Imperialism, the Highest State of Capitalism by Vladimir Lenin I first read this when I was about 22 when I was becoming active in politics. It was the late 1970s and there was a surge of racist attacks and the NF were marching.
I’d never come across anything that explained the nature of the war so sharply. As we commemorate the centenary, all sorts of things are said – that it was a war to defend western civilisation or to preserve Belgian neutrality. Lenin says it was a predatory annexationist, imperialist war, a war between two gangs of robbers to redivide the world.
Once you hear that, you never think about it, or war in general, in the same way again. For me, it was a way of explaining this contention between the big powers and the danger of war arising then and today too, not because of particular politicians, but because of the international system that exists.
It also explains that, in Lenin’s view, imperialism is the last stage of capitalism. That’s important because it suggests there are alternatives and today we’re often told there are none – this analysis shows something else is possible.
The Guardian, 17 October 2018