Towards Dynamic Barbarism

Towards Dynamic Barbarism

Professor Baran, says the dust jacket, “is probably the only Marxian social scientist teaching at a large American University.” It ain’t necessarily so; but that the Monthly Review editors should believe it is quite revealing. The book purports to be a Marxist analysis of the conditions of economic growth in modern capitalist and underdeveloped countries; but in fact it is a crude propagandist’s brief for the “Russian way.” So tremendous is the gap between this book and the careful scholarship of Marxian writers of an earlier generation—the Bauers, Hilferdings, Luxemburgs, and Bukharins, all of whom attempted to extend the range of Marxian analysis through a theoretical mastery of new facts and developments which had not been considered by Marx and his immediate disciples—that one might indeed believe, were one to take the blurb seriously, that we have come to the end of Marxian scholarship, its final decay into a lifeless Byzantinism. But this, of course, is not really so. What the Monthly Review calls Marxism is only a very special version of Stalinoid obscurantism.

Mr. Baran’s main thesis is easy to summarize: monopoly capital, controlling the destiny of imperialist countries, is hostile to economic developments in underdeveloped countries, and the ruling classes in the United States and elsewhere are bitterly opposed to the industrialization of the colonial and semi-colonial world. Hence the only chance for underdeveloped countries is to join the “socialist countries” which will give them economic assistance and will teach them the techniques of rapid industrialization that have been applied in Russia, China and the European satellites.

In reading this book one acquires a sense of claustrophobia. In this closed universe of discourse one again and again reads quotations from the Fathers, one hears the pious mumblings of the True Believer as he reels off the beads of the Marxist rosary, but one finds no sense of reality, nor awareness, moreover, of the vast non Marxist literature on the subject. In recent years a number of study centers have been established both here and abroad for the special purpose of investigating underdeveloped countries. A vast specialized literature has grown up; yet one looks in vain for any evidence that Professor Baran has ever consulted it. No doubt a fair number of pro-imperialist apologists operate in the groves of academe, but only a self-induced paranoia can seriously maintain that there are only apologists.

Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

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