My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Left and Anti-Imperialism

Here's Frederick Engels, in a 1882 letter to Karl Kautsky, being rather ambiguous about 'de-colonisation':
As I see it ... countries that are merely ruled [by Europeans, rather than settled]  and are inhabited by natives, such as India, Algeria and the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish possessions, will have to be temporarily taken over by the proletariat [of the colonising country] and guided as rapidly as possible towards independence. How this process will develop is difficult to say. India may, indeed very probably will, start a revolution and, since a proletariat that is effecting its own emancipation cannot wage a colonial war, it would have to be given its head, which would obviously entail a great deal of destruction, but after all that sort of thing is inseparable from any revolution. The same thing could also happen elsewhere, say in Algeria or Egypt, and would certainly suit us best. We shall have enough on our hands at home. ... Only one thing is certain, namely that a victorious proletariat cannot forcibly confer any boon whatever on another country without undermining its own victory in the process. [My emphasis]
[I owe this quote to Neil Davidson's, How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (2012), p. 177.]
In practise, socialist parties of the Second International really only had a negative programme. They condemned  colonisation, but they didn't positively have much faith in 'native self-determination'. Modern constitutionalism, still less democracy, just didn't seem plausible in the backward, still 'semi-civilised' world.

When the empires did finally disintegrate, from the late 1940 to the 1960s, imperial rule very often did indeed give way to tyranny rather than constitutionalism. How did the Left deal with this unwelcome outcome?

The old veteran anti-imperialist Labour MP, Fenner Brockway, in the early 1970s, discussed the view that decolonisation had been too precipitous, and so had rarely led to stable constitutional government. In the end, he returned to “the moral and philosophical view … that no people has the right to rule another people, with [the] logical consequence that even bad self-government is better than good imposed government.”

[Fenner Brockway, The Colonial Revolution (London: Hart-Davis, 1973), pp. 575 – 6.]

That's probably still the view of most of the Left, and indeed of western society in general. With added Leninism, and by believing in something called 'neo-colonialism', it leads to pretty strange conclusions. In the view of John Rees, the Left should support any son-of-a-bitch, just so long as he's not a pro-American son-of-a-bitch:
If the anti-colonial movements or states that are opposed to the major powers defeat the imperial powers it weakens the whole imperial system. This is true whether or not those who lead such struggles or stand at the head of such states have this outcome as their conscious aim. Lenin argued that the political complexion of the leaders of small nations – be they nationalist, fundamentalist, dictators or democrats – should not determine whether socialists in the major imperialist countries oppose their own governments in time of war. It is enough that the defeat of the major imperial powers would advance the cause of oppressed people everywhere for socialists to commit themselves to the principle of self-determination for small nations. [My emphasis]
[John Rees, Imperialism and Resistance (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 231.]



  1. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly
    the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

    Check out my site:

  2. What's up to every single one, it's in fact a fastidious for me to go to see this web page, it includes priceless Information.

    Review my web site ... Abercrombie France

  3. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you should write more about this subject,
    it might not be a taboo subject but usually folks don't talk about these topics. To the next! Kind regards!!

    Feel free to visit my web blog - Oakley Frogskins

  4. Every weekend i used to pay a visit this web page, for the reason that i want enjoyment, for the
    reason that this this web page conations actually fastidious funny data too.

    my webpage :: Nike Free Run Sko

  5. Hello, this weekend is fastidious designed for me,
    for the reason that this point in time i am reading this impressive informative
    piece of writing here at my residence.

    Feel free to surf to my website - Casque Beats Pas Cher

  6. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog!

    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community
    in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on.
    You have done a outstanding job!

    Also visit my web-site :: Sac A Main Louis Vuitton

  7. Hey there I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really found
    you by error, while I was searching on Yahoo for something else, Anyways I
    am here now and would just like to say many thanks for a fantastic post and a
    all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I
    don’t have time to look over it all at the moment
    but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up
    the excellent b.

    Also visit my web site Nike Free Run

  8. Yes! Finally someone writes about throbbing feet.

    My blog post; Michael Kors Outlet **

  9. It's hard to come by experienced people for this topic, but you seem
    like you know what you're talking about! Thanks

    Look at my web page - wczasy

  10. We're a group of volunteers and starting a neew scheme in our community.
    Youur site offered us with valuable info too work on. You've
    done an impressive job and ouur whole community will be grateful to you.

    my blog ... fun788