Bukharin wrote this book just before Lenin wrote his extremely influential "Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism." Bukharin finished it in 1915 and Lenin wrote an introduction. Bukharin's book came out in November, 1917, because censors had grabbed it before.
While Lenin was alive, Bukharin served as a theoretician for the party. He had his disagreements with Lenin, but Lenin approved of this book. Later in life, Bukharin turned against Stalin and his own previous views and Stalin had him shot. However, his disgraceful death does not change the truth printed in this book.
This book has many classic qualities, because World War I sharpened up Marxist analysis of imperialism. That's one reason why it is incorrect to refer to Lenin's earlier work such as "What Is To Be Done?" when it comes to issues of class structure, economism and imperialism. Our analysis of these issues must take World War I and the highest stage of capitalism into account.
Bukharin's fight against social-democratic chauvinism is unfinished today, because all the same issues he raised then arise again today. In fact, 1915 was really the last year of naivete for the communist movement. Thereafter, its line on imperialism and the labor aristocracy only hardened.
Bukharin's book comes with no real surprises for those of us trained in Lenin's theory of imperialism. Here we only list some of the notable quotes, all except the first being rejected by social-chauvinists, people calling themselves social-democrats or socialists in name but who are nationalists of imperialist countries in deed. The social-chauvinists work to slow the struggle against imperialism by flattering the imperialist nation working classes with fantastic tales of their own exploitation. We who carry the torch of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism reproduce the quotes below to shed light on the historic privilege and complicity of the First World workers -- Engels's and Lenin's labor aristocracy -- in the exploitation of the international proletariat.
1. "Just as there is formed a world commodity market in the sphere of commodity exchange, so there is formed a world market of money capital. This is expressed in an international equalisation of the interest and discount rates. Thus, 'the element of finance also shows a tendency to aid in substituting for the market conditions of an individual country, the world market conditions." (p. 25)
2. "Sombart drew a queer conclusion concerning the diminishing significance of foreign trade in general. However as Harms correctly remarks, even assuming that manufactured goods gravitate towards the internal market more than towards foreign markets (a conclusion to which Sombart arrives from the analysis of German data only), one must not, on the other hand, overlook the increasing import of raw materials and foodstuffs which serve as a prerequisite for the home trade in manufactured goods, for the internal market, since it is due to such an import that the country is not compelled to waste productive forces on the production of raw materials and food. . . . The tendencies of modern development are highly conducive to the growth of international relations of exchange." (pp. 38-9)
3. "Quite wide-spread is the practice of establishing branches in the form of nominally independent corporations whose funds, however, are held by their 'mother' corporation. The latter phenomenon is often observed in international relations. To avoid legal obstacles in a 'foreign' country and to be able to use the privileges of native industrialists in the new 'fatherland,' branches are being established in those countries under the guise of independent corporations." (pp. 46-7)
4. "Are not the costs of the struggle, i.e., military expenditures, perchance so large that it does not pay for the bourgeoisie to continue in this way? Is not such a plan as the proposed militarisation of England an expression of bourgeois 'stupidity' which is blind to its own interests? Alas, it is not so. We must attribute this quality rather to the naive pacifists rather than to the bourgeoisie. The latter keeps its balance sheet in perfect shape. The truth of the matter is that those who make such arguments ordinarily lose sight of all the complex functions of military power. Such power, as we have seen above, functions not only in times of war but also in times of peace, to back up its finance capital in 'peaceful competition.' The pacifists forget that the war burdens, due to the incidence of taxation, etc., are borne mainly by the working class, partly by the intermediary economic groupings which are being expropriated during the war (which means in the process of the greatest centralisation of production. . . . A series of wars is unavoidable. In the historic process which we are to witness in the near future, world capitalism will move in the direction of a universal state capitalist trust by absorbing the weaker formations." (p. 139)
5. "There is an opinion current among many moderate internationalists to the effect that the colonial policy brings nothing but harm to the working class and that therefore it must be rejected. Hence the natural desire to prove that colonies yield no profit at all, that they represent a liability even from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, etc. Such a point of view is being propounded, for instance, by Kautsky.
"The theory unfortunately suffers from one shortcoming, namely, it is out and out incorrect. The colonial policy yields a colossal income to the great powers, i.e., to their ruling classes, to the 'state capitalist trust.' This is why the bourgeoisie pursues a colonial policy. This being the case, there is a possibility for raising the workers' wages at the expense of the exploited colonial savages and conquered peoples.
"Such are the results of the great powers' colonial policy. The bill for this policy is paid, not by the continental workers, and not by the workers of England, but by the little peoples of the colonies. It is in the colonies that all the blood and the filth, all the horror and shame of capitalism, all the cynicism, greed and bestiality of modern democracy are concentrated. . . .
"All the relative 'prosperity' of the European-American industry was conditioned by nothing but the fact that a safety valve was opened in the form of colonial policy. In this way the exploitation of 'third persons' (pre-capitalist producers) and colonial labour led to a rise in the wages of the European and American workers. . . .
"It was pointed out by Friedrich Engels who referred to the monopoly situation of England in the world market and to the conservatism of the English proletariat that resulted therefrom." (pp. 165-166)
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