Let us first recapitulate briefly what we have shown in preceding chapters about the relevance of the Law of Uneven and Combined Development for the imperialist countries. We have demonstrated that in the imperialist countries there is increasing unevenness on the economic, political, and social levels. In China as well as in Russia we are witnessing the coexistence of very rich, economically developed provinces and poor, backward regions. This reflects the simultaneous existence of different stages of capitalist development and different levels of labor productivity (e.g., modern factories – backward agricultural production). Likewise we see growing contradictions between a modern proletariat, an emerging middle class and an authoritarian Bonapartist state apparatus.
In the old imperialist countries of Northern America, Western Europe, and Japan we are similarly witness to uneven development in a variety of ways. Economically there is increasing inequality in real income and accumulated wealth between the broad mass of the working class and the lower strata of the middle layers on one hand and the bourgeoisie and the upper strata of the middle layers on the other hand. On the political level there is increased importance of democratic rights both in (bourgeois) public opinion as well as in popular consciousness in parallel with a huge, all pervasive build-up of imperialist surveillance and repression apparatuses.
The accelerating capitalist crisis – both in the semi-colonial world and in the imperialist metropolises – spawns a huge increase of migration from the South to the North; this in turn exacerbates the unevenness between various forms of capitalist labor conditions as well as between the lower and upper layers of the proletariat. Likewise unevenness and political oppression of national minorities (Catalans, Basques, etc.) or racial minorities like the black and ethnic minorities in the US and Britain increases in the period of capitalist decay. Finally, we should add that the imperialist countries are increasingly dependent on the super-exploitation of the semi-colonial world, a dependence which in itself accelerates the capitalist process of unevenness.
Hence we can speak of a certain degree of “semi-colonialization” inside the imperialist countries. By this we group together the following phenomena: the substantial increase in the portion of the population which has origins in semi-colonial countries; the spread of super-exploitive labor conditions; and the simultaneous increased vulnerability of the imperialist countries to political, social, and economic developments in the semi-colonial world.
In addition it is important to be cognizant of the unevenness within the EU between the richest and most powerful imperialist states (Germany, France, Benelux, etc.) and the semi-colonial countries (Eastern Europe, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Ireland, etc.)
Finally let us focus our attention on those uneven social relations which capitalism inherited from previous class societies, like the oppression of women and youth. During the past decade or two of capitalist decay in the imperialist metropolises, this inequality has evolved in contradictory directions. On one hand more and more women have been employed, something which has enhanced their economic independence. However this positive development has hardly affected the inequality between male and female wages. At the same time, the increasing commodification of all aspects of social life also increases the social oppression of women. Similarly, we have witnessed the growth of the role of youth in social life – driven as it is by the capitalists’ desire to develop young people as consumers – while at the same time capitalist decay throws an increasing number of youth into chronic unemployment and impoverishment.