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New Left Review I/69, September-October 1971


Bob Rowthorn

Imperialism in the Seventies—Unity or Rivalry?

This essay will discuss the effects of recent economic trends on the unity of the imperialist bloc and on the autonomy of its constituent elements—the individal nations. [1] Articles by Robin Murray in nlr 67 and Bill Warren in nlr 68 have analysed the relationship between capital and the nation state. Although this is not the place to discuss these articles at length, one particular aspect of them is directly relevant to the present paper. Broadly speaking, with many qualifications, Robin Murray takes the view that the internationalization of capital is leading to the weakening of the nation state vis-`-vis large firms. For this he is criticized by Bill Warren, who says that in many ways states have strengthened their power over large firms and that the formation of the eec will shift the balance still further in favour of the state. Unfortunately, although correct, Bill Warren’s criticism does not take us very far, for he is largely concerned with the independent power of the large firm vis-`-vis the individual nation state considered in isolation. As I have tried to show in this paper, however, the central questions arise when we consider situations in which more than one nation state is involved. In particular:How does the state best serve the capital whose general interests it is defending? What policies should it adopt when dominant sections of this capital are operating in economic or territorial spaces where they are subject to the power os foreign states? These questions arise even where the state has absolutely dictatorial power over individual capitals. Three broad possibilities may be distinguished:

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