Question by Plasma Twa 2: What did Lenin say about cultural imperialism?
I’ve been reading through Lenin’s works high and low but I have been unable to find any mention of cultural imperialism, only economic and political imperialism. Did he ever state his opinion on it, or was the term invented later, and if so by who?
Answers and Views:
Answer by Spellbound
The term is much later than Lenin, it comes from the 1960s, particularly from Edward Said and Michel Foucault.
Lenin used the terms “Great Russian Chauvinism” and “Dominant Nation Chauvinism” to mean much the same thing in the context of the USSR. He used the term chauvinism to refer to some aspects of cultural imperialism in other countries, particularly when referring to Germany.
Here is a search of the term Chauvinism taken from the Lenin Internet Archive:
Answer by staisil
Lenin developed his theory of imperialism amid an intensification of European engagement with the periphery. This intensification had begun during the second half of the 19th century. Domestically, capital was concentrating into large monopolistic corporations integrated with and led by a few large financial oligarchies.
Lenin theorized that these two developments were intrinsically linked. The concentration of capital created inequality. Inequality in the core constrained aggregate demand levels. The general population could not absorb the mass of commodities achieved by higher levels of productive capacity. Insufficient demand created continual realization crises. The price of raw materials threatened profits further. The falling rate of profit required economic expansion to open up new regions for investment, sources of raw materials, and new consumer markets.
>From the premise that the capitalist class controls the state politically, Lenin theorized that finance-capital, the dominant form of capital, used the state machinery to colonize the periphery. In the periphery, capitalists would (1) use oppressed peripheral labor to produce primary commodities and raw materials cheaply; (2) create an affluent strata (a peripheral elite) to consume expensive commodities imported from the core; and (3) undermine indigenous industry, making the colonies dependent on core investment.
The overall effect was that the core pumped wealth out of the periphery. The wealth flowing into the domestic economies of the core stifled the fall in the rate of profit. Lenin called this set of circumstances “imperialism.”
Several specific consequences followed; two are notable. One, surpluses permitted the development of a “labor aristocracy,” a stratum of well-paid workers loyal to the capitalist class. Two, nation-state rivalry in the imperial system intensified nationalist sentiments among the working class and this deflected class struggle. Both of these effects functioned to strengthen the bourgeoisie over against the proletariat.
Although this strategy would work in the short-term, Lenin argued, in the longer term it would undermine first imperialism and then capitalism in the core. Nation-state rivalry would lead to inter-imperial wars. The costs (financial drain) and devastation (destruction of productive capacity) of these wars would weaken core nation-states, not only because the losers would find themselves in an unfavorable position and with a diminished capacity to exploit the periphery, but because nationalist movements in the periphery and anti-colonial wars would undermine the capacity of even victorious core nations to exploit the periphery. Once the core lost control over its colonies the imperium would stagnate domestically. Domestic economic stagnation would raise the level of antagonisms between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat leading to a social revolution in the core.
There are at least two criticisms of the theory. First, the theory neglects the fundamental exploitative capitalist relations between core and periphery that existed for several hundred years before the “imperialist” phase, calling into question the claim that Lenin is describing something truly unique. What Lenin sees as the wave of colonization is actually an intensification in colonialism. It therefore appears, contrary to Lenin, that “imperialism” is a continuation of the same fundamental system of colonial domination not a new phase of capitalist development. Second, while some of what Lenin predicted happened, capitalism was not undermined in the period that most closely approximates the conditions he claimed would cause the core socialist revolution.
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