C.L.R. James

The Gathering Forces

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II. Contemporary International Class Struggles

The Weight of Asia

The French newspaper Le Monde, in a two part article on the 15th and 16th of October 1967 declared: “There is no possible doubt: the nervous centre of history has ceased to be only in Europe and the Atlantic zone; it is shifting toward. Asia and the Pacific.” The power of Asian ideas, men and machines, confronts both the United States and Russia. The Vietnam War is only an aspect of much larger transformations.

As European influence and colonialism lose their impact on the world, Asia emerges from a long sleep. Some of the most important events of the last twenty-five years have taken place in Asia: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, the Chinese Revolution, the Battle of Dien-Bien-Phu, the Bandung Conference, the Sino-Soviet split.

The transformations of the modern world are Asian as well as European and American. The first Chinese H-bomb is exploded on June 17th, 1967, and on October 1st, 1967, the anniversary of. the Chinese Revolution, more than a million people chanted in unison, “Long live, Mao!” A few days later, the Toyota firm announces from Tokyo that it has produced 1,452,900 automobiles in six months, making it the second largest car manufacturer in the world. From Saigon, General Westmorland announces, “The largest gun battle in history is unfolding in Vietnam.”

Millions of Asian people, representing two-thirds of the world’s population, have been freed from foreign domination. Now they are beginning to realize their own potential, their own capabilities. This is taking place at the same time as the withdrawal of European capitalist imperialism on the one hand, and the retreat of European Communism before the growth of Chinese Communism on the other hand.

With the exception of India, Asian prosperity is constantly increasing. The West, however, sees only an age of poverty in Asia, where only Japan emerges as “unrivalled champion of the growth of the national product (10% per year), first in the building of navies and the production of rayon and transistor radios, second in the production of automobiles and television sets (520,000 color-sets in 1966); third in cement, paper, petrol refineries.” (Le Monde, 15th October 1967)

But South Korea had reached a high industrial level by 1950. Formosa is giving aid to other countries and has freed herself from the domination of American aid. Indonesia, according to a report from the First National City Bank (U.S.A.) is “able to offer favorable conditions to foreign investors for commerce and investments.” Industrial development in Thailand is prospering with the help of the money the American army pouring into the country. The amount of money earned by Malaysian rubber and tin experts is almost as high as the amount of sterling which Britain earns through her machine industry. Burma is rich in petroleum and is the largest rice-growing country in the world. The prosperity of Hongkong is well known. As for Communist China, its economic rise is evident not only by its atomic success, but more profoundly by the fact that, for the first time, the Chinese wear shoes and can heat their homes.

Apart from Japan, the Asian development remains, of course, much lower than that of the United States, Europe and the U.S.S.R;. there is considerable poverty and great inequalities in even the most affluent countries.

The United States and the U.S.S.R., aware of these changes, orients their interests and activities more. And more towards Asia. One must not forge that three-fourths of Soviet territory is found in Asia. The Sino-Soviet frontier is the longest in the world: 7,900 kilometers, not counting Outer Mongolia. And historically and economically the United States as always been oriented more towards the Pacific than the Atlantic. For the United States, one must remember, World War Two began not when Hitler attacked, but when Pearl Harbour was destroyed, Europe on the other hand is completely isolated from this vast historical movement, as it was in the Middle Eastern crisis of 1967. It has lost its power; it cannot find its role again. None of de Gaulle’s speeches on French grandeur, no commercial or cultural effort of this or that country, can resist this rise of Asian power, each day more imposing. The center of the world market is changing. The European countries in their isolation are incapable of influencing this course of events.

Last updated on 18 October 2020