Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement

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The issues examined in "Eurocentisrn and the Communist Mov~ mont"are st:i.ll ...... picture of isolated cocmuni tics of' peasants lihose horizon is. 1imited to the ...

Eurocentrism & the Communist Movement Contents: Introduction Historical Background

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Eurocentism and the Works of Marx & Engels

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The Contribution of Lenin

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Between Lenin and Mao, the Comintern period

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China and the Modern Marxist Leninist movement

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Summing Up and Looking Forward

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References

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EUROCE TRISM AND THE OMMUNIST MOVEME T

Preface

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"Eurocentrism and the Communist Movenont" arose out of the

\JOrk of' u study group based in London and con!$isting of' members of the nevo:lutionary Cor.wunist League of' Britain and other 1-!arxist-Len.inists, including sevoral of' Third World origin. The group was f'orme
The issues examined in "Eurocentisrn and the Communist Mov~­ mont"are st:i.ll being considered by the RCLB. The publ.i:.;hers hope that the quHstimw raised by this pamphlet Hill noH be discussed more widely and that i t might Lmke some contribution to cor.lba.tting ills wh:tch have been long entrenched in the theory and practice of' the left in Dritain.

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July, 1986.

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EUROCENTRIS A DTHE

OMMU 1ST MOVEME T Introduction pe ed t-

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The Narxi8t-Leninist movemertt has always spoken a lot about giving attention to theory~ but we have often not been able to recognise a theory when it stared us in the face. Of course we have to defend the essence of communist theory but this can only be done by continually breaking new ground in its application. Capitalism and imperialism are an actually Eurocentric system, in the sense that the rest of the world is super-exploited in the interests of the industrial heartland. If we pose the question in this way, it should be obvious that the main revolutionary creative forces will be found in the oppressed nations, because they are the ones on. whom the system rests. But there is also a false Eurocentric ideology which presents this state of affairs as naturale which justifies European dominance and presents it as the mainstream of historical progress. This ideology is pernicious - it exists not just in society at large but within the 'left' movement as well. In order to contribute to destroying the Eurocentric world system we have to destroy the ideology in the process of formulating a correct revolutionary theory and politics appropriate to the situation facing Uso DEVELOPING THEORY - THE KEY LINK We are putting forward the slogan of combating Eurocentrism not in order to replace other theoretical tasks• but as a key link which must be grasped in carrying out those tasks 8 in studying the class and national question, etc., if we are to make progress in these fields. Mao's slogan 'put destruction first and inthe process you have construction• is still correct in the sense that practically all advances in Marxist theory have been polemics against something negative. Everything depends on correctly identifying the target. The concept of anti-revisionism is not wrong in itself, but it is certainly insufficient. Particularly in the imperialist countries,

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much of' l11hat has passed for anti-revisionisr:t has taken tho form of' what may be called a pho nQY_tl{~ _Jj...ne _st~~le in which the deepes_~ premises of' revisi onism have not been cuLled into q uestion (and arf~ in fact reproduced). None of' our theoretical l'l orl~ ca.~ get anyuhoro unless we have a unified view of the present era a n d its historical background based on a node of' )?reduction n.:1d r.:~L:li~=.:_ ons of production lvhich even in the colonial -ora -had ~n 'll;orlc. c :1.n.:racter, characterised by rut international division of l abour. Bnrocentrism has been the main stW!lbling block preventing this b e ing done. Unless \-Te overcor.10 i t l'le will be stuck at t.!J.e le v el of' an econo~istic and oechanical materialist analysis f" r.:.i liuG to appreciate the real dynanics of history in which the "\";o rld outside t he r.wjor European powers has n.l"\'Iays played such a na jor :col e, ana. dc e s so tcday in the forn of' the liberation 1:1 0VOr.1ents • A creative revolutionary development of theory does exist 1 witl1 its centre iu the oppress e d nations. In this sense, i t is quite wrong to speak of' a crisis o f' Uarxis~. There is a crisis in the socialist movement in the i n dustrialised countries. The revisionis ts there have abandoned corrunu.nism, and even the M-L oovemont i. s seriously affected by liqui d~ j tionism. But if' tie don't take a B:.1rocentric viewpoint we c n n ge-: t h ings in perspective. It is u:! SY to b~ liquidationist if H.J r,ti. l l see Europe as the centre o f the ,.,.,. ::.' 1 ct , and are then b2.f:!:'l. t: c ~y tho fact that the L1ovement 1;llere j c:.:r, • t the nost adv r..r.0-3 d. TJ:o.e apparent stability and !1::.-ospc -o::· ::: ·::7 of the industri nl co •xntric s after "W6 rld liar II can be ,.ncpl::J..l r,etl :;c cording to a genuin p (\ _l itical econocy, but the old Cor.till t c- : ! : theories about a gene raj_ c risis - profoundly Eurocentric theo .;.~ j_a~ - couldn 1 t explain thi ::o , \llti. ch is a disorientating factor. P-.!!!::~~T ICAL

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A!ID HISTORICAL MAT:2IT.ALISf·I

The at' f' i rr.w.tion that r1arxi.s n i s l:.ealthy requires a very openminded re ::1ssessr..wnt of Na rxisn .rJ .{", h t back to the origins. We have to una dialectical and hi s t )Ti cal rna terialism to criticise the h i 13 t·~-:-ry of' the f:.lOVO.Elent and s:: :_~~":=-'- ~5>..£ the theory in those plac n s \" ;1.-J re i t is not truly dirt !.>) .;-: lcal. Thus dialectical and histo:cj r; a l materialisn energes d~ t....~l]_ y strengthened froM th~ cri ti cn:.e. This orientation dist i:;1~~·.1ishes our appronch from that of th~ reactionaries 1 who seek to negate the theory. The C('l!lt:mnis t r.wveCJent by and large has failed to reflect adequn t e.l y the nost f'undru'lental r eality of the industrial system and i .ts 3 ociety, namely racist co .J_cnial e:q>loitation. This Mlu.re is i tsel£ the result of' an ideology l1hiC!h serves the colonial e conomic base, and permeates the "\·Thole of- society, an ideo l e>f.;y ''h:!.ch influences even r a dical novements. Dialectic a l r.:mter:i a lian has not been applied universally, but only selectively. Fron this i t also f'ollolJS that the creative trend in revolutionary theory J.. s at present some\Jhat scattered and not yet systeMatised bec a '.:.s0 , although in sooe aspects i t las developed through at least -~ ~~:_r;~~2!!E. of' the official comnunist oovement,. notably in China, in o ~ ::nr:l r cases this has happened in the--margins of, or in opposition tc the oft,icial r.wvement. Thus what is needed is to understand !~.::;:t h the reality of' the systea and thef'alse ideology to which thu c reality gives rise.

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25 level that it can trans-.cend · the l.il!Ji tvd:.taeae!l9 i t follows tautologically that only Europe has attained civilisation according to its OJUl criteria • . This historical scher::ta 1 ~hich is supposed to demonstrate the unity of fflankind, thus ends up in a blatantly racist conclusion. Morgan was a 'socialist', in other \'lOrds a socialcolonialist. Since he assumed that Aryan domination was the logical result of the history of huaanity as a whole, logically this would usher in a new era in which the \Ulity of mankind would · reassert itself in the form ot" uni versa! brotherhood, lvith Aryan culture (including within i t everything of significance in nore 1 prmmi ti ve 1 for1.1s of society) no\~ wii versally predooinant. In The Or~_ins of' the FamiJ_y Engels IJ\~allows Horgan·' s reasoning hook, line and siUker, but he also dishonestly omits those passages where Horgan (to his credit) 'dlrew the logical, explicitly racist concl.usions. , Thus, ~ at the cul:-mi~ation of his work, Engels quotes "in conclusi?n, Morgan 1 s verdict on civilisation", reproducing a passage which gives a number of' 'socialistic' prophecies about how society \will rise above private property and institute a new era of' derno~racy, brotherhood, equality, etc. (70) but he deliberately censors out thH t'ollowing passages where Morgan gives vent to the Aryan race-myth. There was , a whole range of' ideologists in Marx and Engels' tioe who argued that the governing factor in hur.tan history was the conflict between so-called races, and as we have seen these ideas came to influence all shades of . tho political spectruta·. · Now these ideas are 't;otally false, but they cannot be defeated bX: ignoring theN or pretending they don't exist, as Marx and Engels tended to do. Ideas donrt coltle fron nowhere. The view whibh sees history in te.r ms of the conflict between races {or· 'families' in Morgan' s terr.iinulogy) reflect~ in a distorted and wrong way the reality of the fact that capitalisu has engendered a conflict between societies and, nations in which the col'o nial peoples suffer racist oppression. This contradicti·on has to be faced up to squarely a,nd analysed according to historical naterialisr.1 , ~her than leaving the terrain to the racists. DUHRING 1 S 'STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURE"

It is interesting that Marx and Engels \'lere apparently misled by Moltlgan's 'socialist' vision even despite the fact that they were not i .gnorant, to put it mildly, of the fact that reactdloDRary ideas could ~asquerade under a socialist label, indeed, as Engels said, they had "fought harder all one's life long against self-styled Socialists than against anyone else". {71) But the fact is that ., as far as the colonial question is concerned, the lines of demarcatirul in these struggles were not ~atisfactorily drawn. This can be illustrated with the lllxarnple of one selfstyled sociaJ_ist whom Marx and Engels did polemicise against, Eugen DOllring. No-one. could deny that Dtlhring l'IaS a reaction~ry who deserved to pe ha.I!JLllered 1 but Dtlhring was also a racist, a fact which Engels apparently didn't consider important. Even af'te 1• Dlll:.ring had published a racist boolc (7?.) which is · C'OilsTuered the first precursor ot' Hi tleri te anti-Ser.:.1i tism, Engels saw .fit to · protest against .the "despicable injustice" of' the University of' Berlin in sacking him. (73) Hence, i t is not surprising that the critique in Anti-D~'!;b.rin~ is in some respects wide of' the r::1a,rk.

:JO Thus, D'll.r.z·l.ne 's react.~onary 'struggle-against-nature' idect was something h"'z.leels diq 1)0~ see .f i t to atta

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