Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Red Star Collective

The International Situation: World United Front & Proletarian Revolution

The Era of Imperialism

The ongoing wars of national liberation in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the huge military build-up in Europe and the tensions in the Middle East all attest to the fact that there are contending forces in the world today. In order to determine the essence of the situation , Marxist-Leninists have gone deeper than the obvious phenomena. The essence of the present day world conflicts lies in the system of imperialism and the struggle against it. That is a statement that Marxist-Leninists in Canada would agree with, but there is considerable disagreement as to what it means, especially for Canada.

Modern imperialism, based on monopoly capitalism, was analyzed by Lenin in his pamphlet ’Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ in 1916. Despite the fact that the development of imperialism has continued since that time, this work still provides the basis for understanding the fundamental aspects of imperialism.

Lenin traced the concentration of labor and even greater concentration of production which necessarily resulted in industrial monopolies. Along with the concentration of production and labor there occurred a concentration of industrial capital and the banks. In the situation where industry grew increasingly more concentrated and where banks turned to industry to invest larger and larger amounts of capital, a merger developed between industrial and financial capital.

As regards the close connection between the banks and industry, it is precisely in this sphere that the new role of the banks is,perhaps, most strikingly felt. When a bank discounts a bill for a firm, opens a current account for it, etc., these operations taken seperately, do not in the least diminish its independence,and the bank plays no other part than that of a modest middleman. But when such operations are multiplied and become an established practice,when the bank collects’ in its own hands enormous amounts of capital, when the running of a current account for a given firm enables the bank – and this is what happens – to obtain fuller and more detailed information about the economic position of its client, the result is that the industrial capitalist becomes more completely dependent on the bank.

At the same time a personal link,so to speak, is established between the banks and the biggest industrial and commercial enterprises, the merging of one with another through the acquisition of shares,through the appointment of bank directors to the Supervisory Boards(or Boards of Directors) of industrial and commercial enterprises, and vice versa.” (LCW Vol.22,p.220)

Lenin termed this merger ’finance capital’. The domination of finance capital over all other types of capital is one of the characteristics of modern imperialism. The particularities of the formation of finance capital over other types of capital can and do vary from country to country. But in the era of imperialism, finance capital is the dominant form.

When finance capital develops and dominates a country, that country becomes saturated with capital,’over-ripe’ for places in which to invest most profitably In order to continue to find the most profitable fields for investment monopoly capitalists must export their capital to other high profit areas. In this way they get much needed raw materials,establish markets, and gain the surplus-value created by the exploitation of the peoples in other areas of the world. In the less developed countries this exploitation of labor often involves brutal conditions of work and cruelly low wages.

Of course, this exported capital generates yet more capital in the form of profits which must be invested in the country where they were made or shifted to Other high profit areas. Only a small portion of it can be profitably brought home to the original imperialist country,as it remains ovei-ripe for investment. This exploitation (and re-investment) of capital and the consequent exploitation of peoples in the’recipient’ countries has led to most of the conflicts in the era of imperialism.

In the imperialist era there are three major types of wars.

1)In order to ensure access to foreign countries,imperialist countries strive to annex other countries or territories to bring them firmly under control and to exclude other imperialist countries. The great imperialist powers divide up the agricultural and industrial, the controlled and the annexed, countries of the world according to their own strength. “This is because the only conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, interests, colonies,etc., is a calculation of strengtn of those participating,their general economic,financial, military strength, etc. ”(LCW Vol 22,p.295) As that strength develops and declines in an uneven manner it is inevitable that struggles for redivision of the subjugated areas occur. These struggles must lead to war as the imperialist powers need their subjugated territories to generate profit and will not peacefully surrender them to another imperialist power. The First and Second World Wars were such inter-imperialist wars.

2) Within dominated areas themselves, resistance to imperialist exploitation is also inevitable. That this resistance must lead to wars of national liberation is again dictated by the nature of imperialism. An imperialist power is not willing to give up a territory to the people of that territory any more than it is willing to give it up to another imperialist power.

3) The third type of war of the imperialist era is the civil wars of proletarian revolution, arising from the capitalist relations of of production. The exploitation and oppression of the working class of all capitalist countries including the imperialist ones, will sooner or later lead to revolution against the class oppressors and to the establishment of proletarian dictatorship. The world-wide victory of socialism will sound the death knell for the imperialist system. But even then we cannot be sure it will not rise again. Classes and class struggle still exist under socialism and it is still possible that the bourgeoisie can seize state power. We have seen the case of the Soviet Union which turned back from socialism to capitalism and became imperialist. Only when we reach the stage of communism, when there are no classes in the world, will the threat of capitalist imperialist restoration be finally defeated.

The Dialectical. Process Of World Developments

The world goes on as a dynamic international process. States with different social systems interact in a variety of ways.

Strong (non-socialist) states oppress weak states. The struggle for hegemony brings war closer. If we look only inward at the situation internal to our own country, we stand to be unprepared for the effects of the world process on Canada and as well stand to abdicate our responsibilities to the world revolution. It is only by understanding the dynamic between countries in the world that the path to socialism in each country can be understood. Some comrades take note of what goes on in other countries, but fail to analyze the interaction between countries. This comes from a failure to see that the world itself, like each country, has its own dynamic, its own dialectical process.

Such was the attitude of the social-chauvinists of the 2nd International, for whom ’the world’ meant Europe and who at the best of times ignored the colonial world and the struggle there for freedom from the same enemy which oppressed the workers of Europe.

These bourgeois socialists often went so far as to support colonialism since those struggling against it were not struggling for socialism and were often led by national bourgeois forces.

Lenin, on the other hand[1], saw the revolutionary upsurge of the colonial peoples as part and parcel of the world socialist revolution, even if internally the peoples of these countries were far from struggling for socialism directly. On a world scale, imperialism , not this or that potential national capitalism,was the main enemy of the revolution. In uniting all who could be united against this main enemy, communists would be advancing the cause of socialism in all countries.

At the Second Congress of the Third International, Lenin used the distinction between oppressor countries and oppressed countries to analyze the post World War I period. In dividing the world in 1920, he defined the colonial and semi-colonial countries, amounting to 1000 million people. These countries were ’oppressed through colonial dependence by the richest, most civilized and freest countries’, as well as the oppressor countries of Europe, the United States and Japan. This division expressed contradictions on a world scale; within each country were various other contradictions relating to a variety of particular social systems.

Lenin also made an important distinction among the oppressor countries, showing that the countries which emerged defeated from the war of redivision had been reduced ’to a state of colonial dependence, poverty, starvation, ruin,and loss of rights’.Even among the victor countries, Lenin thought it significant to distinguish those which emerged independent militarily and economically, able to lord it over the other imperialist victors. In this category he placed Britain and the US (and to some degree Japans). In making these divisions, Lenin laid the basis for the present-day ’Three Worlds analysis’ by seizing the main enemy at this level.

Mao Tse-tung in his 1940 essay On New Democracy showed how the achievement of the bourgeois-democratic tasks in colonial and semi-colonial countries was now a part of the proletarian rather than the bourgeois revolution. He placed the Chinese revolution as a component part of the world socialist revolution.The success of the Chinese revolution depended on a broad united front, encompassing all patriotic classes. Proletarian leadership would ensure that the revolution would proceed uninterrupted to the stage of socialism. But the struggle of the colonial countries for their freedom was seen as contributing to the world revolution. “No matter what classes,parties or individuals in the oppressed nations join the revolution,and no matter whether or not they are conscious of this fact and fully understand it, so long as they oppose imperial ism, their revolution becomes part of the proletarian socialist world revolution and they themselves become allies of this revolution.” (MSW Vol 2, p 346.)

This analysis led the Chinese Communist Party to the correct position of support for the national liberation struggle of Algeria despite the fact that it was led not by proletarian forces, but by the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie .This correct position stands in contrast to the revisionists who refused to recognize the just struggle. In the SU’s case, failure to recognize the provisional government of Algeria until the eve of victory was a pandering to French imperialism. For the French “Communist” Party it was bare-faced social chauvinism.

Again in the situation of Egypt where the struggle for national independence was under bourgeois rather than proletarian leadership,the CCP recognized it as representing the aspirations for freedom of the Egyptian people.

Countries such as India and Indonesia which gained their freedom after WW II had a dual character. They were part of the world revolution in that they opposed US imperialism and supported new democratic revolutions elsewhere. They were reactionary to the degree they collaborated with imperialism, failed to consolidate national democracy internally and blocked the advance of the revolution in their countries.

After World War II, US imperialism emerged as asuperpower, bullying and oppressing countries’, nations, and peoples all over the globe. It had subjugated its western European allies through economic control and military dependence, and moved into many former colonial areas as a new neo-colonial master. This created a situation where not only the oppressed peoples of the colonial but also many newly independent states in these areas and even the lesser capitalist and imperialist states had interests in opposing the greedy designs of US imperialism. Once again this was a matter of viewing the world as a process and of identifying the main enemy within this framework. Of course, this by no means meant that revolutionaries should put down their arms if they were fighting against a secondary enemy on the world scale (e.g. Algerians and Indo-chinese against France) simply because of certain trends of this secondary enemy to oppose the main enemy on the global scale. What it did mean was that many new forces were added which were open to striking blows, for whatever reason. against an enemy whose defeat or setback would bring defeat for all imperialisms closer.

In our day the Soviet Union has emerged as an imperialist superpower, and together with the US constitutes the main enemy of the world revolution. On a world scale, communists attempt to push forward a united front of all forces which can be mobilized,to one degree or other,to oppose the plunder and aggression of these international robbers. All these actions weaken imperialism as a system and are,therefore, a component part of the world socialist revolution .This is so even if these actions are undertaken by imperialist powers such as France, which certainly desires a healthy life for itself, rather than weakening or death for imperialism.

Those comrades who see only an imperialist world and an anti-imperialist world act as if the ’Three Worlds’ analysis and the concept of a broad world united front against the superpowers is a recent invention by the Communist Party of China. Yet we can see in Mao Tse-tung’s thinking as far back as 1946 the kernel of this analysis. As distinguished from the Soviet and Cominform analysis, Mao did not see the principal contradiction on the world scale as between the US and the USSR. Rather “the actual policy of the American imperialists is to attack through ’peaceful means’ the American people and oppress all capitalist,colonial and semi-colonial countries.” This was the real battleground in the world struggle against imperialism. The Soviet Union was led by its analysis to promote capitulation by the people of this “intermediate zone” between the US and the USSR, fearing nuclear retaliation against its own territory. The Chinese Party ,on the other hand, made a cool appraisal of the risk of nuclear attack and accordingly promoted struggle of all kinds by this intermediate zone against the US.

These ideas of an intermediate zone can be found in “Talks with the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong”, MSW Vol.4,p.99: “The United States and the Soviet Union are separated by a vast zone which includes many capitalist, colonial and semi-colonial countries in Europe,Asia, and Africa. Before the US reactionaries have subjugated these countries, an attack on the Soviet Union is out of the question.” They were picked up again in the late 1950’s. An article in Red Flag (16 Aug . 1958),inspired by Mao, said that “the hue and cry against the Soviet Union and communism raised by the US imperialists is in fact a smokescreen under cover of which they are invading and enslaving the countries in the intermediate regions between the socialist camp and the USA. The United States is separated from the socialist countries by whole oceans; almost the entire capitalist world lies between them. To start a war against the Soviet Union, US imperialism must first bring this capitalist world to its knees.”

This intermediate zone included both the newly-independent countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but also the capitalist allies of US imperialism who were beginning to exert their own wills in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Mao Tse-tung and the CPC were certainly aware that these countries were generally imperialist aggressors in their own right (they had certainly enough experience of Japan’s nature! )Nevertheless they identified an enemy on the world scale and recognized the progressive character of all actions which weakened the main embodiment of imperialism in the world at that time.

There is a distinct danger in communists calling for unity against the main enemy on a world scale. This danger is that we might continue to attack an enemy which has already fallen to a lesser stature and implicitly support the rise of a new enemy which is in the process of supplanting the previous main enemy. During WWII it was correct to call for the unity of all who could be united against the fascist Axis of Germany, Italy and Japan. This included support for the entry of the United States into the war.However, after the war the United States became the main enemy of the world’s peoples and any support for U.S. military actions was grossly reactionary. U.S. imperialism’s actions against the fascist armies, and post-war support for the formal independence of many of Europe’s colonies were seen by emerging revisionists in Communist Parties in Europe and North America in particular as evidence of its “progressive” character. The notion that anti-fascism could be the basis for postwar unity between U.S. imperialism and the world’s peoples retarded the struggle for many years.

This is not the only case of an imperialist superpower using the struggle against another imperialist power to camouflage its own growth.The case of the Soviet Union pretending to be the great defender of the world’s peoples against U.S. imperialism is another. But do these two examples mean we should give up the strategy of uniting all those forces which can be united against the main enemy? Not at all. Certainly it was correct to unite to defeat German, Italian and Japanese fascism in WWII. The Soviet Union correctly called for the unity of all peoples and countries,including imperialist countries, against fascism.

In order to understand who the real friends and enemies of the world’s peoples are and who can be temporarily united with it is essential to understand the particular present-day conflicts that are shaping the development of the world process. The main types of conflicts or contradictions which are characteristic of the world today are:
1 .The contradictions among the imperialist powers including Soviet Social-Imperialism. The most important of these contradictions is between the two superpowers,the US and the USSR.
2. The contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist (including revisionist) countries.
3. The contradictions between socialist countries and imperialist countries (including the Soviet Union). At present these contradictions are mainly manifest in the occupation of Taiwan and South Korea by the United States and threats on Albania and China by the Soviet Union.
4. The contradictions between the imperialist countries and oppressed nations and peoples. At present the contradiction between the super-powers and the oppressed nations and peoples of the world is the principal form of this contradiction. However, the superpowers are bringing into opposition to themselves not only the oppressed nations and peoples of the under-developed world but also peoples, nations and countries in the developed capitalist world as well. This is particularly true in Europe. This is not to say that every country or nation of the developed capitalist world is ready to take up arms in opposition to the superpowers,but rather that the contradictions between them and the superpowers are growing and must be analysed very carefully.

We must add to the forces in opposition to the superpowers the peoples of the superpowers themselves, who are exploited and oppressed by their own ruling classes.

The principal contradiction in the world is between the superpowers and those forces aligned against them, including countries, nations and peoples. The main force in opposition to the superpowers is the 3rd world. It is only through the resolution of this contradiction that the resolution of other contradictions on a world scale can come. However the situation is complicated and the sharpening of contradictions between the superpowers and the strong possibility of war breaking cut between them may make it appear that contradictions between the superpowers is the principal contradiction. But the defeat of one superpower by the other would not result in any advance of the world revolutionary process. Only the defeat of both superpowers and the prevention of the rise of a new imperialist power can make way for this development. That is why we support the idea of a world united front against both superpowers including all those who can be united in the struggle even if they are only temporary, vacillating members of this front, while at the same time we oppose all forms of imperialism. We support the countries of the second world, for example,only in that they oppose imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism , not in their imperialist exploits.

Each of these types of contradictions which is characteristic of the world as a whole is manifested differently in the various countries of the world. lt is important to realise that because one contradiction is principal on a world level does not mean that this same contradiction is principal in each particular country. The superpowers exploit, oppress and threaten the peoples, nations and countries of the world to vastly different degrees. In some cases, such as with the socialist countries, the superpowers constitute only an external force.In other cases, such as with many Eastern European countries, one superpower constitutes an overwhelming internal force while the other superpower has very limited influence. In each particular country the principal contradiction must be determined and resolved according to the major internal forces of that country. Although these forces are greatly influenced by world forces, they are not necessarily the same thin . In Canada, for example, the principal contradiction opposes the Canadian proletariat to both the Canadian bourgeoisie and US imperialism.


[1] Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 215.