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Books in Review

Factories and Colonies

(June 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 5, June 1942, p. 160.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Industry in Southeast Asia
by Jack Shepherd
Published by the Institute of Pacific Relations, 133 pp.

This pamphlet study, published as one of the International Research Series brochures concerned with the problems of the Pacific areas, is a catalogue of industry in Southeast Asia. The author describes in detail the industries (handicraft and modern) of French Indo-China, Netherlands Indies, the Philippine Islands and other smaller territories such as Taiwan (Formosa), Thailand, Burma, etc.

As Shepherd admits in his introduction, “... the Western colonial powers (were) primarily concerned with drawing off the tropical products and industrial raw materials in which Southeast Asia abounds, it is not surprising that this region should have remained predominantly agricultural in character, even in an industrial age.” Whatever industry that did develop was extremely lop-sided and distorted in character and was based solely upon the imperialist interests of the ruling powers. Thus, large-scale plantations (rubber, tea, etc.); mining and smelting operations connected with extractive industries (rubber, tin ore, oil, etc.) were about the only industrial advances made in this part of the world.

The pamphlet is useful for those who need to be convinced that the imperialists were little concerned about industrializing and advancing the productive capacities of their colonies by introducing modern, heavy industry, but deeply concerned about the unmitigated exploitation of those sections of colonial economy that would line their pockets most rapidly. Of course, Mr. Shepherd is not concerned with these political questions, but nevertheless his facts and catalogues prove incontestably that the colonial areas conquered by Japan were completely unequipped to wage modern warfare in their own defense.

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