Imperialism - The Highest Stage of Capitalism

Even a casual observer may see within the world economy, the problems between the developed and the developing countries and within the developed countries themselves. There, the persistent high rate of unemployment exists alongside an unprecedented rate of technological change. Crises and contradictions have not arisen accidentally. They reflect economic relations of a particular character.

In the years preceding the 1914-18 war, Lenin, the Russian revolutionary leader, made an exhaustive investigation into the economic and political relationships of the world's capitalists.

At the time of his investigations, the former capitalism that exported goods had qualitatively changed into a system that exported Capital. Monopolies now played the dominant role. This new, higher stage of capitalism is defined as imperialism.

Furthermore, he examined the social phenomena, which developed as a result of these new relationships. Lenin repeatedly reminded us that unless we understand the economic essence of imperialism, we cannot understand war and politics.

Considering the role of overseas transnationals in the economic life of Aotearoa/New Zealand, a study of Lenin's work on imperialism has significant practical benefits.

Social change can only be achieved by first knowing the actual (and not imagined) economic and political realities.

Five Basic Features of Imperialism

Lenin's brief definition is as follows:

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.

  1. The export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance.
  2. The formation of internationalist combines which share the world among themselves.

5.       The territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist combines is completed.

Abundant Evidence of Imperialist Relations

A study of the local economy confirms the relevance of this definition of imperialism. Production and capital is most certainly concentrated. In forestry, brewing, finance, telecommunications, transport, building, energy, retailing and waste collection concentration of capital is apparent.

In all these sectors, the export of capital to New Zealand has led to domination by foreign ownership. In fact, a walk about in the central business or industrial districts of New Zealand cities will discover abundant evidence of the "export" of capital from the USA, Britain, France and Japan.

The best known is US-owned Telecom, which made an $820 million profit in the 1997-98 financial year. Other US-owned corporations are Carter-Holt Harvey, Tranzrail, EDS, Waste Management, Utilicorp and oil companies.

Sharing the World Among the Transnationals

Once the world has been divided up among the giant monopolies, further expansion depends on the use of military force. This is a permanent feature of imperialism. Right now, US imperialism has achieved a foothold in the Balkans from which to expand further eastwards with the off-fields of the Caspian Sea area as the goal. German imperialism has long-viewed Russia as a source of cheap raw materials and a market. In Asia, the United States is aiming to isolate socialist China with an expanded military alliance with Japan.

While there is some agreement among imperialist powers in plundering developing countries, competition among them is inevitable. That competition inevitably leads to war.

The Era of Decline

Some major trends have unfolded within the world economy and in the developed countries.

The merging of giant transnational corporations is continuing. Five companies; 87% of the world's tobacco trade by four companies; and 80 % of the world's banana trade controls 77 per cent of the world cereal trade by three companies.

Globalisation has resulted in the concentration of enormous economic and financial power - with aim of ever-greater corporate profits and income for the billionaires.

While technology and science are advancing at an unprecedented rate, the billionaires and their corporations reap the benefits. The gap between rich and poor and between developed and developing countries continues to widen.

Simultaneously, there is the growth of chronic unemployment in the developed and imperialist countries. All the social indicators, regarding health of the people, access to health services; full-time employment, education, and social well being are negative. Suicides, drugs, violence and decadent culture are on the rise.

Some only see the scientific- technical advances and the new products, like home computers. They are encouraged to ignore the growing and persistent poverty that unemployment sustains. Imperialism and US imperialism in particular cannot conceal its rotten, decaying economic system. The social fall-out fills the daily news services.

Why are the health services in Aotearoa in crisis? Why are schools short of funds? Why is there persistent unemployment? Because 'exported capital' (foreign investment) is at excessive levels, uses its corresponding political influence to corrupt and distort the political processes in its favour. Imperialism, especially US Imperialism, has bribed, bought, and manipulated a top layer of the capitalist class and turned them into their collaborators in attacking the people.

Bribery of Upper Stratum of Workers

Various New Zealand capitalists have made $ millions in their collaboration with foreign corporations. Their serf interest favours selling public assets. But the basic cause of why some trade union leaders collaborate with major corporate employers remained a puzzle until Lenin studied the problem.

His investigations concluded that monopoly profits were so enormous that they allowed higher wages/salaries to be paid to key workers. The monopolies relied upon these workers to keep their enterprises functioning.

As a result, this upper stratum of workers receives income and enjoys a life style significantly above that enjoyed by the majority of wage earners. They were and are, in the main content with their lot and oppose militant activity. It is precisely this upper stratum of workers that provide the social base of class collaboration, opportunism and reformism within the working class. Speeches by Douglas and Foulkes are worthy of study as examples of attempts to introduce the policies helpful to imperialism into the ranks of the trade union movement.

Many militant workers become exceedingly frustrated with the performance of some trade union office-holders and so-called Labour politicians. The way to abolish class collaboration is to stop the bribery by ending imperialist ownership within New Zealand, and helping workers overseas to do the same.

Imperialism is the Greatest Threat to Peace and Progress

In the memory of most people, the security and social wellbeing of the New Zealand people have sharply declined since 1984, when the Fourth Labour Government responded to the needs of imperialism and their local collaborators. And this negative experience is not exceptional. It is being repeated in virtually all countries.

On a world scale, whether it is a question of protecting the environment, the ecology, of clean water, of adequate food and shelter, preventing genocide and preventing wars, there will be found the influence and interference of imperialist powers.

Simultaneously, a study shows the rising power of the people on all continents, confidently and courageously challenging their imperialist enemy. The people will prevail.

Bribery of a Section of Capitalist Class

Without the willing assistance of internal agents, US Imperialism would not be calling the shots in Aotearoa. The sight of various business leaders and politicians falling over themselves to grovel before President Clinton will help to convince many more of the servile nature of this class.

As in the past (Vietnam and Korea), this small class is quite capable of trading the lives of New Zealand soldiers in the hope of earning greater wealth as junior partners of US corporations. The local multi-millionaires turn their backs on the needs of working people for jobs, preferring to collaborate with foreign corporations.

There are three kinds of bank robbery. Break-in, armed hold-up or an "inside job". The sale of New Zealand public assets was an 'inside job'. US corporations did not need to send in "the marines" The 'insiders' were in place - in the Fourth Labour Cabinet, the Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Business Roundtable. The local multi-millionaires were "bought". Many became exceedingly rich - ask Messrs Fay and Richwhite. It goes like this:

The US corporate investor sends out the message, "we know that your economy needs investment. Should suitable opportunities arise, we are prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Naturally, being of an understanding nature, we would be pleased to leave space for local investors to become partners, at special rates, too."

And " we are proposing to start operations in New Zealand. To avoid competition between us, when one of us could get burnt, we are prepared to offer to you shares in our company. There may be jobs on the Board of Directors." US-owned Waste Management uses this method.

By means of bribery and playing on selfish class interests, the US and other imperialist corporations have created a treacherous class of collaborators. Their shameful record follows, next column.

What Future Generations Will Condemn as Criminal Acts

In 1986, we were told that public assets sales were sold to reduce external debt. That debt has multiplied many times to over $100 billion. The reality is that the main beneficiaries are foreign investors and their local collaborators.


Sale Price

$ millions


New Zealand Steel






Health Computing Service

$ 4.25


Development Finance Corporation






Shipping Corporation

$ 33.56


Air New Zealand



Landcorp Financial Instruments

$ 77.00


Rural Bank



Govt Printing Office

$ 38.58


National Film Unit

$ 2.50


Communication NZ

$ 0.08


State Insurance Office



Tourist Hotel Corporation

$ 71.85


Liquid Fuel Investment

$ 0..20


Maui Gas

$ 254.00





Forestry Cutting Rights



Synfuels Stock & Current Assets

$ 29.18


Export Guarantee Ltd.

$ 17.00


Go Supply Brokerage Corp.

$ 3.20


Housing Corporation Mortgages

$ 904.30


Taranaki Petroleum Licences



Bank of New Zealand



New Zealand Rail







$ 48.99


Wrightson Rights

$ 3.45


Fletcher Challenge shares


To be added- foreign investment in power generation and retailing by US-owned Utilicorp and Canadian owned Trans Alta; in water supply (Papakura), in rubbish collection and landfills by US-owned Waste Management. Plus the sale of Contact Energy, and the calling of tenders for operation of prison and LWR (Lane Walker Rudkin)

The Main Enemy

The above Facts speak for themselves. The greatest threat to the well being of most New Zealanders is that class that increases its wealth by selling national and publicly owned assets to foreign profit hungry corporations, who have manipulated parliament into forcing the sale of local government assets and services and who maintain the notorious ECA slave Act.