Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee

Theory of the “Three Worlds” Opposes Marxism-Leninism


First Published: Unite!, Vol. 3, No. 8, September 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Based upon a firm grasp of the contradictions of the imperialist epoch, Marxist-Leninists have historically placed the proletariat at the center of world developments.

Today, opportunists are attempting to replace the major contradictions with the concepts of the ”Three Worlds”. They hope to sidetrack proletarian revolution in the capitalist countries by a reactionary call for national defense. They attempt to deliver the powerful national liberation movements over to the reactionary forces that serve the imperialist powers. To defeat this emerging opportunist trend, the working class and its allies must grasp the essential nature of imperialism and the underlying contradictions.

Imperialism and Revolution

Imperialism is the highest and last stage of capitalism. It marks the transition from capitalism to socialism. Therefore, the historic mission of the proletariat, its strategic task in this era, is the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism.

To guide the working class, to provide a scientific basis for its strategy, the great leaders of the working class have analyzed the four basic contradictions of our epoch:

1. The contradiction between two opposing social systems – capitalism and socialism. These systems stand diametrically opposed to each other. The breaking away of the socialist countries shrinks the markets of imperialism. Socialism is a great beacon of the working class. The result is a profound economic, political and moral crisis for capitalism.

2. The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist and revisionist countries. The proletariat is the leading force in this struggle. Armed with its own advanced detachment, the communist party, it will throw off the chains of capitalist rule in one country after another.

3. The contradiction between the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations and imperialism (including social-imperialism). Waged under the ideology of the proletariat, national liberation struggles have directed and continue to direct merciless blows at imperialism, feudalism and reaction.

4. The contradictions between the imperialist powers and the monopoly capitalist groups. The contention among the imperialists makes imperialist war an integral part of the imperialist epoch.

Recognizing that these four major contradictions will remain for the entire epoch of imperialism, Marxist-Leninists have developed their general line that can be summed up briefly in the following vital principles: “Workers of all countries, unite; workers of the world unite with the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations; oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries; strive for world peace, national liberation, peoples democracy and socialism; consolidate and expand the socialist camp; bring the proletarian worid revolution step by step to complete victory and establish a new world without imperialism, without capitalism, and without the exploitation of man by man.”(A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, 1963, Letter of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, p. 4)

The Theory of the “Three Worlds”

The theory of the “Three Worlds” claims that the socialist camp no longer exists, the Western imperialist bloc no longer exists and that the world is divided into three parts or “Three Worlds”.

According to this view the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. make up the “First World”. The other advanced capitalist countries make up the “Second World”. The countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and such countries as Yugoslavia in Europe constitute the “Third World”.

This theory has become the basis to call for unity of the “Third World” countries with the imperialist powers of the “Second World” against the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. It has even gone so far as to call for a united front, against only the Soviet Union. Clearly these positions are poles apart from the principles of the General Line for the International Communist Movement of 1963 and a Marxist-Leninist analysis of the four major contradictions in the epoch of imperialism.

In its origin the theory of the “Three Worlds” attempts to liquidate the contradiction between the two social systems on the grounds that capitalism has been restored in the U.S.S.R. Capitalism has been restored there. But the restoration of capitalism in one country cannot dissolve the socialist camp. The socialist camp includes the genuine socialist countries and all those who struggle for the realization of socialism. The proponents of the “Three Worlds” theory, like the revisionists of the U.S.S.R. before them, reduce the question of the socialist camp to one of blocs and not a class question. In fact, this is only a ploy to create still another bloc based upon the view that the division between socialism and capitalism does not matter. Hardly novel, this song has been sung by the likes of Tito of Yugoslavia and Boumedienne of Algeria for many years.

As for the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the “Second World”, the dictatorship of the proletariat is taken off the agenda, replaced by a call for national resistance to the two superpowers and class peace. NATO, which has long been an instrument of class oppression and imperialist aggression is said to be a means of national defense for European countries against the Soviet Union.

And what of the proletarian revolution here in the U.S.? The Communist Party (ML), which champions the line of the “Three Worlds”, has assured the U.S. bourgeoisie that it will be impossible to overthrow them before the outbreak of an imperialist war. The primary source of this war, says the CP(ML), is the U.S.S.R. They have told the U.S. working class that they should direct their main blow at the U.S.S.R. and not at the bourgeoisie in this country. To top it off, they claim that once the imperialist war begins they will turn it into a civil war. But what they do not and cannot explain is how they propose to shift the workers in time of war from delivering the main blow at the U.S.S.R. back against the U.S. bourgeoisie. Of all the claims, the theorists of the “Three Worlds” are most vocal about their alleged support for the peoples of the “Third World”. They say that the “Third World” is the main force against the two superpowers. But they have not even got this contradiction straight. Instead; they talk about the reactionary governments, and downplay the true national liberation movements. They go so far as to demand that class contradictions between the oppressed nations and such reactionary regimes as those of Mobuto in Zaire and the Shah of Iran, must be glossed over. Exposing these contradictions, they say, would aid the two superpowers.

They claim the theory of the “Three Worlds” can tell us who are our friends and who are our enemies. We have already seen that these opportunists incorrectly include as friends the European bourgeoisie and the forces of reaction that attempt to suppress national liberation struggles. But they are unwilling to stop even there. According to this view, one of the greatest friends of the “Third World” is Tito of Yugoslavia. Tito is one of the founders of the so-called non-aligned movement. This is the very same Tito that along with Earl Browder of the U.S. introduced modern revisionism’s attack on Marxism-Lenin-ism It was not for nothing that our Albanian and Chinese comrades once jointly declared, “Any attempt to reverse the verdict on the Tito clique is a betrayal of Marxism-Leninism, of the 1960 statement, of the socialist camp, and the international communist movement.” (Sino-Albanian Joint Statement, Peking Review, Nov. 3, 1964, p. 17).

As we have seen the theorists of the “Three Worlds” started by saying that there is no longer a socialist camp. They have already repudiated the principles of the 1960 Statement quoted above. They are attempting to split the international communist movement and replace it with an anti-Leninist chorus. Supporting Tito is only part of the total betrayal.

The Strategy of the Proletariat

Whether in combat against the old revisionism of the Second International and its defenses of the fatherland, the consolidated revisionism of the social-imperialist U.S.S.R. or the emerging revisionism around the concept of the “Three Worlds”, the proletariat and its party have a clear program to follow.

We must support and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat where it exists. We must actively fight for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of socialism. We must support and assist all national liberation struggles which objectively weaken imperialism.

We must oppose all imperialist war preparations – particularly the imperialist designs of the main enemies of the world – the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

These are the tasks that will truly insure the resolution of the four major contradictions of our era. To achieve victory, battle must be waged against imperialism and social-imperialism, and against each and every compromising and opportunist agent or prop of capitalist reaction.

What the theory of the “Three Worlds” divides is not the proletariat and its allies from the bourgeoisie, but the proletariat itself.

Ever since the seizure of state power by the Russian working class in alliance with the peasantry, a clear and unmistakable division emerged in the world. On the one hand stands the proletariat and its allies, the dictatorship of the proletariat and national liberation. On the other hand stands the bourgeoisie and its agents, fascism and imperialist war. This is the only true guide to distinguish our friends from our enemies, the only basis of correct strategy and tactics.

To abandon this viewpoint, to chop up the revolutionary forces and preach a theory of non-alignment and class collaboration, is to stand opposed to everything the working class has fought for and achieved in the history of class struggle. To spread such confusion, to abandon the lessons learned by billions of working people worldwide, over half a century in countless countries, is to try and turn history upside down.

Many times in our era forces emerged in defense of imperialism which sought to confuse and mislead the proletariat. Each and every time Marxist-Leninists have battled against opportunism. Now is such a time. No theory of ”Three Worlds”, non-alignment or defense of the fatherland can pass itself off as successor to the Great October Revolution.

Marxism-Leninism will surely triumph in combat against modern revisionism, just as the proletariat will achieve victory over the bourgeoisie.