Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century
Lenin. Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916 Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century


Marx and Engels:
Communist Manifesto

Civil War in France


Theory of History

Marx and Engels:
On Human Nature


Violence and the Origin of the State

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Marx, Engels, Lenin:
On Dialectics

What is to be done?


The State and Revolution

Lenin: War Communism

The Cultural Revolution

Left-Wing Communism

The American Revolutions

The French Revolutions

On Workers Control

On Religion

On the Arms Race

Militarization of Labor

Russian Revolution

The Women's Question

Role of Communist Party

On Violence

On the Army

On Women

Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

Mao and Fidel:
Fall of the American Empire

Man and Socialism in Cuba

Hall and Winston:
Fighting Racism

National Liberation and Culture

Cabral: National Liberation and Culture

Nkrumah: Neo-Colonialism

Lenin undertook his detailed study of Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism in 1916, basing it on the research of an English economist named Hobson. His analysis continues to explain what is happening in the world today as we enter the 21st Century.

Lenin saw capitalism evolving into a higher stage. The key to understanding it was an economic analysis of the transition from free competititon to monopoly: "...imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism." As Lenin would point out in another article written in 1916 (Imperialism and the Split in Socialism), imperialism was a new development that had been predicted but not yet seen by Marx and Engels.

Lenin provides a careful, 5-point definition of imperialism: "(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this "finance capital", of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed."

At the present time, we can easily recognize in Lenin's analysis, not only American and European imperialism, but also the World Bank, IMF, WTO and Third-World debt, as described in 1965 by Kwame Nkrumah in Neo-colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism.

Imperialism is enormously profitable. Hobson estimated that in 1899 it had provide Great Britain an income of 90 million to 100 million pounds on the basis of its foreign capital, "the income of the rentiers." As Lenin emphasized, "The income of the rentiers is five times greater than the income obtained from the foreign trade of the biggest "trading" country in the world! This is the essence of imperialism and imperialist parasitism... The world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states. 'At the top of the list of foreign investments,' says SchuIze-Gaevernitz, 'are those placed in politically dependent or allied countries: Great Britain grants loans to Egypt, Japan, China and South America. Her navy plays here the part of bailiff in case of necessity.'"

In another article around the same time, War and Revolution, Lenin was more specific about the fact that imperialism uses its military as the "bailiff": "Peace reigned in Europe, but this was because domination over hundreds of millions of people in the colonies by the European nations was sustained only through constant, incessant, interminable wars, which we Europeans do not regard as wars at all, since all too often they resembled, not wars, but brutal massacres, the wholesale slaughter of unarmed peoples."

Beginning in 1919, imperialism turned its war machine against the Russian Revolution, invading from all sides, in an unsuccessful attempt to "strangle the baby in its cradle." From that time on, the imperialist culture of war has targeted all socialist revolutions as the enemy and attacked them either directly by invasions or indirectly through the Cold War, the arms race and the sabotage of the CIA, etc.

War, for imperialism, is not only used to conquer and control the colonies and to prevent the development of socialism, but also to compete with other imperialist powers. Periods of peace, says Lenin, are "nothing more than a 'truce' in periods between wars." World War I, to Lenin, could only be understood as an inter-imperialist war. And a few years later, in a speech on December 6, 1920, Lenin would foresee that a second inter-imperialist war was brewing that would pit Japan against the United States and Germany against the rest of Europe.

The superprofits of imperialism enable the capitalists to buy off the workers in the home country. Lenin points out that this had been foreseen by Engels in a letter to Marx as early as 1858, "The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois ... For a nation which exploits the whole world, this is of course to a certain extent justifiable." Lenin confirms that this trend had continued to develop and was accompanied by opportunism on the part of many working class leaders and socialist writers. He carefully analyzes and dismisses the opportunism of Kautsky and his followers and concludes that "the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism"

Today imperialism, in the form of neo-colonialism, continues to profit enormously from the culture of war. The imperial powers profit directly from the exploitation of workers and the environment under the protection of their own or proxy military force. But that is not all. They also profit financially from interest on the debts they impose and from the depression of prices for the raw materials they obtain.

Revolutionary countries cannot succeed in direct competition with the capitalist culture of war by establishing their own socialist culture of war. If there is any lesson of the 20th Century that revolutionaries must take to heart, it is the fact that the profits of capitalist imperialism enable it to outperform a socialism culture of war in head-to-head competition.

In the long run, however, imperialism is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. As Mao and Fidel have pointed out, it is only a matter of time before the American empire crashes. This will leave a void of power in the world, and it is up to us whether that void is filled by new cultures of war or by a revolutionary culture of peace.

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Writings of Vladimir Lenin on the Discussion Board:

discussion board


Revolutionary socialist culture of peace

Culture of War

Internal Culture of War

Culture of Peace

Education for nonviolence and democracy

Sustainable development for all

Human rights vs exploitation

Women's equality vs patriarchy

Democratic participation vs authoritarianism

Tolerance and solidarity vs enemy images

Transparency vs secrecy

Disarmament vs armament

Revolutionary leadership

Revolutionary organization

Proletarian Internationalism

National Liberation

Guerrilla Warfare


Agent Provocateurs

Communication systems

Psychology for revolutionaries

Capitalist culture of war

Socialist culture of war

Winning Conflict by Nonviolence

- - -

More Sources

South African
Peace Process

Soviet Union
Disarmament Proposals

Soviet Collapse

Has Socialism Failed?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ecology in Cuba

On Religion

Human Rights in South Africa

on Nonviolence

on Nonviolence

on Communism

Cuba's revolutionary medicine

People-power revolution in the Philippines