Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

October League (Marxist-Leninist)

The Struggle of Small and Medium-sized Nations

First Published: The Call, January 1973.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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A sharp debate has developed recently among some of the important sectors of the U.S. communist movement, regarding the role of the small and medium-sized countries of the world in the anti-imperialist struggle.

Some have even argued that “there is no such thing as the third world” claiming that such concepts are revisionist and run counter to Marxist dialectics. In their own words they argue “From the standpoint of dialectical materialism, can there be a third force in any entity? Marxism denies this possibility.”

These purists argue that the concept of the “third world” or of “non-aligned” countries is reactionary because “there are only two worlds,” capitalist and socialist.

This purist logic has led them to dogmatically view the struggles of the small and medium-sized countries for independence and for an end to the bullying of the two superpowers with disdain and cynicism. At one point they go so far as to claim that the Allende government in Chile is “worse than fascist” because it “lulls the masses to sleep.”

There are several features to the Marxist method of analysis which we call dialectics. One is stated above by the purists. That is, every phenomenon is the product of a struggle between opposites. There is another feature, which if forgotten, leads to dogmatism. As Stalin wrote in his famous work, “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”:

Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that nature is not a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development, where something is always arising and developing and something always disintegrating and dying away.

To view the developing nations in a static way and the fight between the two world systems in a purist way, ignoring development and that which is rising, leads one to view Marxism as a dogma rather than a science, to dogmatically pick over words and miss the essence of the struggle.

In this particular case, the whole history of the non-aligned nations fighting for the right to determine their own destiny is negated because it doesn’t fit into their pattern of mechanical materialism.

From the famous Bandung Conference in 1955 right up o the more recent Conference of Foreign Ministers of non-aligned Countries in Georgetown, Guyana, the oppressed countries of the third world have been uniting on a broader scale and moving step-by-step out from under the heel of the super imperialists.

April 1955, marked a very important step forward in the struggle of the people of the third world as 29 heads of state of various Afro-Asian countries gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, including Chou En-lai from the People’s Republic of China. The Bandung Conference adopted principles which called for an end to interference in any nation’s internal affairs and for relations based upon the principles of co-existence, mutual interest, “equality and mutual benefit.” This was the first time in history that the representatives of Afro-Asian nations conferred on their mutual affairs without the presence of any foreign overlords.

Of course the imperialists had their own ideas for subverting such a move and tried to use their puppets who attended the conference to steer clear of any independent stand. Certainly all of these countries weren’t free from imperialist domination. As Anna Louise Strong, the progressive American correspondent covering the conference wrote, in her “Letter from China”:

This freedom was not absolute for many of these nations were still only partly independent and most were still penetrated by imperialist influences, while some African nations were represented by Europeans in their government administration. Romulo, from the Philippines, came primed to attack the socialist countries; he declared that ’communist imperialism was worse than capitalist imperialism.’

However, through the struggle, with China playing a major role, the “Spirit of Bandung,” a spirit of independence and anti-imperialist struggle, was established and this was a direct slap in the face to imperialism and colonialism.

An important lesson for us here is that the imperialists, no matter how greedy and aggressive they may be, are no longer strong enough, like they were once, to walk over the people of the world at will. Their own contradictions are sharpening as they compete with each other for “spheres of influence” and their grip on the countries and peoples in the third world is steadily slipping.

In the nine years following 1955, more than 30 new nations gained independence owing much to the “Spirit of Bandung.” The imperialists hated this and did everything in their power to prevent a second Bandung.

The Bandung phenomenon

The reactionary government in India soon yielded to their pressure. Nehru sabotaged the calling of a second conference and then along with Tito called a “Non-Aligned Conference” to have in organ without China that Nehru could dominate.

But despite their intentions, this conference passed more resolutions opposing imperialism and colonialism against their wishes. Gradually, the demand for another Bandung Conference grew.

The Chinese Communist party described the phenomenon this way:

To preserve their reactionary force and exploit and oppress the people, the imperialist countries and the various classes, strata, cliques and factions are bound to collude . . . but as determined by their class nature, they are bound to have many contradictions and contentions. That these are an objective reality means that they are independent of the subjective wishes of any reactionary.

It is contradictions such as these as well as contradictions between many of the progressive petty bourgeois nationalists of the third world countries and imperialism which created the conditions for the Bandung phenomenon. The purists wish to overlook this and to overlook the possibilities of winning over some of these forces and of utilizing their contradictions with the two super-powers.

Comrade Mao Tsetung, in his writings on “Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism,” pointed out the necessity of utilizing all of these battles between the reactionaries and the weaknesses which develop within their domain, when he wrote, “Turn to good account all such fights, rifts and contradictions in the enemy camp and turn them against our present enemy.”

To negate the role of the small and medium-sized countries at this time in history is to isolate the working class from its most valuable ally.

Today the third world countries are uniting on a greater scale and are playing an ever greater role in international affairs. Led by the heroic peoples of Vietnam and other Indochinese countries, the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America are dealing the imperialists some telling blows.

In the past period we have witnessed the attempts of the imperialists to keep People’s China out of the United Nations smashed. Steps have been taken to end U.S. domination in Korea and for the re-unification of north and south Korea.

In the Middle East, the expansionism of Soviet social-imperialism has been dealt a telling blow by the Egyptian government, which expelled thousands of Soviet military advisors from Egyptian soil. This was done in response to Soviet attempts to harness the Arab peoples’ struggle against Zionism and for Palestinian liberation.

The people of Latin America have risen up in a sharp battle to end imperialist plunder of their fishing rights and to restore the 200-mile limit on their fishing sea rights. The Chilean people’s movement against foreign domination has grown and made some significant advances, increasing the determination of the people to carry the struggle through to the end. There is no lull of this movement in sight.

The whole continent of Africa is shaking with revolutionary struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism and racial discrimination. In short, the third world countries are a scene of great turmoil and upheaval.

Today it has become the duty of the working class and the revolutionary forces within the U.S. to support every move, no matter how small it may be, on the part of the third world countries, to break away from imperialist domination. We must demonstrate proletarian internationalism and firm up the unity between the working class and the oppressed peoples and nations.

Those who refuse to combat the expansionist drives of their own government because the governments in these oppressed countries are not revolutionary enough or not socialist, will in the final analysis only be aiding those expansionist drives. The great teacher V.I. Lenin waged a furious struggle against this type of purism. Writing on the national question he said:

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by the small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landlords, the church and the monarchy, against national owners’ oppression, etc. . . to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution!.. . Whoever expects a ’pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.

The unity of the third world struggle for freedom and independence with the working class movement in the capitalist countries is growing stronger. The long reign of the imperialists and reactionaries the world over is drawing to an end. As Comrade Mao Tsetung said, “Revolution is the main trend in the world today!”