Modern imperialism and the working class

“In a way, this is a revival of the so-called ‘dependency theory’, where it is argued the rich imperialist powers are rich only because of the poor oppressed nations and economies. To this is added the argument that the working class of the North are better off only because of the super-exploitation of the South and so are no longer a progressive force in the struggle to end capitalism.

Well, I argued against that view. First, Marx’s theory shows that there will be a tendency to equalise the rate of profit between capitals (even under monopoly capital) – indeed this is how the higher rates of exploitation in the South end up in the profit rates of the North. But this process does not touch the sides of the wages of the workers of the North – it is a redistribution of surplus value between capitalists (and capitalist states).

And empirically, this is also true. The organiser of the workshop, Simon Mohun, published a paper a few years ago that showed only 1% of working people in the US got income from capital (profit, interest and rents) as their main source of income. The rest of Americans had to work to make a living. Sure, their higher wages and their social benefits may indirectly come from the super-profits of the multi-national companies they work for – but that is the result of the class struggle over the share of value going to wages, not directly as a result of imperialist exploitation.

Imperialism has two Achilles heels. The first is the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as capitalism accumulates. Indeed, imperialism is a major counteracting factor to that most important contradiction of capitalist accumulation. The second is the proletariat – the gravediggers of capitalism – who are still growing in size across the world. John Smith showed that global proletariat has never been larger in the history of capitalism. In that sense, Marx’s prophecy in the Communist Manifesto 160 years ago is confirmed. Sure, the majority of the proletariat is now in the South and not the North. But, in my view, that does not mean the workers of the North will play no role in ending capitalism. On the contrary, they are the key to ending imperialism in its centre.”

Michael Roberts Blog

The IIPPE workshop in London on modern imperialism, organised this week by Simon Mohun, Emeritus professor of political economy at QMC London University, was highly appropriate for two reasons.

First, it brought together those scholars with the latest works on modern imperialism.  Both John Smith’s new book and that of Tony Norfield have been reviewed on my blog.  Smith’s book has won the prize from the Monthly Review and Tony’s has been included on the short list for the Isaac Deutscher prize for the best Marxist book of the year, previously won by many eminent leftists and Marxists.  And Lucia Pradella had a book  Globalization and the Critique of Political Economy: New Insights from Marx’s Writings, Routledge, 2014 that was also shortlisted for Isaac Deutscher in 2015.

The other reason, of course, was Brexit.  The decision of the British people to vote in a referendum to leave the…

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About bolshevikpunk

Mainline Marxism or Die. Activist, Student, and Degenerate.
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