The aim of this thesis is to examine the origin and development of the theory of state monopoly capitalism and its significance for the politics of contemporary Western European Communist Parties. The theory is shown to have its origin in Lenin's interpretation of Marx's Das Kapital, and his assessment that capitalism has entered an ultimate stage of development called imperialism which is characterised by the intensification of the contradictions of capitalism. The thesis then examines Lenin's argument that this stage of capitalism transforms the relations of economic and political power which existed in the preceding stage of capitalism, called "free competition capitalism", into a transitional society called variously and interchangeably "monopoly capitalism", "state capitalism" and "state monopoly capitalism". In turn, it is considered how this theory is represented in the inter-war years, especially under Stalin's codification of Lenin's writings into a system of "Leninism". The thesis shows as a consequence that the politics of the Comintern vis-a-vis social democracy on the one hand, and fascism on the other, are justified in terms which originate in Lenin's theory of imperialism and its subsequent development in the Third International. It then considers how the continuation of this interpretation of the theory of monopoly capitalism\ud and the strategies of Western European Communist Parties is first brought into question in the Stalin-Varga controversy on the nature of capitalism in the immediate post-war period. Although Varga is defeated, the themes which he raises are typical of those which gain wider acceptance after the death of Stalin and provide the premises\ud for the new version of "state monopoly capitalism" which begins to be formulated in the period of "de-Stalinisation". Another important stimulus to the "liberalisation" of the theory of state monopoly\ud capitalism to be investigated and also advanced independently from the Soviet Union, is found in the work of K. Zieschang. The themes identified in this and subsequent discussions are then shown to form\ud the basis upon which the contemporary theory of state monopoly capitalism emerges. The principal components of this theory which are examined concern: the analysis of the monopoly; the theory of the state; state interventionism in the economy; and the international relations in which capitalist systems exist. These in turn are shown to express the characteristic features of the theory\ud of state monopoly capitalism from which the class politics of Marxist-Leninist Communist Parties are formulated in Western European societies. The thesis then critically evaluates the general economic and political themes associated with the theory of state monopoly capitalism
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