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The great Palestinian scholar Edward Said contended that Marx's earliest writings on the British role in India, written in , represent a racist view of the colonized, despite Marx's sympathy for the subjects of the British empire. Said contended that "in article after article, [Marx] returned with increasing conviction to the idea that even in destroying Asia, Britain was making possible there a real social revolution. Both Said and Shlomo Avineri, another interpreter of Marx read widely in the academy, argued that Marx never deviated from this position, but in fact propounded it even more vociferously later in his career.

But the truth is exactly the opposite: Marx re-evaluated and rejected his earliest views, which did have Eurocentric elements. As Marxist scholar Kevin B. Anderson, in his excellent book Marx at the Margins , has shown, Marx took a keen interest in pre-capitalist societies and championed the struggle of oppressed nations against colonialism and imperialism. Crucially--and in contrast to the case made by Mar Castro Varela and Dhawan--Marx's re-evaluation of his views was nearly entirely due to the influence of the struggles of "disenfranchised groups such as colonial subjects.

At the crudest level, some object to Marx and his lifelong collaborator Frederick Engels for who they were, rather than what they were analyzing and what they wrote. After all, Marx and Engels were 19th century white European men who bore some of the prejudices of their era and their societies. The more serious objection, based on a reading of Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto and on Marx's writings on India, is twofold.

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First, Marxism is said to have a deterministic view of economic and social change, in which each country must through the same stages of economic development. The highest stage of capitalist development is industrial capitalism, which existed in just a few places in Europe at the time of Marx's writing.

As the Manifesto puts it, capitalism "creates a world after its own image," making "barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West. Since Marx and Engels believed that socialism should harness the productive capacity of industrial society, it followed that whatever hastened the development of capitalism and its "gravedigger," the modern working class, could be accepted, if not wholly justified.

In "The British Rule in India," Marx wrote, "England was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them," but it nevertheless might have been "the unconscious tool of history in bringing about [a] revolution" in Indian society. Likewise, Engels initially welcomed the U. In some ways, this is a different version of the old criticism that "Marxism reduces everything to class"--in this case, to the white European working class.

So while the Manifesto hails the modern working class as capitalism's "gravedigger," Marx's earliest writings on India and China suggest that the Chinese were "timid" in the face of British imperialism, and that Indians succumbed to imperialism because India "has no history at all, at least no known history If this was all that Marx had written about capitalism, imperialism and non-Western societies, it might be justifiable to label him a "Eurocentrist. Even in the most often criticized articles, Marx refers to the British as "barbarians" and "dogs.

And a later article, "The Future Results of British Rule in India," anticipates the development of an Indian national liberation movement to "[throw] off the British yoke. It changed because of the Sepoy mutiny, an anti-colonial revolt rooted among Indian soldiers in the British colony.

Marx exulted in the uprising, wanting to find out as much as he could about it. Although the British ultimately suppressed the uprising, Marx pointed out the "historical retribution"--that opposition to colonization emerged among soldiers who the colonizers themselves had armed and trained. As capitalism in the industrial countries created its own gravedigger in the working class, the colonizers were also creating their gravedigger in the colonies.

Marx went on to assert, with respect to the working class in England, that "India is our best ally"--because the revolt in the colonies and the struggles of workers in England had the same enemy in the British ruling class. This internationalist idea--that the European working class must stand in solidarity with just struggles for national liberation--animated Marx's main political activity in the s: organizing the First International of workers' and socialist parties and groups.

Although mostly based among organizations in Britain, France and Germany, the International developed largely through international solidarity campaigns with the struggle against slavery in the U. In his inaugural address to the delegates that formed the international in , Marx cited all of those struggles in arguing that the [European] working class had to develop its own "foreign policy.


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It had to support struggles of the oppressed and exploited abroad because "such a foreign policy forms part of the general struggle for the emancipation of the working classes," Marx said. Large sections of the British ruling class, including many leading politicians, wanted to intervene in the war on the side of the Confederacy, because of Britain's need for cotton.

The mills of Lancashire and other industrial centers--and, as a result, industrial jobs--depended on imports of cotton from the South. Yet from the start of the Civil War, Marx and Engels supported the North and called for revolutionary measures to abolish slavery. Supporters of the First International in the U. Marx welcomed the North's tentative steps toward emancipation and urged the arming of ex-slaves to fight for their own liberation: "[T]hese emancipated Negroes may be militarily organized and sent into the field against the South," he wrote. Marx also wrote of the psychological effect of Black regiments in breaking the South's morale.

And, by the way, in his writings on the Civil War, Marx also rejected Engels' earlier position on Mexico. Instead of seeing the s war for Texas as an advance for capitalist progress, he recognized it as part of the expansionist policy of the Southern slaveholders.

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Currently Reading: Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (Robert Biel) - 2015

Leading English trade unionists--who later helped to form the International--organized demonstrations that pressured the government not to intervene on the side of the South. English unions supported the North despite the cost in jobs of their members after the North's blockade of Southern cotton exports hit British industry. As Marx wrote:. The working class is Under these circumstances, the obstinacy with which the working class keeps silent, or breaks its silence only to raise its voice against intervention and for the United States, is admirable. When President Abraham Lincoln won re-election in , only months before the North defeated the South, the International issued a Marx-penned statement to the American people:.

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While the working men, the true political power of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic; while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master; they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation, war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Anti-Slavery War will do for the working classes. Within these few sentences, Marx condemned racism and slavery, and showed how both had distorted the development of working-class consciousness in the U. And he looked forward to a period of class struggle inspired by the overthrow of slavery. For those who still think that Marx had little to say about the intersections of race and class, this is just one example of the analysis that typified his mature writings and political activities.

But in Marx's time, both nations were colonized, and their populations subject to racist contempt. For many European revolutionaries of the mids, the cause of Polish independence against its suppression by Germany and Russia was a litmus test of a commitment to the cause of freedom and democracy. Marx and Engels passed this test throughout their careers. After both had relocated to England, the cause of the liberation of England's oldest colony in Ireland seized them.

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Marx and Engels spoke out in defense of the Irish struggle for freedom, both publicly and within the First International. They also developed a sophisticated understanding of the role of Ireland in supporting the landed aristocracy of England, while providing millions of cheap and criminalized laborers to the industrial centers of Britain and the U.

Finally, Marx, in particular, analyzed the role of the Irish working class as an oppressed subsection of the English working class. English working-class racism against the Irish, Marx wrote, "is the secret of the powerlessness of the English working class, despite its organization. Maoism, unlike the earlier manifestations of Marxism which were reductionist in overemphasizing the role of economics, also recognizes the interactions between the economic and political structures of the Eurocentric world system with its ideological apparatus.

It is this ideological apparatus, projected on a world stage by imperialism, that allows for the reproduction of Eurocentric ideologies, especially amongst segments of the bourgeoisie in the dominated countries. It is along these lines of Maoism as a universalized Marxism that Biel was thinking, which he expressed as follows. The strength of Maoism was its assertion that institutional structures, functionaries, intellectuals, etc. If we take this to its logical conclusion, it means seeking out those whom the whole structure rests, the most marginalised and exploited.


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For this reason, it carries within it the potential for the defeat of Eurocentrism. In this sense, we can regard Maoism, like Marxism in general, as the property of humanity as a whole, as something bigger than the limitations of the people who developed it. If we are serious about challenging the Eurocentric world system, which is one and the same as the capitalist-imperialist world system, then we need to be sober in our recognition that Maoism presents itself as the fullest development of the anti-Eurocentric trend within Marxism.

Therefore, it is the only way to grapple with the realities of our situation from a holistic standpoint, and through application, dismantle Eurocentrism. They have taken the first steps towards the dismantling of the capitalist-imperialist world system, yet few in the centers of global capitalism have taken notice. However, there is a growing segment within the core of capitalism, concentrated amongst oppressed nationality groups, the most exploited sections of the proletariat, and even amongst students and intellectuals, that, while not fully articulated yet, sees Maoism as the expression of a universal and transnational struggle against all forms of capitalism, imperialism, and Eurocentrism.

Canadian Maoists Filipino Maoists. Thanks for this, it is great — really useful. I had been reading the Amin but did not know Biel and that really helps join the dots.

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