On ‘Decolonisation’ Theory

‘Decolonisation’ theory was elaborated within the communist movement in the 1920s and afterwards to suggest that imperialism assisted the development of industrialisation in the colonial world, weakened their dependency on imperialism thereby it ‘decolonised’ them. This ‘theory’ was criticised at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 and deepened after that by the Soviet political economy theorists. After the 20th Congress of the CPSU ‘decolonisation’ theory became the prevalent norm for the CPSU as evidenced by Mikoyan’s speech at that congress which chastised the Institute of Oriental Studies for stressing the effects of imperialist capital on the colonial world and negating the development of ‘independence' of these counties. This new turn represented a reversion to Kautskyism (as well as the derivative notions of Trotsky, M.N. Roy) in the communist movement. Politically this paved the way for an alliance with the regimes of Egypt, Indonesia and India. In India contemporary ‘decolonisation’ theory dominates the thinking of the reformist communist parties a well as the ‘progressive intelligentsia’. An essential part of ‘decolonisation’ theory is that the Marxist view of industrialisation – production of the instruments and means of production by machinery – is discarded and replaced by an understanding that any type of industrial development promoted by imperialism or the national bourgeoisie in the countries where direct colonial rule has been terminated constitutes ‘industrialisation’. The Marxist understanding of ‘decolonisation’ theory retains its validity today. What is of interest in the extracts below from the Soviet economic literature of 1958 and 1972 is that whilst politically the Soviet leadership promoted ‘decolonisation ’ theories internationally, Soviet economists to a significant degree retained a Marxist understanding of ‘decolonisation’ theory right through to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Vijay Singh.

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