First Published: The Guardian, May 5, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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With this issue the Guardian initiates a discussion of China’s current foreign policy.
Two exceptionally important articles–Wilfred Burchett’s critique, largely confined to China’s errors in Angola, and William Hinton’s exposition of Peking’s present international views–are published this week to launch the discussion.
Burchett, whose latest book on China (written in collaboration with Rewi Ally) has just been published abroad and will soon be printed here in the U.S., is an old and staunch friend of People’s China. We feel no need to establish his credentials any further; they are a matter of record.
Burchett’s views on Angola generally accord with those of this newspaper, which concluded some time ago that China’s policy in Angola is incorrect. With China, the Guardian opposes Soviet hegemonistic aspirations in Africa, but believes that the surest way to protect the independence of African nations is to give full backing to the progressive national liberation movements (whether or not they accept Soviet aid in fighting their oppressors) and to deliver the main blow against the principal enemy–U.S. imperialism, South Africa and its neocolonial allies.
We fully support the struggle against superpower hegemonism. This is at the heart of our position on the national liberation struggle in Angola and southern Africa, since it is precisely the hegemonism of one superpower– the U.S.–which is being militantly challenged by the African masses. This challenge to U.S. imperialism is part of the worldwide surge of oppressed peoples against that force which for centuries has brutally suppressed the aspirations of the colonial peoples for independence and gorged itself on the superprofits it extracted out of the labor of the third world peoples.
The question of completing that task–in Africa, Asia and Latin America–is the question at supreme issue today. It is a task that cannot be subordinated to the vicissitudes of superpower contention or to the danger–concededly a real one–that Soviet social-imperialism would like nothing better than to fill the vacuum and replace the U.S. wherever it can. In southern Africa specifically, the principal contradiction is between U.S. and South African imperialism and neocolonialism and the national liberation struggles of the peoples of the region. Superpower contention, though a factor, is not a principal factor.
The progressive peoples and liberation movements of Africa have demonstrated a most sophisticated appreciation of the fragility, of an independence not continuously protected against superpower encroachments. The friends of these liberation movements will make their ablest contribution to this ongoing task by so broadening the support of the movements that none of them will be obliged to rely unduly on the backing they may receive from the Soviet Union. (For a fuller elaboration of the Guardian’s position on this question, see our Viewpoints and articles since November.)
William Hinton’s perspective on China’s world view is an extraordinarily important article which should be read and studied very seriously. We assume that Hinton, who is national chairman of the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association, is basically accurate in his summary of China’s foreign policy at this time, a summary which adds an entirely new chapter to the Guardian’s own (1973) pamphlet on the subject.
As Hinton goes to pains to stress, China now regards the USSR as the main danger to the peoples of the world. As such, he states, China’s line has developed from calling for a united front against both superpowers to a position of–in his words–“Mobilize the third world, unite all the forces of the second world [the lesser capitalist powers] willing to struggle, neutralize the United States and strike the main blow at the Soviet Union.”
While conditions for such a front against the USSR, including possible participation by Washington, “do not exist at present,” Hinton says, it “is not ruled out in the future.” What are those conditions? Hinton does not exactly say but he provides a clue when he noted that “China judges world leaders by how well they understand this new relationship of forces [i.e., the Soviet Union as the main danger and the need to unite with all the various social systems in government throughout the world against the USSR]. Thus they prefer [the more reactionary] Heath to Wilson, Strauss to Brandt and Schlesinger to Kissinger.”
In other words the conditions for an anti-Soviet world united front would be ripe when the third world countries recognize the Soviet Union as the main danger and are willing to unite with the second world and even a “neutralized” U.S. and when the second world so comprehends the nature of the danger of the USSR that it is willing to unite not only with the U.S.–with which it is already largely united–but with third world countries, including China, as well, to “strike the main blow” against the Soviet Union.
How would the U.S. be “neutralized” and thus welcome into a second and third world united front against the USSR? The answer is near the end of Hinton’s statement: “There is no room here for American hegemony.”
This presumably means that when America’s “traditional leaders,” who do not as yet, in China’s view (according to Hinton), fully understand the “lethal threat” posed by the USSR are either convinced of this threat or replaced by new leaders, the U.S. would renounce some of its imperialist, hegemonistic ambitions and join with the peoples of the world on the basis of equality against the Soviet Union.
One of the tasks of the Friendship Association, Hinton implies, is to encourage this understanding among the American people that the Soviet Union is the main danger to U.S. security and that our country’s “traditional” or new leaders must “choose the broad highway of a united resistance, of collective security.”
Thus, if the U.S. recognizes there “is no room here for American hegemony,” a “united front of all forces against the main danger [the USSR] is not ruled out in the future.”
Such a united front, to say the very least, seems improbable. We do not see the progressive third world countries–not to mention a number of genuine socialist countries–joining with the U.S. in an anti-Soviet alliance. Nor do we find it very likely that U.S. imperialism will abandon its hegemonistic ambitions and subordinate itself to an “honest” united front. We certainly can see, however, where U.S. imperialism would wholeheartedly welcome (and even make some rhetorical concessions to) a united front that would be aimed at its own superpower rival.
But this is hardly the point. A number of other questions have to be answered first. Is the Soviet Union the “main danger?” Is the united front against superpower hegemony to be scrapped in favor of a front against the Soviet Union? Should the left abandon the struggle against NATO or advise revolutionaries to give up the fight against U.S. military bases until their own countries are “adequately defended” against possible Soviet threats? Are American Marxist-Leninists to agitate for a U.S., China et al alliance against Moscow, doing their best to convince the American and all peoples of the world that they have to direct their main blow against the USSR and, apparently, its allies?
As we stated at the beginning of this Viewpoint, we are initiating a discussion of this matter and will have more to say as time goes on. Our own position–that the U.S. is the main danger to the peoples of the world and the Soviet social-imperialism is a secondary danger–remains unchanged. Our readers are invited to acquaint us with their views.