Theory of
the Capitalist World Economy  
by Jennifer Kruczek

Bukharin   by Tareq Rahim

Nikolay Bukharin: Left Communist to NEPman 
by Corey Lichtman

By Alexandra Giniere



For Bukharin "modern capitalism is world capitalism" and "social economy finds its concrete expression in world economy." In this sense the world economy is more than just the sum of its parts. Bukharin says that the world economy is a unit which imposes its own dynamic on its parts so that "we may define world economy as a system of production relations." The roots of this world economy lie in the expansive nature of capital itself. The competitive drive of capitals to maintain their rates of profit does not stop at national boundaries - it makes nonsense of them.


If the world economy acts upon its parts then so do the parts act to affect the character of the whole. The interests of individual units of capital are determined by their competitive relations with one another. However, because capitalism is subject to recurring crises of production it also gives rise to intensified competition and problems with in the reproduction of capital. As a result, individual capitals will run for cover and group around the national form of protection, that is the state. There is therefore a tendency for capitals to centralize and integrate with the state leading toward what Bukharin termed state capitalism.


The organizational forms of the world economy are therefore the product of the two contradictory forces stemming from the nature of capital. On the one hand, there is a constant tendency towards internationalization, towards the breaking-down of barriers and, on the other, there is a constant towards nationalization and the erection of barriers towards the competitive expansion of other capitals. Both tendencies are a product of the drive of capitals to accumulate and maintain their rates of profit against one another.


Writing in the midst of the first world war, Bukharin put his greatest stress on the extent to which the nationalization of economic life had triumphed. In the 1920's, he was forced to qualify his analysis and to place a greater weight on the way in which the forces of internationalization of capital could subvert national barriers. But he regarded any suggestion that the internationalization could triumph over tendencies towards nationalization as utopian. Forms of international organizations or political forms did exist, but they were incomparably weaker than national forms. They faced greater organizational problems and were therefore much less stable. Since the degree of attraction is directly related to the rate of expansion of capital, it follows that when this falls so will the strain on international bodies increase. The weaker the capital and the sharper the crisis, the more it will need the support of its state.


In this way, Bukharin argued that the world economy is "just as blindly irrational as the earlier system of national economy." The crisis mechanism of the world economy is international and its ramifications are necessarily felt throughout the system. And, as the crisis develops, this anarchy results in war which "is only one of the methods of capitalist competition when the latter extends to the sphere of world economy."


Haynes, Michael. Nikolai Bukharin & the Transition from Capitalism to Socialism. Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc.: New York, 1985.



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