The upsurge of colonial revolution in recent years has led to a fresh examination of earlier Marxist work on this topic, both by Marx and Engels themselves, and by theorists of the Third International. This bookfootnote1 gives a serious and mainly non-polemical approach to some aspects of this issue. Two central themes are included: the evolution of the theory of colonial revolution among Europen Marxists from Marx, through the Second and Third Internationals, to present Soviet theory; and the growth in China of a theory of revolution and socialist transformation. The body of the book is a selection from relevant documents, which is preceded by an essay discussing matters raised in the texts.
It is precisely because it discusses such a major political question that the book, despite many virtues and a wealth of material, suffers from two crucial defects. The first concerns its thematic and geographical limits. Thematically, the book is confined almost entirely to discussions of revolutionary strategy in the colonial areas and of the way colonial revolution relates to struggle in the industrial capitalist societies. The problem of Marxist analysis of Asian societies is treated in a cursory
The book also has a serious geographic limit. The only Asian country given serious consideration in the book is China. The Chinese Revolution has been the greatest single revolutionary victory in Asia, but much material has been produced on the important struggles in such other countries as Vietnam, Japan, India, Persia and Indonesia. This is largely ignored. Thus in both its thematic and its geographic content the book falls far short of the title, Marxism and Asia. Either a different title should have been chosen, or the full extent of the problem should have been indicated and discussed, even if a comprehensive treatment would obviously go beyond the confines of any one book.
The second major defect of the book concerns the theory of culture, geography and politics that lies behind the authors’ introductory essay. This affects their general reading of the texts. They argue that Marx was ‘Europocentric’ and regarded European culture as superior to that of Asia. His theory rested on the industrial proletariat, a social force not predominant outside Europe. The Chinese have been determined to preserve their cultural specificity and to modernize while ‘remaining themselves’.footnote2 This has led to an ‘Asiocentric’ approach, and the Chinese have ceased to be Marxists. The Sino-Soviet dispute is thus seen as a conflict between Europocentric and Asiocentric views, and has its origins in cultural differences. The Chinese reject Western values; hence they regard the West as incapable of revolutionary action. ‘Mao is in fact repudiating Marx, Lenin and Soviet experience’footnote3 in the Cultural Revolution; the Chinese are making ‘a revolution that has nothing in common with Marxism’.footnote4
Europocentrism usually implies a conscious or unconscious bias, resulting from the acceptance of European values. It is an effect of