At just the moment that I was engaged in debating several Third Worldist tendencies and lines, I received and completed Zac Cope’s second edition of Divided World Divided Class.1
Lots of worthy research went into Cope’s book, but the end conclusion, like the typical line of other third Worldists, is that workers in the First World are not exploited and there is no basis for socialist revolution here. Basically the theory is that goods from the Third World are so cheap that it more than offsets the surplus labor extracted from First World workers and makes them exploiters of the Third World.
Of course, it doesn’t affect shit if you can’t afford to buy these goods, but you can make statistics dance to your tune if you play with them enough. The bottom line is this purely theoretical revisionist Marxism (which deviates from authentic Marxist philosophy—namely dialectical materialism), is all about justifying not doing revolutionary work in the first world—allowing the bourgeoisie and counter-revolution to reign by default—and awaiting revolution in the Third World to topple capitalist imperialism for us.
This line dogmatically and mechanically recognizes only one of three contradictions with V.I. Lenin and others recognized inhere in the political economy of imperialism, namely the contradiction between the First World and the Third World’s (neo)colonized peoples. The two other contradictions that exist yet go ignored by the Third Worldists are the contradictions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (especially within the First World countries,) and the contradictions and rivalries between the various competing and cooperating imperialist powers.2 These contradictions also factor in the struggles to defeat imperialism and achieve world socialist revolution.
It is true of course that everyone in an imperialist country derives some benefit from imperialism, but this doesn’t mean that the majority couldn’t derive more benefit from global socialism, elimination of war, for example, or avoiding ecological crisis; not to mention the elimination of poverty, racism, sexism, police repression and theocracy. All of which cry out for solutions right here in the First World, around which a revolutionary line, program, and movement could and needs to be built. But not without a revolutionary leadership of course, which is the very thing the Third Worldists want above all to deny the First World masses.
It bears mentioning too that during Karl Marx’s day, he observed that the English workers amongst whom he based himself, his work and lived, derived benefits from England’s colonial exploitation of India, Ireland, etc. Yet he didn’t dismiss English workers as an enemy of those more severely exploited Third World peoples. In fact he noted that those “benefits” were offset by other burdens on the English workers inherent in maintaining England’s colonial areas. Here’s an example from Marx:
“It is thus evident that individuals gain largely by the English connection with India, and of course their gain goes to increase the sum of the national wealth. But against all this a very large offset is to be made. The military and naval expenses paid out of the pockets of the people of England on Indian account have been constantly increasing with the extent of the Indian domination. To this must be added the expense of Burmese, Afghan, Chinese, and Persian wars. In fact the whole cost of the late Russian War may fairly be charged to the Indian account, since fear and dread of Russia, which led to that war, grew entirely out of jealousy as to her designs on India. Add to this the career of endless conquest and perpetual aggression in which the English are involved by the possession of India, and it may well be doubted whether, on the whole, this domination does not threaten to cost quite as much as it can ever be expected to come to.”3
And even though he saw the English masses gained benefits from the colonial exploitation, Marx recognized that objectively revolutionary conditions existed among them, but they needed a revolutionary leadership (a vanguard) to awaken and actualize it. As he observed in 1870:
“The English have at their disposal all the necessary preconditions for a social revolution, what they lack is the spirit of generalization and revolutionary passion. Only the General Council [of the International] can provide them with this, and thus accelerates a truly revolutionary movement here and in consequence, everywhere.”
Consider that it was as a result of the International’s leadership, in which Marx played no small part, that England’s textile workers opposed the Southern US plantation owners whose slave-labor produced the cotton on which their very jobs depended. The English bourgeoisie were therefore compelled to find other sources of the raw material. So we have an early example that First World workers who enjoy “benefits” from Third World super-exploitation can, with correct revolutionary leadership, become allies of the Third World masses.
Also, the Third Worldists see (dogmatically) that the value of labor is just enough to sustain and reproduce the labor force; as if socialized labor is not capable of providing everyone on the planet with more than mere subsistence and to do it within an environmentally balanced planet.
And the Blame Game Goes On
“Tools cry out for liberation,” as Mao Tse-tung put it. Only the revolutionized proletariat can lead us out of this mess and to a bright future for humanity, but to the economic determinist Third Worldists (who avoid looking at the Third World very much), the only issue are First World workers complicit in the exploitation of Third World countries.
In that case we can also say third World workers are complicit in the exploitation of their own countries, their peasantry and so on. We can say the Chinese masses were complicit in the overthrow of Socialism in their country and in the imperialism being practiced in Afrika and elsewhere by China. Much the same could be said of the Russian masses.
We can play the blame game all night long!
We can blame slaves for being complicit in their slavery, wimyn in their oppression, and rape victims in their rape. We can blame New Afrikans/Blacks and Browns in Amerika for being complicit in the militaristic and murderous police occupation of their communities because, for lack of other available options, they must call upon the same forces to respond to their community’s otherwise unmet security needs.
Does a worker go to the unemployment office and say, “I want to be complicit in the system of global imperialism, what have you got for me?”
People are struggling to get by as best they can. Shoppers don’t ask why one item costs more than a seemingly identical one, they buy the cheapest, or maybe the more expensive one hoping it is of a better quality.
Imperialism consciously chose to bribe sectors of the masses in the imperialist counties with various concessions (economic, political and otherwise), to avert the threat of socialist revolution on its home grounds and to sell its goods to consumers. And the Third Worldists are content to concede this ground to the imperialists, allowing them and counter-revolution to reign by default. So whose complicity is really counter-revolutionary and criminal? The Third Worldists or First World workers? As Mao observed, it is the role of revolutionary leaders to “create public opinion and seize power” — the opposite of the Third Worldist line of allowing the imperialists a free hand in manipulating public opinion and ceding power to them.
Even so, imperialism won’t and can’t keep this level of bribery up forever. Nor can it keep super-exploiting the Third World forever. It is the combination of austerity and repression at home and overextended military abroad that creates a revolutionary situation. But leave it to the Third Worldists and no one will do the political work needed to awaken the revolutionary consciousness of the workers and other oppressed sectors in the First World to seize the time. So their line if given sway performs the greatest service to imperialism.
Maintaining the Amerikan Empire
As said, the Third Worldists deny the basis for revolutionary class struggle in the First World, and overlook the role of inter-imperialist rivalry in the struggle to overthrow imperialism, but instead dogmatically focus on the contradiction between the First and Third Worlds as the sole basis for such struggle.
As both Lenin and Joseph Stalin were to observe, Communists should push to sharpen the conflicts between the imperialist powers. So whether the Third Worldists choose to recognize and act upon it or not, inter-imperialist conflict is rising with Amerika angling to maintain its world hegemony, which is actually the principal contradiction in the world today (not the First versus Third World contradiction, which the third Worldists dogmatically cling to). Although this contradiction is one primarily internal to US imperialism which dominates the globe and acts preemptively to maintain that domination.
The rising inter-imperialist conflict exists particularly between the BRIC countries and the US-EU bloc. Why indeed had the US been saber-rattling with North Korea and Syria except to threaten Russia and China? Why is it so set on thwarting Russia’s own imperialist aims in Central and Eastern Europe? Why is it setting itself up as a major oil producer/exporter, while destabilizing oil rich countries throughout the Third World (e.g. Nigeria, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Venezuela, etc.) and blocking Russia’s own exports, except to try and maintain its monopoly of the world oil market and the markets’ ties to the US dollar?
The US is not going to give up its position as “Top Dog” to anyone, that is one reason it spends so much on “defense” – more than all others combined. But the threat of nuclear blackmail doesn’t work if countries are armed with nukes too; the old refrain of “N—ers with guns”. Because you can’t suppress people who have the same big guns as you.
The US is not afraid of North Korea or Iran attacking itself, but of not being able to threaten them with attack without the threat of counter-attack. They want to force China, Russia, Korea and Iran to spend more of their GNP on military “defense” and thereby slow their economic development. Amerika especially wants to prevent others’ advancing civil sector nuclear energy technologies, which might replace the old cumbersome system developed by Amerika over 70 years ago.
The same is true for India and Pakistan. This is a dangerous game because a full scale nuclear war between these two countries could kill everybody on the planet. Yet the threat of South Asia uniting as a socialist bloc scares them more.
The slaughter of Shiites in Pakistan by the Sunni Taliban pushed Pakistan to the right and sharpens the contradiction with India over Kashmir, which both India and Pakistan rely on for water. As climate change makes water scarcer, the contention between these countries grows sharper.
Why No First World Revolutions
Third Worldists are fond of arguing that the lack of revolutionary movements in the First World in modern times, compared with their relative frequency in the Third World, empirically proves that First World workers have no revolutionary potential.
Every genuine Communist recognizes the error of this argument on its face. As Mao pointed out, “when revolution fails it is the fault of the vanguard party,” not the masses. George Jackson expressed it this way:
“The success of China, Cuba, Vietnam and parts of Africa cannot be attributed to any innate, singular quality in the characters of their people. [People] are social creatures, herd animals. We follow leaders. The success or failure of mass movements depends on their leadership and the method of their leaders.”4
Amerika for example has not had a mass and workers based revolutionary party since World War II when the Comintern was disbanded and the post-war Red Scare, Communist witch hunts, and Cold War drove Communists underground and shattered the remnants of the 1930s revolutionary movement and Communist Party. Subsequent efforts to build mass based revolutionary parties also came under concentrated attack under the imperialist state’s counter intelligence programs (COINTELPROs), such as the Black Panther Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party USA for example.
The rural-based parties in the less developed Third World proved harder to target and suppress, and could more directly interact with their mass bases. The Panthers had similar success, but never embraced a specifically proletarian political and ideological line, so fell victim to left and right deviations and political opportunism. The RCP-USA was active within the US working class for a period, but ended in disengaging from this base in the 1970s, and has since engaged primarily in agitational work aimed at other sectors than the traditional strategic working class, and doesn’t practice the mass line so it has no mass base.
In other First World countries, without Comintern leadership, the workers’ parties were effectively infiltrated by traitorous elements that entered into alliances with their bourgeoisie and allowed their parties to be coopted into the mainstream political system.
The imperialists recognize the essential role and value of a revolutionary vanguard. This is why they have targeted with almost fanatic consistency every potentially revolutionary organization that has reared its head, and expended untold resources and energy on demonizing and undermining the very image of Communism to such a degree, that even today people fear almost instinctively to be identified with Communism, and those on the “Left” who prefer instead to be called “Socialists”.
And the Third Worldists, right in league with their imperialist agenda, would also see that no revolutionary vanguard arises to awaken and lead a revolutionary movement in the First World.
Overall the Third Worldist line is one of “left” opportunism which is “left” in its form and rhetoric, but “right” in essence. Left opportunism always concocts positions that rob the masses of their essential role as the makers of history and revolutionary change, and instead substitutes such opportunists as the heroes and forgers of history.
Like all opportunism, the Third World line is based on petty bourgeois idealism and revision of revolutionary science, to strip it of its revolutionary essence and accommodate it to the interests of the capitalist imperialist system. All of which is consistent with the petty bourgeois tendency to make the imperialist system as tolerable to itself as possible and realistically confining itself only to reformism. All of which serves the imperialist agenda of denying the masses the needed revolutionary vanguard to awaken and lead them in revolutionary struggle.
The science of revolution does not become spontaneously evident to the workers nor any other oppressed sector. Revolutionary science and consciousness must be brought to them through the work of revolutionaries, and more specifically by the vanguard revolutionary party, which is set up to do it in an organized and all-round way. As Mao observed:
“If there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary Party. Without a revolutionary Party, without a Party built on the Marxist Leninist revolutionary theory and the Marxist Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses in defeating imperialism and its running dogs.”
This leadership is what the imperialists fear and seek to subvert above all else in its continual struggle to hold onto power. That the Third Worldists share this agenda with respect to the First World where they also live and share in the spoils of imperialism exposes the utter bankruptcy and counter-revolutionary essence of their line. And all the blame-gaming and playing with statistics in the world won’t change this one iota.
Workers of the World – not just the Third World – unite!
Dare to struggle, Dare to win!
All Power to the People!
- Zak Cope, Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labor Under Capitalism (Quebec: Kerspebedeb Publishers, 2015, 2nd Ed. [↩]
- In the Foundations of Leninism, Stalin outlined the three most important contradictions which inhere in the capitalist imperialist system. In short they were listed as: “The first contradiction is the contradiction between labour and capital… The second contradiction is the contradiction among various financial groups and imperialist powers in their struggle for sources of raw materials, for foreign territory… The third contradiction is the contradiction between the handful of ruling “civilized” nations and the hundreds of millions of the colonial and dependent peoples of the world…” [↩]
- Karl Marx, “British Incomes in India,” in Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization. Ed. By Shlomo Avineri (NY: Doubleday, 1968), pp 238-39 [↩]
- George L. Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (NY: Random House, 1970). [↩]