Unequal Exchange and the Prospects of Socialism. By Communist Working Group
This book is now online on snylterstaten.dk (the parasite state). It was fist published in print i 1983 in danish, and in 1986 translated and published in english. The danish version online on this site.
It is not only the capitalists who are benefiting from the exploitation of the third world. The vast majority of the people in the rich countries also profit from the unequal exchange between the third world and the imperialist countries, and it has its sad political consequences.
The book examines the theory of Unequal Exchange, which was put forward by Arghiri Emmanuel in the beginning of the seventies. But not only this – the book adds concrete figures to the theory, which estimates that the exploitation, via unequal exchange, yearly transfers value corresponding to hundreds of billions of US dollars. But, first and foremost, the book dares to draw the political conclusions which stem from the imperialism of trade. It shows how the relatively privileged economic position of the working class in Western Europe and North America has affected their attitude towards the anti-imperialist struggle in the third world.
The book has a foreword by the Arghiri Emmanuel, where he among other things states:
"Often in meetings, academic or other, where I was to put the case for my theses on unequal exchange and on the international exploitation which was its outcome, sincere left wing militants, somewhat at sea, asked the same question in different forms. If this is the case, if the proletariat no longer exists in our industrialized countries, if all, or almost all wage earners, white collars and blue collars together, have become a labour aristocracy by definition producing less value than their wages allow them to appropriate and thus becoming the objective allies of imperialism, which brings them the supplement, what then becomes of the political action of revolutionary marxists? To whom, to which class, to which strata of society can they therefore address themselves?
This question visibly worried them as much as it troubled me. For it is not exactly easy to say to those who have committed their lives to a cause and who have already sacrificed part of it thereto, that they have quite simply mistaken their side.
This is the question to which the members of the "Communist working group" have replied in this book. One must, they say, quite simply, put oneself at the service of the classes which have an Interest in overthrowing imperialism, "... no matter where they are geographically". This is clearer and more distinct than anything that I have been able to mumble in answer here and there to my various questioners."
"Unequal Exchange and the Prospects of Socialism represents a very strong presentation of the political implications of the theory of unequal exchange for left forces in the core/imperialist countries. While I do not share the conclusions in many ways, I believe these are questions which could benefit from fuller discussion. While there are many works already on unequal exchange, its defenders tend to discuss largely its economic functioning, and its detractors its political implications. This book has the singular virtue of arguing both the economic and the political issues."
Excerpt from a review by Immanuel Wallerstein