Dependency Theory (Xxxx) - 1 of many

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Mon May 28 20:59:15 MDT 2001

Xxxx Xxxxxx responded to Phil and Nestor on 5/24/2001.  I'd like to make
some comments on this posting by Xxxx.  Xxxx's posting is useful because it
raises several issues worth discussing.

I insist on saying that we need to keep theoretical distinctions clear when
characterizing the social formations in Latin America or the Third World.  I
readily admit my limited knowledge of world economic history.  The reader
will judge to what extent my logical argument makes any sense when
contrasted against the specific conditions of a particular region or
country.  IMO, my argument follows from Marx's theory of the capitalist mode
of production as exposed in Capital.  Also IMO, Marx's theory captures the
main trends of this mode of production.

In this posting (OR others of this thread, I don't know yet as I type this)
I'll submit a logical argument against the dependency theory.  IMO, my
critique applies to ALL versions of dependency theory.  I don't question the
personal integrity or political value of particular dependency theorists.  I
don't question either the fact that the dependency theory highlighted
important aspects of the social formation in Latin America and the Third
World that previous theories had overlooked.  In brief, my critique is aimed
to the basic logical argument of dependency theory, not to details one or
another school may emphasize.  Now, I'll try to follow Mine's posting.

>There is some confusion above. Phil and Nestor are confusing dependency
>theory with Lenin's theory of imperialism. Dependency theory does _not_
>state that the interests of the workers in imperialist countries are
>antagonistic to the interests of workers in the Third World. None of the
>dependency theorists make such a claim, so I would like to see a citation
>on this.
>Instead, it was Lenin who talked about the labor aristocracy in
>centers. Lenin thought that such sections of the working classes made
>to capitalism through social democratic arrangement of class relations and
>compromises with the
>core bourgeoisie. There is nothing moralistic about because it is a _fact_
>( if you consider the class basis of social-democratic parties in Europe,
>and the _relative_ increases in class wealth gained by the European
>exploitation of global wealth)  This problem of co-optation can only be
>solved _if_  workers in imperialist centers are class conscious of the
>imperialist exploitation in the third world, and support the
>anti-imperialist struggles in the periphery against core/local bourgeoisie.
>This is a pre-condition to international class solidarity as well.
>If,  for example, US workers want to be part of NAFTA, knowing
>that NAFTA won't benefit Mexican workers materially, they are not
>contributing to the socialist cause, neither in the periphery nor in the
>core.  Or if, let's say, US workers call the regime in Cuba autocratic, or
>Milosovic facist,
>knowing that these regimes have been victims of US imperialism,
>including their working classes, they are not helping the
>third world workers again  I am just giving examples, but such examples
>occured in the history of working class movement in the imperialist
>Working classes are _not_ always class conscious of imperialism. This
>assumption apples to third world workers too (given that there are people
>defending NAFTA/free trade from the third world on this list:-)).

The main selling point of the 'anti-globalization' movement to US workers is
that NAFTA means unemployment at home because it allows capitalists to move
manufacturing operations to Mexico where labor costs are lower and
environmental standards are loose ('race to the bottom' argument).  So, IMO,
what attracts US workers MOSTLY to 'anti-globalization' protests is NOT the
belief that the installation of maquiladoras in Mexico will bring dire
suffering to the Mexican workers, worsen their current living and working
conditions, etc.  No.  I think that most US workers concerned about
'globalization' don't believe this story.  IMO, US workers, when protesting
against 'globalization' are trying to protect their jobs as they perceive
they may be at risk.

How many Mexican workers are involved in protests against the installation
of 'maquiladoras' in Mexico?  Not many.  It is good that the
'anti-globalization' people are helping to denounce the struggles of Mexican
workers at the maquiladoras.  But, what are Mexican workers really fighting
against in the maquiladora zones?  Are they fighting for dismantling the
factories?  Are they complaining that too many maquiladoras are being
installed in Mexico and they'd rather have less?  NO.  Exactly the opposite
is true.  THAT aspect of 'globalization' is being WELCOMED by Mexican
workers.  Not rejected.  It shouldn't surprise anyone here to know that
Mexican workers prefer to be employed than not to be employed.

But ONCE Mexican workers have jobs, they want MORE things, NOT LESS.  What
active Mexican workers in the maquiladora zones are really fighting for is
higher wages, democratic, smart, and combative unions, better working
conditions, housing, better basic urban infrastructure and services in their
neighborhoods (electricity, urban transportation, pavement of streets,
schools, clinics, phone lines), and basic environmental care (potable water,
drainage systems, and garbage disposal, mainly -- clean air is down in the
priority list).  Again, this has nothing to do with protests against the
installation of maquiladoras.

If Mine's interpretation of Lenin's theory of the workers' aristocracy is
applicable here, as Mine seems to claim, then the US workers would be more
likely to be labeled as aristocratic than the Mexican workers.  US workers
earn higher wages, and this would be rationalized as crumbs falling off the
table of US monopolies making super-profits by exploiting workers in
peripheral Mexico.  Paying higher wages to US workers would help
imperialists make US workers opportunistic and insensitive to the interests
of Mexican workers.  Again, this is according to Mine's idea.

If, on top of that, as Mine says, this implies an 'antagonism' (I understand
an antagonism as an irreconciliable contradiction or opposition of
interests) between workers in the US and Mexico, then Mine would have to
take sides on the issue of manufactures being installed in Mexico.  She
would want to make sure she is on the side of the non-aristocratic workers
and against the aristocratic ones.  Would she advocate for (or at least not
impede) the installation of more maquiladoras in Mexico since they directly
provide jobs for Mexican workers?  Or would she help the aristocrats by
trying to persuade Mexican workers that, in fact, being employed is worse
than being unemployed?  After all, maquiladoras take a long time to improve
safety in the factories, rise wages, and contribute to social programs; and
they only do these things under pressure. So, maybe she would try to
persuade them that maquiladoras are to be rejected altogether.

>We need
>to consider what _blocks_ international class solidarity, and pits workers
>the imperialist centers against workers in the imperialized nations and
>vice versa. This has NOTHING  to do with moralism. It has something to do
>with understanding
>the REALITIES of global capitalism.

What blocks international class solidarity is, first and foremost, the
inability to see the REALITIES of 'global' capitalism in the face and the
propensity to take comfort in slogans.

>I agree with Lou. Between Brenner and MR tradition, I prefer the second.
>You guys have to stick to the argument  Capitalism does not allow third
>world to develop in the same way that Britain or US did.

Of course, capitalism in the Third World can never develop in the same way
that Britain or the US.  The historical circumstances are different.  This
is where our inability to think abstractly can tax us.  What Mine needs to
prove is that the capitalist mode of production has no chance in the Third
World in the present conditions because of its own inherent laws.  That
there are obstacles to capitalist development in the Third World is obvious.
  The question is whether, as the dependency theory claims, these obstacles
are inherent to the capitalist mode of production.

If they are not inherent to capitalist production, but they are pervasive,
then they can only come from (1) non-capitalist modes of production
competing with capitalist production or (2) hard super-structural
constraints to the development of capitalism.  Given the state of the
productive forces in the Third World, the non-capitalist modes of production
blocking capitalism cannot be more progressive than the capitalist mode of
production.  They have to be less progressive.

If the constraints are super-structural, then what's their character?  How
pervasive and tough are they?  Is it a matter of time for capitalist
production to remove them, to reshape the super-structure to its image and
likeness?  In this light, how should we interpret the political and economic
policy changes that have been taking place in Latin America in the last 20

To be continued.
Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

More information about the Marxism mailing list