Eurocentricism in the Contemporary British Left


In fact, the concept of Eurocentricism itself ought to be split into two distinct types. One may be designated as epistemic, i.e. a Eurocentric perspective that results from insurmountable epistemological limitations such as those that faced a nineteenth century observer without any direct experience of non-European societies. The other is supremacist, a type of Eurocentricism that is but a specific brand of ethnocentricism rooted in the global supremacy achieved by Western Europe starting from the nineteenth century.

(Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism: By Gilbert Archer Pages 82-83)

When Karl Marx broke with the Western narrative of historical idealism, he permanently severed any essentialist and culturalist notions of viewing the perceived ‘other’ in a racially motivated and detrimental manner. This was at the time when bourgeois science was busying itself with the distortion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, giving the false impression that fair-skinned Europeans were the highest level of biological development on the planet, and that all other people, with their distinctive physical features and skin tones, were inherently inferior and represented a more primitive type of human being. Although Darwin disagreed with this notion of racism, it was a number of his followers who changed his science to reflect the bourgeois attitudes of the time. Above can be seen the effects of this misrepresentation with the European male striding purposely out of a primitive past and into an advanced future, with the other races symbolic of a more primitive past. Britain, as an island nation, had successfully transitioned into the industrial age, and was pursuing a ruthless policy of imperialist conquest and colonial domination around the world. This excursion into foreign parts was led by the Judeo-Christian church, the military and commercial interests, which were responsible for encountering, thoroughly exploiting, and then destroying native people and their cultures. The Christian church believed that Jesus was ‘white’ and that god was an ‘Englishman’; the military was armed with the best weaponry modern industry could provide, and the merchants were equipped with pure greed. This heady mix of old religion, modern military force, and advanced socio-economic conditions, led to the unbridled and rampant pursuance of the most despicable human traits related to human ignorance and greed, which resulted not only in the immense enriching of Europe, but also in the death of millions of indigenous people and the impoverishment of their homelands.

The British bourgeoisie perpetuated the myth that their dominance around the globe (and within the UK), emanated from a god who must be ‘white’ because he had blessed this small country with success and dominance. The reality that this fairy-tale had no basis in material fact was completely ignored. Britain became dominant due to its industrial development, and nothing else. The British working class had a stark choice; conform to bourgeois oppression and work for a pittance, or die of starvation. Impoverished working class men joined the British military to earn enough money to feed their families, and it is these men – the victims of the bourgeois – who became the unwitting agents of a brutal racism and exploitation through their use of arms. British working class men fought the indigenous people of the world, so that the bourgeois, the church and the merchants could walk in and reap all the benefits whilst making none of the effort, or taking any of the risks. The workers died whilst the priests and merchants got fat at the expense of their sacrifice. Oppressed workers killed native people, and were killed by native people in self-defense, whilst the bourgeois looked on and waited for the new ground to be conquered and cleared of resistance. The native people who managed to survive this vicious introduction into the capitalist system had no choice but to conform to their own demeaning through radicalisation. The pre-industrial level of socio-economic conditions encountered in these indigenous societies, was automatically reduced to the level of religious and biological myth. Europeans were superior because a white Christian god had created a physical universe that placed them at the apex of civilised development, and all other people at a subordinate level. It was god’s plan that the superior dominate the inferior at every level of life, and this ethos fuelled the colonial experiment, with its conversation, cultural destruction, murder, massacre, rape, and pillage, etc.

This ‘supremacist’ aspect of Eurocentricism is an ever present danger, not only in the rightwing – its natural home – but also in the leftwing of the British political system. Within the left it is a variant of the vicious bourgeois mentality that justified imperialism, (and that continues to fuel the far-right), but which is usually camouflaged and well hidden behind a thin veil of supposed Marxist rhetoric. This is an example of the penetration of the left by bourgeois thought – the very antithesis to point and purpose of philosophical Marxism. The presence of these vicious bourgeois attitudes within the left represents a serious failing to interpret and implement the correct meaning of Marx into the progressive movement of politics. It also demonstrates how the bourgeois rightwing has successfully penetrated the left, and has worked to bring it down from within. The message is clear; those human beings who happen to be of non-European descent, are viewed as ‘inferior’, but instead of admitting the real reason for this, the tenuous caveat is added that they are ‘inferior’ because of their ideology or mode of thought. The physicality of racism is transformed on the left of British politics into the ethereal ‘spirit’ of racism, whereby the perceived product of the human brain is judged as being of value, or indeed of no value at all. This value judgement is then used to physically exclude those who think the ‘wrong way’ from the respect and appreciation offered to those who possess ‘right thought’, all of whom happen to be of European descent. A clear example of the continuation of a racial paradigm on the British left, (disguised as ideological necessity), concerns the issue of how modern Russia is intellectually treated in political analysis, when compared to and with modern China. Modern Russia is of course, since the collapse and abolition of the Soviet Union in 1991, a rampant, free-market, capitalist system (with oligarchy tendencies), enwrapped in a bourgeois democratic framework. The British left, by and large, treats the subject of modern, capitalist Russia, with what can only be described as an attitude motivated by an enhanced sense of sentimentalism and nostalgia – both prominent bourgeois tendencies. Modern Russia is the antithesis of the Soviet Union and yet it receives in Western European narrative, a prestige not extended to any other non-Socialist or non-Communist regime. This may be juxtaposed with modern China, which since 1949 has been a Communist state. The People’s Republic of China has survived every single ideological attack aimed at it from the bourgeois, capitalist West, led by the USA. In 1989, when the USSR was falling apart physically and ideologically, Communist China stood alone. In 1956, China disagreed with Khrushchev’s so-called ‘Secret Speech’ condemning Stalin, (who had died in 1953), and instead confirmed its ideological adherence to the Marx-Lenin-Stalin line, which the Communist Party of China interpreted as the ‘correct’ path to follow. The USSR, after 1956, was viewed in China as betraying the 1917 Revolution (and the 27 million Soviets that died during WWII); a Chinese opinion that appears to have been vindicated by the collapse of the USSR just 33 years later. China now faces a USA that has tried (but failed) to bring it down with military force and ‘favoured nation’ trading. China also faces a Western Communist movement that takes a thoroughly bourgeois attitude towards both its people and its Communist regime. China is demeaned time and again in the Western leftist press, and yet it continues in its growth and development of Marxist thought. European leftists appear to be embroiled in a historical view of the perceived other, which racialises and demeans, as a method to gain oppressive control over others. This ignorant and non-Marxist attitude harks straight back to the days of the Opium Wars of the 1800’s, that Marx wrote about in his June 1853 article for the New York Tribune. Marx states:

Whether the ‘contact of extremes’ be such a universal principle or not, a striking illustration of it may be seen in the effect the Chinese revolution seems likely to exercise upon the civilised world. It may seem a very strange, and a very paradoxical assertion that the next uprising of the people of Europe, and their next movement for republican freedom and economy of government, may depend more probably on what is now passing in the Celestial Empire, – the very opposite of Europe, – than on any other political cause that now exists, – more even than on the menaces of Russia and the consequent likelihood of a general European war.

(Revolution in China and in Europe)

Marx goes on to say that it was the presence of the English cannon in China that ushered in the collapse of the old (and ancient) imperial system in the name of the importation of opium for (British) profit. This colonial presence initiated a historical process that eventually led directly to the Communist Revolution. These historical forces continue today as China continues the dialectical process of developing and advancing Marxist thought that can assist the development of humanity. China is a Communist regime, regardless of any and all criticism it may receive from a political left that exists within (and through) a bourgeois, liberal democratic, capitalist system. It is this bourgeois system that criticises China, using the European left as a mouthpiece.

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