Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

People’s Daily Editorial on Theory of Three Worlds:
’A Major Contribution to Marxism’

First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 45, November 21, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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An article of major significance was published in China’s People’s Daily newspaper on Nov. 1. The editorial is called: “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism.” It presents an in-depth analysis of China’s international line and policies as developed by Mao Tsetung.

The 35,000-word article consists of five parts: 1. The Differentiation of the Three Worlds as a Scientific Marxist Assessment of Present-Day World Realities; 2. The Two Hegemonist Powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, are the Common Enemies of the People of the World; 3. The Countries and People of the Third World Constitute the Main Force Combating Imperialism, Colonialism, and Hegemonism; 4. The Second World is a Force That Can Be United With in the Struggle Against Hegemonism; 5. Build the Broadest International United Front and Smash Superpower Hegemonism and War Policies.

Taken as a whole, the People’s Daily editorial, which has now been published in the Nov. 4 issue of Peking Review, offers the reader the most thoroughgoing presentation yet of China’s revolutionary line. It stands as a resounding refutation of the modern revisionists, Trotskyists and all other opportunists. The article helps clear up some of the misunderstandings of the “three worlds” analysis as well as the distortion of this correct thesis by the revisionists.

The first section explains in detail how Mao Tsetung’s theory of the three worlds scientifically describes the realities of class struggle in today’s world.

This section not only shows how this analysis flows directly from the method of Lenin and how it is in line with Stalin’s views which followed Lenin, but also for the first time, quotes Chairman Mao directly on the thesis. In a talk with a leader of a third world country in February 1974, Mao Tsetung said: “In my view, the United States and the Soviet Union form the first world. Japan, Europe and Canada, the middle section, belong to the second world. We are the third world. The third world has a huge population. With the exception of Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. The whole of Africa belongs to the third world, and Latin America too.”

This view of the world divided into three was not meant by Mao to be a “replacement” for a class analysis as some have claimed, but rather, it applies a class analysis in accordance with the concrete conditions of the modern world and removes it from the realm of abstraction. The three worlds analysis takes into account the new conditions in the world where the socialist camp no longer exists, due to the destruction caused by Soviet social-imperialism. The camp of imperialism is also in a state of disintegration.


The article shows how the three worlds analysis is a development of Lenin’s views on the contradictions in the world in the era of imperialism. It shows how at one time, Lenin described the world as being divided into “two worlds: the old world of capitalism... and the rising new world....” He pointed out at another time that “the characteristic feature of imperialism consists in the whole world.. .being divided into a large number of oppressed nations and an insignificant number of oppressor nations...” in this way showing the great significance assumed by the national question in the modern era.

Stalin too said in 1924 that “the world is divided into two camps: the camp of a handful of civilized nations ... and the camp of the oppressed and exploited peoples in the colonies….”

This method of dividing the world according to the differing major contradictions was later used by Lenin, Stalin and then Mao to understand the three areas of division arising under imperialism after World War I. As the article points out: “Lenin put different countries of the capitalist world into three categories—the oppressed colonial and semi-colonial countries and vanquished countries, countries which retained their old positions and countries which had won their way and benefited by the partition of the world...”

This dialectical and historical method enabled the communists and international working class to become the champion of all the oppressed peoples, nations and countries, while at the same time fighting for their own emancipation from capitalism.

The second part of the editorial analyzes the first world, that is the two superpowers, and concludes that they stand together as “the common enemies of the people of the world.” Using accurate and up-to-date statistics, the article not only shows the comparative economic and military strength of the two hegemonic powers, but also reveals their different methods in contending with one another for world domination.

It points out, for example, that: “Although the Soviet Union falls short of the United States in the total volume of profits grabbed from other countries, it is not in the least inferior to the latter in its methods of plunder. It is chiefly through ’economic aid’ and ’military aid’ to third world countries that the Soviet Union buys cheap and sells dear and squeezes enormous profits in the process.”

It is precisely because the USSR is weaker than the U.S. economically that it must work more feverishly to expand at the expense of the U.S. Because it is a latecomer to the imperialist feast, it must become the most aggressive. It was Lenin who showed that a redivision of the world among the great imperialist powers can only be achieved “forcibly.” The article quotes Chairman Mao in 1976 when he pointed out: “The United States wants to protect its interests in the world and the Soviet Union wants to expand; this can in no way be changed.”

The editorial offers proof that the Soviet Union is the main source of a new world war and sternly criticizes those who would appease its aggression.

Under these circumstances, the article says, if “we should still indiscriminately put the two superpowers on a par and fail to single out the Soviet Union as the more dangerous instigator of world war, we would only be blunting the revolutionary vigilance of the people of the world and blurring the primary target in the struggle against hegemonism.”

Of course, as the article explains, the people of each particular region can decide which imperialist poses the most immediate threat to them according to their own specific conditions. For example, in the U.S., which itself is one of the superpowers, we have the special task of combating U.S. imperialism and carrying on the struggle for socialism in our country. The general purpose of the editorial, however, is to discuss the general question concerning the world situation as a whole and the worldwide common struggle against imperialism and the two superpowers.

The third part of the article describes the role of the third world as the “main force” in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism. Making up 70% of the world’s population, the people of the third world are the decisive force for the working class to unite with to carry out the world revolution.

The article concretely shows how the just struggles of the working class and of the countries and peoples of the third world support one another. It describes the effects of the betrayal by the revisionist parties of the workers’ movement. As a result, this movement in the capitalist countries is now at the general stage of “regrouping and accumulating strength.” The article points out that in these countries, the U.S. included, “there is as yet no revolutionary situation for the immediate seizure of state power. Such being the case, the more actively the third world countries and people play their role as the main force in the struggle,” the more they will give support and “impetus” to the workers’ movement in the developed countries.

Therefore, the recognition of the role of the third world in the present international situation in no way minimizes the leading role of the proletariat or its role in the present struggle. Rather it points up the need for our movement to heighten its efforts and to closely link itself to the rapidly developing movement of the masses throughout the world.

The article also points out that the socialist countries, China included, are part of the third world, because as Chairman Mao said: “…China cannot compare with the rich or powerful countries politically, economically, etc. She can be grouped only with the relatively poor countries.”

The article also warns those who would try to use the fact that the working class is the leader of the revolution to “form a so-called center to order the people of various countries about in their anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle, or even try to subordinate this struggle to the private ends of one country.’”

Part four deals with the second world countries, which, while being imperialists themselves, are also to one degree or another faced with the threat of the two superpowers, and especially of the Soviet Union. The article describes the changes that have taken place during the past 30 years, which have been marked by the struggle against U.S. control.

Today, faced with the weakened position of U.S. imperialism and the growing threat on their border of the Soviet Union, the European and other second world countries are moving towards greater economic, political and military unity, both among themselves as well as with the third world. While some opportunists have attacked this growing unity, slandering it as “nationalism” and “jingoism,” the article points out that “since the second world countries are faced with the superpowers’1 growing threat of war, it is necessary for them to strengthen unity among themselves and their unity with the third world and other possible allies, so as to advance in the struggle against the common enemy.”

It explains, however, that it is necessary for the working class in the second world to intensify its class struggle against the monopoly capitalists of their own country as a condition for this united struggle against the superpowers, “if unity is sought through struggle,” it points out, ”it will live; if unity is sought through yielding, it will perish.”

The final section calls on the people of the world to forge the broadest possible international united front against the two superpowers and against their strivings towards war. It calls for an exposure of the myth of “detente” and warns the people of the world of the inevitability of a new world war, calling on them to get prepared.

While calling the outbreak of war “inevitable,” the article points out that war can be delayed through the forming of such an international united front, intensifying the struggle against hegemonism. The article hits hard at the modern-day appeasers, like those in this country who put forth the notorious “Sonnenfeldt Doctrine,” which accepted the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in hopes that the appetite of the social-imperialists would be satisfied.

This article of profound importance is a great step forward in educating the people of China and the whole world as to who our friends and enemies are. It serves as a clarion call to the workers and oppressed people the world over to get organized and get united against the two superpowers and their war policies. Finally the People’s Daily editorial is a stunning blow to the modern revisionists and all those who repeat their fallacies and who cover up the real character of imperialism.

The careful study of this article is essential for all those who want to advance the cause of revolution in the world.