Dependency theory--
where did it go wrong?

(from Communist Voice #16, Jan. 20, 1998)


. The following letter and reply about dependency theory (and briefly, postmodernism) is excerpted from an exchange of letters between Communist Voice and an activist who had been around the late Marxist-Leninist Party. CV had carried the articles "The twilight of dependency theory" and "Dependency theory and the fight against imperialism (parts 1 and 2)" by Joseph Green in its issues of Aug. 10 and Oct. 25, 1997. The latter issue also contained the article "Postmodernist philosophy is old subjectivist wine in new bottles" by Tim Hall.

From B, Oakland:
To Joseph Green
Nov. 11, 1997

Re: several things

. I wrote down some of my thoughts on part one of your article on dependency theory. I've since only briefly read part deux. But I'm particularly interested in the exchange that came up in one of your Mexico articles regarding development, where you were attacked for wanting, what was it, big for big sake? Now this is the postmodern question as it inevitably arises. Not like that empty and insulting article on postmodernism in the recent journal.

. Dependency Theory is in large part a theory of development in the third world. One of its strengths is its recognition that from the beginning, capitalism developed as a multinational system, that the development of manufacturing in England and a re-enserfdom in Poland were linked and in fact part of the same phenomenon. It recognized that this core-peripheral development had different features in the core than in the periphery, where the disadvantages of the relationship were evident in both the economic and political realms. Dependency Theory therefore spends its time on the question, "how can we have a development in the periphery that more resembles that at the core?" Or a more charitable account, if the core-periphery link is broken, can we have development in the periphery that has some or all of the elements that we identified as desirable in the core?

.Like Marxism, Dependency Theory was an activist project that didn't just analyze. But in becoming political actors and advisors, there was an irony, that the best way for a country to be more like the metropolis was to actually join the ranks of exploiting countries, at least on a regional level. I think the strategies of Dependency Theory jump from that approach (develop into a core country), to flirting with different kinds of supposedly cooperative trade groupings like the "socialist" block (develop in an alternative world market), to outright prettifying the imperialist system by putting forth fantasies of more equitable north-south relations, mainly through the goodwill of or pressure on the imperialist powers (develop through reforming imperialism). It jumps among these strategies depending on the size and economic strengths and potentials of the particular country. With the lack of a real alternative market, it was unfortunately the latter strategy that was left for the majority of smaller third world countries, which was no strategy at all.

. In contemplating development in the Soviet Union, Lenin advocated a kind of de-linking. He sought advantageous trade with the imperialist countries (it was western embargos which from time to time forced all that "self-reliance. ") But he didn't want steel or grain, for example, from state-run concerns to compete price-wise with imports in a domestic free market. For the large USSR de-linked as such, accumulation leading to industrialization even with limited foreign trade was still possible. But for a small country like Albania, even without an embargo, the possibilities for industrialization are deemed bleak by both Marxists and Dependency Theorists given the demands of capital formation in industry, unless they can amalgamate with other nations through either a multinational state or some kind of alternate cooperative world market.

. While industrialization for a small country may be difficult or impossible in those conditions, development of other kinds that could arise out of redistribution of wealth and redirection of labor, such as health care, education, fulfilling basic needs and the growth of democratic institutions, was certainly possible. But this would require a good deal more circumscription of the "rights" of the national bourgeoisie than the Dependency Theorists by and large were willing to embrace. (In fact, it usually entails a civil war. ) This kind of development, which it praises and over-estimates in the metropolis, is undervalued by Dependency Theory in the third world and doomed by its reliance on the national bourgeoisie.

. My sense in reading Dependency Theory work was not that they characterize development in the third world as not "real" development but that they critique that development, to point out that it builds a society that is structured differently from that at the core and that this building is a process that will continue, never leading to a society like that in the core. In that sense they point out to those who would call third world countries "developing" countries that it was not development as advertised, but the development of underdevelopment.

. On this issue, up to 1980 or so, Dependency Theory agreed, I think, with Marxism. During the 60's and 70's we pointed again and again to the systemic inequities in the so-called north-south trade, to the continuing of the bloodsucking economic relations of colonialism in the newly independent countries, and to the role of the comprador class in economics and politics. This was a large part of the content of our anti-imperialist work, that the U. S. wasn't aiding countries to develop, but deforming their economies to suit the imperialist dominated world market and assigning them to a persistently disadvantaged position.

. In this sense, I think we also had "stagnationist" views. We saw the plantation agriculture for export, the low processed raw material production, the sweatshop labor intensive low-tech manufacturing and felt that imperialism had every intention of maintaining these conditions in the third world. I didn't predict the startling growth of capitalism, neither did Marxism rule it out, though it did elucidate the forces tending to retard economic growth in the third world. The same can be said for Dependency Theory.

. The theory of core-periphery development does not preclude industrialization. What tasks get relegated to the periphery change over time according to a complex of different factors, as do what tasks the periphery opts on its own to undertake and can successfully sustain. That some high-tech manufacturing should be exported to the third world would be explained by a shift in the interest at the core to other more profitable and monopolizable pursuits. That some country may have undergone development, succeeding in reaching some of the goals Dependency Theory seeks is a bit more problematic, but in their mere partial realization and their exceptionality they continue to bear witness to some functionality in the Dependency Theory model. The world is still divided into rich and poor countries.

. Was there something systematic and managed by the imperialist countries that made third world development stagnate in the first 20 or 30 years after independence? How has this changed? You seem to say: one, all actual development is real development; two, peripheral development is real development because capitalism always develops unevenly; three, therefore claiming some special mechanism was at work holding back the third world amounted to having illusions in what development in the first world was really like. But what then was colonialism, if not a special mechanism with more content than just "capitalism develops unevenly?" And what was the early post-colonial period? We used to count the contradiction between the imperialist countries and the former colonies as one of the four main contradictions driving history in the 70's. Much of the content was a struggle for the ascendence of the national bourgeoisies in these countries and the uprooting of the systemic market relations and politically created economic parameters favorable to the imperialist countries. The world may be approaching "capitalism develops unevenly", and there may be historical as well as old and new systemic elements dictating "the world is still divided into rich and poor countries", but the Dependency Theorists attack on the propaganda that there was a unblocked path for third world development in the post-colonial period was valid. And the evolution towards the present reality was due in part to the continued struggle and toil of the people in the third world, the playing out of that fourth contradiction.

. That being said, the recent surge of growth may mean that core-periphery development as a theory no longer gives a very complete picture of the present day world. It may be having the same problems coping with the changes that we're having updating our theoretical grasp of imperialism in the 90's. It may also be true that the forces around to sort it out are depleted in both camps. To what extent has development evolved from the core-periphery model? Isn't this one question we're all asking? Growth without development (or as you put it, "Being an industrial producer .  .  . is no guarantee of prosperity") is an attempt to maintain that third world growth still fits within the peripheral framework. But there are some important new developments in the world contributing to the new shape of third world development. First, there is a huge glut of capital seeking investment opportunities that has focused in overseas markets increasingly since the 70's. There has been an explosion in the technology of investing, new instruments offering vastly reduced barriers for investors. There's been a big explosion in the technology of information and capital transfer. Together they have facilitated the rapid movement of huge amounts of capital and changed the principal form of capital transfer from north to south. This switch from governmental to private investing has helped to increase the wealth and power of a broader section of the local bourgeoisie in a group of NDC's [newly-developing countries--CV], creating more billionaires and millionaires and generally allowing for greater internal development and a seemingly more internally directed involvement in the international market.

. (There may also be this element, that it just takes some time for a bourgeoisie newly involved in the international market to mature, to undergo a step-wise development and slow but persistent accumulation eventually leading to more core-like pursuits and the potential to attract and absorb capital when it becomes available. )

. These huge ebbs and flows from the capital markets create booms where big social changes can be noted. In Thailand, I felt there was a major shift in the culture, corresponding to the rise of two groups in particular, a real urban upper middle class and a large section of workers with some serious money to spend (particularly in the construction trades but also urban white collar).It seemed to me that these groups reached a critical mass at some point that transformed the country from rural rich-government/military-poor farmers-urban laborers to a place where a media driven culture revolves around a middle class consciousness, and one not focused on the metropolis. During the current bust, reports of architects working for $10 a day and the like are surfacing, but I think the cultural changes are not easily reversed.

. Dependency Theory's main project is coming up with plans for a more core-like development in the third world. These plans have several common features. There is some kind of partial withdrawal from the status quo of international trade that favors imperialism. There is some kind of protectionism to shield local industry, maybe even price controls. There is an attempt at primitive accumulation of capital, though a kinder and gentler sort, steeped in nationalism and voluntarism, most probably under some sort of radical democratic rule. There is a desire for a favorable scale from which to accumulate the capital, and so an [pre]occupation with multinational and multiethnic states, pan-anythingism, non-aligned movement, OPEC, etc. The overall goal is some kind of independent development which they either believe to exist at the core or at least believe to be possible in the third world, with a market driven by domestic demand, supplied by a national bourgeoisie and with a greatly expanded petty bourgeois sector.

. While Dependency Theory was putting this forward in the 70's, our work had many similarities. We praised Albania for not building the typical third world type economy, but one which would resemble a core country, with heavy and basic industry. They were making sacrifices for the five-year plans (accumulation). They were refusing to enter unequal trade relations, and we were stressing the importance of the socialist camp in promoting development through equal exchange. When we thought China was socialist we also praised them for taking up many of the features of Dependency Theory's program for development. The main difference was we thought that accumulation led by the proletariat, under some kind of transition to socialism, was a more realistic path to development and would be less painful to the working classes. (You point out that it didn't occur to Dependency Theory that "the central question was how to organize the working masses separately from the national bourgeoisie .  .  . " in the post-independence period, and that's true. ) Their idea was alliance with the bourgeoisie. Either way the industrialization scheme was quite similar (de-link, accumulate, seek alternative world market) and equally questionable for a small country. What kind of Stalinist alliance of classes and strata actually led the Albanian experiment, I don't know. But it didn't live up to the bill of being less painful for the working masses. Whether it was more successful as a development strategy, whether it gave rise to some pro-people development in healthcare and other basic need areas, I also don't know.

. Alternately, the large countries China and the Soviet Union have to be considered the big success stories for Dependency Theory. Both countries de-linked, built their economies to serve the internal needs, accumulated big time to become fully industrialized. And it did it with a "progressive" coalition if you will that made some big time concessions to the working class while resisting the comprador inclinations of the bourgeoisie. During the recent discussions around the 50th anniversary of Indian independence, comparisons were being made between India and China. One point raised was that the "success" (in their minds) of current Chinese development rested on the groundwork laid in the first twenty years of the Chinese revolution, namely, thorough uprooting of feudal forces in the country, de-linking from the imperialist world economy and forced accumulation (low consumption). India hadn't had the benefit of a "popular" front government capable of rallying the working people and subduing certain tendencies of the bourgeoisie, while opening the way for a big expansion of capitalism.

. Dependency Theory seems to represent the aspirations of third world petty bourgeois during the early post-independence period. Educated youth faced a paucity of choices, and they longed for the kind of influence and prestige plus opportunity enjoyed by their counterparts in the west. At the same time they felt empathy for their impoverished countrymen, and sought to alleviate some of the worst penury that tended to cramp their enjoyment of their privileged position. They hated imperialism, yet admired the metropolis. They needed the masses as a force to counter the bourgeoisie, but feared them, and always tended to default to advising those in power. But Mao really did wield the masses in the way the Dependency Theory folks fantasized about. I guess they didn't like the fact that civil war proved to be the most effective way of forging the "progressive" alliance! It was their fear of the masses and their slavishness to the national bourgeoisie that prevented them from recognizing their own program as implemented in China. They may put a "socialist gloss" on their bourgeois led "national and popular" coalitions, but when democratic revolutionaries put a "communist" gloss on Dependency Theory's own program, its treatment of the national bourgeoisie clearly puts it outside the realm of the activity of the Dependency Theorists.

. The new growth in part based on super-conductive international capital changes the equation for the third world petty bourgeois. Some growth of a core-like class structure and an increasingly internally driven market during the boom times in the NDC's render obsolete the old riddles of the educated third world youth in the 60's and 70's. The impulse to harness the working people to counter the compradors and force a de-linking gives way. New issues such as dealing with a newly large and active proletariat and the re-impoverishment of the petty bourgeoisie during the bust cycles create conditions for a restatement of the political role of the petty bourgeoisie in the NDC's. The questions of development Dependency Theory sought to answer in the 60's and 70's have changed for the NDC's and potential NDC's. Even the so-called least developed countries are asking different questions as they negotiate with many regional and international players for a piece of the capital flow. For middle and small countries, the whole issue of Nicaragua is an important example. The choice seems to be: attract capital by accepting an IMF austerity program, literally pledging the continued impoverishment of the people. Create an anti-union and anti-human rights environment. And compete with other countries to attain some industrial development and the significant trickle down that comes with it. Get some growth in the proletariat, at the expense of further deterioration of the subsistence economy, the culture and the ecosystem. Then remain a poor country. Or, you can with difficulty set back the bourgeoisie, meet basic needs, educate and care for the health of the people, support and build on the subsistence economy and see what capital you can attract. More likely you will face capital flight, embargo, invasion, and years of extreme cultural pressure to capitulate. Then hang on to be a very poor country, but one with a shot at a rich quality of life.

. I think your article has many strengths. You note Dependency Theory's failure, "they don't see the need to assess the growth of the working class, the class differences developing among the peasantry, or most other class relations in order to judge the prospects and nature of the ongoing struggles in the country. " But what single development could have the impact of the creation of a large proletarian force? It changes everything. Their failure is connected with their misreading of the source of many of the things they esteem in the metropolis. It's not broad alliances, but class struggle that brought about the safety net and certain democratic rights.

. You sum this point up in what I think is a good guideline for our work in assessing imperialism, not "to aim simply at the repeated proof that the third world is really peripheral," but rather "seeking to assess the impact of the changing conditions on revolutionary strategy. "

Reply on dependency theory and postmodernism


From Joseph Green
Nov. 20, 1997
To B, Oakland

. On the recent CV, I'm sorry that the article on postmodernism left you with such a negative impression. For me, this article was one of those that changed the way I perceived other writings. I had been reading various books on imperialism, and I had noted that, aside from the question of the content of the analysis they were giving, there were various annoying and absurd ways of talking that appeared. I had assumed that such quirks were just another example of the anti-Marxist nature of the academic Marxists and paid little attention to these turns of phrase. After I read the first draft of Tim's article and saw his characterization of various of the theses of postmodernism, I realized that I had come across not the chance aberrations of individual authors but a deeply-rooted and fashionable philosophical trend. I then paid more attention to it and saw that the catchwords and methods of arguing that Tim had pointed out came up almost everywhere. You referred to Sarah's parodying of the Marxist theory of large-scale production as an essential part of the economic base of socialism; she confused this with the size of individual enterprises and presented it as simply giantism or being big for the sake of being big. You pointed to this as one of the ways in which postmodernism comes up practically, which is true enough. But there are also philosophical tenets of postmodernism, and that's what Tim is dealing with.

. On dependency theory, I think the crucial issue is that it gives a wrong picture of imperialism in what is to a large extent a post-colonial world. You seem to think that I don't see any "special mechanism" of imperialism beyond free competition in the market. In fact, I fought against the demoralized wing of the MLP [Marxist-Leninist Party] and its view that imperialism vanishes with the liberation of the colonies (although they might grant that there was a temporary neo-colonial period for various countries). They overlooked the economic changes that occur under colonialism and held instead that colonialism was simply ripping off a country by political means and that independence means the sole sway of the free-market. I took up their challenge to show that current world relations weren't simply market relations but that there still were political mechanisms of domination, answering this prior to the Fourth Congress of the MLP in a letter to Manny, in the debate at the Fourth Congress itself, in the article "Some Notes on Theoretical Issues" in the pre-Fifth Congress debate, and in subsequent articles, as well as pointing to the continued importance of monopoly in world capitalist economy. I pointed out that relations of domination and subordination exist among independent countries (as well as among the remaining colonies and their masters), that imperialism has developed world political agencies that set a number of rules for world trade and economic life, that military force has had a major role in the post-World War II world, etc. The CV has itself carried a number of articles about imperialism in the current world.

. My approach differed from that of Jim and the other anti-dependency theorists of the liqudationist majority and also from that of the dependency theorists, in that I didn't start by making analogies to colonialism but by asking, "what are the major features of the world today?" I showed that a concrete examination of the world showed that imperialism exists and showed that Marxism is still relevant and the best theory for analyzing the world. In my recent articles on dependency theory, I continued this approach. I start by asking what are some of the features of world imperialism today, and I show that dependency theory is unable to deal with them.

The world system:

. Dependency theory prides itself on being a description of capitalism as a "world-system", as you noted. But in fact, it completely misunderstands the nature of modern capitalism as a world system:

* to this day, it doesn't understand that the state-capitalist regimes are capitalist. How can dependency theory provide an adequate understanding of post-World War II capitalism as a world system if it doesn't understand that the revisionist bloc of countries was part of that world system?

* it misunderstands the role of the Third World bourgeoisies, often ending up as an advisor to the bourgeoisie. This goes to the extent that it has paid little attention to the development of big power strivings among the stronger of the "peripheral" bourgeoisies, even when this has been expressed in militarist form and caused bloody tragedies. How can dependency theory provide an adequate analysis of the role of imperialism in the capitalist world-system if it doesn't understand the process whereby various weaker powers strive to become regional power-brokers or even recognize the imperialism of such major powers as Russia and China?

* it doesn't understand the process of capitalist development that swept the newly-independent countries. For example, it regards the spread of capitalist relations in agriculture and the breakup of the old peasant economy as simply the result of bad political decisions or imperialist domination. It denied the spread of industrialization in the Third World until it was obvious to everyone, and then it downplayed its significance. How can dependency theory be said to analysis the capitalist world system if it doesn't even recognize many of the main processes of capitalist economics?

* it downplays the role of the proletarian organization needed if there is to be a serious challenge to capitalism and imperialism. It has no understanding of the role of the proletariat as a world-wide class and the basis for any solid socialist movement. It writes off the proletariat in the "core" countries and sees the proletariat in the dependent countries as only one of several sections of the "popular masses", without any special role in the revolutionary movement. How can dependency theory provide an adequate theory of how to fight the capitalist world-system if it has little concern with the proletarian class struggle and the tasks of proletarian reorganization that face the workers today?

* it identifies "real" capitalist development with an increase of the prosperity of the masses, rather than with their devastation. Doesn't this mean that dependency theory has never really cut the umbilical cord that links it to bourgeois "development theory" and to the theorizing of such groups as the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA)?

"Real" development:

. Dependency theory prides itself on its view of the economic difficulties facing the periphery, yet it has failed to grasp the evolution of peripheral economies. Its slogans of "growth without development" or "the development of underdevelopment" negate the growth of capitalist relations in the newly-independent countries.

. You write that dependency theory does in fact envision development and industrialization in the periphery. But you also write that "the recent surge of growth may mean that core-periphery development as a theory no longer gives a very complete picture of the present-day world. " You think that dependency theory did better in describing the world in the period when "third world development stagnate[d] in the first 20 or 30 years after independence". These comments indicate that dependency theory loses its relevance in the face of development and industrialization. As soon as this development extends so far that no one can completely deny it, you see dependency theory going into crisis.

. However, I think that your description of third-world stagnation for several decades after World War II is wrong. During the period after independence, there were important changes in the class structure and the economies of these countries, such as:

* the local bourgeoisie developed dramatically, in some countries through the development of a state bourgeoisie;

* there was a spread of capitalist relations in agriculture and the disintegration of the old peasant agriculture;

* there was generally a growth of the size of the economies of these countries. The first few decades after World War II, when a wave of countries become independent, was generally a period of growth, both on a world scale and in most of the Third World. Then a series of world economic crises began in the 70s, and there was the oil crisis, the various debt crises, the so-called "lost decade" of the 80s for Latin America, the squeezing of Africa, the problem of stagnation in various G-7 countries, etc.

. The existence of important changes doesn't mean that the masses of these countries became prosperous. The split between rich and poor has grown deeper, both between rich and poor countries and among the classes inside Third World countries. The high expectations of what independence would look like weren't fulfilled. This is in accord with Marxism, which isn't dismayed by this fact, but holds that one of the great virtues of the independence struggle is that it is needed to show the masses that it is not simply political domination, but an economic system, that is oppressing them.

. Thus Third World poverty has been connected not just with the lack of development, but with development itself. For example, the spread of capitalist relations in agriculture tends to devastate the masses. The CV article "Imperialism and Papua New Guinea" (vol. 2, #2) showed how it was precisely several decades of the development of capitalism in Papua New Guinea that turned part of the people into a "surplus population". (Although the PNG is a poor country with a low material standard of living, up into the 1970s it lacked the widespread hunger and destitution that is noticeable in many Third World countries and that later appeared in PNG itself. )

. Oddly enough, both the anti-dependency theorists of the demoralized wing of the MLP and dependency theory identify colonialism simply with stagnation. Yet Marxism, while vehemently condemning colonial crimes, stressed the changes in the class structure that occur in colonies, in dependent countries, etc. It is precisely its recognition of these changes that allowed Marxism-Leninism to formulate effective strategy for the national liberation movement and for the organization of the proletariat in the midst of the anti-colonial struggle. Those theories which ignore these changes can no more provide a basis for struggle against imperialism than English romantic poets, despite the beauty of their protest against the destitution of the English proletariat during industrialization, could provide any idea of what should be done about it. Any theory like dependency theory which ignores these changes or grossly mistakes the economic and political conditions facing the working masses, is no support for the struggle against these conditions.


. You suggest that "delinking" is similar to Marxist conceptions and compare it to Lenin's views. But Marxism-Leninism lays stress on the internal class relations of a country. For scientific socialism, building socialism, or embarking on the transition towards socialism, meant first and foremost transforming these class relations, having the working class develop social control of the economy, etc. The old MLP and its predecessors, whatever mistakes they make in judging the actual situation in various countries like Albania, proceeded from the view that the internal class relations were the key issue. All the agitation was directed in this way. For Marxism-Leninism, the monopoly of foreign trade and other measures of "delinking" are simply a corollary of internal changes, designed to protect a break with the capitalist market that is produced internally. Dependency theory, however, judges whether a country is progressive or not by how "delinked" it is, and proposes "delinking" to protect local capitalism. This is quite different from Marxism and instead is another link between dependency theory and such views as those of ECLA.

. The views of Marxism, with respect to protectionism ("delinking") and free trade in capitalist countries, are neither those of neo-liberalism or dependency theory. Marx, for example, pointed out that protectionism, when successful, gives a spur to the development of the large-scale industry of a capitalist country and thus ultimately links it more tightly to the world market than ever. Such a dialectical conception of the results of "delinking" is foreign to dependency theory. Samir Amin, for example, holds that "delinking" a capitalist economy will push it towards socialism. Dependency theory, when it sees protectionism or "delinking" leading to an increased integration in the world market, blames this on bad political choices or on comprador tendencies in the local bourgeoisie, and fails to see the economic logic in it.

The local bourgeoisie:

. You justly criticize dependency theory for its relation to the local bourgeoisie, but I don't think you grasp the source of its surrender to that bourgeoisie. You refer to the dependency theorists recoiling from the most radical steps against the local bourgeoisie. Actually, dependency theorists don't necessarily recoil from steps against the old bourgeoisie; the radical dependency theorists embrace Maoism, Castroism, etc. They end up in positions of support for the local bourgeoisie because their analysis of world capitalism is wrong: they can't recognize the bourgeoisie in the new bourgeoisie of state-capitalist countries; they can't recognize the bourgeois-democratic character of national liberation, of land reform, etc. ; they fail to concentrate on encouraging the organization of the proletariat; etc.

For example:

* Samir Amin still carries a torch for Maoism. He always wanted to see radical revolutions around the world, yet he ended up an adviser to one bourgeois regime after another.

* Che Guevara, whose theoretical views came close to dependency theory, stood for guerrilla revolutions throughout Latin America and died trying to bring one about in Bolivia, yet he praised Lazaro Cardenas, the founder of the PRI system in Mexico (which is finally tottering now). He also had illusions about the bourgeois regimes in the newly-independent regimes in Asia and Africa. (See the section "Illusions in third world bourgeois development" in "Che, the armed struggle, and revolutionary politics" in CV, vol. 3, #3". )

The struggle against comprador tendencies in the big powers:

. The very way that dependency theory cheers on the struggle against "comprador tendencies" in the bourgeoisie, rather than emphasizing the building of an independent movement of the masses, tends to bring it close to the bourgeoisie. For example, the dependency theorists take China, Russia etc. as proof of their system. You write that these countries developed

"with a 'progressive' coalition if you will that made some big time concessions to the working class while resisting the comprador inclinations of the bourgeoisies. "

But in the revisionist regimes, there was not a progressive coalition, but the smashing of independent activity by the proletariat, and massive discontent with these regimes. (Nor did the original revolutions in Russia and China resist the comprador inclinations of the old governments and ruling classes; they overthrew them. This is a very different thing. As the revolutions died and state-capitalist regimes were consolidated, a new bourgeoisie developed. ) But your description of the internal situation is an accurate description of how dependency theory views these countries. For them, progressive activity consists of resisting "comprador inclinations" of the ruling circles.

. Whatever dependency theorists think they are doing, this often amounts to cheering on the imperial inclinations of the new and old bourgeoisie in these countries. Actually, Samir Amin is at least somewhat conscious of this. In my last article on dependency theory, I showed how Amin even sighs after the empires of the past. He's nostalgic for the Austro-Hungarian empire--yet the Austro-Hungarian empire was one of the major European imperialist powers of its time. He raises his fist in support of "the Russian empire" and "the Soviet empire"--yet Russian imperialism has been one of the major forces of the 20th century. When it came to his hopes for keeping "the Soviet empire" together, he laments the lack of sufficient "big power nationalism" in the Soviet ruling class and chides the "popular classes" for not being sufficiently chauvinist and for having no concern "for the satisfactions a country with the rank of theirs could command". Isn't this an appeal by Amin for class collaborationist unity on the basis of the spoils of imperialism? Don't his complaints about the "rejection of patriotism" among the Russian masses show that they didn't view their activities as opposing "comprador tendencies", but as fighting for their rights or interests, although unfortunately they were quite confused and disoriented about how to do this?

. And consider China. Just as Tsarist Russia was an imperialist power in the early 20th century despite its economic backwardness, China too is already an imperialist power. It will be one of the "great powers" of the 21st century To describe the tasks of a progressive Chinese coalition as resisting the comprador tendencies of the Chinese bourgeoisie not only ignores this reality, but has little to do with the actual class struggle in China.

Jargon or struggle:

. The dependency theorists can repeat "world system", "world system", "world system", as long as they wish, but it takes more than a phrase to actually understand the workings of world capitalism. To have replaced the words imperialism by "core", dependent country by "periphery", the world market by "world system", and protectionism and state regulation by "delinking", is hardly much of an advance. To put much emphasis on such vague terms actually obscures world events, and hinders the struggle against the world bourgeoisie and imperialism.

. Well, that's why I believe that opposing dependency theory is one of the things necessary in order to clear the way for a Marxist analysis of contemporary world capitalism. It isn't just a question of different predictions about exactly how fast development is or isn't taking place. It's a question of whether the world is analyzed from the point of view of the opposing classes in the world or from the point of view of idealizing "development" provided that it is "real", "delinked" development.

. So much for now. I wish you well in your workplace agitation and await your further comments on our theoretical views.

Comradely regards,


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