PREVIEW FROM RED SUN MAGAZINE #47:
THIRD-WORLDISM OR MAOISM?
What is “Third-Worldism”? The term has been used to describe mainly two phenomena:
1) The “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM), which is the grouping of countries that originated in the Bandung Conference of 1955, promoted by Nasser, Nehru, Sukarno, Tito and others. In synthesis, it was an “anti-imperialism” under the leadership of the bourgeoisie with the motive of acquiring a more favorable position for some oppressed countries within the imperialist system, through agreements with the superpowers and imperialist powers, which is to say an “anti-imperialism” opposed to the proletarian revolution.
2) The “Third-Worldism” that is presented as a “development” or an “application” of Marxism-Leninism or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and has its origin in groups of intellectuals and organizations mainly in the imperialist countries in the 60’s-70’s. What was put forward by the theoreticians of “Third-Worldism” (Arghiri Emmanuel, Immanuel Wallerstein, Samir Amin and Gottfred Appel are the most well-known) in synthesis, was that the imperialist exploitation of the Third World had not only created a labor aristocracy and a social-chauvinist revisionism in the imperialist countries, but that the whole working class in these countries had turned into a labor aristocracy, which is to say a class that is no longer revolutionary but allied with the imperialist bourgeoisie. The conclusion of the followers of “Third-Worldism” is that it is not possible to make revolution in the imperialist countries and that, consequently, the communists and anti-imperialists in these countries should only dedicate themselves to supporting the struggles in the Third World instead of organizing the proletariat and building Communist Parties to overthrow their own bourgeoisie and build proletarian power through revolutionary war.
In the present article, in the light of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we will focus on the second type of “Third-Worldism” even though, as we will show, it has fundamental points in common with the politics of the NAM and with other bourgeois or petty-bourgeois “anti-imperialist theories”. Look at, for example, the so-called “post-colonialism” or “post-colonial theory”, which is nothing but “post-modernism” applied to the subject of imperialism/ anti-imperialism, essentially putting forward that “Marxism is not valid” for the oppressed peoples of the Third World, because it is “Western” and “Eurocentric”. What all of these non-Marxist “anti-imperialisms” have in common is precisely that: negate, combat and/ or revise Marxism; negate the role of the proletariat as the leading class in the revolution in each country and on a world level, and in that way undermine the union between the national liberation movement and the international proletarian movement.
The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Position
The position of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoists is clear: the contradiction oppressed nations – imperialism today is the main contradiction in the world, and the oppressed nations of the Third World are the base of the world revolution. As the PCP has defined in its International Line:
And as Chairman Gonzalo establishes in the Interview from 1988:
Furthermore, the PCP emphasizes that there exists a revolutionary situation in uneven development in the world, including the imperialist countries:
That is to say that the struggle of the oppressed nations against imperialism is the base of the world revolution and will define the sweeping away of imperialism, with the condition that the proletariat leads it with its ideology, Marxism, today Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, mainly Maoism. The main contradiction determines how the other contradictions are expressed and develop, but it does not annul them. What’s more: “any one of the four fundamental contradictions can be principal according to the specific circumstances of the class struggle, temporarily or in a given country.” (International Line); for example, in an imperialist country the contradiction proletariat – bourgeoisie continues to be the main one. The contradiction oppressed nations – imperialism does not negate the fundamental contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and does not negate the historical role of the proletariat, the only class capable of leading the revolution. It does not negate that the revolutionary situation in uneven development is expressed also in the imperialist countries. As we will see, this is precisely what the “Third-Worldists” want to negate: Marxism, the proletarian leadership, the existence of a revolutionary situation and the strategic offensive of the world proletarian revolution.
A Third-Worldist Book
In 2018 the book The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance by the Danish author Torkil Lauesen was published in English. From 1968 until the 1980s, Lauesen was a member of a group (M-KA – Communist Work Group – Manifesto) in Denmark originally headed by Gottfred Appel and guided by his Third-Worldist “theory”, which they considered a “development” or an “application” of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. Applying this “theory” in practice, this group devoted itself to forming contacts with different national liberation movements in the Third World and gathering resources for these movements, including armed actions to confiscate such resources. The group was dissolved in 1989 when Lauesen and other members were arrested and imprisoned. Today, Lauesen together with Zak Cope and other intellectuals continue publishing books and texts promoting their “Third-Worldist” thesis adapted to the new “leftist theories” in fashion.
Lauesen’s book, like many of the “Third-Worldist” texts, makes a summary of the history of imperialism, of social-chauvinism and how this has formed the thought and politics of the worker’s movement in the imperialist countries. This summary by itself and the facts presented would be beneficial to study for the majority of “leftists” in these countries that have been formed for over a hundred years by this social-chauvinist revisionism that still constitutes the ideological foundation of all kinds of revisionist and anarchist organizations. Here, Lauesen refers to the correct positions of Marx, Engels and Lenin on the matter of the exploitation of the colonies and the implications of that for the class struggle in the imperialist countries:
In the Bernstein quotes, like the following, one can see the origin of the social-chauvinism that today continues to be one of the main characteristics of revisionism: "The colonies are there, and it is necessary to occupy them; I think that a certain guardianship of the civilized peoples over the non-civilized peoples is a necessity.” (Bernstein), and Lauesen explains: "The connections drawn by Bernstein between the interests of the German working class and colonialism were logical. Only colonialism made it possible for the situation of European workers to improve. Colonial profits allowed capital to mitigate the social contradictions within the European countries. It helped turn the dangerous classes into loyal citizens. The specter of revolution was contained." (Lauesen, Torkil. The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance . Kersplebedeb Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
So, concerning the origin and character of revisionism, of reformism and of all social-chauvinist opportunism everything is clear and Lenin’s position continues to be valid and correct:
Third-Worldism in Opposition to Marxism
Although they want to present themselves as fighters against social-chauvinism and good helpers of the anti-imperialist struggles, the “Third-Worldists” in their analysis of history and of the current situation abandon Marxism and reach the same conclusions as reaction and all of revisionism; that Marxism has “failed” due to its “dogmatism”, that the world revolution is in “retreat”, that “new methods” must be sought and above all, that it is not possible nor desirable to organize the proletariat to make revolution in the imperialist countries. Instead of mobilizing the class to combat and crush social-chauvinism, they advocate capitulating to it. They deny what was established by Lenin:
According to Lauesen, Leninism “failed”: “Lenin wanted to mobilize the proletariat below the top tier of the best-paid, unionized workers. His strategy failed.” (Lauesen, torkil. The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance . Kersplebedeb Publishing. Kindle Edition) This is a recurring theme in the book: “State socialism did not provide the example of a better world we had hoped for; both democratic structures and economic progress were lacking.”(ibid.).
Just like the “ex-Maoist” Avakian and other revisionists, Lauesen puts forward that the socialist revolutions “failed” because the communists were “dogmatic” and “nationalists”: “The national interests of socialist states often weighed more heavily than international solidarity in the fight against imperialism. This contributed to the decline of the anti-imperialist movement at the end of the 1970s.”(ibid.) For Lauesen, what “contributed to the decline” wasn’t revisionism, but the “dogmatism” of the communists who struggled against this revisionism. For Lauesen, the problem with the struggles in Vietnam, Palestine and other places was not the command baton of Soviet social-imperialism and the influence of modern revisionism, but that the communists guided by Chairman Mao had “divided” the revolutionary forces: “[the Chinese criticism] caused a major split in the international socialist movement that had negative consequences for socialists everywhere. In hindsight, I believe that the Soviet policy of “peaceful coexistence” was correct. […] In M-KA, we saw the Soviet Union as a tactical ally. In our practical collaboration with liberation movements in Africa and the Middle East we saw that the Soviet Union was playing a positive role on the ground.”(Ibid.)
Just as he denies the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union (in 1956), converting it into a social-imperialist superpower, Lauesen today considers China not as an imperialist superpower but that it “will open up new windows of opportunity for radical social change” and that “the Chinese government increasingly represents the interests of the Global South in international debates.” (ibid.). Lauesen and the “Third-Worldists” have replaced Marxism with pragmatism, and shamelessly deny the struggle between the proletarian position, Marxism, and the bourgeois position among the proletarian ranks, revisionism. Consequently he puts forward that “actually existing socialism—and, with it, the anti-imperialist movement of the 1970s and 80s—vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.” (ibid.) These are the same revisionist positions that we find in other “ex-Marxists” like the Zapatistas in Mexico (which Lauesen extols as an example of the “new methods” that have to replace “authoritarian” and “dogmatic” Marxism) and the followers of Öcalan, as well as in all kinds of revisionist and social-chauvinist organizations in the imperialist countries.
Negating the Proletariat as Leading Class
In order to sustain their revisions of Marxism, the Third-Worldists have had to abandon the Marxist definition of what a class is. According to Lauesen, “The term “class” is used to group together people with the same economic status.” (ibid.) – which is to say more or less the same vulgar definition that the bourgeoisie wants to impose. For Marxists, classes are defined by their relationship to the means of production, and by their class consciousness. Applying this scientific definition, we see that although the differences in living conditions, salary, etc, between different groups of proletarians indeed can affect how the class struggle develops, it doesn’t change the fundamental fact that all proletarians are exploited by the owners of the means of production, and that the contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie is an antagonistic contradiction, that cannot be resolved without the proletarian revolution and the destruction of the bourgeoisie as a class, be it in an oppressed country or an imperialist country. This is an objective, scientific and Marxist truth.
Here we can see the foundation of Third-Worldist revisionism: negating the proletarian revolution, replacing it with a supposed “revolution of the poor against the rich”, with yet another version of non-proletarian “anti-capitalism” which we have already seen in movements like “Occupy”, “ATTAC” and others, which is to say, movements under bourgeois leadership that in the end only serve to mobilize the masses around supposed reforms within the system, for a “more humane capitalism”. Lauesen refers to such movements in positive terms, but the proletarian revolution, as defined in the Communist Manifesto, would supposedly no longer be valid today: “When The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, the call for “workers of the world” to unite did not appear utopian. It does today, if we consider both historical and contemporary realities. Is there really one working class united by exploitation?” (ibid.). Applying his bourgeois definition of classes, he reaches the conclusion that all “Third-Worldists” have in common: “the workers of the Global North have an objective interest in preserving the system.” (ibid.)
In other words, for the “Third-Worldists” the problem of making revolution in an imperialist country is not a problem of subjective factors, of class consciousness, of the need to combat social-chauvinist revisionism and of building Communist Parties. For them the problem is not in that some sectors (and even large sectors) of the working class are under the influence of the ideology and politics of the imperialist bourgeoisie and its revisionist lackeys, but that these workers “objectively” have no interest in destroying the system of exploitation and oppression. It isn’t strange that the “Third-Worldist” theoreticians have to turn to the “theories” of the exploiter classes to “support” such nonsense, because they cannot do it with Marxism. In reality, the objective conditions for revolution in the imperialist countries exist and express themselves more and more in the current struggles.
Although Lauesen admits that there are problems with the “Third-Worldist” theory that he and his organization applied in the 70s-80s, and he admits that the imperialist system today is in crisis and that the “the objective conditions for social change are good.”, in his final conclusions he joins the other revisionists and social-chauvinists, claiming that Marxism and proletarian revolution have “failed”, that one should not destroy the old reactionary states and build the new ones — because “the tools of state power are effective tools of oppression; they are not effective tools of change.” (ibid.). Instead of proletarian revolution, Lauesen proposes following the example of the Zapatistas, of “not to take power, but to exercise it.” (Subcomandante Marcos). He cites so many examples of organizations, governments and reformist movements and “post-Marxists” who supposedly represent the “new path” that must be followed, but he does not mention even with one word the People’s War in Peru, which, since its initiation in 1980 develops as beacon and guide for millions of revolutionary workers and peasants in the world, and he only mentions the people’s war in India in passing.
The current situation is that imperialism finds itself in its general and final crisis, we are entering a new great wave of world proletarian revolution and a revolutionary situation in uneven development is expressed in the whole world. The world proletarian revolution is in its strategic offensive. While the imperialists unfold their redivision of the world and prepare for a third imperialist world war for world hegemony and to redivide the spoils (the oppressed nations), the revolutionary forces advance against all odds, as is shown in the people’s wars and armed struggles under the banner of Maoism in Peru, in India, in the Philippines and other places, in the national liberation struggles in the Third World and in the violent and heroic struggles of the proletariat, even in the imperialist countries. The oppressed countries are the base of the world revolution, and when the people’s wars of the world will converge in a world people’s war against the imperialist world war, the forces of the oppressed nations will encircle the superpowers and imperialist powers, united with the revolutionary forces who struggle within the belly of the beast in the imperialist countries.
In the imperialist countries the contradiction proletariat-bourgeoisie continues to be the main contradiction, expressing itself in violent struggles in the proletarian neighborhoods, in strikes and protests against the old order. The advance of the revolutions in the Third World are inevitably sharpening the objective conditions in the imperialist countries, creating more and more the conditions for the revolution inside the belly of the beast. Imperialism, reaction and revisionism today strive to reinforce the rear of imperialism*, using social-chauvinist revisionism, fascism and liberalism to mobilize the masses in service of the imperialist war and the bourgeois dictatorship, but at the same time we can already see that there exists new organizations in these countries who are for assuming Maoism and the construction or reconstitution of the Communist Parties as militarized Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties, applying the universal ideology to specific conditions to prepare, initiate and develop people’s war.
The essence of “Third-Worldism” is to negate these Marxist truths and replace them with old and rotten bourgeois “theories”. Some do it in a more open way, like Lauesen; others try to present their “Third-Worldism” as a “development” or an “application” of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but in every case it is nothing but a pretext for not doing revolutionary work in the imperialist countries; to postpone the revolution and limit themselves to legal work of creating public opinion or “supporting” the struggles in the Third World. The Communists, on the other hand, uphold the principle that the best way to support revolutions in other countries is to make revolution in one’s own country.
* "And the most important thing in all this is that Social-Democracy [revisionism] is the main channel of imperialist pacifism within the working class -- consequently, it is capitalism's main support among the working class in preparing for new wars and intervention. / But for the preparation of new wars pacifism alone is not enough, even if it is supported by so serious a force as Social-Democracy. For this, certain means of suppressing the masses in the imperialist centres are also needed. It is impossible to wage war for imperialism unless the rear of imperialism is strengthened. It is impossible to strengthen the rear of imperialism without suppressing the workers. And that is what fascism is for.” (J.V. Stalin – Results of the July Plenum of the C.C, C.P.S.U.(B) of the U.S.S.R.)