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. footnote1 Three broad possibilities may be distinguished:

US super-imperialism in which all other capitalist states are dominated by the United States and have comparatively little freedom to choose their policies and control their economies in ways opposed by the American state. America acts as the organizer of world capitalism, preserving its unity in the face of socialism. This domination may not, of course, operate smoothly—for antagonisms will not be eliminated but merely contained.

Ultra-imperialism in which a dominant coalition of relatively autonomous imperialist states performs the organizing role necessary to preserve the unity of the system. For this to work the antagonisms between the members of the coalition must not be so severe that they overcome the interest they have in maintaining the coalition.

Imperial Rivalry in which the relatively autonomous states no longer perform the necessary organizing role, or perform it so badly that serious conflicts break out between them and the unity of the system is threatened. For this to happen the antagonisms between states must be severe.

Recent Marxist writers have been divided in their views on which of these three variants of imperialism is most likely. The majority, amongst whom are to be found Sweezy, Magdoff, Jalée and Nicolaus, believe that the United States is not only the dominant imperial power today, but that it will become increasingly dominant in the future. footnote2 Their argument runs, with variations, roughly as follows. American firms are much bigger, more advanced and faster growing than their foreign rivals. They are using this strength to take over key sectors of European industry, and are using American state power to force their way into Japan. Eventually American firms will dominate the economies of Europe and Japan, and, as a result, large sections of the national bourgeoisies of these countries will be denationalized, becoming objectively—if not subjectively—representatives of American capital. Moreover, European and Japanese capital surviving this process will be weak and completely subordinate to American capital. Even today, they argue, a coalition of dominant American and subordinate foreign capital is creating a unified imperialism under the hegemony of the United States and the contradictions between national capitalisms are becoming of increasingly little significance. The significant contradiction is more and more between a unified imperialism and the ‘third world.’ These writers have been criticized, in my opinion fairly, as ‘third-worldists’ by Ernest Mandel. For convenience I shall also use this term.