Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Dan Burstein

The world is Being Turned ’Upside Down’

An outline of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line on the international situation


First Published: Class Struggle, No. 6, Winter 1976-77.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.


Chairman Mao was a thoroughgoing proletarian internationalist. His concern was with the liberation of all humanity, and he saw China’s revolution as only one step on that road. He based all his views on the needs and interests of the working class internationally. Under his guidance, China became a reliable rear area for the revolutionary struggle, providing powerful political support, material aid and inspiration to those in the front lines of the fight to overthrow imperialism and to build socialism.

In all points of appraisal of the international situation and in all aspects of the development of China’s foreign policy, Chairman Mao took class struggle as the key link, firmly uniting with the working class and the oppressed nations and peoples. Along with general principles for understanding the world situation, Chairman Mao made a special study of very particular fronts of the class struggle internationally such as the Afro-American struggle in the U.S. In the course of supporting that and other struggles, he gave profound guidance to U.S. communists.

In a world in which the Soviet social-imperialists so abused the term “proletarian internationalism” that they have had to drop it from their official vocabulary recently, Chairman Mao’s teachings sum up and reaffirm the meaning of genuine proletarian internationalism in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

At every major turning point in the world events over the past 50 years, Mao Tsetung made a far-sighted analysis, deepening and enriching Marxism-Leninism. His exposure of the fundamental nature of imperialism and social-imperialism; his strategy and tactics for guiding the anti-imperialist struggle; his understanding of imperialist war and revolutionary war; his concept of the three worlds and the foreign policy he advanced for China have all become powerful weapons in the hands of the Chinese people and the international working class.

Today all the basic contradictions in the world are sharpening and the disarray and disorder faced by imperialism has created favorable conditions for revolutionary struggle. The factors for both war and revolution are developing. The third world is rising up, while the rivalry between the two superpowers for a redivision of the world inevitably drives toward a new world war. Under these conditions, it is especially important that every Marxist-Leninist and revolutionary worker turn the grief of Chairman Mao’s death into increased energy for studying and applying his teachings through all the twists and turns of the struggle. This article aims at providing an outline and brief sketch of Chairman Mao’s contributions in this area, thus serving as a guide to further study.

The concept of the three worlds

“Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution.” With these words Chairman Mao begins his first published theoretical work, “Analysis of Classes in Chinese Society.”[1] Mao posed and answered these questions here and in other works, not only in relation to China’s revolution, but also in reference to the international struggle of the working class.

Marxism-Leninism has always held that the working class stands at the center and in leadership of the revolutionary struggle in every country. At the same time, it also holds that the proletariat in each country does not stand alone in its struggle. More than 100 years ago, Marx and Engels raised the banner “Workers of all countries, unite!” in order to demonstrate to the workers in the various capitalist countries and among all nationalities that they had common enemies and could make a common cause. As peasants rose up against feudal serfdom and as the masses of the oppressed nations waged liberation wars against their oppressors, Marx and Engels also educated the working class to the importance of supporting these causes. They pointed out that such causes were in the proletariat’s class interests, since they weakened the rule of capital and placed an ally on their side. “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations,” said Engels, pointing to the danger to the working class if it failed to oppose the subjugation of other peoples by its “own” capitalists.

The rise of imperialism around the turn of the last century saw the further plunder of the colonies and dependent countries by a handful of “Great Powers,” who went to war with each other to redivide these “spoils” among themselves. One result of this war, however, was the October Revolution in Russia, which marked the beginning of the present era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.

Lenin further developed the teachings of Marx and Engels on proletarian internationalism and the allies of the working class during this period. Imperialism’s internal decay increased its drive for plunder worldwide. The revolutionary national movements, therefore, were no longer confined to the smaller, subjugated nations of Europe, but had become inseparably linked with the anti-colonial movements of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

With the October Revolution, what had been the “reserve” of the capitalists now became the ally of the world proletariat. To sum this up, Lenin modified the slogan of Marx and Engels into the new rallying cry of the Communist International: “Workers of all countries and oppressed nations of the world, unite!”


Chairman Mao took this line of Lenin and Stalin’s and developed it further in applying it to the concrete conditions in today’s world. A recent article from the China Features news service summed up Chairman Mao’s views in this way:

Making a penetrating analysis of all the basic contradictions of our time and the division and realignment of all the political forces in the world, Chairman Mao advanced his great strategic concept of the three worlds.

The United States and the Soviet Union make up the First World. They are the biggest international oppressors and exploiters of our time. Their fierce contention for world hegemony is bound to lead to war some day. Soviet social-imperialism is the biggest peace swindler and the most dangerous source of war today.

The developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere constitute the Third World. They are most heavily oppressed and exploited by colonialism and imperialism and are the main force in the fight against imperialism, and particularly against superpower hegemonism. In the course of their struggles, the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America have come to see more and more clearly the true colours of social-imperialism.

In between the two worlds is the Second World composed of Europe, Japan, Canada and other countries. While the developed countries of the Second World oppress and exploit Third World countries, they themselves are at the same time subjected to superpower oppression, exploitation, control or threat.

Studying the great realignments and political divisions which have shaken the world, especially since the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the breakup of the socialist camp, Chairman Mao recognized the present situation as one of “great disorder under heaven,” which he said was good for the people and bad for the imperialists. He saw that all the basic contradictions in the world were sharpening and that the trend of countries fighting for their independence, nations for their liberation, and people for revolution had become an irresistible trend of history.

His concept of the three worlds served the purpose of putting this “great disorder” into perspective–the perspective of how best to make use of the present situation to advance the interests of the great masses of people and the cause of revolution and socialism.


In doing so, Chairman Mao based his analysis on the views put forward by Lenin. Stalin, commenting on Lenin’s contributions in Foundations of Leninism, pointed out what “reserves” or allies were available to the proletariat in its struggle. Here he made a distinction between the proletariat’s “direct reserves,” which were part of the common revolutionary front against imperialism and its “indirect reserves,” which, even though they were among the enemies of the proletariat, objectively weakened the main enemy at a given time and thus enabled the revolutionary forces to advance. As Stalin put it:

The reserves of the revolution can be:

Direct: a) the peasantry and in general the intermediate strata of the population within the country; b) the proletariat of neighboring countries; c) the revolutionary movement in the colonies and dependent countries; d) the conquests and gains of the dictatorship of the proletariat-part of which the proletariat may give up temporarily, while retaining superiority of forces, in order to buy off a powerful enemy and gain a respite; and

Indirect: a) the contradictions and conflicts among the non-proletarian classes within the country, which can be utilized by the proletariat to weaken the enemy and to strengthen its own reserves; b) contradictions, conflicts and wars (the imperialist war, for instance) among the bourgeois states hostile to the proletarian state, which can be utilized by the proletariat in its offensive or in maneuvering in the event of a forced retreat.

There is no need to speak at length about the reserves of the first category, as their significance is clear to everyone. As for the reserves of the second category, whose significance is not always clear, it must be said that sometimes they are of prime importance for the progress of the revolution.[2]

Like Lenin’s viewpoint, Chairman Mao’s conception of the three worlds is, in essence, a strategic view of the world revolution. Because each of its components is based thoroughly and deeply on Marxism-Leninism, it is attacked today by revisionists, centrists and Trotskyists of all types, from Brezhnev on down. At the same time, because it conforms to material reality and answers the question of “friends and enemies” in the revolutionary struggle, it has been embraced by Marxist-Leninists all over the world as well as the masses of people, especially in the third world countries.


Lenin pointed out that imperialism is characterized by the “rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony.” In looking at today’s world, Chairman Mao saw that the U.S. and the USSR stood far and away as the biggest of the imperialist powers; that it was they and they alone whose contention extended to every corner of the globe; that it was they who possessed the vast military might of nuclear stockpiles as well as the conventional arms; that it was they who plundered and exploited the peoples of every continent. Thus he dubbed them imperialist “superpowers,” and pointed out that it was from the rivalry of these two superpowers that turmoil in the world originated and the threat of world war emerged.

Analyzing the particulars of the superpower rivalry, Chairman Mao called attention to Lenin’s “law of uneven development” and showed that, while U.S. imperialism is on the decline, Soviet social-imperialism is on the rise, a latecomer to the imperialist feast and is, as a result, more aggressive. He showed that, beneath the trappings of the red flag and below the signboard of “detente,” the Soviet Union was actually gearing up for war to redivide the world at a frantic pace and had become the main source of war.

As early as 1964, Chairman Mao stated unequivocally: “The Soviet Union today is under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie, the dictatorship of the German fascist type, the dictatorship of the Hitler type.”[3]

In comparing the Soviet Union with Hitler’s Germany, Chairman Mao not only drew attention to its fascist internal repression of the working class and nationalities, but also to its aggressive and rapacious drive towards Europe and the rest of the world.

Thus Chairman Mao boldly put forward the view that it was the two superpowers today who constitute the main enemy of the world’s people and that, between them, the main blow had to be directed at the USSR, which was trying to carry out its criminal deeds in the name of “socialism.”

In addition to Chairman Mao’s clearcut understanding of both the U.S. and the USSR as imperialist enemies, the other component of his designation of them as comprising the “first world” is the fact that they are the main enemies of the world’s peoples. As he wrote in 1940 in his famous article “On Policy”:

The Communist Party opposes all imperialism, but we make a distinction between Japanese imperialism which is now committing aggression against China and the imperialist powers which are not doing so now, between German and Italian imperialism which are allies of Japan and have recognized ’Manchukuo’ and British and U.S. imperialism which are opposed to Japan, and between Britain and the United States of yesterday which followed a Munich policy in the Far East and undermined China’s resistance to Japan, and the Britain and United States of today which have abandoned this policy and are r-now in favor of China’s resistance. Our tactics are guided by one and the same principle: to make use of contradictions, win over the many, oppose the few and crush our enemies one by one.[4]

Thus in today’s world, Mao Tsetung distinguished between imperialism in general, all of which is reactionary, and the two imperialist superpowers, which are committing aggression everywhere in the world. He further distinguished between the USSR which cloaks its aggression in the guise of socialism, and the old line imperialism of the U.S.

Chairman Mao also distinguished between the handful of imperialists who ruled the U.S. and the USSR and the broad masses of people inside the superpowers. He often expressed his confidence that revolutions in both countries would ultimately be successful in overthrowing the barbaric rule of imperialism. In 1970, Chairman Mao told the American writer Edgar Snow that he placed “great hope on the American people.”

The revisionists rant and rave about how Chairman Mao’s view of the three worlds and especially how the term “superpower” has “no class content.” But this demagogy is designed to cover up the very specific, very scientific class content of these terms. One might as well attack Lenin for speaking of “Great Powers” or Stalin for speaking of “dependent countries.” The revisionists are driven to make these wild statements by their fear of seeing the USSR exposed as the same type of imperialist power as the U.S. The Brezhnev clique’s plan for gaining world domination relies on getting in the back door of the revolutionary struggles while the people of different countries are expelling the U.S. from the front door. If the people of the world gain the understanding of who their friends and enemies are and, in particular, that the U.S. and the USSR together comprise the first world, which is the main enemy, then they will certainly never let the USSR in the back door.

Chairman Mao’s definition of the first world, then, is a mighty blow against Soviet social-imperialism, and that is why the revisionists hate the term.


Chairman Mao’s views on the third world, although not publicly articulated outside of China until the 1970s, were developed consistently throughout his work in the period since World War II.

In 1946, for example, Mao held his famous interview with Anna Louise Strong in which he pointed out: “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.”[5]

Although at that time the Soviet Union was still the citadel of socialism, the conclusion Mao drew is still relevant today. The Soviet Union and the U.S. remain separated by this vast zone between, which now includes both the second and third world countries. What Mao pointed out to Strong was that the U.S. could not attack the Soviet Union without first attacking the zone in between. Such aggression, he said, would bring the people of the whole world into opposition to U.S. imperialism.

Today, both superpowers are attacking the third world and the second world and are preparing to attack each other. The fact that the third world is standing up to them has great bearing not only on the development of the factors for revolution, but also in delaying the outbreak of war.


The term “third world” came into popular usage by the Asian, African and Latin American peoples as the upsurge in their movement for both political and economic independence began to unfold in the 1950s and 1960s. It reflected a rejection of the domination by the big powers and a search for unity among each other.

From the historic Bandung Conference of 1955, attended by Chou En-lai, to the present day, Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China firmly united with this great movement, pointing out that China, too, is a country of the third world. Chairman Mao’s definition of the third world and the role it is playing today provides a scientific class understanding of the thud world movement.

The third world covers a vast geographic region and contains the majority of the world’s population and resources. Each country has its own particularities, but all the third world countries share the characteristic of having been historically subjected to the political and economic domination of world imperialism. Although most of the third world countries have now won formal independence through brave armed struggle and dedication to the cause of liberation, today they all still face the task of winning their economic independence by combating the continued neo-colonial influence and domination of imperialism.

Chairman Mao paid the closest attention to the great armed liberation struggles of Indochina, Africa and the Mideast. China gave these struggles every possible support. He also took a keen interest in the attempts by the already independent countries to unite and throw off the shackles of imperialist domination in their economies, such as the movement of the OPEC countries or the demand for the 200-mile fishing limit off coastal waters. Chairman Mao summed up the impact of the liberation movements as well as the consistent steps taken by the third world countries to safeguard their independence from both superpowers and observed that the third world had become the main force in fighting imperialism and striking out at superpower hegemonism, thus weakening the main enemy of the international struggle.

This understanding of the third world was a concentrated expression of Lenin’s understanding of the place of the national question in this period of history. At the same time, it took into account the profound upsurge which has taken place in the struggles of the oppressed nations.

In Foundations of Leninism, Stalin had given the famous examples of why communists supported the Emir of Afghanistan or the rising Egyptian bourgeoisie in their struggles to overthrow British domination. He showed that, despite the monarchist views of the Emir, his struggle was in essence one of weakening British power at a time when Britain was the biggest imperialist power in the world. This was a favorable development, deserving the wholehearted support of communists.

In the 1970s, however, the proportions of the struggle by the third world countries against superpower hegemonism has expanded far beyond what it was in Lenin and Stalin’s time. It is no longer a case of one situation in Afghanistan or Egypt. Rather, it is a general trend which is actually propelling world history forward in the direction of revolution by weakening the main enemy and thus creating better conditions for the victories of -national liberation and socialism.

Although class and national differences still exist throughout the third world, the main trend is towards unity against the superpowers. Even though most third world countries are ruled by their national bourgeoisie or even feudal elements, the thrust of the third world struggle is profoundly revolutionary and deserving of the support of communists in every country.


Communists, of course, support first and foremost the struggles of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist parties within all of the third world countries. The proletariat of the third world has the historic task of firmly establishing the worker-peasant alliance and taking the leading and independent role in forging an anti-imperialist united front of all patriotic classes and strata. In this way, they can carry out the national and democratic revolution as the first stage in advancing the socialist revolution under semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions. As a result in supporting the general struggle of the third world, we are lending support, first of all, to these revolutionary fighters.

Perhaps the most crucial factor in Chairman Mao’s concept of the three worlds was his deep understanding of the national question and the struggle for national liberation. His writings on this subject, such as “On New Democracy,” which came out of China’s own experience in the national liberation struggle, have had a far-reaching impact on the development of the third world movement as well as the Marxist-Leninist forces throughout the world. “On New Democracy,” as well as other writings, showed scientifically how the Marxist-Leninists and the working class had to assume leadership of the new-democratic revolution as a first step on the road to socialism.

In all his work, Mao demonstrated this link between the national and class questions. In his 1963 statement in support of the Afro-American struggle, Mao wrote: “In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle.”[6]

Giving a graphic example of the importance of the national question to the fight against imperialism, Mao pointed out in the same statement: “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people.”[7]


He also squarely addressed the relationship between communism and the national struggle in light of the new-democratic revolution. In 1938, he posed the question:

Can a communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot?” He answered it by saying, ”We hold that he not only can be but must be. The specific content of patriotism is determined by historical conditions. There is the patriotism of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler, and there is our patriotism. Communists must resolutely oppose the ’patriotism’ of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler. The communists of Japan and Germany are defeatists with regard to the wars being waged by their countries. . .China. . is the victim of aggression. Chinese communists must therefore combine patriotism with internationalism. We are at once internationalists and patriots. . .Thus in wars of national liberation, patriotism is applied internationalism.”[8]

The conception of the third world and China’s actions in support of its struggles were also telling blows to the social-imperialists and modern revisionists. Throughout the world, the social-imperialists call themselves the “natural ally” of the third world but, in fact, seek to weaken and destroy its developing unity, carrying out the old imperialist policy of divide-and-conquer. One of their chief methods for doing this is to split the third world countries into two “camps,” pinning the “progressive” label on those more favorable to the USSR, and “reactionary” on those less favorable or opposed to the USSR. The revisionists, centrists, Trotskyists and other opportunists in the U.S. communist movement have served the same purpose with their attacks on the third world.

But Chairman Mao showed concretely how the movement of the entire third world was objectively progressive. He sharply exposed the role of social-imperialism in splitting the third world countries and called on the third world to get united. He advanced the view that differences among third world countries should be settled peacefully through negotiations and discussions in order to ensure the firmest unity against the superpowers. Where the adverse counter-current of national disunity developed within a third world country, as in Angola, Chairman Mao showed how the superpowers alone instigated and profited from these developments.

This direction which Mao Tsetung gave to the third world movement is frightening indeed to the social-imperialists. All their talk about being a “natural ally” cannot stand up to the experiences of the people themselves in the third world, who will undoubtedly get more closely united in the course of battling both superpowers.


In addition to the rise of the third world as the motive force against imperialism, Mao also took note of the developing contradictions within the capitalist countries, including those dominated by the USSR. The second world countries are of special importance in the rivalry between the superpowers because they have historically been the main allies of the superpowers. Many of them are currently entangled in superpower military alliances, and the majority of the countries are in Europe, the focal point of superpower contention. Therefore, Chairman Mao made a very careful analysis of the role they play in the world today.

Chairman Mao’s view of the three worlds holds that the second world countries are imperialist exploiters of the third world in their own right. At the same time, the second world is also subjected to superpower domination, interference and control to a lesser or greater degree. He maintained that this contradiction was an important one for proletarian revolutionaries to take into account and to utilize, both in delaying the outbreak of war and in accelerating the development of the revolutionary struggle internationally.

Studying the development of the world situation, Chairman Mao showed that, since the beginning of U.S. imperialism’s decline with its defeat in Korea, resistance to its domination by the second world countries had increased steadily. China itself was able to take advantage of this fact, for example, by normalizing relations with France in 1964 in spite of U.S. attempts to impose a diplomatic and economic blockade on China. France was an imperialist country which was clearly seeking more independence from U.S. control.

This tendency developed in Western Europe especially with the continuing economic decline of the U.S. and the rise of the third world. In East Europe, too, although a number of countries are under the brutal neo-colonial domination of the Soviet Union, there is a tendency towards greater independence.

With the breakup of the old bloc headed by U.S. imperialism, the Western capitalist countries also began to face the threat of control and interference from the Soviet Union. The most graphic case of this is Finland, where the Soviet Union exerts economic and political control despite Finland’s outward appearance of independence. Thus, to understand the question of the second world today, it must be seen in light of the hegemony-seeking of both superpowers.

Mao Tsetung did everything in his power to support the working-class struggle for socialism inside the second world countries and personally gave great aid to the Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations that were born out of the struggle with modern revisionism there.

While always aiding and supporting the revolutionary class in the second world, Chairman Mao also developed the policy of seeking to further develop the anti-hegemonist tendency which existed there, supporting every struggle against superpower domination. For example, the importance China attaches to the question of European unity against the superpowers was concretely demonstrated by the appointment of a Chinese ambassador to the European Economic Community last year.

Chairman Mao took great pains to warn every European leader he spoke with of the danger contained in a policy of appeasement towards the Soviet Union. He saw the sharp splits within all the capitalist countries between sections of the capitalists who were more favorable to appeasement and “detente” and sections less favorable. From his own experiences, as well as from the experiences of the world communist movement during World War II, he knew that appeasement can only lead to intensified aggression and hasten the outbreak of war. Therefore, he continually spoke out against the policy of appeasement and encouraged vigilance against both superpowers.


Mao Tsetung’s outlook on the second world was particularly hated by the revisionists. The social-imperialists have their eyes on Europe. They would “Finlandize” all of it if they could. They are preparing massive aggression and war against the European countries and the people of the whole world. In preparation, they preach the myth of “detente,” thus hoping to disarm Europe and get it to submit peacefully. They despised Chairman Mao’s warnings to the European countries and peoples to get prepared for war and slandered him in every possible way. But once again, their slanders were only a tiny fig leaf unable to cover over the naked truth that he so boldly exposed.

In summary, Chairman Mao’s concept of the three worlds answers the question of friends and enemies in the revolutionary struggle, showing how to build the united front against imperialism, headed by the superpowers. It demonstrates concretely that the third world is the main force combating imperialism, and is therefore the ally of the working class here in the United States. The second world has a vacillating aspect whose contradictions with the first world should be utilized by uniting with its anti-hegemonist tendency. And finally, the first world – the U.S. and the USSR – constitutes the main enemy, the enemy the working people of all countries must fight against resolutely.

China’s foreign policy

The basic line for China’s foreign policy was developed under the personal supervision of Chairman Mao. It was a field which he supervised even up to his last days when he was seriously ill. The policy which he developed took class struggle as the key link and was designed to serve the interests of the international working class, making full use of China’s position as a country in which the proletariat had already won power. Stressing that ’China should make a greater contribution to humanity,’ Mao Tsetung’s revolutionary line on foreign affairs was to lend all possible aid and assistance to the oppressed of the world, while successfully utilizing all the contradictions among the oppressors. A recent statement from the Chinese Party Central Committee summed up Chairman Mao’s foreign policy and pledged to continue it. The statement said:

We will continue to implement unswervingly Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and policies in foreign affairs, and adhere to proletarian internationalism. We will never seek hegemony or be a superpower. We will unite with all the genuine Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations in the world over, carry the struggle against modern revisionism through to the end, and wage a common struggle for the realization of communism and the emancipation of all mankind.

We will strengthen our unity with the international proletariat, the oppressed nations and oppressed people the world over and the people of the third world countries, and with all the countries subjected to aggression, subversion, interference, control and bullying by imperialism or social-imperialism and, in so doing, form a broad united front against imperialism, particularly against the hegemonism of the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. We will unswervingly establish or develop relations with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.[9]

On every point, China’s foreign policy is a model of proletarian internationalism. Chairman Mao boldly encouraged the class struggles within each country. Giving freely of both political support and material aid, China champions the cause of liberation in Asia, Africa, the Mideast and elsewhere, and gives consistent support to the efforts of the third world countries to develop their economies and fight superpower domination.

For example, when Tanzania and Zambia needed to build a railway to develop their national economies and break the blockade of the racist regimes in southern Africa, they were unable to obtain any support from the big powers, except with long strings attached. China stepped in to give parts, equipment, money, technical advice and thousands of workers to assist in the project free of charge.

The construction of the Tanzam railway was characterized by inspiring internationalism among Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian workers who studied, worked and learned from each other side by side. When the project was completed, China turned over control of it completely to the two African governments, desiring nothing in return except heightened solidarity in the fight for the liberation of Africa.

Chairman Mao’s attitude towards China’s aid was that the Chinese people should be thankful for the opportunity to aid those in the front lines of the fight against imperialism.

While making the maximum possible use of China’s ability to carry out state-to-state relations with many countries on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence, this was never meant to imply peaceful co-existence between classes within a given country. On this point, Chairman Mao clearly articulated his views in 1946, speaking of the role of the then-socialist Soviet Union in making alliances to fight the Axis powers. He said that sometimes socialist countries could make tactical compromises, as the “outcome only of resolute, effective struggle. . .against the reactionary forces.” He added, “Such compromise does not require the people in the countries of the capitalist world to follow suit and make compromises at home.”[10]

In giving aid to third world countries, liberation fronts, and Marxist-Leninist parties, Chairman Mao always stressed that political support should be primary over material aid, and that those who received the aid should never become dependent on it nor cease relying on their own efforts. This policy stands in marked contrast to the social-imperialists’ attempts to turn every country or movement into a neo-colonial dependency with their honeyed promises of “aid.”


The political support which China gave was never mere words. In the 1960s, for example, China was the first country outside the Arab world to recognize the PLO, thus giving great encouragement to the Palestinian struggle. In 1970, when the U.S. imperialists were savagely invading Cambodia and the Soviet revisionists had turned their backs on the Royal Government of National Union, Chairman Mao personally appeared on the rostrum of Tien An Men Square to deliver his famous statement of May 20 in which he gave complete support to the heroic Cambodian people as well as the other Indochinese peoples and people all over the world daring to rise up against imperialism.

In building such close relations with the countries, nations, and peoples of the world, Chairman Mao warned the Chinese people to be on guard against great-nation chauvinism.

“In our international relations,” he said, “we Chinese people should get rid of great-power chauvinism resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely.”[11] He added, “We must never adopt an arrogant attitude of great-power chauvinism and become conceited because of the victory of our revolution and certain achievements in our construction.”[12]

From the floor of the United Nations to posters in the streets of Peking, China proclaimed to the world that it would never seek hegemony and never become a superpower. Chairman Mao called on the people of the whole world to oppose China if it should ever become a superpower, and to unite with the people of China to overthrow it. Such a statement could never be made by either of the two superpowers.

Thoroughly rejecting great-nation chauvinism, China practiced equality in all its relations with countries both big and small. China’s firm refusal to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries has provided a sharp contrast to the social-imperialism of the Soviet Union, which meddles in the affairs of every country it can. In Angola, where China aided all the liberation forces and encouraged their unity, the USSR savagely wrecked and split, instigating civil war. This provides the most graphic contrast between a socialist foreign policy and a social-imperialist one.


While actively supporting the genuine socialist countries as well as the different Marxist-Leninist parties in the world, Chairman Mao held that ultimately it is the people of each country who have to determine their own destiny. Although China shines as a beacon of socialism, it has never sought to “export” revolution to another country.

China’s foreign policy closely adheres to Chairman Mao’s concept of the three worlds and is a concrete tool in building the united front against imperialism headed by the superpowers. Throughout the world, China supports the liberation and independence struggles of the third world countries and does everything in its power to strengthen third world unity and cooperation. China supports the tendency of the second world countries away from superpower control. China vigilantly combats both super-powers, dealing the main blow at the USSR, and consistently warns the people of the world about the danger of war.


This foreign policy is a glorious example of socialist foreign policy. The attacks on China’s foreign policy by the revisionists and centrists in our movement only expose the class nature of these forces. Their interests obviously lie with the social-imperialists, and that is why they try so frantically to discredit China’s foreign policy. While the centrists and revisionists clamor on about China, the people of the world have unending thanks and gratitude for the support China has shown them.

Chairman Mao taught the Chinese people that the final victory of socialism could only be accomplished through the unity of the Chinese working class with the fight of the working class internationally to abolish the entire system of exploitation of man by man around the globe. This is the cause to which China’s foreign policy is always subordinated. In this sense, it is truly a communist foreign policy.

Strategy and tactics

Lenin long ago pointed out that imperialism, for all its brutality and aggression against the people of the world, was in essence a “colossus with clay feet.” But this great teaching of Lenin’s has been consistently obscured by all the revisionists and traitors to the communist movement.

The likes of Lovestone and Browder in the U.S. communist movement, for example, prettified and glorified the “progressive character” of imperialism and tried to blunt the class struggle against it. Today, Gus Hall and his gang are doing the same thing with reference to both U.S. and Soviet social-imperialism.

The destruction caused by the Second World War and, in particular, the explosion of the atomic bomb, frightened many people-a fear which the revisionists carefully played on, once again with the aim of blunting the class struggle. The Khrushchev revisionists in particular, after seizing power in the Soviet Union and restoring capitalism, began to preach that imperialism was too powerful; that peaceful coexistence with it would have to be arranged; that if the people of the world were to struggle and take up arms, a single spark would “touch off a world conflagration,” as Khrushchev himself told the heroic Vietnamese comrades.

It is against this backdrop that the importance of Mao Tsetung’s thesis that “imperialism and all reactionaries are paper tigers” becomes clear. Chairman Mao fully understood the basic nature of the enemy and gave the people of the world correct strategic and tactical leadership in fighting it.

In August, 1946, Chairman Mao stated unequivocally: “The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the U.S. reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible but in fact it isn’t. Of course, the atom bomb is a weapon of mass slaughter, but the outcome of a war is decided by the people, not by one or two new types of weapon.

All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful.[13]

Armed with this view, Mao showed that the way to fight was to despise the enemy strategically but take him seriously tactically. In his 1958 speech to the Party’s Political Bureau, Chairman Mao made this clear: “Imperialism and all reactionaries looked at in essence. . .from a strategic point of view . . .are paper tigers. On this we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers which can devour people. On this we should build our tactical thinking.”[14]

Chairman Mao reiterated this thesis under the noses of the Soviet revisionists at the 1957 meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow. While Khrushchev delivered his bombast about “peaceful coexistence” and the “new era” which atomic weapons had brought to the world, Chairman Mao’s speech issued an appeal to the world’s people:

I have said that all the reputedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people. Look! Was not Hitler a paper tiger? Was Hitler not overthrown? I also said that the Tsar of Russia, the emperor of China and Japanese imperialism were all paper tigers. As we know, they were all overthrown. U.S. imperialism has not yet been overthrown and it has the atom bomb. I believe it also will be overthrown. It, too, is a paper tiger.[15]

From that point forward, the choice between the road of revisionism and the road of revolution, became increasingly clear to the people of the world struggling for their liberation. In later years, Chairman Mao would put forward his view of the enemy time and again as the world struggle spiraled forward. He issued the famous call “Dare to struggle! Dare to Win!” These words were great inspiration to all those around the world who refused to buy Brezhnev’s trash about liberation being dependent on “detente” and the negotiations of the big powers.


In the May 20th Statement, Chairman Mao summed up the relationship between imperialism and the people’s struggle: “Innumerable facts prove that a just cause enjoys abundant support while an unjust cause can find little support. A weak nation can defeat a strong, a small nation can defeat a big. The people of a small country can certainly defeat aggression by a big country, if only they dare to rise up in struggle, dare to take up arms and grasp in their own hands the destiny of their country. This is a law of history.”[16]

Chairman Mao never rested content with general statements, and always followed them up with more particular guidance. In the May 20th Statement, for example, he had pointed out the danger of war, but observed that revolution was the main trend in the world. As conditions changed and the rivalry between the superpowers grew more intense, Chou En-lai would sum up Chairman Mao’s views in 1974 by showing that the factors for war and revolution were both developing.


Similarly, Chairman Mao added to his general thesis that “All reactionaries are paper tigers” which had guided the struggle in the 1950s by pointing out in 1964: “The revisionist Soviet Union is a paper tiger, too.”[17]

Summing up the lessons of capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union, Chairman Mao took the social-imperialists seriously tactically, showing just how dangerous they were. But to him, this was no reason to shrink from the struggle against social-imperialism. Like all other reactionaries, it was outwardly strong but inwardly weak; it was beset with contradictions at home and abroad; it too could surely be defeated through determined struggle.

War and peace

Chairman Mao approached the question of war and peace from the standpoint of the working class. He analyzed it dialectically and summed up his own experiences as a leader in the revolutionary wars of the Chinese people, which spanned a quarter century.

He pointed out clearly: “History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we communists not oppose just wars, we actively participate in them. . .The way to oppose (an unjust war) is to do everything possible to prevent it before it breaks out and once it breaks out, to oppose war with war, to oppose unjust war with just war, whenever possible.”[18]

Chairman Mao consistently instructed the Chinese people and the people of the world to be prepared for war. He drew on Lenin’s teaching that “war is the continuation of politics by other (i.e., violent) means.” Mao added that “war is the period between two periods of peace” in order to emphasize the fact that war is inherent in the contradictions of class society.

From the conclusion of World War II to the most recent months, Chairman Mao worked tirelessly to awaken people internationally to the war danger. He taught that the collusion between the superpowers in the form of “detente” was temporary and relative at best, while the contention between the superpowers was permanent and absolute-a contention which is bound to lead to a new world war someday. He exposed the class nature of such a war, pointing out its source in the imperialist rivalry for profits and plunder.

In particular, Mao drew attention to the Soviet Union, which over the last few years has become the most dangerous source of a new world war. His continuous appeals for vigilance against the war threat provided a sharp exposure of the Soviet revisionist clamor about an “era of detente” and the “relaxation of tensions” internationally.

Chairman Mao urged preparation in the face of the war danger for several reasons. “Preparations” are both offensive and defensive. Defensively, they can delay the outbreak of war or minimize its impact once it begins. Offensively, preparations mean getting ready to turn a bad thing into a good thing–getting ready to turn unjust war into just war; getting ready to turn the imperialist war into a civil war. Such preparations are of the utmost importance to the working class today.

Although always showing that communists must desire and fight for peace, Chairman Mao urged the people not to be afraid of war. He pointed out that the outbreak of war intensified all the basic contradictions in class society. As a result, it aroused the revolutionary anger of the people and brought about heightened conditions for revolutionary struggle. He summed up the relationship between war and revolution when he wrote in 1957:

People all over the world are now discussing whether or not a third world war will break out. On this question too we must be mentally prepared and do some analysis. We stand firmly for peace and against war. But if the imperialists insist on unleashing another war, we should not be afraid of it.

Our attitude on this question is the same as our attitude towards any disturbance; first we are against it; second, we are not afraid of it. The First World War was followed by the birth of the Soviet Union with a population of 200 million. The Second World War was followed by the emergence of a socialist camp with a combined population of 900 million. If the imperialists insist on launching a third world war, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to socialism, and then there will not be much room left on earth for the imperialists; it is also likely that the whole structure of imperialism will utterly collapse.[19]


Mao went on to give concrete guidance on both parts of his proposition that “first we are against it” and “second we are not afraid of it.” Regarding the former, as has already been shown in this article, he consistently pointed out the class nature of where the danger of war came from and urged the people of the world to do whatever possible to stop the war preparations.

In particular, Chairman Mao exposed the policy of appeasing aggression as a dangerous policy which could only hasten the outbreak of war. He not only did this in the present period, but also in the days before World War II. In 1939, for example, he criticized the Munich agreement promoted by the British Prime Minister Chamberlain. This reactionary colluded with Hitler’s occupation of Czechoslovakia in the vain hope that, by appeasing Hitler, he would satisfy his aggressive appetite. Said Chairman Mao: “The inevitable result of Chamberlain’s policy will be like ’lifting a rock only to drop it on one’s toes.’ Chamberlain started with the aim of injuring others only to end up by ruining himself. This is the law of development which governs all reactionary policies.”[20]

Mao was also a master of strategy and tactics, especially when it came to making use of contradictions in the enemy’s ranks. He fully supported the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939, which delayed the outbreak of Hitler’s attacks on the Soviet Union by more than a year. When asked by a correspondent how he would feel if the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Japan, whom China was then fighting, Mao replied: “Even if such a treaty were to be concluded, the Soviet Union would certainly not agree to anything that would restrict its freedom of action in helping China. The interests of the Soviet Union will always conform and never conflict with the interests of China’s national liberation.”[21]

In analyzing the experience of World War II, Chairman Mao also showed how what was originally an unjust war among the big imperialist powers became a just war against fascist enslavement and in defense of the socialist Soviet Union. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union, he pointed out: “On whichever side, the Anglo-French or the German, the war that has just broken out is an unjust, predatory and imperialist war. The Communist Parties and the people of all countries should rise up against it and expose the imperialist character of both belligerents.”[22]

In the same article, he went on to support the Soviet Union’s dual policy of refusing to take part in the unjust war, while at the same time boldly aiding the people of China, Spain and elsewhere who were fighting just wars of national liberation against the fascist invaders.

The day after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, however, Chairman Mao pointed out that the Soviet war of resistance which was unfolding was “being waged not only in its own defense but in defense of all the nations struggling to liberate themselves from fascist enslavement.”[23]

Recognizing that the character of the war had changed, Chairman Mao called on communists throughout the world to “organize an International united front to fight fascism and defend the Soviet Union, defend China, and defend the freedom and independence of all nations. In the present period, every effort must be concentrated on combating fascist enslavement.”[24]

In China, Chairman Mao led the way to build just such a united front. Always maintaining the independence and initiative of the working class and its party. Chairman Mao led the anti-fascist struggle to victory and on to the next task of waging revolutionary war to liberate China from its own bureaucrat-capitalists, feudalists and foreign overlords.


As to not being afraid of war once it breaks out, Chairman Mao’s instructions on waging people’s war, his writings on the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare, and the lessons he summed up from the rich experiences of the People’s Liberation Army in China, which he personally founded, are an added chapter of his great contributions to Marxism-Leninism.

He held that “Revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society, and without them it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power.”[25]

To wage such revolutionary wars, Chairman Mao stressed reliance on the masses, not weapons alone, and showed the importance of the “party leading the gun.” He said: “The richest source of power to wage war lies in the masses of the people. It is mainly because of the unorganized state of the Chinese masses that Japan dares to bully us. When this defect is remedied, the Japanese aggressor, like a mad bull crashing into a ring of flames, will be surrounded by hundreds of millions of our people standing upright. The mere sound of their voices will strike terror into him, and he will be burned to death.”[26]


Mao Tsetung’s powerful analysis of the development of factors for both war and revolution in the present international situation is deserving of careful study and application to the concrete questions that we face in the U.S. and the new questions which will continue to arise in the future.

But throughout our examination of the world situation, we should be guided by Chairman Mao’s emphasis that despite “great disorder,” the conditions are favorable to the people. Whether war breaks out, and thus leads to revolution, or whether revolutions throughout the world are finally successful in doing away with imperialism and its system of exploitation and war–either way, Chairman Mao said, “the future of the world’s people is bright.”

Chairman Mao said of the proletariat that it is a class characterized by “revolutionary optimism.” We are indeed revolutionary optimists. We are revolutionary because after study and analysis we have developed a scientific understanding of the complex questions facing us. We are optimistic because we are putting that analysis into action to serve our high communist ideals and the ultimate realization of the goal of our cause.

“The masses alone are the makers of history,” Chairman Mao noted. What we are witnessing in the great turbulence that characterizes the world today is the development and unfolding of a great movement of the masses of people in their billions against a handful of reactionary imperialists whose future on the earth cannot be long.


[1] Mao Tsetung, Selected Works, Peking edition, Vol. l,p. 13.

[2] Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, Peking edition, p. 88.

[3] Chairman Mao’s talk of May 11, 1964, quoted in Peking Review. April 24, 1970.

[4] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 443.

[5] Selected Works, Vol. 4, p. 99.

[6] Statement of August 8, 1963.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 196.

[9] Peking Review, November 12, 1976, p. 3.

[10] Selected Works, Vol. 4, p. 87.

[11] Mao Tsetung, “In Commemoration of Dr. Sun Yat-sen,” cited in Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, Peking edition, p. 180.

[12] Mao Tsetung, “Opening Address to the 8th Congress of the CPC,” cited in Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, p. 180.

[13] Selected Works, Vol. 4., p. 100.

[14] Mao Tsetung, “Speech to the Political Bureau of the CPC,” cited in Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, p. 180.

[15] Mao Tsetung, “Speech at the Moscow Meeting,” cited in Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, p. 79.

[16] Statement of May 20, 1970.

[17] Chairman Mao’s talk of January 30, 1964, quoted in Peking Review, April 24, 1970, p. 12.

[18] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 150.

[19] Mao Tsetung, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” cited in Quotations From Chairman Mao Tsetung, p. 67-8.

[20] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 264.

[21] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 281.

[22] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 277.

[23] Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 29.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 344.

[26] Selected Works, Vol. 2, p. 186.