Europe did the world a favour

“Marx recognized the dual character of western expansion. He was disgusted by European barbarity and hypocrisy, but he also saw their marauding as the means of eliminating the fast frozen backward conditions that prevailed in the rest of the world. It was necessary if the world was to move forward. In particular communism could not have emerged out of these backward conditions”


– David McMullen


* * * *

20 thoughts on “Europe did the world a favour

  1. Europe did the world a favour? Really? I mean really?
    The pre eminent European power Britain and its number one colony India is a good counter example of the “Marxist” idea that Britain did anyone a favour. Britain ruled in India for about 400 years during which time India was de-industrialised “The economy of India under the British Raj describes the economy of India during the years of the British Raj, from 1858 to 1947. During this period, the Indian economy essentially remained stagnant, growing at the same rate (1%) as the population.” The British managed to produce the Bengali famine in the 1940’s, some favour. What raised India out of the Imperial mess was a 2 fold process, one lead by Gandhi to get the blood sucking British out and then the the process lead by Prime Minister Singh to integrate the Indian economy into the world economy, much like the 2 fold process in China one fold lead by Mao to unify the country and rid it of foreign devils and the other fold lead by Deng again to integrate the Chinese economy into the world economy. Now there are those who think that local leaders were too backward to advance their countries without European “help” but this is not so, if you compare Indonesia to Japan. Indonesia had all the resources necessary to develop modern industry oil, rubber, minerals its only impediment was that Europeans were doing it this “favour”. Japan on its own and without the benefit of abundant resources and European favours was able to produce a modern industrial society.
    I object to the idea that slave owners and drug dealers, white supremacists and advocates of genocide did anyone but themselves a favour.
    European rule did not develop Africa
    European rule did not develop South America
    European rule did not develop Asia
    These areas will be developed but not without the locals playing a major role.


  2. Of course it would’ve been better if the Japanese had stayed under the Shogun, The Indians under the Mogul empire, The Chinese under the Quing Dynasty, The Meso Americans under the Aztecs, The Africans under various waring kingdoms …


  3. and if Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had never started WW2 the anti colonial movement would have never got off the ground so by your “logic” Hitler did the oppressed peoples of the world a “favour”
    but my real point remains England did not develop India but reduced it to starvation level poverty as the Belgians did in the Congo and the Dutch did in Java.
    The Japanese did the best because they remained independent.
    Ask an Irish person how much of a favour English civilization did for them. Ireland remained a net food exporter during the famine As Gandhi said about European civilization “that would be a good idea”
    Please dear lord save me from bogus “Marxism”


  4. I think difftwavelength length hat you are confusing the difference between a favour and incidental.
    A favour is when your action is intended to do another party some benefit
    Incidental is when whatever benefit occurs it is despite the intention of the active party
    I’m happy to believe that Marx agrees with you but just quote him saying that it was a favour and I will shut up.


    • I think Steve is being pedantic. Marx did not use the word ‘favour’ and he spoke of the “unconscious” revolutionary role of, for example, the British in India. He recognised the suffering caused by the ‘social revolution’ ushered in by colonialism but he also recognised its role in progress. As in the case of India, he supported it because it helped overcome backwardness and created the basis for something better. Of course, the traditionalists and ‘elders’ generally opposed this process because it undermined their authority and privileges.

      But unless you think that the ‘social revolution’ ushered in was a bad thing, then a ‘favour’ could be said to have been done – in retrospect.

      Marx could end up in big trouble under 18C today but what he said in ‘The British in India’ (1853) was right:

      “We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

      “England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution”.

      Today’s pseudo-left rejects the core value of Marxism that human beings are ‘the sovereign of nature’. Presumably they would look upon adoration of Kanuman and Sabbala as a positive rejection of cultural imperialism.

      Fortunately, progressives in India and elsewhere knew better and embraced the positives of colonialism.

      Shlomo Avineri’s 1968 book, ‘Karl Marx on colonialism and modernization’ brings together Marx’s ideas on this topic very well.


  5. In his video Dave relies heavily on quotes of Marx from 1853 but Marx was capable of developing his positions further particularly through his study of world events. By 1858 Marx was a supporter of what he called “The First Indian War of Independence 1857-59” What the English were calling the Indian Mutiny. Far from developing or even destroying the feudal structures the British through their land tax and tenure systems called Zamindari and Ryotwari were strengthening feudal elements.
    As to me being pedantic well if believing that words should have specific meanings then I’m a pedant but because pedant doesn’t mean that well I guess I’m not.


    • From my piece entitled Marx Supported Capitalist Globalization

      There is also an attempt to paint the Indian Mutiny as a national liberation movement. The Soviet Foreign Languages Publishing House in 1959 brought out a collection of articles by Marx on the Indian Mutiny entitled The First Indian War of Independence, 1857-1859. Also the The Marx and Engels Internet Archive has a web page entitled The First Indian War of Independence (1857-1858)

      Marx does not explicitly repudiate the Mutiny in the way that he did in the case of the Taiping Rebellion. However, the total absence of any explicit statement of support is just as telling. He is very concerned to expose British military incompetence and brutality. He is also pleased by the financial and political strain it is placing on Britain. But that is as far as it goes. It is hard to imagine him supporting a pack of princes who wanted to reinstate the Mogul empire after what we know about his view on the role of the British in India.


  6. During the mutiny Marx described India as “our best ally” He wasn’t taking about the East India Company India
    As to which side the “princes” were on the Wikipedia entry about the mutiny states that zero princely states supported the mutiny where as 21 princely states supported the British. It was the support of the princely states that saved the day for the British.
    My understanding is that as with the Irish question Marx at first had a view unfavorable to the oppressed but the more he learnt the more sympathetic he became to their struggle.
    My understanding is that he was the first European to describe the mutiny as a war of independence a linguistic way to sort out which side you are on.


  7. Why would Marx’s mature view on India differ from his mature view on Ireland from letter to Engels Dec 10 1869 from memory
    “For a long time I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy. I always expressed this point of view in the New York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.”


  8. Having reviewed the issue I think that Marx didn’t say that it was the first war of Indian Independence but this was attributed to him at a latter time.


  9. Dave you might be right maybe that Marx didn’t support the Indians in their struggle against British rule in 1857. This I would find to be a very sad outcome if it is correct for the following reasons. Was the population of India ruled by an oppressive foreign nation? The answer is yes and because the answer is yes then the people of India have the right to rebel. They don’t have to reach some level of development or some level of national consciousness, they were oppressed and they have the right to rebel. Plus we need to do some future gazing. If the Indians won then they could control their own destiny for better or ill where as if the British win then they would unleash an unspeakably bad level of repression. It is truly horrifying to read what the British unleashed in an attempt to control India through terror. Plus looking forward, as I mentioned before the roughly 100 years of continued British rule was of zero benefit to Indians as they experienced massive man made famines and a growth rate that adjusted for population growth was zero.
    My belief is that Marx did support the India revolt in the most effective way that he could. He studied the problem at some depth and he propagated the position that the British were brutal and that reports of Indian atrocities were largely false.He did this in the face of an avalanche of media that was the propaganda tool of British Imperialism.


  10. 1. Link mentioned at end of video should be posted here (ditto for other items from dave).

    2. I left comment above long ago but still “awaiting moderation”. Setting for me to comment unmoderated not working. At my age it will be a long wait for me to become moderate.

    3. I think dave and barry won the substantive argument. But steve’s point about the use of the word “favour” is not pedantic. Readers more likely to understand with more precise wording that corresponds to marx.

    4. Naturally marxists did support Indian national liberation later when revolt was progressive instead of reactionary. Its interesting that even then the indian communists rolled lenin at a comintern congress. They explained that his draft theses were too one sidedly anti-british since they were also allied with the British Raj against the feudal rajahs. Worth linking reference. I dont have time to find it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s