in development of capitalism is entirely clear to the Marxist.
At the time, we gave (pp. 375–6) the following fact: the Paris Comptoir d'Escompte lent several million to the semi-wild 'Hova government' in Madagascar, even though (or precisely: because) it was possible to foresee, that it will not [be able to] pay interest, [and] then France sent its troops to Madagascar and won the island. On the one hand, financial capital served here as instrument for militarist purposes, on the other hand, militarism is used here to get interest-payment for financial capital. This is a typical example of the dialectical interaction of imperialism.
Further Hashagen blames neo-Marxist theory of one-sidedness; linking imperialism with the export of capital, it seems to ignore the export of commodities, and in general all non-financial factors. However I have already in 1897 given facts about how loans to China, Turkey and others were concluded under the prerequisite, that with the money obtained the debtor purchase commodities from its lender. We saw an example of this in our time in the offer of the English to the Yugoslav government of a loan to build a railway from the Danube to the Adriatic sea. Already a quarter-century ago the export of capital, [that is] loans served as a conduit for the export of commodities. The export of Britain to Australia from the very beginning took place on [the basis of] invested British money.
Hashagen argues that neo-Marxist theory of the connection imperialism with the domination of finance capital is mistaken, or at least one-sided. 'In the world's main imperialist country, Britain, – he says, – facts known to all deny the specifically imperialist, aggressive role of finance capital'. However Hashagen does not provide any of these 'well-known' facts and refers only to the 'free-trade' of Britain and to the equally naked statement of Bernstein that 'even in the developed imperialist countries bank capital, dominating industry, is not the rule, at least not in Britain: it is rather a purely continental phenomenon, where its prototype was the Credit Mobilier of the brothers Pereire'.11 На нет и суда нет: Where there are not given concrete arguments, it is impossible to argue.
Easier is Hashagen's position on another issue – in the by Hilferding postulated connection between imperialism and protectionism. Already in 1903, in the article 'Der Funktionswechsel des Schutzzolles' (Neue Zeit), Hilferding proves that protectionism from a temporary, defensive role passes over into a constant aggressive role in cartels. Hilferding connects this flowering of protectionism with the omnipotence of finance capital. The revisionists of Sozialistische Monatshefte object to him, however, that 'in all countries precisely finance capital clearly stands for free trade'. Even more vivid is the reply of Schippel at the address of the Chemnitz party congress: 'One can keep together big and small world empires by free trade, as well as by protectionist tariffs. In this sense there exists both a free-trade and a protectionist imperialism. Grey, Asquith, W. Churchill are imperialists and the sharpest enemies of the protectionist campaign of Chamberlain' (p. 209). Indeed, the point of view of Hilferding here is a little too narrow and summary. Britain in this matter is a stumbling block. 'The main imperialist country of the world is at the same time a free trade country'.12
In this regard in his underlining of protectionism in imperialism Hilferding postulates for imperialism the omnipotence cartels. This is close to Lenin's theory of imperialism as monopoly capitalism. The same Schippel objects to Hilferding with the indication that Britain with the highest colonial extension has the least of all developed monopolistic cartels; in the same way, although the colonial possession of the French are broader than the German, cartels developed in Germany more than in France.
Referring to the fact that the territorial expansion of the North American States and Russia took place long before our time with its imperialism, Schippel concludes about the error of the neo-Marxist theory, connecting the domination of finance capital (trusts and monopolies) with colonial policy. Schippel overlooks the fact that the 'imperialism' of Tsarist Russia by far can not be identified with the imperialism of the modern bourgeois world. He falls into the same error, as professor Schumpeter13 who mixes together the 'imperialism' of all ages, and titles his work: The sociology of imperialisms in the plural and making an excursion even into deep classical antiquity, wherewith this is instructive to hear from the bourgeois professor – also for those times observes the class character of imperialism. Let us note the also in 1910 published study of professor Oncken about the 'epochs of American imperialism'.14
In this relation Hashagen came closer to the heart of the matter by his distinction between the imperialism in the time of Marx and Engels, and in our time. However, not all colonial expansion is imperialism in the sense, that Marxists understand imperialism. One can not at all dismember imperialism into its individual factors: colonial policy,15 the export of capital, protectionism, and so on. These factors change their physiognomy in dependence on the historical situation of the last quarter-century. We have seen this in the role of military and political influence with the export of capital to European countries a quarter-century ago and now, after the world war. The whole approach of Hashagen to the problem of imperialism, considering separately each of these signs of imperialism, is fundamentally not correct. Today's imperialism should be taken as a whole, as the last stage of world capitalism, as the culminating point of its development and at the same time a blind alley, from which it can not escape. In this relation Hashagen limits himself only to pointing out the contradiction between Hilferding, counting imperialism as the most advanced stage of capitalism, and Mehring's Weltkrach und Weltmarkt, 1900, which, on the contrary, sees signs of the development capitalism in anti-imperialism. However, Mehring in this relation stands apart. Even Heinrich Cunow (Parteizusammenbruch, 1915) calls imperialism 'an advanced potentiated capitalism'.
In conclusion let us note, that in proof of his theses about the 'extremely late and to a certain extent forced (überstürzt) origin of the neo-Marxian theory of imperialism' Hashagen cites the Italian Labriola (p. 206). The latter emphasises that there appeared countless new editions of the Communist Manifesto, but meanwhile not in any one of them was made an addition in the sense, that instead of the in the Manifesto claimed weakening and erasure of economic boundaries there came in our time an ever growing mutual isolation in the economic domain, protectionism and imperialism. From the mouth of the bourgeois scholar Hashagen it is typical to hear, that 'the ignoring of the problem of imperialism' in part stemmed from the patriotic spirit of German Social Democracy, which, as in unsurpassable way, already predicted in 1907 too the bourgeois scholar Robert Michels in a very bright and straight article: 'Die deutsche Sozialdemokratie im internationalen Verbande'.16 This does not prevent, however, Hashagen to lament (p. 213) that Marxism did not engage with the lovely Italian and, particularly, Japanese 'people imperialism' [Volksimperalismus]. So Hashagen refers to a social-imperialism, his theory of a colonial expansion in the interests of the entire population. However, even Schumpeter also trying to construct his positive theory of a 'universal' imperialism, considers this people imperialism nonsense (Unsinn) (p. 211). The pamphlet, appearing at the start of the war, of Karl Leuthner, editor of the Viennese Arbeiter-Zeitung, on Russian 'people imperialism' – the latter represents to the author some kind of aggressive Pan-Slavism on an economic basis – was rejected even by the closest colleagues of Leuthner of the Vienna journal (Der Kampf).
- 1Kapelusz, Fedor (Theodor) 1922, 'Marksizm i imperializm', Pechat' i revoljutsija, zhurnal literatury, iskusstva, kritiki i bibliografii, 2, (book 6) 3 (July-August): 27–33. Марксизм и империализм, Печать и Революция. https://archive.org/stream/pechatirevoliuts06mosk#page/27/mode/1up
Fedor Davidovich Kapelusz (Kapeljusch: Федор Давидович Капелюш), 6 (18) February 1876 Odessa – 27 May 1945 Moscow. In late 1890s student in Zürich (known as 'Alfred' Kapelusz). Author of such works as The pound and the dollar: Britain and America in the struggle for supremacy in the global money market, 1925, pp. 121 (Фунт и доллар: Англия и Америка в борьбе за главенство на мировом денежном рынке) and Religion of early capitalism (Религия раннего капитализма), 1931, pp. 249. His translations into Russian include Marx's The class struggles in France (1848–50), Wilhelm Langenbeck's Geschichte des Welthandels der Neuzeit, Julius Hirsch's Der moderne Handel, and so on.
- 2Hashagen, Justus 1919, 'Marxismus und Imperialismus', Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, 58, 3 (September): 193–216. (https://archive.org/stream/jahrbcherfrn113hilduoft#page/192/mode/2up Hashagen was a member of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei.)
- 3(Mikhail P. Pavlovitch (Veltman), 1871–1927. Member of RSDLP since 1898, journalist, historian. First book: What did the Boer War prove? (Regular army and militia in modern situation), 1901, Odessa (Что доказала англо-бурская война? (Регулярная армия и милиция в современной обстановке).) In English there is The foundations of imperialist policy, 1922, London: Labour publ. co., online at https://archive.org/details/cu31924030442622 A reprint is online of part one of Imperialism and the struggle for the great rail and sea routes of the future (Imperializm i borba za velikie zheleznodorozhnye i morskie puti buduschego), Moscow 1919: http://conjuncture.ru/book-pavlovich-1-1-2014/ Many more works could be listed. The Russian-Japanese war (Русско-японская война, pseudo. 'Волонтер'), Geneva 1905, pp. 136. Borba za Aziju I Afriku (Struggle for Asia and Africa), 1923, pp. 254. Articles on the Panama canal, the Balkans in The New Review: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/newreview/1913/index.htm Younger brother was Solomon Veltman.)
- 4'Deckungsfrage und Imperialismus', p. 112.
- 5Referring to my work, which appeared in Die Neue Zeit in 1897 ['Industrie und Finanz', 1897 (15), 2, Nos. 37, 38, 39, 41: 324–31, 375–79, 405–13, 460–68.], professor Hashagen notes (p. 205) that it 'anticipated much' (manches vorwegnahm) of the later doctrine of the Austro-Marxist school. That does not prevent, however, the Professor of History a few lines below to err in 'chronology' and say that the Russian Marxist Kapelusz works in the spirit of Marx and Hilferding (!). This despite the fact that the book of Hilferding came only 13 years after my articles. In Russian, I outlined the content of them in the article 'Economy and politics' in Sovremennyj Mir' of 1908 ('Ekonomika i politika'). Bernstein replied to me in Die Neue Zeit in 1897 ['Politische Parteien und wirtschaftliche Interessen in England', No. 40: 426–32], coming back to it in every edition of his book Zur Geschichte und Theorie des Sozialismus [1901, Berlin: J. Edelheim. (on pp. 249–61)] and considers the question quite topical still shortly before the world war.
- 6Bernstein, Eduard 1911, 'Das Finanzkapital und die Handelspolitik', Sozialistische Monatshefte, 15, 15: 947–55. Quoted by Hashagen.
- 7Bernstein 1901 reprint, pp. 256, 257, 258. Last line is quoted by Hashagen from Bernstein's 1911 review of Hilferding in Sozialistische Monatshefte.
- 8Bernstein 1901, p. 249. (Quoted by Hashagen. Cuvier, zoologist, father of paleontology.)
- 9(The Little Entente was an alliance formed in 1920 and 1921 by Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia with the purpose of common defense against Hungarian revision and the prevention of a Habsburg restoration. - wikipedia)
- 10See my article on this: 'Polkans and watchdogs of imperialism (economic rivalry in the ranks of the Entente)', Petrograd. Pravda 26 April 1921. Полканы и барбосы империализма (экономическое соперничество в рядах Антанты.
- 11Bernstein 1911, review of Hilferding.
- 12Prof. Bunzel, Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft, 1917.
- 13Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft, 1918–19.
- 14Eine Studie über die Epochen des amerikanischen Imperialismus. (Kapelusz just takes all these references from Hashagen's article.)
- 15Valuable material on the colonial policy of France gives Arthur Girault, The colonial tariff policy of France, Oxford 1916 (see also prof. Lujo Brentano, Die französische Kolonialpolitik, ein Hemmnis des Volkerbundes 1919). When France could no longer continue its old, primitive colonial policy, of simply forbidding the colonies to trade with anyone else, except the metropolis, she resorted in the colonies to protectionist duties of purely prohibitive character.
- 16Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 1907: 148–231.