Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) was an active socialist theorist and agitator from her school days until her murder following the unsuccessful Spartacist insurrection of 1919. Her theoretical work includes Die Akkumulation des Kapitals (The Accumulation of Capital) (1913), in which she analyses the role of surplus value in capitalist economies, and Die russische Revolution (The Russian Revolution) (1922), in which she critiques Lenin’s style of leadership, arguing for a revolution controlled by the masses.
In Die Akkumulation des Kapitals, Luxemburg observes that, in order to accumulate capital by the selling of surplus goods, capitalist countries rely upon those which are pre-capitalist as purchasers. (Capitalists themselves would gain nothing by buying their own surplus product, and workers could not afford to, due to the surplus value added above the cost of production and/or wages.) The reliance of capitalist economies upon these other economies results in a struggle for political control of them – imperialism. However, once everywhere has been absorbed by the capitalist economy, it will not be able to function as it will no longer be able to acquire capital.
Henry Tudor, in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, summarises the implications of this analysis as follows:
First, it vindicated the claim that the terminal crisis of capitalism was inevitable. Second, it meant that imperialism was, not (as Lenin, for instance, would have it) the ‘final stage of capitalism’, but a structural feature of capitalism as such. Finally, it meant that war on a worldwide scale between capitalist states was unavoidable.