Marx’s writings on the Opium Wars and capital accumulation in the Global South, with Lucia Pradella

In the interview below, Lucia Pradella engages with Joseph Mullen of The Cadre Journal on the subject of Karl Marx’s understanding of colonialism and capital accumulation in the Global South, with particular reference to China.

Dr. Pradella is a Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy at King’s College London and the author of ‘Globalization and the critique of political economy: New insights from Marx’s writings’, published as part of the Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy series. The Cadre Journal is a student-run journal and podcast on anti-imperialism and communism.

Lucia explains how in her study for her master’s and PhD degrees, as well as a period spent working on the major project to publish the Complete Works of Marx and Engels, she acquired greater understanding of the breadth and depth of Marx’s studies of pre-capitalist societies and of the central role played by colonialism, and not least the Opium Wars, in primitive capital accumulation and his value theory. Whilst greater attention has tended to be paid to Marx’s writings on India, it is significant that Marx’s positive attention to, and appraisal of, the first stages of the Taiping Revolution essentially coincides with the defeat suffered by the European revolutions of 1848. Arising from his study of the Taipings, Marx postulated the possibility of a republican revolution in China.

In the Communist Manifesto, she notes, Marx and Engels proceeded from the premise that the industrial proletariat of Europe constituted the agency of the international revolutionary process, but developments post-1848 created two possible paths to revolution, on the part of the industrial proletariat and on the part of the colonised peoples. However, she contends that Marx did not abandon his view that a developed capitalism was necessary for there to be a socialist revolution. 

The views and contributions of a range of people, including Rosa Luxemburg, David Harvey, Immanuel Wallerstein, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank and Samir Amin are touched on, with Lucia arguing that the dependency theorists and proponents of world systems theory overlooked some aspects of Marx’s Capital.  Asked for her views on the theory of combined and uneven development, and its applicability, she expresses the view that Trotsky did not understand the centrality of colonialism in Marx’s analysis.

Noting Marx’s acuity with regards to the potential impact of developments in China on the world economy, she says that some of the developments we see today are processes that Marx already analysed at a very abstract level in Capital Volume One.

The full interview is embedded below.

One thought on “Marx’s writings on the Opium Wars and capital accumulation in the Global South, with Lucia Pradella”

  1. I am from Vancouver,Canada and i wanted to say that it is good that someone from England is discussing Marx’s writings on the Opium Wars and Capital Accumulation in the Global South. With a good understanding of Marx’s Writing which Lucia Pradella seems to have it is essential in explaining what is going on in the world today.
    Mark gave a good explanation on what things were like in the world in his day and also explained how things in the world would be if looked at from a Marxist perspective.It is hard to go wrong on World Affairs if looked at from a Marxist Perspective like Lucia Pradella did. Marx spent most of his life in England and wrote good articles on the Opium Wars and Capital Accumulation.I read these articles by Marx many decades ago.I am after forgetting a lot of it now.It is good to be able to read about these Articles by Lucia Pradella.It brings back a lot of memories about reading Marx’s Writings.It is good that Lucia Pradella is working on a project to publish the complete Works of Marx and Engels. That will give many people a better understanding of what is going on in the world today.

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