Marx & Philosophy Review of Books reviews Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (JMP)

Biel provides convincing arguments as to how the failure of Marxist movements to divest themselves of a Eurocentric worldview is intimately connected to opportunism and mechanical materialism. The opportunist position of reform over revolution, or the peaceful existence with capitalism, was historically premised on the denial of struggles at the global peripheries, and collaboration with colonialism; the theory of productive forces was premised on a development discourse where colonial development should be supported so as to create a third world proletariat and bourgeoisie. This Eurocentric blockage would carry over into other Marxist tendencies, even ones that were not immediately revisionist or economistic. For example, in the First Congress of the Third International, Trotsky could make the Eurocentric argument that the ‘smaller peoples’ in Africa and Asia would be freed, not by their own agency, but by a proletarian revolution in Europe that would ‘free the productive forces of all countries from the tentacles of the national states.’ (115) Of course, Biel notes that there was also a creative development of theory under Lenin that challenged these Eurocentric categories: hence, in the Second Congress of the Third International, the position expressed by Trotsky (and others) above was replaced, through debates on the national question, by the position (that Lenin had held earlier) that resistance movements at ‘the weakest links’ possessed the most revolutionary potential.

But alongside every creative development of theory emerging from revolutionary struggle that challenged the Eurocentric aspects of Marxism, there has also been, despite important successes, an inability to go far enough. Biel traces this problem from the time of Marx and Engels right up to the Chinese-inspired New Communist Movement (the context in which the original version of this book was written) that was not only at risk of ‘dogmatism’ – because ‘with any movement to uphold orthodoxy, you risk becoming conservative and scared of new ideas’ (6) – but failed to truly grasp ‘that aspect of the corrupting influence of imperialism [Eurocentrism] which ought to have been the target of struggle … [that] will sneak into the anti-revisionist movement and grab it from within.’ (6)

K. KersplebedebK. KersplebedebK. Kersplebedeb

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