Thursday, January 08, 2009

Agrarian communism?

This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia. Talking about the anniversary last night, a BBC correspondent described Pol Pot's ideology as 'brutal backward-looking agrarian communism'. There's no doubt that many people would agree with such a designation: for many Westerners, in particular, the Khmer Rouge's journey to 'Year Zero' represents a violent rejection of every feature of the modern world.

Many scholars who specialise in the study of the traumatic modern history of Indochina are more cautious. Pol Pot's ferocious and obscurantist regime has long puzzled historians and political scientists, but the gradual publication of many of the internal documents produced by the Khmer Rouge from between 1975 and 1978 has assisted understanding.

The documents collected in English translation in a Yale University Press volume called Pol Pot Plans the Future would make interesting reading for anyone who believes that the Khmer Rouge were dedicated to an agrarian, autarkic society. The five-year plan that Pol Pot produced shortly after taking power calls for a massive increase in agricultural production, but it envisaged funneling increased yields of rice and other crops overseas, not back to the long-suffering Khmer people.

Pol Pot wanted to earn enough foreign revenue from agricultural exports to be able to fund the construction of heavy industry, and in particular steel mills, across Cambodia. He insisted on paying for this crash course in industrialisation without resorting to foreign capital because he believed that taking loans would make Cambodia dependent on foreign powers.

The notorious expulsions of the populations of Phnom Penh and other cities from their homes were partly motivated by Pol Pot's desire to massively increase the rural labour force, and thereby increase the size of the harvests of rice and other crops. The two other major reasons for the expulsion were probably the Khmer Rouge's belief that most city-dwellers were its ideological enemies, and the fact that deliveries of humanitarian aid to Cambodia had ended with the collapse of the Lon Nol regime, raising the spectre of mass starvation. (Of course, the incompetence and brutality of the Khmer Rouge ensured that starvation occurred across Cambodia anyway.)

The Khmer Rouge was always a deeply xenophobic organisation, but it was nevertheless strongly influenced by Mao Zedong's brand of communism. Mao's China was one of the few countries that Pol Pot's paranoid regime managed to maintain amicable relations with, and Mao's Great Leap Forward can be seen as the model for the Khmer Rouge's five year plan. The Great Leap Forward was a product of Mao's desire to turn China into an industrialised country with a First World standard of living, and it was as great a disaster as Pol Pot's plan.

Both Mao and Pol Pot are often considered exemplars of a peasant-based, agrarian communism, but their ambitions and some of their methods actually had more in common with the 'modernisation theory' still promoted enthusiastically in the capitalist Third World by Western-educated tehnocrats.

The reckless attempts to resettle millions of Javanese in remote areas of Suharto's Indonesia, and thereby raise the country's agricultural output, have something in common with Pol Pot's policies. Mao's forcible 'proletarianisation' of millions of peasants during the Great Leap Forward can only remind us today of the enclosure of the countryside in many parts of today's Third World, and the 'conversion' of small landowners into low-wage workers in factories.

The ferocity and incompetence of Pol Pot's regime were exceptional, but some of its ambitions were all too familiar. If we want to know what real 'agrarian communism' might look like, we should consider the story of East Timor's revolution, or Marx's late writings about Russia, rather than the regimes of Mao and Pol Pot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is remiss to blog about this subject without mentioning that in the early 70s the US dropped more bombs on cambodia than the axis and allies combined dropped on europe during world war two.

3:00 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

Yes Maps, you have failed in your proletarian duty to blame the United States. You must now attend a re-education camp.

4:29 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

The United States did bomb Cambodia (and Laos and Vietnam) - sometimes more bombs in a week than the whole of WW2 massively - then the East Germans (how to differentiate between them and the Nazis?) became involved in steering the revolution - probably with CIA assistance.

Some (most) of the claims against Pol Pot and Mao are from right wing sources who have distorted the reality. These revolutions fail for a complex of reasons - but anonymous is correct in his / her implication - the barbarous bombing of IndoChina by the US caused a barbarous result - amongst many the many deaths later caused by the unexploded bombs (often evilly designed to attract children) and of course the terrible destruction caused by the US fascists.

The US even stated openly that their aim was: "To bomb them into the stone age."

10:35 pm  
Anonymous Pineapple said...

Good post.

If their projected plans are to be believed, then a fully-functioning, modern industrialised 'socialist' state, built by the 1990s. It must have initially been rather disheartening to the young and future DK leaders when confronted with the fact that the Cambodian situation was not only vastly different to the orthodox class analyses they’d been presented with, whether back in France or at home among Communists linked to the Vietnamese, but that it wasn’t similar to the situation in Vietnam either. But there was, it seems, a belief that this could be rapidly overcome and that, in their eyes, the 'unique' conditions of Cambodia, and of Khmer history, could achieve something no other Communist regime had ever managed in a compressed timescale.

But, it was for most of its existence shrouded in secrecy and unexpressed, and the regime which culminated wasn't around for long, so despite putting lots of different pieces together the puzzle of Khmer Communism will probably never be solved. However, to gain a half-decent understanding of what there is, then it would be very useful to disregard the primivitist agrarian rubbish that's been peddled for years. It'll show up little of value.

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Blogger Unknown said...

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Blogger قمم التميز said...

شركة نقل اثاث
حقين شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض
الاثاث من الاشياء التى نستطيع ان نبذل فية الكثير من الجهد والوقت من اجل ان يتم القيام باعمال النقل من مكان الى اخر سواء الى اى مكان فى المملكة او اى مكان خارج المملكة ، فاعمال النقل من الخدمات التى تبدو لنا انها سهلة وبسيطة الا انة فى نهاية الامر من الخدمات التى تؤدى الى التعرض الى مشاكل كثيرا من الصعب ان يتم القيام بحلها من الكسر والخدش والتلفيات والضياع ،شركة قمم التميز من اهم وافضل شراء اثاث مستعمل
التى تحقق اعلى مستوى من خدمات النقل للاثاث والقيام بالاتفاق مع مركز التعاون الخليجى من اجل ان يتم الحفاظ على الاثاث ضد اى مشكلة ، فاذا كنت فى حيرة من امر النقل فتاكد انك الان تمتلك افضل الشركات المميزة الخاصة باعمال النقل من خلال الاعتماد على توفير عدد من الخدمات المميزة شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض
شركة قمم التميز على وعى كبير باعمال النقل والتى تحقق افضل مستوى من خدمات النقل التى تؤكد ان الاثاث يتم الانتقال من مكان الى اخر دون ان يتم التعرض الى اى مشكلة من اهم الخدمات المقدمة الاتى :- شراء اثاث مستعمل شمال الرياض
الاعتماد على افضل النجاريين المتخصصين فى اعمال الفك بطريقة حرفية لان الاثاث يحتاج الى القيام باعمال الفك الى قطع اصغر من الممكن حتى يتم حماية الاثاث من التعرض الى اى تلفيات او ظهور اى عيب فى الاثاث بعد التركيب . شركات شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض
شركة تخزين اثاث
تخزين الاثاث من المهام التى نجتاج الية فى اوقات معينة اثناء الانتقال من شقة الى اخر او القيام بالسفر لفترات طويلة ، فالحرارة المرتفعة والرطوبة والاتربة الناعمة تؤدى الى ظهور التشققات و تؤدى الى التكسير المفاجىء للاخشاب ارقام شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض
، فاذا كنت فى حيرة من اعمال النقل فتعاون مع شركة المتخصصة فى اعمال التخزين من الامور التى لابد من القيام بية بطريقة مميزة على ايدى متخصصين فى القيام بهذة الخدمة .
شركة قمم التميز من اهم الشركات التى تقوم بانشاء مستودعات طبقا لمعاير ذات جودة مميزة والتى تساعد فى الحفاظ على الاثاث ضد اى عيوب او اى مشكلات تظهر مع مرور مدة التخزين بالاضافة الى ان المستودعات مقسمة من الداخل الى اماكن مخصصه للزجاج واماكن مخصصة للاخشاب وهكذا حتى يتم الحفاظ على الاثاث فعليك ان تتعاون وتتواصل مع محلات شراء الاثاث المستعمل بالرياض
والارقام المتواجدة على الصفحة من اجل ان تتم الحفاظ على الاثاث ضد اى تغيرات من الممكن ان تحدث ، بالاضافة الى اننا نقدم عقود مميزة فى اعمال التخزين فى مقابل ارخص الاسعار

3:49 pm  
Blogger amirty40 said...

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آیا خود ارضایي مضر است و آیا قدرت جنسی را تضعیف میکند؟
ازدواج آیا می تواند شخصیت افراد را تغییر دهد ؟
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میزان جذب آهن اسفناج چه مقدار است ؟

11:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a bit disingenuous to suggest capitalism forces workers in third world countries to work in factories. Capitalism contributes in the form of market pressure, but those ultimately responsible are the ruling authoritarians and dictators. After all, the best example of workers being pressured into factory work is....China. and if you look into the countries engaging in that kind of behavior, they are all markedly NOT capitalist or free. Rather, capitalism is reliant upon a first world economy and modern technology. So while I appreciate your insight into the goals of Pol pot, you utterly failed in your attempt to paint capitalism as communism- which when explained as such reveals it for the absurd idea it is.

9:36 am  
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