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One hundred years since Lenin’s death / by Salvatore Bravo

Lenin’s centenary takes place in a hopeless historical climate. The possibility of confronting a revolutionary who ’made it’ is a reason to understand the importance of the event and to reactivate the dimension of hope.

by Salvatore A. Bravo - Monday 22 January 2024 - 847 letture

One hundred years separate us from Lenin’s death, in such a broad timeframe in which transformation seems to be the cipher of our time. Transformative processes are governed by laws that must be deciphered, so as to historicise what appears to be ’the absolute on Earth’. Lenin can be a dialectical reference point for thinking ’the new time of the Revolution’. Capitalism in its imperial phase occupies space and time to neutralise any other historical perspective. The competitive-imperial logic is in the everyday and also extends into divergent activities. Leisure time is in continuity with competitive logic, the unhappy consciousness motor of history is anaesthetised by the anglosphere. The toxins of capital are tentacular and have the effect of neutralising the conceptual imagination with which to think the alternative. Occupying space-time in an absolute sense leads to a generalised depressive pessimism, as the present in the shadow of capital ’seems everything’, there is no escape from it. Capitalism is perceived as a ’totality/steel cage with no alternative’ from which there is no escape.

Lenin’s centenary takes place in a hopeless historical climate. The possibility of confronting a revolutionary who ’made it’ is a reason to understand the importance of the event and to reactivate the dimension of hope.

Capitalism exalts the organic to the system and the desperate who adapt themselves rabidly and reified. Lenin shows us with his individual history inseparable from the history of the communist party that history is never finished. The revolutionary in every epoch must seize the opportunities in history that may suddenly materialise in order to transform them into action. Lenin thus shows that praxis must be prepared and grasped at the same time. Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, its founder continues to speak to us through his voluminous works ignored by the capital system. Re-reading his works allows us to grasp the truthful and topical core of his analyses of capitalism to be used to decode our present. Lenin’s Imperialism as the Supreme Stage of Capitalism essay published in 1917 is more relevant today than ever before.

Lenin offers us the main category with which to understand the structural reason for the anthropological and environmental devastation we are in. Wars are the result of war between economic monopolies. Competition that has become the perverse practice of assimilating and controlling ever larger portions of the market explains the metastatic proliferation of contemporary wars. Lenin identified monopolistic concentration as the quantum leap of capitalism that would use war to cannibalise resources and nations in the name of the struggle between monopolies. States are merely tools of the monopolies that can buy politicians and majorities with their immense financial resources. Monopolies use intelligence and labour power that is socialised, while earnings and ownership remain private. The contradiction analysed by Lenin is still with us:

"Competition turns into monopoly. The result is an immense process of socialisation of production. In particular, the process of technical improvements and inventions is socialised. This is already something quite different from the old free competition between dispersed entrepreneurs, unknown to each other, who produced for sale on unknown markets. Concentration has progressed to such an extent that it is now possible to make an approximate calculation of almost all sources of raw materials (e.g. iron ore) in a given country, indeed, as we shall see, in a number of countries and even in the whole world. And not only is such a calculation being made, but the mines, the producing territories are being hoarded by colossal monopolistic consortia.

The capacity of the market is roughly calculated and ’allocated’ between the consortia by agreement. Skilled labour is monopolised, the best technicians are hoarded, hands are put on the means of communication and transport: railways in America, shipping companies in America and Europe. Capitalism, in its imperialistic stage, decisively leads to the most universal socialisation of production; it drags the capitalists, so to speak, in spite of their conscience, into a new social order, which marks the transition from complete freedom of competition to complete socialisation.

Production is socialised, but the appropriation of products remains private. The social means of production remain the property of a small number of people. The general framework of formally recognised free competition remains intact, but the oppression of the few monopolists over the rest of the population is made a hundred times worse, more sensitive, more unbearable" [1].

Free competition

The market is dominated by monopolies, the latter being the inherent logic of capitalism in its imperial phase. The only way to survive in the market is through ’monopoly’, which operates not only where there are raw materials. The rhetoric of free competition and free enterprise is shown in its truth. The places of education today are the venues where free competition and merit are psalmodised; it is an ideological practice with which the truth about the market is concealed from the younger generation. The games are already played, so they will enter the market already as subsumed. Lenin is removed from the curriculum, because he reveals capitalism with its deceptions.

Capitalism in its imperial phase becomes oligarchic and elitist. A handful of men and monopolies control the market and states. Elon Musk, a contemporary hero, has a monopoly on networking from space with Starlink. Bill Gates, another myth of limitless wealth, was received by President Mattarella as if he were a head of state. The imperial phase is fully realised:

"We would still like to give an example of cartel rule. Where it is possible to get one’s hands on all or the main sources of raw materials, monopolies arise and are formed with particular ease. However, it would be erroneous to believe that monopolies do not also arise in other branches of industry, where it is impossible to get one’s hands on the sources of raw materials" [2].

The logic of monopolies/cartels is not only the subject of rational analysis, in Lenin there is an ethical condemnation of the hoarding of resources and the expropriation of community property. Ethical condemnation and economic analysis are reinforced in parallel and complement each other. Lenin denounces the blackmail with which monopolies assimilate and devour competitors. Violence is the structure of capital and is its intrinsic law. Competitors are absorbed into cartels through the logic of ’deprivation’. They are deprived of credit, raw materials and labour. The strangulation can only lead to competitors giving up their market shares. Contemporary multinationals act no differently, they consolidate by deprivation, strangle competitors, assimilate them and acquire ever larger global market shares:

"It is highly instructive to take even a fleeting glance at the list of means of today’s modern, civilised ’struggle for organisation’ that monopolistic consortia resort to:

1) Deprivation of raw materials (... "one of the most important coercive methods of bringing in cartels");

2) Deprivation of labour by means of ’alliances’ (i.e. agreements between organisations of capitalists and workers whereby the latter are obliged to work only for cartelised companies);

3) Deprivation of transport;

4) Deprivation of sales;

5) Hoarding of customers through exclusion clauses;

6) Methodical lowering of prices in order to ruin the self-employed, i.e. the companies that do not submit to the monopolists; millions are thrown away by selling below cost price for some time (in the petrol industry there have been cases of reduction from 40 to 22 marks, i.e. almost half);

7) Deprivation of credit;

8) Declaration of boycott" [3].

Oligarchies

The monopolies are one body with the banks. Banks are the blood and soul of capital. Money is the weapon with which banks blackmail capitalists. Industries end up being dependent on the banks. To break the dependency, the monopolies and capitalists enter the banks with shares so they can control them and use them for liquidity. Money and the accumulation of surplus value is the only imperative capital obeys, like the Spinozian absolute it is driven by a necessity that determines its form. It has no ends, it knows no truths, but must itself accept the supreme law of money to survive in competition. The infinite evil of capitalism is the limitless accumulation behind which is the logic of war and exploitation made unquestionable and dogmatic hypostasis. The new religion of money that can buy everything has replaced traditional religions.

Banks and monopolies are a single, cutting body with which to assault the market and the people. We are faced with serial and oligarchic robbers and plunderers who vampire-like drain resources and exploit every opportunity to become imperial powers. Politics falls under the weight of monopolies, it is subsumed under economic domination. Imperial capitalism with its financial omnipotence meets no limits and sacrifices men on the altar of surplus value:

"The last word in the development of the banking system is always monopoly. But it is precisely in the intimate connection between banks and industry that the new function of banks appears most clearly. When the bank discharges the bills of exchange of a given industrialist, opens a current account for him, etc., these operations, considered in isolation, do not in any way diminish the independence of that industrialist, and the bank remains within the limits of a modest mediating agency.

But as soon as such operations become frequent and consolidated, as soon as the bank ’accumulates’ enormous capital, as soon as the holding of a given entrepreneur’s current account puts the bank in a position to know, more and more exactly and completely, the economic situation of its client - and this is precisely what is taking place - then an ever more complete dependence of the industrial capitalist on the bank results. At the same time there develops, so to speak, a personal union of the bank with the major industrial and commercial enterprises, a fusion of them through the ownership of shares or the entry of bank directors on the boards of directors (or management) of industrial and commercial enterprises and vice versa" [4].

Monopolies devour the laws of the market, free competition and the generalised possibility of becoming ’entrepreneurs’ is the fairy tale with which people are deceived. Social mobility is the slogan, then as now, of liberal democracies. Money and patronage determine success. Monopoly with the accumulation of money and domination makes it possible to buy politics and have ’useful and dangerous relations’ with it. Political decisions are made outside parliaments, corruption is the norm, laws that favour some rather than others are the result of extra-parliamentary dynamics.

Democracy is only an ideological instrument of domination. In our time, unresolved conflicts of interest are removed by the mainstream press. Information is in the hands of the few, the new media and academic clergy are in the direct or direct employ of the economic potentates. The free market is only the feudal partition of the planet, while the mainstream with its ’politically correct’ homilies extols the freedom guaranteed by the market, in which ’goods and ideas’ flow:

"Finance capital has created the age of monopolies. But these everywhere carry with them monopolistic principles: instead of competition on the open market, there appears the use of ’good relations’ for the purpose of concluding profitable deals. The most common thing in the granting of credit is to make it a condition that part of the money lent must be used in the purchase of products of the lending country, especially war material, ships, etc." [5].

War

War is waged not only with weapons, but also with the penetration of monopolies into nations, they control the main infrastructure and end up colonising them. A nation whose infrastructure is under the control of a few private individuals loses its independence, political autonomy and identity.

The 5G monopoly is controlled by Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco and Zte, this example actualises Lenin’s musings: private individuals who own the 5G monopoly can control and spy on a nation and governmental decisions, they permanently establish themselves in a nation to become its real government as opposed to the formal government. To function, 5G needs an immense amount of data with which to integrate digital devices, so surveillance capitalism is fully realised. The constitutionally defined freedoms are only form emptied of all truth and real validity. The fight for the monopoly of 5G is a war for the control of states:

"The monopolistic associations of capitalists take over the internal market and seize the country’s production. But in a capitalist regime the internal market is inevitably connected to the external market. For a long time capitalism has created a world market. And to the extent that the export of foreign and colonial relations and the ’spheres of influence’ of the big monopolist associations grew, ’naturally’ more and more progress was made towards international agreements between them and the creation of world cartels.

This is a new step in the world concentration of capital and production, a much higher step than the previous one. We now want to see how this super-monopoly arises. The electrical industry is the one that best represents the latest progress made by technology and capitalism between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. It developed most strongly in the two most advanced new capitalist countries, the United States, especially the crisis of 1900 exerted a great influence on the increase of concentration in this field. The banks, already quite merged with industry, during this crisis accelerated and deepened to a very high degree the ruin of the relatively small enterprises and the absorption of them into the large corporations" [6].

The war on the ground is financed and wanted by the monopolies, which, in order to support industrial expansion, must locate the territories where the raw materials are to be found. The control-looting of peoples and their territory can only lead to war between monopoly-states. Peoples are ’to be harangued’ when necessary, so as to provoke wars aimed at conquering potential producers of raw materials. World War I is denounced by Lenin for such ruthless logic; the war in Ukraine in 2022 and Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2023 are along the same lines. The black earths of Ukraine and the rare minerals of the Donbass (beryllium, lithium, tantalum, niobium, neon, zirconium) and the gas deposits discovered in the sea off the Gaza Strip are the real reasons for the current wars. Monopolies finance war and use states, which allow themselves to be bought, to exploit and control energy sources. Lenin’s analysis is truer today than ever before:

"For financial capital, it is not only the sources of raw materials that have already been discovered that are important, but also those that may still be to be discovered, since in our day and age, technology is making vertiginous progress, and land that is useless today can tomorrow be put to use as soon as new methods have been found (and for this purpose the big bank can set up special expeditions of engineers, agronomists, etc.) and as soon as more capital has been employed. The same can be said of explorations in search of new mineral riches, the discovery of new methods of processing and utilisation of this or that raw material, etc.

This inevitably gives rise to the tendency of finance capital to enlarge its economic territory, and also its territory in general. In the same way that trusts capitalise their property by valuing it at two or three times its true value, as they rely on ’possible’ (but not real) future profits and further monopoly results, so finance capital in general strives to grab as much territory as possible, however and wherever it can, in search only of possible sources of raw materials, for fear of falling behind in the furious struggle for the last strip of the earth’s sphere not yet divided, for a new partitioning of the already divided territories.

The British capitalists do everything they can to promote cotton production in their colony of Egypt, which in 1904 out of 2.3 million hectares of cultivated land occupied 0.6 million hectares, i.e. more than a quarter; the Russians do the same in their Turkestan colonies. Because they can thus better beat their foreign competitors, monopolise sources of raw material more easily and create a textile trust as cheap and profitable as possible, with ’combined’ production by concentrating all stages of cotton production and processing in the same hands. The export interests of capital also urge the conquest of colonies, since in the colonial markets it is easier (and sometimes only) to eliminate competitors, with the monopoly system, to secure supplies for oneself, to fix the necessary ’relations’ permanently" [7].

Monopolies make the planet politically and economically unstable. The war between monopolies can only increase in intensity with time. Overproduction crises have become increasingly recurrent. From the First World War to the present, the development of technologies financed by the monopolies has become the cause of overproduction, producing fast and in infinite quantities. The war to control markets has gradually accelerated with the support of the ’free sciences’, the end result being war. Lenin deviated from every staid law of Marxism and established communism in Russia, as he realised that the struggle between monopolies is a cracking of the system that can be used by revolutionaries as an opportunity to bring down the system:

"Free competition is the essential element of capitalism and of mercantile production in general; monopoly is the direct opposite of free competition. But it was precisely the latter that began, before our very eyes, to transform itself into a monopoly, creating large production, eliminating small industry, substituting large factories with even larger ones, and pushing the concentration of production and capital so far, that from it arose and still rises the monopoly, i.e. the cartels, the unions, the trusts, merged with the capital of a small group, of a dozen banks manoeuvring billions.

At the same time, monopolies, arising from free competition, do not eliminate it, but coexist, thus giving rise to a series of sharp and sudden contradictions, frictions and conflicts. The monopoly system is capitalism’s transition to a higher order. If one wanted to give the most concise possible definition of imperialism, one would have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism. Such a definition would contain the essential, since on the one hand financial capital is the banking capital of the few big monopolistic banks fused with the capital of the industrial monopolistic unions, and on the other hand the division of the world means the transition from the colonial policy of unhindered extension to the territories not yet dominated by any capitalist power to the colonial policy of monopolistic possession of the definitively divided land surface." [8].

The rotting of capitalism

Monopolies are diabolical in their action, they are, according to the etymological meaning of the word ’diabolical’, divisive, so they divide and oppose the oppressed classes. In the advanced European nations the working class enjoys an improvement in material and legal living conditions, but this improvement supported by the social democrats is achieved through the bloody exploitation of the subjugated and colonised peoples. Lenin’s view is not Eurocentric, but he thinks of the world from the perspective of the colonised countries. The monopolies with their corruptive power have not only replaced politics, but have broken the class unity of the peoples, bribing some with material concessions through the policy of robbing the colonised peoples. Exploitation is generalised, but with different degrees.

Communist unity is broken, consequently the Communist International is also attacked by the monopolies with economic manoeuvres. The impoverishment of the working class is part of a lucid design by the monopolies and the representatives of the western working class who have replaced revolution with economic reformism and the elimination of the hierarchy of domination with the improvement of material conditions, there has thus been a genuine betrayal in the West:

"Here causes and effects are clearly revealed. Causes: 1) exploitation of the entire world by a particular country; 2) its monopoly position on the world market; 3) its colonial monopoly.

Effects: 1) bourgeoning of a part of the British proletariat; 2) a part of the proletariat is being led by leaders who are bought or at least paid for by the bourgeoisie. The imperialism of the early 20th century has completed the partitioning of the world between a small handful of states, each of which currently exploits (in the sense of squeezing surpluses out of it) a part of the ’world’ almost as large as that of England in 1858; each has a monopoly position on the world market thanks to trusts, cartels, financial capital and creditor-to-debtor relations; each possesses, to a certain extent, a colonial monopoly (we saw that of the 75 million square kilometres of all the world’s colonies, as many as 65 million, i.e. 86% are in the hands of the six great powers; 61 million, i.e. 81% belong to just three powers).

Today’s situation is characterised by the existence of economic and political conditions that necessarily accentuate the irreconcilability of opportunism with the general and essential interests of the workers’ movement. Imperialism, which was virtually in capitalism, has developed into a dominant system, the capitalist monopolies have taken first place in economics and politics; the partition of the world is complete, and on the other hand in place of the undivided monopoly of England we observe the struggle of a small number of imperialist powers for participation in the monopoly, a struggle which characterises the whole beginning of the 20th century. In no country can opportunism remain completely victorious in the workers’ movement for a long series of decades, as was the case for England in the second half of the 19th century; but instead in a number of countries opportunism has become ripe, overripe and fractious, because it, under the guise of social-chauvinism, has merged entirely with bourgeois politics" [9].

Exporting the revolution to the West means facing resistance from the same working class corrupted in class consciousness by the manoeuvres of monopoly-driven politics:

"It should only be added that even within the labour movement the opportunists, now provisionally victorious in most countries, ’work’ systematically, indefatigably in the same direction. Imperialism, which means the partition of the whole world and the exploitation not only of China, which means high monopoly profits for the benefit of a small group of richer countries, creates the economic possibility of corrupting the upper strata of the proletariat, and, in this way, of nurturing, moulding and strengthening opportunism" [10].

[1] Lenin, Imperialism as the Supreme Stage of Capitalism, paragrafo: La concentrazione della produzione e i monopoli.

[2] Ibidem

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibidem, paragraph: The banks and their new function

[5] Ibidem, paragraph: Financial capital and financial oligarchy

[6] Ibidem, paragraph: The division of the world between capitalist unions

[7] Ibidem

[8] Ibidem, paragraph: Parasitism and the impoverishment of capitalism.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.


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