By Ragnar V. Røed, september 2018.
Translated for Tjen Folket Media. We take full responsibility for any errors in our translation.
Illustration picture: Gottfred Appel from the danish thirdworldist KAK.
Foreword to english translation
The draft for this text is several years old. It was mainly written before the rectification campaign of Tjen Folket, beginning in 2018. It is lacking in the understanding of Peoples War and Gonzalo Thought. It might also be some errors, especially since it is not based on a thorough study of the Appel/KAK-group of Denmark.
And, as all texts, there are room for making it better and more on-point. It is not to be read as a final standard work, but as work in progress trying to unravel the revisionist tendency of Third Worldism or Lin Biaoism. I hope it might be helpful in this matter.
The Author, August 2019
This article is a commentary on an article published under the name “Leading Light Communist Organization” (LLCO). I do not know if LLCO actually exists as a real organization, or if it is exclusively an internet phenomenon. There exist some individuals in the US and England who have apparently been public spokespersons for this “group”, but I do not know if it is one person or ten who are actually a part of it.
There are some serious problems with addressing such a group. One wishes for instance not to give this type of group legitimacy, or to make them up to be more important than they really are. There are two reasons that I nonetheless use their article as a starting point in this text.
First, whether or not the LLCO is a real or serious organization, ‘Third Worldism’ is an actual political tendency with a degree of influence. It has never been particularly large or powerful, but it has inspired several organizations and environments in the West, which has gathered some handfuls of people. And their thinking has influenced many more.
In 2012, Tjen Folket experienced that there had been created a faction of Third Worldists who attempted to split the organization. When the faction did not succeed, they shortly after went to bourgeois media to attack Tjen Folket, and snitched to the police. Not long after this, the faction unraveled – partially due to internal contradictions and partially due to what we may refer to as external influences… In Denmark in the 1960s and 70s, there were some groups inspired by Gotfred Appel, the man behind the “parasite state theory” that can be taken as a central theory in Third Worldism. One of these became an armed group (the bourgeois media and the police referred to them as the Blekingegade Gang) that robbed banks for income for the Palestinian PFLP. In Sweden, parts of the so-called Rebellrörelsen were inspired by Appel. In the US, there have been several such organization. Most known is perhaps the relatively bizarre project “MIM” (Maoist Internationalist Movement), a project that was put down quite a few years ago. On YouTube, one can find internet personality Jason Unruhe, who stands for Third Worldism, who is also relatively “special”.1 And one also has the more serious anti-imperialism.org. There are also groups in the same category or direction that are better developed, theoretically stronger – and more dangerous – than them. The Third Worldist direction has a certain degree of support, even if the LLCO does not necessary have it.
Secondly, I believe that this text from LLCO raises a number of fundamental questions and is a good starting point for stacking Maoism up against Third Worldism. Whether or not the text is a good representation of the theory is up to Third Worldists to determine.
The text that the LLCO has written is an “answer” to another apparent internet-group in France: “Response to first worldist gonzaloists in France”.
Here it must be emphasized that the group is fairly obscure. It is not a representative for Maoists or Gonzalo Thought (the foremost Maoist organization in France is Parti Maoïste Communiste, and they have nothing to do with the aforementioned blog).
This article is a commentary to the LLCO “answer” and a commentary to the Third Worldist standpoint in general. My claim is that Third Worldism is another variant of revisionism, and that it breaks fundamentally with Marxism. It therefore represents not a “friend with flaws” or a theory within Maoism, but is a variation of the hostile and bourgeois revisionism.
Here in Norway, this direction, even if it is extremely limited, has caused greater damage than its small size would suggest. And I think that the biggest problem with it is that it appeals to a lack of initiative and passivity. It legitimizes young revolutionaries withdrawing from the struggle, or opting for “internet activism” above the class struggle. It is a very “comfortable” standpoint to take for young revolutionaries in Western countries: that building communist parties here is impossible. It opens the door for complete capitulation and retreat.
Against this, we must place Lenin’s condition that the real internationalism – the real solidarity – is not only to give practical support to the struggles in the oppressed countries, but to raise the revolutionary struggle in one’s own country. This also applies to those who live in “the first world”, in the imperialist states, where the material living conditions among the majority is much better than those living in the third world. To wage revolutionary struggle in the West can, in both form and context, differentiate itself dramatically from the struggle in the third world, but the struggle is within its contents all the same. And here as well, the struggle demands discipline, sacrifice, and active organizing from all revolutionaries.
There is a dangerous potential in the Third Worldist thinking that short put entails that all in the first world (rich imperialist countries), including the proletariat of these countries, are one single corrupt and parasitic unity – and that therefore there only exists true revolutionary potential in the third world. Their conclusion is that communist parties in the first world will only be chauvinists and social democrats, because there is no objective, material basis for revolutionary struggle here. This makes them a revisionist and in practice anti-communist direction, as the logical conclusion of their thinking taken in its entirety.
To conclude this introduction, I must underscore that this is by no means a condemnation of each individual that takes the Third Worldist standpoint. There are good revolutionaries and honest comrades who fully or partially come to the same conclusions as this direction. Third Worldists take the most important contradiction in world society (between imperialist states and the world’s oppressed peoples and nations) as a starting point, and point out the screeching inequality and unfairness that follows from imperialism. It is not unnatural that people might draw conclusions similar to that of Third Worldism with this as a background.
It is not even unnatural that comrades might see Third Worldism as a complete explanation of the relative weakness of communists in the imperialist countries, or that one uses it to explain their own obstacles and their own shortcomings. I can completely understand this, and such thinking is to me more sympathetic than when a reformist looks completely away from imperialism and limits themselves to working for improved living conditions in the West.
Our task is to present Maoism to these comrades, as the correct analysis and line for resolving the entirely real problem that Third Worldism points out, and to use Maoism to reveal how inadequate Third Worldism’s “analyses” truly are. And not least, to expose Third Worldism as a revisionist line and develop true proletarian internationalism as a theoretical and practical alternative.
Lin Biao and Revisionism
The LLCO writes that
Lin Biao’s view was that it is a proletarian duty to support the upsurge of revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggles in the Third World that together could be seen as a kind of global people’s war.
Lin Biao was one of the leaders in the Communist Party of China. It was revealed that he had worked in secret for a coup and wished to orient China closer to Soviet-revisionism. He died in a plane crash when he attempted to flee to the Soviet Union. Lin Biao went against Mao and against the Communist Party of China’s general line for struggle against revisionism.
The LLCO emphasizes that it is a proletarian duty to support revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggles. No true communist would disagree with this. We all wish to support revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggles. We all place great weight on this. Maoists have always placed enormous weight on anti-imperialism.
But in this concrete example, the LLCO lifts forward Lin Biao explicitly because he supported the revisionists in Cuba and Algeria, even though they were closely allied with social imperialists in the Soviet Union.
In other words, the LLCO seems to suggest that “support for revolutionary struggles in the third world” not only means struggle against imperialism, but also direct support for revisionists in these countries. And furthermore to support them if they are closely allied with imperialists like, for instance, the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Their “anti-imperialism” is in other words not about being against imperialism, but being against one imperialist (the US) by allying themselves with another (USSR/Russia). The LLCO further writes that:
Lin Biao’s line was one that advocated support for popular and anti-imperialist forces even if they were not in line with China’s perceived narrow interests against the Soviet revisionists. China, under Lin Biao’s influence, was still expressing support for the struggles of Cuba and Algeria, for example. The point here is that Lin Biao’s support for liberation struggles was not limited to only those struggles that were seen to align with China against the Soviets.
They dismiss the Chinese communists’ struggle against Soviet revisionism and imperialism. They call it an expression of “perceived narrow interests” and believe that China should have supported Cuba’s Fidel Castro like Lin Biao, according to what they propagate. This is a bourgeois view on the struggle between China and the Soviet Union (narrow interests) and is a line for accepting revisionism. Bourgeois historians claim hardheadedly that Mao went against the Soviet Union for purely geopolitical or personal reasons. This is logical if one looks away from the class struggle, or attempts to hide it – consciously or otherwise. And it is in line with the bourgeois claim that politics and history only have to do with great individual leaders and their personal whims.
The Communist Party of China broke with the revisionists in the Soviet Union because they were traitors against socialism and the proletariat. Revisionists abolished the dictatorship of the proletariat through Khrushchev’s coup. They arrested, persecuted, and murdered revolutionary leaders. And after having consolidated power, they introduced a fascist dictatorship within the country, and expanded imperialism across other countries. They oppressed and exploited Eastern Europe, and they had military imperialist operations in several parts of Africa – for instance in Angola and Ethiopia. Soviet imperialists were the enemies of all the peoples of the world, and mortal enemies of the world’s true communists and national democratic leaders.
To claim that the Communist Party of China should have walked away from their “narrow interests” and seek unity with Soviet revisionism is centrism. Centrism is a form of opportunism that attempts to situate itself between the proletarian line and the bourgeois line, in a way that will unite right and left instead of isolating the right side and pushing forth the red line. Third Worldism is at best centrism, and at worst is a complete kowtow to the rightist line and a betrayal of the proletariat and communism.
From Class Struggle to Struggle Between Countries
In today’s context thirdworldism means full support to Hugo Chavez and the Bolivian government, when the LLCO writes:
This religiosity is shown in their incredible level of sectarianism; this is a group that claims that Chavez’ Bolivarian regime in Venezuela is a bureaucrat capitalist one, a comprador enemy of the proletariat. They make this claim even though the Bolivarian regime has come under repeated attack by the imperialists. The CIA has repeatedly tried to overthrow the regime
If this “Bolivarian” government is not bureaucracy-capitalist, it means that the bourgeoisie’s state has been smashed and today’s state is socialist or new democratic. In other words, this state is no longer the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but a dictatorship lead by the proletariat [and its communist party] in an alliance with other classes. Either this, or the LLCO is operating with a completely different understanding of what a state is, an understanding that they make no attempt to define theoretically, and one which is completely unknown to the five great Marxist classics.
Or is this a reprise of Trotsky’s theory of a “degenerated worker’s state”, where the bureaucracy has taken the power, but where the state nonetheless – by some mystical manner – continued to have the character of being the proletariat’s state? Trotsky claimed that since the Soviet Union was a worker’s state (in the hands of “evil” Stalin and his bureaucracy), then it was necessary to tactically “support” the Soviet Union against other imperialists. In practice, this “support” consisted of accepting and spreading the bourgeois anti-communist propaganda against the Soviet Union, along with infiltrating communist parties and sabotaging people’s war. It would not come as a surprise if Third Worldists and Trotskyists would tomorrow reach the same conclusion on theoretical grounds, as they in any event find unity on the question of working methods.
If a government is good because the CIA has tried to overthrow it, then we must conclude that Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are anti-imperialists who should be supported by communists. Both Assad in Syria and ISIS are under attack from imperialists. It is also “religious sectarianism” to call Assad a comprador and bureaucrat or to condemn ISIS as fascists? This must be the logic of Third Worldists. And most likely, many of them have ended up wholeheartedly supporting everything from Saddam, Assad, and Gaddafi in one moment, then the Ayatollah in Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and ISIS in Iraq in the next. And of course, the revisionist government in North Korea.
Does Third Worldism ignore classes and class character? Has it replaced class struggle with a pure geopolitical struggle – country against country, instead of class against class?
It seems so. But real communists cannot do so. Marxists (today Maoists) cannot judge a state without judging its class character. We can support Venezuela’s independence against the CIA and and the US’s plots – and we can do so without reservations. But if we are to say anything useful about the “Bolivarian” government and the state it leads, we must necessarily say something about their class character.
The state was never smashed in Venezuela. The bourgeois bureaucracy-capitalist state was only “taken over” by Chavez and his party. They were able to do so because Chavez was an officer and had strong support in the military, and because of support among the people who led him to election victory within the parliamentary system. But they did not take property from the bourgeoisie. They did not smash the state apparatus. They did not abolish capitalism. They did not socialize the means of production. They did not smash the fascist groups or the organizations of US-imperialism within the country. All this is background for the great economic crises in today’s Venezuela. They do not have the tools needed to solve the crises that the country experiences, because it is still a capitalist country. The class character of the state is the same as before the Chavez-government: it is bureaucracy-capitalist, just like the rest of the countries in Latin America and the third world for that matter.
The comprador bourgeoisie is the part of the bourgeoisie in oppressed countries that profit off of imperialism and works in tandem with it. The US’s nearest friends in Venezuela are unsatisfied with today’s government. But other imperialists are incredibly satisfied. Russia and China have only fond words to say about the “Bolivarian” regime. Old imperialists have merely been replaced by new ones! Instead of cooperation with US-imperialism, the “Bolivarian” government has connected itself closely with the US competition internationally. But still, the US remains the largest trade partner for Venezuela. Venezuela both imports goods from the US, as well as exports them there, to large degrees. Following the US comes China and India. In short, Venezuela remains economically and politically a part of the imperialist world system.
Only new democracy or socialism can fundamentally break with imperialism. To play off of contradictions and gain better agreements is something that each and every bourgeois government in the third world can do if they please. And they do so – all the time. India and Brazil are both oppressed countries in the imperialist system, but their leaders of course attempt to maneuver for themselves a larger slice of the “cake”, by entering into new agreements or canceling others with other powers. This does not make them anti-imperialists. In fact, it is only the same old capitalist competition between capitalists, lifted to a geopolitical level. To support small imperialists or compradors against the larger ones is like revolutionaries supporting Pepsi Cola against Coca Cola…
Even socialist states can – and will – participate in diplomacy. But it is not diplomatic skill in regards to other states that determines whether the state is a dictatorship of the proletariat or not. Their class content is first and foremost determined by inner contradictions in the individual state, in line with Mao’s evaluation that the inner contradictions are primary and external influences are secondary.
Is There a Basis for Revolutionary Struggle in the First World?
The LLCO writes that:
The French Gonzaloists, like all First Worldists, hold that there is a significant revolutionary social base, a proletariat, in the First World. They believe that countries like the United States, for example, have the objective conditions for revolution even if the subjective may be lacking. They believe there is a combination of ideological and organizational policies that can unlock the masses of the First World to rise up in socialist revolution at present. They believe this even though it is obviously not true.
Yet how many proletarians does it take, according to the Third Worldist view, to comprise a “significant revolutionary social base”? In 2011, 3 million children in US households lived on under 2 USD a day per person. That is to say less than 17 kroner per day per household! Roughly 40 million are considered to be officially living in poverty. These numbers have been contested, and they may be give-or-take, but nobody can contest that there are millions of people with incredibly little money in the US.
Even with a superficial knowledge of the US, it is obvious that there are many tens of millions of poor proletarians in the country. If you include all the forms of gross oppression – the oppression of nations, racism, sexism, chauvinism, and so on – then there are incredibly many people in the US who have a great and direct need for a new society. There are millions that have such a strong need that it has to do with their lives and health and the lives and health of their families. Are ten million “significant” as a revolutionary social base? Is it 20, 30, or 50? Or 100? Well – if it were “only” ten million, then it would make an enormous difference if a large portion of them were organized as a revolutionary movement! To place disproportionate focus on dollars per day, the way Third Worldists have a tendency to do, is nonetheless very one-sided. The revolutionary potential among the people cannot be measured exclusively in dollars.
Nonetheless, there are few – if any – Maoists in the West who claim that the objective conditions for a socialist revolution are ripe in all imperialist countries right now. The objective conditions for revolution for Leninists regards people not being able to find themselves in the condition of things and that the rulers cannot manage to rule in the old ways. Where is the quote where Maoists – unconditionally – claim that these conditions are ripe today to large degrees? That revolution is the primary tendency in the world today must not be confused with the idea that it is simply a matter of lighting a match to spark the prairie fire in the imperialist countries.
On the other hand, Maoists claim that it is possible to organize for revolution and to organize very many people for revolution, even in the imperialist countries. And Maoists claim that communists can and must begin the protracted people’s war already today under the current conditions. There exist large and acute contradictions to take hold of already, and there does not exist any other way to the dictatorship of the proletariat than to seize, develop, and maintain power through protracted people’s war. No revolutions have started with a majority immediately standing behind its banners, but all have started with somebody lifting it and fighting for it. This is our task, even here in the imperialist countries.
Third Worldism is Revisionism
Furthermore, Maoists say that it has long been a great problem among the “left-wing” in the West that one is “waiting for the revolution to come”. These so-called revolutionaries have argued for hundreds of years in the same manner that the LLCO has done by saying that “the objective material conditions are not in place just yet” for revolutionary struggle. This is a classic argument among a number of people who call themselves Marxist-Leninists and communists, but for a variety of reasons are against militant struggle and clandestine organizing. We call them dogmatic revisionists. They are dogmatic (orthodox) in theory, where they defend Marxism’s phrases, but they are revisionists in practice, as they completely lack initiative, or simply operate purely reformist. We see this among Trotskyists, Hoxhaists, and a number of other groups and parties.
Third Worldists can be found among all the others who are waiting for the right objective conditions and will reduce organizing in the West to first and foremost “support for revolutionaries and anti-imperialist struggles in the third world”, including support to leaders like Castro and Chavez.
This is yet another sign that Third Worldism is a revisionist direction, a direction squarely within revisionism. It is a pre-Marxist direction with roots in the communist movement before the Cultural Revolution in China and before Chairman Gonzalo and the CPC formulated Maoism as a third and universally applicable stage of Marxism.
Not only is this a typical revisionist direction, but for however much they call themselves “Third Worldists”, it is a fairly exclusively first worldist group. They exist almost exclusively in imperialist countries. They resemble other groups in the West, and they do not look anything like the large revolutionary movements in the third world. The position of waiting for “better objective conditions” and digging oneself into “analyses” (gathering data) before waging class struggle, is stereotypically first worldist and petit bourgeois politics. The West’s “left-wing” is full of so-called analysts, who by and large cut and paste numbers from different bourgeois and petit bourgeois sources, rub a little red paint over it, and present it as groundbreaking thought. It is armchair radicalism and nothing more.
Third Worldism is Mechanical
The LLCO writes that
No amount of ideology and organization will create revolution in the First World anytime soon. This is, of course, why French Gonzaloists, despite their own dubious claims that they have an advanced line, are an extremely small, insignificant force in their own First World homeland.
The LLCO writes this in a text that accuses others of being metaphysical. But first, it is simply not true that there exist large and significant communist movements in all third world countries. In fact, no people’s war is being waged in the majority of these countries. Secondly, it is not as if the group that the LLCO writes it polemic against would have necessary done much better if the objective conditions in France were more inclined towards revolution… Perhaps they would have just as little influence in another situation as well. Their lonely condition can have other causes than the fact that they call an imperialist country their homeland.
Furthermore, Third Worldists place all weight on material conditions, on the living conditions of the proletariat, and no weight on organizing and ideology. It would be metaphysical to place all weight on ideology, but it is mechanical to place all weight on material conditions. To operate mechanically is metaphysics’ twin soul. They both break with the dialectic-materialist method, which is Marxism’s method. Without materialism, dialectics becomes a mere fantasy, and without dialectics, materialism becomes flat and lifeless. Neither dialectics nor materialism alone can describe reality correctly. Only together can they form an understanding of how the world is connected and develops.
Most Maoists see that imperialism and the material conditions in imperialist countries are important factors in the political situation within them. But nonetheless, we claim that it is possible to carry out revolutionary work and that this is the only factor that matters in the bigger picture.
Third Worldists are one-sided on this point, and not scientific, even if they claim again and again that their scientific method distinguishes them from most others. Science is not just about counting numbers, but it also has to do with analyzing the figures in connection with indicators and creating tools to go further.
But a mechanical thinking of this type is of course a great comfort to groups that are small and lack support, like the Third Worldists themselves… All they have to do is blame the objective conditions if anybody wonders why they are so weak and have had such little progress.
Third Worldism Sees Only One Contradiction
The LLCO writes that
The real reason First World people do not make revolution is fairly obvious to those who think about it in an honest way. The reason First World people do not rise up is that life is too good for them.
There are several things that this position cannot explain:
If people do not make revolution because life is “too good” for them, then perhaps if life is “too bad”, then people will make revolution? Despite this, there are billions of people in the world who do not make revolution, despite the deplorable material situation for the proletariat in the third world. There are a number of countries where the majority lives in deep poverty, all without them rising up. Therefore, it is obvious that this cannot be the only factor. It is not a given that poor people will rise up because they have a difficult life, and it is certainly not a given that they will seize power and establish socialism. Lenin’s book What is to be done? is a break from economism, a tendency that holds that misery will automatically lead to socialist consciousness. The book is a struggle for the truth of revolutionary theory. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movements, he concludes.
The Third Worldists’ thinking does not explain why so many people nonetheless rise up in imperialist countries either. It does not explain the uprisings in the French suburbs, or in Stockholm’s suburbs, or in London, or Ferguson, USA, or in any of the other places where people – and especially many young people – in the imperialist countries risk their lives and health to rebel against the police and the state. It does not explain why, in the 1970s, revolutionary movements could be established with mass support, even if the “first world” was imperialist then as well. The reality shows that people can rebel even if they are relatively speaking privileged when compared with the world’s poorest.
In short, the claim is one-sided. That life is “too good” for people is something we hear often – but as a rule, it comes from bourgeois politicians and social democrats, and not people who call themselves communists. We see a degree of truth in it nonetheless. Consumerism, adequate access to goods, films and TV shows, music, video games, vacations, low crime rates, a warm shower every day – all things that make revolutionary sacrifice a lot less tempting in the imperialist countries. But in the third world, a lot of people have the “opposite” obstacle – that they cannot risk losing work or income, because they have families that are dependent on them. As individuals, they cannot “afford” to organize themselves for revolution.
That people in the third world only have their chains to lose is a little one-sided and not 100% correct. As a class, the proletariat has only their chains to lose, but the individual proletariat and peasant has their lives and their children to lose. And most of them have days where life is worth living. Very many people have dedicated their lives to the revolution not exclusively because the choice has been between revolution and starvation, but for more complex reasons and backgrounds.
In short, the world is not so one-dimensional and simple as the Third Worldists would have us believe. In addition, there are many people who feel that life is not that great in the imperialist countries either. This is seen in psychological problems, alienation and suicide, in unemployment, drug abuse, and the great pull towards escapism. And many people are deeply upset over environmental destruction, war, imperialism, and the general condition of humanity on the global level.
These are things that real revolutionaries can use to show capitalism’s ugliness and illogical nature. Meanwhile, the bourgeois politicians prefer to paint a picture of people in the imperialist countries living the good life, and that this welfare is being threatened by hordes of refugees from the third world. It seems as if the LLCO is playing the same chords as the bourgeois politicians, rather than revealing that even parasitic imperialist countries cannot give their masses a good life. It is a dangerous game, and one that can easily end up with confirming the worldview of pure fascists, instead of attempting to rip it to shreds to the benefit of solidarity and proletarian internationalism.
Third Worldism is Economism
The LLCO writes:
For example, the average American, who is 25 or older, has an income of 32,000 dollars per year. By contrast, most people in the Third World barely survive on less than 1,000 dollars a year. For example, there are more people in India who make under a dollar a day than there are people residing in the United States. The average, per capita, income in Bangladesh is 1,092 dollars per year, but most people make much less. Most people in Bangladesh make roughly 620 dollars per year or lower.
Total dollar amounts is not everything. There is, for instance, great differences in cost of living from country to country (bread, rice, rent, etc. does not have the same price in the US as it does in India). But nonetheless, the numbers of course show a real and incredibly large difference between people in the US and people in third world countries. Most Maoists would recognize this great difference, recognize that it first and foremost is the result of imperialism, and recognize that it has serious consequences for both the people’s political consciousness and the masses’ organizing.
But here as well there is a one-sided focus exclusively on this. For instance, we suspect that if one were to compare the average worker in France in 1850 with the masses in India in 1850, the difference would be striking as well – without it having robbed the French proletariat of their revolutionary potential.
Europeans migrated from Europe to the US and carried out massacres against the indigenous peoples there. Nonetheless, there was a revolutionary potential present among the European proletariat, even among settlers! There is another factor here than simple dollars per day that plays an important role. It has to do with power and social privileges. And the effect goes both ways.
According to Lenin, one of Marx’s foremost realizations is that the relation to exchange of goods in capitalism is not the relation between things, but a relation between people. Revolutionary potential cannot be measured exclusively in dollars – neither in the US nor in India. Despite the Indian Maoists’ protracted people’s war, waged for 40 years, it remains a fact that the majority of people in the country still do not take part in this struggle.
To simply paint the proletariat’s interests in kroner and øre – or dollars – is to make the same error that Lenin criticizes as “economism” in the classic What is to be done?. Third Worldists have this economism in common with most other social democrats and revisionists.
The World is not a Chessboard
Once again, we must point out that reality is more complex than the Third Worldists make it out to be. We recognize imperialism’s tendency to bourgeoisify the people closest to power, but we maintain that this is not the only thing that matters when we develop our strategy for the imperialist countries. Our most important task is to find the areas where it is nonetheless possible to raise struggles and organize the people for people’s war, and this is our most important contribution to world communism.
And it is impossible to build communism in the entire world without building proletarian power in all parts of the world – even in today’s imperialist countries. Third Worldism does not have a strategy for building red power or for waging protracted people’s war. They see the world as a giant chessboard, or another board game with few and transparent contradictions. And they wish to knowingly and willingly hand over all the “pieces” in the West into the hands of the bourgeoisie, since they are already lost in their eyes…
Third Worldism has an Un-Marxist Class Analysis
The LLCO writes that:
The average American, like the traditional bourgeoisie, does not engage in productive labor. He does not work in a factory or farm. Rather, he works in the non-productive sector, in an office, in management, or in sales, for example. Wal-Mart shopping centers are the biggest employers in the United States. Unlike Marx’s industrial worker, the Wal-Mart worker produces nothing. Wal-Mart only distributes commodities produced in the Third World.
In this context, we will not engage in the discussion of whether only the productive workers are true proletarians. We wish only to briefly point out that not all proletarians are productive labourers. Marx’s productive worker is a worker that creates profit. Marx says that profit is not created in the circulation of goods, but he has nowhere claimed that only those who create profit are workers. Nor has he anywhere said that the petit bourgeoisie or the bourgeoisie cannot contribute to creating profit. There are productive petit bourgeoisies and there are non-productive proletarians. Neither Marx, Lenin, not Mao uses the “production of profit” as a criteria when defining class.
In his classic text on classes in the Chinese society, Mao defines service workers (for instance, rickshaw drivers) as a part of the lowest layer of the proletariat.2 Marx writes in Capital about non-productive workers and non-productive labour carried out by the proletariat.3 And Lenin writes:
Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.4
It is simply too one-sided to consider all the people in the rich countries as part of the same class. Within these countries, there is an enormous difference between relations to the means of production, the role in the social organization of labour power, the share of social wealth, and how that share is gained. Even if one could argue that all in the imperialist countries have some opportunities that give them a share of the labour of the masses in the third world, one must be completely politically blind to not see the class differences within the capitalist countries.
And it is nonsense to accuse people who do heavy labour for ten hours a day only to have a roof over their heads and food on the table of participating in the exploitation and plunder of the third world.
Capitalist Economy is the Relation Between People, Not Things
Furthermore, it is not entirely true that “productive” in Marx’s context means “creates material things”. The service industry can be productive if it creates profit. Marx writes that a teacher in a private school that sells education as a good is engaged in productive (profit-generating) labour. The capitalist economy is not a relation between things, but the relation between people. And the productive factor in the capitalist economy is human labour in its profit-generating activity, not physical products on an assembly line or in the earth. Their exchange value is drawn from the labour that created it, not their utility – as Marx classified as use value.
The Same Error as Career Revisionist Bernstein
It is interesting that just like in Bernstein’s perversion of Marxism, Third Worldists also equate class criteria with the production of profit. Bernstein writes about the creation of value in a similar manner to the Third Worldists, claiming that only the “primary sectors” (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc.) are true value creation. This is a bourgeois view, where value is seen as things (one potato, one shoe, one machine), and not as the relation between people (one labour hour, one service, one loan).
Third Worldists Twist the Facts
The LLCO writes on the condition in the US that:
It pays to produce nothing. The high level of some incomes gives the average American more access to capital than many capitalists in the Third World. Furthermore, the average American often partakes, like the traditional bourgeoisie, in small business and investment opportunities (investments in stocks or bonds through investment firms, bank accounts, and retirement plans).
We are not intimately familiar with the conditions in the US, but we know that in Europe, it is by no coincidence that people often partake in small businesses and investments that can be compared to those of the bourgeoisie. We do not believe that it is uncommon, even among the proletariat in the third world, to have a bank account and save for one’s retirement. If we are incorrect, we would certainly like to know it, but we believe that the ability to save money in a bank is not in and of itself something that makes people bourgeois.
Nonetheless, the reality for hundreds of millions in the imperialist countries is that they are not net investors, but on the contrary net debtors. The typical proletarian in Europe and the US must take on a lot of debt to find a place to live, and usually for other reasons as well. Something that has led to people losing their homes in the crisis of 2008. It is not very bourgeois to be homeless because one is not able to make loan payments to the bank…
Here we see a certain double standard being applied, where Third Worldists call workers in the West “net exploiters” since they maintain that they have more income than their labour corresponds to – but they “forget” to take debts and expenses into account. This is unscientific, especially when it comes from somebody who claims to be incredibly concerned with facts and removing ideological biases.
Consumption in the West Must Be Significantly Reduced, But…
The LLCO writes that:
The average American accrues collective benefits as a member of his First World society. The average American has the benefit of access to modern, working infrastructure. The average American partakes in a rich culture of consumption and luxury provided by imperialist exploitation of the Third World. The average American has a modern, bourgeois lifestyle; he owns or has access to computers, video games, ovens, refrigerators, televisions, stereos, automobiles or modern transportation, clothing, sports equipment, music equipment and art materials, etc. Also, the average American has access to a wide range of food from all over the world.
Setting aside the fact that there are many people who do not have these privileges in the West, we recognize that there are many who do have them, as a purely factual observation. That these privileges are to large degrees due to imperialism is something that we also recognize. It is a situation that cannot persist – not under socialism, and not even under capitalism. If capitalism is to survive much longer, a great deal of these goods must be reduced. This process is already underway in many countries, with Greece as a good example, where wages and consumption have been drastically cut. These cuts are underway in many countries in Europe – real wages and consumption have gone down in many places.
Furthermore, many people in the West understand that consumerism is not only a blessing, but also a curse. Indirectly because it is destroying the planet that all of humanity depends on. Directly because consumerism destroys the body, self-image, and other sides of mental health.
And it should be mentioned that even in the Third World, there are TV shows, pornography, religious sects, alcohol, drugs, political parties, populism, corruption, and a number of other things that dull, numb, buy off, and pacify. The problem with the apathy that results from consumerism is in other words not particular to those who wish to organize people in the West – it is also a problem in the third world.
Are Third Worldists Just Lying About the World’s Poorest?
The LLCO writes that:
Even the poorest Americans, like the traditional bourgeoisie, sample foods from around the world on a regular basis. Americans, for example, in a single shopping day consumed roughly the equivalent in adjusted dollars as the entire Gross National Product of Bangladesh for an entire year.
We do not believe that even the poorest Americans live a life of gastronomic luxury. It is not so in Europe in any event. The average person perhaps has access to larger quantities of consumer goods, but the poorest wait in lines to get bread from plastic bags at the church, or dive in dumpsters. Either the Third Worldists are lying, or they are so privileged and petit bourgeois and alienated from the masses that they don’t even know that there are millions of incredibly poor people in the Western imperialist countries. People who have to eat only what they can afford, and seldom have a diet that could be called “gastronomic”.
More Un-Marxist and One-Sided Views on Class
The LLCO writes:
Like First World peoples as a whole, like the traditional bourgeoisie, Americans have far more to lose than their chains. In most of these respects, America is not that different from the rest of the First World.
[The LLCO], by contrast, agree with Karl Marx that the proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains.
We cannot accept this as a scientific definition of the proletariat. Marx and Engels say that the proletariat has nothing to lose but their chains in a communist revolution. This is written in the galvanizing conclusion of The Communist Manifesto. But it would be totally incorrect to twist this to means “only those who have nothing to lose but their chains are the proletariat”.
Does not the individual proletarian in India have something else to lose in a revolutionary struggle? Revolutionary war is life-threatening – they have their lives to lose, they have families to lose, they have children. Participation is at the expense of getting or keeping a job, which again, is necessary for the family. Most people also have some personal property, a place to live, clothes, and so on.
It is not our intention to imply that we are ourselves familiar with the situation for poor people in the third world, but the constant night and day portrayal of the Third Worldists is just so simplified and one-sided that it is simply incorrect. For people who depict themselves as those closest to scientists, they are conspicuously one-sided and mechanical.
It requires more than poverty to motivate a person to take the risk entailed in making revolution. And despite the fact that one may have something to lose, the motivation can nonetheless be strong enough that one will offer everything. Not just on the individual level, or as exceptions, but also for larger groups of people.
Cutting Consumption is Necessary, But Not Just Evil
The LLCO writes that
Under an equal, socialist, anti-imperialist distribution of the social product, most First World people, including First World workers, will lose out in a big way. They will see their discretionary income decline. Their First World lifestyle and culture of consumption will be ended.
We absolutely agree that when the imperialist states are smashed and socialism is established, it entails an enormous cut in consumption in the West. It also entails returning stolen land and other materials, for instance the large volume of art that was stolen and is today exhibited in Western museums. Individualistic consumerism must also be ended, to the benefit of the collective and sustainable solutions. But there is a good chance that much of this will need to be done within capitalism and imperialism as well! The 2008 crisis meant such cuts for the masses and we believe that the near future will bring more. The general crisis in imperialism demands great transformations and lower living standards, even in the West.
Nonetheless – capitalism’s fall also means the fall of overconsumption, which is not only good for the environment, the planet, and the people in the third world, but also has some positive sides for the masses in the West – both physically and psychologically.
Third Worldists Equate Friend and Foe
On the people in the imperialist countries, the LLCO writes:
They will be forced to pay reparations to the Third World for all that they have stolen through imperialism.
Even though we agree that some form of reparations to colonies and exploited countries are in place, we disagree entirely with the formulation of the form “we have stolen” or “they have stolen” in regards to the masses in the imperialist countries. We do not believe that this is an accidental phrasing, but rather an expression of the Third Worldists genuinely believing that the masses in the West have plundered the third world. This implies that they are to be handled in the same manner as the rulers in these countries.
It is not the masses who have the power in these countries; it is the monopoly bourgeoisie. It is the upper layer of the imperialist bourgeoisie that rules through its class dictatorship. It is their states, their companies, and their apparatus of violence that plunders the poorest countries. That they consider themselves served with high consumption and relatively well-fed masses does not mean that they are part of the class of rulers.
Again, Third Worldists are completely one-sided here, and handle all imperialist countries as a monolith, from top to bottom. It is like holding all Germans responsible for Hitler, or all Indians for the state leader Modi.
Mao says that the communists’ strategy is to gather as many as possible and to isolate the enemy as much as possible. Third Worldists appear to be completely uninterested in isolating the enemy as much as possible, as they categorize 1 billion people in the imperialist countries as the “global bourgeoisie” and the “global 1%”. Simple arithmetic and a cursory search on the internet reveals that those who live in the first world make up at least 15% of the world’s population, so for the sake of scientific integrity, they should at least refer to them as “the global one-seventh”… But perhaps this doesn’t roll off of the tongue as easily for Third Worldists, who are obsessed with ethos rather than logos when they call themselves the “leading light”, but remain mired in the deepest darkness of defeatism and revisionism.
It is telling that both the bourgeois leaders and revisionists in the third world are considered to be friends of the people, while the entire proletariat in the imperialist countries (many hundreds of millions of normal people) are considered to be a part of the parasitic enemy. Third Worldists call enemies their friends, and friends for enemies.
Third Worldists Cannot Explain Popular Struggle in the West
The LLCO writes that:
Furthermore, the First World lifestyle is not ecologically sustainable. It must be ended by socialism. First World people are aware of this at some level. This is why First World people do not align with the international proletariat in the Third World. This is why there is no record of any serious revolutions in the First World. Even Paris, 1968 proves our point. Workers went back to their jobs for double-digit raises. Their greedy retreat just shows that even an event as big as Paris, 1968 was not a real revolution, but merely a way for First World workers to renegotiate their position so they can get a bigger piece of the imperial pie.
Third Woirldists say that they are simply being scientific, yet they claim that workers in France in 1968 undertook a “greedy retreat” in order to gain a larger share of the imperialist “pie”. Again: a totally one-sided depiction of reality. They do not mention the treason of the French “communist party” or the fact that hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people nonetheless waged struggle. They blame the entire movement – the entire class, even – for the leadership’s betrayal, without reflecting upon the compromises that even revolutionary movements in the third world have entered – for instance in Nepal.
This is not scientific or Marxist – they simply apply the same conclusion to every situation: The material goods that the Western masses enjoy causes them to consciously (and greedily!) opt out of revolution.
The Third Worldist formula does not explain why great numbers of people nonetheless struggle, or why great numbers of people do not struggle in the third world, for that matter. And it is directly counterproductive if one wishes to find a way forward for revolutionaries in the imperialist countries.
Nor is there anybody that has claimed that Paris 1968 was a socialist revolution. It was a rebellion. Perhaps the greatest uprising in the West after WWII – but nothing when compared with the genuine revolutionary attempts before WWI, like in Germany 1919, for instance. Then as well, the uprising was crushed by fascist violence and social democratic betrayal. It was not fundamentally different from 1968 – only larger and more bloody.
More Revisionism from Third Worldists
The LLCO writes that:
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. The First World is, as a whole, bourgeois.
The classic revisionists reduce class to property relations – those who own the means of production are bourgeois, and those who do not are proletarian. Third Worldism, on the other hand, reduces class to how many dollars one has.
As mentioned, Lenin defines classes as large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production – according to their relation to the means of production, their role in the social organisation of labour, and the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it.
Where many typical revisionists solely address relations or the means of production, Third Worldists focus only on the share of social wealth. They claim that the masses in the imperialist countries ebb and flow like the bourgeoisie on this basis, but in contrast to the bourgeoisie, the masses in the imperialist world have neither a bourgeois relation to the means of production (they do not own them), nor a bourgeois role in the social organization of labour (they are subjugated in employment). And they receive their share of social wealth first and foremost in the form of wages, not as interest or stocks, or dividends.
There Are Several Layers in the Proletariat
Both domestic servants and gladiators in the Roman Empire belonged to the slave class, even though the domestic servants lived close to the slave owners, in the slave owners’ own palaces, dressed in fine clothing, and could even give orders to other slaves – and even the gladiators received the same training as the fighter classes and attained a level of status and skill. They distinguished themselves dramatically from most of the other slaves, who exhausted themselves to death in agriculture and in the galleys, yet belonged to the same class.
As both the Russian and Chinese communists did in their class analysis, we should also differentiate between different layers within classes. Just as farmers can be divided into peasants, intermediate peasants, lords, and semi-proletarian farmers, the proletariat can and must be divided into groups in our analysis. It is, for instance, rare that foremen and the most privileged workers will stand at the fore for revolutionary class struggle.
It is therefore correct to differentiate between the labour aristocracy, intermediate workers, and the lowest layers of the proletariat as well – even in relation to imperialism.
Lenin Against Third Worldism
The LLCO writes:
This does not mean that revolution is not possible in the First World, as the French First Worldists imply. It simply means that revolution can only come to the First World after imperialism is defeated in the Third World. The way forward is to support Global People’s War from the Third World to the First World.
We repudiate this with Lenin’s thesis, where he says that the best support that communists in the imperialist countries can provide for those in exploited countries is to struggle for revolution in their own countries. We believe, like Lenin, that this is the most solid support that we can give to the struggle in the third world. We maintain that it is mechanical to claim that revolution can only come to the imperialist countries after imperialism is defeated in the third world. We see this claim as another variation of “either-or”, “on/off” – in other words, a simple mechanic. Just as simple as the Trotskyists who arrive at the opposite conclusion: that the revolution must succeed in the highly developed capitalist countries before it can come to the third world.
Russia was an imperialist country when the proletariat made revolution in 1917. And Germany was imperialist when the proletariat attempted their revolution in 1919. Russia and Germany are today obviously completely different countries than they were 100 years ago – but so are the African countries, and India. Third Worldists are completely correct when they say that the world changes, and that it has changed in the past centuries, but they are perhaps making the error of not recognizing that the world will continue to change in the next centuries as well, and that the tendencies are only pointing in one direction.
Third Worldists Embrace the Internal Enemy
Furthermore, imperialism has already been defeated in large portions of the world – for a period. Around 1950, a third of the world was within the socialist camp. And communism was enormously popular, even among the masses across Europe. Nonetheless, capitalism did not fall. And nonetheless, the backlash came – not from the imperialist countries, but from within the socialist countries themselves, from the newly growing bureaucracy bourgeoisie.
In this context, it is worth noting that Third Worldists embrace the revisionist Lin Biao who moved towards Moscow, and they embrace Castro, Chavez, Kim Jong-Il, and so on. But we wish to emphasize that the problem with revisionism is not that it conflicts with our “religious sectarianism” or “China’s narrow interests”, but because at the end of the day, it means that imperialism lives on! Revisionism is bourgeois, and it would make states and movements bourgeois and pave the way for them either becoming lackeys for imperialists (like Cuba and the Soviet Union), or themselves imperialists (like present-day China in Africa). Revisionism is not anti-imperialist: it is today’s imperialist politics and the bourgeoisie’s agenda in red clothing. And in this way, it is logical that the revisionist direction of Third Worldism concludes in a bourgeois manner all the way.
What Would We Do If the Third Worldists Were Right?
We further see that the Third Worldists simplify reality and handle it in a one-sided manner. They treat reality’s parts not as unities of contradictions, but as one-dimensional entities. They say that the “entire first world is the global bourgeoisie” and that “imperialism must first be defeated in the third world”.
Yet if this were true, what consequences would this have for communists’ practice? It is our position that it would nonetheless mean that the communists in the first world would have as their foremost task to organize communist parties and people’s wars in the countries they live in. And in this struggle, the goal is to isolate the enemy as much as possible, split them, and gather as many as possible against them and build fronts for red power. If Third Worldism truly participated in what they call the “global people’s war”, why not begin the work for developing the part of the struggle of people’s war here? Isn’t a little too convenient to wait for the third world’s people to carry out the heaviest task first? Almost nauseatingly so?
Third Worldism is Never Useful in Practice
But the Third Worldists apparently do not use this theory to support such a practice. They describe French Gonzaloists as “extremely small” and make light of whatever they have time to write about them, but do Third Worldists have any more merit worth praising? Is it the hundreds of movie reviews on the old website of the “Maoist Internationalist Movement”? Or perhaps snitching to the police from Norwegian Third Worldists? And where in the world can the Third Worldist mass movements be found? Why do the communist in the Third World grasp Maoism rather than Third Worldism, which has existed in several forms since the 60s? One is tempted to believe that the reason is that Third Worldism is not useful for anybody who wishes to actually make revolution…
Third Worldists Overestimate Empire, but Underestimate Revisionism
The LLCO writes that
The First World no longer has any significant proletariat. Even though great poverty continues in the Third World, even though global inequality has increased, wars of liberation have declined and stagnated. The world has changed. It continues to change. Even though there is no shortage of Marxist-Leninist, Maoist, and Gonzaloist dogma, the crisis within the revolutionary movement continues. This is because Empire has become stronger and stronger. The science of oppression is not frozen in time. Rather, Empire integrates the incredible advances in science today — advances in military technology, organizational technology, information technology, physics, chemistry, cognitive and brain science, social psychology, etc. — into its suppression of people’s movements. At the same time, revisionist movements, whether in Marxist-Leninist, Maoist, or Gonzaloist form, continue as if nothing has changed in the past half century, as though the enemy has not changed. The enemy advances his science. And, contrary to the Marxist-Leninists, Maoists, and Gonzaloists, we advance ours.
Here, the Third Worldists are saying that the crisis in the revolutionary movement continues because “Empire” has become stronger and stronger. This is also one-sided. Revisionism is never mentioned as a problem for the revolutionary movement, other than that revisionists do not develop their science. The emphasis is placed on external conditions (the strength of the enemy). Thereby, they claim that there is no shortage of Maoism or other movements, but is this true? Correctly enough, there are strong Maoist movements in the world today, but after the counterrevolution in China in 1976, our movement was in a much bigger crisis than it is today. Small portions of it have become revitalized by the development of Maoism and the people’s war in Peru. They inspired other parties and groups, but to claim that “there is no shortage” is an incredible exaggeration. There is a lack of such parties around most of the world, and in most of the world’s countries. And most organizations are young, and consist primarily of young people.
Before 1980, there was not a single party that called itself Maoist! Before 1980, Maoism had not been formulated as a third and higher stage of Marxism. Today there are several such parties and some of them are large and lead people’s wars (India, the Philippines). 10 years ago, there were only a handful of Maoist groups in the West, and today there are several more. But even if we maintain that Maoism is the best starting point for revolutionary movements, they do not appear out of thin air. It takes a long time to build revolutionary mass movements. And there is nothing that suggests that the Third Worldist claim that they have advanced their “science” has led to great movements under their leadership. And what kind of advancements in their ideology have occurred since the 1960s? And they hardly exist outside of the imperialist countries, if at all.
What have the Third Worldists learned in the last century? We cannot see anything qualitatively different with the LLCO’s analysis or the analysis of other Third Worldists since Gotfred Appel in the 1960s. On the contrary, it appears that they stand for exactly the same fundamental position and strategy as these – and as the US group MIM. Third Worldism appears to be a through-and-through pre-Maoist direction. Why they even bother to call themselves Maoists is a mystery. Calling oneself Lin Biaoist and Maoist is like calling oneself a Trotskyist-Stalinist. It’s sheer madness…
Third Worldism is Tailored for Avoiding the Fight
Third Worldism is not new – in Scandinavia, we are familiar with the direction that takes after the Danish Gotfred Appel in the 1960s. His group split into two directions: the first collected clothing for poor people in the third world and the second direction robbed banks for income for the Palestinian PFLP. In other words, roughly speaking, a rightist tendency (reformist) and a “leftist” tendency (militaristic). [This is an error in the original text. The danish group was split, but it was one and the same group that led both clothing-collection and bank robberies. Author, August 2019.] We maintain that neither of these directions is the best method for people who wish to contribute to smashing imperialism, as both fundamentally depart from Maoism and the strategy for protracted people’s war.
But both of these directions are custom-made for avoiding mass work and blames the masses and their greed for all shortcomings of the movement and struggle. They nonetheless gleefully ignore the struggles that are actually carried out when they take such positions. This line is perfect for avoiding having to take unpopular standpoints and working towards convincing people and organizing them. Instead, one can dedicate oneself to popular charity work or secret activism or to slinging abuse on the internet towards stupid and greedy Americans, ritual self-flagellation on the behalf of the first worldist “left-wing”, and then call it a science because one sprinkles it all with simple statistics from bourgeois institutions.
They wave a red flag in the assault on the red flag. At best, it is a form of letting off steam as mental hygiene that is not very constructive; at worst, it develops as pure betrayal and transition to the enemy.
A Maoist Answer to the Problem that Third Worldists Raise
A complete break from Third Worldism does not mean rejecting the problems that they raise. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, contains Lenin’s analysis of imperialism. It shows that a handful of states have divided the world between themselves, and that the bourgeoisie in these states can extract super-profits from the exploitation of these oppressed nations and peoples.
Lenin writes extensively in the classical work Imperialism on the kind of influence they also have in the societies of the imperialist countries. He shows how imperialism lays the economic basis for buying up the upper layers of the proletariat, and that this is, in turn, the basis for revisionism’s influence in the labour movements of these countries. And he describes how imperialism, if allowed to develop itself further, will lead to the imperialist countries becoming similar to the Riviera – the French bourgeois tourist area. In other words, that the upper class in the imperialist countries will surround itself with functionaries and service providers, while industry and other production is by large degrees outsourced to the oppressed countries.
Lenin described this development over 100 years ago. Marx and Engels wrote a great deal on the exploitation of the colonies by the European great powers. Comintern and Stalin raised the struggle of the colonies and the struggle for national and social liberation there all the way through. And Mao developed the analysis and theory further, by describing the world as being divided into three – even if his division was perverted by Deng Xiaoping and the so-called “Three Worlds Theory” that the rightists in the Communist Party of China stood for, and which became the official policy of the CPC and China following the rightist coup in 1976.
Mao maintained that the center of the revolutionary storm was in the third world: in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This is verified and confirmed in practice each and every day since Mao declared it. It has been crystal clear for over 60 years, that this is the way it is. The greatest and most victorious communist parties, and all revolutions, can be found here. They can be found today in Peru, Turkey, the Philippines, and India.
Chairman Gonzalo, the leader for the Communist Party of Peru and today’s greatest Maoist, developed Mao’s theory further and described bureaucracy capitalism in the oppressed countries. He also developed Lenin’s theory further, where Lenin wrote that communists must go to the “deepest and broadest” masses and not first to the upper layers. In the Mass Line, the Communist Party of Peru writes on Gonzalo that:
He specifies the necessity of the scientific organization of poverty. Chairman Gonzalo stresses that those most disposed to rebel, who clamor most to organize the rebellion are the poorest masses, and we must pay particular attention to the revolutionary and scientific organization of the masses. This is not against class criteria because as he shows, poverty has its origin in exploitation, in the class struggle: “Misery exists next to fabulous wealth; even the Utopians knew that both are linked: A colossal and challenging wealth next to a revealing and clamorous poverty. This is because exploitation exists.”5
Two standpoints have long been a part of our ideology, and both have roots that can be traced back to the ideology’s founders: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels:
First, that imperialism divides the world into imperialist countries and oppressed countries, and that the storm center and vanguard in the revolutionary struggle can be found among the oppressed nations and peoples.
Second, that capitalism’s exploitation divides people into oppressed and oppressor, and that it leads a great number of people into poverty as a result of this exploitation, and that it is the organization of the poor – the deepest and broadest layers of the proletariat and peasants – that are most pre-disposed for rebellion and are the prominent subject and most important basis for revolutionary organizing.
This puts revolutionaries in the imperialist countries at a disadvantage, but certainly not one so irreconcilable or difficult as the Third Worldists make it out to be. It is obvious that the broad masses in the imperialist countries are not crying out for food or revolutionary struggle. It is obvious that the main concentration of poor live in Latin America, Africa and Asia – and not here in imperialism’s fortress. But there are millions of poor and there are hundreds of millions of proletarians in the imperialist countries. There are masses of people who live hard lives, who live with oppression and alienation. There are a number of problems that we can grasp. And there are people’s wars and revolutionary struggles to be developed in support work and in solidarity with.
Furthermore, the “left-wing” in the West has been hindered by opportunism and revisionism for the majority of the last century. This has not only material causes, but can also be blamed on communists themselves. The influence of parliamentarianism, reformism, and legalism are to blame. In many cases, a number of revisionists having lived comfortable lives as labour aristocrats and petit bourgeoisies are to blame, and they have opted for theories that do not demand struggle or sacrifice. Everything that entails waiting and “normal” political work has been alluring to the privileged activists in the imperialist countries. This is something that has distanced themselves further from the poor and oppressed masses. In many countries, the rebellious youth in the 1980s would rather become anarchists than join the petrified and obstinate false communism that with its withdrawal from militancy remained in the same place they have been: namely as normal politicians.
Neither during the upswing of revolutionary struggles in the 1970s nor in the setbacks that followed could the communists meet the obstacles correctly. Just as in the 1930s, when fascism was sweeping over Europe, the proletariat’s military ideology was still not clearly formulated as a universal line for revolution. They lacked Mao’s systematized theory of protracted people’s war, and they lacked Gonzalo’s contribution of the militarization of the communist parties and the concentric construction of party, army, and front. These are strategies and tools created to defeat fascism, to organize the masses on a militant basis, and to develop the class struggle further into revolutionary war. Instead, communists first went into parliamentarianism and reformism’s ranks, in which they marched directly into concentration camps. And in the 1970s, the same error was repeated by most in the new communist movement. With the exception of a few individual groups that waged armed struggle, but none which did so as a part of any front or under the leadership of any party.
But Maoism has a very good resource for attacking the problem of developing revolutionary war in the imperialist countries. If not millions, then our line can reach tens of thousands. If not tens of thousands, then we must go to thousands or to hundreds. From the relatively simple to the relatively complex; from the relatively low to the relatively high – this is Marxism’s spiral of knowledge and Marxism’s theory of practice. Everything begins with the revolutionary proletarian struggles, no matter how low the level it finds itself. Third Worldism is the desertion of this struggle.
Notes and References
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- Translator’s note: In English, “special” can in some contexts be construed as an ableist slur. In the original Norwegian, the word spesiell is often used to mean “bizarre” or “unusual” without the ableist connotation implied in English.
- Zedong, Mao. Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society. Foreign Languages Press, 1956. Accessed July 27, 2019. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_1.htm. Originally published in March 1926.
- Marx, Karl, and YongLee Goh. “Theories of Surplus-Value.” Capital, edited by Julio Huato and Hans G Ehrbar, IV, Progress Publishers, 1863, <a href="www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/"www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/.
- Lenin, Vladimir I. “A Great Beginning.” Collected Works, edited by Brian Baggins and David Walters, vol. 29, Progress Publishers, 1919 pp. 408–434, www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/jun/19.htm.
- “Mass Line.” General Political Line of the Communist Party of Peru, Communist Party of Peru, 29 Mar. 2017, gplpcp.wordpress.com/mass-line/.