In The Wretched of the Earth, from 1961, Frantz Fanon argued that
Marxist analyses should always be slightly stretched every time we have to confront the colonial problem.1
This notion is an excellent starting point for reexamining the postcolonial problematic of what Dipesh Chakrabarty calls the “provincializing” of Europe. Within subaltern, postcolonial, and decolonial studies, there are two heterogeneous and competing conceptions of this provincialization of Europe, whose entanglement remains a source of ambiguities. There is, on the one hand, a conception that holds provincialization to be synonymous with the particularization, and thus relativization, of “Eurocentric-European thought,” and Marxist thought in particular. There is, on the other hand, an understanding of provincialization as a stretching that underlines the need for an extension and displacement of the borders of theory beyond Europe, as a condition of possibility of an authentic universalization. The opponents of postcolonial critique have until now almost exclusively seemed to resist the first of these two forms of provincialization, relativization, in that they really perceived it to be a break with anti-colonial thought and struggles for emancipation. But they seemed to be a bit less attentive to the second form–stretching or extension–where they would have seen that this indeed draws on deep roots in anti-colonial thought, and anti-colonial Marxism in particular.
There are many ways to retrace this genealogy, that is, to elucidate the continuities as well as the ruptures that are foundational to the historical-epistemological transition and division from anti-colonialism to postcolonial critique. I look to consider here the problem of the nationalization of Marxism. Usually, this is understood as a simple question of the “adaptation of Marxism to singular conditions”; this does not account for the complexity of the way in which, as Gramsci and C.L.R. James have shown, such a nationalization engages in a process of theoretical and practical translations. The most famous example remains the “sinification” of Marxism led by Mao Zedong. As Arif Dirlik writes, in what is otherwise an unrelenting critique of postcolonial studies: “One of Mao’s greatest strengths as a leader was his ability to translate Marxist concepts into a Chinese idiom”; in other words, he articulated a “vernacularization of Marxism.”2 Here, one can already see that the process of the nationalization of Marxism is not reducible to Stalin’s formula of “national in form, socialist in content.”3