WHEN CAPITALISM was transforming into imperialism and finance capital became the major form of capital at the turn of the last century, the Second International could not properly grasp the emerging situation. It was in this context that Lenin by concretely evaluating finance capital and imperialism put forward the strategy and tactics of world proletarian revolution and in the process developed Marxism further. Following October Revolution and with the formation of Communist International (Comintern) initially led by Lenin, socialism and national liberation movements led by communist and workers’ parties spread to all the continents such that by the early 1950s, one-third of humankind went under socialism.
Meanwhile, by the time of Second World War, the colonial system of imperialism had become unviable on account of the advance of socialism and national liberation movements on the one hand, and the internal crisis of imperialism particularly emerging from the parasitic character of finance capital as exemplified in the Depression of the 1930s on the other. While global expansion of finance capital continued unabated, this had to be camouflaged by adopting ‘decolonization’ and through the application of new forms of imperialist plunder without having direct territorial control. With its long experience of practicing ‘informal colonialism’ in Latin America, USA which became the supreme arbiter and leader of the imperialist camp by this time could replicate it on an international scale as neo-colonialism by developing the complex set of appropriate economic, political, military, cultural and intellectual tools. Imperialism’s close nexus with the comprador ruling classes to whom formal political power was transferred and who were nurtured and brought up as the faithful allies of finance capital under its fostering care during the colonial period in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries also set the stage for unleashing this post-war neo-colonial phase of imperialism.
However, the International Communist Movement at that time could not grasp the gravity of this epoch making transformation that was taking place under the leadership of USA which had already devised the required institutional and organizational blueprints for neo-colonialism even much before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by which the world was terrorized and submitted to US diktats. The dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 and the consequent lack of an international authority on the part of world proletariat to concretely evaluate the unfolding neo-colonial phase of imperialism and laws of motion of finance capital so as to formulate the ideological-political line against imperialism in the changed context, led to the characterization of the post-war situation as a weakening of imperialism. Though attempt was there to rectify this mistake by forming the Cominform in 1947, it was short lived as Khrushchev dissolved it in 1956.
During the quarter century following World War II, on account of the presence of socialism and national liberation movements, US led imperialism had to pursue the neo-colonial plunder through the policy of international Keynesianism or welfare capitalism. During this period, even while the global expansion of capital and its multi-dimensional penetration into neo-colonial countries had been strengthening, the slogans of import substitution, state led development, public sector, welfare state, etc. were profusely used to hoodwink the masses. Keynesianism provided the umbrella for the accumulation of significant share of wealth in the state treasury through progressive taxation and deficit financing and the setting up of essential infrastructures for the smooth and risk-free functioning of corporate capital. An impression of “crisis-free capitalism” with state regulation was also created prompting imperialist theoreticians to characterize this period as the “golden age” of capitalism. Meanwhile, for the penetration of finance capital into neo-colonial agriculture, led by the World Bank, USAID, and Rockefeller-Ford foundations propped comprador regimes in neo-colonial countries to pursue Green Revolution which enabled agribusiness MNCs to completely monopolize the input-output markets for agriculture. In the place of the erstwhile feudal classes who served as the social base of imperialism in the colonial period, through Green Revolution imperialism took particular attention to build up a comprador agricultural bourgeois class imbibed with the ideology and technology of commercial agriculture in Asian-African –Latin American countries as a firm ally in the neo-colonisation process. The consequent restructuring of land relations including the abolition of feudal relations led to a further concentration of land in new landlord classes on the one hand, and unprecedented landlessness and pauperization of the peasantry, the real tillers of the soil on the other.
However, the Keynesian medicine applied in the specific international context conditioned by a whole set of factors, though created an apparent golden age 9of capitalism for about a quarter century, could not overcome the inherent logic of finance capital which, as identified by Lenin, is stagnation and speculative parasitism. The unhindered printing and pumping of dollar and the consequent financial expansion and speculative tendencies which are inherent in the neo-colonial phase have led to qualitatively new problems. In the initial years of postwar boom, this financial expansion was accompanied by increase in production, but later the financial growth began to overtake that of output growth leading to what is called stagflation-stagnation in production coupled with abundance of money supply or inflation. In other words, the Keynesian policy of inflationary financing of chronic stagnation that began in the 1930s with the New Deal as an antidote to the Depression has broken out in the 1970s as another incurable crisis resulting in the abandonment of Keynesianism itself. The abolition of dollar convertibility into gold and the consequent collapse of Bretton Woods’s monetary system based on dollar was an essential component of this imperialist crisis. All these sounded the death-knell of Keynesianism in the 1970s.
Unlike the 1940s when the presence of socialism and international prestige of the Communist Movement compelled US led imperialism to devise Keynesianism along with decolonization as an ideological and political weapon against the Left, the situation since the 1970s was different. Though stagflation has once again revealed the incurable nature of the inherent contradictions of imperialism and exposed its ever-mounting crisis which ought to have been a favourable situation for the international proletariat to impart death blows to finance capital, by this time the working class had started suffering from several ideological and political setbacks at a global level. This enabled the US led imperialism to transfer the burden of the capitalist crisis to the shoulders of world people by resorting to a change in neo-colonial accumulation process through a shift in economic policy from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism or monetarism. As is obvious, the result was a downsizing and rollback of the welfare state and abolition of erstwhile Keynesian restraints and controls on the free international mobility of speculative capital. Consequently, relieved of all controls, the essential characteristics of finance capital such as speculation, decay and parasitism as identified by Lenin have now assumed horrific proportions. In search of fabulous profits, finance capital that leads imperialist globalization or the accumulation process is subjecting every sphere of the economy including agriculture, industry and service sectors on the one hand, and developing newer and newer avenues of speculation on the other, resulting in hitherto unknown levels of wealth concentration with a tiny financial elite together with unprecedented inequality, poverty and deprivation of the broad masses of the people. Today this financial speculation has become a terribly destructive force whose undercurrents are stagnation, de-industrialization, joblessness, inflation and price rise, corruption, ecological catastrophe and gruesome cultural degradation. As an inalienable component of this, to depoliticize and de-ideologise the people and to divert world people’s simmering discontent against imperialism and comprador ruling classes to safe channels, a whole set of postmodern and post-Marxist theories are manufactured and spread by imperialist think-tanks from Western funding and research institutions.
India is a typical show-case of this post-war neo-colonisation. The transformation from colonialism to neo-colonialism here was facilitated by the transfer of formal political power to the comprador ruling classes who were born and nurtured under the umbrella of British imperial capital. During the Nehruvian era which was coterminous with international Keynesianism, the ruling classes and their apologists could manage to camouflage the comprador character of Indian state through postures such as public sector, import substitution, self-reliance, etc. But under neo-liberalism, such masks have become redundant and during the last two decades of neoliberal globalization the Indian big bourgeoisie could be seen engaging in massive accumulation of wealth by remaining as a junior partner of international capital. As a consequence of these financialisation and corporatisation, the country and the people are going through a crisis of epic proportions whose dimensions are already discussed and debated at length.
Only Marxism-Leninism which alone has the ideological-political line, methodology and tools required for analyzing the laws of motion of finance capital is capable of concretely evaluating these developments under neo-colonialism. But the self-professed communist parties are not shouldering this task. The Communist Party of China which also stood for the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943, though characterized neo-colonialism as more pernicious and sinister form of colonialism as part of its polemics against Soviet revisionism in the 1960s, did not do much to elaborate and concretely analyze it. With the emergence of left sectarianism in CPC, it even abandoned the Leninist position on imperialism and finance capital and with the ascendancy of Deng Xiaoping’s modernization line since the late seventies, China also embraced neo-liberalism fully integrating itself with the imperialist world market. Various Marxist-Leninist parties that originated in the late sixties, on account of their firm adherence to China also could not take up this task.
The vital questions that require comprehensive debate at this juncture are:
1. The specific laws of motion of finance capital in the post-war neo-colonial phase with respect to the organizational and institutional arrangements pertaining to economic, political, military and cultural realms and in relation to state policies pursued by imperialism.
2. Related to this, whether decolonization and the transition from colonialism to neo-colonialism had been a weakening of imperialism?
3. Nature of power transfer to local ruling classes including their class character and the impact on domestic class relations and the contradictions and concrete situation there as a result of neo-colonisation including its latest phase neo-liberalism.
4. Impact of the transformation in neo-colonial policy from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism and the true essence of finance capital that leads globalization including the irreversible imperialist crisis haunting the world today
5. Develop a concrete analysis of the neo-colonial phase of imperialism as a background for building up a political alternative.