Book Review from the June 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Imperialism and World Economy,” by N. Bukharin. Martin Lawrence. 6s.
This work was written by Bukharin in 1915, and its references to statistics are largely out of date. But the essential arguments are in the main true to-day. The development of Imperialism in its economic aspects, has been treated in many books, such as John A. Hobson’s "Export of Capital” and also his work on "Imperialism.” Bukharin’s book covers much the same ground.
The discovery of raw materials in the backward parts of the world, together with a supply of cheap labour close at hand, gave a powerful impetus to the modern capitalist and banking company to invest abroad in search of a higher rate of profit. The rapid rise of large scale machine industry enabled the manufacturers to produce more than could be sold at home and a far-flung Empire provides a ready market for the goods.
Bukharin says little of the modern development of industry in the colonial and "backward” countries, resulting in a continual shrinkage in the world market.
The growth of trusts, cartels and monopolies is well sketched by Bukharin, much of his material being gathered from Hilferding’s “Finance Capital.” Bukharin shows how war results from the struggle for markets and for sources of raw materials. The last chapter indicates how greatly Bukharin counted on a revolt of the. workers at the end of the war, but nobody who saw how easily the workers were gulled in the developed capitalist world had any grounds for believing that world revolution would result.
The Communists condemn Bukharin’s book because he does not support the idea that the system is collapsing quickly. Bukharin bitterly opposed Trotsky, Zinovief, Radek and other leaders who-built up an opposition group in Russia, but Bukharin afterwards joined the opposition himself and held that Capitalism’s "collapse” was not in sight.
The present-day "intellectuals” of Communism criticize Bukharin’s book, alleging that he ignores colonial uprisings and internal conflicts. These "slogan merchants” ignore the fact that Lenin in his introduction to the book had no fault to find with it. The colonial revolts on which Communists based their hopes are largely beginnings of a struggle for national independence on the part of native employers and their allies and are not working class struggles for emancipation.
Modern Imperialism is a developed stage of capitalism rising out of the growth of productive forces in the hands of an exploiting class and the only way it can be abolished is by the working class struggling for, and establishing, Socialism. The Colonial revolts that were going to smash Imperialism become in the long run movements to build Capitalism in "backward” lands.
The chief fault with Bukharin’s manner of writing is that his language is not simple, and he lacks the power to make his points clear and plain.