Notebooks on Imperialism

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Notebooks on Imperialism


the name given to the preparatory materials V. I. Lenin gathered for his Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and to certain materials that in content are of direct relevance to the preparatory materials and that represent a continuation of Lenin’s scientific development of the theory of imperialism and socialist revolution.

The study of the various aspects of imperialism was long an integral part of Lenin’s struggle for the growth of the revolutionary movement in Russia and for the revolutionary line in the international workers’ movement. With his analysis of the origins of World War I, Lenin undertook a comprehensive study of the monopoly stage of the development of capitalism. He analyzed and generalized a vast amount of data on the most diverse questions of the imperialist states’ economies and politics, both domestic and foreign. Among other questions he examined were those dealing with technology, history, geography, the workers’ movement, and colonialism. He drew his data from hundreds of books, monographs, dissertations, pamphlets, journal and newspaper articles, and statistical reports published in different countries in many different languages.

The Notebooks contain extracts from 148 books (106 in German, 23 in French, 17 in English, and two in Russian translation) and 232 articles (206 in German, 13 in French, and 13 in English) from 49 periodicals (34 German, seven French, and eight English). The notes, extracts, comments, outlines, plans, tables, diagrams, and statistical calculations contained in the Notebooks mirror the world situation immediately before and after the outbreak of World War I.

The Notebooks consist of 15 notebooks, each of which Lenin designated by a Greek letter from α (alpha) to o (omicron), and six unnumbered notebooks; of the six, only the last was compiled after Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism was written. In addition, the Notebooks contain miscellaneous notes made by Lenin in the period 1912–16.

Although the Notebooks are not a work in final form, they are of immense scientific value and represent an important contribution to the development of Marxist theory. They supplement and elucidate the principal theses of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. They contain a wealth of material on Lenin’s theory of imperialism and socialist revolution, the economic and political essence of imperialism, the uneven economic and political development of the capitalist countries in the epoch of imperialism, state-monopoly capitalism, and the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat in new conditions.

The Notebooks open up the laboratory of Lenin’s research, giving a clear picture of his method of scientific work, his approach to the material under investigation, and the methodology of his analysis. They reflect the different stages in his work with the sources—from the initial survey and selection of sources to the detailed analysis with extracts and notes.

The Notebooks are a brilliant example of the scientific, partisan approach to the study of diverse sources, written by bourgeois and petit bourgeois economists, historians, financial dealers, politicians, reformers, and revisionists. Using these sources and selectively drawing on their factual data, Lenin exposes and accurately assesses the reactionary tendencies of the bourgeois ideologists and reformist apologists of imperialism; he also took note of those who correctly evaluated the individual phenomena of imperialism.

In the Notebooks, Lenin traced the emergence and development of the principal features of monopoly capitalism, exposing its profound and irreconcilable contradictions. He showed that the omnipotence and domination of finance capital are characteristic of imperialism and demonstrated that reaction in every sphere is the political feature of imperialism. The Notebooks shed more light on the political side of imperialism than does Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which Lenin wrote for legal publication in tsarist Russia. They also reveal the particular features of imperialism in individual countries, such as Great Britain, Germany, the USA, France, and Japan.

The Notebooks devoted a great deal of attention to the national-colonial question. They constitute a true manifesto of proletarian internationalism and international brotherhood and friendship, a repudiation of all forms of national exclusiveness and racist ideas of the superiority of one nation over another and the supremacy of large nations over small nations.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.