John Hutnyk’s ‘Marx in Calcutta’

John Hutynk has written a defence of Marx’s later views on India. His multi-faceted article on the subject was published in 2018.  It combines biography, aesthetics and economics:
Marx’s early views have been criticised for his apparent belief that British imperialism would develop India, although the Indians would only benefit from this after a revolution.  Marx was also conscious of how the plunder of India and the related trade with China funded British capitalism.  Hutnyk, in particular, stresses the role of the opium trade.  He points out how crucial colonialism is to the analysis of capitalism in Das Kapital.  Firstly, colonialism is crucial to primitive accumulation.  Secondly, the trade with India is crucial for world capitalism in Marx’s time.
Marx’s views about imperialism seemed to have changed in the period when he was writing Das Kapital. He had started to see how ‘free trade imperialism’ tends to destroy rather than promote development.  Marx realised that the Act of Union by removing tariffs destroyed Ireland’s efforts to industrialise:
My reading of Lenin is that he does not necessarily rule out the idea that colonialism can lead to the development of the colonies.  This wasn’t his main concern, however, as he was focused on colonialism as a reason for World War 1.
Marx’s turn on imperialism notwithstanding, dependency theory/unequal exchange theories were something of a new development in the direction of the idea that imperialism actually retards economic development in the Third World.
Unequal exchange theory itself went out of fashion due to the apparent success of the Asian Tigers.  This seemed to contradict the idea that the Third World was doomed to eternal economic backwardness.  It is likely that without outside interference export-led growth probably could lead to the development of Third World countries as long as the state ‘captures’ the value that is produced and ensures a high rate of investment by the development of higher-tech products, brands and so on that can be sold at a somewhat higher price (due to imperfect competition for branded goods).  Unequal exchange theorist Arghiri Emmanuel believed this process was a reason for Japan’s economic success.
However, export-led growth for the Third World is being closed down for reasons I talk about elsewhere: Mao, Stalin, the Eastern Bloc and Today’s Global Crisis.
The West will not allow the challenge.  Hence, the scene is set for global confrontation. Hutnyk stresses how Marx savaged the exploitation of India by the East India Company.  In fact, the determination of the West to enrich itself while simultaneously smashing the economic prospects of any potential competitor seems to have returned with a vengeance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s