Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Pros and Cons: A Discussion Corner

South Asia Union and Western Union

(28 February 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 9, 28 February 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In the past it has been accepted as axiomatic that the countries of Europe and the backward countries of Asia are economically interdependent. The European countries with their large populations, high degree of industrialization but limited natural resources, have been compelled to lean heavily on outlying regions to supply their lacks, and have done it largely through colonial exploitation. On the other hand, the backward countries with their teeming populations, their abysmal standard of living and abundant natural resources crying out for industrialization, have to have help from the industrialized world to make real progress. Nothing has happened in recent times to change this economic relationship between the industrially developed and the undeveloped parts of the world.

Revolutionary socialists have in the past envisaged that when the period of colonial revolutions arrived and the pillars of imperialism were shaken in their foundations, the workers of the imperialist countries would unite with the colonial peoples in revolt, together to forge an international relationship of mutual benefit, based on mutual dependence. The period of colonial revolutions is indeed here and imperialism has received a bad shaking up, but the proletariat of the imperialist countries, for reasons we perhaps understand, has not been active in the colonial situation up to now. That does not mean, however, that it cannot be.

Though the cloth woven by history is of a different pattern than what we had expected, still with the cloth at hand we must try to cut a suit to fit the existing situation. Do the positions taken by the Workers Party on the European question, as expressed in the proposed resolution for an independent union of European countries, and on Southeast Asia Union, as expressed in the editorial in Labor Action, February 7, fulfill the requirement in respect to the colonial developments?

Intertwined Economies

The resolution on Independent Western Union, sound in its main approach, however, shows a failure to grasp the opportunity offered today to cement a bond between the working people of Europe and of the Far East. The resolution speaks of the countries of Western Europe as almost self-dependent economically. This cannot be true. Although, to be sure, the union of these countries would increase their united resources, it is still a fact that Europe as a whole must have the products of the backward countries.

The only reference the resolution makes to the colonies is when listing the democratic planks on which Independent Western Union must be based. Among them is “the renunciation by all participants of any imperialist ‘rights’ to dominate colonies and possessions now under their rule.” While this democratic demand is undoubtedly correct, standing as the only statement on the colonial situation, it is unrealistic and purely negative.

To say this and nothing more ignores an economic fact known to all, namely, that the economies of several of the European countries are so intertwined with their colonies that severing the ties is like cutting an artery. Furthermore, there is the fear that “to free the colonies” will simply make it easier for other imperialist vultures, notably the United States and Russia, to swoop down on the prey. Therefore, there is an opportunity, while renouncing all imperialist rights, for an Independent Western Union to offer the backward countries a positive economic program, as between free and equals, for dealings mutually beneficial to the Western European Union and to the Southeast Asia Union. Of course, a resolution of the kind submitted by the Political Committee cannot and should not go into the details of such a program, but the broad PRINCIPLE involved should be recognized and stated.

Common Struggle

At the same time the editorial on Southeast Asia Union implies that such a combination would be self- sufficient. The billions of people, the tin of Malaya, the hemp and steel of India, the rice of Burma, the oil and rubber of Indonesia, the talents of all these countries combined, contain the possibilities of a regional international economy organized on a division of labor depending on local resources and skills which could raise the people’s lives to a modern standard – so says the editorial. But is this a realistic statement?

How fast and how far can industrial progress go “organized on a division of labor depending ON LOCAL RESOURCES AND SKILLS”? Of course, faster and farther than each Asiatic country could go by itself. But the crying need for machines, machine tools, railroads and rolling stock, all the products of the heavy industry of industrial countries cannot be excluded from a statement on the economic possibilities of Southeast Asia. In fact, on the ability to acquire these needs abundantly and quickly may depend whether or not a socialist union of Asian countries will survive or degenerate into bureaucracy and exploitation.

Speculating on what provisions an economic program for an independent Western European Union and a Southeast Asia Union would contain, these ideas come to mind. The European union would agree to pay world market prices for the raw materials produced by the Asian countries, and would guarantee the purchase of definite quantities. The European countries would pledge the shipment to the East of stated amounts of the products of their heavy industry, to insure steady and rapid development there. The Eastern countries might pledge themselves to pay their workers, certain wages and provide specified working conditions.

These ideas are perhaps very crude, but the principle is clear enough. If a real third force, independent of both the United States and Russia, and of a socialist tendency, is to be forged in the world, the economic interdependence of Europe and the East must be recognized. An Independent Western Union will have to make its appeal to the uniting Asiatic countries for a mutually beneficial relationship, as one group of peoples struggling for freedom from imperialist entanglements to another such group.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 30 December 2018