First Published:The Forge, Vol. 4, No. 34, October 5, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The victories of the revolutions in Iran and Nicaragua, along with the growing struggles elsewhere in the third world, are changing the face of the globe.
In a two-part series, The Forge looks at some of the questions raised by readers about these struggles and the attitude the working class should take towards them.
In this article we will examine: why revoluthionary struggles are breaking out in the third world; what relevance these struggles have for the people of Canada; and why we must support them even if they do not lead directly to socialism.
The revolutionary battles breaking out throughout the third world are a direct result of the fact that we live in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.
Lenin showed that imperialism, which began around the turn of the century with the development of monopoly capitalism, is the highest stage of capitalism. Under imperialism, the biggest powers have sought to divide up the entire globe.
This handful of giant powers have thus not only built their empires on the exploitation of the working class in the developed countries but also by the economic and colonial enslavement of the other peoples and nations. Thus, to the period of imperialism there is a whole wave of struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed peoples and nations. These struggles against oppression and domination in the third world directly strike at the roots of the imperialist system.
Since both the oppressed peoples and nations of the third world and the working class in the developed countries face the same enemy in the world-wide imperialist system, the blows they deliver help to mutually support each other’s struggles. As the oppressed peoples around the globe fight for liberation they aid our struggle for socialism in Canada.
As a result, the oppressed peoples and nations which are rising up to throw off imperialism are now a valuable ally for the working class. Lenin wrote in 1916, in words that ring just as true today,
the social revolution can come only in the form of an epoch in which are combined civil war by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in the advanced countries and a whole series of democratic and revolutionary movements for national liberation in the undeveloped, backward and oppressed nations. (A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism)
It is the fundamental alliance between the working class in the advanced countries and the oppressed peoples and nations that will bring about the down fall of imperialism.
This alliance became possible with the victory of the October Revolution and the creation of the world’s first socialist state in 1917. This was the first break in the imperialist chain and it opened up whole new revolutionary road to world’s people. A new era was born in which the struggles of the oppressed peoples and nations became part of the proletarian socialist world revolution.
“In this era,” Mao Zedong wrote in his famous 1940 article, On New Democracy, “any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, i.e. against the international bourgeoisie or international capitalism, no longer comes within the, category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution... but is part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist world revolution.”
Summing up the basis of the fundamental alliance during this period, Lenin set forth the strategic policy, “Workers of all countries and oppressed nations unite.” And that’s why the working class in a developed country like Canada must support the struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations around the world in order for our revolution to succeed.
Since Lenin’s time the struggles of the oppressed peoples and nations have led to the collapse of the old colonial system. The empires of France and Britain have been shattered. More than 80 countries have declared their independence following World War II.
China, with one-quarter of the world’s people, has been transformed from a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country carved up by the big powers into a great socialist state.
Also, US imperialism, formerly the leading imperialist power, has suffered historic setbacks.
Today, however, despite the changes, the struggles against imperialist oppression and domination continue in the third world. The imperialist powers. and especially the two superpowers, use many methods to try to preserve and enlarge their influence in the newly independent countries.
This means that many third world countries which have declared their independence must continue to fight neocolonial penetration and control by the imperialists in order to consolidate and develop their economic and political independence.
Some of the world’s peoples, in southern Africa, Palestine and other places, are still fighting armed liberation struggles against the remaining colonial regimes.
Also, new wars of liberation are bound to break out, like they have done in Kampuchea and Afghanistan, as the Soviet superpower contends with the US for world domination.
The situation is such that the countries and people of the third world – 70 per cent of the world’s population – constitute the main force in the world-wide struggle against the two superpowers and against imperialism and colonialism.
However, some people ask how the working class can support a struggle that does not lead directly to socialism. To answer this it is necessary to see that the tasks of the revolutionary struggles in the third world are different from the tasks of our struggle in Canada.
Here we are waging a socialist revolution to overthrow the Canadian capitalist class, which exploits and oppresses the Canadian people. The working class makes up the majority of the population.
In the third world, where imperialist domination has perpetuated backward and undeveloped systems, the tasks are different.
The resolution in these countries targets the foreign imperialists and their local agents, the comprador capitalists and feudal landowners, linked to the foreign powers in most cases the peasantry makes up the majority of the population and is the main force in the liberation struggle.
As Lenin said in 1919, “These nations still have general national tasks to accomplish, namely democratic tasks, the tasks of overthrowing foreign oppresssion.” (A Caricature of Marxism)
This was the task, for example, in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country like China, before liberation. And this struggle for liberation remains the main task of undeveloped countries like India today. The success of this struggle opens the way for further revolutionary changes and finally socialism.
At the same time, because the task is to liberate the country from imperialist domination and the remnants of feudalism, various classes in the oppressed nations of the third world can take part in the struggle.
Stalin used the example of Afghanistan to show that even a monarch could play a revolutionary role. In 1919, when Britain launched its third war of aggression against the country, the Emir Amanullah, supported by the Afghan tribes, forced Britain to recognize Afghanistan’s independence and freedom.
Stalin wrote, “The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement.”
He pointed out, “the struggle for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism.” (The Foundations of Leninism)
Today the people of Afghanistan are again playing a revolutionary role by fighting this time against the Moscow-backed Amin regime – blocking the advance of the Soviet superpower south towards the Indian Ocean.
In Iran, it is the Islamic forces headed by Ayatollah Khomeini which led the important struggle to overthrow the Shah and toss the US superpower out of the world’s second biggest oil producer.
But, although different forces in an oppressed country in the third world can lead the fight for independence, it is only a liberation struggle with working class leadership, as in China, which will ensure complete and final victory.
Mao Zedong said, “The people of the world support each other in their just struggles.” The Workers Communist Party firmly upholds the principles of proletarian internationalism and calls on the Canadian people to support the just struggles of the workers and oppressed people around the world.
Next article: How the working class wins the leadership of struggles in the third world and the struggle for new democracy.