I was born in 1951. I was in my early teens when the American war in Vietnam started to become news. I just missed out on being old enough or exposed directly enough to be fully caught up in the 60s radicalisation, but it was the 60s all the same that framed the picture of the world that I gazed upon and eventually engaged with. The 60s was a period of multiple, myriad, kaleidoscopic, even hallucinogenic angles of gaze and questioning. Engagement with social and political realities exploded with militant protest movements, subversive culture and the sharing of songs hitherto without voices.
The contemporary world economy has become more highly integrated than ever before. Supply chains for complex products can sometimes span dozens of countries. Yet the benefits from this global production system still fall mostly to the capitalist rulers of just a handful of rich, imperialist countries. As a result of their monopolistic position in global production and world trade the imperialist societies have secured levels of wealth, income and social development immensely higher than all other countries – the so called “Third World”.
Around the world there is heightened awareness of the dangers to the human habitat from global warming. The assessments of climate scientists increasingly express a sense of urgency that carbon emissions be reduced immediately. More and more people understand the threat. Polls show stronger understanding of the threat and a demand for governments to act to reduce carbon emissions. In some countries government action has already made significant progress; in others, sections of business are resisting or slowing down the process.
Speaking at a rally in Florida in May 2019, United States President Donald Trump told his supporters, “We won’t back down until China stops cheating our workers and stealing our jobs. And that’s what’s going to happen. Otherwise, we don’t have to do business with them. We can make the product right here, if we have to, like we used to.”
Almost 100 years after it was written, Lenin’s classic Marxist theory of imperialism, principally articulated in his book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, remains the best framework to understand capitalism’s international political economy. Subsequent capitalist development shows the key aspects of Lenin’s thesis to be correct.