Courtesy Reuters

Theories of Socialist Imperialism

SINCE the war there has been a certain amount of discussion, for obvious reasons, as to why Marx never developed a theory of Socialist imperialism. Proverbially, the revolution was to usher in the era of "to each according to his needs" and make power politics, old style, no longer necessary. But we have been learning that Socialists can be imperialists. Russia has been upsetting the Marxist equation.

Before the First World War there were some German Socialists who had quite a well-defined theory of imperialism. Not a great deal of attention has been paid to them, but there are interesting parallels (and differences) between their policies and those of the Communists today. The theory of this Socialist group, known as the Imperialists, was never officially approved; but the group was never expelled from the Party, the reason probably being that the Majority group (not the Independents, who were genuinely liberal and anti-imperialist) were in any case of pretty much the same mind in foreign policy.[i] The Imperialists, who centered about the periodical, Die Sozialistische Monatshefte, contained a heavy representation of trade union men: Max Schippel, Ludwig Quessel, Max Cohen and Wolfgang Heine. In addition they included a few highly articulate individuals who operated more on their own: Heinrich Cunow, Konrad Haenisch and Paul Lensch, the last being probably the most interesting of them all. It is somewhat artificial to treat these men as a separate group, for half the time they were only making the Majority's implied beliefs explicit and what new elements they added to Socialist theory were not too difficult to fit onto the Majority scheme. Yet they did have some ideas which the Majority, even though sympathetic, could never have accepted, and which are worth examining in the light of current developments in Socialist theory and practice.

These Imperialists of the old German Socialist Party wanted what the Russians seem to want today, but they had a harder time in justifying their position. The Russians can point to

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