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a stratum of finance capitalists not involved in business activity, whose livelihood consists of interest on monetary capital loaned by them or of income from securities (stocks arid bonds).
The rentiers, who constitute the most parasitic stratum of capitalist society, are an element of the economic structure of capitalist countries. They participate in the mobilization of capital and in the redistribution and accumulation of capital in the credit system. At the same time, their capital serves as the basis for speculation in foreign exchange, commodity, and stock markets. This type of speculation leads to the plundering and ruin of the broad masses of medium- and small-scale stockholders and to the strengthening and enrichment of the financial oligarchy, because the main profits, as V. I. Lenin observed, go to the “‘geniuses’ of financial manipulation” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5 th ed., vol. 27, p. 322).
As the accumulation of capital and the level of material wealth increase, the number of rentiers increases, making it possible for the capitalists to withdraw from the direct management of affairs. The management of enterprises is primarily the responsibility of directors, engineers, and technicians. The stratum of rentiers also grows as a result of the concentration and centralization of capital. There is an increase in the minimum funds necessary for organizing capitalist enterprises, and capitalists who do not possess this minimum become rentiers.
The largest increase in the number of rentiers is characteristic of the epoch of imperialism and is a manifestation of the parasitism and decay of capitalism. Rentier states emerge—countries in which the bourgeoisie exports a tremendous amount of capital and, to a considerable degree, lives off the interest and dividends from the exploitation of peoples of other countries. Lenin wrote: “Imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries…. Hence the extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, of a stratum of rentiers…. For that reason the term ‘rentier state’ (Rentnerstaat), or usurer state, is coming into common use in the economic literature that deals with imperialism. The world has become divided into a handful of usurer states and a vast majority of debtor states” (ibid., pp. 397–98).
At the beginning of the 20th century, France was the classic model of a rentier state. After World War II (1939–45) the USA, Great Britain, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, and certain other developed capitalist states became the principal rentier states, in terms of the scale of capital exported and the income derived from it. Taking advantage of the tremendous, chronic need of the developing countries for capital to develop and reorganize their national economies, the rentier states make their investments and loans conditional on the acceptance of political demands aimed at preserving reactionary political regimes and backward socioeconomic structures.
G. G. MATIUKHIN