Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

In Struggle!

Communist parties of Austria and Turkey

Questioning the notion of “superpowers”

First Published: In Struggle! No. 171, September 11, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In their July 1978 joint Declaration, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria (MLPO) and the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP-ML) tackle a number of questions which currently are the subject of discussions and debates among communists around the world.There is one question among them which requires particular examination: the notion of “superpowers” and the resulting notion of “the main enemy on a world scale”.

Despite the fact that we have always insisted that imperialism is the enemy of socialism and popular liberation, particularly since we rejected the “three worlds theory” completely in the summer of 1977, we have nevertheless continued to frequently use the expression “superpower” to designate the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. As well, before our Third Congress (March 1979), we presented the “superpowers” as being the “most dangerous” and “most aggressive” enemies.

Linked to the “three worlds theory”

The Austrian and Turkish comrades’ remarks, which we are publishing below, have the merit of showing up the confusion which results from the use of the expressions “superpower” and “main enemy on a world scale”. They point out the close relation between these two notions and the “three worlds theory”. To this we might add that in the past few years, the notion of “superpower” has frequently been used as an alibi by those, particularly in the imperialist countries, who want to mask a nationalist position behind a Marxist-Leninist cover.

What better pretext could they find to subordinate the struggle against the bourgeoisie in their own countries, even in imperialist countries, than the affirmation that there are two superpowers which, above and beyond all the other imperialists, are the main enemy “on a world scale”?

The value of a theory is judged by its capacity to correctly orient the proletariat’s revolutionary action. It seems increasingly clear that the “theory of the superpowers”, whose close relationship to the “three worlds theory” is no longer necessary to prove, has as its main political consequence the renunciation of the Leninist principle that the main enemy of the proletariat and the peoples is imperialism. This means the “theory of the superpowers” is an open door to the petty-bourgeois conception of the anti-imperialist struggle as being the struggle against “foreign monopolies”.

Touching unanimity... that makes your heart throb

It was on this basis, that, over the past few weeks, we have seen the Communist Party (pro-Moscow), the Communist League (pro-Peking), the NDP (social-democracy of the Second International), the Ontario Conservative Party and even the Canadian subsidiary of Imperial Oil (see the September 3, 1979 issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail) all stand up in opposition to the Clark government’s proposed sale of the State monopoly, Petro-Canada, to private enterprise. What touching unanimity! The petty-bourgeois radicalism of the League and the consolidated opportunism of the CP and NDP are shown up for what they are out and out bourgeois nationalism. And in this case, it is nationalism which the U.S. monopolies – against whom it is supposedly aimed – would like to see triumph.

Because in that case, it’s the Canadian State, or in other words the working people of Canada, which would assume the financial risks linked to the search for new oil sources.

As we can see, there is nothing abstract about the Turkish and Austrian comrades’ remarks. We must pay full attention to them and examine some of the things we’ve said in the past in light of them. On this subject, as on all others, we invite both Canadian and foreign readers to share their points of view with us.

* * *

The Declaration

“In this context, both our parties express the opinion that the designation ’superpower’ for U.S. imperialism and Russian social-imperialism is highly questionable and dangerous in so for as it falsely leads to the assumption of a qualitative and fundamental difference between U.S. imperialism and Russian social-imperialism on the one hand and the rest of the imperialist powers on the other hand. As the facts show, this conceptual category causes more damage rather than being useful; it stirs up confusion and spreads illusions about all big imperialist powers which are not said to be ’superpowers’...

“On the terms “superpowers” and “main enemy on an international scale”

“The TKP-M-L and the MLPO see it as extremely necessary to subject the terms ’superpowers’ and ’main enemy on an international scale’ to critical tests. The concept ’superpower’, which treats the individual big imperialist powers as a special category and contrasts them with the other imperialist powers, is obviously a direct and essential part of the schema of the ’three worlds’ and thereby directly introduces the revisionist construction of a ’first world’. The direct relationship to the ’Three Worlds’ Theory’ becomes even clearer to the thesis that the ’two superpowers’ are the main enemy of an international scale’. This thesis obliterates and negates the decisive and fundamental fact, that our struggle must always be aimed at world imperialism as a whole – also in the course of all partial offensives and individual actions. This thesis leads to the mistaken view that the other imperialist powers are not real enemies or that they could even temporarily be friends or partners. From this thesis that the ’two superpowers’ are the main enemy on a world scale’, it is only a small, almost imperative step to the claim that the balance of forces between the two big imperialist robbers – which certainly isn’t always the some – has changed in favour of one over the other, so that the one imperialism becomes the ’main enemy on a world scale’ and all of the other imperialist powers, if not actual temporary allies, are not real enemies.

“The decisive step which led to such low-level type of argumentation was, in our opinion, the absolutely unacceptable transfer of concepts which may have been appropriate in relation to individual questions such as the question of the danger of world war, to the whole question of the proletarian world revolution. One can without a doubt speak of a ’main enemy on a world scale’ in relation to the danger of world war and in this sense, this concept was used on the eve of the Second World War. But, in our viewpoint, in relation to the whole question of the proletarian world revolution, the ’main enemy on a world scale” can only be world imperialism.”