From Colonialism to Imperialism
Controversial Issues on National Question
Imperialism and the change in colonial countries
“Finance capital has created the epoch of monopolies, and monopolies introduce everywhere monopolist principles.” This is the briefest summary of 20th century. In imperialist epoch, it is possible neither to make a correct analysis of imperialism nor to develop an adequate anti-imperialism without taking into account the unequal but interdependent relations between countries at different levels of development. However, those Marxists who were carried away with the third-worldist tendency after The Second World War and especially in the 1960s sowed confusion about the inner laws of operation of the imperialist system.
Because of the sympathy and support for third-worldism, even bourgeois coquetries, whims in the guise of supporting “national” economy were applauded in the name of anti-imperialism. Medium or less developed capitalist countries of 1960s were categorised as oppressed nations under the label of “neo-colonies” or “semi-colonies”. Thus, the anti-capitalist mission of the struggle of the proletariat against capitalist system (i.e. genuine anti-imperialism) was abandoned based on the illusion that as if there was still a national question in these countries. The fact that imperialism is in fact an economic system that has its embodiment in every capitalist country’s internal functioning was obscured. A false anti-imperialism was created through hollow propagandism suggesting that there can be a “nationally independent” economic functioning even without leaving the system. Though the conscious creators of these kinds of political trends were the Stalinists, some other tendencies who called themselves Trotskyist also contributed to this confusion.
For instance, the description of “colony” which Mandel and his tendency helped popularised constitutes a typical example of this. It is not correct to insist on explaining the dependency of former colonial countries on the imperialist system with the concept of “colony” in a world where colonies have gone. In fact, this kind of attitude also comes to mean turning a deaf ear to Trotsky’s analyses. Just like Lenin, Trotsky also explained that imperialist epoch has a different quality from the colonialist period. In his article titled War and International, in 1914, he mentioned the general tendency of decolonization, caused by imperialism and the imperialist war.
But a redivision of colonies among the capitalist countries does not enlarge the foundation of capitalist development. … An additional factor of decisive importance is the capitalist awakening in the colonies themselves, to which the present War must give a mighty impetus.
Mandel and others who think in a similar way tried somehow to accept only one side of Trotsky’s important considerations on the law of combined and uneven development, i.e. the “unevenness”, and obscure the other side, i.e. “the combined” development. They developed a definition of imperialist epoch that “prevents” (!), “retards” (!) the capitalist development in former colonial countries. The following quote from Mandel gives an example for hollow generalizations in contradiction to realities:
Yet, with the beginning of imperialist era, the operation of world capitalist market, let alone easing the “normal” capitalist development of less-developed countries, particularly a profound industrialisation, it constituted a factor hampering such a development. Marx’s formula that every developed country shows to the less developed the picture of their future, which preserved its significance throughout the age of free competition capitalism, has now lost its validity.
As if the former colonial countries which gained their national independence in imperialist epoch would have developed more and would have been industrialized faster had they not got into economic relations with the developed capitalist countries and stayed isolated! Marx underlined an essential aspect of capitalist mode of production in saying that “every developed country shows to the less developed the picture of their future.” Capitalism would march towards being a world system incorporating every country and every region with different historical heritages and different levels of development. As a matter of fact, imperialist epoch verified Marx’s analysis of the course of capitalism. So, what is the difference between describing Marx’s important conclusions as “the formulas t