Ultraimperialism, Theory of

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ultraimperialism, Theory of


a distorted bourgeois, right-opportunist conception of the historical role of imperialism and of the economic and political relations between imperialist nations. The theory of ultraimperialism, which was advanced by K. Kautsky in 1914, rejects the Marxist-Leninist view that imperialism is the last stage in the development of capitalism before the advent of the social revolution of the proletariat; instead, it presupposes the possibility of yet another stage in the development of capitalism, namely that of ultraimperialism. In its methodology and political assumptions, the theory represents a continuation of Kautsky’s theory of imperialism, which holds that imperialism is a specific policy adopted by industrial powers in their scheme to acquire agricultural lands. Ultraimperialism is a similarly one-sided theory in that it separates the political policies of imperialism from its economics. It contends, for instance, that the international character of monopoly capital permits relations between the great capitalist powers to be free of coercion and imperialist designs. According to Kautsky, the leading capitalist powers seek through the policy of ultraimperialism to ensure the joint exploitation of the world by international finance capital. Furthermore, the formation of such a united world cartel supposedly eliminates conflicts and, consequently, the danger of a world war between capitalist nations.

The theory of ultraimperialism was proposed in an attempt to protect imperialists from being held responsible for unleashing large-scale wars. It was also intended to undermine the revolutionary struggle of the working class by fostering the illusion that an era of peaceful capitalist development was imminent. To counter V. I. Lenin’s adjuration to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, adherents of the theory of ultraimperialism called for a reconciliation with imperialism, that is, for “class peace.”

Lenin, however, exposed the counterrevolutionary and unscientific nature of the theory of ultraimperialism. He demonstrated that although the growth of the concentration and centralization of capitalist production does tend toward the formation of a single world trust, it nevertheless proceeds in such mutually antagonistic ways that capitalism perishes—to be replaced by socialism—long before such a trust can be formed. Because the growth of the concentration of production and capital inevitably leads to a heightening of class and other social conflicts in capitalism, it intensifies, rather than eliminates, capitalist competition, the bitter rivalry between imperialist powers, and the struggle for world domination.

The theory of ultraimperialism, therefore, ignores the specific historical conditions that foster the concentration of capital; it also fails to take into account the uneven economic and political development of capitalist nations in the era of imperialism. Lenin observed, for example, that ultraimperialist unions, such as a “United States of Europe, ” are impossible, or, if possible, then possible merely as “temporary agreements” effected between imperialist powers and capitalists “for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against” the rapidly rising imperialism of the USA (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 354).

By unmasking the essentially reactionary and Utopian elements of ultraimperialism, Lenin anticipated the modern trend toward socioeconomic integration in the capitalist world, including Western Europe. The economic integration of Western Europe, as represented by the European Economic Community, is oriented toward a struggle against the revolutionary movements of the working class, against the socialist countries, especially in Europe, and against the national liberation movements in the former European colonies. It is aimed at strengthening neocolonialism. At the same time, it weakens the economic and political position of the USA in the capitalist world.

The historical experience of the 20th century—two world wars unleashed by capitalism, the triumph of socialism in Russia and a number of other countries, the creation and rapid development of a world socialist system at a time when the imperialist world is still very far from a “world cartel”—testifies to the bankruptcy of the theory of ultraimperialism. Nevertheless, the theory of ultra-imperialism, with its central thesis that a new stage follows the era of imperialism, is widely held by modern bourgeois political economists. According to their interpretation, such a stage is marked by the self-liquidation of capitalism and by a movement toward, successively, an industrial, postindustrial, and superin-dustrial society that is supposedly neither capitalist nor socialist. Today, the theory of ultraimperialism is used by reactionary imperialist forces seeking to suppress the workers’ revolutionary movement.


Lenin, V. I. “Krakh II Internatsionala.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26.
Lenin, V. I. “O lozunge Soedinennykh Shtatov Evropy.” Ibid., vol. 26.
Lenin, V. I. “Opportunizm i krakh II Internatsionala.” Ibid., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. Imperializm, kak vysshaia stadiia kapitalizma. Ibid., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “Tetradi DO imperializmy.” Ibid., vol. 28.
Lenin, V. I. “Imperializm i raskol sotsializma.” Ibid., vol. 30.
Kautsky, K. Imperializm. Kharkov [1912]. (Translated from German.)
Kautsky, K. Natsional’noe gosudarstvo, imperialisticheskoe gosu-darstvo i soiuz gosudarstv. Moscow, 1917. (Translated from German.)
Hilferding, R. Finansovyi kapital. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from German.)
Shishkov, Iu. “Teoriia ‘ul’traimperializma’ i sovremennost.” Miro-vaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1967, no. 4.


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