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New Left Review I/74, July-August 1972


Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Dependent Capitalist Development in Latin America

The theory of imperialist capitalism, as is well known, has so far attained its most significant treatment in Lenin’s works. This is not only because Lenin attempts to explain transformations of the capitalist economies that occurred during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, but mainly because of the political and historical implications contained in his interpretations. In fact, the descriptive arguments of Lenin’s theory of imperialism were borrowed from Hobson’s analysis. Other writers had already presented evidence of the international expansion of the capitalist economies and nations. Nevertheless, Lenin, inspired by Marx’s views, was able to bring together evidence to the effect that economic expansion is meaningless if we do not take into consideration the political and historical aspects with which economic factors are intimately related. From Lenin’s perspective, imperialism is a new form of the capitalist mode of production. This new form cannot be considered as a different mode of economic organization, in so far as capital accumulation based on private ownership of the means of production and exploitation of the labour force remain the basic features of the system. But its significance is that of a new stage of capitalism. The historical ‘momentum’ was a new one, with all the political consequences of that type of transformation: within the dominant capitalist classes, new sectors tried to impose their interests and ideologies; the State, the Army and all basic social and political institutions were redefined in order to assure expansion abroad. At the same time new types of liberation and social struggles came onto the historical scene—the colonial liberation movements and the fight against ‘trade unionism’, the latter a struggle against an initial form of working class compomise with the bourgeoisie made possible by the exploitation of the colonial world.

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