Old and New Questions in the Theory of Imperialism (1975)

Vietnam Libero, Vietnam Rosso
Cam­paign by the rank-and-file com­mit­tee at Fiat-Mirafiori for sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Viet­namese resis­tance. Silkscreen by Pietro Per­ot­ti, Turin, 1973.

Editorial Introduction

Over the course of his life, Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo (1940–2000) man­aged to train sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of mil­i­tants – a true cat­ti­vo mae­stro in the class­rooms, fac­to­ries, and streets of Italy’s north­east.1 From the ear­ly 1960s on, he spent long days out­side the petro­chem­i­cal plants of Por­to Marghera in his native Vene­to, an indus­tri­al com­plex well-known for the many bat­tles waged there by autonomous coun­cils and assem­blies of work­ers. In 1963 he and his life­long com­rade Anto­nio Negri helped to found the local orga­ni­za­tion Potere Operaio vene­to-emil­iano, and around this time Fer­rari Bra­vo began pub­lish­ing analy­ses in the group’s own paper as well as con­tribut­ing dis­patch­es to the Cronache Operaie, a nation­al roundup of work­ing-class self-activ­i­ty pub­lished by Quaderni Rossi. His sub­se­quent inter­ven­tions in polit­i­cal strat­e­gy and Marx­ist the­o­ry appeared in nation­al move­ment pub­li­ca­tions such as Classe Opera­ia, Con­tropi­ano, Potere Operaio, and Autono­mia, on whose edi­to­r­i­al board he also served.

For his entire adult life, except­ing the five years he spent in jail await­ing tri­al on charges of insur­rec­tion against the state, Fer­rari Bra­vo also worked in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Padova’s polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­gram, where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in an extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tive of rad­i­cal researchers includ­ing Ser­gio Bologna, Mari­arosa Dal­la Cos­ta, Alisa Del Re, Fer­ruc­cio Gam­bi­no, and Negri. Along with oth­ers in this milieu, he was an operaista but no unthink­ing fac­to­ry­ist; in the mid-1970s Fer­rari Bra­vo also helped to found Radio Sher­wood, which played a vital role in main­tain­ing the ecosys­tem of the extra-par­lia­men­tary left around Pado­va. Dur­ing this time he authored sev­er­al metic­u­lous­ly doc­u­ment­ed con­tri­bu­tions to col­lec­tions in Feltrinelli’s “Mate­ri­ali Marx­isti” series, edit­ed first by Bologna and Negri, and lat­er by the col­lec­tive as a whole.2 “Old and New Ques­tions in the The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism,” the essay which we have trans­lat­ed below, orig­i­nal­ly served as an intro­duc­tion to one of those vol­umes, Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale (“Impe­ri­al­ism and the Multi­na­tion­al Work­ing Class”).3 That col­lec­tion, edit­ed by Fer­rari Bra­vo, brought togeth­er writ­ings from Marx­i­an and non-Marx­i­an authors seek­ing to grap­ple with devel­op­ments in the glob­al struc­ture of cap­i­tal and inter­na­tion­al work­ing-class strug­gle in the mid-1970s.

On the sub­ject of impe­ri­al­ism, Fer­rari Bra­vo was deter­mined to reg­is­ter not only the overt vio­lence of col­o­niza­tion and impe­r­i­al expan­sion but also the inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal and of labor-pow­er, giv­ing spe­cial atten­tion to his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ments – first­ly, to the pos­si­ble con­sti­tu­tion of a uni­fied glob­al cap­i­tal­ist cycle after the sec­ond world war, and, sec­ond­ly, to U.S. Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s announce­ment of the end of the gold-dol­lar stan­dard under­pin­ning inter­na­tion­al exchanges in 1971. Before this essay, Fer­rari Bra­vo had dis­tin­guished him­self with­in operais­mo by bring­ing his polit­i­cal per­spec­tive to bear on the mar­gins – not only to the periph­er­al neigh­bor­hoods of Italy’s north­ern indus­tri­al tri­an­gle where south­ern Ital­ian migrants lived, but to chang­ing dynam­ics with­in the South itself. In “For­ma del­lo sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po” (“Form of the State and Under­de­vel­op­ment”), Fer­rari Bra­vo ana­lyzed the par­tial indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the South through the state’s Cas­sa per il Mez­zo­giorno (“Fund for the South”) as a polit­i­cal response to the increas­ing mobil­i­ty of labor-pow­er. This “plan” of reforms was designed to inte­grate cycles of work­ers’ strug­gles into the pro­duc­tive cycle of cap­i­tal.4 In “Old and New Ques­tions in the The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism,” Fer­rari Bra­vo elab­o­rates this research with­in the expand­ed frame of the world mar­ket, har­vest­ing what he deems use­ful from Marx, Lenin, and sub­se­quent the­o­rists to devel­op a rig­or­ous analy­sis of his cur­rent con­junc­ture.

Although this essay focus­es on the cap­i­tal­ist coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion of the 1970s, it is impor­tant to empha­size that Fer­rari Bra­vo under­stood that process as the coun­ter­foil to the pri­ma­cy of work­ing-class antag­o­nism. He inter­prets the aban­don­ment of the con­vert­ibil­i­ty of dol­lars into gold as a response by the U.S. cap­i­tal­ist state to the tenac­i­ty of Viet­namese resis­tance as well as to the glob­al wave of stu­dent and work­er strug­gles that shook the states and cap­i­tal­ist cycles of coun­tries in which U.S. multi­na­tion­als were heav­i­ly invest­ed.5 But the end of the gold-dol­lar stan­dard had yield­ed con­tra­dic­to­ry devel­op­ments – float­ing exchange rates, com­pe­ti­tion between cur­ren­cies, and new rela­tion­ships between indi­vid­ual nation states and nation­al and inter­na­tion­al cycles of cap­i­tal – which recom­posed class­es and restruc­tured the ter­rain upon which both pro­le­tar­i­ans in the metrop­o­les and anti-impe­ri­al­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies in the colonies would con­tin­ue to move.

The ques­tion for Fer­rari Bra­vo becomes, then, how to oper­ate polit­i­cal­ly on this glob­al lev­el.6 Cer­tain­ly if the Unit­ed States had proven itself “capa­ble of trans­form­ing itself grad­u­al­ly, with­out los­ing solid­i­ty but rather by increas­ing the inten­si­ty of its total rule,” and if the appa­ra­tus­es of the state had become agents of an “inter­na­tion­al cycle of cap­i­tal hinged on the multi­na­tion­als,”7 this would neces­si­tate impor­tant amend­ments to the the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism advanced by Lenin in his famous pam­phlet, which empha­sized com­pe­ti­tion between dif­fer­ent nation­al cap­i­tals. In order to devel­op a new the­o­ry, Fer­rari Bra­vo sug­gests “return­ing to Lenin by way of Marx.”8 Rather than mine the writ­ten records of Lenin’s 1917 inter­ven­tion for sci­en­tif­ic con­cepts – Fer­rari Bra­vo sug­gests aban­don­ing the cat­e­gories “labor aris­toc­ra­cy” and “par­a­sitism” to the gnaw­ing crit­i­cism of the mice – instead he looks to Marx for a method­ol­o­gy and frame­work with­in which to pose this polit­i­cal ques­tion anew. If Lenin’s great con­tri­bu­tion was to rec­og­nize that “impe­ri­al­ism is a glob­al fig­ure of the polit­i­cal com­mand of cap­i­tal over labor-pow­er,”9 then the return to “Lenin,” here, does not mean restor­ing fideli­ty to an old explana­to­ry schema, but rather tak­ing up again the project to read new inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ments in cap­i­tal­ist process­es of accu­mu­la­tion from the view­point of the pro­le­tari­at in its glob­al strug­gle for com­mu­nism.

Such a recog­ni­tion of the need to take dis­tance from cer­tain for­mu­la­tions in Lenin’s work while embrac­ing the spir­it of his dis­course could only have been sharp­ened by the unique polit­i­cal con­text in which Fer­rari Bra­vo made his own inter­ven­tion. Not only had the inter­na­tion­al sit­u­a­tion changed, but on the rad­i­cal left in Italy, clan­des­tine and armed ten­den­cies were begin­ning to emerge, many of which sought to import guer­ril­la war­fare tac­tics from nation­al lib­er­a­tion strug­gles into their own prac­tices.10 With­out dis­sect­ing those move­ments in depth, Fer­rari Bra­vo iden­ti­fies a com­mon prob­lem­at­ic between those espous­ing “guer­ril­la war­fare on asphalt” and “third-world­ist” the­o­rists of impe­ri­al­ism, the most emblem­at­ic being Arghiri Emmanuel.11 Trapped with­in an ortho­dox read­ing of Marx as a the­o­rist of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, Emmanuel under­stood impe­ri­al­ism as a sta­t­ic wage imbal­ance between core and periph­ery, a view­point which left him unable to grasp the most impor­tant fac­tor of the wage: its expres­sion of the “irre­ducible polit­i­cal sub­jec­tiv­i­ty” of the pro­le­tari­at.12 Although Fer­rari Bra­vo does not dis­count the rev­o­lu­tion­ary char­ac­ter of anti-colo­nial strug­gles, he dis­sects the object of knowl­edge con­struct­ed by Emmanuel and attempts to pro­duce a new thought-object suit­able for “a two-pronged move­ment which unites [acco­mu­na] the met­ro­pol­i­tan work­er and the pro­le­tari­at of the Third World in an anal­o­gous vio­lent demand for income and pow­er.”14 That this project remains unfin­ished today dimin­ish­es nei­ther the tren­chancy of his crit­i­cisms nor the per­spi­cac­i­ty of his analy­sis.

Fer­rari Bra­vo would be arrest­ed on April 7, 1979, along with Negri, Pao­lo Virno, and more than 20 oth­er mil­i­tants. All were charged with foment­ing armed insur­rec­tion and false­ly accused of lead­ing the Brigate Rosse (“Red Brigades”), the ter­ror­is­tic cell that had gained noto­ri­ety for com­mit­ting high-pro­file assas­si­na­tions.15 He would be released and cleared of all charges only in 1984, thence return­ing to teach at Pado­va, and con­tin­u­ing to write along­side com­rades old and new in the pages of Derive Appro­di and Luo­go Comune. Whether address­ing the chang­ing com­po­si­tion of the Euro­pean work­ing class in the ‘80s and ‘90s, mea­sur­ing new strate­gies of incor­po­ra­tion devel­oped by the Ital­ian state, or ana­lyz­ing the sup­posed nov­el­ty of “glob­al­iza­tion” in rela­tion to the his­to­ry of the inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of labor-pow­er, many of these lat­er stud­ies were built upon the foun­da­tions laid down in the present essay. Indeed, despite its “hum­ble appear­ance as a review of stud­ies,”16 what fol­lows con­sti­tutes a for­mi­da­ble devel­op­ment in Marx­i­an the­o­ry on impe­ri­al­ism. Unen­cum­bered by the dead weight of past tra­di­tions, it is guid­ed by the mil­i­tant impulse to inves­ti­gate the chang­ing com­po­si­tion of the inter­na­tion­al work­ing class and the ter­rain on which it finds itself in order to plot the pos­si­ble coor­di­nates for a new cycle of strug­gles. This task must also be ours today.

– Andrew Anas­tasi


“Inter­lock­ing ver­sus social­iza­tion”: under this head­ing, in the “Prepara­to­ry Note­books” to the writ­ing of Impe­ri­al­ism: The High­est Stage of Cap­i­tal­ism, Lenin col­lects a series of read­ings and reflec­tions on the lat­est phase of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment.17 “Inter­lock­ing” among banks, firms and pub­lic admin­is­tra­tions, or real and prop­er “social­iza­tion” of pro­duc­tion? The top­ic reap­pears, explic­it­ly, in the final pages of the “pop­u­lar out­line,” and there it seems the com­par­i­son is posed in order to be refused.18 It is not a mat­ter of set­ting up an oppo­si­tion between, on the one hand, “real social­ism” – a hypo­thet­i­cal, absurd, gen­er­al social­iza­tion aris­ing through partheno­gen­e­sis from with­in devel­op­ment – and on the oth­er, the appar­ent­ly anar­chic chaos of the myr­i­ad rela­tions that are woven togeth­er pre­cise­ly by cap­i­tal­ist restruc­tur­ing. Instead, it is a mat­ter of ver­i­fy­ing that what unfolds before the eyes is an actu­al process of social­iza­tion of pro­duc­tion, which is nev­er­the­less being devel­oped with­in a shell of “pri­vate eco­nom­ic rela­tions and pri­vate prop­er­ty rela­tions” that deter­mine it from all sides and tend to cause its “decay.” It is, in a cer­tain sense, the absolute­ly tra­di­tion­al the­sis of the diachron­ic and con­flict­ual rela­tion between the pro­duc­tive forces and the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion. But, here, it avoids the abstract rigid­i­fi­ca­tion of (Sec­ond and Third Inter­na­tion­al­ist) ide­ol­o­gy, and not only by virtue of the fact that it is renewed by a pre­cise and, at times, metic­u­lous analy­sis of “new devel­op­ments.” Above all, by priv­i­leg­ing the mod­el of “actu­al social­iza­tion,” if only from the ana­lyt­i­cal side, Impe­ri­al­ism pro­vides a per­spec­tive – a view­point – which is thor­ough­ly work­ing-class. No pure­ly moral rejec­tion, no search for con­tra­dic­tions or com­plete­ly “exter­nal” alter­na­tives, but, rather, the deter­mi­na­tion, from with­in devel­op­ment, of the gen­er­al con­di­tions, of the nec­es­sary ter­rain of the polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary clash between the class­es.

Hav­ing said this, it should be imme­di­ate­ly added that, if the Lenin of Impe­ri­al­ism reflects a his­tor­i­cal­ly deter­mined lev­el of the com­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal on a world scale, if he inter­prets its dynam­ic ten­den­cies accord­ing to a method­ol­o­gy that seeks to under­stand devel­op­ment start­ing from the high­est point of polit­i­cal ten­sion deter­mined by it (a “work­ers’” method­ol­o­gy), if, final­ly, he inter­venes in the process with all the sub­jec­tive strength of which “Lenin­ism” was the max­i­mum polit­i­cal expres­sion in that peri­od – all this still does not “guar­an­tee” us any­thing of the “valid­i­ty” – for that time – of the spe­cif­ic inter­pre­ta­tion of the phe­nom­e­non offered by the “pop­u­lar out­line,” and even less of its imme­di­ate use­ful­ness today. On the con­trary, all this serves only to sta­bi­lize a pre­lim­i­nary and, in a cer­tain sense, neg­a­tive point: that any dis­course on Impe­ri­al­ism is, even today, a dis­course on Lenin, but it must be so only in the sense of cri­tique. It is cer­tain­ly not a dis­course on Lenin for the “philo­log­i­cal” rea­son that Lenin is the “author” of the the­o­ry in ques­tion. From the view­point of its eco­nom­ic analy­sis, this bears so lit­tle truth that from the begin­ning Lenin him­self rec­og­nizes his debt – and it is a sub­stan­tial debt, as we shall see – to Hob­son and Hil­fer­d­ing in this regard.19 It is, instead, a dis­course on Lenin because only in Lenin do we find no mere objec­tivism of eco­nom­ic analy­sis, but the grand tac­tics of the par­ty. Not only is it class analy­sis – the “eco­nom­ic” cat­e­gories that inner­vate it are imme­di­ate­ly social and polit­i­cal forces; not only is its syn­the­sis entire­ly ori­ent­ed in the direc­tion of a deter­mi­nate polit­i­cal project, but, above all, its unique inter­ven­tion on the prob­lem of impe­ri­al­ism, in the ambit of the “clas­si­cal” debate, is able to tie togeth­er the actu­al moment of mil­i­tary con­flict [sca­den­za bel­li­ca], that enor­mous tac­ti­cal prob­lem for the move­ment, with a strate­gic per­spec­tive marked by a pre­cise vision, though here large­ly implic­it, of the polit­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the work­ing class with­in that entire his­tor­i­cal phase. Pre­cise­ly for this rea­son, of course, the ref­er­ence to Lenin can only be crit­i­cal. It is not by any means a coin­ci­dence, or a fash­ion­able trend, that the the­o­ret­i­cal-polit­i­cal debate on ques­tions of impe­ri­al­ism has reac­quired promi­nence in recent years, pro­duc­ing, if not the “defin­i­tive” work, a remark­able and grow­ing num­ber of inter­ven­tions and sparks.21 Indeed, we are deal­ing with a dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tion of the glob­al work­ing class, utter­ly dis­tinct from that of Lenin’s time, which con­se­quent­ly, in turn, crit­i­cal­ly exam­ines the clas­sics. This the­mat­ic revival has real and sub­stan­tial effects, though only in some direc­tions and despite (or per­haps pre­cise­ly because of) a robust vari­ety of approach­es and view­points. There is, if any­thing, the ques­tion of why this revival of research has been so slow to appear, con­sid­er­ing that in its main lin­ea­ments the world cap­i­tal­ist struc­ture, as we have it before us, dates back at least twen­ty years, and actu­al­ly shows itself to be enter­ing into a phase of cri­sis and trans­for­ma­tion pre­cise­ly in this peri­od. But it is a qui­etist and reac­tionary idea that a polit­i­cal or the­o­ret­i­cal need finds a way of being sat­is­fied at the cor­rect moment in any case; more­over, a spe­cif­ic share of respon­si­bil­i­ty for the the­o­ret­i­cal stag­na­tion on the sub­jects in ques­tion is to be attrib­uted, as we shall see, pre­cise­ly to the “tra­di­tion” of thick­head­ed Lenin­ism and of ortho­doxy that still over­whelm­ing­ly blocks the ter­rain.


The first knot is there­fore Lenin. There is an assess­ment of Impe­ri­al­ism from which it inter­ests us to begin because it goes to the heart of the ques­tion, an assess­ment that views Lenin’s the­o­ret­i­cal inter­ven­tion as an unre­solved com­bi­na­tion of Fabi­an cri­tique and enor­mous tac­ti­cal dri­ve.22 One can show that each affir­ma­tion is, by itself, cor­rect: their vio­lent con­tra­dic­tori­ness is indeed the prob­lem of judg­ing the pop­u­lar out­line.

One under­stands noth­ing of Lenin, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, if one does not start from the polit­i­cal objec­tives of his dis­course, from its being deter­mi­nate the­o­ry for a deter­mi­nate prac­tice. This has noth­ing to do with the leg­end of an empiri­co-prac­ti­cal Lenin. It has every­thing to do instead with Lenin’s gen­er­al method – with the method of the sec­tar­i­an­ism of work­ers’ sci­ence – the method of deter­mi­nate abstrac­tion, if one wants to call it that: to mea­sure the ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment by the yard­stick and from the view­point of a deter­mi­nate rev­o­lu­tion­ary project in its rich com­plex­i­ty, the syn­the­sis of which is the con­crete­ness of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary rup­ture.23 In this sense Impe­ri­al­ism is all in the method – is per­fect­ly “Lenin­ist.” The total work­ing-class sub­ject [sogget­to operaio com­p­lessi­vo] – to which Lenin’s dis­course is always “ascribed” – that estab­lish­es, against pop­ulism (or a cer­tain pop­ulism), the for­mi­da­ble analy­sis of the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism in Rus­sia, fol­low­ing a line of the­o­ret­i­cal work so seem­ing­ly opposed to that of Impe­ri­al­ism, is the same one for which the the­o­ry of the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the (inter)imperialist con­tra­dic­tions, with­in the giv­en phase, is built. The fact is sim­ply that the over­all world dimen­sions, which in that text indi­cate the inevitable hege­mo­ny of the cap­i­tal­ist rela­tion over all of Russ­ian soci­ety, are here ter­ri­bly con­crete – they enter con­crete­ly among the polit­i­cal vari­ables of the ongo­ing sub­ver­sive project. Any paci­fied “ten­den­tial­ism” must there­fore be shat­tered in the urgency of the ral­ly­ing cry to trans­form the impe­ri­al­ist war into civ­il war. There is there­fore noth­ing more absurd than, not only, to inter­pret Impe­ri­al­ism “in pieces” – to reduce it to a the­o­ry of cap­i­tal export, to sep­a­rate the eco­nom­ic expla­na­tion from the polit­i­cal one25 – but to make of it a gen­er­al-gener­ic recon­nais­sance mis­sion con­cern­ing a “phase” of the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal. Impe­ri­al­ism is first of all a con­junc­tur­al inter­ven­tion [inter­ven­to di ten­den­za], and one of rup­ture, with­in the move­ment – it is anti-Kaut­sky. There­fore, on the oth­er hand, Impe­ri­al­ism is nec­es­sar­i­ly part of Octo­ber: in order to demon­strate that the project can “hold” – that a spe­cif­ic orga­ni­za­tion­al strength of the Russ­ian work­ing class may be the weak­ness of glob­al cap­i­tal in Rus­sia, the weak link.

But, on these points – con­cern­ing the “pop­u­lar out­line” (which is such due to its agi­ta­tion­al func­tion and cer­tain­ly not because of its lack of depth or rig­or in elab­o­ra­tion) as a great tac­ti­cal ini­tia­tive – all are in agree­ment. The real point is the oth­er one: why can all this not be trans­lat­ed, except on back­ward, ambigu­ous, non-Marx­ist the­o­ret­i­cal ter­rain, with “Fabi­an” ana­lyt­i­cal equip­ment, thus result­ing in unsound and con­tra­dic­to­ry the­o­ry? The­o­ret­i­cal ade­qua­cy is nec­es­sary in Lenin: it would be absurd to have a Lenin who was “Machi­avel­lian” in the vul­gar sense. The war sim­ply as an occa­sion will be, if any­thing, some­thing in which extrem­ists – and even before that, the right – cloak them­selves.26 But only the blind can deny that Impe­ri­al­ism is laden with con­tra­dic­tions. Let us quick­ly retrace its basic steps. The dynam­ic cen­tral con­nec­tion, from the point of view of explain­ing the glob­al struc­ture of the sys­tem, runs through the process­es of sec­toral con­cen­tra­tion and monop­o­liza­tion, espe­cial­ly in areas of heavy indus­try and in the accen­tu­at­ed inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal, both in a “direct” way on the basis of the needs of the ver­ti­cal inte­gra­tion of pro­duc­tion, and, espe­cial­ly, with the nature of port­fo­lio allo­ca­tion. As to the first aspect, the role attrib­uted by Lenin to the wave of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion that emerges in all the devel­oped cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries from the cri­sis of the 1870s until the first world war – as an over­all qual­i­ta­tive leap of the sys­tem – estab­lish­es his dis­course at a lev­el his­tor­i­cal­ly coeval with the process­es under­way, rad­i­cal­ly beyond the ter­rain on which offi­cial Marx­ism in its var­i­ous expres­sions had been engaged since the era of the Bern­stein­de­bat­te, not to men­tion, of course, the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work that polit­i­cal econ­o­my con­tin­ued to offer regard­ing the cycle’s oper­a­tion. Nev­er­the­less, upon clos­er inspec­tion, it is pre­cise­ly the fig­ure of monop­oly, with the func­tion­al char­ac­ter­is­tics out­lined in the aca­d­e­m­ic lit­er­a­ture of mar­gin­al­ism, that reap­pears in the Lenin­ist analy­sis, with an inver­sion of per­spec­tive and posi­tion that does not, how­ev­er, fun­da­men­tal­ly alter its mod­el of inter­pre­ta­tion.27 This has deci­sive con­se­quences, in par­tic­u­lar con­cern­ing the deter­mi­na­tion of the rela­tion between con­cen­tra­tion and process­es of pro­duc­tive inno­va­tion that depend on it and deter­mine it, and, in gen­er­al, for the entire read­ing of the direc­tion and mean­ing of the over­all process­es of restruc­tur­ing-devel­op­ment, which are defined start­ing from the lev­els of con­cen­tra­tion already attained in the era of the war.

As we have seen, the deep­est eco­nom­ic foun­da­tion of impe­ri­al­ism is monop­oly. This is cap­i­tal­ist monop­oly, i.e., monop­oly which has grown out of cap­i­tal­ism and which exists in the gen­er­al envi­ron­ment of cap­i­tal­ism, com­mod­i­ty pro­duc­tion and com­pe­ti­tion, in per­ma­nent and insol­u­ble con­tra­dic­tion to this gen­er­al envi­ron­ment. Nev­er­the­less, like all monop­oly, it inevitably engen­ders a ten­den­cy of stag­na­tion and decay. Since monop­oly prices are estab­lished, even tem­porar­i­ly, the motive cause of tech­ni­cal and, con­se­quent­ly, of all oth­er progress dis­ap­pears to a cer­tain extent and, fur­ther, the eco­nom­ic pos­si­bil­i­ty aris­es of delib­er­ate­ly retard­ing tech­ni­cal progress […]. Cer­tain­ly, monop­oly under cap­i­tal­ism can nev­er com­plete­ly, and for a very long peri­od of time, elim­i­nate com­pe­ti­tion in the world mar­ket (and this, by the by, is one of the rea­sons why the the­o­ry of ultra-impe­ri­al­ism is so absurd). Cer­tain­ly, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of reduc­ing the cost of pro­duc­tion and increas­ing prof­its by intro­duc­ing tech­ni­cal improve­ments oper­ates in the direc­tion of change. But the ten­den­cy to stag­na­tion and decay, which is char­ac­ter­is­tic of monop­oly, con­tin­ues to oper­ate, and in some branch­es of indus­try, in some coun­tries, for cer­tain peri­ods of time, it gains the upper hand.28

If the reser­va­tions telling­ly con­tained in a pas­sage like this are over­shad­owed, and for good rea­son, when it is a mat­ter of pin­point­ing the polit­i­cal­ly deci­sive char­ac­ter­is­tics assumed by the sys­tem in its spe­cif­ic impe­ri­al­ist con­fig­u­ra­tion, they are not even invoked when the search for super­prof­its, carteliza­tion at the glob­al lev­el, and the ter­ri­to­r­i­al par­ti­tion­ing of the world are all deduced to be typ­i­cal coun­ter­foils of the new phase of the total down­fall of the sys­tem in the “era” of monop­oly. The schema for explain­ing the rela­tion between cen­tral­iza­tion and export of cap­i­tal is rigid­ly under­con­sump­tion­ist and repeats the Hob­son­ian line ver­ba­tim: the “nec­es­sary mis­ery of the mass­es” and inevitable rel­a­tive back­ward­ness of agri­cul­ture restrict domes­tic invest­ment out­lets, in con­nec­tion with the declin­ing lev­el of the rate of prof­it, and in rela­tion to the prospect of super­prof­its on oper­a­tions, spec­u­la­tive and not, on the inter­na­tion­al mar­kets.

The ambi­gu­i­ty of an expla­na­tion, even with hes­i­ta­tions, that excludes the very pos­si­bil­i­ty of a pro­duc­tive mas­si­fi­ca­tion and, even before that, a leap in the organ­ic com­po­si­tion of social cap­i­tal per­mit­ted by the degree of monop­o­liza­tion reached, has con­se­quences for an analy­sis of the new mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal at the inter­na­tion­al lev­el. The cat­e­go­ry “cap­i­tal export” turns out in real­i­ty to cov­er over very dif­fer­ent phe­nom­e­na. If the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of long- and short-term move­ments of cap­i­tal (above all spec­u­la­tive) on the basis of dif­fer­en­tials in inter­est rates and “spe­cial” con­di­tions of allo­ca­tion (pub­lic and semi-pub­lic loans, etc.) in the decades pre­ced­ing the war, fits with Lenin’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the phe­nom­e­non in the appro­pri­at­ed terms of “Finanzkap­i­tal,” this frame­work can hard­ly by con­trast be deemed appro­pri­ate for that spe­cif­ic and impor­tant series of “colo­nial” activ­i­ties restruc­tur­ing pro­duc­tion at the glob­al lev­el – in the sec­tors of raw mate­ri­als, and old and new ener­gy sources – in which the first fig­ures of multi­na­tion­al busi­ness make their his­toric tri­al runs.29 Here a rigid stag­na­tion­ist inter­pre­ta­tion pre­vents one from see­ing, behind the falling rate of prof­it, the increase in the mass of prof­it; behind finan­cial cen­tral­iza­tion, the enlarge­ment and the real trans­for­ma­tion of the indus­tri­al base that result from the great wave of “heavy” indus­tri­al­iza­tion, which emerges between 1800 and 1900 in Europe and the Unit­ed States, and of which the colo­nial par­ti­tion­ing is obvi­ous­ly an inte­gral moment. And, on the oth­er hand, con­verse­ly, the export of cap­i­tal to the colo­nial world is well short of hav­ing the role that Lenin attrib­ut­es to it, of pro­pelling cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment to the periph­ery – this recog­ni­tion will become one of the cen­tral themes of the sub­se­quent lit­er­a­ture on impe­ri­al­ism, odd­ly enough even for those who hold firm to the Lenin­ist inter­pre­ta­tion on the whole.

But we must exam­ine the under­ly­ing the­o­ret­i­cal struc­ture of the line of rea­son­ing in Impe­ri­al­ism. The cat­e­go­ry around which the analy­sis is orga­nized is iden­ti­fied by a rela­tion of diver­gence between process­es which oper­ate at the lev­el of “pro­duc­tive” orga­ni­za­tion and the emer­gence of mas­sive spec­u­la­tive-par­a­sitic phe­nom­e­na, on whose eco­nom­ic-polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal impor­tance the strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance of Lenin’s inter­ven­tion ulti­mate­ly rests. Finance cap­i­tal as hege­mo­ny of a bank­ing oli­garchy, of a class ori­ent­ed to spec­u­la­tion and to income; cap­i­tal export as swelling of social stra­ta (even work­ers) who live by clip­ping coupons; impe­ri­al­ism as con­tra­dic­to­ry sys­tem of glob­al dom­i­na­tion on the part of a hand­ful of ren­tier-states: this series of def­i­n­i­tions spec­i­fies the the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal axis of the pop­u­lar out­line.

It is char­ac­ter­is­tic of cap­i­tal­ism in gen­er­al that the own­er­ship of cap­i­tal is sep­a­rat­ed from the appli­ca­tion of cap­i­tal to pro­duc­tion, that mon­ey cap­i­tal is sep­a­rat­ed from indus­tri­al or pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal, and that the ren­tier who lives entire­ly on income obtained from mon­ey cap­i­tal, is sep­a­rat­ed from the entre­pre­neur and from all who are direct­ly con­cerned in the man­age­ment of cap­i­tal. Impe­ri­al­ism, or the dom­i­na­tion of finance cap­i­tal, is that high­est stage of cap­i­tal­ism in which this sep­a­ra­tion reach­es vast pro­por­tions.30

And fur­ther: “Cap­i­tal­ism, which began its devel­op­ment with pet­ty usury cap­i­tal, is end­ing its devel­op­ment with gigan­tic usury cap­i­tal.”31

It is use­less to under­line the seri­ous lim­i­ta­tions of this for­mu­la­tion. Reduc­ing the tru­ly fun­da­men­tal rela­tion between mon­ey cap­i­tal and indus­tri­al and pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal to the process of the sep­a­ra­tion of the ren­tier is to place at the the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal cen­ter of the analy­sis phe­nom­e­na that, while cer­tain­ly impor­tant, are ulti­mate­ly sec­ondary and deriv­a­tive from the point of view of under­stand­ing the over­all dynam­ic of the sys­tem. It is not an acci­dent that sub­se­quent bour­geois soci­ol­o­gy, albeit with “apolo­getic” inten­tions, has deduced from the sep­a­ra­tion “of the own­er­ship of cap­i­tal from its appli­ca­tion to pro­duc­tion” exact­ly oppo­site gen­er­al con­se­quences32 ; but it might per­haps be pos­si­ble to demon­strate that, also in Lenin, the the­o­ret­i­cal split between “own­er­ship” and appli­ca­tion, between mon­ey cap­i­tal and indus­tri­al cap­i­tal, con­tains with­in itself an ide­o­log­i­cal vision of cap­i­tal­ist entre­pre­neur­ship of a rather Schum­peter­ian fla­vor. Cer­tain­ly what is raised is the prob­lem gen­er­al­ly invest­ed in the cat­e­go­ry of “finance cap­i­tal,” elab­o­rat­ed by Hil­fer­d­ing and uti­lized as such by Lenin. Indeed: the prob­lem “finance cap­i­tal” does not only reside in the unde­fined, “his­tor­i­cal­ly” tran­si­to­ry char­ac­ter of the spe­cif­ic rela­tion (of dom­i­na­tion) between bank and indus­try abso­l­u­tized by Hilderd­ing, but, real­ly, in the the­o­ret­i­cal nature of the cat­e­gories of mon­ey cap­i­tal, pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal, etc. – and most of all in the very con­cep­tion of mon­ey – that under­lie the Hil­fer­dingian recon­struc­tion, and in the eco­nom­ic-polit­i­cal func­tions assigned to each of them.34 Even on the key point of the func­tion of the invest­ment bank with­in the his­tor­i­cal phase of devel­op­ment con­sid­ered by Hil­fer­d­ing and, in his foot­steps, Lenin, the frame­work offered turns out to be not only qual­i­ta­tive­ly insuf­fi­cient in some cru­cial aspects (rel­a­tive to the role of the bank, of cred­it, of mon­ey cap­i­tal in indus­tri­al­iza­tion) com­pared to the his­toric recon­struc­tion which we have today, but also a step back­wards the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, com­pared to gen­er­al indi­ca­tions and con­crete mod­els of analy­sis offered by Marx him­self half a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er.35

The fig­ure that sum­mar­i­ly char­ac­ter­izes the Lenin­ist for­mu­la­tion is that of the ren­tier-state, denot­ing not only the posi­tion of a hand­ful of states reign­ing over the entire rest of the world in the era of impe­ri­al­ism, but the over­all “inter­nal” nature of the met­ro­pol­i­tan rela­tion between state and cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, and of its evo­lu­tion. In this sense, if it is cor­rect to con­sid­er Impe­ri­al­ism a polit­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary com­ple­ment to State and Rev­o­lu­tion, the com­plete super­im­po­si­tion of the two texts locks the gen­er­al valid­i­ty of the lat­ter into a frame­work of spe­cif­ic ref­er­ences. In any case, it seems that this is one of the open prob­lems which was men­tioned, and which a strong­ly ide­o­log­i­cal, and more­over divid­ed, dis­cus­sion of the two the­mat­ic nuclei has kept in the shad­ows. What is, in Lenin, the rela­tion between the the­sis that the “ren­tier state is a state of par­a­sitic, decay­ing cap­i­tal­ism”36 and the the­o­ret­i­cal recon­struc­tion of the state cap­i­tal­ist machine that emerges from State and Rev­o­lu­tion? Here, it is impor­tant, return­ing to the fun­da­men­tal thread of our dis­course, to under­line the extreme rigid­i­ty of the Lenin­ist for­mu­la­tion in Impe­ri­al­ism: dom­i­na­tion by par­a­sit­i­cal inter­ests, ten­den­cy to stag­na­tion, decay – these fea­tures irre­sistibly and irrev­o­ca­bly per­me­ate the entire polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal super­struc­ture of the state, up from the eco­nom­ic “base,” in the era of impe­ri­al­ism. To the rad­i­cal and con­temp­tu­ous liq­ui­da­tion of Kautsky’s “cen­trist” oppor­tunism, there ulti­mate­ly cor­re­sponds the almost com­plete accep­tance of its oppo­site, which is Hob­son­ian ten­den­tial­ism. The frame­work, as incred­i­ble as it is improb­a­ble, of the future effects of the glob­al expan­sion of impe­ri­al­ism on the Euro­pean metrop­o­lis itself, which Lenin adopts whole­sale from Hob­son, is sig­nif­i­cant in this regard.

The greater part of West­ern Europe might then assume the appear­ance and char­ac­ter already exhib­it­ed by tracts of coun­try in the South of Eng­land, in the Riv­iera and in the tourist-rid­den or res­i­den­tial parts of Italy and Switzer­land, lit­tle clus­ters of wealthy aris­to­crats draw­ing div­i­dends and pen­sions from the Far East, with a some­what larg­er group of pro­fes­sion­al retain­ers and trades­men and a larg­er body of per­son­al ser­vants and work­ers in the trans­port trade and in the final stages of pro­duc­tion of the more per­ish­able goods; all the main arte­r­i­al indus­tries would have dis­ap­peared, the sta­ple foods and man­u­fac­tures flow­ing in as trib­ute from Asia and Africa […]. The influ­ences which gov­ern the impe­ri­al­ism of West­ern Europe today are mov­ing in this direc­tion, and, unless coun­ter­act­ed or divert­ed, make towards some such con­sum­ma­tion.37

“The author [Hob­son] is quite right,” Lenin com­ments, and adds: “if the forces of impe­ri­al­ism had not been coun­ter­act­ed they would have led pre­cise­ly to what he has described.” But – and this is the point – in the over­all log­ic of the pop­u­lar out­line, the mean­ing of that reser­va­tion is hard­ly spec­i­fied through much analy­sis, which is near­ly nonex­is­tent, of the inter­nal con­nec­tion that ties the monop­o­lis­tic and impe­ri­al­ist devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism to the poten­tial­ly new char­ac­ter­is­tics of the strug­gle of the work­ing class – a con­nec­tion that must qual­i­fy the polit­i­cal pro­gram and the pro­gram of pow­er [il pro­gram­ma politi­co e di potere]. Instead, it is posed as the naked his­tor­i­cal neces­si­ty of a total oppo­si­tion – social­ism or bar­barism.


What is at the root of all this? What does not obtain is the rela­tion between the polit­i­cal func­tions of the the­o­ry, with respect to the impend­ing deci­sive moment [sca­den­za a breve] of the Russ­ian 1917, and the glob­al dimen­sions with­in which it must be val­i­dat­ed. This, indeed, must nev­er be for­got­ten: that if the axis of Lenin’s dis­course is, as always, ori­ent­ed toward the deter­mi­nate tasks of the rev­o­lu­tion against autoc­ra­cy, the war is a deci­sive moment [sca­den­za gen­erale] for the move­ment – the party’s bat­tle must be gen­er­al and homo­ge­neous (and in fact it is from the moment of the explic­it rup­ture with Kaut­sky). Now, the the­o­ret­i­cal impasse, and the prac­ti­cal tragedy, is sim­ply that what appears on one hand as a weak link of cap­i­tal, as the “orga­ni­za­tion­al” strength of the Russ­ian pro­le­tari­at, should “log­i­cal­ly” appear – if the the­o­ret­i­cal ref­er­ents are not altered – as the weak­ness of the glob­al work­ing class. The basic con­tra­dic­tion that dom­i­nates all oth­ers in the line of rea­son­ing in Impe­ri­al­ism runs between the process­es of ongo­ing cap­i­tal­ist con­cen­tra­tion (and of cen­tral­iza­tion inso­far as it is an instru­ment of the lat­ter) assumed as the gen­er­al the­o­ret­i­cal base for inter­pret­ing the phe­nom­e­non, and the con­cept of the labor aris­toc­ra­cy, which is, para­dox­i­cal­ly, the only out­come on the ter­rain of class com­po­si­tion.

The “stra­tum of work­ers-turned-bour­geois, or the ‘labour aris­toc­ra­cy,’ who are quite philis­tine in their mode of life, in the size of their earn­ings and in their entire out­look,”39 is the strange fruit of the vast process of the con­cen­tra­tion of pro­duc­tion, of the increase of the scale of accu­mu­la­tion which also under­lies and con­tin­u­al­ly feeds the impe­ri­al­ist trans­for­ma­tion of the sys­tem; and it is the extra­or­di­nary coun­ter­part to the Lenin­ist mod­el – on which he gam­bles his entire polit­i­cal “career” – of the lead­er­ship [direzione] of the mas­si­fied work­er over the entire rev­o­lu­tion­ary process in the Russ­ian sub­con­ti­nent, in any case, of his hold­ing fast to the work­ers in the fac­to­ry, to their com­pact orga­ni­za­tion imposed by the very mech­a­nism of the cap­i­tal­ist orga­ni­za­tion of work.40 Nat­u­ral­ly, the exis­tence of phe­nom­e­na of “upward” strat­i­fi­ca­tion with clear polit­i­cal func­tions is a recur­rent fact and some­what to be expect­ed [fisi­o­logi­co] in the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal, and Lenin, nat­u­ral­ly, is well aware of this dialec­tic.41 The dis­pro­por­tion­ate impor­tance attrib­uted to this stra­tum of the class in explain­ing the mech­a­nism of a rel­a­tive impe­ri­al­ist sta­bi­liza­tion is not there­fore sim­ply the fruit of polem­i­cal pas­sion.

It should be not­ed that behind this lies a mate­r­i­al mis­match [sfasa­men­to] in the lev­els of glob­al cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment that does not get posed as an explic­it the­o­ret­i­cal prob­lem.42 In the con­crete sit­u­a­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment of the Russ­ian sub­con­ti­nent, the very recent begin­nings of the process of indus­tri­al­iza­tion, its local­ized func­tions (and there­fore tech­no­log­i­cal lev­els and lev­els of the orga­ni­za­tion of work) and, in any case, its objec­tive­ly lim­it­ed dimen­sions, make the class of fac­to­ry work­ers – even when it includes the most diverse strat­i­fi­ca­tions of work­er-fig­ures, from the decayed arti­san of the old man­u­fac­tur­ing to the new “craft” [mestiere] work­er – a com­pact mass, deci­sive spur of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process, “polit­i­cal aris­toc­ra­cy for the occa­sion [mate­ri­aliter],” as has been writ­ten43 – whose pro­gram of pow­er the “exter­nal” par­ty had been found­ed from “afar” to serve. But at the lev­el of the “advanced” coun­tries, where, indeed, con­cen­tra­tion can func­tion polit­i­cal­ly as the first great his­tor­i­cal mas­si­fi­ca­tion, as liq­ui­da­tion of the entire old rela­tion between work­er and labor, the deci­sive func­tion attrib­uted by Lenin to a spe­cif­ic ele­vat­ed stra­tum of the class is clear­ly an absur­di­ty. The only real labor aris­toc­ra­cies are those on the defen­sive with respect to the process­es of restruc­tur­ing that the war itself pow­er­ful­ly incen­tivizes – they are mem­bers [base] with­in the inter­na­tion­al move­ment of the coun­cils of a spe­cif­ic “left” ide­ol­o­gy; and, fur­ther­more, they are mem­bers in the sub­se­quent evo­lu­tion of the move­ment, a great part of the ide­o­log­i­cal bag­gage and the “tra­di­tion” of the Third Inter­na­tion­al.44

It is per­haps grant­i­ng too much cun­ning to his­to­ry and to Lenin’s own polit­i­cal intu­ition to project his dis­mis­sive judg­ment of the “aris­toc­ra­cies,” brand­ed as a mere phe­nom­e­non of trade-union oppor­tunism, onto these out­comes. But the fact remains that, on the the­o­ret­i­cal ter­rain, in Impe­ri­al­ism this con­cept plays the role of false­ly pro­ject­ing onto cap­i­tal those things which are clear­ly con­tra­dic­tions, lim­its, and delays of the orga­ni­za­tion of the class with­in the “advanced” areas of devel­op­ment – and, con­se­quent­ly, of reduc­ing poten­tial but actu­al phe­nom­e­na of “inte­gra­tion” to the lev­el of a mere­ly ide­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nism. But, even before that, the con­cept also “removes” con­tra­dic­tions and lim­its in the con­tem­po­rary [for Lenin] Marx­ist the­o­ry of devel­op­ment. The ten­sion – which is essen­tial in Lenin, which is Lenin – with­in a gen­er­al the­o­ret­i­cal axis ori­ent­ed in the direc­tion of an insur­mount­able anar­chy of cap­i­tal, between the project of the par­ty as a project of plan­ning [prog­et­to di piano] and the giv­en pos­si­bil­i­ties of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment in that phase, reach­es the lim­it of its vital­i­ty. There the entire “col­lap­sist” [crol­lista] tra­di­tion is renewed, for the first and last time, in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sense – the war itself is, in fact, Zusam­men­bruch pol­i­tics in action.

The sub­se­quent sequence of events in the inter­na­tion­al class strug­gle – start­ing from the imme­di­ate post­war peri­od – will lay bare the inten­si­ty, but also the extra­or­di­nar­i­ness, of the con­junc­ture with­in which Impe­ri­al­ism was con­ceived and in which it was real­ly able to per­form a for­mi­da­ble func­tion for the move­ment. The polit­i­cal con­di­tions changed, due to the very exis­tence of the new work­ers’ pow­er in the Sovi­et Union – and this will be the sole mod­i­fi­ca­tion that the offi­cial work­ers’ move­ment will take into account on the lev­el of “doc­trine,” lead­ing duly to right­ward con­se­quences45 ; but the mate­r­i­al con­di­tions – the “mod­el” – of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment that Lenin had before him also changed, at least start­ing from the Great Depres­sion46 ; and, from there, con­se­quent­ly, the orga­ni­za­tion­al needs and the con­tents of the pro­gram of the class strug­gle changed as well. This, above all, makes Impe­ri­al­ism’s lim­i­ta­tions, in terms of its ori­gins, both explic­it and “true,” and makes it, unlike many clas­sic writ­ings (Lenin’s includ­ed), a work of its time.47




A lack of appre­ci­a­tion of the lim­its of Impe­ri­al­ism – cer­tain­ly not due to sim­ple, ortho­dox Tal­mud­ism – has rep­re­sent­ed a seri­ous obsta­cle to an under­stand­ing the­o­ret­i­cal­ly found­ed on the world dynam­ics of the sys­tem, the absence of which is lament­ed today from all quar­ters. This is para­dox­i­cal­ly also true for the view­point of bour­geois the­o­ry, to the extent that it want­ed to test itself against the the­o­ret­i­cal chal­lenge of Marx­ism and was not lim­it­ed to research, even if copi­ous and use­ful, with­in a lim­it­ed range. But here it is not worth retrac­ing the “sites” [luoghi] of this eco­nom­ic and his­to­ri­o­graph­ic cri­tique, which involves, to give some exam­ples: argu­ments relat­ed to the his­tor­i­cal non-demon­stra­bil­i­ty of imme­di­ate inter­ests in sup­port of oper­a­tions of colo­nial annex­a­tion; the con­tes­ta­tion that there exists a def­i­nite cor­re­la­tion between those oper­a­tions and the quan­ti­ty, direc­tion, etc. of the flows of cap­i­tal exports; attempts to demon­strate that the cost-ben­e­fit bal­ance of (above all “direct”) rela­tions of col­o­niza­tion some­times resolve dis­ad­van­ta­geous­ly for the dom­i­nant coun­tries; that the very “prof­itabil­i­ty” of for­eign invest­ment – at least from the point of view of the aver­age prof­it rate, if not the mar­gin­al – is hic et nunc neg­a­tive.48 It involves, as even Bob Sut­cliffe has demon­strat­ed recent­ly, posi­tions that unjus­ti­fi­ably flat­ten out Lenin onto Hob­son (besides iden­ti­fy­ing colo­nial­ism and impe­ri­al­ism tout court); that fall sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly into the sim­ple log­i­cal error of con­found­ing lev­els of the­o­riza­tion and lev­els of sim­ple gen­er­al­iza­tion – it is one thing to con­struct a the­o­ret­i­cal mod­el that incor­po­rates eco­nom­ic inter­ests as deci­sive forces in impe­ri­al­ist dynam­ics, it is anoth­er to pre­tend to find in each empir­i­cal case the same sequence as the mod­el. And, one can add, when they turn to the­o­riza­tion, they often prove to be incred­i­bly vul­gar – and we can jus­ti­fi­ably include Schum­peter him­self in this judg­ment.50

But here it involves tak­ing the argu­ment back onto the oth­er side, onto the line of the post-Lenin­ist “tra­di­tion.” The judg­ment of it that is implic­it­ly giv­en, imput­ing to it a seri­ous the­o­ret­i­cal iner­tia, is based on the deter­mi­na­tion that it was nour­ished by a debate (when there was debate) about the valid­i­ty of the Lenin­ist the­o­ry com­plete­ly abstract­ed from a class view­point – a debate, in oth­er words, not “jus­ti­fied” by an inde­pen­dent [autonomo] analy­sis of new rela­tions between class com­po­si­tion, the­o­ry of the cycle, and the­o­ry of orga­ni­za­tion. To argue in sup­port of this judg­ment would mean retrac­ing the entire his­to­ry of Marx­ist the­o­ries on impe­ri­al­ism, start­ing from the 1920s, which is nei­ther pos­si­ble nor with­in the scope of this intro­duc­tion.51 But take a recent polem­i­cal exchange – which the read­er will find doc­u­ment­ed in this col­lec­tion – between Ernest Man­del and Mar­tin Nico­laus: this, it seems to us, would serve as the best exam­ple. The sub­ject, posed some years ago, is that of the new rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Europe (and Japan) result­ing from the boom, first of direct invest­ments beyond the Atlantic, and sec­ond of for­eign trade, over the course of the 1960s.52 It res­ur­rects a mul­ti­tude of tra­di­tion­al ques­tions and alter­na­tives with­in the ambit of the the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism: super-impe­ri­al­ism ver­sus inter-impe­ri­al­ist con­tra­dic­tions, com­mod­i­ty export ver­sus cap­i­tal export, wage dif­fer­en­tials and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty dif­fer­en­tials, auton­o­my and “rel­a­tive” sub­or­di­na­tion with­in the impe­ri­al­ist “chain,” and so on. But the exchange that one sees between the Trot­sky­ist Man­del, appar­ent defend­er of Marx­ist ortho­doxy on “eco­nom­ic” ter­rain, and the third-world­ist Nico­laus, with his pas­sion­ate reaf­fir­ma­tion of the polit­i­cal sense (of the poli­tis­che Stoss­rich­tung) of the Lenin­ist mod­el – resolves itself entire­ly with­in half-cen­tu­ry-old cat­e­gories (from finance cap­i­tal to labor aris­toc­ra­cy), fin­ish­ing in a bank­rupt alter­na­tive between a polit­i­cal line that rep­re­sents only an echo of “left” Gaullism, and the fruit­less invo­ca­tion (fruit­less “for us”) of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary col­lapse pro­voked by the periph­er­al pro­le­tari­at. Noth­ing of what the 1960s has rep­re­sent­ed on the ter­rain of class strug­gle, on both sides of the Atlantic, seems to be present, if not as a remote back­drop and (this is true for Man­del) deprived of autonomous effect on the “objec­tive” laws of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment. But, more­over, even with respect to the lat­ter, the dis­cus­sion shows clear dif­fi­cul­ties of for­mu­la­tion and leads to results which are hard­ly con­vinc­ing, and at times con­tra­dic­to­ry. To cite a sin­gle point, the inter­pre­ta­tion of the present cri­sis as a cri­sis of over­pro­duc­tion with respect to the dynam­ics of world demand – this is Nicolaus’s the­sis54 – would seem to agree with the pic­ture drawn, con­verse­ly, by Man­del: aggra­va­tion of inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion, inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the forms of com­mer­cial and finan­cial war, and so on.

But leav­ing aside the mer­its of this debate for now, it is impor­tant instead to extract from it a prob­lem of a gen­er­al char­ac­ter, which also runs through the essays in this col­lec­tion (and in the most per­cep­tive Marx­ist research in gen­er­al), but which remains almost reg­u­lar­ly avoid­ed as such.55 It con­cerns the pos­si­bil­i­ty of found­ing, direct­ly upon Marx’s the­o­ret­i­cal cor­pus, the fore­cast of a process of the inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of cap­i­tal that deter­mines the exis­tence, beyond the world mar­ket as an eco­nom­ic area of exchange between dif­fer­ent coun­tries, of a tru­ly and prop­er­ly glob­al cap­i­tal­ist cycle – with the uni­ty of cycles of pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion tend­ing to elim­i­nate the “eco­nom­ic” sig­nif­i­cance of the divi­sion of the world into nation-states. This is, for exam­ple, the prob­lem already implic­it­ly raised by the cen­tral Lenin­ist argu­ment of the new role played by the export of cap­i­tal in com­par­i­son to that of com­modi­ties; more­over, it is the prob­lem objec­tive­ly posed by the cur­rent phase in the his­to­ry of impe­ri­al­ism. That it is not a philo­log­i­cal ques­tion should be obvi­ous, and it would be tru­ly strange to be delud­ed into think­ing one might find some buried trea­sure between the folds of Marx’s texts, a ready-made the­o­ry of the dynam­ics of the world mar­ket. From this view­point, col­lages such as the one arranged for this pur­pose by Hen­ryk Gross­man fifty years ago can be con­sid­ered prepara­to­ry work at best. His the­sis on the mere­ly extrin­sic char­ac­ter of this “lacu­na” can be coun­tered effec­tive­ly even on the philo­log­i­cal plane: the suc­ces­sion of prepara­to­ry plans for Cap­i­tal and the exis­tence of the man­u­scripts rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Marx was nev­er able to put his hand to the pro­ject­ed sixth book, or that he nev­er thought to con­front these prob­lems in a sys­tem­at­ic man­ner.56 But this is clear­ly not the ques­tion. As the debate men­tioned above demon­strates, the renew­al of Lenin­ism gen­er­al­ly ends up being per­formed mech­a­nis­ti­cal­ly, as a sim­ple annex­a­tion of the sub­se­quent changes that have inter­vened on the scene of inter­na­tion­al pow­er rela­tions to the schema of Impe­ri­al­ism. This proves more and more to be a fruit­less oper­a­tion. Instead it is a mat­ter, if the for­mu­la­tion is per­mit­ted, of return­ing to Lenin by way of Marx. Today, renew­ing Lenin­ist analy­sis in the polit­i­cal sense requires us to make this pas­sage once again: to find in Marx, in his method before even in the con­tents of his dis­course, the cor­rect way (cor­rect “for us”) of pos­ing the ques­tion. In this case: what deter­mines cap­i­tal – as a polit­i­cal-mate­r­i­al rela­tion, as a rela­tion of force – in its con­fig­u­ra­tion and its inter­na­tion­al dynam­ics?


The con­sti­tu­tion of a “world mar­ket” is defined by Marx sev­er­al times as the great­est his­tor­i­cal task of cap­i­tal. This the­sis is “estab­lished” already in the first pages of Cap­i­tal: the analy­sis of the con­cept of abstract labor shows, in fact, that an infi­nite mul­ti­plic­i­ty of artic­u­la­tions is nec­es­sary to its his­tor­i­cal-the­o­ret­i­cal exis­tence, a con­tin­u­al over­com­ing of the “lim­its set by use-val­ue.”57 Such an over­com­ing is pos­si­ble ulti­mate­ly only on the widest pos­si­ble exten­sion of the area of exchange, on the world mar­ket.

But it is only for­eign trade, the devel­op­ment of the mar­ket to a world mar­ket, which caus­es mon­ey to devel­op into world mon­ey and abstract labour into social labour. Abstract wealth, val­ue, mon­ey, hence abstract labour, devel­op in the mea­sure that con­crete labour becomes a total­i­ty of dif­fer­ent modes of labour embrac­ing the world mar­ket. Cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion rests on the val­ue or the trans­for­ma­tion of the labour embod­ied in the prod­uct into social labour. But this is only [pos­si­ble] on the basis of for­eign trade and of the world mar­ket. This is at once the pre-con­di­tion and the result of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion.58

Let us stop for a moment on this last point. How is it pos­si­ble that a result is, at the same time, a pre­sup­po­si­tion? The expla­na­tion clear­ly must be sought in the mech­a­nism, and the his­tor­i­cal process, of “prim­i­tive” accu­mu­la­tion – in which, indeed, the Welt­markt dimen­sion is fun­da­men­tal to Marx’s analy­sis.59 With­in it, “ante­dilu­vian” forms of cap­i­tal – cap­i­tal which, so to speak, has not yet become such – work cease­less­ly to extend the bor­ders of the world mar­ket, via the spe­cif­ic mech­a­nism of accu­mu­la­tion that char­ac­ter­izes them – accu­mu­la­tion “durch Prellerei.” Pre­cise­ly because its imme­di­ate source of prof­it is the earn­ings from the exchange – a gain which accu­mu­lates in enor­mous pro­por­tions in the “metrop­o­les” of the sys­tem – mer­can­tile cap­i­tal is com­pelled to relent­less­ly extend the reach of the area of exchange, rather than its inten­si­ty. As Marx com­ments in The­o­ries of Sur­plus Val­ue:

Say, in his notes to Ricardo’s book trans­lat­ed by Con­stan­cio, makes only one cor­rect remark about for­eign trade. Prof­it can also be made by cheat­ing, one per­son gain­ing what the oth­er los­es. Loss and gain with­in a sin­gle coun­try can­cel each oth­er out. But not so with trade between dif­fer­ent coun­tries. And even accord­ing to Ricardo’s the­o­ry, three days of labour of one coun­try can be exchanged against one of anoth­er coun­try – a point not not­ed by Say. Here the law of val­ue under­goes essen­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tion.60

In what do these essen­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tions of the law of val­ue in its glob­al oper­a­tion con­sist? This is pre­cise­ly the point which will need to be clar­i­fied. But the prob­lem which is imme­di­ate­ly posed is that of the rela­tion between the Marx­i­an illus­tra­tions of Urkap­i­tal­is­mus and the Lenin­ist the­sis of a gigan­tic “return” of world cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion, in its mature phase, to its orig­i­nary forms of move­ment.

It is unde­ni­able that there is a strong anal­o­gy between the cat­e­go­ry of “par­a­sitic” cap­i­tal uti­lized by Lenin and the cat­e­gories devel­oped by Marx in his analy­sis of “prim­i­tive” accu­mu­la­tion61 : in any case, the treat­ment of the rela­tion between “econ­o­my” and “pol­i­tics” is sim­i­lar, between on the one hand the lev­el of the social rela­tions of pro­duc­tion, and on the oth­er the func­tion of the state machine [macchi­na statale] in gen­er­al. As, in the first instance, it sus­tains and pro­tects, when it does not man­age direct­ly, the nec­es­sary process of the exten­sion of the “mar­ket,” so, in the sec­ond instance, does it dri­ve for­ward and safe­guard the par­a­sitic struc­ture (par­a­sitic to the sec­ond pow­er) that the rela­tion of pro­duc­tion has grad­u­al­ly assumed on the glob­al lev­el.

The anal­o­gy is, for us, obvi­ous. But the the­o­ret­i­cal con­text with­in which that rela­tion was inter­pret­ed is pro­found­ly dif­fer­ent in each instance. In Lenin there is an unde­ni­ably explic­it inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the “putres­cence” that the sys­tem under­goes in return­ing to its ori­gins – this remains, as we have tried to show, the the­o­ret­i­cal axis of Impe­ri­al­ism. On the con­trary, in Marx, the atyp­i­cal struc­ture of “mer­can­tile” accu­mu­la­tion has sig­nif­i­cance and “counts” exclu­sive­ly on the basis of the emer­gence of the tru­ly and prop­er­ly cap­i­tal­ist rela­tion – in par­tic­u­lar, on the basis of the pro­gres­sive destruc­tion which it pro­duces in the con­di­tions of pro­duc­tion and pre-cap­i­tal­ist social rela­tions with­in the coun­tries involved. The “pre­sup­po­si­tion” Welt­markt dialec­ti­cal­ly inheres in its cap­i­tal­is­ti­cal­ly pro­gres­sive “result” – the coer­cive road inheres in the “nat­ur­al” one. It should be not­ed that the ques­tion con­cerns the method­olog­i­cal struc­ture of the dis­course, and not imme­di­ate­ly its con­tents. “Gigan­tic usury cap­i­tal,” which returns, in Lenin, to dom­i­nate the scene in the great­est phase of the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal, may well be dif­fer­ent in struc­ture from that pro­tag­o­nist of the orig­i­nary phase, but it is the demon­stra­tion of such a dif­fer­ence that is miss­ing in Lenin, or which acquires inflec­tions that are method­olog­i­cal­ly a long way from the Marx­i­an mod­el. But, more­over, one can­not clear­ly per­ceive in all of Marx’s own writ­ings the coher­ent oper­a­tions of the method­i­cal schema exem­plar­i­ly pur­sued in the analy­sis of prim­i­tive accu­mu­la­tion. And this is per­haps for rea­sons oppo­site to those just now indi­cat­ed con­cern­ing Impe­ri­al­ism, due to a strict devo­tion not always jus­ti­fied in the con­tents of that analy­sis. This seems to be the case with Marx’s writ­ings (and those of Engels) “on colo­nial­ism.”62 In these there pre­dom­i­nates a sort of lin­ear “opti­mism” con­cern­ing the future effects of colo­nial dom­i­na­tion in the coun­tries sub­ject­ed to cap­i­tal­ist “progress,” which they are des­tined to achieve via the same dom­i­na­tion, through a rapid sub­sti­tu­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion for the ancient social rela­tions of pro­duc­tion. Of course, this opti­mism has been proven incor­rect by sub­se­quent his­tor­i­cal events, but it is also not suf­fi­cient­ly found­ed on a spe­cif­ic analy­sis of the process.63 It must be tak­en into account that – not unlike for the prob­lem of the struc­ture of accu­mu­la­tion in the late-join­er64 coun­tries, with which Marx will only seri­ous­ly begin to con­cern him­self in the final years of his life – the ques­tion of the inter­nal effects of colo­nial annex­a­tion is absolute­ly sec­ondary, in these writ­ings, to that of the rela­tion between mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the inter­na­tion­al frame­work of pow­er which the annex­a­tions them­selves entail, and the symp­to­ma­tol­ogy of cri­sis at the lev­el of the world mar­ket – to the rela­tion that defines, in Marx’s head after 1848, the under­ly­ing con­di­tions of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process.65


We now leave aside prim­i­tive accu­mu­la­tion and its prob­lems, in order to try to delin­eate a pos­si­ble Marx­i­an mod­el of the inter­na­tion­al move­ment of cap­i­tal, start­ing from the full affir­ma­tion of its dom­i­nance, qua “indus­tri­al” (pro­duc­tive) cap­i­tal, in the coun­tries (or in the most impor­tant among them) that com­pete on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket. Also, in this case it is nec­es­sary to pro­ceed from cer­tain, fun­da­men­tal, method­olog­i­cal posi­tions. Hav­ing estab­lished, as a mat­ter of fact, the world mar­ket as “pre­sup­po­si­tion” and “result” of the process, the analy­sis must not from the out­set be con­strained to roam­ing around with­in the com­plex phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy that the empir­i­cal exis­tence of such a mar­ket presents to obser­va­tion. Under no cir­cum­stances is this its task.

In pre­sent­ing the reifi­ca­tion of the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion and the auton­o­my they acquire vis-à-vis the agents of pro­duc­tion, we shall not go into the form and man­ner in which these con­nec­tions appear to them as over­whelm­ing nat­ur­al laws, gov­ern­ing them irre­spec­tive of their will, in the form that the world mar­ket and its con­junc­tures, the move­ment of mar­ket prices, the cycles of indus­try and trade and the alter­na­tion of pros­per­i­ty and cri­sis pre­vails on them as blind neces­si­ty. This is because the actu­al move­ment of com­pe­ti­tion lies out­side our plan, and we are only out to present the inter­nal orga­ni­za­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, its ide­al aver­age, as it were.66

Com­pe­ti­tion does not enter imme­di­ate­ly into the method­i­cal research plan – and this holds true for what unfolds on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket. Nat­u­ral­ly, the refusal to remain stuck with­in the phe­nom­e­nal appear­ance exem­pli­fied in the above cit­ed pas­sages does not mean that such an appear­ance con­sti­tutes a type of inessen­tial and mys­ti­fy­ing veil, with­out any inde­pen­dent [autono­mi] mate­r­i­al effects. Its rela­tion to the cat­e­gories devel­oped by the analy­sis is, in any case, dialec­ti­cal. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for the total­i­ty con­sti­tut­ed by the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket. Anoth­er pas­sage suf­fices on this point:

…their own exchange and their own pro­duc­tion con­front indi­vid­u­als as an objec­tive rela­tion which is inde­pen­dent of them. In the case of the world mar­ket, the con­nec­tion of the indi­vid­ual with all, but at the same time also the inde­pen­dence of this con­nec­tion from the indi­vid­ual, have devel­oped to such a high lev­el that the for­ma­tion of the world mar­ket already at the same time con­tains the con­di­tions for going beyond it.) Com­par­i­son in place of real com­mu­nal­i­ty and gen­er­al­i­ty.67

The deter­mi­na­tion of cap­i­tal as an “ide­al aver­age” con­sti­tutes only a first moment of research, which must then move on to recon­quer the con­crete total­i­ty of the phe­nom­e­non (as “uni­ty of many deter­mi­na­tions”), fol­low­ing the the­o­ret­i­cal­ly and his­tor­i­cal­ly irre­versible process of “trans­for­ma­tion” of the fig­ures that con­sti­tute it (the val­ue of labor-pow­er in wages, of sur­plus-val­ue in prof­it, of val­ue in price). Cap­i­tal as “ide­al aver­age,” cap­i­tal im All­ge­mein, appears only then in its real exis­tence and as “social pow­er.”

Cap­i­tal in gen­er­al, as dis­tinct from the par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tals, does indeed appear (1) only as an abstrac­tion; not an arbi­trary abstrac­tion, but an abstrac­tion which grasps the spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics which dis­tin­guish cap­i­tal from all oth­er forms of wealth – or modes in which (social) pro­duc­tion devel­ops. These are the aspects com­mon to every cap­i­tal as such, or which make every spe­cif­ic sum of val­ues into cap­i­tal. And the dis­tinc­tions with­in this abstrac­tion are like­wise abstract par­tic­u­lar­i­ties which char­ac­ter­ize every kind of cap­i­tal, in that it is their posi­tion [Posi­tion] or nega­tion [Nega­tion] (e.g. fixed cap­i­tal or cir­cu­lat­ing cap­i­tal); (2) how­ev­er, cap­i­tal in gen­er­al, as dis­tinct from the par­tic­u­lar real cap­i­tals, is itself a real exis­tence. This is rec­og­nized by ordi­nary eco­nom­ics, even if it is not under­stood.68

The recon­struc­tion of cap­i­tal as Gesammtkap­i­tal is pre­cise­ly the pur­pose of the third book. Its ker­nel, as we know, con­sists in a schema of the dis­tri­b­u­tion of sur­plus-val­ue pro­duced by the whole class of pro­duc­tive work­ers across the “many” cap­i­tals oper­at­ing with­in a giv­en social for­ma­tion, con­di­tion­al upon a prof­it which is ten­den­tial­ly equal for each (an “aver­age” prof­it) and which is based on a dif­fer­ence in organ­ic com­po­si­tion, con­tin­u­ous­ly renew­ing itself, with­in and among the var­i­ous sec­tors.69 “Com­pe­ti­tion,” in gen­er­al the coex­is­tence of sev­er­al par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tals with­in the cycles of pro­duc­tion and of cir­cu­la­tion – in a word, the “mar­ket” – returns here to present itself, not as an “appar­ent move­ment” from which to abstract, but as an insti­tu­tion­al­ly nec­es­sary moment of the sys­tem.

Now, the Marx­i­an mod­el just men­tioned is valid with­in a social for­ma­tion, with­in a “nation­al” mar­ket. To what extent and in what sense can we extend it to the oper­a­tion of the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket? Marx explic­it­ly estab­lish­es, in the third book, that the lev­el of abstrac­tion is “deter­mined” accord­ing to the view­point of the oper­a­tion of a nation­al cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety:

The dis­tinc­tions between rates of sur­plus-val­ue in dif­fer­ent coun­tries and hence between the dif­fer­ent nation­al lev­els of exploita­tion of labour are com­plete­ly out­side the scope of our present inves­ti­ga­tion. The object of this Part is sim­ply to present the way in which a gen­er­al rate of prof­it is arrived at with­in one par­tic­u­lar coun­try.70

In spite of this, the applic­a­bil­i­ty of this mod­el to the inter­na­tion­al “mar­ket” has been con­sid­ered pos­si­ble at var­i­ous times – recent­ly by Chris­tel Neusüss, with whose attempts we con­cern our­selves most of all. It should be not­ed that we do not mean to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly orga­nize the parts of Marx’s analy­sis that devel­op the essen­tial aspects of such a mar­ket (and to which we will return), but which after all devel­op them from the view­point of the social cap­i­tal of “a giv­en coun­try” (effects of for­eign trade on the fall of the rate of prof­it, func­tion of the inter­na­tion­al rate of inter­est on the move­ments of mon­ey-cap­i­tal from one coun­try to anoth­er, world mon­ey). On the con­trary, we mean to estab­lish, to put it sim­ply, whether the glob­al pop­u­la­tion, or bet­ter, all the social rela­tions (of pro­duc­tion) of devel­oped coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the world mar­ket, are con­sti­tut­ed in a sin­gle social for­ma­tion of a cap­i­tal­ist type. As we have said, attempts in this direc­tion are not lack­ing – Hen­ryk Grossmann’s remains impor­tant, but it has lim­it­ed appeal today, due to the objec­tive dif­fi­cul­ty of antic­i­pat­ing devel­op­ments which would hap­pen at a lat­er time, and due to Grossman’s apri­or­is­tic will to bend the line of rea­son­ing to his dear the­sis on the nature of cri­sis (always and exclu­sive­ly as cri­sis of over­pro­duc­tion). Gross­mann does not go beyond the “log­i­cal,” abstract dimen­sion of the prob­lem: if the deci­sive dimen­sion of the cap­i­tal­ist Aus­gle­ichung is the nation­al one, it can­not at the same time be the inter­na­tion­al one, and, vice ver­sa, if the lat­ter is the case, the “cap­i­tal­ist homo­gene­ity,” so to speak, of the nation­al mar­kets is nec­es­sar­i­ly frac­tured.71

The more impor­tant dif­fi­cul­ty remains, there­fore – and it is easy to real­ize – the the­o­ret­i­cal sta­tus that can be attrib­uted to the func­tions of the state machine in gen­er­al. Neusüss’s approach to this sub­ject is as sim­ple as it is sug­ges­tive. She gam­bles on the dialec­ti­cal, so to speak, and more­over ten­den­tial char­ac­ter of the process of cap­i­tal­ist Aus­gle­ichung. The very for­ma­tion of a gen­er­al rate of prof­it is, as Marx explic­it­ly warns, a process “toward a lim­it”:

In the­o­ry, we assume that the laws of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion devel­op in their pure form. In real­i­ty, this is only an approx­i­ma­tion; but the approx­i­ma­tion is all the more exact, the more the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion is devel­oped and the less it is adul­ter­at­ed by sur­vivals of ear­li­er eco­nom­ic con­di­tions with which it is amal­ga­mat­ed.72

Now, the sur­vivals of which he speaks in this pas­sage can well be assumed with­in a gen­er­al cat­e­go­ry of “fric­tions” in regard to com­pe­ti­tion, of obsta­cles to the full unfold­ing of its “equal­iz­ing” and con­cen­trat­ing effects. The state must be exam­ined as an insti­tu­tion­al “fric­tion” vis-à-vis inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion, although nat­u­ral­ly its func­tion may be, and is in fact, the great­est stim­u­lus to the expan­sion of the world mar­ket, pre­cise­ly as its his­tor­i­cal role has gen­er­al­ly been that of orga­niz­ing the uni­fi­ca­tion of the domes­tic mar­ket. The coeval growth [con­cresci­ta], with­in his­tor­i­cal­ly very dif­fer­ent but inex­tri­ca­ble forms, of its spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal-insti­tu­tion­al (as well as direct­ly “eco­nom­ic”) func­tions with­in cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, makes the state machine an ine­lim­inable com­po­nent of the oper­a­tion of the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket. It is respon­si­ble, as we shall soon see, for the irreg­u­lar, and more­over incom­plete, valid­i­ty of the law of val­ue. It is worth return­ing to a long pas­sage that syn­the­sizes the fun­da­men­tal themes of Neusüss’s approach:

Cap­i­tal con­sti­tutes itself as total social cap­i­tal in rela­tion to the many indi­vid­ual cap­i­tals by means of com­pe­ti­tion. But it can­not by itself actu­al­ly accom­plish this process of con­sti­tu­tion if the State does not put into place, in rela­tion to the his­tor­i­cal­ly giv­en sit­u­a­tion, all the gen­er­al con­di­tions – be they mate­r­i­al, juridi­cal, or polit­i­cal in the strict sense – which par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tals, pre­cise­ly by their nature, can­not estab­lish. In their ori­gins and nation­al char­ac­ter, the juridi­cal rela­tions that reg­u­late the cir­cu­la­tion of cap­i­tal, as a reflec­tion and con­trol of the mutu­al rela­tions between own­ers of com­modi­ties, estab­lish the true and prop­er sep­a­ra­tion between nation­al and world-mar­ket cir­cu­la­tion. In fact, cir­cu­la­tion in the world mar­ket is reg­u­lat­ed through and through by the dis­po­si­tions of state insti­tu­tions, and, in fact, there exist pre­car­i­ous con­trac­tu­al rela­tions that express the ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal to dri­ve for­ward the world mar­ket, as the total­i­ty of par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tals, in the sense of a real total cap­i­tal; but in con­trast to with­in the State, here there is always the pos­si­bil­i­ty that eco­nom­ic rela­tions will degen­er­ate into rela­tions of plun­der, decep­tion, and open exploita­tion. This is not suf­fi­cient; the real nation­al exis­tence of the State as rep­re­sen­ta­tive and col­lec­tor of sin­gle nation­al cap­i­tals is fur­ther clar­i­fied here inso­far as theft is always medi­at­ed by the State – it is, as a rule, car­ried out with the deploy­ment of state pow­er. In these cas­es the func­tion of the nation­al State is com­plete­ly exposed: fac­ing inward, it guar­an­tees the social exis­tence of the plu­ral­i­ty of indi­vid­ual cap­i­tals; fac­ing out­ward, it can imple­ment a pol­i­tics that dia­met­ri­cal­ly con­tra­dicts the polit­i­cal uni­fi­ca­tion of var­i­ous nation­al cap­i­tals into a total glob­al cap­i­tal. This is because it offers to the coun­ter­posed inter­ests of nation­al cap­i­tals in com­pe­ti­tion with one anoth­er a polit­i­cal form against which it can frac­ture the valid­i­ty of eco­nom­ic laws on the world mar­ket.73

Before fol­low­ing the next devel­op­ment of this for­mu­la­tion, it is nec­es­sary to make some gen­er­al crit­i­cal obser­va­tions. It is, indeed, a for­mu­la­tion that wants to hinge itself on the Marx­i­an schema already recalled, of the trans­for­ma­tion of cap­i­tal from sim­ple rela­tion of val­ue (sur­plus-val­ue) to social cap­i­tal, but which, in our view, does so in a rather mechan­i­cal man­ner. The process of the con­sti­tu­tion of cap­i­tal into social cap­i­tal actu­al­ly ends up being iden­ti­fied with the sphere of the real and per­fect valid­i­ty of free com­pe­ti­tion. Cer­tain­ly, the Aufhe­bung of the “fric­tions” of free com­pe­ti­tion should not be under­stood as a neolib­er­al, anti-monop­o­lis­tic74 pos­tu­late, but as a result of the spe­cif­ic func­tion per­formed domes­ti­cal­ly by the state in val­i­dat­ing the puri­ty of the cap­i­tal­ist law of accu­mu­la­tion. But what exact­ly is that law? And above all, what forms does it assume today, at a cer­tain his­tor­i­cal lev­el of matu­ri­ty? The lim­it of Neusüss’s approach, on this score, is twofold: on the one hand, her recon­struc­tion of Marx’s analy­sis tends to reduce the scope with­in which he has rel­e­vance to an his­tor­i­cal range, one which is, after all is said and done, lim­it­ed to the epoch of “com­pet­i­tive” cap­i­tal­ism; and, on the oth­er, she then aspires to extend that same recon­struc­tion, unal­tered, into the present. Here it should be not­ed that she is not deal­ing with the prob­lem of the monop­o­liza­tion of the econ­o­my tak­en in itself. Nat­u­ral­ly, she has tak­en into account the process of con­cen­tra­tion; but for Neusüss, such a process, despite being a nec­es­sary con­se­quence of the laws of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion – which in fact cor­re­spond to it – is not sub­ject to gen­er­al­iza­tions, as it unfolds with­in a rather dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal par­tic­u­lar­i­ty of the state-cap­i­tal rela­tion (with­in an always dif­fer­ent “his­torischen Milieu”). Essen­tial­ly Neusüss reduces monop­oly to a trans­formed form of com­pe­ti­tion. This is, in fact, a cor­rect oper­a­tion, pro­vid­ed that one aban­dons the objec­tivis­tic per­spec­tive that is, instead, her sig­na­ture, and pro­vid­ed that one reads the cat­e­gories of com­pe­ti­tion, monop­oly, and so on for what they real­ly mean in Marx.75 From the objec­tive eco­nom­ic point of view, monop­oly is the exact oppo­site of com­pe­ti­tion. The con­ti­nu­ity, which is so dear to Neusüss, of the cap­i­tal­ist rela­tion and of the oper­a­tion of its laws even when free com­pe­ti­tion has become a fad­ed his­tor­i­cal mem­o­ry, is sig­nif­i­cant only as the con­ti­nu­ity of dom­i­na­tion, and, con­cur­rent­ly, as the result of the per­ma­nence of the class strug­gle. Not even the dialec­tic between the par­tic­u­lar­i­ty of sin­gle cap­i­tals and social cap­i­tal seems to be an essen­tial objec­tive fea­ture of the sys­tem today – as the saga of real­ly-exist­ing social­ism shows.

This type of recu­per­a­tion, too rigid­ly loy­al to the let­ter of Marx’s texts, has some very respectable moti­va­tions: through­out the dis­course, there is a con­tin­u­ous polemic, whether implic­it or explic­it, with the “The­o­rie des Staatsmo­nop­o­lis­tis­chen Kap­i­tal­is­mus,” the inter­pre­ta­tion of cur­rent-day mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the state-cap­i­tal rela­tion, which Neü­suss finds intent on legit­imiz­ing the most oppor­tunis­tic prax­is [pras­si] of the work­ers’ move­ment in the West – “the­o­ry” which has been devel­oped espe­cial­ly in the milieu of the GDR and of offi­cial Ger­man and French com­mu­nism, of which we can­not con­cern our­selves here.77 But it does not real­ly seem as though the bar­rage launched by Neusüss from the trench­es of Cap­i­tal, or, bet­ter, her read­ing of Cap­i­tal, con­sti­tutes an ade­quate reply. The lit­mus test, even in this case, is the ques­tion of the state. On this point Neusüss’s vision is per­fect­ly com­ple­men­tary with what has been said so far. Once and for all, one hun­dred years ago as well as today, the state is an orga­nized appa­ra­tus [appa­ra­to orga­niz­za­to] which, from a posi­tion out­side and above, pre­pares and guar­an­tees the exter­nal con­di­tions for cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment – con­di­tions which are mate­r­i­al (“infra­struc­tur­al”), juridi­cal, and polit­i­cal. The state is nei­ther more nor less than a func­tion of the social devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal, and an exter­nal func­tion: it is, as a rule, sub­ject to the accu­sa­tion of only per­form­ing unpro­duc­tive labor. The anti­n­o­m­ic char­ac­ter of the cap­i­tal­ist social rela­tion does not oper­ate dialec­ti­cal­ly with­in the polit­i­cal-state form [la figu­ra politi­co-statale]. Neusüss appeals to the author­i­ty of Pashuka­nis in vain; her Pashuka­nis is that of Kelsen and of revi­sion­ism in gen­er­al, the Pashuka­nis of “all law as pri­vate law” and of the dullest insti­tu­tion­al­ism.78 Down this road, not only does one fail to grasp the char­ac­ter of today’s cri­sis of the state, which is a cri­sis of its over­all attempt to re-qual­i­fy itself as direct plan­ner [piani­fi­cazione] of devel­op­ment, but one remains on this side of that fun­da­men­tal his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ence.79


But we return now to the main thread of the argu­ment. The hypoth­e­sis that has emerged is that of an anom­alous struc­ture of the world mar­ket, and, more­over, a struc­ture which can­not be assim­i­lat­ed to that of the domes­tic mar­ket, because of the inter­me­di­a­tion of the state. In the domes­tic mar­ket the mod­ern state, rather than being an obsta­cle, has pre­cise­ly the task of remov­ing obsta­cles, and of con­struct­ing the con­di­tions for a “nor­mal” unfold­ing of the process of cap­i­tal­ist Aus­gle­ichung. Marx is explic­it in indi­cat­ing these con­di­tions:

This con­stant equal­iza­tion of ever-renewed inequal­i­ties is accom­plished more quick­ly, (1) the more mobile cap­i­tal is, i.e. the more eas­i­ly it can be trans­ferred from one sphere and one place to oth­ers; (2) the more rapid­ly labour-pow­er can be moved from one sphere to anoth­er and from one local point of pro­duc­tion to anoth­er. The first of these con­di­tions implies com­plete­ly free trade with­in the soci­ety in ques­tion and the abo­li­tion of all monop­o­lies oth­er than nat­ur­al ones, i.e. those aris­ing from the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion itself. It also pre­sup­pos­es the devel­op­ment of the cred­it sys­tem, which con­cen­trates togeth­er the inor­gan­ic mass of avail­able social cap­i­tal vis-a-vis the indi­vid­ual cap­i­tal­ist. It fur­ther implies that the var­i­ous spheres of pro­duc­tion have been sub­or­di­nat­ed to cap­i­tal­ists. […] A final pre­con­di­tion is a high pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty. The sec­ond con­di­tion pre­sup­pos­es the abo­li­tion of all laws that pre­vent work­ers from mov­ing from one sphere of pro­duc­tion to anoth­er or from one local seat of pro­duc­tion to any oth­er. Indif­fer­ence of the work­er to the con­tent of his work. Great­est pos­si­ble reduc­tion of work in all spheres of pro­duc­tion to sim­ple labour. Dis­ap­pear­ance of all prej­u­dices of trade and craft among the work­ers. Final­ly and espe­cial­ly, the sub­jec­tion of the work­er to the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion.80

Now, the active role of the state in deter­min­ing or allow­ing the real­iza­tion of this twofold con­di­tion is trans­formed, up to a cer­tain point, in the world mar­ket, into the role of insti­tu­tion­al inter­me­di­a­tion and there­fore into an obsta­cle, actu­al and poten­tial, to the com­ple­tion of the process.

The insti­tu­tion­al char­ac­ter of this inter­me­di­a­tion should be under­lined: it does not depend exclu­sive­ly on par­tic­u­lar state “poli­cies” on the ter­rain of inter­na­tion­al exchange. Thus, inci­den­tal­ly, the fact that the inter­na­tion­al arrange­ment is to this day recon­struct­ed as a mutu­al reg­u­la­tion, in prin­ci­ple, between states, and that the effec­tive juridi­cal reg­u­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al exchanges has a basis, either in a pact or deriv­ing from a uni­lat­er­al state deter­mi­na­tion81 – all this, to take an exam­ple, is not sim­ple ide­ol­o­gy. If any­thing, it is an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly “real” reflec­tion of the sit­u­a­tion. Sin­gle cap­i­tals, not (exclu­sive­ly) states, remain the real sub­jects of the world mar­ket. But, indeed, the impu­ta­tion to the state of all for­eign trade and the sub­se­quent out­stand­ing debt and cred­it reg­is­tered by the bal­ance of pay­ments – these are not sim­ple account­ing expres­sions, but instead con­firm the spe­cif­ic nature of this mar­ket.

What is, there­fore, the the­o­ret­i­cal mod­el with­in which to com­pre­hend its oper­a­tion? Judg­ing from some hints, even if they are inci­den­tal, Marx him­self seems inclined toward reusing the schema of “sim­ple mer­can­tile” pro­duc­tion. Dis­cussing, in the cen­tral tenth chap­ter of the third book, the “equal­iza­tion of the gen­er­al rate of prof­it,” Marx “sup­pos­es” at a cer­tain point – in order to bring out the heart [punc­tum saliens] of the prob­lem – a sit­u­a­tion in which the work­ers them­selves are the own­ers of their respec­tive means of pro­duc­tion. In this case, the exchange of prod­ucts that con­tain a dif­fer­ent ratio of liv­ing labor to dead labor takes place approx­i­mate­ly, but direct­ly, in terms of val­ue.

Under these con­di­tions, the dif­fer­ence in the prof­it rate would be a mat­ter of indif­fer­ence, just as for a present-day wage-labour­er it is a mat­ter of indif­fer­ence in what prof­it rate the sur­plus-val­ue extort­ed from him is expressed, and just as in inter­na­tion­al trade the dif­fer­ences in prof­it rates between dif­fer­ent nations are com­plete­ly imma­te­r­i­al as far as the exchange of their com­modi­ties is con­cerned.

And he con­tin­ues:

it is also quite appo­site to view the val­ues of com­modi­ties not only as the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pri­or to the prices of pro­duc­tion, but also as his­tor­i­cal­ly pri­or to them. This applies to those con­di­tions in which the means of pro­duc­tion belong to the work­er, and this con­di­tion is to be found, in both the ancient and the mod­ern world, among peas­ant pro­pri­etors and hand­i­crafts­men who work for them­selves. This agrees, more­over, with the opin­ion we expressed pre­vi­ous­ly, viz. that the devel­op­ment of prod­ucts into com­modi­ties aris­es from exchange between dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, and not between the mem­bers of one and the same com­mu­ni­ty. This is true not only for the orig­i­nal con­di­tion, but also for lat­er social con­di­tions based on slav­ery and serf­dom, and for the guild orga­ni­za­tion of hand­i­craft pro­duc­tion, as long as the means of pro­duc­tion involved in each branch of pro­duc­tion can be trans­ferred from one sphere to anoth­er only with dif­fi­cul­ty, and the dif­fer­ent spheres of pro­duc­tion there­fore relate to one anoth­er, with­in cer­tain lim­its, like for­eign coun­tries or com­mu­nis­tic com­mu­ni­ties.82

We now under­stand the rea­sons for Marx’s asser­tion, cit­ed above, that the law of val­ue under­goes “essen­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tions” on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket. These terms are not cho­sen ran­dom­ly. Because of its sep­a­ra­tion along nation­al-state lines, inter­na­tion­al soci­ety is not cap­i­tal­is­ti­cal­ly homoge­nous – it does not exist as a cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety. The law of val­ue is not trans­formed here into its oppo­site – law of sur­plus-val­ue and then of prof­it – but applies as such. It applies as law of exchange of equiv­a­lents, but with this essen­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tion: while inside a coun­try the cap­i­tal gains pro­duced must be medi­at­ed by exchange, although they can­not arise from it, since there is a nec­es­sary off­set­ting of “unequal” exchanges, in the sphere of inter­na­tion­al trade there is the pos­si­bil­i­ty (but then there is no oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty from cir­cu­la­tion) of sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly trans­fer­ring val­ue from one place to anoth­er, from one con­tract­ing par­ty to anoth­er. What is then the mech­a­nism which, on the one hand, main­tains inter­na­tion­al exchange of com­modi­ties as exchange of equiv­a­lents, accord­ing to the law of val­ue, and on the oth­er hand, deter­mines it as unequal exchange? Marx men­tions it explic­it­ly in the neglect­ed chap­ter in the first book ded­i­cat­ed to the “dif­fer­ence between nation­al wages.” He writes:

In every coun­try there is a cer­tain aver­age inten­si­ty of labour below which the labour for the pro­duc­tion of a com­mod­i­ty requires more than the time social­ly nec­es­sary, and there­fore does not count as labour of nor­mal qual­i­ty. In a giv­en coun­try, only a degree of inten­si­ty which is above the nation­al aver­age alters the mea­sure­ment of val­ue by the mere dura­tion of labour-time. It is oth­er­wise on the world mar­ket, whose inte­gral parts are the indi­vid­ual coun­tries. The aver­age inten­si­ty of labour changes from coun­try to coun­try; here is it greater, there less. These nation­al aver­ages form a scale whose unit of mea­sure­ment is the aver­age unit of uni­ver­sal labour. The more intense nation­al labour, there­fore, as com­pared with the less intense, pro­duces in the same time more val­ue, which express­es itself in more mon­ey. But the law of val­ue is yet more mod­i­fied in its inter­na­tion­al appli­ca­tion by the fact that, on the world mar­ket, nation­al labour which is more pro­duc­tive also counts as more inten­sive, as long as the more pro­duc­tive nation is not com­pelled by com­pe­ti­tion to low­er the sell­ing price of its com­modi­ties to the lev­el of their val­ue.83

“In a giv­en coun­try,” there­fore, all labor is reducible, and is reduced in fact, to “nor­mal­ly” pro­duc­tive labor; more gen­er­al­ly, in a giv­en coun­try, com­pe­ti­tion works not only on the “prod­ucts” but on the very “fac­tors” of pro­duc­tion, push­ing cap­i­tal and labor into more and more pro­duc­tive sec­tors. On the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket, how­ev­er, this sec­ond type of com­pe­ti­tion is blocked, or forced to oper­ate in a par­tial and medi­at­ed way, by the mod­i­fi­ca­tions that are estab­lished with­in the var­i­ous coun­tries between the rel­a­tive costs of var­i­ous pro­duc­tions. The nation­al lev­els of inten­si­ty and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of labor are mod­i­fied main­ly for rea­sons relat­ing to inter­nal devel­op­ment: these are arranged on a “scale” whose unit of mea­sure is a sim­ple arith­metic aver­age. “Nor­mal” inter­na­tion­al labor does not exist any­where in real­i­ty.84 There­fore the dai­ly labor­ing of a more pro­duc­tive nation does not only pro­duce more wealth but, pro­por­tion­al­ly, more val­ue – and it swaps places with a pro­por­tion­al mul­ti­ple of the work­ing days in less pro­duc­tive coun­tries. This means – as we have seen in the Ricar­dian schema, or, bet­ter, in the schema from which Ricar­do devel­ops his the­o­ry of inter­na­tion­al spe­cial­iza­tion – the pre­sup­po­si­tions are, after all, the same.85

Of course, this requires an essen­tial ele­ment of inte­gra­tion. Marx cer­tain­ly does not con­ceive of the world mar­ket as a prim­i­tive sys­tem of barter. It may be a “sim­ple mar­ket” sys­tem; but it is pre­cise­ly for this rea­son that he finds the dou­bling of the com­mod­i­ty form, into com­mod­i­ty and mon­ey, to be just as intrin­si­cal­ly nec­es­sary.86 How­ev­er, the result­ing twofold cir­cu­la­tion of com­modi­ties and mon­ey takes on a spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter­is­tic here: the dou­bling of the very form of mon­ey into world mon­ey and nation­al mon­ey-cur­ren­cy. The move­ment of exchange on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket can­not be rep­re­sent­ed as a sim­ple sequence of C–M/M–C, with each M nec­es­sar­i­ly dou­bling and mul­ti­ply­ing into sequences of Mx–My, etc.87 – nation­al cur­ren­cies with spe­cif­ic rela­tions of val­ue between them. On the one hand, the “local forms” assumed by mon­ey dis­ap­pear in the gen­er­al com­mod­i­ty of the world mar­ket, “mon­ey in the emi­nent sense of the word,” the gen­er­al means of exchange in its naked mate­ri­al­i­ty. On the oth­er hand, if world mon­ey is not in fact a new deter­mi­na­tion that must be added to mon­ey in gen­er­al, it nec­es­sar­i­ly is aver­aged in the cir­cu­la­tions of nation­al cur­ren­cies. Most inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions take place direct­ly in nation­al cur­ren­cies of the inter­est­ed coun­tries; they are only made in world mon­ey in excep­tion­al cas­es and for spe­cif­ic pur­pos­es. If, on the one hand, this dou­ble cir­cu­la­tion is to allow the mod­i­fied oper­a­tion of the law of val­ue on the inter­na­tion­al lev­el, since the rel­a­tive val­ue of the sin­gle cur­ren­cies with respect to world mon­ey (gold) express­es the greater or less­er productivity/intensity88 of the work­ing day in each nation; then, on the oth­er hand, it also deter­mines the lim­its with­in which this oper­a­tion unfolds. In the inter­na­tion­al mon­e­tary sys­tem that Marx has before him (in the process of becom­ing the Gold stan­dard89 ) the adjust­ment of val­ue out­side of the nation­al cur­ren­cies is an auto­mat­ic func­tion of the trade deficit, and the move­ment of prices and of exchange rates should func­tion, accord­ing to the ortho­doxy of the sys­tem, in a man­ner inverse to the move­ments of the com­mod­i­ty mar­ket.90 This remains true even if, as is equal­ly well-known, Marx’s entire mon­e­tary con­cep­tion is rad­i­cal­ly opposed to Ricar­dian views and, for this rea­son, to that way of inter­pret­ing a causal link between move­ments of world mon­ey in the reserves of var­i­ous coun­tries, and price flows and exchange rates (a law which exact­ly inverts of the impor­tant account giv­en by quan­ti­ta­tive the­o­ry).


Ulti­mate­ly, this first approx­i­ma­tion of Marx’s texts con­cern­ing the world mar­ket pro­vides us with a frame­work that, although prob­a­bly ade­quate to the gen­er­al struc­ture of the mar­ket that pre­sent­ed itself to Marx, does not seem to mea­sure up, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, to the legit­i­mate expec­ta­tions of today’s read­er. Beyond the fact that it was nec­es­sar­i­ly con­di­tioned by tran­si­to­ry empir­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics (to which we shall return), this analy­sis seems above all to suf­fer from a clear dis­pro­por­tion between the cen­tral role that, in prin­ci­ple, is imput­ed to the world mar­ket (“mas­sive his­toric task of cap­i­tal”), and its recon­struc­tion as a mere result of the process, a social area that, even with cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment hav­ing been achieved at the max­i­mum lev­el – only glob­al labor is abstract labor, only world mon­ey is mon­ey – pre­serves a paleo-cap­i­tal­ist struc­ture in itself and for itself. And, above all, this analy­sis does not devel­op, at first glance, any active and autonomous func­tion aris­ing with­in devel­op­ment, lim­it­ing itself to record­ing, by its exis­tence alone, its lev­el and matu­ri­ty. Cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment is, in its essence, the devel­op­ment of a spe­cif­ic social for­ma­tion with­in nation­al envi­ron­ments – this seems to remain the view­point of Cap­i­tal. From this point of view, the world mar­ket is rep­re­sent­ed in real­i­ty as for­eign trade: and in this form it can then adopt a close rela­tion with the process of accu­mu­la­tion – in par­tic­u­lar as coun­ter­tenden­cy to the fall in the rate of prof­it.91 A tru­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry coun­ter­tenden­cy; on the one hand, in fact,

in so far as for­eign trade cheap­ens on the one hand the ele­ments of con­stant cap­i­tal and on the oth­er the nec­es­sary means of sub­sis­tence into which vari­able cap­i­tal is con­vert­ed, it acts to raise the rate of prof­it by rais­ing the rate of sur­plus-val­ue and reduc­ing the val­ue of con­stant cap­i­tal. It has a gen­er­al effect in this direc­tion in as much as it per­mits the scale of pro­duc­tion to be expand­ed. In this way it accel­er­ates accu­mu­la­tion, while it also accel­er­ates the fall in the vari­able cap­i­tal as against the con­stant, and hence the fall in the rate of prof­it. And where­as the expan­sion of for­eign trade was the basis of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion in its infan­cy, it becomes the spe­cif­ic prod­uct of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion as this pro­gress­es, through the inner neces­si­ty of this mode of pro­duc­tion and its need for an ever extend­ed mar­ket.92

Even in this case, there­fore, the rela­tion between for­eign trade and nation­al cap­i­tal­ist cycles con­firms the sec­ondary, even deriv­a­tive, loca­tion of the world mar­ket, with respect to the process of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion on a world scale. Tru­ly It seems, as we have just seen, a per­fect inver­sion with respect to the mer­can­tilist infan­cy of the sys­tem, when the illu­so­ry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of wealth with gold was still based on the fact that prod­ucts were trans­formed into com­modi­ties, and there­fore into mon­ey, only on the world mar­ket.

But does all this tru­ly exhaust what Marx can tell us about the world mar­ket, or does it not instead con­sti­tute a still par­tial and deformed rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his method of analy­sis?




The struc­ture of the world mar­ket that emerges from those of Marx’s texts which we have just reviewed, indeed cor­re­sponds, albeit only par­tial­ly, to a (nec­es­sary but insuf­fi­cient) first lev­el of his method of inves­ti­ga­tion: it cor­re­sponds, that is, to the deter­mi­na­tion of the­o­ret­i­cal fig­ures which elab­o­rate the phe­nom­e­non as an ide­al aver­age. It is the the­mat­ic arc which pro­ceeds from mon­ey as world mon­ey – with pre­cious met­als bal­anc­ing the sur­plus of the entire process of the inter­na­tion­al exchange of com­modi­ties (and, as such, “its for­mal char­ac­ter as medi­um of cir­cu­la­tion is essen­tial­ly irrel­e­vant”: its mate­r­i­al is every­thing93 ) – to the gen­er­al con­di­tions of inter­na­tion­al (equal-unequal) exchange. And it is an elab­o­ra­tion of fig­ures that ulti­mate­ly reflects, in its final com­po­nents, the very his­tor­i­cal process of the con­sti­tu­tion of the world mar­ket from the infan­cy of cap­i­tal to its first unfold­ing as a social rela­tion of exploita­tion, accord­ing to a suc­ces­sion that trans­forms, but also main­tains, the orig­i­nary ele­ments of the sys­tem. In oth­er words, Marx’s obser­va­tions on the role of pre­cious met­als are applic­a­ble here:

No mat­ter how much the mod­ern econ­o­mists imag­ine them­selves beyond Mer­can­til­ism, in peri­ods of gen­er­al cri­sis gold and sil­ver still ap­pear in pre­cise­ly this role, in 1857 as much as in 1600.94

The addi­tion­al (the­o­ret­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal) step, which should con­sid­er the world mar­ket pre­cise­ly as the con­tin­u­ous result and pre­sup­po­si­tion of devel­op­ment, does not – it is use­less to deny it – end up sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly elab­o­rat­ed in Marx. To over­bur­den the texts we have just now recalled in this way serves only to dis­tort his thought in a prim­i­tivis­tic man­ner.

All this does not mean that it is not pos­si­ble to gath­er some gen­er­al indi­ca­tions for a fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion with­in Marx’s own writ­ings. On the con­trary. In the first place, there are indi­ca­tions on the cor­rect man­ner of under­stand­ing the set of con­cepts recalled in the pre­ced­ing para­graph. Dis­cussing the prob­lem of the rel­a­tive wage in the twen­ti­eth chap­ter of the first book, Marx sets up at, a cer­tain point, a deci­sive polemic with Carey. Accord­ing to him, the advan­tage of invest­ing cap­i­tal in var­i­ous coun­tries accord­ing to their dif­fer­ent wage rates would be dis­tort­ed by the inter­ven­tion of the state in the dis­tri­b­u­tion of nation­al income. Accord­ing to Carey, there­fore,

state inter­ven­tion has fal­si­fied the nat­ur­al eco­nom­ic rela­tion. The dif­fer­ent nation­al wages must there­fore be cal­cu­lat­ed on the assump­tion that the part of them that goes to the state in the form of tax­es was received by the work­er him­self. Ought not Mr. Carey to con­sid­er fur­ther whether these “state expens­es” are not the “nat­ur­al fruits” of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment? His rea­son­ing is quite wor­thy of the man who, first of all, declared that cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions of pro­duc­tion were eter­nal laws of nature and rea­son, whose free and har­mo­nious work­ing was only dis­turbed by the inter­ven­tion of the state, and then dis­cov­ered after­wards that state inter­ven­tion, i.e. the defense of those laws of nature and rea­son by the state, alias the sys­tem of pro­tec­tion, was neces­si­tat­ed by the dia­bol­i­cal influ­ence of Eng­land on the world mar­ket, an influ­ence which, it appears, does not spring from the nat­ur­al laws of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion.95

The cri­tique of free-tradist [libero-scam­bista] opti­mism – to which even the young Marx had giv­en his “rev­o­lu­tion­ary sup­port”96 – is impor­tant in this con­text because it neat­ly clar­i­fies that any rigid­ly dual­ist con­cep­tion of the rela­tion between the “nat­u­ral­ness” [nat­u­ral­ità] of eco­nom­ic laws and the “arti­fi­cial­i­ty” of polit­i­cal-insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nisms is total­ly extra­ne­ous to Marx. The state, and not only the free-trade97 state but also the pro­tec­tion­ist one, is also a nat­ur­al prod­uct [frut­to] of the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal. And vice ver­sa: the inter­fer­ence of the state sub­sists in what­ev­er “com­mer­cial” pol­i­cy is adopt­ed, on the basis of the needs of devel­op­ment in each phase. There­fore, as much as com­pe­ti­tion is not the sole pos­si­ble ter­rain for accu­mu­la­tion, so, on the oth­er hand, does com­pe­ti­tion involve [impli­ca] the state, and is always reg­u­lat­ed by the state [statal­mente].98

Sec­ond­ly, there is rich mate­r­i­al (only par­tial­ly stud­ied thus far) in the analy­ses con­duct­ed by Marx “in the field,” so to speak, on com­mer­cial cycles and on inter­na­tion­al crises (those of 1857 and 1866), in part resumed and re-elab­o­rat­ed in A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my, the Grun­drisse, and in the third book of Cap­i­tal (part 5). In these writ­ings, the abstract con­nec­tion between the fig­ures – each pos­sess­ing its own func­tion – that com­pose the total cycle (even and, above all, in its inter­na­tion­al dimen­sion) is pre­sent­ed in its liv­ing and con­tra­dic­to­ry dynam­ic and is deter­mined polit­i­cal­ly. The ter­rain of the cri­sis, in par­tic­u­lar the inter­na­tion­al cri­sis, is priv­i­leged by Marx, start­ing from the fail­ure of 1848, less as a mate­r­i­al con­di­tion of any rev­o­lu­tion­ary relaunch­ing (an “oppor­tu­ni­ty”), than as a unique sphere that reveals, all the way through, the con­tra­dic­to­ry trans­for­ma­tion that the sys­tem has been under­go­ing in the mean­time, and the dif­fer­ent role assumed by the var­i­ous com­po­nents of the cycle (pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal, mon­e­tary cap­i­tal, “inter­est-bear­ing” cap­i­tal, spec­u­la­tive cap­i­tal) in the liv­ing struc­ture of the polit­i­cal pow­er of cap­i­tal.99 The world mar­ket is pre­cise­ly at the cen­ter of Marx’s work of exca­va­tion, and it is so from a per­spec­tive which is indeed new with respect to the cat­e­go­r­i­al rigid­i­ty of the schema illus­trat­ed in the pre­ced­ing para­graph. In this case, every­thing from which it was at first nec­es­sary to abstract, now comes to the fore: “the con­nec­tions by means of the world mar­ket, its con­junc­tures, the move­ment of the prices of the mar­ket, the peri­ods of cred­it, the cycles of indus­try and of busi­ness, the alter­na­tion of pros­per­i­ty and cri­sis”: in a word, if one wants, the con­crete move­ment of inter­na­tion­al “com­pe­ti­tion.” Sim­pli­fy­ing to the extreme: that schema real­ly100 deter­mined the world mar­ket as glob­al divi­sion of labor, medi­at­ed by for­eign trade, on the basis of the diverse capac­i­ty of cap­i­tal to exer­cise the direct exploita­tion of labor-pow­er. Indeed, “the irrel­e­vance to the dif­fer­ence in the rates of prof­it” that pre­sides over the inter­na­tion­al exchange of com­modi­ties estab­lish­es, upon encounter, the right of more devel­oped cap­i­tal to prof­it from the dif­fer­ence inher­ent in the inequal­i­ty of the exchange. And one can add that, in the con­text of the Ricar­dian pre­sup­po­si­tions of that rea­son­ing, this does not fore­close the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the accu­mu­la­tion of periph­er­al cap­i­tal, if it suc­ceeds in fur­ther squeez­ing (and his­tor­i­cal­ly it does!) a real wage which seems absolute­ly (in phys­i­cal terms) close to mere sur­vival, though it may even­tu­al­ly be high­er in rel­a­tive terms.101 This struc­ture of inter­na­tion­al trade, there­fore, rewards cap­i­tal that has already reached – that has already been com­pelled to reach – the phase of exploita­tion in terms of rel­a­tive sur­plus-val­ue, and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly it out­lines an inter­na­tion­al divi­sion of labor that fos­ters, at its edges, the most exac­er­bat­ed ten­sions of the method of extrac­tion of absolute sur­plus-val­ue. And so how far we are, even in the shar­ing of pre­sup­po­si­tions, from the idyl­lic frame­work of inter­na­tion­al spe­cial­iza­tion offered by the the­o­ry of com­par­a­tive costs!

In this frame­work, mon­ey appears in its most “emi­nent” form, as world mon­ey, but also in its most sim­ple. Mon­ey as mon­ey, mea­sure of val­ue in its naked, metal­lic, mate­r­i­al exis­tence; means of acqui­si­tion and, above all, of pay­ment, where the imbal­ance of the mutu­al debt posi­tions of states (due to struc­tur­al caus­es, sud­den needs, or crises) comes to expire; instru­ment of hoard­ing (reserve) for the needs of this spe­cif­ic cir­cu­la­tion. Yet it is only when cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment at the strong points of the sys­tem reach­es a cer­tain his­toric thresh­old of matu­ri­ty that the con­nec­tion between inter­nal cycles and the world mar­ket dis­plays, with­in it, (world) mon­ey as cap­i­tal. The lin­ear pro­por­tion­al­i­ty of the rules of (pure­ly mon­e­tary) sim­ple cir­cu­la­tion is dis­rupt­ed by the dis­pro­por­tion­al­i­ty spe­cif­ic to those of cap­i­tal­ist cir­cu­la­tion. At first, and to a cer­tain extent lat­er on, in “nor­mal” peri­ods that pro­por­tion­al­i­ty seems still to func­tion: the inter­na­tion­al finance cir­cuit func­tions as sim­ple pro­por­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the nation­al finance cir­cuits.102

As soon as the gen­er­al cri­sis has burned itself out, and we again have a state of equi­lib­ri­um, the gold and sil­ver […] is again dis­trib­uted in the pro­por­tions in which it pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ed as hoards in the var­i­ous coun­tries. With cir­cum­stances remain­ing oth­er­wise the same, the rel­a­tive size of the hoard in each coun­try is deter­mined by this country’s role in the world mar­ket.103

The task of crises – of gen­er­al crises – is pre­cise­ly that of reveal­ing the intri­cate fab­ric of rela­tions that the evo­lu­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist chrysalis has woven togeth­er on the glob­al lev­el. It is worth not­ing that, already in its ele­men­tary exis­tence of sim­ple cir­cu­la­tion, the world mar­ket con­tains in itself the germs of cri­sis. In his cri­tique of Say, Marx had shown that the uni­ty of the acts of exchange is dialec­ti­cal: it includes the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the rup­ture of its extremes. And yet, “no more than the pos­si­bil­i­ty. For the devel­op­ment of this pos­si­bil­i­ty into a real­i­ty a whole series of con­di­tions is required, which do not yet even exist from the stand­point of the sim­ple cir­cu­la­tions of com­modi­ties.”104 The study of these rela­tions is, indeed, the great sub­ject of his writ­ings recalled here.

Now, it is clear­ly not our aim here to com­pose, in a sys­tem­at­ic man­ner, the numer­ous frag­ments of analy­sis on the con­junc­ture of the world mar­ket which Marx has left us.105 In the con­text of his gen­er­al polemic against Ricardo’s mon­e­tarist con­cep­tions, he gen­er­al­ly uti­lizes the con­tri­bu­tions of the “bank­ing” school, antic­i­pat­ing the con­tra­dic­to­ry func­tions of the Gold stan­dard. From these analy­ses, we are inter­est­ed in under­lin­ing only one point here. Let us allow Marx him­self to speak once more:

As regards the ques­tion of imports and exports, it should be not­ed that all coun­tries are suc­ces­sive­ly caught up in the cri­sis, and that it is then appar­ent that they have all, with few excep­tions, both export­ed and import­ed too much; i.e. the bal­ance of pay­ments is against them all, so that the root of the prob­lem is actu­al­ly not the bal­ance of pay­ments at all […] In times of gen­er­al cri­sis the bal­ance of pay­ments is against every coun­try, at least against every com­mer­cial­ly devel­oped coun­try, but always against each of these in suc­ces­sion – like vol­ley fir­ing – as soon as the sequence of pay­ments reach­es it; and once the cri­sis has bro­ken out in Eng­land, for exam­ple, this sequence of dates is con­densed into a fair­ly short peri­od. It is then evi­dent that all these coun­tries have simul­ta­ne­ous­ly over-export­ed (i.e. over-pro­duced) and over-import­ed (i.e. over-trad­ed) and that in all of them prices were inflat­ed and cred­it over­stretched. In every case the same col­lapse fol­lows. The phe­nom­e­non of a drain of gold then affects each of them in turn, and shows by its very uni­ver­sal­i­ty: (1) that the drain of gold is sim­ply a phe­nom­e­non of the cri­sis, and not its basis; (2) that the sequence in which this drain of gold affects the dif­fer­ent coun­tries sim­ply indi­cates when the series reach­es them, for a final set­tle­ment of accounts; when their own day of cri­sis comes and its latent ele­ments in turn emerge in their own case.106

The point here is not the intrin­sic “nature” of the cri­sis: the “excess pro­duc­tion” which is imput­ed here must be read, as always, with­in the gen­er­al con­text of the Marx­i­an dis­course of the cri­sis. But, as to its inter­na­tion­al dimen­sion, it is impor­tant to under­line Marx’s insis­tence on the always “real,” and not mon­e­tary, cause of the cri­sis. In the con­crete eco­nom­ic and mon­e­tary sys­tem which he has before him, the diver­si­ty and the inequal­i­ty of nation­al devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions and the nation­al admin­is­tra­tion of cred­it (of the rate of inter­est) induce dis­pro­por­tions that spread through prox­im­i­ty – through the nexus of the bal­ances of pay­ments – from one coun­try to anoth­er. Any attempt to block this trans­mis­sion may count as a defer­ral that aggra­vates the sit­u­a­tion: this is a leit­mo­tif of Marx’s empir­i­cal analy­ses of the inter­na­tion­al con­junc­ture.107 In this sense, this mate­r­i­al, which pos­es the prob­lem of world mon­ey in a new and con­crete man­ner, does not sub­stan­tive­ly nul­li­fy the schema illus­trat­ed ear­li­er. Ulti­mate­ly, the struc­ture of inter­na­tion­al trade, as we have seen it, remains in place, as a func­tion of the devel­op­ment of sin­gle nation­al poles: the increas­ing auton­o­miza­tion of finan­cial mech­a­nisms, and the finan­cial flows that Marx seeks to recon­struct in their par­tic­u­lar­i­ties, must con­tin­u­al­ly be resolved in the cri­sis, in the recon­fir­ma­tion of the equi­lib­ri­um or, indeed, in a new com­mer­cial equi­lib­ri­um depend­ing on a dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tion of the world mar­ket, which has emerged, in the mean­time, in part through colo­nial par­ti­tion­ing.108


The ter­rain of inter­na­tion­al crises (as moments of truth in the trans­for­ma­tions of the world mar­ket) con­se­quent­ly becomes a priv­i­leged ter­rain of analy­sis. And it is tru­ly sur­pris­ing, then, that this is one of the sub­jects least stud­ied by Marx­ists. It seems almost as though the con­cise and in itself valid Lenin­ist polemic of the 1890s against the posi­tions of the legal Marx­ists, on the ques­tion of the “for­eign” mar­ket, has since imped­ed the research – in fact, when it comes to the inter­na­tion­al cycle-cri­sis trend dur­ing the 1800s, we are still com­pelled to refer to Tugan-Baranowski’s Han­del­skrisen! How­ev­er, it is pre­cise­ly between the epoch of Eng­lish hege­mo­ny on the world mar­ket – Marx’s epoch – and the two decades pre­ced­ing the first world war – Lenin’s epoch – that one can observe a first his­tor­i­cal leap in the rela­tion between nation­al cap­i­tal­ist cycles and world mar­ket. The cri­sis of the 1870s (after the Com­mune!) is the ulti­mate nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry cri­sis, and not only in a lit­er­al sense. It is with­in this “long depres­sion” that the bases of a trans­for­ma­tion in the rela­tion are estab­lished.

The belle époque image of the era of the Gold stan­dard and its automa­tisms is, of course, com­plete­ly for­mu­la­ic. Already it con­tained with­in it a series of con­tra­dic­tions that were pre­vent­ed from explod­ing before the Great War only by par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances and the wise use of poli­cies which were far from the dom­i­nant lais­sez-faire [liberista] ide­ol­o­gy. Mean­while, there was the change of the Unit­ed Kingdom’s posi­tion in the field of the world mar­ket. The decline of the Eng­lish com­mer­cial bal­ance in the final quar­ter of the last cen­tu­ry is a fact of his­toric impor­tance. The reces­sion of the “dia­bol­i­cal Eng­lish influ­ence” on inter­na­tion­al trade is, fun­da­men­tal­ly, the result of the appear­ance on the scene of new poles of nation­al cap­i­tal­ism, Ger­many and the U.S. above all. Already then, this was seen with hope by the elder­ly Engels: the fall of the Eng­lish monop­oly (monop­oly of the great­est ener­gy source, car­bon, plus colo­nial monop­oly) would have made social­ism reap­pear among the Eng­lish work­ers.109 Mean­while Ger­man, French, and, sub­se­quent­ly, Amer­i­can com­modi­ties con­sis­tent­ly sur­passed Eng­lish ones on all the “free” mar­kets. The Lis­t­ian con­tro­ver­sy against the “school” was final­ly find­ing its real­iza­tion: the pro­tec­tion of inter­nal indus­tri­al­iza­tion – which, while grad­u­at­ed in var­i­ous ways, was always deci­sive – proved to be suc­cess­ful. The expan­sion of inter­na­tion­al trade, aside from devel­op­ing accord­ing to the ini­tial pro­por­tions or con­tin­u­al­ly recon­quer­ing the equi­lib­ri­um (as the slick hypothe­ses of “com­par­a­tive advan­tages” would have it), dra­mat­i­cal­ly and irre­versibly dis­e­qui­li­brat­ed the form and the very nature of the world mar­ket. In this sense (we will return to this), with respect to the Eng­lish “mod­el” – the mod­el, as spec­i­fied in the “Intro­duc­tion” of Cap­i­tal, for the future devel­op­ment of the con­ti­nent – and, after the French col­lapse of 1870 and the inter­rup­tion of the Bona­partist mod­ern­iza­tion, the tru­ly deci­sive his­tor­i­cal site from the point of view of the ten­den­cies, Wil­helmine Ger­many (and, imme­di­ate­ly after­wards, the Unit­ed States).

In the sec­ond place, and in a par­al­lel man­ner, a new polar­iza­tion of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial struc­ture is estab­lished. This is obvi­ous­ly a very com­plex top­ic, of which we seek to grasp, here, only one point. The mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of the finan­cial cen­ters (Lon­don and Paris, Berlin and New York)110 cor­re­sponds only appar­ent­ly to the ide­o­log­i­cal schema sub­tend­ing the “the­o­ret­i­cal” oper­a­tion of the Gold stan­dard. In real­i­ty, it takes the con­tra­dic­tion inher­ent in its real oper­a­tion to the extreme. On one side, it con­firms the indef­i­nite­ly open struc­ture of the system’s auto­mat­ic equi­lib­ria: in fact, it repro­duces on the finan­cial ter­rain (world mon­ey mar­ket, exchange mar­ket, loan cap­i­tal mar­ket) the changes that have tak­en place in the real divi­sion of (cap­i­tal­is­ti­cal­ly) pro­duc­tive labor; on the oth­er, how­ev­er, it requires and finds a “clo­sure” in the role main­tained in any case by the pound ster­ling: the Gold stan­dard is born (and main­tains itself) in real­i­ty as Ster­ling stan­dard.111 Yet it was so in a masked man­ner, so to speak, which was nonethe­less in con­tra­dic­tion with the guid­ing prin­ci­ples and, there­fore, inti­mate­ly frag­ile. Increas­ing­ly, where the mech­a­nisms that are the­o­ret­i­cal­ly suf­fi­cient for the equi­li­brat­ed financ­ing of exchanges do not reach, from the rig­ging of the dis­count rate to oper­a­tions on the open mar­ket, it involved ad hoc agree­ments and inter­ven­tions: only in this way, in cer­tain cru­cial moments, did world mon­ey flow to where, on a case-by-case basis, it was acute­ly nec­es­sary.

Accord­ing to De Cecco’s con­vinc­ing recon­struc­tion, it was to a large extent the spe­cif­ic func­tion car­ried out by the Eng­lish colo­nial domin­ions, in par­tic­u­lar by India, which allowed ster­ling a dom­i­nant role in the sys­tem, such as it was. Not only, as it is known, is the British com­mer­cial dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um more than off­set, begin­ning from the end of the last cen­tu­ry, by the enor­mous asset of prof­its gained through for­eign invest­ment, but colo­nial for­eign trade itself (Indi­an in par­tic­u­lar) recoups on the world mar­ket some sub­stan­tial sur­plus­es, the sup­ply of which is placed, willy-nil­ly, com­plete­ly into the hands of the finan­cial appa­ra­tus of the City.112 The umpteenth refu­ta­tion, obvi­ous­ly, of var­i­ous bour­geois his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal crit­i­cisms (as have already been men­tioned) of the Lenin­ist the­ses on the eco­nom­ic impor­tance of colo­nial oper­a­tions; but also, indi­rect con­fir­ma­tion (which can­not be devel­oped here) of the impos­si­bil­i­ty of assum­ing “colo­nial­ism” in terms of a total homo­gene­ity and a sin­gle func­tion.113


This is, obvi­ous­ly, the frame­work of the “clas­si­cal” debate on impe­ri­al­ism, which indeed reveals a con­tra­dic­to­ry atti­tude with respect to this ques­tion (and it is for this rea­son that we recall it here). On the one hand, one can say that it is cal­i­brat­ed exclu­sive­ly in rela­tion to the Eng­lish “case”: the fig­ure of the par­a­sitic state actu­al­ly con­forms to this, on account of the nature of the share of nation­al income earned from abroad, the dis­pro­por­tion­ate role main­tained by finance, and, final­ly, the “tech­no­log­i­cal stag­na­tion” simul­ta­ne­ous­ly expe­ri­enced by its indus­tri­al struc­ture.114 The clas­si­cal debate seems almost to attribute a sec­ondary impor­tance to the extra­or­di­nary his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the active role of insti­tu­tions in the late-join­er115 coun­tries (sig­nal­ly in Ger­many) – ini­tial­ly in the forms of an accen­tu­at­ed cen­tral­iza­tion of the oper­a­tions financ­ing indus­tri­al­iza­tion, and then, sub­se­quent­ly, with equip­ment intend­ed to direct­ly or indi­rect­ly gov­ern the struc­ture and com­po­si­tion of sup­ply – when com­pared to the ten­den­cies of the state-devel­op­ment rela­tion, which is instead treat­ed as essen­tial. On the oth­er hand, if a pol­i­tics of fierce pro­tec­tions and then of impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion, which tends even to destroy the world mar­ket as sim­ple area of exchange, cor­re­sponds to the any­thing but “par­a­sitic” role of the state with­in sec­ond-com­er116 indus­tri­al­iza­tion, in this very phase the con­di­tions, which had up to that point imped­ed the evo­lu­tion of the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket from a mere moment of sim­ple cir­cu­la­tion to becom­ing the direct cen­ter of the accu­mu­la­tion process on a world scale, are chang­ing rad­i­cal­ly. But con­cern­ing the whole process of inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, the clas­si­cal debate per­forms a read­ing by all means con­di­tioned by what has just been said.

The inter­na­tion­al move­ments of labor-pow­er in this phase are events which large­ly remain to be stud­ied.117 What is cer­tain, how­ev­er, is that they repeat on an enor­mous scale, though in dif­fer­ent forms, the “orig­i­nary” move­ments of the “slave trade” [trat­ta]: let it suf­fice to recall the mas­sive extrac­tions of labor-pow­er from India and Chi­na, both towards oth­er colo­nial areas (Africa) and to the metrop­o­lis, or to recall the waves of transocean­ic immi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States. If all this does not elim­i­nate the exis­tence of closed nation­al mar­kets of labor, still less is the rel­a­tive inter­na­tion­al immo­bil­i­ty of cap­i­tal over­come by the waves of “cap­i­tal export,” which the clas­si­cal debate on impe­ri­al­ism right­ly places at the cen­ter of its atten­tion, and which con­sti­tute in fact the first mas­sive his­tor­i­cal phe­nom­e­non of “inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion” of cap­i­tal. In oth­er words, this is still a hybrid form, so to speak, of tran­si­tion, of the process of inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion: this does not there­fore rep­re­sent a real qual­i­ta­tive leap of the sys­tem. As the recent lit­er­a­ture on for­eign invest­ment has put into relief, this is dom­i­nat­ed in this phase, quan­ti­ta­tive­ly and qual­i­ta­tive­ly, by the fig­ure of the invest­ment “port­fo­lio.”118 Although the nature of the lat­ter can­not be made clear but in con­trast to “direct” invest­ment (a dis­tinc­tion that is not nec­es­sar­i­ly ful­ly per­ceived in this moment), the phe­nom­e­non appears recon­struct­ed, even then, in a sub­stan­tial­ly cor­rect man­ner.

In the first place, there are state and com­mu­nal loans. The vast growth of the state bud­gets, caused both by the grow­ing com­plex­i­ty of eco­nom­ic life in gen­er­al, and by the mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the entire “nation­al econ­o­my,” makes it ever more nec­es­sary to con­tract for­eign loans to defray the cur­rent expens­es […] Anoth­er form of cap­i­tal export is the sys­tem of “par­tic­i­pa­tion,” where an enter­prise (indus­tri­al, com­mer­cial, or bank­ing) of coun­try A holds stocks or bonds of an enter­prise in coun­try B. A third form is the financ­ing of for­eign enter­pris­es, cre­at­ing of cap­i­tal for a def­i­nite and spec­i­fied aim […] A fourth form is cred­it with­out any spec­i­fied aim (the lat­ter calls for “financ­ing”) extend­ed by the large banks of one coun­try to the banks of anoth­er coun­try. The fifth and last form is the buy­ing of for­eign stocks, etc., with the pur­pose of hold­ing them (com­pare activ­i­ties of banks of issue), etc.

These lines [righe] by Bukharin are from 1915, but the gen­er­al lines [linee gen­er­ali] of more recent stud­ies do not dif­fer sub­stan­tial­ly from this descrip­tion.119

The ade­quate the­o­ret­i­cal fig­ure that encom­pass­es [ricom­pren­dere] the nature and dynam­ic of this spe­cif­ic mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal is already total­ly devel­oped in Marx: it involves cap­i­tal as com­mod­i­ty – the loan cap­i­tal mar­ket. In the 5th sec­tion of the third book Marx unfolds the gen­er­al lines of his the­o­ry of this mar­ket, albeit in a rather frag­ment­ed man­ner:

On the mon­ey mar­ket it is only lenders and bor­row­ers who face one anoth­er. The com­mod­i­ty has the same form, mon­ey. All par­tic­u­lar forms of cap­i­tal, aris­ing from its invest­ment in par­tic­u­lar spheres of pro­duc­tion or cir­cu­la­tion, are oblit­er­at­ed here. It exists in the undif­fer­en­ti­at­ed, self-iden­ti­cal form of inde­pen­dent val­ue, of mon­ey. Com­pe­ti­tion between par­tic­u­lar spheres now ceas­es; they are all thrown togeth­er as bor­row­ers of mon­ey, and cap­i­tal con­fronts them all in a form still indif­fer­ent to the spe­cif­ic man­ner and mode of its appli­ca­tion. Here cap­i­tal real­ly does emerge, in the pres­sure of its demand and sup­ply, as the com­mon cap­i­tal of the class, where­as indus­tri­al cap­i­tal appears like this only in the move­ment and com­pe­ti­tion between par­tic­u­lar spheres.120

Whence the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of the rate of inter­est and its cri­tique of the exis­tence of a “nat­ur­al rate”:

As far as the per­ma­nent­ly fluc­tu­at­ing mar­ket rate of inter­est is con­cerned, this is a fixed mag­ni­tude at any giv­en moment, just like the mar­ket price of com­modi­ties, because on the mon­ey mar­ket all cap­i­tal for loan con­fronts the func­tion­ing cap­i­tal as an over­all mass; i.e. the rela­tion­ship between the sup­ply of loan cap­i­tal on the one hand, and the demand for it on the oth­er, is what deter­mines the mar­ket lev­el of inter­est at any giv­en time.121

The rate of prof­it – which exists unique­ly as a ten­den­cy, as a move­ment tend­ing to equal­ize the par­tic­u­lar rates of prof­it – con­sti­tutes only the exter­nal lim­it of the deter­mi­na­tion of the rate of inter­est, but the laws of for­ma­tion of the one are in fact dif­fer­ent from those of the oth­er – their con­nec­tion clear­ly resides only in the move­ment of the cycle. But the dif­fer­ent nature of the two rates has a fun­da­men­tal impor­tance in this con­text, pre­cise­ly for that aspect from which Marx’s analy­sis seems to want to abstract:

In stress­ing this dis­tinc­tion between the inter­est rate and the prof­it rate, we have so far left aside the fol­low­ing two fac­tors, which favour the con­sol­i­da­tion of the inter­est rate: (1) the his­tor­i­cal pre-exis­tence of inter­est-bear­ing cap­i­tal and the exis­tence of a gen­er­al rate of inter­est hand­ed down by tra­di­tion; (2) the far stronger direct influ­ence that the world mar­ket exerts on the estab­lish­ment of the inter­est rate, inde­pen­dent­ly of the con­di­tions of pro­duc­tion in a coun­try, as com­pared with its influ­ence on the prof­it rate.122

Exact­ly as the rate of inter­est his­tor­i­cal­ly antic­i­pates the for­ma­tion of the rate of prof­it, so it antic­i­pates, at the lev­el of the world mar­ket, the ten­den­tial move­ments of the rate of prof­it. The influ­ence of the world mar­ket on the nation­al rates of inter­est is in fact only an appear­ance [fac­cia] of the inverse process. Marx affirms this explic­it­ly at the end of his analy­sis of cred­it:

The cred­it sys­tem hence accel­er­ates the mate­r­i­al devel­op­ment of the pro­duc­tive forces and the cre­ation of the world mar­ket, which it is the his­tor­i­cal task of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion to bring to a cer­tain lev­el of devel­op­ment, as mate­r­i­al foun­da­tions for the new form of pro­duc­tion. At the same time, cred­it accel­er­ates the vio­lent out­breaks of this con­tra­dic­tion, crises, and with these the ele­ments of dis­so­lu­tion of the old mode of pro­duc­tion.123

Cap­i­tal export and the process of cap­i­tal­ist inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion pre­ced­ing the first world war are large­ly the prac­ti­cal real­iza­tion of this antic­i­pa­to­ry func­tion of the move­ment of cap­i­tal that is pro­duc­tive of inter­est. As such, they repro­duce on a broad scale the char­ac­ter­is­tic ambiva­lence of this move­ment. The “clas­si­cal” lit­er­a­ture is aware, even with­out sys­tem­atiz­ing it, of this ambiva­lence. Thus, the Lenin­ist empha­sis on the con­trast between export of com­modi­ties and export of cap­i­tals does not change the fact that, in the last analy­sis, for Lenin as for almost all the con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous lit­er­a­ture, the sec­ond is still a direct func­tion of the first, on the “strict­ly eco­nom­ic” plane, accord­ing to the unchang­ing schema: export of man­u­fac­tured goods against import of raw mate­ri­als. And it is in this light that one should also read and appre­ci­ate the twofold polemic devel­oped by Lenin: on the one side, against any­one who undu­ly extends the moments of antic­i­pa­tion of that form of inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal (against Kaut­sky, but also against Bukharin); on the oth­er, against any­one who elides them with­in a “nor­mal form” of the cycle and with­in the schemas of enlarged repro­duc­tion.124




The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the antic­i­pa­to­ry func­tions of the move­ment of mon­ey cap­i­tal is, how­ev­er, the clos­est to a pre­view that the imme­di­ate con­tent of Marx’s analy­sis in Cap­i­tal can offer us. All of this analy­sis – in this way no dif­fer­ent from the “clas­sics” on impe­ri­al­ism – is linked to a series of his­tor­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al con­di­tions des­tined to com­plete­ly fade away. The turn­ing point, also for the inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ic and mon­e­tary sys­tem, is yet again the Great Depres­sion:

The great test­ing time for the mech­a­nism, even in the high­ly com­pli­cat­ed form in which it sub­sist­ed in the Twen­ties, came with the Great Depres­sion and con­tin­ued into World War II. By this time clas­si­cal mon­e­tary the­o­ry was sub­stan­tial­ly dis­cred­it­ed because eco­nom­ic real­i­ty was so patent­ly in con­flict with its basic pos­tu­lates. It is not much of an exag­ger­a­tion to say that in 1939 a large sec­tion of received eco­nom­ic the­o­ry, at least that which dealt with inter­na­tion­al trad­ing and mon­e­tary arrange­ments (in some respects the most impor­tant seg­ment of eco­nom­ics), lay in ruins -- as did the actu­al net­work of rela­tion­ships which it set out to explain […] The war of 1939-1945 was a water­shed, and, after­ward, there was a new begin­ning in inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ics.125

What then are the essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics of this new phase? The gen­er­al datum from which it is nec­es­sary to start, and to explain, is made up of the unprece­dent­ed “ser­vice” [prestazione] offered by the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem as a whole from the end of the war through the entire 1970s. Start­ing from the imme­di­ate post­war peri­od, all of the signs of devel­op­ment begin to move upwards with rhythms that far exceed the his­tor­i­cal trend. The main nucle­us of this pro­longed expan­sion is con­sti­tut­ed pre­cise­ly by the accel­er­at­ed devel­op­ment and new con­fig­u­ra­tion assumed by the mon­e­tary mar­ket: its growth rate is, in fact, sig­nif­i­cant­ly supe­ri­or to all oth­er indi­ca­tors.

At the base of the per­for­mance of post­war west­ern cap­i­tal­ism are three inter­re­lat­ed fac­tors: the con­trol of inter­nal demand through a pol­i­tics of inter­ven­tion and pub­lic spend­ing, the excep­tion­al devel­op­ment of demand and glob­al com­merce, and the inter­na­tion­al mon­e­tary sys­tem.126

More pre­cise­ly, the pro­longed func­tion­ing of a pos­i­tive spi­ral of export-invest­ment-cred­it-export for all of the coun­tries with major cap­i­tal­ist cities is based on two con­di­tions: on the one hand, the gen­er­al­iza­tion to all these coun­tries of “Key­ne­sian” mod­els of pub­lic assis­tance [sosteg­no] for demand and of con­trol of the cycle which act as “shock absorbers” for the reces­sive pres­sures that orig­i­nate from one coun­try or anoth­er in iso­la­tion. On the oth­er hand, this spi­ral is based on an inter­na­tion­al finan­cial mech­a­nism that sup­ports the increase of exchange and is indeed secured by the deficit of the bal­ance of U.S. pay­ments.127

Togeth­er, these two con­di­tions make up the essence of the new field of rela­tions in which glob­al cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment takes place after the Great Depres­sion. And these two homo­ge­neous con­di­tions are the fruit of the same the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal inspi­ra­tion. If the “Key­ne­sian­ism” of the inter­nal pol­i­tics of the reg­u­la­tion of the cycle start­ing from the New Deal128 is by now com­mon­place, what pre­sides over the recon­struc­tion of the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem of eco­nom­ics after the sec­ond world war is less per­cep­ti­ble. It seems to be unde­ni­able that not only the guid­ing “spir­it” but also the very con­crete con­tent of the prob­lems solved by the sequence of acts and insti­tu­tions in which recon­struc­tion con­sists are per­fect­ly com­ple­men­tary and, in some way, part of a sin­gle con­scious design of the gov­ern­ment of devel­op­ment at the glob­al lev­el. Cer­tain­ly, for the most impor­tant of such acts, the Bret­ton Woods agree­ments, the approach sup­port­ed by Keynes him­self was defeat­ed in the con­fronta­tion with White’s Amer­i­can plan. Cer­tain­ly (and this counts for much more), what­ev­er the preva­lent “ide­ol­o­gy” at Bret­ton Woods was, the actu­al sys­tem of financ­ing the expan­sion of the glob­al mar­ket was deter­mined on its own, real­iz­ing what the cau­tious con­ser­vatism of Jacob Vin­er had been defin­ing since 1944 as a “day­dream” and, fur­ther, “not a whol­ly pleas­ant one” – a glob­al gold-dol­lar stan­dard.129 But a gen­uine con­trast between the White plan and the Keynes plan did not exist, which Vin­er him­self saw well in his own imme­di­ate com­men­tary.130 What large­ly divid­ed them and there­fore what was in ques­tion was not Keynes’s “Key­ne­sian­ism” but his offi­cial role as bear­er of the inter­ests of the declin­ing British Empire. For all the fun­da­men­tal prob­lems of the inter­na­tion­al recon­struc­tion of the sys­tem, the core rec­om­men­da­tions were the same: Bret­ton Woods was only the enforce­ment [gius­tizia] of ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, reg­is­ter­ing the true rela­tions of force. The pri­ma­ry neces­si­ty is the sta­bi­liza­tion of the mon­e­tary field and, on the basis of this, the deter­mi­na­tion of an ade­quate mech­a­nism of financ­ing the expan­sion of trade; even so the Amer­i­can sys­tem, main­ly ori­ent­ed toward the pur­pos­es of sta­bi­liza­tion, pre­vails; the idea (the ide­ol­o­gy) of the ban­cor131 must forcibly give way to the sim­ple fact of the con­cen­tra­tion of mon­e­tary gold in the Unit­ed States and, even more­so, of the capac­i­ty of the dol­lar to rep­re­sent the unpar­al­leled strong and func­tion­ing econ­o­my of the cap­i­tal­ist world. And yet the need, here com­mon to both lev­els, for a non-puni­tive sta­bi­liza­tion capa­ble of pro­vid­ing an ade­quate frame­work for gen­er­al devel­op­ment, is real­ly sat­is­fied by the mech­a­nism based on the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund. Uni­ty and fix­i­ty of exchange (defined by post-war deval­u­a­tion) and, after an appro­pri­ate time peri­od, the full con­vert­ibil­i­ty of the cur­ren­cies redesign, for the first time in decades, a gen­uine (mul­ti­lat­er­al) sys­tem able to make mon­e­tary sta­bil­i­ty, expressed by the return to fixed exchange through the link­age of the gold-dol­lar rela­tion, not an end in itself, but an indis­pens­able instru­ment of the expan­sion of the world mar­ket and as such a com­mon expan­sion for all of the met­ro­pol­i­tan coun­tries that par­tic­i­pate in it. Cer­tain­ly, the brand new supra­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions are not solv­ing the prob­lems of the for­ma­tion of liq­uid­i­ty and of the adjust­ment of the bal­ances of pay­ments as such, but rather, dur­ing the 1950s, the Mar­shall Plan and the impuls­es cre­at­ed by the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary machine (Korea).132 But pre­cise­ly what else was the Mar­shall Plan if not a real­is­tic inter­na­tion­al mech­a­nism for recon­quer­ing lev­els of full employ­ment based on the per­fect­ly Key­ne­sian prin­ci­ple of allow­ing debtor coun­tries to always have avail­able the nec­es­sary means to finance any con­tin­u­ous sur­plus or deficit in inter­na­tion­al pay­ments (until reach­ing “full” employ­ment)?133

If how­ev­er the def­i­n­i­tion of “reg­u­lat­ed” cap­i­tal­ism can and must be extend­ed, in the post-war peri­od, even to inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ic rela­tions, the per­for­mance of the mon­e­tary and finan­cial sys­tem is not in itself con­sid­ered able to explain events. The lat­ter, far from rep­re­sent­ing a sim­ple “com­ple­ment” of the impe­ri­al­ist sys­tem, is a fun­da­men­tal, con­stituent part of it. It is equal­ly obvi­ous, how­ev­er, that gold-exchange136 , exact­ly like the sys­tems that pre­ced­ed it, con­tained from the begin­ning its own inex­plic­a­ble and irre­solv­able inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions at a pure mon­e­tary lev­el. The force but also the con­tra­dic­tion of this sys­tem, which events then made explic­it and which per­sist unre­solved, is pre­cise­ly, as is well-known, in the dou­ble func­tion of the dol­lar as nation­al and glob­al mon­ey. But the true prob­lem raised by the mon­e­tary cri­sis, which became fran­tic at the end of the 1960s, is not so much that of the rea­sons which final­ly broke the “dynam­ic” equi­lib­ri­um on which the sys­tem stood for a long stretch, as it is that of the rea­sons why the open dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um on which it now stands – “a dol­lar is a dol­lar” as the essen­tial rule of the sys­tem – instead of lead­ing to an over­all cri­sis of the tra­di­tion­al type, albeit one with “puri­fy­ing” func­tions (a gen­er­al fall in the lev­els of the val­oriza­tion of cap­i­tal, and gen­er­al­ized insta­bil­i­ty of the mech­a­nisms of polit­i­cal con­trol), is result­ing in a sort of sta­bi­liza­tion sui gener­is. The pas­sage from the gold-exchange to the dol­lar stan­dard137, declared in August 1971, clear­ly could not unfold in a pain­less way. But the most char­ac­ter­is­tic trait of the cri­sis that we have now in front of us is in its pre­sen­ta­tion as a man­aged cri­sis [crisi gui­da­ta]. All of its deci­sive pas­sages, from the dec­la­ra­tion of the incon­vert­ibil­i­ty of the dol­lar to the oil “cri­sis” (with the expect­ed con­se­quences on all of the “inter­me­di­ate” coun­tries of the impe­ri­al­ist chain) are eas­i­ly recom­posed as the cards of an over­all strat­e­gy firm­ly in the hands of the dri­ving impe­ri­al­ist coun­try. If this is true, the prob­lem – the under­ly­ing prob­lem of a the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism today – becomes that of know­ing what is the sys­tem of forces that, imme­di­ate­ly dur­ing the post­war recon­struc­tion, came to con­sti­tute mod­ern impe­ri­al­ism – U.S. impe­ri­al­ism – in a bloc capa­ble of trans­form­ing itself grad­u­al­ly, with­out los­ing solid­i­ty but rather by increas­ing the inten­si­ty of its total rule.138

Delin­eat­ing such a sys­tem of forces is clear­ly not the task of this intro­duc­tion. The set of essays pre­sent­ed give, we believe, a wide enough idea of the cur­rent direc­tions of research. We can linger on one point, how­ev­er, which brings out the rich­est the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions (and hence also the space that is giv­en to the sub­ject in this col­lec­tion). I refer to the role of the multi­na­tion­al enter­prise with­in the frame­work of today’s neo-impe­ri­al­ism. The enor­mous dimen­sions of the phe­nom­e­non are large­ly known.139 But if offi­cial eco­nom­ic the­o­ry laments the impos­si­bil­i­ty of sit­u­at­ing the com­pre­hen­sive descrip­tion avail­able with­in the tra­di­tion­al the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ics, even Marx­ist the­o­ry seems not to have arrived at a sat­is­fy­ing sys­tem­iza­tion. The acqui­si­tions are most­ly neg­a­tive. Even those who, among the first to study this sub­ject, under­lined the cen­tral­i­ty of multi­na­tion­als in the “tremen­dous qual­i­ta­tive leap”141 car­ried out by the sys­tem with their dif­fu­sion, have since had to grad­u­al­ly exclude the applic­a­bil­i­ty of the old cat­e­gories of the clas­si­cal the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism in their dis­cus­sions: in the case of the “direct” invest­ment of cap­i­tal abroad, the agents of which are pre­cise­ly the multi­na­tion­als, it is not a gen­uine export of cap­i­tal; and nei­ther are multi­na­tion­als reducible to the spe­cif­ic bank-indus­try sym­bio­sis that con­sti­tutes finan­cial cap­i­tal.142 And even less, clear­ly, can an inter­pre­ta­tion in terms of the pure spec­u­la­tive move­ments of mon­ey cap­i­tal be applied, although a spec­u­la­tive com­po­nent is cer­tain­ly present in the finan­cial strat­e­gy of such com­pa­nies.143 And final­ly, nei­ther can the point of view of the enter­prise, as such, of its always more vast and dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed his­tor­i­cal process­es of trans­for­ma­tion and adap­ta­tion to mar­ket con­di­tions (in the broad sense), ful­ly account for the objec­tive, over­all mod­i­fi­ca­tion that the sys­tem is under­go­ing due to the pres­ence with­in it of this fig­ure of orga­ni­za­tion of cap­i­tal­ist com­mand.144 One thing is cer­tain, how­ev­er. The expan­sion of multi­na­tion­als, the inter­na­tion­al divi­sion of labor they have cre­at­ed, the con­trol held by the func­tions of inno­va­tion, and the absorp­tion of grow­ing and cru­cial quo­tas which appear for­mal­ly as for­eign trade char­ac­ter­ize a qual­i­ta­tive­ly new phase in the evo­lu­tion of the sys­tem. The wave of inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of cap­i­tal pri­or to the first world war repeats itself at a high­er and dif­fer­ent lev­el. For the first time, in this case, we can speak of the inte­grat­ed inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal­ist cycle. With­in the pro­duc­tive and social area dom­i­nat­ed by multi­na­tion­als – which is an area pre­cise­ly exter­nal, by def­i­n­i­tion, to nation­al-state dimen­sions – all of the con­di­tions come to be real­ized of a per­fect­ly Marx­i­an process of Aus­gle­ichung of pro­duc­tion for prof­it. The “ten­den­cy” of a gen­er­al rate of prof­it at the glob­al lev­el to con­sti­tute itself, although far from being able to real­ize itself today com­plete­ly over plan­e­tary dimen­sions, is no longer posed as a far away lim­it of the process but rather root­ed on a real pluri­na­tion­al artic­u­la­tion of the process­es of val­oriza­tion. Bour­geois the­o­ry itself shows it con­scious­ly: the the­o­ry of the “prod­uct cycle” (Ver­non) is an exam­ple of the invol­un­tary appli­ca­tion of the oper­at­ing schema of inno­va­tion with­in the accu­mu­la­tion of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue, devel­oped by Marx in the first book of Cap­i­tal.145

The real inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist cycle can­not how­ev­er be con­ceived as a lin­ear process of the exten­sion of con­di­tions of the widen­ing repro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal at the glob­al lev­el. It is by def­i­n­i­tion a polit­i­cal­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry process: the longer it extends itself, the more it must recu­per­ate in inten­si­ty and con­cen­tra­tion: the more it gains in artic­u­la­tions, it risks just as much in vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. One can turn to read, and it has been done, the con­tra­dic­tori­ness of the process in “objec­tive” terms: the ten­den­tial con­sti­tu­tion of a gen­er­al rate of prof­it would simul­ta­ne­ous­ly renew the ten­den­cy of such a rate to fall. If we exam­ine the qual­i­ta­tive­ly and quan­ti­ta­tive­ly deci­sive phe­nom­e­non of the new phase of inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, name­ly the “direct” invest­ment of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal in Europe through­out the 1970s, it has exact­ly this trend: a grad­ual “freeze”147 of the rates of prof­it inex­orably fol­low the ini­tial boom. But to see the new inter­na­tion­al artic­u­la­tion of cap­i­tal as yet anoth­er phase of youth or con­verse­ly as an extreme phase of matu­ri­ty – this means again aban­don­ing one­self to con­so­la­to­ry images. It has devel­oped con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly with a rad­i­cal polit­i­cal cri­sis that the work­ers’ strug­gle has imposed on the sys­tem in these same years. A cri­sis that has forced not the objec­tive valid­i­ty – nor­mal or mod­i­fied – of the law of val­ue, but a des­per­ate and pow­er­ful cap­i­tal­ist attempt to make it count any­way. Not the abstract oppo­si­tion between pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics, of laws of the (inter­na­tion­al) mar­ket and rea­sons of state [ragioni di sta­to], but the con­tra­dic­to­ry neces­si­ty of cap­i­tal to give once again an “appear­ance,” an eco­nom­ic form, to rela­tions of pure vio­lence, and at the same time to abstract, to make autonomous, to guar­an­tee such rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion, out­side and against the suf­fo­cat­ing objec­tiv­i­ty of the process (the “fall” of prof­it).

Right­ly, there­fore, the crit­i­cal rela­tion­ship that is deter­mined through the nature of the cycle of cap­i­tal at the lev­el and “dimen­sions” of the nation­al state – mean­ing, the inter­me­di­ate cap­i­tal­ist states of the impe­ri­al­ist chain – has become one of the cen­tral points of the cur­rent debate on impe­ri­al­ism. It is, first, the mate­r­i­al fact that the hege­mo­ny of multi­na­tion­als tends to make obso­lete all the old func­tions of the state (pro­tec­tion, etc.) now grouped, as can be seen, into the fig­ure of “lim­its” to inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion. The typol­o­gy of the var­i­ous forms of “defense” employed in these years against the “inva­sion” of for­eign cap­i­tal eas­i­ly shows an under­ly­ing fragili­ty over the long term, fuel­ing only entire­ly ide­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tives on the non-exis­tent pos­si­bil­i­ty of a glob­al “counter-offen­sive.”148 Sec­ond and more gen­er­al­ly, it is the cri­sis, today already glar­ing, of the old “Key­ne­sian” fig­ure of state-plan­ning, of a state capa­ble of an over­all con­trol over the domes­tic cycle and an effec­tive and dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed admin­is­tra­tion of the micro­eco­nom­ic vari­ables that com­pose it. The song sung from the depths [de pro­fundis] by Charles Levin­son for Keynes and the neo­clas­si­cal econ­o­mists, for Heller and for Fried­mann, is prob­a­bly pre­ma­ture (and also strong­ly off-key if it is in ref­er­ence to the Unit­ed States, a gen­uine “glob­al state” of con­tem­po­rary impe­ri­al­ism).149 Yet the insis­tence on the new qual­i­ty of infla­tion­ist process­es under­way and on the incon­sis­ten­cy of the tra­di­tion­al expla­na­tions and instru­ments of state con­trol appear ful­ly well-found­ed.

The rela­tion­ship between dimen­sions of the process of the inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of cap­i­tal (both on the ter­rain of labor process­es and on that of the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion) and dimen­sions of the nation-state can­not how­ev­er be posed in a mechan­i­cal way. Nat­u­ral­ly there is a prob­lem of dimen­sion­al ade­qua­cy. Bob Rowthorn has right­ly brought atten­tion back to the para­dox­i­cal­i­ty of the “Eng­lish case”: the weak­ness of the Eng­lish state pre­cise­ly as a con­se­quence of the inter­na­tion­al com­po­si­tion of its cap­i­tal.150 This is in gen­er­al the com­mon basis of the Euro­peanist ide­ol­o­gy, in all of its ver­sions: and it is already in itself sig­nif­i­cant that the most dis­parate posi­tions con­verge on this, rang­ing from the tra­di­tion­al Euro­peanism of the right to the neo-Euro­peanism of the work­ers’ move­ment. The true prob­lem is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent – and it is a mer­it of Nicos Poulantzas (also includ­ed in this anthol­o­gy) to have under­lined this point.151 The prob­lem is to ver­i­fy how much, in the pres­ence and at the same time in the qual­i­ta­tive mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the inter­na­tion­al “mobil­i­ty” of cap­i­tal, the tra­di­tion­al func­tions of the state (con­crete­ly, the Euro­pean states) have in the mean­time been requal­i­fy­ing them­selves as func­tions of the same inter­na­tion­al cycle of cap­i­tal hinged on the multi­na­tion­als. Poulantzas under­lines the effects of this process on the nation­al polit­i­cal class­es, the strate­gic break which is deter­mined with­in them on the basis of the dif­fer­ent nature of inter­ests rep­re­sent­ed. But the result­ing spark is help­ful for recon­struct­ing a series of insti­tu­tion­al mod­i­fi­ca­tions that are of enor­mous impor­tance today: the dis­lo­ca­tion of rela­tions between the appa­ra­tus­es of the state, emer­gence of new “sep­a­rate bod­ies,” and so on. The entire polit­i­cal ter­rain of work­ing-class strug­gle is char­ac­ter­ized from this; exact­ly as the entire mech­a­nism of the strug­gle-cycle rela­tion has come to change in the mean­time.152




The re-estab­lish­ment of a Marx­ist the­o­ry of the inter­na­tion­al cycle, includ­ing in its most recent his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment in which it no longer presents itself in the “sim­ple” guise of the world mar­ket, seems pos­si­ble fol­low­ing the tra­jec­to­ry out­lined in the pre­ced­ing para­graphs. Nonethe­less, the weighty objec­tivism of an analy­sis that moves exclu­sive­ly in the direc­tion sug­gest­ed up to now – an analy­sis that takes into account, in real­i­ty, only the con­tra­dic­to­ry, “crit­i­cal” pos­si­bil­i­ties of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment – will not have gone unno­ticed. The dynam­ic [mossa] but com­pact objec­tiv­i­ty of the “move­ment of cap­i­tal” that results, and against which only an exter­nal attack now appears pos­si­ble – it mat­ters lit­tle at this point whether it orig­i­nates from the cen­ter or the “periph­ery” – begins to yield, and to reveal its own inter­nal polit­i­cal ten­sions, if one splits the mech­a­nism, specif­i­cal­ly, along the lines of its polit­i­cal­ly deci­sive ele­ments. In short, it makes sense to go back to Marx to look for the keys to read­ing the glob­al inte­gra­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist cycle only inso­far as one does not there­by lose the fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tion that Lenin­ism has gen­er­at­ed. Impe­ri­al­ism is a glob­al fig­ure of the polit­i­cal com­mand of cap­i­tal over labor-pow­er. The inten­si­fi­ca­tion of inter-impe­ri­al­ist con­flicts and of inter­na­tion­al monop­o­lis­tic “com­pe­ti­tion,” far from dis­rupt­ing or weak­en­ing the terms of this com­mand, con­sti­tutes instead a his­toric moment of for­mi­da­ble cen­tral­iza­tion. Lenin nev­er tires of cau­tion­ing: we must not allow our­selves to be con­fused by the form, be it peace­ful or vio­lent, of the process, and we must not allow its uni­tary sub­stance to elude us.153 And, as is clear, inter-impe­ri­al­ist “con­tra­dic­tion” and its “inevitabil­i­ty” are noth­ing oth­er than the result of a qual­i­ta­tive leap that con­cerns all of the terms of the cap­i­tal­ist rela­tion of pro­duc­tion, from the ter­rain of direct pro­duc­tion to that of social cir­cu­la­tion and the real­iza­tion of the val­ue of goods, as well as of the polit­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al forms of the exer­cise of pow­er. On all of these grounds the cap­i­tal­ist equa­tion renews itself: con­cen­tra­tion of pro­duc­tion equals con­cen­tra­tion of pow­er. From the Kom­bi­nat to the trust, from the bank­ing oli­gop­oly to author­i­tar­i­an­ism as a state-form, the entire weav­ing of the orga­ni­za­tion of cap­i­tal­ist pow­er over labor-pow­er is being restruc­tured in the direc­tion of the over­all con­cen­tra­tion-increase of the lev­els of strate­gic deter­mi­na­tion, both as regards the nation­al sec­tions of labor-pow­er, and as regards all the mate­r­i­al con­di­tions – inter­na­tion­al as well as nation­al – of the uni­ty and flu­id­i­ty of the cycle of cap­i­tal.

But where does this qual­i­ta­tive leap orig­i­nate? What are its inter­nal, polit­i­cal-mate­r­i­al rea­sons and, thus, the cri­te­ria of its ver­i­fi­ca­tion from the cap­i­tal­ist point of view? Why, in short, impe­ri­al­ism as a new “phase” of devel­op­ment? It is pre­cise­ly this type of ques­tion – only appar­ent­ly naive – which is posed, with­out being made explic­it, in Lenin’s texts, that we must know how to “read.” The pres­ence of this fun­da­men­tal prob­lem­at­ic hori­zon is, after all, dis­cernible in Lenin’s insis­tence on cri­tiquing his own eco­nom­ic def­i­n­i­tion of the phe­nom­e­non while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly offer­ing an alter­na­tive “polit­i­cal” def­i­n­i­tion, not only as more com­pre­hen­sive, but as the only cor­rect one. Nonethe­less, as we have attempt­ed to show, there is a jump between the two. A log­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal link is miss­ing between the recon­struc­tion of the impe­ri­al­ist eco­nom­ic mech­a­nism and a def­i­n­i­tion of it which ends up apply­ing only on a strict par­ty ter­rain (as a head-on clash between the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ten­den­cy and the bour­geois ten­den­cy with­in the move­ment).155 What is miss­ing is a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly estab­lished rela­tion between the spe­cif­ic char­ac­ter of the strug­gle on the polit­i­cal ter­rain and that of the pow­er and dynam­ics of the eco­nom­ic cat­e­gories that are involved there­in. How can the “work­ers’” ten­den­cy of the move­ment present itself with the just claim to con­quer­ing the polit­i­cal rela­tion of force, if it has not exist­ed, more fun­da­men­tal­ly, as autonomous work­ing-class sub­ject [sogget­to operaio] with­in the rela­tion of pro­duc­tion?

Of course, in Lenin, only the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an extreme (extrem­ist) diver­gence of the terms of the rela­tion exists. Of course, it is legit­i­mate and pos­si­ble to “read” both Lenin’s ques­tion and his answer in the (cor­rect) sense that with­in impe­ri­al­ism there is – that impe­ri­al­ism itself is – a new and spe­cif­ic his­tor­i­cal qual­i­ty of class strug­gle, a new work­ing-class sub­ject [sogget­to operaio], a dif­fer­ent qual­i­ty of objec­tives and pro­gram, and anoth­er type and the­o­ry of orga­ni­za­tion. Is a dif­fer­ent approach to the prob­lem pos­si­ble today? That is, can the “weak link” in the log­ic of the Lenin­ist analy­sis be elim­i­nat­ed with recourse to fig­ures that more close­ly reflect the polit­i­cal qual­i­ty of the class com­po­si­tion with which we are deal­ing, and thus the over­all frame of ref­er­ence of the very impe­ri­al­ist con­fig­u­ra­tion of the sys­tem? We are refer­ring, as may be intu­it­ed, to cat­e­gories like the wage. Far from imply­ing the reasser­tion of a crude work­erist inter­pre­ta­tion on a plan­e­tary scale, the exam­i­na­tion of the func­tions and con­tra­dic­tions of the wage is meant to push “to the lim­it” the the­o­ret­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties of a class read­ing of impe­ri­al­ism.

Let us resume the thread of the pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion. The deter­mi­na­tion of a “gen­er­al” rate of prof­it at the glob­al lev­el is the ten­den­tial result of a long his­tor­i­cal process. The ten­den­tial nature of the process clear­ly con­cerns both the incom­plete and imper­fect char­ac­ter of its emer­gence through­out the his­tor­i­cal phase con­sid­ered, as well as the intrin­sic nature of the phe­nom­e­non. It is, ulti­mate­ly, made pos­si­ble by the com­ing-to-be, as a nec­es­sary and suf­fi­cient con­di­tion, of that vast inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal of which we have been speak­ing. How­ev­er, if the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mov­ing sig­nif­i­cant quan­ti­ties of mon­ey cap­i­tal (that part of cap­i­tal which, with­in the cir­cuit, is found in the form of mon­ey) sec­toral­ly and ter­ri­to­ri­al­ly across nation­al bor­ders, draw­ing on the new sur­plus val­ue real­ized accord­ing to the “nor­mal” rhythm of accu­mu­la­tion – or, dis­in­vest­ing in con­junc­tur­al baiss­es, or, what is more, resort­ing to cred­it (that is, cap­i­tal which is com­mon to the cap­i­tal­ist class) – if all of this estab­lish­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a prop­er­ly inter­na­tion­al cir­cuit of cap­i­tal (M – C … P … C’ – M’), it does so only to the extent that there is a cor­re­spond­ing­ly sub­stan­tial mobil­i­ty of labor-pow­er, or, in any case, that uni­ver­sal con­di­tions for the labor mar­ket exist such that its price is made equiv­a­lent every­where. 156 That is to say that, although the con­di­tions posed by Marx to jus­ti­fy the abstract­ness of his analy­sis at the lev­el of “nation­al soci­ety” need not apply in con­junc­tion, nev­er­the­less, the sec­ond one, or its failed real­iza­tion, pos­es a lim­it whose nature must be spec­i­fied. It is a ques­tion of con­di­tions which not only have a quite dif­fer­ent mate­r­i­al struc­ture, but which orig­i­nate from rel­a­tive­ly inde­pen­dent process­es, and which per­mit a very dif­fer­ent – and not nec­es­sar­i­ly con­joined – degree of gov­ern­abil­i­ty: on the one hand, the rel­a­tive increase of state poli­cies and inter­na­tion­al coor­di­na­tion in the direc­tion of a broad­ly free-trade157 pol­i­tics, which aims to over­turn legal and non-legal obsta­cles to the cir­cu­la­tion of cap­i­tal (the exter­nal lim­it of which is the degree of accu­mu­la­tion and matu­ri­ty achieved by devel­op­ment); on the oth­er hand, the much more mod­est and long-term poli­cies of immi­gra­tion-emi­gra­tion which, as a rule, fit pas­sive­ly and post-fes­tum into the frame­work of the semi-auto­mat­ic work­ings of the mar­ket. In any case, it seems evi­dent that, from a his­tor­i­cal stand­point, there has been no par­al­lel, either geo­graph­ic or chrono­log­i­cal, between the two process­es; if any­thing, admit­ting such a broad gen­er­al­iza­tion, it would be nec­es­sary to think of an inverse form of cor­re­la­tion, the mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal sub­sti­tut­ing for or mak­ing super­flu­ous – as the case may be – the mobil­i­ty of labor, and vice ver­sa.158

All this pos­es an obvi­ous the­o­ret­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ty, which is not the prob­lem of how to deter­mine the wage, but of whether a rela­tion­ship exists – and, if so, of what kind – between the deter­mi­na­tion of the (real) wage with­in the sphere – or, bet­ter yet, in the pres­ence – of fun­da­men­tal­ly nation­al mar­kets of labor-pow­er, and the typ­i­cal­ly inter­na­tion­al deter­mi­na­tion of the rate of prof­it.

For Marx, begin­ning with the analy­sis of the wage as a trans­formed and “appar­ent” form of the val­ue of labor-pow­er, the deter­mi­na­tion of the wage is, in prin­ci­ple, a process which is inde­pen­dent of the deter­mi­na­tion of prof­it. “For each peri­od con­sid­ered,” the wage lev­el is a datum deter­mined by the social costs of the pro­duc­tion of labor-pow­er – not unlike for the clas­si­cal econ­o­mists [i clas­si­ci], albeit exclud­ing gen­uine­ly “bio­log­i­cal” com­po­nents and empha­siz­ing, instead, “his­toric and moral” ones. Nat­u­ral­ly, this giv­en is chang­ing, in the long-term, pre­cise­ly as a con­se­quence of this same process of accu­mu­la­tion: “The rate of accu­mu­la­tion is the inde­pen­dent, not the depen­dent, vari­able; the rate of wages is the depen­dent, not the inde­pen­dent vari­able.”159 What con­se­quences does this approach have on the recon­struc­tion of the work­ings of the world mar­ket? As we have seen, the diver­si­ty of nation­al wage lev­els is rep­re­sent­ed, in com­mer­cial exchanges between dif­fer­ent nations, as an unequal exchange, that is, as an (equal) exchange of val­ues that rep­re­sent nation­al work-days of dif­fer­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and inten­si­ty. But what hap­pens when the world mar­ket tends to dis­solve itself as pure and sim­ple area for the exchange of com­modi­ties, becom­ing tra­versed by the estab­lish­ment of a glob­al cap­i­tal­ist cycle, as such? An explic­it response to this does not exist in Marx; it must be admit­ted that, very banal­ly, the prob­lem of the rela­tion­ship between “glob­al” prof­it and nation­al wages has no solu­tion in Marx sim­ply because it is not posed there.

Nor, on the oth­er hand, do the con­struc­tions offered by the bour­geois the­o­ry of inter­na­tion­al trade appear to pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant answers, notwith­stand­ing their sophis­ti­ca­tion. As in oth­er sec­tors, in this one too, neo­clas­si­cal polit­i­cal eco­nom­ics, which dom­i­nates the field, proves to be in cri­sis from its very foun­da­tions. Yet, unlike how it oper­ates in oth­er sec­tors of inquiry, here, not even the alter­na­tive of a return to the clas­sics seems pos­si­ble. The basis of all the mar­gin­al­is­tic elab­o­ra­tion accu­mu­lat­ed over the course of the last decades to the present, remains, as is well-known, the short Ricar­dian chap­ter on the the­o­ry of com­par­a­tive costs: and so, con­tem­po­rary crit­i­cism, advanc­ing by way of indi­vid­ual devel­op­ments on that sparse orig­i­nal mate­r­i­al (as, for exam­ple, the Heck­sh­er-Ohlin mod­el) is com­pelled to car­ry out a pre­dom­i­nant­ly neg­a­tive labor. The rea­sons for this extra­or­di­nary con­ti­nu­ity have been explained:160 they are essen­tial­ly apolo­getic, the­o­ret­i­cal-prac­ti­cal rea­sons, in defense of a pri­vate enter­prise which trades freely on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket, and opposed to any – in this case, a for­tiori – exten­sion of the labor the­o­ry of val­ue to the sphere of exchanges between dif­fer­ent coun­tries. But, as always, the apolo­getic intent alone can­not explain an entire the­o­ret­i­cal tra­di­tion. On the con­trary, it illu­mi­nates the solid­i­ty of its true pre­sup­po­si­tions. It is not acci­den­tal that the first con­spic­u­ous fis­sures in the neo­clas­si­cal edi­fice emerged dur­ing the imme­di­ate post-war peri­od. Pro­tec­tionisms, var­i­ous shades of autarchy, and macro­scop­ic and pro­longed vio­la­tions of free-trade161 could be exor­cised as excep­tions to the prin­ci­ples (à la Smith or List – it mat­ters lit­tle which), in order to then be removed by means of the vio­lent mea­sure of inter-impe­ri­al­ist war. But, at war’s end, once it was a mat­ter of recon­struct­ing a new inter­na­tion­al order, the polit­i­cal emer­gence of the enor­mous under­de­vel­oped world revealed itself to be ever less com­pat­i­ble with the the­o­ret­i­cal cat­e­gories of the tra­di­tion­al cap­i­tal­ist form of the world mar­ket, if not imme­di­ate­ly in the prac­ti­cal domain.

To return to our sub­ject: let us take the famous con­tri­bu­tion of W. Arthur Lewis, pub­lished in 1954, in the wake of the no-less renowned inves­ti­ga­tions launched by the U.N. in the sec­ond half of the 1940s on the evo­lu­tion of the terms of trade.162 The exam­ple isn’t cho­sen at ran­dom. Accord­ing to many, Lewis’s expo­si­tion remains the most sys­tem­at­ic on the sub­ject to date. In it, we find the inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal (aban­don­ing, in this respect, an essen­tial pre­sup­po­si­tion of Ricardo’s the­o­rem), devel­op­ment (with­in the under­de­vel­op­ment) of a sec­tor of indus­try ori­ent­ed toward the local mar­ket, and nation­al dif­fer­ences in wage lev­els. All these end up com­bined, by virtue of his mak­ing these lat­ter lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty depen­dent on the sub­sis­tence sec­tor of the under­de­vel­oped coun­try. The pro­duc­tiv­i­ty (or non-pro­duc­tiv­i­ty) of the lat­ter explains both the rates of accu­mu­la­tion and of prof­it, and the down­ward pres­sure exert­ed on wage rates, con­di­tion­al upon the bound­less sup­ply of labor spe­cif­ic to back­ward­ness. And yet, not even this extreme revi­sion­ist attempt, from with­in the neo­clas­si­cal per­spec­tive, seems to have yield­ed use­ful results. On the empir­i­cal lev­el, dur­ing the sub­se­quent two decades, an upward trend in wage rates in under­de­vel­oped coun­tries is ascer­tain­able. These have begun tak­ing off in a way that is com­plete­ly incon­sis­tent with the pre­scrip­tions of the mod­el: a con­sid­er­able growth, in patch­es, of real wages in the export sec­tor and, in gen­er­al, in man­u­fac­tur­ing, spurred by multi­na­tion­al invest­ment, and not in the least obstruct­ed by the mis­er­able lev­els of sub­sis­tence in sur­round­ing areas.163 How­ev­er, this has reper­cus­sions, on the the­o­ret­i­cal lev­el, on that umbil­i­cal cord that still ties a recon­struc­tion like Lewis’s to neo­clas­si­cal ortho­doxy. That is to say: the depen­dence of the wage on the lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty (in Lewis’s case, in sec­tors that dif­fer from those in which the wage itself is “pro­duced”), medi­at­ed by the struc­ture of the mar­ket for labor-pow­er. Not to men­tion that the pre­sup­po­si­tion of such a “mar­ket” is, in itself, with­in the sphere of under­de­vel­op­ment, a colos­sal the­o­ret­i­cal and polit­i­cal mys­ti­fi­ca­tion.164


It is legit­i­mate to sup­pose that Arghiri Emmanuel’s analy­sis, which is the sub­ject of this sec­tion, was derived direct­ly from the recog­ni­tion of the impos­si­bil­i­ty of pro­ceed­ing any fur­ther, by way of cor­rec­tions or mod­i­fi­ca­tions – sub­stan­tial though they may be – on the old the­o­ret­i­cal route. The point of view and the objec­tive that sus­tain the analy­sis are rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent: “the for­ma­tion of inter­na­tion­al val­ue is a spe­cial case of the gen­er­al the­o­ry of labor val­ue in its devel­oped form as the the­o­ry of price of pro­duc­tion” through “the assump­tion that seems to me [Emmanuel] the most real­is­tic pos­si­ble in the world of today, the assump­tion that the cap­i­tal fac­tor is mobile but the labor fac­tor is immo­bile on the inter­na­tion­al plane.”165 In fact, Emmanuel applies the Marx­i­an mod­els of the price of pro­duc­tion to inter­na­tion­al exchanges. As is well known, even in the realm of the for­ma­tion of the price of pro­duc­tion with­in a cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion, an unequal exchange estab­lish­es itself, loose­ly speak­ing: to the iden­ti­ty between mass of sur­plus val­ue and mass of prof­it cor­re­sponds a diver­si­ty between sur­plus val­ue and prof­it real­ized by each unit or sec­tor accord­ing to the dif­fer­ent organ­ic com­po­si­tions of each. Emmanuel demon­strates that, if there are “insti­tu­tion­al­ly unequal” rates of sur­plus val­ue, the for­ma­tion of the inter­na­tion­al price (of pro­duc­tion) sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly pro­vokes a move­ment of val­ue toward the coun­try with high­er wage lev­els. Such an unequal exchange, “in a strict sense,” is spe­cif­ic to inter­na­tion­al trade and has noth­ing to do with – does not orig­i­nate from – pro­duc­tive spe­cial­iza­tions of any type.

The crit­i­cism that Emmanuel’s work has elicit­ed is uni­ver­sal­ly known. It began with the con­tes­ta­tion of the fun­da­men­tal premise of the whole argu­ment: the equal­iza­tion of prof­it at the glob­al lev­el and the con­cept of “inter­na­tion­al val­ue” were, pur­port­ed­ly, “false abstrac­tions.”166 Obvi­ous­ly, if one does not allow for the exis­tence of a glob­al rate of prof­it, as a con­se­quence of the admit­ted inter­na­tion­al mobil­i­ty of cap­i­tal, “the argu­ment is fin­ished before it has even begun,” as Emmanuel him­self rec­og­nizes. The con­clu­sive­ness of Emmanuel’s rejoin­der to those who argue that the diver­si­ty of degrees of exploita­tion of waged work­ers in devel­oped coun­tries should not be made com­men­su­rate with the vary­ing lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of labor, is dubi­ous. It devel­ops on the ter­rain of prin­ci­ples and ends up beg­ging the ques­tion:

Well, I argue in terms of world econ­o­my because I am seek­ing the laws of the for­ma­tion of inter­na­tion­al val­ue and the pos­si­ble trans­fers of wealth from one coun­try to anoth­er that may be hid­den in the struc­ture of this val­ue. Fur­ther­more, I argue in terms of world econ­o­my quite sim­ply because I am reply­ing to an argu­ment that is based on com­par­ing the rates of sur­plus val­ue prac­ticed in dif­fer­ent nations, which implies appli­ca­tion of the law of val­ue on the world scale. If the nation were the only real­i­ty, and world econ­o­my a false abstrac­tion, com­par­i­son between rates of sur­plus val­ue and rates of exploita­tion in dif­fer­ent nations would itself be mean­ing­less.167

But, whether or not a ten­den­cy toward the equal­iza­tion of world prof­it exists and, with it, the cor­rect­ness or not of the abstrac­tion “inter­na­tion­al val­ue,” remain, first and fore­most, ques­tions to be mea­sured on the empir­i­cal plane. Nonethe­less, it is impor­tant to add that no one has con­test­ed the scarce data pre­sent­ed by Emmanuel to this end or has offered an alter­na­tive read­ing.

From an essen­tial­ly anal­o­gous point of view, Emmanuel’s adop­tion of Marx­i­an mod­els of the trans­for­ma­tion of val­ue into price of pro­duc­tion was sub­se­quent­ly crit­i­cized as unfound­ed and not per­ti­nent. In real­i­ty, it seems nei­ther more nor less jus­ti­fied than Marx’s own. But we will come back to this.168 The fact nev­er­the­less remains that, if we are deal­ing with a ques­tion of deter­min­ing the “inter­na­tion­al val­ue” of com­modi­ties, with­in the con­text of a social for­ma­tion that is not “sim­ple mer­can­til­ism” but which is char­ac­ter­ized by the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple “fac­tors” of pro­duc­tion and of sec­toral dif­fer­ences in organ­ic com­po­si­tion, the course is exact­ly the one fol­lowed by Marx to deter­mine the price of pro­duc­tion: that is to say, begin­ning from the same pre­sup­po­si­tions on the ter­rain of the the­o­ry of val­ue. Marx did not adopt this strat­e­gy because, sim­ply, his prob­lem was posed on this side of the deter­mi­na­tion of an inter­na­tion­al price of pro­duc­tion.

More appar­ent­ly per­ti­nent are the obser­va­tions of those who under­line the dis­pro­por­tion between the dimen­sions of the phe­nom­e­non that is stud­ied (admit­ting the exact­ness of Emmanuel’s recon­struc­tion) and the gen­er­al the­o­ret­i­cal-polit­i­cal deduc­tions that the author derives from them. Suf­fice it to recall the theme of the “hor­i­zon­tal” split in the world between rich and poor coun­tries which, accord­ing to the polit­i­cal leit­mo­tif of the research, would replace all pre­vi­ous con­tra­dic­tions as the prin­ci­pal strate­gic one. Although the cal­cu­la­tion of the mag­ni­tudes involved is con­tro­vert­ible, Emmanuel him­self is ulti­mate­ly com­pelled to rec­og­nize this fact:

How­ev­er sub­stan­tial may be the trans­fer of val­ue engen­dered by unequal exchange, and even if we take into account not mere­ly the imme­di­ate and momen­tary impact this has but also its cumu­la­tive effect from year to year, this trans­fer does not seem to be suf­fi­cient to explain com­plete­ly the dif­fer­ence in stan­dard of liv­ing and devel­op­ment that there is today between, on the one hand, the big indus­tri­al coun­tries, and on the oth­er, the under­de­vel­oped ones. To find the rea­son for this we must look at the move­ment of cap­i­tal and the inter­na­tion­al divi­sion of labor.169

How­ev­er, these cor­rec­tions are large­ly neu­tral­ized by a sys­tem­at­ic under­es­ti­ma­tion (at times, a ver­i­ta­ble liq­ui­da­tion) of the “autonomous” effects of the move­ment of cap­i­tal, as dis­tinct from the move­ment of com­modi­ties. Emmanuel’s argu­ment that there can be no trans­fer of val­ue that is not ulti­mate­ly “chan­nelled” by a move­ment of com­modi­ties is the clas­sic argu­ment that proves too much: if it were true, it would apply to each spe­cif­ic func­tion of mon­ey cap­i­tal, cred­it, and so on.170

How­ev­er, it is best not to pro­ceed beyond this sur­vey: it is not our inten­tion to dis­cuss the mer­it of Emmanuel’s analy­sis, but, rather, to grasp the sense and the lim­its of his approach. In gen­er­al, reac­tions to his work have assumed a “sen­sa­tion­al­ist” hue which goes well beyond the par­tic­u­lar devel­op­ments of his analy­sis – a scan­dal in which there is a curi­ous crossover between the accu­sa­tion of aban­don­ing the the­o­ry of val­ue, and of exces­sive fideli­ty to it. Charles Bettelheim’s weighty crit­i­cal appen­dix, which has accom­pa­nied the vol­ume since its first edi­tion, is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of this. The cen­tral argu­ment, reit­er­at­ed by oth­ers time and again is, essen­tial­ly, the one already allud­ed to, of the “para­dox” con­cealed in the rela­tion between wage dif­fer­en­tials and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty dif­fer­en­tials.171 Emmanuel him­self sums it up suc­cinct­ly: the work­ing day or total labor time (eight-hour day) is posed as equal every­where, as in fact it is.

There­fore, if there is any dif­fer­ence in degree of exploita­tion [of wages between under­de­vel­oped and advanced coun­tries], this can only con­sist in a dif­fer­ence in the “nec­es­sary” time. But the nec­es­sary time is longer in the under­de­vel­oped coun­tries than in the advanced ones, and this is not only in order to pro­duce a unit of some par­tic­u­lar arti­cle of work­ing-class con­sump­tion, but even to pro­duce the entire range of such goods, although the amount con­sumed by a work­er in the advanced coun­tries is sub­stan­tial­ly greater than that con­sumed by a work­er in the poor ones.172

Hence a low­er rate of sur­plus val­ue, or, of exploita­tion, in the lat­ter. How­ev­er, in this case, Emmanuel’s reply is impec­ca­ble:

The mis­take lies in cal­cu­lat­ing the worker’s nec­es­sary time on the basis of the indi­vid­ual val­ue instead of social val­ue of the sub­sis­tence goods […] in the entire sys­tem under con­sid­er­a­tion. In the con­text of world econ­o­my, the only val­ue that counts is mea­sur­ing nec­es­sary time in social (world) val­ue, and not the indi­vid­ual (nation­al) val­ue of the goods rep­re­sent­ed in wages.173

Emmanuel’s great mer­it lies, essen­tial­ly, in that for which “ortho­dox” Marx­ism reproach­es him: in hav­ing ful­ly tak­en seri­ous­ly the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of the wage and of val­ue (the two are indis­sol­ubly linked to one anoth­er) in what is char­ac­ter­is­tic to it, that is, in its assump­tion of the wage as a rel­a­tive­ly inde­pen­dent datum, and of hav­ing drawn from this an in-depth appli­ca­tion to the “case” of inter­na­tion­al trade.

Far from rep­re­sent­ing a ster­ile “ref­er­ence to oth­er ana­lyt­ic lev­els” – a reproach which would be per­ti­nent if a mere­ly inter­dis­ci­pli­nary prob­lem were at stake – Emmanuel’s the­o­ret­i­cal pro­pos­al pro­vides leads that are gen­uine­ly fer­tile and orig­i­nal for an under­stand­ing of the forces act­ing on the inter­na­tion­al lev­el.174 Nonethe­less, these remain mere leads. In effect, Emmanuel’s whole polit­i­cal argu­ment moves sub­se­quent­ly in a direc­tion that repeats all the old clichés of third-world­ism – a third-world­ism of the most equiv­o­cal kind. The wage-imbal­ance which is respon­si­ble for unequal exchange is once more assumed to be a sta­t­ic struc­ture (the entire­ty of Emmanuel’s mod­el is, ulti­mate­ly, com­par­a­tive sta­tis­tics) and trans­lates polit­i­cal­ly as the the­o­ry of an “objec­tive” antag­o­nism which would coun­ter­pose the var­i­ous sec­tions of a glob­al pro­le­tari­at, and as a “rich and poor” the­o­ry of the glob­al state-sys­tem. Coher­ent­ly, the indi­ca­tions that Emmanuel offers here and there on exit strate­gies for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion fol­low the same tra­jec­to­ry: the gen­er­al propo­si­tion of a sort of glob­al incomes pol­i­cy; a pos­i­tive appraisal of the inter­rup­tion of the stag­na­tion of wages pro­duced by multi­na­tion­al invest­ment in under­de­vel­oped coun­tries; the spe­cial rec­om­men­da­tion of the path toward devel­op­ing areas of region­al pro­tec­tion between equal­ly under­de­vel­oped coun­tries, and so on.175 His is an extreme polit­i­cal “mod­er­a­tion,” to put it light­ly, which, fur­ther­more, shows how “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” out­comes do not nec­es­sar­i­ly fol­low from a “third-world­ist” mod­el! But let us try to alter the point of view from which Emmanuel, him­self, reads the sequence of ele­ments that con­sti­tute his mod­el.

The lev­el and the “qual­i­ty” of life of the met­ro­pol­i­tan work­er are not the his­tor­i­cal­ly acquired result of an already sta­bi­lized sys­tem of dis­tri­b­u­tion of nation­al income and of a polit­i­cal frame­work which is, by now, pre­dis­posed to reg­u­late the rela­tion between work­ers and cap­i­tal indef­i­nite­ly. All this is a sil­ly social-demo­c­ra­t­ic illu­sion or, worse yet, a “soci­ol­o­gy of con­flict.” On the con­trary, they rep­re­sent but one index, always “out­dat­ed” but, nev­er­the­less, sug­ges­tive of a polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion which con­tin­u­al­ly accu­mu­lates vio­lence on both sides of the rela­tion­ship, and which deter­mines, as a prob­lem of sur­vival (ques­tion de vie ou de mort) the entire activ­i­ty of the cap­i­tal­ist polit­i­cal class, from the every­day man­age­ment of eco­nom­ic life all the way up to the “big” prob­lems of the inter­na­tion­al equi­lib­ri­um of pow­er. How­ev­er, this is true – and begins to be true – as applies to the dynam­ic of the wage, which is depen­dent with­in the sphere of the under­de­vel­oped world. It is here, where it might have been most use­ful, that Emmanuel’s approach wears polit­i­cal­ly thin and con­demns itself to fail­ure. It is obvi­ous that, begin­ning with moments of “prim­i­tive” accu­mu­la­tion which are, as a rule, intro­duced vio­lent­ly from out­side, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions under­gone by the old dis­tri­b­u­tion of income, even where they assume the form of a fur­ther polar­iza­tion, have pro­gres­sive­ly shift­ed the over­all ter­rain of pro­le­tar­i­an strug­gle into under­de­vel­op­ment. Con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly, a series of old rep­re­sen­ta­tions dear to the inter­na­tion­al left in each of its ten­den­cies have been dis­ap­pear­ing. For exam­ple, that of a homo­ge­neous­ly back­ward con­di­tion apply­ing to the entire under­de­vel­oped world. All of the cri­te­ria set out to the­o­ret­i­cal­ly orga­nize and empir­i­cal­ly mea­sure such a homo­gene­ity (the absence of devel­op­ment based on the inter­nal mar­ket, reduced num­ber of sec­tors involved in the process of devel­op­ment, depen­dence on – and the impos­si­bil­i­ty of con­trol over – exter­nal sources of fund­ing, extreme­ly cir­cum­scribed space for a “tech­no­log­i­cal­ly inde­pen­dent devel­op­ment”) appear inap­plic­a­ble to a whole host of areas that con­sti­tute the strengths of the new polit­i­cal geog­ra­phy (need we say, impe­ri­al­ist polit­i­cal geog­ra­phy?) of glob­al under­de­vel­op­ment.176

For­get “objec­tive” con­tra­po­si­tion of inter­ests with­in the glob­al pro­le­tari­at! A two-pronged move­ment which unites [acco­mu­na] the met­ro­pol­i­tan work­er and the pro­le­tari­at of the Third World in an anal­o­gous vio­lent demand for income and pow­er, and which exerts a con­tin­u­ous, for­mi­da­ble pres­sure on the whole struc­ture of glob­al pow­er – all this is what Emmanuel’s out­look, and a third-world­ist out­look in gen­er­al, refus­es to under­stand.

A pro­found­ly cor­rect appraisal of the strate­gic impor­tance of the “wage” for the recon­struc­tion of the work­ings of the sys­tem, and not as mere “eco­nom­ic” cat­e­go­ry, ends up pre­sent­ing itself as a sim­ple, albeit rad­i­cal, inno­va­tion in the cor­pus of polit­i­cal eco­nom­ics – as an “econ­o­mistic” exer­cise. And yet, beyond the inten­tions and the legit­i­mate delim­i­ta­tion of the field of study, it is pre­cise­ly the prob­lem raised by inves­ti­ga­tions such as Emmanuel’s – that is, the prob­lem of con­nect­ing the var­i­ous aspects of the cur­rent crisis/transformation177 of the impe­ri­al­ist glob­al con­junc­ture into a the­o­ret­i­cal­ly coher­ent whole, begin­ning with the objec­tive­ly and sub­jec­tive­ly cen­tral role of the pro­le­tar­i­an strug­gle – that rep­re­sents the key­stone of a the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism wor­thy of its time.

All the more so to the extent that the present-day dimen­sions of such a “cri­sis” reveal them­selves to be far-reach­ing and sub­ject to a rapid­ly accel­er­at­ing dynamism. With­in this cri­sis, for exam­ple, the mat­ter of the abrupt change of prices of raw mate­ri­als – in par­tic­u­lar, of mid­dle-east­ern oil – con­firms the accu­ra­cy of the approach crit­i­cized up to now, only in the obvi­ous sense that the exist­ing terms of trade178 on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket have con­sti­tut­ed – and con­tin­ue to con­sti­tute – the prin­ci­pal vehi­cle of the plun­der of the under­de­vel­oped world.179 What it does not per­mit us to see, and which thus fal­si­fies it, is the real polit­i­cal sub­stance of the mat­ter. That is, on the one hand, the class frame­work with­in which the lat­ter unfolds: the increas­ing dif­fi­cul­ties posed for the Amer­i­can econ­o­my and the glob­al role of the dol­lar, first­ly, by Viet­namese resis­tance and, sec­ond­ly, by the grow­ing insub­or­di­na­tion of the multi­na­tion­al work­er in Europe – a priv­i­leged area of Amer­i­can for­eign invest­ment dur­ing the 1960s. This is at the root of the col­lapse of the old mon­e­tary sys­tem, which the Unit­ed States takes hold of at the end of the decade.180 On the oth­er hand, what escapes the crit­i­cal approach is the clear­ly delin­eat­ed, albeit rather com­plex­ly artic­u­lat­ed, rela­tion­ship between the var­i­ous sec­tions of cap­i­tal and of the state polit­i­cal class impli­cat­ed in the process: the cru­cial role of Amer­i­can multi­na­tion­als – and, in this instance, of cap­i­tal derived from oil – which are the prin­ci­pal sub­jects of the oper­a­tion of rak­ing up and recy­cling inter­na­tion­al mon­ey cap­i­tal and the direct agents of the polit­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary recon­fig­u­ra­tion of the old organ­ic com­po­si­tion of the auto­mo­tive indus­try; the fur­ther depen­dence – “entry into the bel­ly of the Amer­i­can whale,” as it has been described181 – but also the nec­es­sary “renew­al” of the exec­u­tive pow­ers in under­de­vel­oped coun­tries, which are com­pelled to enter the ter­rain of a simul­ta­ne­ous mil­i­ta­riza­tion and accel­er­at­ed devel­op­ment; the recon­fig­u­ra­tion and fur­ther balka­niza­tion of the Euro­pean bour­geoisie, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a cap­i­tal devoid of inde­pen­dent pos­si­bil­i­ties of strate­gic deter­mi­na­tion and thus dis­posed, bon gré mal gré, to prof­it from the mar­gins of sur­vival afford­ed by Amer­i­can cov­er.182

To con­tin­ue: the reduc­tion of the role of met­ro­pol­i­tan class strug­gle to the mere deter­mi­na­tion of the wage “datum” – “exoge­nous” but sta­t­ic ele­ment and sim­ple mea­sure of the fun­da­men­tal process of exploita­tion “via” unequal exchange – the explic­it nega­tion of its direct and ongo­ing “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” func­tion upon the struc­ture of pow­er, pro­vokes curi­ous dis­tor­tions for those who observe the gen­er­al con­di­tions of the present-day with­in which such a strug­gle increas­ing­ly takes place. The scene is clear­ly dom­i­nat­ed by a colos­sal infla­tion­ary process which con­sti­tutes, most notably, the cen­tral dynam­ic prob­lem of devel­op­ment in this phase. Although it may be true that the real wage is mod­i­fied only in the long-term – in each phase it is a giv­en – but this is, in turn, the out­come of con­tra­dic­to­ry and polit­i­cal­ly deter­mined move­ments of mon­e­tary incomes and prices. A rela­tion­ship between pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and wages stands out here, which Emmanuel denies is the case for real wages (right­ly so, in his mar­gin­al­ist ver­sion). On the one hand, wage dif­fer­en­tials between indus­tries of dif­fer­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty – also, and espe­cial­ly, beyond nation­al bor­ders – tend to can­cel out toward the top, restor­ing space to cost-push183 the­o­ries of infla­tion, how­ev­er “back­ward” they may be, and to renewed incomes pol­i­cy pro­pos­als. On the oth­er hand, they tend to con­tin­u­al­ly recon­sti­tute them­selves accord­ing to the dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed increase of the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of labor and of the set­ting of prices accord­ing to a pre­cise strat­e­gy of sec­toral restruc­tur­ing of the cycle.184

It bears repeat­ing that the prob­lem of unequal exchange, con­sid­ered in and of itself – of its nature, con­sis­ten­cy, and effects – is not in ques­tion here, where­as the over­all the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work with­in which third-world­ism typ­i­cal­ly approach­es the analy­sis of impe­ri­al­ism is. In its domain, Emmanuel’s posi­tion is unique­ly rig­or­ous, and devel­ops the Marx­i­an pre­sup­po­si­tions which it takes as its start­ing point with extreme coher­ence. This is pre­cise­ly why it is nec­es­sary to state that the under­ly­ing lim­it of Emmanuel’s analy­sis does not lie in Emmanuel, but in Marx him­self, or, bet­ter yet, in the “ortho­dox” read­ing of Marx as a “the­o­rist of polit­i­cal econ­o­my.” The point to grasp here is the con­tra­dic­tori­ness of the claim of con­tin­u­ing to con­struct an “eco­nom­ic” the­o­ry of the price of labor-pow­er, and the acknowl­edge­ment, which is present in Emmanuel, of the exoge­nous char­ac­ter of the “wage” (rel­a­tive to the lev­el of devel­op­ment achieved by the pro­duc­tive forces) not mere­ly as a bio­log­i­cal and eth­i­cal-his­tor­i­cal fact, but as the fact of an irre­ducible polit­i­cal sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Put oth­er­wise, the point to rec­og­nize is that if a “prob­lem of trans­for­ma­tion” exists in Marx, it con­cerns the price (of pro­duc­tion) of labor-pow­er well before the inputs185 of cap­i­tal.

In this sense, Emmanuel’s work con­sti­tutes one step for­ward and two steps back, not only because of the crude polit­i­cal gen­er­al­iza­tions that he derives from it, but pri­mar­i­ly because of the the­o­ret­i­cal route exem­plar­i­ly sug­gest­ed there­in. It is not acci­den­tal that – com­pelled by crit­i­cism, and by his own intel­lec­tu­al coher­ence, to reflect thor­ough­ly on his own assump­tions – Emmanuel ends up adopt­ing the exit strat­e­gy of Sraf­f­ism in its “left” vari­ant. Yet, the start­ing point remains the same: the Marx­i­an schema of the price of pro­duc­tion ulti­mate­ly pos­es an insol­u­ble prob­lem on the basis of the labor the­o­ry of val­ue – pre­vi­ous solu­tions to the prob­lem of the trans­for­ma­tion of val­ues into prices being irrel­e­vant if posed as solu­tions to a “math­e­mat­i­cal” prob­lem. The sig­nif­i­cance of the con­clu­sion is anal­o­gous: once a “tem­po­ral” fac­tor (a func­tion of cap­i­tal) is admit­ted as exist­ing along­side the labor fac­tor, the “trans­for­ma­tion,” if it remains impos­si­ble as “pure mod­i­fi­ca­tion of form,” becomes once again legit­i­mate only if it includes in the mod­el the rela­tion­ship of dis­tri­b­u­tion between wage and prof­it. How­ev­er, the point is that the inclu­sion of the rela­tion of force between work­ers and cap­i­tal applies only to re-estab­lish­ing polit­i­cal econ­o­my at all costs: the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty or, even, impos­si­bil­i­ty of mak­ing a cal­cu­la­tion between two machines of equal val­ue but with dif­fer­ent “turnovers” should not affect, even min­i­mal­ly, the role played by time as a fac­tor – of that some­thing which cor­re­sponds to cap­i­tal any­ways, as a use of the accu­mu­la­tion fund.186 Thus “the dream cher­ished by econ­o­mists through­out the ages of find­ing a fixed stan­dard for the val­ue of com­modi­ties, the ratio to which of each com­mod­i­ty would give us an absolute val­ue for this com­mod­i­ty” is crit­i­cized only so as to be renewed, even if only for the aspi­ra­tion of “arriv[ing] at an eval­u­a­tion that is more ‘objec­tive,’ or, rather, that is more social in its struc­ture and basis, than, for exam­ple, the out­come of a strike.”187




It may seem strange to have devot­ed the final part of the intro­duc­tion to an author, Arghiri Emmanuel, about whom noth­ing writ­ten appears in the fol­low­ing col­lec­tion. With­in the lim­its that we have tried to spec­i­fy, he nev­er­the­less rep­re­sents a pow­er­ful and orig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tion to the nec­es­sary renew­al of the stud­ies on impe­ri­al­ism, but, apart from clear extrin­sic rea­sons (of space and of the acces­si­bil­i­ty of his works), the real jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his non-inclu­sion lies in the more lim­it­ed and more­over dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es of the col­lec­tion of writ­ings pre­sent­ed here. Pur­pos­es cer­tain­ly of doc­u­ment­ing the var­i­ous ten­den­cies, more or less tra­di­tion­al, with­in the west­ern left, which are debat­ing the prob­lems of a renewed the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism (with the exclu­sion, how­ev­er, of the “ortho­dox” posi­tions of the offi­cial work­ers’ move­ment, and with the inclu­sion of a sure­ly “bour­geois” but sig­nif­i­cant author, Ray­mond Ver­non); but with some lim­i­ta­tions about which it is fair to warn the read­er. In the first place, con­cern­ing the lev­els of abstrac­tion and of the­o­ret­i­cal analy­sis: all, or almost all, of the essays pre­sent­ed offer not fin­ished the­o­ret­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions but syn­the­ses of max­i­mum breadth, work­ing hypothe­ses, “the­o­ries of mid­dle range,”188 one might say, which indeed can bet­ter pro­vide a panora­ma of the var­i­ous posi­tions. In the sec­ond place, lim­its in terms of sub­ject mat­ter: which is indeed that of the gen­er­al char­ac­ter­is­tics of impe­ri­al­ism in the present phase, its dif­fer­ences with the pre­ced­ing epoch, the broad out­lines of its fore­see­able evo­lu­tion. Of the var­i­ous great issues that make up the prob­lem today, from the ques­tion of the “depen­den­cy” of the periph­er­al coun­tries (con­sid­ered in itself) to that of the nature of the cri­sis of the inter­na­tion­al mon­e­tary sys­tem, from the ques­tion of the depen­dent impe­ri­al­ist “metrop­o­les” (Europe, Japan) to that of the nature and role of the social­ist bloc – par­tic­u­lar space has only been ded­i­cat­ed to the spe­cif­ic fig­ure of the multi­na­tion­al enter­prise and its sig­nif­i­cance in today’s impe­ri­al­ist dynam­ic, albeit still with the cut indi­cat­ed; whence the divi­sion of the vol­ume into two parts.

Two words on the con­crete ori­gin of this work can best illus­trate its goals. It was con­ceived with­in a research project con­duct­ed over the past two years at the Insti­tute of Polit­i­cal Sci­ences of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pado­va (with fund­ing from CNR [Nation­al Research Coun­cil]), from which some results have been pub­lished in a vol­ume by var­i­ous authors, L’operaio multi­nazionale in Europa (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1974). From the ini­tial stage of its for­ma­tion, I took it upon myself to more close­ly car­ry out the con­trols nec­es­sary to deter­min­ing what rela­tion there might be between the research that we had in mind (mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the class com­po­si­tion in a multi­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment) and the cat­e­gories avail­able in the cor­pus, old and new, of the the­o­ries of impe­ri­al­ism. Already in an inter­na­tion­al sem­i­nar held at the Insti­tute in the spring of 1973, I had to present some sub­stan­tial­ly neg­a­tive results. There is not much that is real­ly fruit­ful, today, in that tra­di­tion, for those who want to tru­ly under­stand the class dimen­sions of the process­es of inter­na­tion­al restruc­tur­ing under­way, and for those who want to recon­struct them from this view­point. I re-sub­mit those same con­clu­sions, now re-elab­o­rat­ed and, I hope, suf­fi­cient­ly sub­stan­ti­at­ed. I believe that, on the sci­en­tif­ic ter­rain, even “neg­a­tive” results may have their impor­tance – pro­vid­ed that they serve to relaunch the research. Whether, then, with this vol­ume record­ed and with this [intro­duc­tion], steps have been tak­en for­ward and in the right direc­tion, is not for me to judge. I would like to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank all the com­rades with whom I have had the for­tune of work­ing, and in par­tic­u­lar Toni Negri, who has direct­ed the research from begin­ning to end.

–Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, Decem­ber 1974

Trans­lat­ed by Andrew Anas­tasi, Alessan­dra Guar­i­no, and Dave Mesing

This trans­la­tion is based on the orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion of this essay as the intro­duc­tion to Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale, ed. Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1974), 7–70. It was sub­se­quent­ly repub­lished in the posthu­mous col­lec­tion of Fer­rari Bravo’s writ­ings, Dal fordis­mo alla glob­al­iz­zazione: Cristal­li di tem­po politi­co (Roma: Man­i­festolib­ri, 2001), 75–146.

Thanks to Tijana Okić and Steve Wright for their help­ful com­ments on the draft trans­la­tion.

  1. Cat­ti­vo mae­stro (“wicked teacher”) was the epi­thet lobbed at Anto­nio Negri, Fer­rari Bra­vo, and oth­ers when they were charged with insur­rec­tion in the “April 7th affair” of 1979 (see also the note below). The most detailed bio­graph­i­cal and crit­i­cal sketch of Fer­rari Bra­vo in Eng­lish appears in Steve Wright, “Cat­tivi Maestri: Reflec­tions on the Lega­cy of Gui­do Bian­chi­ni, Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo and Pri­mo Moroni,” in Read­ing Negri: Marx­ism in the Age of Empire, eds. Pierre Lamarche et al. (Chica­go: Open Court, 2011), 21–56. In Ital­ian one can con­sult Anto­nio Negri’s biog­ra­phy, Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo: Ritrat­to di un cat­ti­vo mae­stro con alcu­ni cen­ni sul­la sua epoca (Roma: Man­i­festolib­ri, 2003), and Ser­gio Bologna’s “Pre­fazione” to a posthu­mous col­lec­tion of Fer­rari Bravo’s essays, Dal fordis­mo alla glob­al­iz­zazione: Cristal­li di tem­po politi­co (Roma: Man­i­festolib­ri, 2001), 7–36. Recent­ly, the Archiv­io Mul­ti­me­di­ale Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo has begun to make avail­able a num­ber of remem­brances of Fer­rari Bra­vo by com­rades, as well as his own writ­ings. 

  2. In View­point’s fourth issue, “The State,” we pub­lished our trans­la­tion of selec­tions from “Il New Deal e il nuo­vo asset­to delle isti­tuzione cap­i­tal­is­che,” Fer­rari Bravo’s con­tri­bu­tion to Operai e sta­to: lotte operaie e rifor­ma del­lo sta­to cap­i­tal­is­ti­co tra riv­o­luzione d’Ottobre e New Deal (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1972), 101–34; see Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, “The New Deal and the New Order of Cap­i­tal­ist Insti­tu­tions (1972),” trans. Evan Calder Williams, View­point 4 (Octo­ber 2014). In Eng­lish one can also see the par­tial trans­la­tion of “For­ma del­lo sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po,” Fer­rari Bravo’s con­tri­bu­tion to Sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po: Il caso del Mez­zo­giorno ital­iano (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1972), 11–124; see Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, “The Indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the South,” trans. Patri­cia Tum­mons, Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Soci­ol­o­gy 4, no. 2–3 (Summer–Fall 1974): 148–78. 

  3. Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, ed., Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1974), 7–70. 

  4. See Fer­rari Bra­vo, “For­ma del­lo sta­to e sot­tosvilup­po,” as well as the selec­tions trans­lat­ed in “The Indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the South.” The under­stand­ing of the the state and cap­i­tal oper­at­ing by means of a shared piano (“plan”) was wide­spread among operaisti, and it deserves a more care­ful recon­struc­tion than we are able to con­duct here. 

  5. See sec­tion 5, in the essay below. Where­as the cap­i­tal­ist replies to work­ers’ move­ments before 1945 could be per­ceived per­haps most clear­ly by con­sid­er­ing chang­ing process­es with­in the fac­to­ry itself (reor­ga­ni­za­tion of labor process­es, increased use of machines in rela­tion to human labor-pow­er), Fer­rari Bra­vo and his com­rades were keen on chart­ing how post-war cap­i­tal­ist strate­gies were unfold­ing on the fis­cal, juridi­cal, and mon­e­tary planes. It must be empha­sized that these dif­fer­ent meth­ods uti­lized by cap­i­tal to increase exploita­tion should not be under­stood as his­tor­i­cal stages in a uni­lin­ear chronol­o­gy of cap­i­tal, but as artic­u­lat­ed prac­tices that assume unique com­bi­na­tions in dif­fer­ent con­junc­tures. 

  6. Negri, Ritrat­to, 68. 

  7. See sec­tion 4 in the essay below. 

  8. See sec­tion 2 in the essay below. Bologna notes that Fer­rari Bra­vo and his com­rades approached Lenin with “severe crit­i­cism of his the­o­ries, wher­ev­er they seemed obso­lete or mis­lead­ing, and respect, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, [and] admi­ra­tion for his prac­tices.” Bologna, “Pre­fazione,” 13. In late 1974, when Fer­rari Bra­vo was draft­ing the present essay, Negri had only recent­ly fin­ished deliv­er­ing his course on Lenin, which takes a sim­i­lar tack, to stu­dents at Pado­va. See Fac­to­ry of Strat­e­gy: Thir­ty-Three Lessons on Lenin, trans. Ari­an­na Bove (New York: Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2015). 

  9. See sec­tion 5 in the essay below. 

  10. Negri crit­i­cized the approach of these small armed groups suc­cinct­ly in 1973: “The whole of 1971 saw the sec­tar­i­an set­ting-up of groups, and the bureau­crat­ic usurpa­tion of lead­er­ship, against the organ­ised instances of work­ing class auton­o­my. The real task – of re-artic­u­lat­ing from with­in itself the com­pact­ness of the new­ly uni­fied strength of the work­ing class – was trans­formed into an exter­nal under­tak­ing of guid­ance and abstract lead­er­ship.… The groups, in the peri­od from the end of 1971 up till March 1972, went onto the attack – alone!” Negri, “One Step For­ward, Two Steps Back,” in Work­ing Class Auton­o­my and the Cri­sis: Italian Marx­ist Texts of the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of a Class Move­ment, 1964–79, ed. Red Notes (Lon­don: Red Notes, 1979), 55–59, 57. For cor­re­spond­ing reflec­tions by Potere Operaio, see Steve Wright, Storm­ing Heav­en, 2nd ed. (Lon­don: Plu­to Press, 2017), 130–39; see also David P. Palaz­zo, “The ‘Social Fac­to­ry’ in Post­war Ital­ian Rad­i­cal Thought from Operais­mo to Autono­mia” (PhD diss., Grad­u­ate Cen­ter, City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, 2014), 346–48. 

  11. Bologna, “Pre­fazione,” 14. 

  12. See sec­tion 5 in the essay below. 

  13. On this top­ic Fer­rari Bra­vo can be dis­tin­guished from Mario Tron­ti, whose “Lenin in Eng­land” insists that pro­le­tar­i­an ini­tia­tives have pro­duced “more rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry than all the rev­o­lu­tions the colonised peo­ple have ever made.” See Tron­ti, “Lenin in Eng­land,” in Work­ing Class Auton­o­my and the Cri­sis, 1–6, 5. With greater elab­o­ra­tion, see also Tronti’s “Inter­nazion­al­is­mo vec­chio e nuo­vo,” Con­tropi­ano 1, no. 3 (September–December 1968): 505–26. 

  14. See sec­tion 5 in the essay below. 

  15. Fer­rari Bra­vo and oth­ers arrest­ed in the April 7th affair col­lec­tive­ly authored a num­ber of essays, some of which have appeared in Eng­lish, which serve as use­ful intro­duc­tions to that fias­co. One, writ­ten short­ly after the authors’ con­fine­ment, is Mario Dal­ma­vi­va et al., “Memo­r­i­al from Prison,” trans. Com­mit­tee April 7, Lon­don, in Autono­mia: Post-Polit­i­cal Pol­i­tics, eds. Sylvère Lotringer and Chris­t­ian Marazzi (Los Ange­les: Semiotext(e), 2007), 196–200. Anoth­er, co-authored by Negri and Fer­rari Bra­vo in 1980, sought to grap­ple with the charge of “insur­rec­tion” and to sit­u­ate Potere Operaio’s activ­i­ties rel­a­tive to oth­er groups on the extra-par­lia­men­tary left; see “Reflec­tions on a Phan­tom,” in Italy 1980–81: After Marx, Jail! The Attempt­ed Destruc­tion of a Com­mu­nist Move­ment, ed. Red Notes (Lon­don: Red Notes, 1981), 23–24. Final­ly, one can see an essay penned sev­er­al years lat­er by the accused as they con­tin­ued to await tri­al, the authors draw­ing a bal­ance sheet of the pre­vi­ous decade while lan­guish­ing in Rebib­bia prison in Rome; see Lucio Castel­lano et al., “Do You Remem­ber Rev­o­lu­tion?” trans. Michael Hardt, in Rad­i­cal Thought in Italy: A Poten­tial Pol­i­tics, eds. Pao­lo Virno and Michael Hardt (Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 1996), 225–38. 

  16. Bologna, “Pre­fazione,” 15. 

  17. Trans­la­tors’ Note: We have opt­ed to trans­late fase as “phase” rather than “stage,” although we have retained “stage” when it appears in the stan­dard Eng­lish trans­la­tions of Lenin. In the orig­i­nal Ital­ian pub­li­ca­tion of this intro­duc­tion, Fer­rari Bra­vo cites sources in Eng­lish, French, Ger­man, and Ital­ian. We have sub­sti­tut­ed these with ref­er­ences to Eng­lish edi­tions of texts wher­ev­er pos­si­ble. 

  18. See, respec­tive­ly, V.I. Lenin, “Note­books on Impe­ri­al­ism,” in Col­lect­ed Works, trans. Clemens Dutt, vol. 39 (Moscow: Progress Pub­lish­ers, 1974), 202, 239, 242, and chap­ter 10 of Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, The High­est Stage of Cap­i­tal­ism: A Pop­u­lar Out­line, in Col­lect­ed Works, trans. Yuri Sdob­nikov, vol. 22 (Moscow: Progress Pub­lish­ers, 1974), 298–304. (The lat­ter text is hence­forth cit­ed, in the text and in the notes, as Impe­ri­al­ism). 

  19. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 195. On the work of John A. Hob­son, Impe­ri­al­ism: A Study (New York: Cosi­mo, 2005), an Ital­ian ver­sion is final­ly avail­able: L’Imperialismo (Milano: ISEDI, 1974). The edi­tor, Luca Mel­dole­si, does not how­ev­er touch on this point in his intro­duc­tion (Hob­son as Lenin’s “source”). 

  20. For the clas­si­cal “Impe­ri­al­is­mus­de­bat­te,” one can now see the anthol­o­gy by Rena­to Mon­teleone, Teorie sull’imperialismo (da Kaut­sky a Lenin) (Roma: Edi­tori Riu­ni­ti, 1974). A gen­er­al bib­li­og­ra­phy is in Hans-Ulrich Wehler, ed., Impe­ri­al­is­mus (Köln: Kiepen­heuer & Witsch, 1970), 443–59. See also Tom Kemp, The­o­ries of Impe­ri­al­ism (Lon­don: Dob­son Books, 1967). 

  21. A good bib­li­og­ra­phy of the most recent debate on impe­ri­al­ism is in Dieter Sen­g­haas, ed., Impe­ri­al­is­mus und struk­turelle Gewalt (Frank­furt: Suhrkamp, 1972), 379–403. We will by turn ges­ture to suc­ces­sive con­tri­bu­tions. We point out now the spe­cial issues of Quaderni stori­ci 20 (May–August 1972) and Classe, note­book 6 (Novem­ber 1972), ded­i­cat­ed respec­tive­ly to the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry ori­gins of impe­ri­al­ism and to its present con­fig­u­ra­tion. 

  22. Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, “Sul prob­le­ma dell’organizzazione, Ger­ma­nia 1917–1921,” intro­duc­tion to Kom­mu­nis­mus 1920–1921, by Györ­gy Lukács (Pado­va: Mar­silio Edi­tori, 1972), esp. 52–61. 

  23. Anto­nio Negri excel­lent­ly clar­i­fies these char­ac­ter­is­tics of Lenin’s method in Fac­to­ry of Strat­e­gy, trans. Ari­an­na Bove (New York: Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2015), in an explic­it polemic with the Dellavol­pean and Althusser­ian inter­pre­ta­tions. 

  24. See Vit­to­rio Strada’s impor­tant intro­duc­tion to Lenin in Che fare? (Tori­no: Ein­au­di, 1971). 

  25. Notwith­stand­ing the explic­it admo­ni­tions of the same Lenin: “We shall see lat­er that impe­ri­al­ism can and must be defined dif­fer­ent­ly if we bear in mind not only the basic, pure­ly eco­nom­ic con­cepts […] but also the his­tor­i­cal place of this stage of cap­i­tal­ism in rela­tion to cap­i­tal­ism in gen­er­al, or the rela­tion between impe­ri­al­ism and the two main trends in the work­ing-class move­ment.” Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 267. 

  26. On this sub­ject see, for the Ital­ian case, Mario Isnenghi, Il mito del­la grande guer­ra (Bari: Lat­erza, 1970), 92ff. and pas­sim, with indi­ca­tions large­ly gen­er­al­iz­able to the Euro­pean intel­li­gence of the era. 

  27. One can look back by way of exam­ple at Marshall’s chap­ters on oli­gop­oly: Alfred Mar­shall, Prin­ci­ples of Eco­nom­ics (Lon­don: Macmil­lan and Co., 1961), 278–90, 477–95. [TN: LFB like­ly meant “monop­oly” rather than “oli­gop­oly” here; the cit­ed chap­ters by Mar­shall, enti­tled “Indus­tri­al Orga­ni­za­tion, Con­tin­ued: Pro­duc­tion on a Large Scale” and “The The­o­ry of Monop­o­lies,” con­tain no men­tion of oli­gop­oly.] 

  28. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 276. 

  29. For oil, alu­minum, cop­per, see Ray­mond Ver­non, Sov­er­eign­ty at Bay: The Multi­na­tion­al Spread of U.S. Enter­pris­es (Lon­don: Long­man, 1971), chap­ter 2 and lit­er­a­ture cit­ed there­in; Mira Wilkins, The Emer­gence of Multi­na­tion­al Enter­prise: Amer­i­can Busi­ness Abroad from the Colo­nial Era to 1914 (Cam­bridge, Mass.: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1970), chap­ter 3. For a gen­er­al frame­work of the move­ments of cap­i­tal, see Brin­ley Thomas, “The His­tor­i­cal Record of Inter­na­tion­al Cap­i­tal Move­ments to 1913,” in Cap­i­tal Move­ments and Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment, ed. John Hans Adler (Lon­don: St. Martin’s Press, 1967), 3–32. 

  30. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 238. 

  31. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 233. 

  32. We refer, of course, to the strand inau­gu­rat­ed by Adolph Augus­tus Berle and Gar­diner C. Means in The Mod­ern Cor­po­ra­tion and Pri­vate Prop­er­ty (Buf­fa­lo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 2000 [1931]). 

  33. At the end of the 1930s “the decline of invest­ment bankers” could have been declared “irre­versible”: Paul Sweezy, The Present as His­to­ry, 2nd ed. (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 1953), 189–96. See also note 142 below. 

  34. Rudolf Hil­fer­d­ing, Finance Cap­i­tal: A Study of the Lat­est Phase of Capital’s Devel­op­ment, trans. Mor­ris Wat­nick et al. (Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 2006), espe­cial­ly part 1, 60ff. In his essen­tial intro­duc­tion to Il cap­i­tale finanziario, by Rudolf Hil­fer­d­ing (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1961), Giulio Pietran­era devel­ops this point, par­tial­ly absolv­ing Hil­fer­d­ing from accu­sa­tions (by Kaut­sky and by Lenin him­self) of over­turn­ing the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of mon­ey. See xvii–xxvi. 

  35. See Ser­gio Bologna, “Mon­ey & Cri­sis: Marx as Cor­re­spon­dent of the New York Dai­ly Tri­bune, 1856–57 [Part 1],” trans. Ed Emery and John Mer­ring­ton, Com­mon Sense 13 (Jan­u­ary 1993): 29–53, esp. 32–40. [TN: The Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the sec­ond half of Bologna’s essay was pub­lished in Com­mon Sense 14 (Octo­ber 1993): 63–88.] 

  36. See Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 278. 

  37. Hob­son quot­ed in Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 279–80. [TN: LFB left out the ellip­sis in his repro­duc­tion of the Ital­ian trans­la­tion of this pas­sage. We have rein­sert­ed it here.] 

  38. This is obvi­ous­ly one of the essen­tial com­po­nents of the the­o­ry of the par­ty itself in Lenin. See also Vit­to­rio Strada’s pre­vi­ous­ly cit­ed intro­duc­tion to Che fare? The devel­op­ment of the “Bol­she­viks” and the increase of the inter­na­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ties of the par­ty do not alter this fun­da­men­tal fact until 1917. An appli­ca­tion of this view­point which is still inter­est­ing today is Lenin’s inter­ven­tion, “On the Slo­gan for a Unit­ed States of Europe,” in Col­lect­ed Works, trans. Julius Katzer, vol. 21 (Moscow: Progress Pub­lish­ers, 1974), 339–43. 

  39. See the pref­ace to the French and Ger­man edi­tions in Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 189–94. In the sense of the cen­tral­i­ty even today of the fig­ure of the labor aris­toc­ra­cy, see Mar­tin Nico­laus, “The­o­ry of the Labor Aris­toc­ra­cy,” Month­ly Review 21, no. 11 (April 1970): 91–101. It is pushed even a lit­tle fur­ther in Lelio Bas­so, “La teo­ria dell’imperialismo in Lenin,” in Estrat­to Da ‘Annali’ Fel­trinel­li (Milano: 1974), 726, imput­ing the Lenin­ist con­cept of the restric­tion of the area of work­ers’ oppor­tunism to the sole “objec­tive” dimen­sions of the aris­toc­ra­cy. 

  40. See also Negri, Fac­to­ry of Strat­e­gy, and ear­li­er, “Lenin e i sovi­et nel­la riv­o­luzione,” Classe Opera­ia 2, no. 1 (1965): 26–32. [TN: See Fac­to­ry of Strat­e­gy, 111n1, for an account of how Negri incor­po­rat­ed that ear­li­er arti­cle into his 1972–73 course on Lenin at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pad­ua. A revised ver­sion of “Lenin e i sovi­et” also appears in Negri’s Insur­gen­cies: Con­stituent Pow­er and the Mod­ern State, trans. Mau­r­izia Boscagli (Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 2009), 268–92. In Ital­ian one can also find this text in Crisi del­lo sta­to piano, comu­nis­mo e orga­niz­zazione riv­o­luzionar­ia (Flo­rence: CLUSF, 1972), 93–128.] 

  41. Lenin’s “Tay­loris­tic” read­ings in the “Note­books on Impe­ri­al­ism” are par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant for this argu­ment: e.g. 152–60. 

  42. The the­sis of uneven devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism is, is under­stood as, an old cat­e­go­ry already devel­oped by Lenin in the era of the dis­cus­sion with the Nar­o­d­niks on the rela­tion between inter­nal devel­op­ment and exter­nal mar­ket. Its uti­liza­tion in the dif­fer­ent the­o­ret­i­cal con­text of the impe­ri­al­ist the­mat­ic is car­ried over from there. It is not pos­si­ble to dis­cuss this point here. There is a sharp cri­tique of the the­o­ry of uneven devel­op­ment, both in Lenin and in the The­o­rie des Staatsmo­nop­o­lis­tis­chen Kap­i­tal­is­mus, in Chris­tel Neusüss, Impe­ri­al­is­mus und Welt­mark­t­be­we­gung des Kap­i­tals (Erlan­gen: Polit­laden, 1972), 78–93. 

  43. See Cac­cia­ri, “Sul prob­le­ma dell’organizzazione,” 59. 

  44. On this sub­ject see Ser­gio Bologna, “Class Com­po­si­tion and the The­o­ry of the Par­ty at the Ori­gins of the Work­ers-Coun­cil Move­ment,” trans. Bruno Ramirez, Telos 13 (Fall 1972), 4–27. 

  45. In par­tic­u­lar in the post-Stal­in­ist ver­sion of “peace­ful coex­is­tence.” 

  46. Rodol­fo Ban­fi insists on this in “Per un’analisi dell’elaborazione marx­ista sull’imperialismo,” Riv­ista stor­i­ca del social­is­mo 30 (January–April 1967), 49–76. He does not seem to want to take into account Ric­car­do Guas­ti­ni, “La for­mazione impe­ri­al­is­ti­ca mon­di­ale e le con­trad­dizioni del­la nos­tra epoca,” in Classe, note­book 6 (Novem­ber 1972), 3–67. 

  47. An attempt at a bal­ance sheet of the “answered and unan­swered ques­tions of impe­ri­al­ism” can be found in Bob Sut­cliffe, “Con­clu­sion,” in Stud­ies in the The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism, ed. Roger Owen et al. (Lon­don: Long­man, 1972), 312–30. But see also the sig­nif­i­cant anno­ta­tions of Rena­to Zangheri’s intro­duc­tion to Prob­le­mi di sto­ria del cap­i­tal­is­mo, by Mau­rice Dobb, 2nd ed. (Roma: Edi­tori Riu­ni­ti, 1969). 

  48. The “bour­geois” his­to­ri­og­ra­phy to which we refer is extreme­ly vast, but the themes of its anti-Lenin­ist polemic are always the same. The posi­tions are exem­plar­i­ly sum­ma­rized in writ­ings such as: W.L. Langer, “A Cri­tique of Impe­ri­al­ism,” For­eign Affairs 14 (Octo­ber 1935): 102–11; Pierre Renou­vin, intro­duc­tion to Les Poli­tiques d’expansion impéri­al­iste (Paris: Press­es uni­ver­si­taires de France, 1949); John Gal­lagher and Ronald Robin­son, “The Impe­ri­al­ism of Free Trade,” The Eco­nom­ic His­to­ry Review 6, no. 1 (August 1953): 1–15, and above all D.K. Field­house, “Impe­ri­al­ism: An His­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal Revi­sion,” The Eco­nom­ic His­to­ry Review 14, no. 2 (Decem­ber, 1961): 187–209. 

  49. See Sut­cliffe, “Con­clu­sion,” 315–20. 

  50. The recent work by George Lichtheim, Impe­ri­al­ism (Har­mondsworth: Pen­guin Books, 1974), seems to me a typ­i­cal exam­ple of this argu­ment. As for Joseph Schumpeter’s “Soci­ol­o­gy of Impe­ri­alisms,” the patent inad­e­qua­cy of the cat­e­gories he uses (social atavism and so on) can­not suf­fice for his com­mit­ted, and in some ways bril­liant, attempt to uncou­ple the “pro­gres­sive” des­tiny of cap­i­tal from the repel­lant phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of impe­ri­al­ism. See Joseph Schum­peter, “Soci­ol­o­gy of Impe­ri­alisms,” in Impe­ri­al­ism and Social Class­es: Two Essays (Auburn, Ala.: Lud­wig Von Mis­es Insti­tute, 2007), 3–98. Instead, we attach great impor­tance to this text: Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, “Impe­ri­al­is­mo e lot­ta di classe,” Con­tropi­ano 3 (September–December, 1969): 717–36, esp. 722–23. 

  51. Regard­ing the Third Inter­na­tion­al, it is a debate that large­ly con­cerns the ques­tions of the nation­al lib­er­a­tion move­ments. There is a very large bib­li­og­ra­phy of mate­r­i­al pro­duced by the Third Inter­na­tion­al in Enri­ca Col­lot­ti-Pis­chel and Chiara Rober­tazzi, eds., L’Internationale Com­mu­niste et les prob­lèmes colo­ni­aux (Paris: Mou­ton, 1968). 

  52. Their exchange, par­tial­ly doc­u­ment­ed in this anthol­o­gy, had been pre­ced­ed by oth­er inter­ven­tions: Ernest Man­del, “Where Is Amer­i­ca Going?” New Left Review I, no. 54 (March–April 1969): 3–15, as well as Mar­tin Nico­laus, “The Uni­ver­sal Con­tra­dic­tion,” New Left Review I, no. 59 (January–February 1970): 3–8, and Ernest Man­del, “The Laws of Uneven Devel­op­ment,” New Left Review I, no. 59 (January–February 1970): 19–38. The ques­tion has giv­en rise to an avalanche of writ­ings, and by no means has it been extin­guished, even though real­i­ty has tak­en it upon itself to elim­i­nate the abstract­ness of some ini­tial con­trasts. On Mandel’s posi­tions, but with an inde­pen­dent elab­o­ra­tion, we should at least note Robert Rowthorn, “Impe­ri­al­ism in the Sev­en­ties: Uni­ty or Rival­ry?” New Left Review I, no. 69 (September–October 1971): 31–54. I crit­i­cized this essay in detail in “La sfi­da amer­i­cana in Europa,” Potere Operaio 49 (June 1972): 25–28. 

  53. The pull exert­ed by Gaullism on the Neo-Euro­peanism of the offi­cial work­ers’ move­ment in the West is some­thing that should be stud­ied. For some mate­ri­als, see the pro­ceed­ings of the con­ven­tions “I comu­nisti ital­iani e l’Europa” and “I Par­ti­ti comu­nisti e l’Europa,” in Quaderni di Polit­i­ca ed econo­mia 3 (November–December 1971). 

  54. See Mar­tin Nico­laus, L’oggettività dell’imperialismo: Anti-Man­del (Firen­ze: La Nuo­va Italia, 1973), 16–23. (The first part of Nicolaus’s pam­phlet is not includ­ed in this anthol­o­gy. [TN: “Pam­phlet” in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. Nicolaus’s entire polemic with Man­del was nev­er pub­lished in pam­phlet form in Eng­lish, but see the sources cit­ed above.]) The Sweez­ian deriva­tion of the the­sis is obvi­ous; also, as to the point in the text, see the edi­to­r­i­al by Paul Sweezy and Har­ry Magd­off, “Impe­ri­al­ism in the Sev­en­ties: Prob­lems and Per­spec­tives,” in Month­ly Review 23, no. 10 (March 1972): 1–8, 1. 

  55. This basi­cal­ly per­tains to works like that of Neusüss, Impe­ri­al­is­mus (par­tial­ly trans­lat­ed for this vol­ume), the sketch of which I have fol­lowed in this para­graph. 

  56. Accord­ing to Gross­mann, Marx would have sim­ply omit­ted “die vie­len Stellen, an welchen er die Rolle und Funk­tion des Aussen­han­dels im Kap­i­tal­is­mus behan­delte, in einem Kap­i­tal zusam­men­z­u­fassen”: see Hen­ryk Gross­mann, Das Akku­mu­la­tions- und Zusam­men­bruchs­ge­seiz des Kap­i­tal­is­tis­chen Sys­tem (Frank­furt: Neue Kri­tik Ver­lag, 1970), 421. [TN: This pas­sage does not appear in the abridged Eng­lish ver­sion of the text; see Hen­ryk Gross­mann, The Law of Accu­mu­la­tion and Break­down of the Cap­i­tal­ist Sys­tem, Being also a The­o­ry of Crises, ed. and trans. Jairus Bana­ji (Lon­don: Plu­to, 1992).] On this sub­ject, see the well-found­ed cri­tique in Roman Ros­dol­sky, The Mak­ing of Marx’s Cap­i­tal (Lon­don: Plu­to, 2004), 23–26. 

  57. Karl Marx, Cap­i­tal, trans. David Fern­bach, vol. 3 (Lon­don: Pen­guin, 1991), 775. [TN: LFB has attrib­uted what appears to be his own para­phrase to the Ital­ian trans­la­tion of Marx, which reads slight­ly dif­fer­ent­ly. LFB writes “i lim­i­ti posti dal val­ore d’uso,” while the source page in Ital­ian reads, ”La lim­i­tazione viene qui pos­ta dal val­ore d’uso,” in ital­ics. Fern­bach trans­lates that pas­sage as, “The lim­it in this case emerges through the use-val­ue.” For the Ital­ian, see Marx, Il Cap­i­tale, vol. 8 of 8 (Edi­tori Riu­ni­ti: Roma, 1970), 32.] On abstract labor as a his­tor­i­cal-the­o­ret­i­cal nexus, I still con­sid­er impor­tant the research of J.C. Michaud, Teo­ria e sto­ria nel Cap­i­tale di Marx (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1960). 

  58. Karl Marx, The­o­ries of Sur­plus-Val­ue in Marx-Engels Col­lect­ed Works, trans. Emile Burns et al., vol. 32 (Lon­don: Lawrence & Wishart, 1989), 388. 

  59. Karl Marx, Cap­i­tal, trans. Ben Fowkes, vol. 1, part 8. Its impor­tance is under­lined, ulti­mate­ly polem­i­cal­ly, in Aure­lio Mac­chioro, “Intro­duzione al pri­mo libro del Cap­i­tale,Nuo­va Riv­ista Stor­i­ca 57, no. 1–2 (1973): 62–63. [TN: Here LFB refers the read­er to chap­ter 24 of the Ital­ian trans­la­tion of Cap­i­tal, which, owing to dif­fer­ent chap­ter breaks, cor­re­sponds to the entire­ty of the Eng­lish “Part Eight: So-Called Prim­i­tive Accu­mu­la­tion.” For the Ital­ian see chap­ter 24 in Il Cap­i­tale, vol. 3 of 8 (Edi­tori Riu­ni­ti: Roma, 1970). Also, a note on ter­mi­nol­o­gy: when­ev­er the word orig­i­nar­ia appears in quo­ta­tion marks, or next to the word accu­mu­lazione, we’ve opt­ed to trans­late it as “prim­i­tive,” to remain con­sis­tent with the Pen­guin Eng­lish trans­la­tions of Marx. How­ev­er, when orig­i­nar­ia appears else­where, we have ren­dered it as “orig­i­nary,” in order to dis­pense with unnec­es­sary con­no­ta­tions.] 

  60. Karl Marx, The­o­ries of Sur­plus-Val­ue, 294. Along the same lines, see Marx’s var­i­ous anno­ta­tions on the “mer­can­tilists”: “it is also the char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­ture of the self-inter­est­ed mer­chants and man­u­fac­tur­ers of that time, and belongs to the peri­od of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment that they rep­re­sent, that the trans­for­ma­tion of feu­dal agri­cul­tur­al soci­eties into indus­tri­al soci­eties, and the result­ing indus­tri­al strug­gle of nations on the world mar­ket, involves an accel­er­at­ed devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal which can­not be attained in the so-called nat­ur­al way but only by com­pul­sion.” Karl Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 920 (LFB’s ital­ics). 

  61. Neusüss observes pre­cise­ly this: Impe­ri­al­is­mus, 33–38. Lenin him­self is explic­it, see Impe­ri­al­ism, 233ff. 

  62. On this, see the col­lec­tion in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, On Colo­nial­ism (New York: Inter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers, 1972). See also Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, India Cina Rus­sia, ed. B. Maf­fi (Milano: Il Sag­gia­tore, 1960), and in par­tic­u­lar Marx’s famous essay, “The Future Results of British Rule in India,” Marx-Engels Col­lect­ed Works, vol. 12 (Lon­don: Lawrence & Wishart, 1979), 217. [TN: “On colo­nial­ism” in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal.] 

  63. Pao­lo San­ti broad­ly insists upon this in his intro­duc­tion to L’economia mon­di­ale e l’imperialismo, by Niko­lai Bukharin (Roma: Samonà e Savel­li, 1966), 32ff. But see also Hélène Car­rère D’Encausse and Stu­art Schram, eds., Marx­ism and Asia: An Intro­duc­tion and Read­ings (Lon­don: Allen Lane, 1969), 7–15. The ques­tion is, on the oth­er hand, at the cen­ter of the con­tro­ver­sy on the Asi­at­ic mode of pro­duc­tion, on which one can see Gian­ni Sofri, Il modo di pro­duzione asi­ati­co (Tori­no: Ein­au­di, 1969), and my note, “Impe­ri­al­is­mo sot­tosvilup­po e lot­ta opera­ia,” Com­pag­ni 2–3 (1970): 41–42. 

  64. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  65. Ser­gio Bologna, “Mon­ey and Cri­sis,” 33–34 and pas­sim. 

  66. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 969–70. 

  67. Marx, Grun­drisse, 161. The method­olog­i­cal ques­tions in the text have also been at the cen­ter of a large debate in Italy, start­ing above all with the famous works of Lucio Col­let­ti, Gal­vano Del­la Volpe, Cesare Lupori­ni, and oth­ers. 

  68. Marx, Grun­drisse, 449. Inter­est­ing, for our own pur­pos­es, is the exam­ple that Marx imme­di­ate­ly offers: “For exam­ple, cap­i­tal in this gen­er­al form, although belong­ing to indi­vid­ual cap­i­tal­ists, in its ele­men­tal form as cap­i­tal, forms the cap­i­tal which accu­mu­lates in the banks or is dis­trib­uted through them, and, as Ricar­do says, so admirably dis­trib­utes itself in accor­dance with the needs of pro­duc­tion. Like­wise, through loans etc., it forms a lev­el between the dif­fer­ent coun­tries. If it is there­fore e.g. a law of cap­i­tal in gen­er­al that, in order to real­ize itself, it must posit itself dou­bly, and must real­ize itself in this dou­ble form, then e.g. the cap­i­tal of a par­tic­u­lar nation which rep­re­sents cap­i­tal par excel­lence in antithe­sis to anoth­er will have to lend itself out to a third nation in order to be able to real­ize itself. This dou­ble posit­ing, this relat­ing to self as to an alien, becomes damn real in this case.” 

  69. This redis­tri­b­u­tion con­sti­tutes cap­i­tal­ists as “func­tionar­ies” of social cap­i­tal, not only in a mechan­i­cal sense, as pro rata hold­ers of a quo­ta of total sur­plus-val­ue, but in so far as it rewards inno­v­a­tive entre­pre­neur­ship, “pro­gres­sive” exploita­tion. 

  70. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 242 (LFB’s ital­ics). 

  71. Gross­mann, Akku­mu­la­tion, 505ff. Gross­mann con­ducts a sharp cri­tique of his con­tem­po­rary lit­er­a­ture. For an overview, see Lucio Col­let­ti and Clau­dio Napoleoni, Il futuro del cap­i­tal­is­mo: crol­lo o svilup­po? (Bari: Lat­erza, 1970). 

  72. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 275. 

  73. Neusüss, Impe­ri­al­is­mus, 136. [TN: The present trans­la­tion of this pas­sage is based on LFB’s Ital­ian ren­di­tion of the Ger­man orig­i­nal. We have also ben­e­fit­ed from con­sult­ing a par­tial Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the Ger­man, which appears in the text of Oliv­er Nachtwey and Tobias ten Brink, “Lost in Trans­la­tion: The Ger­man World-Mar­ket Debate in the 1970s,” His­tor­i­cal Mate­ri­al­ism 16, no. 1 (2008): 37–70.]  

  74. Ibid., 132–33. 

  75. On this gen­er­al point I gen­er­al­ly refer to the essays of Anto­nio Negri: “Marx on Cycle and Cri­sis,” in Rev­o­lu­tion Retrieved: Writ­ings on Marx, Keynes, Cap­i­tal­ist Cri­sis and New Social Sub­jects (1967–83), trans. Ed Emery et al. (Lon­don: Red Notes, 1988), 43–90; “Cri­sis of the Plan­ner-State: Com­mu­nism and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Orga­ni­za­tion” in Books for Burn­ing, trans. Ed Emery et al. (New York: Ver­so, 2005), 1–50; and “Work­ers’ Par­ty Against Work,” in Books for Burn­ing, 51–117. 

  76. Neusüss’s posi­tions are also inter­est­ing as they reflect those of an entire ten­den­cy that has had an impor­tant role on the Ger­man extreme left in recent years. One can see the first series of the mag­a­zine Sozial­is­tis­che Poli­tik and also Prob­le­men des Klassenkampf. On the lat­ter, see the essay by Chris­tel Neusüss, Bern­hard Blanke, and Elmar Alt­vater, “Kap­i­tal­is­tis­che Welt­markt und Weltwährungskrise,” Prokla 1 (1971): 5–116; and above all, for the gen­er­al pre­sup­po­si­tions, see Elmar Alt­vater, “Notes on Some Prob­lems of State Inter­ven­tion­ism” (1972). 

  77. See, among oth­ers, Horst Hem­berg­er et al., Impe­ri­al­is­mus heute. Das Staatsmo­nop­o­lis­tis­che Kap­i­tal­is­mus in West­deutsch­land, 5th ed. (Berlin: Dietz, 1968); Traité marx­iste d’économie poli­tique: Le cap­i­tal­isme monop­o­liste d’Etat, 2 vols. (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1971); and Rug­gero Spes­so, “Carat­teri e mod­i­fi­cazioni del cap­i­tal­is­mo monop­o­lis­ti­co di sta­to,” Crit­i­ca marx­ista 1 (January–February 1969): 57–71. 

  78. See Neusüss. Impe­ri­al­is­mus, 130 and 265n. That this is not the only pos­si­ble read­ing is demon­strat­ed recent­ly by Anto­nio Negri, “Rileggen­do Pasuka­nis,” Crit­i­ca del dirit­to 1 (1974): 90-119. [TN: Negri’s essay was sub­se­quent­ly repub­lished in La for­ma Sta­to (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1977), 161–95, but has not appeared in an Eng­lish trans­la­tion.] 

  79. That seems to me the entire sense of the above-cit­ed essay by Alt­vater, “Notes on Some Prob­lems,” as well as the posi­tions such as those devel­oped by Paul Mattick in Marx and Keynes: The Lim­its of the Mixed Econ­o­my (Boston: Porter Sar­gent, 1969). 

  80. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 298. 

  81. An analy­sis of the struc­ture of inter­na­tion­al law from this point of view would be quite oppor­tune. It is not a coin­ci­dence that even the more “real­is­tic” attempts to get to the bot­tom of the tra­di­tion­al con­tra­po­si­tion between monism and dual­ism can­not exceed the lev­el of a mere­ly polit­i­cal-ter­ri­to­r­i­al sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. On this see Gae­tano Aran­gio-Ruiz, Gli enti sogget­ti nel dirit­to inter­nazionale (Milano: Giuf­fré, 1956). 

  82. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 277–78 (LFB’s ital­ics). 

  83. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 701–02. 

  84. On the one hand, there is, in short, the reducibil­i­ty and the effec­tive reduc­tion of any type of labor to sim­ple labor (which remains, more­over, a prob­lem still open today); on the oth­er hand, there is the con­tin­u­al rede­ter­mi­na­tion of social­ly nec­es­sary labor, as a result of the inces­sant mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the sys­tem. The two process­es coin­cide to the extent that it is a ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal to deposit intel­li­gence into machin­ery. 

  85. “The same rule which reg­u­lates the rel­a­tive val­ue of com­modi­ties in one coun­try, does not reg­u­late the rel­a­tive val­ue of the com­modi­ties exchanged between two or more coun­tries.” So begins the true demon­stra­tion of the law of com­par­a­tive costs in David Ricar­do, On the Prin­ci­ples of Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my and Tax­a­tion (Lon­don: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1917), 81. For the most part it is, nat­u­ral­ly, only the point of depar­ture (rel­a­tive immo­bil­i­ty of the fac­tors of pro­duc­tion). Chris­t­ian Pal­loix dis­cuss­es this point broad­ly, but not always in a clear man­ner, in L’économie mon­di­ale cap­i­tal­iste, vol. 1 (Paris: Maspero, 1971), 174–87, 247–59. 

  86. “When mon­ey leaves the domes­tic sphere of cir­cu­la­tion it los­es the local func­tions it has acquired there, as the stan­dard of prices, coin, and small change, and as a sym­bol of val­ue, and falls back into its orig­i­nal form as pre­cious met­al in the shape of bul­lion. In world trade, com­modi­ties devel­op their val­ue uni­ver­sal­ly. Their inde­pen­dent val­ue-form thus con­fronts them here too as world mon­ey. It is in the world mar­ket that mon­ey first func­tions to its full extent as the com­mod­i­ty whose nat­ur­al form is also the direct­ly social form of real­iza­tion of human labour in the abstract. Its mode of exis­tence becomes ade­quate to its con­cept.” (Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 240.) 

  87. “The busi­ness of coin­ing, like the estab­lish­ing of a stan­dard mea­sure of prices, is an attribute prop­er to the state. The dif­fer­ent nation­al uni­forms worn at home by gold and sil­ver as coins, but tak­en off again when they appear on the world mar­ket, demon­strate the sep­a­ra­tion between inter­nal or nation­al spheres of com­mod­i­ty cir­cu­la­tion and its uni­ver­sal sphere, the world mar­ket.” (Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 221–22.) On the nature and con­se­quence of this dou­ble cir­cu­la­tion, see Neusüss, Impe­ri­al­is­mus, 142ff. 

  88. TN: In the orig­i­nal. 

  89. TN: Here, and below, in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  90. On this see Flaminio De Cin­dio, Il Sis­tema mon­e­tario aureo (Roma: Edi­tori Riu­ni­ti, 1961). 

  91. This rela­tion con­sti­tutes a clas­sic topos in the his­to­ry of Marx­ism, start­ing from Lenin’s polemic with the “legal” pop­ulists and Marx­ists in the 1890s, which was rep­re­sent­ed then as an alter­na­tive between a devel­op­ment in the key of under­con­sump­tion (á la Lux­em­burg) or in the oppos­ing key (á la Gross­mann). On these sub­jects, see also Pal­loix, L’économie, vol. 1, 187–99. 

  92. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 344. Marx con­tin­ues: “Cap­i­tal invest­ed in for­eign trade can yield a high­er rate of prof­it, first­ly, because it com­petes with com­modi­ties pro­duced by oth­er coun­tries with less devel­oped pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties, so that the more advanced coun­try sells its goods above their val­ue, even though still more cheap­ly than its com­peti­tors. In so far as the labour of the more advanced coun­try is val­orized here as labour of a high­er spe­cif­ic weight, the prof­it rate ris­es, since labour that is not paid as qual­i­ta­tive­ly high­er is nev­er­the­less sold as such.” 

  93. Marx, Grun­drisse, 227. 

  94. Marx, Grun­drisse, 227. 

  95. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 705 (LFB’s ital­ics). 

  96. “But, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, the Pro­tec­tive sys­tem in these days is con­ser­v­a­tive, while the Free Trade sys­tem works destruc­tive­ly. It breaks up old nation­al­i­ties and car­ries antag­o­nism of pro­le­tari­at and bour­geoisie to the utter­most point. In a word, the Free Trade sys­tem has­tens the Social Rev­o­lu­tion. In this rev­o­lu­tion­ary sense alone, gen­tle­men, I am in favor of Free Trade.” Karl Marx, “Speech on the Ques­tion of Free Trade” (1847), in Marx-Engels Col­lect­ed Works, vol. 6 (Lon­don: Lawrence & Wishart, 1976), 465. 

  97. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  98. On the rela­tion between “mar­ket” and accu­mu­la­tion see also the intense polemic in Mar­tin Nico­laus, L’oggetività, 85–88. 

  99. This is the theme of the “rev­o­lu­tion from above” in Marx (Bona­parte, Palmer­ston). On this, see Bologna’s essay, “Mon­ey and Cri­sis,” which can be use­ful­ly con­trast­ed with the read­ing of “Bona­partism” in Marx devel­oped in the way of Nicos Poulantzas, Fas­cism and Dic­ta­tor­ship, trans. Judith White (Lon­don: Ver­so, 1979). 

  100. TN: LFB uses the Latin realiter here. 

  101. On the con­cept of rel­a­tive wage, see Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, chap­ter 20; Ros­dol­sky, The Mak­ing of Marx’s Cap­i­tal, 293–96; and the sec­tion of Neusüss’s work, Impe­ri­al­is­mus, in this vol­ume. 

  102. Cf. Suzanne De Brun­hoff, Marx on Mon­ey, trans. Mau­rice J. Gold­bloom (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2016), 103. 

  103. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 703–04. 

  104. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 209. 

  105. A great part of this mate­r­i­al is con­tained in the fifth sec­tion of the Third Book of Cap­i­tal; in his pref­ace, Engels illus­trates the state of great “con­fu­sion” con­cern­ing this sec­tion (Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 95–96). For recon­struc­tions, see the scarce works that deal with the the­o­ry of mon­ey in Marx: Hen­ri Denis, La mon­naie (Paris: Édi­tions sociales, 1951); Bruno Fritsch, Die Geld- und Kred­it­the­o­rie von Karl Marx (Frank­furt: Europa Ver­lag, 1971); Car­lo Bof­fi­to, Teo­ria del­la mon­e­ta (Tori­no: Ein­au­di, 1973); De Brun­hoff, Marx on Mon­ey; Suzanne De Brun­hoff, La polit­i­ca mon­e­taria (Bari: Lat­erza, 1974). 

  106. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 622–24, and the com­ment on these pages in De Brun­hoff, Marx on Mon­ey, 103–07. 

  107. See, for exam­ple, his arti­cles for the New York Her­ald Tri­bune, on which Bologna com­ments in “Mon­ey and Cri­sis.” 

  108. In this sense it is false that in Marx there does not exist, or there exists only in nuce, a the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism: cf. A. Mac­chioro, “Intro­duzione al pri­mo libro del Cap­i­tale.” 

  109. Friedrich Engels, “Pref­ace” [to the Sec­ond Edi­tion, 1892] in The Con­di­tion of the Work­ing Class in Eng­land, trans. Flo­rence Kel­ley Wis­chnewet­zky (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010), ix. Regard­ing Engels’ opin­ions on this sub­ject, see the polemic between Nico­laus and Man­del, in this vol­ume. 

  110. See Mar­cel­lo De Cec­co, Econo­mia e finan­za inter­nazionale dal 1890 al 1914 (Bari: Lat­erza, 1971), 145ff. 

  111. D. Williams, “The Evo­lu­tion of the Ster­ling Sys­tem,” in Charles R. Whit­tle­say et al., eds., Essays in mon­ey and bank­ing in hon­our of R.S. Say­ers (Oxford: Claren­don Press, 1968); but cer­tain­ly also, Robert Trif­fin, The Evo­lu­tion of the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Sys­tem: His­tor­i­cal Reap­praisal and Future Per­spec­tives (Prince­ton, N.J.: Inter­na­tion­al Finance Sec­tion, Dept. of Eco­nom­ics, Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, 1964). 

  112. TN: “City” in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  113. Cf. De Cec­co, “Econo­mia,” 63–64. 

  114. See, for all this, Albert H. Imlah, Eco­nom­ic Ele­ments in the Pax Bri­tan­ni­ca (Cam­bridge, Mass.: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1958), 70ff; Phyl­lis Deane and William A. Cole, British Eco­nom­ic Growth, 1688–1959. Trends and struc­ture (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1962). 

  115. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  116. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  117. Cf. Vale­rio Cas­trono­vo, “Con­giun­tu­ra eco­nom­i­ca e polit­i­ca colo­nial­ista,” Quaderni stori­ci 20 (May–August 1972): 455; see also H. Myint, “The ‘Clas­si­cal The­o­ry’ of Inter­na­tion­al Trade and the Under­de­vel­oped Coun­tries,” The Eco­nom­ic Jour­nal 68, no. 270 (June 1958): 317–37. 

  118. See, for all this, John Har­ry Dun­ning, Stud­ies in Inter­na­tion­al Invest­ment (Lon­don: Allen & Unwin, 1970) and his intro­duc­tion to Inter­na­tion­al Invest­ment (Har­mondsworth: Pen­guin Books, 1972), 9–23. 

  119. Niko­lai Bukharin, Impe­ri­al­ism and World Econ­o­my (Lon­don: Mar­tin Lawrence Ltd., 1930), 41. (LFB’s ital­ics.) 

  120. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 490. 

  121. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 488. 

  122. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 490. (LFB’s ital­ics.) 

  123. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 3, 572. 

  124. The anti-Kaut­skyian polemic already devel­oped by Lenin in his intro­duc­tion (1915) to Impe­ri­al­ism and World Econ­o­my, by Bukharin, 9–14, also takes its dis­tance from cer­tain of the latter’s gen­er­al the­ses; in fact Bukharin is, to my eyes, the author of a true and prop­er the­o­ry of super-impe­ri­al­ism far more than Kaut­sky and his the­o­ret­i­cal mess [pas­tic­cio] on indus­tri­al cap­i­tal which annuls the agrar­i­an ter­ri­to­ries! The oth­er direc­tion of Lenin’s (implic­it, but no less real) polemic which is referred to in the text is obvi­ous­ly toward Rosa Lux­em­burg. “The whole of the so-called ‘nation­al econ­o­my,’ i.e. the cap­i­tal­ist world econ­o­my, is com­plete­ly unor­ga­nized. In the whole, which stretch­es across oceans and con­ti­nents, no plan, no con­scious­ness, no reg­u­la­tion pre­vails; only the blind reign of unknown, uncon­trolled forces plays its capri­cious game with people’s eco­nom­ic fate. There is indeed, still today, an over-pow­er­ful lord that gov­erns work­ing human­i­ty: cap­i­tal. But its form of gov­ern­ment is not despo­tism but anar­chy.” (Rosa Lux­em­burg, “Intro­duc­tion to Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my,” in The Com­plete Works of Rosa Lux­em­burg: Vol­ume 1, Eco­nom­ic Writ­ings 1, ed. Peter Hud­is [Lon­don: Ver­so, 2013], 134.) The “anar­chy” of cap­i­tal at the world lev­el has a rather dif­fer­ent the­o­ret­i­cal sense in the con­text of Lenin’s dis­course. 

  125. Eric Roll, The World After Keynes (New York: Praeger, 1968), 90. But see also Trif­fin, Evo­lu­tion of the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Sys­tem, chap­ter 2. 

  126. Sal­va­tore Bias­co, “La fine di un’era: lo svilup­po eco­nom­i­co cap­i­tal­is­ti­co nel dopoguer­ra,” Nuo­vo Impeg­no 2 (1972): 107. Bias­co con­tin­ues: “a fourth must be added: the exploita­tion of under­de­vel­oped coun­tries.” It is exclud­ed from Bianco’s argu­ment because “if it is cor­rect to claim that impe­ri­al­ism is a cause of under­de­vel­op­ment for back­ward coun­tries, it is wrong and a bit mis­lead­ing to say that impe­ri­al­ism and only impe­ri­al­ism is the spur for devel­op­ment in indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries.” Ibid, 105. We will return to this in the fol­low­ing sec­tion. 

  127. Bias­co, “La fine di un’era,” 109. Some wider bib­li­o­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion, exclud­ed from the lim­it­ed scope of this intro­duc­tion, can be found, also for the his­to­ry of inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ics after the sec­ond world war, in Fran­co Cata­lano, La crisi del sis­tema mon­e­tario inter­nazionale (Milano: Etas Kom­pass, 1972), 329–50. 

  128. Per­mit me to refer to Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, “Il New Deal e il nuo­vo asset­to delle isti­tuzioni cap­i­tal­is­tiche,” in Operaie e sta­to (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1972), 101–34, and to the bib­li­og­ra­phy indi­cat­ed there. [TN: For an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of selec­tions from this text, see Luciano Fer­rari Bra­vo, “The New Deal and the New Order of Cap­i­tal­ist Insti­tu­tions (1972),” trans. Evan Calder Williams, View­point 4 (Octo­ber 2014).] 

  129. Jacob Vin­er, Two Plans for Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Sta­bi­liza­tion (New Haven: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1943), 5. [TN: “Gold-dol­lar stan­dard” in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal.] 

  130. Ibid., 7ff 

  131. TN: The “ban­cor” (“bank-gold” in French) was pro­posed by Keynes as an inter­na­tion­al cur­ren­cy that would have a fixed exchange rate with all mem­ber coun­tries’ nation­al cur­ren­cies and gold reserves. See Benn Steil, The Bat­tle of Bret­ton Woods: John May­nard Keynes, Har­ry Dex­ter White, and the Mak­ing of a New World Order (Prince­ton, N.J.: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2013), 143–150. 

  132. On the rela­tion­ship between liq­uid­i­ty and adjust­ment with respect to the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund sys­tem, see among the many sources, James E. Meade, “The inter­na­tion­al mon­e­tary mech­a­nism,“Three Banks Review 64, no. 63 (1964): 3–25. On the points stressed in the text see G. Men­garel­li, “Orig­ine e crisi del sis­tema mon­e­tario inter­nazionale,” Crit­i­ca Marx­ista 45 (1969): 124–30, and above all, Cata­lano, La crisi del sis­tema mon­e­tario inter­nazionale, chap­ters 5–8. 

  133. “The sys­tem per­mit­ted a sort of dynam­ic equi­lib­ri­um: the Amer­i­can deficit allowed the oth­er coun­tries over­all to find them­selves with a sur­plus; that is to say that in any moment in time, each of the coun­tries could have its own bal­ance of pay­ments in sur­plus; in the same way if the eco­nom­ic dynam­ic of a coun­try moved it away from a sit­u­a­tion of equi­lib­ri­um with respect to the oth­ers, the poli­cies under­tak­en to alle­vi­ate the rel­a­tive deficit allowed the coun­try in ques­tion to return to sur­plus, but in this way makes it such that the deficit does not nec­es­sar­i­ly pass to oth­er coun­tries.” Luca Mel­dole­si, “Sis­tema mon­e­tario e svilup­po cap­i­tal­is­ti­co,” Classe e sta­to 3 (1967): 64–65. 

  134. Bias­co, “La fine di un’era,” 107. 

  135. As in Har­ry Magd­off, The Age of Impe­ri­al­ism: The Eco­nom­ics of U.S. For­eign Pol­i­cy (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 1969), 67. 

  136. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  137. TN: Both in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  138. For an accu­rate and up to date descrip­tion of the terms of the mon­e­tary cri­sis, cf. Gae­tano Stam­mati, Il sis­tema mon­e­tario inter­nazionale (Tori­no: Bor­inghieri, 1973), 128–52. For the gen­er­al polit­i­cal terms of an inter­pre­ta­tion of the cri­sis, refer to Anto­nio Negri, “The­ses on the Cri­sis,” in Work­ing Class Auton­o­my and the Cri­sis, ed. Red Notes (Lon­don: Red Notes, 1979), 39–54. Also cf. Ser­gio Bologna, “Petro­lio e mer­ca­to mon­di­ale: cro­nis­to­ria di una cri­sis,” Quaderni pia­cen­ti­ni 52 (1974): 3–27. Also excel­lent is the pam­phlet from Pro­le­tarische Front, Der Gegen­wär­tige Impe­ri­al­is­mus (Ham­burg, 1972). 

  139. A rich the­o­ret­i­cal bib­li­og­ra­phy on this sub­ject (which more­over is becom­ing exter­mi­nat­ed) can be found thanks to the infor­ma­tive work of Enzo Rul­lani, Lo svilup­po multi­nazionale delle imp­rese indus­tri­ali (Milano: Etas Kom­pass, 1973). 

  140. See Fran­co Momigliano, Lezioni di econo­mia indus­tri­ale e teo­ria dell’impresa (Tori­no: Giap­pichel­li, 1972), 283ff; also see, Charles P. Kingle­berg­er, ed., The Inter­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tion (Cam­bridge: MIT Press, 1970), 12–13; John H. Dun­ning, ed., The Multi­na­tion­al Enter­prise (Lon­don: Allen and Unwin, 1971), 359–62. 

  141. Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, “Notes on the The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism,” Month­ly Review 17, no. 10 (March 1966): 15–31; but see also the numer­ous inter­ven­tions that Baran, Sweezy, and Magd­off have ded­i­cat­ed to the sub­ject in the pages of Month­ly Review. 

  142. Cf. Paul Sweezy, “The Resur­gence of Finan­cial Con­trol: Fact or Fan­cy?” in Month­ly Review 23, no. 6 (Novem­ber 1971): 1–33. 

  143. That at the his­tor­i­cal ori­gins of the Amer­i­can direct for­eign invest­ment boom there are rea­sons for spec­u­la­tion on the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial mar­ket does not mean any­thing about the intrin­sic nature of the phe­nom­e­non and its reversibil­i­ty; thus, instead, see Pao­lo Leon, Con­giun­tu­ra e crisi strut­turale nei rap­por­ti tra economie cap­i­tal­is­tiche (Pado­va: Mar­silio, 1973), 49–56. 

  144. This is the point of view of Stephen Hymer, “The Multi­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tion and the Law of Uneven Devel­op­ment,” in Eco­nom­ics and World Order, ed. J.N. Bagh­wati (Lon­don: Col­lier-Macmil­lian, 1972), 113–40; and, more gen­er­al­ly, The Multi­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tion: A Rad­i­cal Approach (Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1979. [TN: An Ital­ian trans­la­tion of Hymer’s arti­cle was includ­ed in the vol­ume Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale, for which, as not­ed above, the present essay orig­i­nal­ly served as Intro­duc­tion.] 

  145. Ray­mond Ver­non, “Inter­na­tion­al Invest­ment and Inter­na­tion­al Trade in the Prod­uct Cycle,” Quar­ter­ly Jour­nal of Eco­nom­ics (May 1966): 190–208; Ver­non, Sov­er­eign­ty at Bay (New York: Basic Books, 1971), 65–112. On Vernon’s mod­el see also Pao­lo Pas­ca, Il “ciclo del prodot­to nuo­vo” (Napoli: Mora­no, 1974). Com­pare such a mod­el with the use of the Marx­ist fig­ure of the cycle by Elmar Alt­vater, “Multi­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tions and the Work­ing Class” in Multi­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tions and Labour Unions, ed. Kurt P. Tudy­ka (Nijmegen: SUN, 1973). 

  146. For exam­ple, by Elmar Alt­vater, Die Weltwährungskrise (Frank­furt-Wien: Europa Ver­lag, 1969). 

  147. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  148. The typol­o­gy of these “defens­es” is described by Fran­co Momigliano, Lezioni di econo­mia indus­tri­ale e teo­ria dell’impresa, 295ff; for the theme of the coun­terof­fen­sive, dis­re­gard­ing the Euro­pean “lit­er­a­ture” à la Ser­van-Schreiber, cf. again Rowthorn, “Uni­ty or Rival­ry?” 

  149. Cf. Charles Levin­son, Cap­i­tal, Infla­tion and the Multi­na­tion­als (Lon­don: Allen and Unwin: 1971), 11–26. 

  150. Rowthorn, “Uni­ty or Rival­ry?” 45–47. 

  151. Nicos Poulantzas, “Inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion of Cap­i­tal­ist Rela­tions and the Nation-State,” trans. Eliz­a­beth Hin­dess, in The Poulantzas Read­er: Marx­ism, Law and the State, ed. James Mar­tin (Lon­don: Ver­so, 2008), 220–57. [TN: This essay by Poulantzas was includ­ed in the vol­ume Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale.] 

  152. For this gen­er­al the­mat­ic I refer again to Anto­nio Negri’s “Work­ers’ Par­ty Against Work”: “Stag­nant cap­i­tal […] is nev­er­the­less planned cap­i­tal. It is the dynam­ic reg­u­la­tion of con­flict­ual­i­ty and there­fore of a rela­tion between class­es. This rela­tion can­not be annulled. We must get used to sep­a­rat­ing plan­ning from devel­op­ment.” Negri, “Work­ers’ Par­ty Against Work,” 68. 

  153. “Inter­na­tion­al car­tels show to what point cap­i­tal­ist monop­o­lies have devel­oped, and the object of the strug­gle between the var­i­ous cap­i­tal­ist asso­ci­a­tions; This last cir­cum­stance is the most impor­tant; it alone shows us the his­tori­co-eco­nom­ic mean­ing of what is tak­ing place; for the forms of the strug­gle may and do con­stant­ly change in accor­dance with vary­ing, rel­a­tive­ly spe­cif­ic and tem­po­rary caus­es, but the sub­stance of the strug­gle, its class con­tent, pos­i­tive­ly can­not change while class­es exist.” Cf. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 253. 

  154. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  155. Lenin, Impe­ri­al­ism, 284ff. 

  156. See Myint, “The ‘Clas­si­cal The­o­ry,’” pas­sim; Meir Mer­hav, Tech­no­log­i­cal Depen­dence, Monop­oly, and Growth (Oxford: Perg­a­mon Press, 1969), 31–36. 

  157. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  158. Ideas on this can be found in the essay by Fer­ruc­cio Gam­bi­no, “Class Com­po­si­tion and U.S. Direct Invest­ments Abroad, Decem­ber 1974. [TN: Gambino’s essay was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten for the vol­ume Impe­ri­al­is­mo e classe opera­ia multi­nazionale. Sub­se­quent­ly an Eng­lish trans­la­tion was pre­pared for the third issue of the Amer­i­can jour­nal Zerowork, but that issue was nev­er pub­lished. A revised trans­la­tion has since been pub­lished online at Har­ry Cleaver’s Zerowork web­site.] On the emer­gence of forms of “gov­er­nance” of the inter­na­tion­al labor mar­ket, see Alessan­dro Ser­afi­ni, ed., L’operaio multi­nazionale in Europa (Milano: Fel­trinel­li, 1974). 

  159. Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, 770. On the one hand, this is a con­se­quence of the cap­i­tal­ist law of pop­u­la­tion which com­pels its lev­el to remain with­in the req­ui­sites of accu­mu­la­tion. On the oth­er, it is the per­ma­nent result of the rel­a­tive process of pro­duc­tion, which is pre­cise­ly direct­ed, with the inces­sant increase of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, to reduce nec­es­sary labor time and, con­se­quent­ly, the rel­a­tive val­ue of labor. This schema is not sub­stan­tial­ly altered by Marx’s dis­cus­sion (in Val­ue, Price and Prof­it) of the pos­si­bil­i­ties and lim­its of union action on the ter­rain of the wage. The the­sis sup­port­ed there­in, on the basis of which a con­trac­tu­al increase in the price of labor can trans­late into an effec­tive mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the wage, via the com­pres­sion of prof­its (against the oppor­tunis­tic idea of a nec­es­sary trans­la­tion of price increas­es) – notwith­stand­ing its cur­rent valid­i­ty, under the con­di­tions of oli­gop­oly on both sides of the rela­tion – does not, in the first instance, exclude the the­sis of the nec­es­sary con­stric­tion of the move­ments of the wage, but only lim­its it to the realm of com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with the req­ui­sites of accu­mu­la­tion. In the sec­ond instance, what mat­ters most here does not affect the fun­da­men­tal premise of the whole mod­el that, for each peri­od or cycle of accu­mu­la­tion, the wage-lev­el remains a pre­de­ter­mined datum. In an “orig­i­nary” phase, [it is deter­mined] by the costs of the sim­ple repro­duc­tion of labor-pow­er, and, in sub­se­quent phas­es, by the fur­ther mod­i­fi­ca­tions that it under­goes as a result of the joint pres­sures of the rela­tion of forces between class­es and of the ampli­tude of the process of accu­mu­la­tion that has been attained. On all this, see Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange: A Study of the Impe­ri­al­ism of Trade (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 1972), chap­ter 3. 

  160. Emmanuel, intro­duc­tion to Unequal Exchange, 7–12. 

  161. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  162. W. Arthur Lewis, “Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment with Unlim­it­ed Sup­plies of Labour,” in The Eco­nom­ics of Under­de­vel­op­ment: A series of arti­cles and papers, eds. A.N. Agar­wala and S. P. Singh (New York: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1963), 400–49. [TN: “Terms of trade” in Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal.] 

  163. Ger­ald Meier, “Devel­op­ment With­out Employ­ment,” PSL Quar­ter­ly Review 22, no. 90 (1969): 309–19; Hla Myint, “Dual­ism and the Inter­nal Inte­gra­tion of the Under­de­vel­oped Economies,” PSL Quar­ter­ly Review 23, no. 93 (1970): 128–56. C. Daneo, “Impe­ri­al­is­mo e ruo­lo del­la classe opera­ia occi­den­tale,” Classe 3: 348–56. 

  164. Gio­van­ni Arrighi, Svilup­po eco­nom­i­co e sovras­trut­ture in Africa (Tori­no: Ein­au­di, 1969), 98ff. 

  165. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 266–67. 

  166. Charles Bet­tel­heim, “The­o­ret­i­cal Com­ments,” in Arghiri Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 296ff. 

  167. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 383. 

  168. Michele Sal­vati, “Lo Scam­bio ineguale: un inter­ven­to polemi­co, in Salari, sot­tosvilup­po, impe­ri­al­is­mo, eds. Euge­nio Somai­ni et al. (Tori­no: Ein­au­di, 1973), 73–75. Sal­vati essen­tial­ly elab­o­rates both of the crit­i­cisms (exten­sion that is both with­out moti­va­tion and not per­ti­nent). Their super­im­po­si­tion is per­haps the con­se­quence of the curi­ous sto­ry of Emmanuel’s text: the sub­ject is tak­en up and devel­oped by Emmanuel in sub­se­quent texts (see the appen­dix to the Ital­ian edi­tion and, now, the sec­ond French edi­tion) with argu­ments that back­track sub­stan­tial­ly on the text of the first edi­tion. 

  169. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 371. 

  170. Nat­u­ral­ly, there is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a trans­fer of val­ue behind each move­ment of cap­i­tal, just as there is not always a true export behind the “export” of cap­i­tal, but the oppo­site. This is not only because the repa­tri­a­tion of prof­its rapid­ly sur­pass­es the ini­tial invest­ment, but also because, as a rule, the lat­ter finances itself on the local mar­ket (this is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant to U.S. invest­ment in Europe in the post-war peri­od). See Har­ry Magd­off, The Age of Impe­ri­al­ism, 10–12 and pas­sim. As con­cerns Euro­pean financ­ing of such invest­ments, see Bruno Colle and Gra­ziel­la Pent, Il Potere Sovranazionale Pri­va­to (Bologna: Il Muli­no, 1974), 27–33, and bib­li­og­ra­phy. 

  171. See also Nicos Poulantzas, “Inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion.” 

  172. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 380. [TN: Ellip­sis in LFB.] 

  173. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 382. 

  174. This is how Sal­vati refers to the gen­er­al premise of Emmanuel’s argu­ment – the inde­pen­dent, real­ly-exist­ing [realiter] char­ac­ter of the vari­able of real wages – in Sal­vati, “Lo Scam­bio Ineguale,” 78. 

  175. In addi­tion to Unequal Exchange, see also Arghiri Emmanuel, “White-Set­tler Colo­nial­ism and the Myth of Invest­ment Impe­ri­al­ism,” New Left Review I, 73 (1972): 35–57 (which con­tains, among oth­er things, inter­est­ing con­sid­er­a­tions on the real con­text of forces which, in the case of the ex-Con­go, sus­tained posi­tions like that of Lumum­ba, to whom Emmanuel served as eco­nom­ic advi­sor). 

  176. For the cri­te­ria of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of depen­dent devel­op­ment, see Bob Sut­cliffe, “Impe­ri­al­ism and Indus­tri­al­iza­tion in the Third World,” in Stud­ies in the The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism, eds. Roger Owen and Bob Sut­cliffe (Lon­don: Long­man, 1972), 174–76, and, more broad­ly, Bob Sut­cliffe, Indus­try and Under­de­vel­op­ment (Lon­don: Addi­son-Wes­ley, 1971), chap­ter 9. Recent­ly, a severe attack on these and sim­i­lar wide­spread rep­re­sen­ta­tions has been launched by Bill War­ren, in “Impe­ri­al­ism and Cap­i­tal­ist Indus­tri­al­iza­tion,” New Left Review I, 81 (1973): 3–44, elic­it­ing resent­ful rejoin­ders, for exam­ple that of Philip McMichael, James Petras, and Robert Rhodes, in “Indus­try in the Third World,” and a par­tial agree­ment on the part of Emmanuel him­self, in “Cur­rent Myths of Devel­op­ment,” both in New Left Review I, 85 (1974). (One should keep in mind that Warren’s inter­ven­tion tend­ed essen­tial­ly to demon­strate the “eco­nom­ic” advan­tages of polit­i­cal inde­pen­dence!) One can legit­i­mate­ly assume that the dis­cus­sion has only just begun. Among the explana­to­ry mod­els of depen­dent indus­tri­al­iza­tion it is worth cit­ing Samir Amin, Accu­mu­la­tion on a World Scale: A cri­tique of the the­o­ry of under­de­vel­op­ment (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 1974), espe­cial­ly part 2, and for a rapid syn­the­sis, also by Amin, Sul­la Tran­sizione (Milano: Jaca Book, 1973), 32–65. Obvi­ous­ly, the gen­er­al ques­tion of “depen­den­cy” exceeds the scope of the sub­ject of this intro­duc­tion. 

  177. TN: In the orig­i­nal. 

  178. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  179. A syn­the­sis of the data can be found in Angus Hone, “The Pri­ma­ry Com­modi­ties Boom,” New Left Review I, 81 (1973), 72–92; see also Ser­gio Bologna, “Petro­lio e Mer­ca­to Mon­di­ale,” and Emmanuel, “Cur­rent Myths of Devel­op­ment,” 79–82. 

  180. It must be added that at the very moment when the neces­si­ty of restart­ing the Amer­i­can cycle as the dri­ving force of the entire impe­ri­al­ist chain requires rais­ing the mar­gins of invest­ment and accu­mu­la­tion (in accor­dance with the new con­di­tions of gen­er­al­ized stag­na­tion) and expand­ing them by return­ing to “real” wealth and to a com­mod­i­ty which would con­sti­tute an ade­quate mea­sure, the front of the glob­al pro­le­tar­i­an strug­gle under­goes a qual­i­ta­tive leap. At the very heart of a cru­cial area, and hold­ing fast to the vital demands for an iden­ti­ty and for nation­al inde­pen­dence, the Pales­tin­ian resis­tance blazes through the stages of its own class func­tion, not only with­in the spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary strug­gle against Israel, but as active ref­er­ence-point of the pro­le­tar­i­an con­di­tion of the entire Arab world. 

  181. Bologna, “Petro­lio e Mer­ca­to Mon­di­ale,” 15. 

  182. Emmanuel is cog­nizant of the new con­di­tions of “devel­op­ment,” although he does not address the ques­tion: “the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of gen­er­al­ized incon­vert­ibil­i­ty, which has no prece­dent in the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ism [is] a sit­u­a­tion char­ac­ter­ized by a new type of infla­tion, which one could term of-equi­lib­ri­um, since it is inde­pen­dent of the cycle of the con­junc­ture and because, up to a cer­tain point, it has an equi­li­brat­ing force on the sys­tem. In this sit­u­a­tion, entre­pre­neurs can eas­i­ly account, day by day, for the increase in wages and, just as auto­mat­i­cal­ly and in an insti­tu­tion­al­ized way, add their pre-estab­lished mar­gin of prof­it, as though it were not a ques­tion of wage dis­tri­b­u­tion and in spite of all of the econ­o­mists’ pure the­o­ries.” Arghiri Emmanuel, “Rispos­ta a Somai­ni,” in Salari, sot­tosvilup­po, impe­ri­al­is­mo, eds. Somai­ni et al.,130. 

  183. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  184. For all this see, polem­i­cal­ly, Levin­son, “Cap­i­tal, Infla­tion and the Multi­na­tion­als,” 27–39, 121–36; see also Mas­si­mo Cac­cia­ri, Dopo L’Autunno Cal­do: Ristrut­turazione e anal­i­sis di classe (Pado­va: Mar­silio, 1973), 153–57. 

  185. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

  186. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 415. 

  187. Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange, 394, 415. 

  188. TN: In Eng­lish in the orig­i­nal. 

Author of the article

(1940–2000) was an Italian militant and Marxist theorist active in Potere Operaio and other extraparliamentary left organizations. He taught at the University of Padua.