Raya Dunayevskaya 1958

Colonial Revolts and the Creativity of People

Source: News & Letters, September 30, 1958. This piece appeared as Dunayevskaya’s column, “Two Worlds."
Transcribed: by Kevin Michaels.

The cold war between America and Russia that began as soon as the hot war came to a halt is proof enough of the fact that World War II had not solved a single fundamental problem that capitalism, private or state, is constantly creating, and for which it is plunging humanity into constant wars. At the same time, the colonial revolts that followed World War II differed quite sharply from those that followed World War I.

The colonial struggles that arose after World War I were inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and followed the pattern of national liberation that linked itself to the working class struggles for a totally new social order, as witness the Chinese Revolution of 1919, led by Sun Yat Sen. On the other hand, the colonial struggles that followed World War II, and the division of world power into two colossal masses of capital, held either by America or Russia, have followed the path of compromise with the old social order.

The Role Of The Army And The Compromise With The Old Order

Whether, as in Egypt, it was a compromise with the feudal social structure; or whether, as in Mao’s China, it skipped straight to forced collectivization and industrialization a la Russia, what characterized both colonial struggles is what characterizes our whole age: the role of the State.

The greatest single feature of a class state is its Army. Whether it was only secondary army colonels, like Nasser, who achieved power through a quick coup, or General Mao, whose famous Eighth Route Army won only after literally decades of civil war, the truth is that the popular revolts in these were controlled by the Army. Never for any length of time have the untapped creative energies of the millions been brought into the construction of the new social order, as they were in first years of the Russian Revolution.

The result is that the destruction of the old corrupt regimes of a Farouk or a Chiang has not led to a new life for millions. 600 million in China continue to be bottled up in contradictions, as Mao himself has had to admit. What, then, is it that gives Mao’s China so much the appearance of the “new?”

The new seems “obvious.” It was not the native bourgeoisie, as in India, that led the national struggle and achieved independence. It was the Communist Party. True, it is not a workers’ party. True, the petty bourgeois intellectuals that lead this party rely not on the masses, but on the Army. Indeed, the Chinese Constitution gives it equal status with “the Party.”

Still because Mao’s obvious adversary is the corrupt Chiang who was driven from his country, despite the support both by Roosevelt and Stalin, the real opponents of Mao-the working people of China-are forgotten, and the illusion is created in many that Mao is “the progressive force” and should be supported in any “localized war.” As if in this age of state capitalism and nuclear warfare any war can be “localized” or it is the task of Marxists “to take sides” in such wars! At the present moment this would be the height of folly and would doom the proletarian struggle.

The truth is that which appears as a new social order is only a new stage of-capitalism, state capitalism. Just as in World War I when the labor bureaucracy, whether in trade unions or parties, proved to be an integral part of capitalism, so in World War II the role of the petty bourgeis intellectual has changed. He has transferred his individualism into “collectivism"-the State Plan. One thing remains the same: it is the State Plan against the workers’ revolution.

Plan or no plan, so decadent is capitalism and so total is its crisis precisely because each country has the two worlds of capitalists and workers, and yet the whole world into but two parts that it has not the forces nor the means nor the method to undertake the completion of the agricultural revolution or even the relief of tens of millions, much less the construction of modern industrial structures in underdeveloped countries. Neither Russia nor America has been able to help build the Aswan Dam for Egypt. In this day and age India is once again facing famine in large areas. So is China.

Not Mao, But The Creative Untapped Energies Of Millions

The idea that Mao and his bureaucrats will lead China to a truly new human order is sheer fantasy. Historic viability China does not have. Every partial solution to a problem only multiplies its contradictions and brings closer the day of World War III. That is its only “historic future.”

The only possible progress among a billion people in Asia and the awakened millions in Africa will come from the creative untapped energies of these billions. No military might will decide the question. The question that has been posed by the colonial revolutions is the creativity, the self-activity of the people themselves. Nothing on earth will prevent this solution from winning in the end.