Ronald Suny’s essay (Chapter 14) opens Part III with a discussion of the role of the Russian Revolution in the anti-imperialist movement that it inspired during its immediate aftermath. Suny’s perspective is particularly interesting because he joins what we have customarily treated separately, namely the decolonization of the tsarist empire which the revolution fostered and the global anti-imperialist movement. The symbolic and political impact of the Russian Revolution on the global decolonization movement has been plain to see in the writings of the leaders in Part I. Suny suggests that the Soviet leadership’s early commitment to federalism and nationalism in the Soviet republics and neighbouring states was soon overtaken by the imperatives of Soviet state-building. Under Stalin, communist organizations in many of the decolonizing societies became puppets dancing to the tune of the Soviet state. Nehru’s jibe at the isolation of the Communist Party of India in Part I reflects this sentiment. The Communist Party of China, which maintained a certain distance from Soviet policies with the ascendancy of Mao in the early 1930s, eventually severed ties with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, calling it a ‘social imperialist’ state. Ironically, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 may be seen to have unleashed yet another process of decolonization in a state which in many ways initiated the process seventy years before.
John Voll’s essay (Chapter 15) explores the other major source of inspiration for the decolonizing movement: civilizational discourse. Voll tracks the changing relationship between Islamic reformers and the idea of the West since the nineteenth century. Contrary to those - on both sides - who sought to pit opposition to Western ideas and practices in the Islamic world as an eternal civilizational conflict, Voll believes that this opposition is by no means age-old or unchanging. He seeks to grasp this opposition in relation to the new conception of the ‘failure of the West’ in the post-World War II period, a conception that is best understood in the context of the assimilation of Western ideas and institutions, rather than deriving from some essential ideas in Islam. A figure who perhaps best exemplifies this argument is Jalal Al-i Ahmad, whose work we encountered in Part I.
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Publication information: Book title: Decolonization: Perspectives from Now and Then. Contributors: Prasenjit Duara - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 173.
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