[Classics] Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism

2. Banks & Their New Role

The principal and primary function of banks is to serve as middlemen in the making of payments. In so doing they transform inactive money capital into active, that is, into capital yielding a profit; they collect all kinds of money revenues and place them at the disposal of the capitalist class.

As banking develops and becomes concentrated in a small number of establishments, the banks grow from modest middlemen into powerful monopolies having at their command almost the whole of the money capital of all the capitalists and small businessmen and also the larger part of the means of production and sources of raw materials in any one country and in a number of countries. This transformation of numerous modest middlemen into a handful of monopolists is one of the fundamental processes in the growth of capitalism into capitalist imperialism; for this reason, we must first of all examine the concentration of banking.

In 1907-08, the combined deposits of the German joint-stock banks, each having a capital of more than a million marks, amounted to 7,000 million marks; in 1912-13, these deposits already amounted to 9,800 million marks, an increase of 40 per cent in five years; and of the 2,800 million increase, 2,750 million was divided among 57 banks, each having a capital of more than 10 million marks. The distribution of the deposits between big and small banks was as follows. (See table 2.1.)

The small banks are being squeezed out by the big banks, of which only nine concentrate in their hands almost half the total deposits. But we have left out of account many important details, for instance, the transformation of numerous small banks into actual branches of the big banks, etc. Of this I shall speak later on.

(2.1) Percentage of Total Deposits Held by Banks


In 9 big Berlin banks

In 48 with capital of more than 10m marks

In 115 with capital of 1-10m marks

In Banks with capital of less than 1m marks











At the end of 1913, Schulze-Gaevernitz estimated the deposits in the nine big Berlin banks at 5,100 million marks, out of a total of about 10,000 million marks. Taking into account not only the deposits, but the total bank capital, this author wrote:

At the end of 1909, the nine big Berlin banks, together with their affiliated banks, controlled 11,300 million marks, that is, about 83 per cent of the total German bank capital. The Deutsche Bank, which together with its affiliated banks controls nearly 3,000 million marks, represents, parallel to the Prussian State Railway Administration, the biggest and also the most decentralised accumulation of capital in the Old World. (G. Schulze-Gaevernitz, ‘Die deutsche Kreditbank’ in Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, Tübingen, 1915, p. 137.)

I have emphasised the reference to the ‘affiliated’ banks because it is one of the most important distinguishing features of modern capitalist concentration. The big enterprises, and the banks in particular, not only completely absorb the small ones, but also ‘annex’ them, subordinate them, bring them into their ‘own’ group or ‘concern’ (to use the technical term) by acquiring ‘holdings’ in their capital, by purchasing or exchanging shares, by a system of credits, etc., etc. Professor Liefmann has written a voluminous ‘work’ of about 500 pages describing modern “holding and finance companies”, (R. Liefmann, Beteilgungs- und Finanzierungsgesellschaften. Eine Studie über den modernen Kapitalismus und das Effektenwesen, I., Jena, 1909, p. 212.) unfortunately adding very dubious ‘theoretical’ reflections to what is frequently undigested raw material. To what results this ‘holding’ system leads in respect of concentration is best illustrated in the book written on the big German banks by Riesser, himself a banker. But before examining his data, let us quote a concrete example of the ‘holding’ system.

The Deutsche Bank ‘group’ is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, of the big banking groups. In order to trace the main threads, which connect all the banks in this group, a distinction must be made between holdings of the first and second and third degree, or what amounts to the same thing, between dependence (of the lesser banks on the Deutsche Bank) in the first, second and third degree. We then obtain the following picture. (See table 2.2.)

(2.2) Number of banks the Deutsche Bank has holdings in


Direct or 1st degree dependence

2nd degree dependence

3rd degree dependence


17 other banks

9 of the 17 have holdings in 34 other banks

4 of the 9 have holdings in 7 other banks

For indefinite period

5 other banks


8 other banks

5 of the 8 have holdings in 14 other banks

2 of the 5 have holdings in 2 other banks


in 30 other banks

14 of the 30 have holdings in 48 other banks

6 of the 14 have holdings in 9 other banks

Included in the eight banks ‘occasionally’ dependent on the Deutsche Bank in the ‘first degree’, are three foreign banks: one Austrian (the Wiener Bankverein) and two Russian (the Siberian Commercial Bank and the Russian Bank for Foreign Trade). Altogether, the Deutsche Bank group comprises, directly and indirectly, partially and totally, 87 banks; and the total capital – its own and that of others which it controls – is estimated at between two and three thousand million marks.

It is obvious that a bank which stands at the head of such a group, and which enters into agreement with half a dozen other banks only slightly smaller than itself for the purpose of conducting exceptionally big and profitable financial operations like floating state loans, has already outgrown the part of ‘middleman’ and has become an association of a handful of monopolists. The rapidity with which the concentration of banking proceeded in Germany at the turn of the twentieth century is shown by the following data which we quote in an abbreviated form from Riesser. (See table 2.3.)

(2.3) Six Big Berlin Banks


Branches in Germany

Deposit banks & exchange offices

Constant holdings in German joint-stock banks

















We see the rapid expansion of a close network of channels which cover the whole country, centralising all capital and all revenues, transforming thousands and thousands of scattered economic enterprises into a single national capitalist, and then into a world capitalist economy. The ‘decentralisation’ that Schulze-Gaevernitz, as an exponent of present-day bourgeois political economy, speaks of in the passage previously quoted, really means the subordination to a single centre of an increasing number of formerly relatively ‘independent’, or rather, strictly local economic units. In reality it is centralisation, the enhancement of the role, importance and power of monopolist giants.

In the older capitalist countries this ‘banking network’ is still more close. In Great Britain and Ireland, in 1910, there were in all 7,151 branches of banks. Four big banks had more than 400 branches each (from 447 to 689); four had more than 200 branches each, and eleven more than 100 each.

In France, three very big banks, Crédit Lyonnais, the Comptoir National and the Société Générale extended their operations and their network of branches in the following manner. (See table 2.4.)

(2.4) Network of Branches and Offices of Three Big French Banks

No. branches & offices

Capital (000,000 francs)





Own capital

Deposits used as capital



















In order to show the ‘connections’ of a big modern bank, Riesser gives figures of the number of letters dispatched and received by the Disconto-Gesellschaft, one of the biggest banks in Germany and in the world (its capital in 1914 amounted to 300 million marks). (See table 2.5.)

(2.5) No. of Letters Dispatched & Received by Disconto-Gesellschaft













The number of accounts of the big Paris bank, the Crédit Lyonnais, increased from 28,535 in 1875 to 633,539 in 1912. (J. Lescure, L’épargne en France, Paris, 1914, p. 52.)

These simple figures show perhaps better than lengthy disquisitions how the concentration of capital and the growth of bank turnover are radically changing the significance of the banks. Scattered capitalists are transformed into a single collective capitalist. When carrying the current accounts of a few capitalists, a bank, as it were, transacts a purely technical and exclusively auxiliary operation. When, however, this operation grows to enormous dimensions we find that a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society; for they are enabled – by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations – first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, and finally to entirely determine their fate, determine their income, deprive them of capital, or permit them to increase their capital rapidly and to enormous dimensions, etc.

We have just mentioned the 300 million marks capital of the Disconto-Gesellschaft of Berlin. This increase of the capital of the bank was one of the incidents in the struggle for hegemony between two of the biggest Berlin banks – the Deutsche Bank and the Disconto. In 1870, the first was still a novice and had a capital of only 15 million marks, while the second had a capital of 30 million marks. In 1908, the first had a capital of 200 million, while the second had 170 million. In 1914, the first increased its capital to 250 million and the second, by merging with another first-class big bank, the Schaaffhausenscher Bankverein, increased its capital to 300 million. And, of course, this struggle for hegemony went hand in hand with the more and more frequent conclusion of ‘agreements’ of an increasingly durable character between the two banks. The following are the conclusions that this development forces upon banking specialists who regard economic questions from a standpoint which does not in the least exceed the bounds of the most moderate and cautious bourgeois reformism.

Commenting on the increase of the capital of the Disconto Gesellschaft to 300 million marks, the German review, Die Bank, wrote:

Other banks will follow this same path and in time the three hundred men, who today govern Germany economically, will gradually be reduced to fifty, twenty-five or still fewer. It cannot be expected that this latest move towards concentration will be confined to banking. The close relations that exist between individual banks naturally lead to the bringing together of the industrial syndicates which these banks favour… One fine morning we shall wake up in surprise to see nothing but trusts before our eyes, and to find ourselves faced with the necessity of substituting state monopolies for private monopolies. However, we have nothing to reproach ourselves with, except that we have allowed things to follow their own course, slightly accelerated by the manipulation of stocks. (A. Lansburgh, ‘Die Bank mit den 300 Millionen’ in Die Bank, 1914, p. 426.)

This is an example of the impotence of bourgeois journalism which differs from bourgeois science only in that the latter is less sincere and strives to obscure the essence of the matter, to hide the forest behind the trees. To be ‘surprised’ at the results of concentration, to ‘reproach’ the government of capitalist Germany, or capitalist ‘society’ (‘ourselves’), to fear that the introduction of stocks and shares might ‘accelerate’ concentration in the same way as the German ‘cartel’ specialist Tschierschky fears the American trusts and ‘prefers’ the German cartels on the grounds that they “may not, like the trusts, excessively accelerate technical and economic progress” (S. Tschierschky, op. cit., p. 128.) – is not all this a sign of impotence?

But facts remain facts. There are no trusts in Germany; there are ‘only’ cartels – but Germany is governed by not more than three hundred magnates of capital, and the number of these is constantly diminishing. At all events, banks greatly intensify and accelerate the process of concentration of capital and the formation of monopolies in all capitalist countries, notwithstanding all the differences in their banking laws.

The banking system “possesses, indeed, the form of universal book-keeping and distribution of means of production on a social scale, but solely the form”, wrote Marx in Capital half a century ago (Russ. trans., Vol. III, part II, p. 144). The figures we have quoted on the growth of bank capital, on the increase in the number of the branches and offices of the biggest banks, the increase in the number of their accounts, etc., present a concrete picture of this “universal book-keeping” of the whole capitalist class; and not only of the capitalists, for the banks collect, even though temporarily, all kinds of money revenues – of small businessmen, office clerks, and of a tiny upper stratum of the working class. “Universal distribution of means of production” – that, from the formal aspect, is what grows out of the modern banks, which, numbering some three to six of the biggest in France, and six to eight in Germany, control millions and millions. In substance, however, the distribution of means of production is not at all ‘universal’, but private, i.e., it conforms to the interests of big capital, and primarily, of huge, monopoly capital, which operates under conditions in which the masses live in want, in which the whole development of agriculture hopelessly lags behind the development of industry, while within industry itself the ‘heavy industries’ exact tribute from all other branches of industry.

In the matter of socialising capitalist economy, the savings banks and post-offices are beginning to compete with the banks; they are more ‘decentralised’, i.e., their influence extends to a greater number of localities, to more remote places, to wider sections of the population. Here is the data collected by an American commission on the comparative growth of deposits in banks and savings banks. (See table 2.6.)

As they pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent and 4.25 per cent on deposits, the savings banks must seek ‘profitable’ investments for their capital, they must deal in bills, mortgages, etc. The boundaries between the banks and the savings banks “become more and more obliterated”. The Chambers of Commerce of Bochum and Erfurt, for example, demand that savings banks be ‘prohibited’ from engaging in ‘purely’ banking business, such as discounting bills; they demand the limitation of the ‘banking’ operations of the post office. (Die Bank, 1913, p. 811, p. 1022; 1914, p. 713.) The banking magnates seem to be afraid that state monopoly will steal upon them from an unexpected quarter. It goes without saying, however, that this fear is no more than an expression of the rivalry, so to speak, between two department managers in the same office; for, on the one hand, the millions entrusted to the savings banks are in the final analysis actually controlled by these very same bank capital magnates, while, on the other hand, state monopoly in capitalist society is merely a means of increasing and guaranteeing the income of millionaires in some branch of industry who are on the verge of bankruptcy.

(2.6) Comparative Growth of Deposits in Banks & Savings Banks (000,000,000 marks)




Credit Societies

Savings Banks


































The change from the old type of capitalism, in which free competition predominated, to the new capitalism, in which monopoly reigns, is expressed, among other things, by a decline in the importance of the Stock Exchange. The review, Die Bank, writes:

The Stock Exchange has long ceased to be the indispensable medium of circulation that it formerly was when the banks were not yet able to place the bulk of new issues with their clients. (Die Bank, 1914, p. 316.)

“Every bank is a Stock Exchange” and the bigger the bank, and the more successful the concentration of banking, the truer does this modern aphorism ring. (O. Stillich, Geld- und Bankwesen, Berlin, 1907, p. 169.)

While formerly, in the seventies, the Stock Exchange, flushed with the exuberance of youth [a ‘subtle’ allusion to the Stock Exchange crash of 1873, the company promotion scandals,[1] etc.], opened the era of the industrialisation of Germany, nowadays the banks and industry are able to ‘manage it alone’. The domination of our big banks over the Stock Exchange… is nothing else than the expression of the completely organised German industrial state. If the domain of the automatically functioning economic laws is thus restricted, and if the domain of conscious regulation by the banks is considerably enlarged, the national economic responsibility of a few guiding heads is immensely increased… (G. Schulze-Gaevernitz, ‘Die deutsche Kreditbank’ in Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, Tübingen, 1915, p. 101.)

So writes the German Professor Schulze-Gaevernitz, an apologist of German imperialism, who is regarded as an authority by the imperialists of all countries, and who tries to gloss over the ‘mere detail’ that the ‘conscious regulation’ of economic life by the banks consists in the fleecing of the public by a handful of ‘completely organised’ monopolists. The task of a bourgeois professor is not to lay bare the entire mechanism, or to expose all the machinations of the bank monopolists, but rather to present them in a favourable light.

In the same way, Riesser, a still more authoritative economist and himself a banker, makes shift with meaningless phrases in order to explain away undeniable facts:

…the Stock Exchange is steadily losing the feature which is absolutely essential for national economy as a whole and for the circulation of securities in particular – that of being not only a most exact measuring rod, but also an almost automatic regulator of the economic movements which converge on it. (Riesser, op. cit., 4th ed., p. 629.)

In other words, the old capitalism, the capitalism of free competition with its indispensable regulator, the Stock Exchange, is passing away. A new capitalism has come to take its place, bearing obvious features of something transient, a mixture of free competition and monopoly. The question naturally arises: into what is this new capitalism ‘developing’? But the bourgeois scholars are afraid to raise this question.

Thirty years ago, businessmen, freely competing against one another, performed nine-tenths of the work connected with their business other than manual labour. At the present time, nine tenths of this ‘brain work’ is performed by employees. Banking is in the forefront of this evolution. (Schulze-Gaevernitz, ‘Die deutsche Kreditbank’ in Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, Tübingen, 1915, p. 151.)

This admission by Schulze-Gaevernitz brings us once again to the question: into what is this new capitalism, capitalism in its imperialist stage, developing?

Among the few banks which remain at the head of all capitalist economy as a result of the process of concentration, there is naturally to be observed an increasingly marked tendency towards monopolist agreements, towards a bank trust. In America, not nine, but two very big banks, those of the multimillionaires Rockefeller and Morgan, control a capital of eleven thousand million marks. (Die Bank, 1912, p. 435.) In Germany the absorption of the Schaaffhausenscher Bankverein by the Disconto-Gesellschaft to which I referred above, was commented on in the following terms by the Frankfurter Zeitung, an organ of Stock Exchange interests:

“The concentration movement of the banks is narrowing the circle of establishments from which it is possible to obtain credits and is consequently increasing the dependence of big industry upon a small number of banking groups. In view of the close connection between industry and the financial world, the freedom of movement of industrial companies which need banking capital is restricted. For this reason, big industry is watching the growing trustification of the banks with mixed feelings. Indeed, we have repeatedly seen the beginnings of certain agreements between the individual big banking concerns, which aim at restricting competition.” (Quoted by Schulze-Gaevernitz, op. cit., p. 155.)

Again and again, the final word in the development of banking is monopoly.

As regards the close connection between the banks and industry, it is precisely in this sphere that the new role of the banks is, perhaps, most strikingly felt. When a bank discounts a bill for a firm, opens a current account for it, etc., these operations, taken separately, do not in the least diminish its independence, and the bank plays no other part than that of a modest middleman. But when such operations are multiplied and become an established practice, when the bank ‘collects’ in its own hands enormous amounts of capital, when the running of a current account for a given firm enables the bank – and this is what happens – to obtain fuller and more detailed information about the economic position of its client, the result is that the industrial capitalist becomes more completely dependent on the bank.

At the same time a personal link up, so to speak, is established between the banks and the biggest industrial and commercial enterprises, the merging of one with another through the acquisition of shares, through the appointment of bank directors to the Supervisory Boards (or Boards of Directors) of industrial and commercial enterprises, and vice versa. The German economist, Jeidels, has compiled most detailed data on this form of concentration of capital and of enterprises. Six of the biggest Berlin banks were represented by their directors in 344 industrial companies; and by their board members in 407 others, making a total of 751 companies. In 289 of these companies they either had two of their representatives on each of the respective Supervisory Boards or held the posts of chairmen. We find these industrial and commercial companies in the most diverse branches of industry: insurance, transport, restaurants, theatres, art industry, etc. On the other hand, on the Supervisory Boards of these six banks (in 1910) were fifty-one of the biggest industrialists, including the director of Krupp, of the powerful ‘Hapag’ (Hamburg-Amerika Line), etc., etc. From 1895 to 1910, each of these six banks participated in the share and bond issues of many hundreds of industrial companies (the number ranging from 281 to 419). (Jeidels, op. cit.; Riesser, op. cit.)

The ‘personal link up’ between the banks and industry is supplemented by the ‘personal link up’ between both of them and the government. “Seats on Supervisory Boards,” writes Jeidels, “are freely offered to persons of title, also to ex-civil servants, who are able to do a great deal to facilitate (!!) relations with the authorities.” … “Usually, on the Supervisory Board of a big bank, there is a member of parliament or a Berlin city councillor.”

The building and development, so to speak, of the big capitalist monopolies is therefore going on full steam ahead in all ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ ways. A sort of division of labour is being systematically developed amongst the several hundred kings of finance who reign over modern capitalist society:

Simultaneously with this widening of the sphere of activity of certain big industrialists (joining the boards of banks, etc.) and with the assignment of provincial bank managers to definite industrial regions, there is a growth of specialisation among the directors of the big banks. Generally speaking, this specialisation is only conceivable when banking is conducted on a large scale, and particularly when it has widespread connections with industry. This division of labour proceeds along two lines: on the one hand, relations with industry as a whole are entrusted to one director, as his special function; on the other, each director assumes the supervision of several separate enterprises, or of a group of enterprises in the same branch of industry or having similar interests… (Capitalism has already reached the stage of organised supervision of individual enterprises.) One specialises in German industry, sometimes even in West German industry alone (the West is the most industrialised part of Germany), others specialise in relations with foreign states and foreign industry, in information on the characters of industrialists and others, in Stock Exchange questions, etc. Besides, each bank director is often assigned a special locality or a special branch of industry; one works chiefly on Supervisory Boards of electric companies, another, on chemical, brewing, or beet sugar plants, a third, in a few isolated industrial enterprises, but at the same time works on the Supervisory Boards of insurance companies… In short, there can be no doubt that the growth in the dimensions and diversity of the big banks’ operations is accompanied by an increase in the division of labour among their directors with the object (and result) of, so to speak, lifting them somewhat out of pure banking and making them better experts, better judges of the general problems of industry and the special problems of each branch of industry, thus making them more capable of acting within the respective bank’s industrial sphere of influence. This system is supplemented by the banks’ endeavours to elect to their Supervisory Boards men who are experts in industrial affairs, such as industrialists, former officials, especially those formerly in the railway service or in mining, etc. (Jeidels, op. cit., pp. 156-57.)

We find the same system only in a slightly different form in French banking. For instance, one of the three biggest French banks, the Crédit Lyonnais, has organised a financial research service (service des études financières), which permanently employs over fifty engineers, statisticians, economists, lawyers, etc. This costs from six to seven hundred thousand francs annually. The service is in turn divided into eight departments: one specialises in collecting information on industrial establishments, another studies general statistics, a third, railway and steamship companies, a fourth, securities, a fifth, financial reports, etc. (E. Kaufmann, Die Bank, 1909, 2, p. 851 et. seq.)

The result is, on the one hand, the ever-growing merger, or, as N.I. Bukharin aptly calls it, coalescence, of bank and industrial capital and, on the other hand, the growth of the banks into institutions of a truly ‘universal character’. On this question I find it necessary to quote the exact terms used by Jeidels, who has best studied the subject:

An examination of the sum total of industrial relationships reveals the universal character of the financial establishments working on behalf of industry. Unlike other kinds of banks, and contrary to the demand sometimes expressed in the literature that banks should specialise in one kind of business or in one branch of industry in order to prevent the ground from slipping from under their feet – the big banks are striving to make their connections with industrial enterprises as varied as possible in respect of the locality or branches of industry and are striving to eliminate the unevenness in the distribution of capital among localities and branches of industry resulting from the historical development of individual enterprises.

One tendency is to make the connections with industry general; another tendency is to make them durable and close. In the six big banks both these tendencies are realised, not in full, but to a considerable extent and to an equal degree.

Quite often industrial and commercial circles complain of the ‘terrorism’ of the banks. And it is not surprising that such complaints are heard, for the big banks ‘command’, as will be seen from the following example. On 19 November, 1901, one of the big, so-called Berlin ‘D’ banks (the names of the four biggest banks begin with the letter D) wrote to the Board of Directors of the German Central Northwest Cement Syndicate in the following terms:

As we learn from the notice you published in a certain newspaper of the 18th inst., we must reckon with the possibility that the next general meeting of your syndicate, to be held on the 30th of this month, may decide on measures which are likely to effect changes in your enterprise which are unacceptable to us. We deeply regret that, for these reasons, we are obliged henceforth to withdraw the credit which had hitherto been allowed you… But if the said next general meeting does not decide upon measures which are unacceptable to us, and if we receive suitable guarantees on this matter for the future, we shall be quite willing to open negotiations with you on the grant of a new credit. (O. Stillich, Geld-und Bankwesen, Berlin, 1907, p. 147.)

As a matter of fact, this is small capital’s old complaint about being oppressed by big capital, but in this case it was a whole syndicate that fell into the category of ‘small’ capital! The old struggle between small and big capital is being resumed at a new and immeasurably higher stage of development. It stands to reason that the big banks’ enterprises, worth many millions, can accelerate technical progress with means that cannot possibly be compared with those of the past. The banks, for example, set up special technical research societies, and, of course, only ‘friendly’ industrial enterprises benefit from their work. To this category belong the Electric Railway Research Association, the Central Bureau of Scientific and Technical Research, etc.

The directors of the big banks themselves cannot fail to see that new conditions of national economy are being created; but they are powerless in the face of these phenomena.

Jeidels writes:

Anyone who has watched, in recent years, the changes of incumbents of directorships and seats on the Supervisory Boards of the big banks, cannot fail to have noticed that power is gradually passing into the hands of men who consider the active intervention of the big banks in the general development of industry to be necessary and of increasing importance. Between these new men and the old bank directors, disagreements on this subject of a business and often of a personal nature are growing. The issue is whether or not the banks, as credit institutions, will suffer from this intervention in industry, whether they are sacrificing tried principles and an assured profit to engage in a field of activity which has nothing in common with their role as middlemen in providing credit, and which is leading the banks into a field where they are more than ever before exposed to the blind forces of trade fluctuations. This is the opinion of many of the older bank directors, while most of the young men consider active intervention in industry to be a necessity as great as that which gave rise, simultaneously with big modern industry, to the big banks and modern industrial banking. The two parties are agreed only on one point: that there are neither firm principles nor a concrete aim in the new activities of the big banks. (Jeidels, op. cit., pp. 183-84.)

The old capitalism has had its day. The new capitalism represents a transition towards something. It is hopeless, of course, to seek for “firm principles and a concrete aim” for the purpose of “reconciling” monopoly with free competition. The admission of the practical men has quite a different ring from the official praises of the charms of ‘organised’ capitalism sung by its apologists, Schulze-Gaevernitz, Liefmann and similar ‘theoreticians’.

At precisely what period were the ‘new activities’ of the big banks finally established? Jeidels gives us a fairly exact answer to this important question:

The connections between the banks and industrial enterprises, with their new content, their new forms and their new organs, namely, the big banks which are organised on both a centralised and a decentralised basis, were scarcely a characteristic economic phenomenon before the nineties; in one sense, indeed, this initial date may be advanced to the year 1897, when the important mergers took place and when, for the first time, the new form of decentralised organisation was introduced to suit the industrial policy of the banks. This starting point could perhaps be placed at an even later date, for it was the crisis of 1900 that enormously accelerated and intensified the process of concentration of industry and of banking, consolidated that process, for the first time transformed the connection with industry into the actual monopoly of the big banks, and made this connection much closer and more active. (Ibid., p. 181.)

Thus, the twentieth century marks the turning point from the old capitalism to the new, from the domination of capital in general to the domination of finance capital.


[1] These occurred during the widespread establishment of joint-stock companies in the early 1870s, which was accompanied by all manner of fraudulent operations by bourgeois businessmen.

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