Long before current fashionable talk about globalisation abounded, the Russian Bolshevik Bukharin grasped the powerful tendency of capitalism to internationalise production. But he connected this insight to a second key argument. He showed that, far from ending the role of the nation-state and hence the drive to war, this global expansion of capitalism was being driven by an ever greater concentration of capital. In turn these giant trusts (the forerunners of today's multinationals) were becoming ever more intertwined with the nation-state.
Writing in 1915, Bukharin argued that it was this twin process that lay behind the eruption of Europe and the world into war. As John Rees puts it in his excellent new introduction, "Modern imperialism has been so much more violent in its development because it has involved titanic struggles between nationally concentrated, state-sponsored units of capital in an increasingly claustrophobic and intense world market." Bukharin's brilliant analysis invites us to rivet our attention on the relationship between the giant firms that bestride the global market and the highly armed nation-states that continue to dominate the world. Nearly 90 years later, this remains an indispensable starting point for understanding the nature of capitalism today.
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