More often the peoples survived, but their social systems were immobilised by imperial powers interested in strategic advantage or plunder, or both.
Trotsky certainly took uneven development in these three senses as his starting point – as is suggested by the word order in the title of his own theory: “I would put uneven before combined, because the second grows out of the first and completes it”.
To explain the link between the advanced nature of Russian industry on the one hand, and the militancy of Russian workers on the other, Trotsky had to transcend the theory of uneven development, a process he did not complete until the early 1930s.
The inability of uneven development to fully encapsulate these phenomena is what appears to have made Trotsky search for a new concept with which to supplement it.
Colonial rule could even throw societies backwards, as in the case of British-occupied Iraq.
Ruling through the Hashemite monarchy after 1920, the regime deliberately rejected any attempts at modernisation, except in the oil industry.
The ultimately disastrous outcome for the Chinese working class movement was the catalyst for Trotsky to generalise the strategy of permanent revolution from Russia to sections of the colonial and semi-colonial world.
This was not done indiscriminately – since some were still untouched by capitalist development and had no working class of any size – but applied to those places where conditions similar to those in Russia prevailed.
But because these societies did make the transition to the ranks of the advanced societies, either as the centre (Prussia/Germany) or a component part of another national formation (Scotland/Britain) these moments passed with the tensions that caused them.
The other alternative was the path of the colonies or semi-colonies.