The Interrelation of Political and Economic Independence
by Hsu Nai-chiung
[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #5, Jan. 28, 1966, pp. 12-14.]
AS a result of the protracted and arduous struggle of the people of Asia and Africa, scores of countries on the two continents have become independent in the 20 years since the end of World War II. The fact that so many in so short a time gained political independence—though in different degrees in different countries—is an indication of the momentous force of the postwar, particularly post-Bandung, national-liberation movement. This victory of the people’s revolution has markedly undermined the imperialist colonial system and laid the groundwork for the development of independent national economies in Asia and Africa. This is an event of historic significance.
The national-liberation movement has now entered a new stage in Asia and Africa. The people’s political consciousness has risen to new heights and revolutionary movements are surging forward as never before so that today the demand for complete elimination of imperialist domination and influence (including that exercised through local placemen) and realization of full independence, both political and economic, has become the ardent aspiration of the people of Asia and Africa. At such a time, it is all the more necessary to analyse the interrelation between political and economic independence. The present article is an attempt to do this.
The basic question in any revolution—and the national revolution is no exception—is one of state power. The primary task of all oppressed peoples and nations who seek liberation, therefore, is to overthrow imperialist colonial rule and to strive for political independence, However, it is far from sufficient merely to win political independence, which is only “the first step in a Long March.” After winning political independence, the Asian and African countries need to make full use of their political power to go on to win economic independence. Only thus will they be able to thoroughly rid themselves of imperialist control and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation and approach full independence. If, on the other hand, the Asian and African countries after their independence do not continue to carry forward the national-democratic revolution, do not take effective revolutionary measures and actively strive for economic independence, then they will not be able to win final, secure and full independence, and the danger exists that they will lose their hard-won political independence.
The political independence won by many Asian and African countries is far from secure and has to be consolidated. In the new conditions of the postwar period, the imperialist countries headed by the United States have adopted neo-colonialist tactics and are trying to maintain their colonial rule through hand-picked and specially trained agents. By forming military blocs, establishing military bases, setting up “federations” and “communities,” making use of “aid” and carrying out aggression and intervention under the aegis of the United Nations, these imperialist countries have sought to keep, and in some cases have succeeded in keeping, a number of newly independent countries under their control. Thus, while these Asian and African countries are allowed to have formal political independence, they are in fact still dependent on the imperialist countries economically or even politically. Apropos this situation, Lenin’s warning more than 40 years ago is still relevant. In his Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions written in 1920, Lenin pointed to the need “constantly to explain and expose among the broadest masses of the toilers of all countries, and particularly of the backward countries, the deception systematically practised by the imperialist powers in creating, under the guise of politically independent states, states which are wholly dependent upon them economically, financially and militarily....” Today, when neocolonialism—a type of colonialism far more vicious, cunning and ferocious than old colonialism—is seriously threatening the newly won political independence of the Asian and African countries, this warning has a special practical significance.
It is true that since winning political independence many Asian and African countries have made great efforts to develop their national economies and scored many successes in this respect. However, in a number of countries, their economic lifelines and economic sovereignty are still in the hands of foreign monopoly capital. In some countries, the situation is aptly described by the saying: “While the wolf has been driven out through the front door, the tiger has sneaked in at the back.” In many Asian and African countries, the imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists still retain, in varying forms and to varying extent, various economic privileges (e.g., the right to lease land, guarantees for the security of their investments and tax reduction or exemption for their enterprises, and the right to survey and extract mineral resources), and, by means of “aid,” impose on the recipient countries many unequal treaties which directly encroach upon their sovereign rights.
Even today, the monopoly capitalists of the imperialist countries still control a great many of the mineral resources and extracting industries of the Asian and African countries, as well as the production of a substantial share of their agricultural exports. The foreign monopolies have also grabbed vast expanses of Asian and African land. The big oil companies of the imperialist countries have leased some 729 million hectares of oil-bearing land from the Asian and African countries—an area which is about 72 per event of the combined home territory of the United States, Britain and France. Also under foreign monopoly control in some Asian and African countries are the main branches of industry, key branches of communications and transport, postal services, banking, the issuing of currency, customs, foreign trade and even internal wholesale or retail trade. Using their monopolistic positions in these fields, the imperialist countries have not hesitated to apply overt and covert pressure to force these Asian and African countries to comply with their will. This includes intervention, control and subversion to achieve their political ends. In these circumstances, how can these countries keep intact and consolidate their political independence?
The Asian and African countries’ economic backwardness and poverty are a legacy of prolonged imperialist colonial rule. An overwhelming number of these countries still retain a mono-crop economy or a lopsided economy which is distinguished by an over-development of the extracting industries. After World War II, this abnormal state has become still more aggravated in a number of countries because of intensified activities by old and new colonialists. In these countries, the output—in terms of money—of a few agricultural products and/or minerals often accounts for some 60 to 70 per cent of the total national output and 50 to over 90 per cent of all exports. Also, as many as 50 to 80 per cent of the labouring population in these countries are engaged in producing primary products. What is more, about three-fourths of the mono-products exported by these countries depend on some individual imperialist country as the buyer. At the same time these countries rely on the imperialist countries to supply them with most of the industrial goods needed for economic construction and to sustain the people’s livelihood. Still worse, they have to rely on the imperialist countries, primarily the United States, for such a vital commodity as food grain, which is a prime necessity for the people. Statistics reveal that in recent years Asian and African countries have been importing some 20 million tons of food grain annually.
Such a colonial economic structure—marked by mono-product economy and mono-market outlet—actually constitutes the economic basis for imperialist colonial control and exploitation. Unless this abnormal structure is demolished, it is impossible for the Asian and African countries (and also the Latin American countries) to get rid of their economic dependence on the imperialist countries. In the long run, economic dependence will inevitably lead to political dependence. This is because, on the one. hand, the economic dependence of the Asian and African countries on the imperialist countries makes it possible for the latter to use, whenever they please, their monopoly positions and economic privileges as a lever to influence the domestic and foreign policies of these countries and carry out political intervention and control; on the other hand, the imperialist countries, in order to perpetuate the basis for their exploitation, will always try their utmost to keep intact and, if possible to strengthen, their political control of the newly independent Asian and African countries.
In the postwar years, because of increasingly ruthless exploitation by the imperialist countries, many newly independent Asian and African countries have suffered growing financial and economic difficulties. Taking advantage of these troubles, the imperialist countries have exported huge amounts of capital and granted many high-interest bearing loans to these countries so that they can extract fabulous profits from the debtor countries and bind them hand and foot. According to incomplete statistics of the “World Bank,” the debts incurred by Asian and African countries amounted to U.S. $5,000 million by the end of 1955; by the end of 1964, this figure had risen to an estimated total of U.S $20,000 million. There was a fourfold increase in nine years, the average annual rate of increase being 16.5 per cent. In some countries, the rise in foreign debt is still more striking. India, for example, witnessed an average annual 38 per cent increase in its foreign debts between 1955 and 1962. In recent years, Asian and African countries have paid out a total of about U.S. $2,500 million annually in servicing debts. Without doubt, the imperialist countries do not hesitate to turn this financial dependence to their own advantage to interfere in the internal affairs of the Asian and African countries.
Such a state of affairs shows that so long as the newly independent Asian and African countries fail to attain genuine and secure economic independence, imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism will always try by every means to use their monopoly positions to carry out intervention, control and even subversion. Only when genuine economic independence has been achieved, particularly when an independent national economy has been established by self-reliance, is it possible to smash the pressure, obstruction and sabotage of the imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists and establish secure and full political independence.
Upon winning political independence, the Asian and African countries face the following major and urgent tasks: to adopt appropriate and effective measures to eliminate the economic influences of the imperialists and to abolish all their political, military, economic and cultural privileges, to nationalize imperialist-owned industries, mines, plantations and other enterprises, and to put the nation’s economic lifelines and economic sovereignty in the hands of the people. These measures, however, will inevitably affect the interests of imperialist monopoly capital and the latter will inevitably rely on their own state machine and resort to every means, including counter-revolutionary violence, to make a last-ditch struggle. Hence, it can be affirmed that the process of recovering economic sovereignty from the imperialists and eliminating their influence in the economic sphere is inevitably a process of repeated tests of strength with imperialism, and the struggle will inevitably be accompanied by political struggle.
The imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists share a common abhorrence for the development of independent national economies in the Asian and African countries. The reason for this is simple: they understand that once independent national economies are established and developed, the economic basis for their colonial rule will be undermined, their control over the Asian and African countries will be broken and they will be deprived of the means to carry on their colonial plunder and reap their superprofits. Can Standard Oil (New Jersey) survive without the petroleum resources of the Middle East, and Venezuela? And where will Dunlop be if Malaya is no longer under the sway of British monopoly capital?
The imperialists have always treated their colonies and semi-colonies as sources of raw materials, markets for their commodities and profitable places for investments. By means of capital export and non-equivalent exchange, they have always ruthlessly exploited the Asian and African countries. It is estimated that in recent years the imperialists have annually taken out from these countries some U.S. $10,000 million in profits and interest and by means of non-equivalent exchange. This is why imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism are always trying to obstruct, sabotage and meddle with the development of independent economies by the Asian and African countries.
The development of an independent national economy and winning of full economic independence concerns the vital national interests of the newly independent Asian and African countries. It is at the same time opposed to the basic interests of the imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialists who want to retain their colonial rule. Hence, the struggle for the development of an independent national economy necessarily reflects itself in political struggle, in serious political struggle against the imperialists, first of all against U.S. imperialism. Revolution is the locomotive of history. Only by continuously pushing forward the national revolution against U.S.-led imperialism can the productive forces of the newly independent Asian and African countries be liberated and their independent national economies be gradually established and developed. Thus, continued and intensified struggle against U.S.-led imperialism and its lackeys remain’s the primary, and most urgent, task confronting the Asian and African countries today.
For the newly independent Asian and African countries, the struggle for political independence and the struggle for economic independence are interrelated. Without secure and full political independence, genuine economic independence is impossible; without genuine economic independence, secure and full political independence cannot last. In other words, political independence is the precedent for economic independence, while economic independence is the basis for political independence. Whether before or after independence, the winning, maintaining and consolidating of political independence is always the primary task for all Asian and African countries. Political independence takes precedence over economic independence. At the same time, the two are interdependent and complementary. Before independence, all efforts must be directed first of all at winning political independence so as to prepare the conditions for economic independence. After independence, Asian and African countries, while continuing to consolidate their political independence, need to make full use of their political power to obliterate the influences of the imperialists and their lackeys, carry out agrarian and other social reforms, establish and develop independent national economies and thus consolidate the political independence already secured. In the process of striving for economic independence, it is necessary to combine economic struggle with political struggle so that they complement and promote each other. The end purpose of both is to achieve full independence. To win full political independence and genuine economic independence will require a long and arduous struggle, the whole process being marked by zigzags—with quantitative changes leading to qualitative changes—and by sharp and complex struggles with imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and all other reactionary forces at home and abroad.
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