Imperialism as Lenin famously pointed out was the highest stage of capitalism. It was the stage when capitalism had, in the more advanced nations, outgrown the national borders of the state and was compelled outwards in search of new investment opportunities and the control of resources. A period of war and revolution. Nothing has changed from that perspective except that imperialism itself has now reached and began to row back from its own apogee.
Under the tutelage of US imperialism, the mightiest imperialist power ever seen in human history by some distance, capitalism created a globalised economy: an economy in which political divisions no longer prevented the development of the division of labour such that the world economy began to resemble a single whole. The US required the co-operation of Stalinism to impose its hegemony on a post-World War Two West and its spheres of influence. In order to extend that hegemony over the whole world it required its complete surrender which was delivered in the late 80s and early 90s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satelites.
However, as Lenin also famourly pointed out in his book about imperailism, a unified world imperialism is an impossibility. As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed America and its subordinate imperialist allies set about consolidating itself as the sole and only world super power. The supreme expression of this political objective was to be found in the programme of the neo-Conservatives who came to power under George W Bush. The invasion of Iraq resulted in America becoming bogged down militarily and exposing the fact of its utter bankruptcy as a result of the cost of winning the Cold War and attempting to wipe out all opposition. America was bringing into being the very forces whose emergence it had sought to prevent. By the time Bush was kicked out of office it was clear that the world was sliding back to multi-polarity by which a number of great powers competed for spheres of influence. Inter-imperialist rivalry was back on the agenda.
Capitalism is a mode of production. It is a political-economic arrangement of some dynamism which means that the means of production more quickly come up against the limits of those political-economic arrangements than they ever did under previous modes of production. The means must continuously burst through these modes if capitalism is to progress. Since its rise to dominance in the 1700s capitalism has built and outgrown several modes of political existence each containing and giving rise to productive forces more mighty than the last. The road to the establishment of globalisation under US imperialist hegemony has been tumultuous and violent. From mercantilism, industrial revolutions, colonialism, slavery, imperialism, world wars and mass slaughters of incredible barbarity it has been a long old haul made possible only by the fact that the capitalism mode of production had at no point outgrown the mode of production in the absolute sense.
However, as we have seen above, a unified imperialism is an impossibility and as close as the US came to establishing such a thing globalisation has started to go into reverse. Capitalism has reached the outter edges of its political-economic potential. Beyond globalisation there is nowhere for it to go not even backwards. A system that can no longer accommodate change is a dead system. Capitalism is a dead system. The reversal of globalisation will not, as some hope, result in the return to a period of peaceful power balancing between a few great powers and a new golden age for capitalism as happened in the pre-imperialist age of European capitalism when it was young and dynamic. The opposite. The reversal of globalisation will require ten, twenty, a hundred times more violence than that which was required to achieve, or almost, achieve it. It has come to, as we were always told it would, a blunt question of socialism or barbarism. Do we descend on the coat tails of the ruling elites into a living hell and the death of our species or do we embrace the world proletarian revolution and transcend capitalist globalisation through a socialist commonwealth of the peoples of the world?