Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

“Three Worlds” Strategy: Apology for Capitulation


First Published: Revolution, Vol. 3, No. 14, November 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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For some time now, considerable attention in the international communist movement has been devoted to debating the Chinese international line. Since the counter-revolutionary coup in China shortly after Comrade Mao Tsetung’s death, it has become crystal clear that the “three worlds” strategy is part and parcel of the Chinese revisionists’ general line for the restoration of capitalism in China and capitulation to imperialism, particularly at this time U.S. imperialism, on a world scale.

In 1966 Mao wrote to his wife and close comrade, Chiang Ching, that if, after he died the capitalist-roaders came to power, then “The right in power could utilize my words to become mighty for a while. But then the left will be able to utilize others of my words and organize itself to overthrow the right.” These words were very prophetic indeed. But what is remarkable is how few of his words the revisionists in China can dredge up to try to lend Mao’s prestige to a line that runs counter to everything Mao spent his life fighting for.

Of course, what stands out most sharply is that the “three worlds” theory is not a theory at all, but rather an empty and shallow justification for the Chinese revisionists to pursue a pragmatic policy in international affairs. A policy not based on advancing the interests of world revolution but on the contrary a policy of sacrificing support for revolutionary struggles and based on an overall line of gutting socialism in China itself for what the revisionist usurpers see to be their immediate and narrow interests. It is a chauvinist “theory” that substitutes the national interests of China–as perceived through the distorted looking glass of the bourgeoisie–for the worldwide struggle against imperialism and demands that these “interests” occupy the central position in the international communist movement.

Because the “three worlds” strategy is a recipe for capitulation, it has found ardent supporters in many countries throughout the world among precisely those self-styled “Marxists” anxious to grab hold of any justification–especially one backed by a country as prestigious as the People’s Republic of China–for capitulating to their own bourgeoisie. In our own country we have seen this most clearly and shamelessly on the part of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (formerly the October League) which has used this “theory” to justify their line of aiming their “main blow” not at their own rulers, the U.S. ruling class, but at the Soviet social-imperialists. Similarly, they and others like them have found the “three worlds” strategy a handy justification for ignoring and in fact opposing the genuine struggles for national liberation in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. But just as this revisionist line has been taken up by opportunists and social-chauvinists around the world, genuine Marxist-Leninists have come forward to fight it from every corner of the globe also.

Discards Class Analysis

The Chinese revisionists (in their major article on the subject “Chairman Mao’s [sic] Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds Is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism”) purport that the “three worlds” analysis reflects the alignment of class forces on a world scale. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

To take a step back, for a moment, from the lofty world of geo-politics, it is obvious that the “three worlds” analysis provides no insight into the actual tasks or alignment of class forces in any particular country. Quite the contrary, to the extent that it is used to provide any actual direction in this regard, it is downright reactionary–except perhaps in the Soviet Union, in which, apparently, revolution is not outlawed yet.

In the “third world,” for example, we find lumped together countries with very differing class relationships. In most of these countries political power is in the hands of enemies of the revolution, the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlords. Can there be any question that in countries like Iran, the Philippines, Chile, Kenya. Nicaragua or Brazil, the task confronting the masses of people is the overthrow of their regimes even to win national liberation? What possible meaning can the “struggle against imperialism” have if it does not have as its cornerstone establishing the political rule of the popular classes, first and foremost the working class and the peasantry?

In other countries such as Mozambique or Tanzania, political power does not rest with the out-front spokesmen for imperialism and instead the political task is one of arming the masses with the understanding that the national bourgeoisie is likely to capitulate to imperialism or, failing that, to be crushed by it. The communists must prepare the masses politically, organizationally and militarily to carry the revolution forward to socialism and must consistently build struggle toward that aim. And the “three worlds” theory would even place the “socialist countries” as part of this monolithic “third world.” As to why Mao referred to China as part of the “third world,” more later.)

Similarly, with the so-called second world we find mostly imperialist countries. Their social order, their class basis, is indistinguishable from the superpowers themselves. The task of the proletariat in these countries can only be the overthrow of its own ruling class, not some sort of struggle against the superpowers in alliance with its “own” bourgeoisie. It is also quite clear that many of these so-called second world countries are big international exploiters in their own right. To talk of the “unity between the second world and the third world” can only mean the strengthening and expansion of the present “unity” (of opposites) that already exists. Does the fact that France, for example, has a bigger share in some West African states than the U.S. mean that somehow the masses in those countries should fight to preserve their present situation? That somehow the fundamental social order is different than if the U.S. or the Soviet Union singlehandedly ran the show?

The “three worlds” theory makes the assumption (and insistence!) in analysing the “second world” countries that a revolutionary situation does not exist nor can one conceivably arise. Therefore the working class in these countries can do no better than to vie with the bourgeoisie for the position of being the best fighters in preserving the imperialists’ interests.

Thus it can be seen that no matter how it is looked at, the “three worlds” analysis provides no clue about how to advance the struggle for revolution in any particular country. But the “three worlds” strategy is being put forward as an overall global strategy (the question of making revolution in any country does not enter into it). The first question that inevitably comes to mind is, a strategy for what? And once again the anSWer emerges–for anything but advancing the revolution worldwide.

Indeed, one is treading on thin ice as soon as a “strategy” for the international proletariat is advanced. Historical experience has shown that such strategies, even where correct, have but limited and short-term usefulness. From a world-historic viewpoint one basic strategic alliance emerges in the epoch of imperialism–the link between the struggle of the proletariat of the advanced countries for socialism and the liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples of the colonial countries as the two component parts of the world proletarian revolution.

Upholds New Colonialism

But despite the liberal use of quotations from Lenin, Stalin and Mao about this basic feature of the struggle against world imperialism by the Chinese revisionists, the “three worlds analysis” goes entirely against this Leninist principle. In fact, it exactly negates the national liberation struggles–essentially presenting them as a thing of the past. In place of the struggle for national liberation in the “third world,” which can only have at its heart the struggle for political (i.e., state) power, it substitutes the fight for “economic independence,” led by the reactionary ruling classes!

The “three worlds” strategy postulates that the great majority of “third world” countries have achieved their independence but are still subjected to bullying and encroachments by the superpowers. But this assumption, which they hope to pass off with a sleight of hand, runs contrary to the facts and to the revolutionary line of Lenin and, specifically, Mao. Lenin, citing Argentina’s dependence on Britain, showed in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism that formal political independence did not at all rule out real imperialist domination.

While such cases were, in Lenin’s time, the exception to the rule (the imperialists finding it still possible to rule through direct colonization), one of Mao’s important points in the struggle against Khrushchevite revisionism was to stress that neo-colonialism had become the common form for the imperialists, U.S. imperialism especially, to dominate large chunks of the globe. He fought tooth and nail against the very proposition that neo-colonial bondage could somehow disappear through “economic progress,” i.e., without revolution. One need only recall Vietnam, where the southern half of the country was formally “independent,” to realize what a shuck this line is. And, in fact, in the great majority of the “third world” real “independence,” that is liberation from imperialism, is precisely the item on the agenda.

Far from a strategy which would encourage the masses of people in the “third world” nations to rise up against neo-colonial domination, the “three worlds” strategy is one which actually calls on it to be strengthened. A few of the “theoretical” (and practical) points raised by the Chinese revisionists are worth taking brief note of.

Here is how the Chinese revisionists present the struggle in the “third world” since World War 2:

In the early post-war years, most of the third world countries had not yet won their independence and some were in a semi-independent position. At that time their struggle was aimed at winning national liberation and independence, and it primarily took the form of revolutionary armed struggle. It was then universally acknowledged that they constituted the main force in combating imperialism. Today, the people in some parts of the third world are still carrying on armed struggle for liberation and independence, still fighting in the forefront of the world-wide struggle against imperialism and colonialism. It is the sacred duty of both the international proletariat and the revolutionary people of the world to render resolute support to their struggle. [As in Iran?!–RCP]

Now a new question arises: Will the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America which have won independence continue to be the main force in the struggle against imperialism for a fairly long historical period? Our answer is yes. (Our emphasis. From the Chinese revisionists’ major statement, “Chairman Mao’s [sic] Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds Is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism” appearing first in English in Peking Review #45, 1977 and republished as a pamphlet, to which the page numbers refer, and hereafter referred to as “three worlds” article. pp. 42-3)

Clearly the point the revisionists are making is that the national liberation struggles as such are a thing of the past and can only exist today by way of exception. Instead the central point is whether the countries (which can only mean the regimes in power, as distinct from nation, meaning the people) will maintain and strengthen their independence. The fight for political power is liquidated, and with it the need for revolution for as Mao put it so brilliantly, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Despite the fact that certain real changes have taken place in the “third world” countries over the last two decades and more, one would be hard pressed to explain how the fundamental class bases of the countries has shifted or how the hold of imperialism over them is now fundamentally different.

In Latin America, for example, almost all the countries were formally independent prior to World War 2: no real change in their social systems has taken place nor any real difference in their relation to imperialism. How can one say that the regimes in these countries correctly targeted by Mao and the Chinese Communist Party in the ’60s as neo-colonial props of imperialism have now become “independent” regimes which have to be strengthened, not overthrown?

For the purposes of demagogy, the Chinese revisionists deliberately try to confound the categories of “people” and “nation” with “country,” hoping to bestow on the reactionary regimes the revolutionary mantle of the struggle against imperialism and for national liberation. But demagogy is just that–demagogy–and when we get to the heart of the actual political questions it is clear that the Chinese revisionists oppose the struggle for liberation.

Take, for example, one of their characterizations of the great progress the “third world” countries have taken toward independence. “A large number of third world countries now have their own armies and in varying degrees have shed the influence of colonialism.” What an accomplishment! What, might we ask, is the class nature of these armies? Do they exist to maintain a social order based upon the rule of the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlords, or are they really armies directed against imperialism? Perhaps this view of the importance of the army explains the Chinese revisionists’ special love for the Shah of Iran who has succeeded in building up an army which exceeds that of some imperialist powers in strength and arms. And the recent events in Iran should make clear to anyone who has followed events there and is not a fool, or a charlatan, on whose behalf it acts.

Lastly, on the Chinese revisionists’ love for neocolonialism, in Teng Hsiao-ping’s 1974 address to the United Nations, at which the “three worlds” analysis was first presented, he makes the following suggestion:

In many developing countries, the production of raw materials accounts for a considerable proportion of the national economy. If they can take in their own hands the production, use, sale, storage and transport of raw materials and sell them at reasonable prices on the basis of equitable trade relations in exchange for a greater amount of goods needed for the growth of their industrial and agricultural production, they will then be able to resolve step by step the difficulties they are facing and pave the way for an early emergence from poverty and backwardness.

Quite a statement from a “Marxist-Leninist”! Not only is it unnecessary to wage revolution to emerge from poverty and backwardness, but the very neo-colonial relations themselves can accomplish it! Teng’s recipe for progress is not one whit different than the Soviets’ call for an “international division of labor,” or, more crassly, imperialist Britain’s now shattered claim to be the “workshop of the world.”

The imperialist relationship between the advanced countries and the dependencies is not primarily the lack of “equitable trade relations.” But precisely that imperialism enforces a situation where the colonial and neo-colonial countries are characterized by the production of raw materials and, on the other hand, are a market for the export of manufactured goods and, most importantly, of capital itself. And, of course, it is this basic relationship that makes the concept of “equitable trade relations” or a “new economic order” a sham and a farce.

In retrospect, it is clear that Teng’s above statement was only partially aimed at justifying the old economic order of imperialism in general. He was also broadcasting his counter-revolutionary program for tying China once again into the imperialist orbit–a program which has been conducted with vigor since the counter-revolutionary coup of October 1976 in China. Just as Teng looked with envy upon the representatives of the oil-rich comprador bourgeoisies of the Middle East, so today he is in China carrying out his own advice, signing an agreement to sell billions of dollars of Chinese oil to Japan in return for advanced technology. (Teng’s prescription for “progress” should have found support from Fidel Castro–despite differences over which superpower to kneel before–since Castro for many years has been implementing exactly the same program for neo-colonial dependence by maintaining Cuba as a giant sugar plantation dependent on the Soviet Union and telling the masses that somehow this will enable them to purchase an “early emergence from poverty and backwardness” some day.)

Teng’s speech to the UN is one good example of what Mao was referring to when he said of Teng:

This person does not grasp class struggle; he has never referred to this key link. Still his theme of “white cat, black cat,” making no distinction between imperialism and Marxism.

Theory of the Productive Forces

The “three worlds” theory and the Chinese revisionists’ general program for capitalist restoration have a common thread in the revisionist “theory of the productive forces.” Just as Hua and Teng in fact preach that China will advance toward “communism” by accomplishing the “four modernizations” on the basis of restoring capitalist relations of production, so the “three worlds” theory holds that countries will become independent through economic gains without shattering the relations of imperialist dependence.

The “theory of the productive forces” presents “progress” as simply the quantitative acquisition of productive capacity while leaving productive relations to somehow automatically transform themselves. It ignores that under capitalism, and socialism also in important regards, it is precisely capitalist production relations (or remnants of them) that fetter the productive forces, that it is precisely revolution that is necessary to liberate the productive forces. And this outlook, the outlook of the bourgeoisie, invariably sees the productive forces as simply a question of the means of production, the factories, the oil wells, etc., it cannot comprehend Marx’s truth that “the greatest productive force is the revolutionary class itself.” Applied to the international situation, it is the outlook of the comprador bourgeoisie which seeks to fatten itself off the labor of the working masses, squabble with its imperialist overlords for a more “equitable” vision of the spoils, but never entertain a thought of actually fighting to eliminate the relations of production and the relations between countries that imperialism fosters and maintains.

Defense of the Fatherland, “three worlds” Style

One of the heights of irony of the “three worlds” strategy is that while it basically writes off, as relics of a bygone era, wars for independence from imperialism (national liberation) in the third world countries (or at least those aimed against the U.S.), it resurrects them Europe. According to the “three worlds” article, referring to Europe,

national wars against large-scale aggression, enslavement and slaughter by a superpower are not only possible and probable; they are inevitable, progressive and revolutionary. (p. 63)

It is hard to imagine a more direct attack on the basic Leninist principle on the attitude the proletariat in the imperialist countries must take toward its “own” bourgeoisie. Lenin’s stand on World War I and the fierce struggle against those who would take any stand other than the struggle for the revolutionary defeat of their own bourgeoisie, is of course well own. As Mao summed up very succinctly in 1938, “on the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing.” (“Problems of War and Strategy,” Vol. 2, pp. 219-20.)

But according to the current revisionist rulers of China the above quotation of Mao, like his revolutionary line in general, is outdated. Instead the communist parties should be preparing to fight the war against the superpowers (read, Soviets). And they can begin “today,” by raising the slogan of “defending national independence.” (“three worlds” article, p. 59)

Searching for some justification for this betrayal, the Chinese revisionists offer up only the fact that where in previous periods five or six “Great Powers” struggled among each other for world domination, today only the U.S. and the USSR have superpower status. This is, in effect, nothing but a clumsy argument for a new era, somehow different from imperialism, in which Lenin’s teachings do not apply.

First off, this argument is ludicrous on the face of it, for while in the past there were several imperialist powers more equal in strength, both previous world wars developed not as free-for-alls with each imperialist attacking the others indiscriminately, but rather as wars between two blocs of imperialist states, in which the contradictions between the states making up each bloc were temporarily mitigated by their common contradiction with the rival bloc.

The fact of the matter is that the war that the West European imperialists are preparing to fight is an imperialist war. War remains a continuation of politics by violent means, and the politics of these countries can only be the reflection of their social-economic system of imperialism. These countries are dominated by monopolies which export capital; they plunder others of their natural resources, prop up reactionary regimes and seek to extend their spheres of influence. The fact that they do so in alliance with U.S. imperialism in no way changes the fact that they are acting out of their “independent” imperialist interests. Nor can the fact that this alliance is unequal (what imperialist alliance isn’t?) in any way change their imperialist nature.

As Lenin put it quite clearly, “In short: a war between imperialist Great Powers (i.e., powers that oppress a whole number of nations and enmesh them in dependence on finance capital, etc.), or in alliance with the Great Powers, is an imperialist war. Such is the war of 1914-16. And in this war ’defense of the fatherland’ is a deception, an attempt to justify the war.” (“A Caricature of Marxism,” CW, Vol. 23, p. 34, emphasis Lenin’s.) Not only do these smaller imperialist powers plan to go to war to preserve their current imperialist interests against the threats of the rival bloc, they also hope that in the event of the victory of their bloc the current “division of the world” would give way to one more favorable to themselves even among the victors (the U.S. role in World War 2 in seizing colonies away from Britain and France is an example of this).

To bolster their argument against Leninism, the Chinese revisionists, in an article incredibly titled “The Justness of Second World Countries’ Defense of National Independence As Seen from Lenin’s Expositions on ’Defence of the Fatherland’”[!] (reprinted in Peking Review #5, 1978), say that the “second world” countries are no longer concerned with “the problem of redividing the world with the two superpowers but how to safeguard their own independence and security.” And, “as a result of the uneven development of imperialism, the imperialist camp headed by the United States has broken up.” To this we can only ask: Gentlemen, what “world” are you living in?

Lenin did not argue that there could be no national war in the midst of an overall inter-imperialist war. During World War I, he pointed out that not only could there be such a war in the colonies but that in Eastern Europe such could be the case since there the national question was, as he put it, at that time a question for the present. But he did stress for example, that

The national element in the Austro-Serbian war is an entirely secondary consideration and does not affect the general imperialist character of the war. (“Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad,” CW, Vol. 21, p. 159.)

The “three worlds” strategy takes as its premise the non-revolutionary situation existing in the imperialist countries and the weakness of the (pseudo and genuine) Marxist-Leninist forces. Lenin, however, stressed repeatedly, especially with regards to war, the possibility of a very rapid change in the mood of the masses into a revolutionary one. He pointed out the outbreak of world war can bring with it the embryo of a revolutionary situation. He also pointed out the possibility of revolutionary parties greatly expanding their influence among the masses quickly despite twists and turns and perhaps even initial setbacks.

Furthermore, Lenin stressed that “no socialist has ever guaranteed that this war (and not the next one), that today’s revolutionary situation (and not tomorrow’s) will produce a revolution” (“Collapse of the Second International,” CW, Vol. 21, p. 216). He heaped abuse on those who would use this lack of a guarantee to fail to work unceasingly for the defeat of one’s “own” bourgeoisie in the event of war. All that the “three worlds” strategy could ensure (if it were to be adopted by the Marxist-Leninists of the “second world” countries), would be that a successful revolution would not even be thinkable and that the result of the war would leave the proletariat of Europe not closer, but farther, from the task of socialism.

Soviet Main Danger

Despite the fact that in the “three worlds” strategy the two superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, are lumped together as part of the “first world,” and labelled as the “common enemies of the world’s peoples,” in fact this strategy makes a great to-do about the Soviets being “the most dangerous” of the two. The Chinese revisionists even argue that if

we should still undiscriminatingly 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. (“three worlds” article, p. 39, emphasis added.)

Here we have it in all its glory. The two superpowers are the common enemies, but the “primary target” of the people of the world must be the Soviet Union. It is quite evident that this is the theoretical justification for the policy the revisionist rulers are following, of allying with U.S. imperialism, and its bloc against the Soviets.

The basis for labelling the USSR the “most dangerous source of war” is that it is the Soviets who are on the strategic offensive, forced to demand a new redivision of the world favorable to them and, of course, at the expense of the U.S. and Western imperialists. Once again, the “most dangerous” line flies directly in the face of Lenin’s basic teachings on imperialist war.

Is there any difference between the fact that the Soviet Union is on the strategic offensive, precisely because it lacks its “equitable” share in the division of the world, and the situation prior to World War 1 when it was Germany which was most directly and aggressively pushing for a new division of the world? There is no fundamental difference.

To make the Soviets the “primary target” of the people of the world is nothing but a base appeal for maintaining the present imperialist division of the world in which U.S. imperialism and its Western allies dominate the bulk of the world. Further, since the “three worlds” strategy cannot prevent an inter-imperialist war from breaking out, all the talk of “most aggressive” and “most dangerous” simply obscures what the class nature of such a war would be and helps prepare public opinion for the Western imperialists who will undoubtedly declare that they are fighting a war of “defense” against the encroachments of the Soviets.

Ironically enough, their “three worlds” line also has the effect of handing over the banner of “class struggle” and “class analysis” to the old revisionist parties and thus in fact strengthens their treacherous grip on important sections of the people.

The danger of world war cannot stem from anything other than the rivalry between the imperialist powers, the superpowers especially, and from the nature of the imperialist system itself. To try to attribute the danger of war as coming principally from one or another of the superpowers (and their bloc) is to make a mockery of class analysis and simply make it a matter of “aggression.” This, of course, is exactly the road pioneered by the Second International in regard to WWI, when the great majority of socialist parties found one excuse or another for supporting their own bourgeoisie in the war, either openly or by refusing to call for its defeat in the war. To raise the slogan of “national independence” for European imperialists is outright social-chauvinism.

The defenders of the “three worlds” strategy attempt to use an article by Lenin, “The Junius Pamphlet” (CW, Vol. 22, pp. 305-319), which says that under an unlikely set of circumstances there could be a national war in Europe–as opposed to an imperialist war–fought by a “number of viable national states” against an imperialist Great Power that had subjugated them. Lenin not only called this “improbable,” but added that “It would hurl Europe back several decades,” because such a war would still find the bourgeoisie in the forefront or at least delay the question of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat.

And in this same article, Lenin makes very clear that “the class that represents progressive development is the proletariat,” which was then, with regards to the imperialist World War I, “striving to transform it into a civil war against the bourgeoisie.” Further, Lenin adds, speaking of Western Europe in particular, “international finance capital has created a reactionary bourgeoisie everywhere.” Lenin, in stressing that the transformation of WWI into a national war in Europe was “highly improbable,” also pointed out in this essay that “only a sophist can disregard the difference between an imperialist war and a national war on the grounds that one might develop into the other.”

It can be seen that the “highly unlikely” set of circumstances which Lenin said would have to exist in order for there to be a (genuine) national war in Europe, does not apply to the situation in the Western imperialist countries of the so-called “second world.” Indeed, if one were to examine the actual criteria that he set (namely, “If the European proletariat remains impotent, say, for twenty years; if the present war ends in victories like Napoleon’s and in the subjugation of a number of viable states...”) one could only conclude that these countries should wage their “national war for independence” against the U.S. imperialists, which, as we all know, is the last thing the Chinese revisionists are arguing for (at least at present).

United Front for What?

To return to the question raised earlier, what is the “three worlds” a strategy for? The proponents of the “three worlds” strategy never claimed it to be a strategy for revolution but rather for building a worldwide united front against hegemonism. Thus the task of the international struggle becomes not the fight for proletarian revolution, nor to combat imperialism, but simply to fight one feature of imperialism, the striving of the superpowers (read Soviets) for world hegemony. How “hegemonism” can be defeated without the overthrow of imperialism, monopoly capitalism, is a question our three worlders prefer to ignore.

The actual programmatic content of the “united front against hegemonism” is for the U.S. imperialists to further step up their war preparations, for the poor downtrodden imperialist powers like West Germany, France and Japan to tighten their unity with one another, and with the U.S. especially, on the basis of the opposing the USSR and for further strides to be taken in lining up every possible reactionary regime in the “third world” into this imperialist-led cabal. The role for “Marxists-Leninists,” according to this theory, is to try to deceive the masses into believing that this imperialist policy is in their interest and become a cheerleading section for these reactionary ruling classes.

The new regime in China has truly been making its contributions to shoring up this imperialist alliance. First and foremost they help the imperialists by stepping into Khrushchev’s shoes and trying to play the role of fire extinguisher of the revolutionary movements around the world. Hua Kuo-feng’s recent trip to Iran in the midst of a mighty revolutionary upsurge is a good case in point and a perfect example of the “three worlds” strategy in practice. He praised the Shah’s regime and gave credence to the lie that the Soviets were behind the current massive revolt. (See Revolution, October 1978 and article on page 17.)

The Chinese have also embarked on a good deal of “unity” building with the “second world,” entering into various economic agreements that can only reduce China to a dependency on imperialism once again. And militarily they are in constant contact with the Western imperialist powers, so much so that Western bourgeois observers refer to China as “an unofficial member of NATO.”

Indeed, stripped of all its verbiage the “three worlds” strategy is nothing other than a plan aimed at advancing what the Chinese revisionist leaders consider their own national interests. Since the Chinese revisionists perceive the biggest threat, at the moment, as coming from the Soviet Union, and since they lust for Western technology to attempt the “four modernizations” on a capitalist basis, they have developed an international “strategy” which would reduce the whole of the international communist movement to simply an appendage of their reactionary foreign policy.

This was particularly evidenced in an article from a group of so-called communists in Paraguay who wrote,

To achieve China’s modernization at top speed and to continuously strengthen its national defense are the most important and most reliable guarantees that the revolutionary movement of the masses in all countries will in the long run defeat the main enemies of the people throughout the world–the two superpowers.

The statement goes on to criticize as “hidebound localism” all those who would dare put making revolution above China’s new “long march” to capitalism. Most significant was not that this statement was made, but that it was published in Peking Review (#28, 1978).

No doubt the theorists of the “three worlds” truly believe that by awakening the West to its own imperialist interests, and in fact concluding a full scale alliance with it, China can avoid having to face a Soviet military threat singlehandedly. They hope that the outcome of World War 3 would be the victory of the “wars of national independence” and against “aggression” waged by the Western imperialists and that they could escape relatively unscathed. Further they hope that a real “new economic order” could emerge in which China would be able to play the “superpower of the third world,” and they are today already beginning (to quote one of Mao’s poems) to “assume a great nation swagger” in their dealings with those they regard as weaker (their vicious cutting off of aid to Albania is a case in point).

But this scenario is but a dream of the Chinese bourgeoisie. The actual road they are following, especially given the still backward conditions of China, will not lead to its emergence as a superpower but will make it once again a feasting ground for the imperialists. It is a strategy for national capitulation, as well as capitalist restoration.

The “three worlds” article states explicitly that ”there will be different alignments of the world’s political forces in different periods” (p. 7). This translates to mean that the present interests of China demand the “three worlds” theory, while future interests could well mean that yet another opportunist theory could be devised to justify some other course–particularly the possible capitulation of China to the Soviet social-imperialists (a point that will be addressed later in this article).

The Chinese revisionists emphatically state that the “three worlds” strategy is not a question of defending China against the Soviets, but that it is an accurate reflection of the current world situation and the needs of the world revolution. But by making this statement all they are doing is seeking to substitute their own bourgeois interests for the international revolutionary struggle.

History of “three worlds”

Despite the attempts of the Chinese revisionists, and some others as well, to identify the “three worlds” as Mao’s “strategic conception,” such a view just won’t wash. The most telling evidence that Mao did not originate the “three worlds” strategy is his entire life as a revolutionary. Mao’s writings on the international situation are all entirely consistent with Leninist principles and in practice he always stood with the revolutionary struggles everywhere in the world.

While the revisionist rulers of China can show no evidence that Mao ever considered the “three worlds” to be the ”new global strategy for the international proletariat and the oppressed people” (“three worlds” article, p. 21) there is every evidence that his fundamental analysis of the world revolutionary struggle was not based on “three worlds” but rather on the four basic contradictions in the world. These four contradictions are the cornerstone for the kind of international line developed by Lenin and Stalin and struggled for by Mao and other Marxist-Leninists worldwide in the fight against Khrushchevite revisionism. They were put succinctly in the report to the Ninth Party Congress (which though given by Lin Piao was done so against his will, and as the 10th Congress pointed out in affirming the Report of the 9th Congress, actually was Mao’s line not Lin’s). The Ninth Congress puts them this way:

.. .there are four major contradictions in the world today: the contradiction between the oppressed nations on the one hand and imperialism and social imperialism on the other; the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist and revisionist countries; the contradiction between imperialist and social-imperialist countries and among the imperialist countries; and the contradiction between socialist countries on the one hand and imperialism and social-imperialism on the other.

It is interesting to note that the “three worlds” was never presented as a strategy, and still less attributed to Mao, during his lifetime. Teng Hsiao-ping’s speech to the UN in 1974 (which stops short of openly proclaiming the “three worlds” as the international strategy for “revolution”) makes no attempt to attribute the “three worlds” theory to Mao. Following Mao’s death, neither the Central Committee statement which enumerated Mao’s many contributions to Marxism-Leninism and the revolution, nor, for that matter, Hua Kuo-feng’s memorial speech (obviously the product of struggle on the Central Committee and in the main reflecting Mao’s line, not Hua’s) mentioned the “three worlds” theory.

Similarly, the state Constitution adopted in 1975 (before the coup) stresses proletarian internationalism and support for the struggles of oppressed nations and peoples and does not mention the “three worlds,” while the recent constitution, adopted by the revisionists, makes the “three worlds” line the basis for “proletarian internationalism” and relations with others in the world.

On the very same week that Teng Hsiao-ping was making his speech to the UN, Wang Hung-wen, one of the so-called “gang of four” and one of Mao’s closest comrades-in-arms, pointed out in a speech to a visiting delegation from Cambodia: “Recently, Chairman Mao again taught us: We are Communists, and we must help the people; not to help the people would be to betray Marxism.” (Peking Review #5, 1974) This was a very clear statement that cut against the whole direction Teng and Chou En-lai were taking in international policy.

And lastly, it should be noted that the current rulers of China are able to produce but two quotes from Mao’ referring to “three worlds” and neither of these in any way presents it as some sort of “global strategy.” From all of this it can be seen that attributing the “three worlds” theory to Mao is a monstrous forgery.

In the two years since the revisionist coup, endless examples can be found of the new rulers flagrantly ripping quotes from Mao out of context to make it sound like he was arguing against his own revolutionary line. They even do this to articles available in their entirety. Can there be any reason to doubt that this kind of misquoting and distortion is even more the case when they “quote” Mao from texts which haven’t even been released?

Still, it is clear that Mao Tsetung and the revolutionary Left he led did sometimes distinguish countries into three broad groupings or “worlds.” It is important to get a clear handle on what Mao and the Four were saying by this and what they were trying to accomplish.

To begin with, Mao Tsetung did, correctly, assess that in the world today there were but two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and the USSR, and that the contention between them was leading toward world war. Few would deny that there is some validity in taking note of this objective difference between the superpowers and the lesser imperialist powers or the fact that, at present, it is only the two superpowers who are capable of heading up an imperialist bloc for carrying out world war–without, of course, ignoring the fundamental identity of the social order of all the imperialist states.

Similarly, Mao took note of the fact that contradictions of the world imperialist system were, in the period following World War 2, sharpest in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America–the “third world”–and that it was in these countries that the main revolutionary battles were taking place. As Mao stressed in his polemics with Khrushchev in the early ’60s, the “storm center” of the world revolution had shifted from West to East (and he also pointed out that this “storm center” could and would shift back to the West as conditions for proletarian revolution ripened in the imperialist countries).

This was an important analysis, for it flew in the face of the Soviet revisionists who wanted to stomp out the flames of national liberation struggle and who downgraded their significance for the world revolutionary struggle, holding instead that the principal contradiction in the world was between the socialist and the capitalist camps and using this formulation to try to subordinate the revolutionary struggles to the (now bourgeois) interests of the Soviet Union’s ruling class.

Mao also took note of the fact that all of the countries of Asia (except Japan), Africa and Latin America shared a common history of colonialism and imperialist domination and as such had certain common features, despite profound differences in many other regards. He took note of the fact that with the battering of U.S. imperialism, especially at the hands of the peoples of Indochina, and with the intensification of the crisis of imperialism, many of the regimes of the “third world” countries were taking some steps, however halting and partial in nature, that objectively struck blows at the imperialists or at least put difficulties in their path. Mao argued that such steps could and should be supported, particularly by the proletariat in power.

With this kind of orientation, Mao agreed to China’s attempts to establish diplomatic and other relations with various countries in the “third world”. One important aspect of this policy was the defeat of the imperialists’ efforts to establish a diplomatic embargo on the Peoples Republic of China, a policy that came crashing down with the admission of China into the UN. China also used its diplomatic ties with various third world regimes to attempt to win them to support key revolutionary struggles, a case in point being the campaign to have these regimes recognize the revolutionary government of Cambodia during the Indochina war or at least support its admission to the U.N.

China gave firm support to the Arab countries who took up the oil boycott during the 1973 war with Israel and later supported the efforts of the OPEC countries to demand higher prices for crude oil. Similarly, China supported efforts by “third world” countries to demand a 200 mile ocean sea limit to help protect their fisheries and similar moves to resist imperialist domination.

In taking these steps Mao never argued that the basic task of winning national liberation in these countries had been eliminated. On the contrary, the Chinese continued to give aid and support to the sharpest armed battles against imperialism including in Indochina, Palestine, the Philippines and other countries. They continued this support even in those cases (such as the Philippines) where they had established relations with the reactionary regime against whom the struggle was directed. In taking this policy, Mao was completely in keeping with long established practice among socialist states. Lenin and the Soviets, for example, entered into several agreements with the Weimer Republic in post-World War I Germany, while giving full support to the insurrections that took place there.

It is also clear that Mao Tsetung gave his endorsement to the general policy of “opening to the West” which began to take full form with the visit of Nixon to China in 1972. In doing so, Mao was reacting especially to the clear fact that the Soviet Union represented the main immediate threat to China’s security. Nixon’s visit reflected, above all, the failure of the U.S. imperialists’ efforts to encircle China. For Mao to argue for establishing relations with the U.S. imperialists and trying to make use of the contradiction between the two superpowers is certainly not any kind of violation of principle and is indeed in keeping with the foreign policy of the USSR under both Lenin and Stalin.

Struggle Over International Line

At the same time it is clear that during this whole period there was intense struggle raging in China over whether to continue the revolution or adopt a revisionist line leading back to capitalism. This struggle was sharply reflected in the battle over international line and foreign policy.

From the early 70’s, the Right, led by Chou En-lai, sought to pursue the kind of capitulation to imperialism that is currently being conducted under the signboard of the “three worlds” theory. For them, the Nixon visit and the “opening to the West” was not a matter of exploiting contradictions between the superpowers and other reactionaries but attempting to ally China with and make it dependent on the U.S. imperialist bloc.

They argued for decreasing support for revolutionary movements in the hopes of being able to cement this alliance. Hence Mao’s rejoinder “not to support the people would be to betray Marxism” issued at the very time Teng was preparing his UN speech, takes on particular significance. So does the article (clearly putting out the line of Mao and the Four) written during the “Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius Campaign” which contained a blast at the “revisionist line” of “reduction of assistance and support to the revolutionary struggles of the people of various countries.” (“History Develops in Spirals,” Peking Review #43, 1974.)

Similarly, the Left hammered at the theme of national betrayal, at capitulation to imperialism and betraying revolutionary struggles in many articles aimed at mobilizing people against the Right. This was particularly true of the campaign to criticize the novel Water Margin, which was specifically directed by Mao himself against capitulation.

Still, the Right held considerable influence throughout this period, including dominance of the Foreign Ministry and the liaison department of the Central Committee (whose task was to maintain contact with fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties but which was turned into little more than an adjunct of the Foreign Ministry.) These people went far beyond the limited moves that Mao was prepared to make in “opening to the West” and in encouraging regimes of the “third world” countries to resist certain imperialist practices.

Take Chile for example. In 1973 the Allende regime was overthrown by a CIA coup and a bloody reign of terror was unleashed against the revolutionary masses and revolutionary organizations. 30,000 people were massacred. In response, revolutionary and progressive people throughout the world condemned the crimes of the U.S. imperialists and their henchman, Pinochet. The response by the Chinese was totally disgusting. Chou En-lai made a weak-kneed statement to Allende’s widow, with no denunciation of the U.S.

The articles in the Chinese press (and it must be pointed out that while the press was generally under revolutionary leadership, coverage of foreign affairs was heavily influenced by the Foreign Ministry) did not denounce the Chilean regime or its crimes against the people.

While the massacres were still going on, Chou rushed to be among the first to embrace the Pinochet regime and give it diplomatic recognition. Although there is nothing wrong in principle with establishing diplomatic relations with reactionary regimes, this move was a cynical backstabbing of the Chilean people’s struggle and was seen as such throughout Latin America and the world exactly at a time when millions were looking to, and expecting, China to side with the revolutionary struggle. Chou’s move served no purpose except to signal his intention to reactionary regimes throughout the world: we don’t give a damn about the revolution in your country as long as you oppose the Soviets! As if Pinochet, or his CIA sponsors, needed any encouragement from the Chinese to oppose the Soviet Union. This whole disgusting episode only strengthened the hand of the Soviets and the revisionist parties throughout Latin America, as revolutionaries were rightly disgusted by the Chinese revisionists’ betrayal.

But despite the fact that counter-revolutionary actions were taken in the name of “Chairman Mao’s foreign policy” even while he was alive, as a whole the international line of the Chinese Communist Party remained a revolutionary one. And, undoubtedly, this question was deeply involved in the struggle Mao and the Four were waging against the Right at that very time.

The fact that the Chinese Party was never able to formulate an all-encompassing document on the international situation during the period before Mao’s death is evidence itself that there must have been sharp struggle on this question. Further the Chinese revisionists themselves tell us in the “three worlds” article that,

In our own country, there are persons who frantically oppose Chairman Mao’s theory of the three worlds They are none other than Wang Hung-wen, Chang Chun-chiao, Chiang Ching and Yao Wen-yuan, or the “gang of four.” Hoisting a most “revolutionary” banner, they opposed China’s support to the third world, opposed China’s efforts to unite with all forces that can be united, and opposed our dealing blows at the most dangerous enemy. They vainly tried to sabotage the building of an international united front against hegemonism and disrupt China’s anti-hegemonist struggle, doing Soviet social-imperialism a good turn. (p. 24)

They go on to point out that “the ’gang of four’ curse the theory of the three worlds.” Every major political criticism of the so-called “gang of four” is actually directed at the revolutionary line of Mao himself, and this case is no different. The revisionists’ bluster about the Four is further indication that Mao (and the Four with him) battled the capitalist-roaders on this question as they did on all others.

As stated before, in their attempt to lay out Mao’s “strategic conception” of the three worlds, the Chinese revisionists can only provide two quotes where he actually uses those terms, the first simply describing three general groupings of countries and another in which he states:

China belongs to the third world. For China cannot compare with the rich or powerful countries politically, economically, etc. She can be grouped only with the relatively poor countries. (“three worlds” article, p. 51)

In this quotation Mao is in no way obliterating the distinction between socialist countries and those still under the rule of the bourgeoisie and landlords in the “third world.” What he is doing is arguing against those who would compare China to Japan and the European countries (or the U.S.) and try to find fault with the socialist system in China if it could not outstrip these countries economically in a short period of time. In fact, it is this comparison that the present leaders in China trumpet, blaming the “gang of four,” and in reality Mao himself, for keeping China backward with their revolutionary line that kept “interfering” with production. This whole question was one that Mao became clearer on as the socialist revolution, and especially the Cultural Revolution, unfolded. He argued that China’s relative backwardness was a result of social conditions inherited from the old, imperialist-ravished China and that a “forced march to modernization” aimed at economically outstripping the West in a relatively short period of time would lead to the wholesale introduction of capitalist practices, as well as leading to failure. This is our understanding of Mao’s statement that “China belongs to the third world.”

Did Mao and the Four make mistakes in carrying out their revolutionary international line? As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Central Committee of the RCP, put it at the Mao Tsetung Memorial Meetings on the second anniversary of Mao’s death:

On the whole, then, the line that Mao–and the Four–fought for in regard to the question of handling the contradiction between defending China on the one hand, and carrying forward the revolution at home and supporting revolutionary struggle worldwide on the other, was correct. But in dealing with this extremely complex and difficult question, they did make certain errors, in particular that of adopting an analysis of the Soviet Union as the most dangerous source of war, on a basis similar to that on which Stalin declared the fascist states the main enemy during the late 1930’s. This error to a certain extent strengthened the revisionists in China, who were–and are–arguing that the Soviet danger to China justifies and requires writing off revolution at home and abroad. This sort of error by revolutionaries has, as pointed out, existed in the international communist movement, going back to the 1930’s, and there is a real need to more thoroughly sum it up and criticize it in order to avoid it in the future. (The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tsetung, p. 114, RCP Publications, 1978.)

The reasons why the RCP believes it wrong to label the Soviet Union as the “most dangerous source of war” have been spelled out earlier. At the time, it was correct for Mao to recognize that the main threat of attack on China came from the Soviet social-imperialists and to make certain diplomatic efforts as part of dealing with this danger.

Mao and the Four never ceased supporting revolutionary struggle against the U.S. and its Western imperialist allies even while focusing their exposure on the Soviets and referring to the latter as the ”main source of war.” In the last few years of Mao’s life, in regard to struggles aimed at the U.S. and the West in some areas of the world where the Soviets were trying to make inroads, the Chinese often made the analogy: when fighting the wolf at the front door, guard against the tiger at the back door. This analogy (which itself has weaknesses) was aimed at encouraging the vigilance of revolutionary forces toward the Soviets who were trying to make use of the struggle for their own imperialist ends. After the revisionist coup, this theme is no longer emphasized, just as China no longer gives genuine support to the struggles against the imperialists and reactionaries in the West. Now the advice is to join the wolf pack to fight the tiger.

Despite any mistakes that Mao and the Four might have made we have no doubt that the Four, and Mao, cursed the theory of the three worlds as it is being presently elaborated by the revisionist rulers who were obviously fighting for and trying to implement this line all during the period Mao was leading the fight against them.

The RCP and the Three Worlds Theory

The Revolutionary Communist Party concluded that the “three worlds” theory was counter-revolutionary at its Second Congress in early 1978. This conclusion was reached as part of an overall struggle to reach a correct line on the nature of the current rulers of China and their coup of October 1976. (For more on this see Revolution, September, 1978.)

From the time of the formation of the RCP (and of the Revolutionary Union which played the central role in forming it), the Party looked to and drew inspiration and understanding from the experience gained in the revolution in China and the great contributions of Mao Tsetung. On the question of the international line of the communist movement, the Party held general agreement with the position of the Chinese Communist Party developed in the struggle against the Khrushchevite revisionists and further developed with the emergence of the Soviet Union as an imperialist superpower and with the growing danger of a new inter-imperialist war between the two superpowers.

Our Party learned a great deal from the analysis of Mao Tsetung that capitalism had been restored in the Soviet Union and that it was not simply a question of opposing revisionism (as a line) there. As Mao put it, “the rise to power of revisionism means the rise of the bourgeoisie.” This was clearly an analysis that never sat well with the capitalist-roaders in China, many of whom had various nationalist reasons for opposing the Soviets, but all of whom feared the scientific line of Mao which not only pointed to the nature and process of capitalist restoration in the USSR, but exposed the class basis and fundamental program of the revisionists in China itself.

Our Party considered it correct and important to support the actions the Chinese were taking in international affairs in making use of the contradictions in the enemy camp and to defend them against the hysterical cries of Trotskyites and the revisionists. The RU, for example, upheld the visit of Nixon in China as not contradicting China’s internationalist responsibilities. We still believe that allowing this visit was not incorrect in principle.

At the same time and increasingly over the years, the RCP saw the necessity of waging a fierce struggle against those, in this country and elsewhere, who would substitute China’s foreign policy for making a real revolutionary analysis of the tasks of communists. This trend became solidified in this country in the October League, which the RU correctly termed “pro-China Browderites” in 1974–that is, revisionists attempting to capitalize on identification with socialist China and to cover their own opportunism with certain aspects of China’s foreign policy, in particular agreements and compromises it was making with imperialist and reactionary states.

Thus from early on, the RU and the RCP polemicized against the application of the “three worlds” strategy and the “Soviet main danger” line to the imperialist countries. Similarly, the RU and the RCP struggled against those like the October League who would have communists abandon support for the struggles of the people in various countries ruled by reactionaries because of the so-called “anti-imperialist role” of these reactionaries–the Shah of Iran is an outstanding example.

During this period of upholding what was a fundamentally correct line coming out of China, including China’s attempts to make certain compromises to make use of contradictions within the enemy camp, the RU and the RCP constantly raised the quotation of Mao in 1946 when the Soviet Union, then a socialist country, was entering into certain agreements with imperialist countries:

Such compromise does not require the people in the countries of the capitalist world to follow suit and make compromises at home. The people in those countries will continue to wage different struggles in accordance with their different conditions. (“Some Points In Appraisal of the Present International Situation” SW, Vol. 4, p. 87.)

This principle was also stressed by leaders of the RU and the Party in private discussions with representatives from the liaison department of the Chinese Party Central Committee.

While this quotation obviously hits directly at what was the position of the Right in China and increasingly promoted by the liaison department (that revolutionaries must subordinate the domestic class struggle to China’s foreign policy), it is interesting that representatives of the liaison committee felt obligated from time to time to repeat this quotation in discussions with RU leaders prior to the coup. This is further evidence that the strategy of the “three worlds” did not hold sway prior to Mao’s death and the revisionist coup.

Before and immediately after the formation of our Party, in the summer and fall of 1975, considerable attention was devoted to further studying the international situation. This study further deepened the Party’s understanding of the correct line, especially around the question of what attitude one must adopt to one’s “own” bourgeoisie in the advanced capitalist countries in the event of war, the fallacy of raising the slogan of “national independence” in the imperialist countries, and opposing the “Soviet main danger.” These points were stressed in several articles appearing in Revolution (see especially the articles “World War: The Correct Stand is a Class Question” and “Imperialist War and the Interests of the Proletariat” in the May and August 1976 issues respectively and reprinted in the pamphlet War and Revolution).

The 1976 Central Committee Report, Revolutionary Work in a Non-Revolutionary Situation (which was written before Mao’s death and the coup in China), specifically condemns the Browderite parties in Europe as well as the October League for preparing to side with their own bourgeoisie in the event of world war.

All this was not lost on the October League or, for that matter, the Jarvis-Bergman revisionist headquarters within the RCP. The OL attacked the RCP frenziedly for not making China’s foreign policy its line for making revolution in the U.S. Similarly some presently in the Menshevik clique formerly within the RCP wrote in an internal journal circulated in the process of forming the Party that “Contrary to the Draft Programme we think that the so-called ’three worlds’ analysis is valid...” and demanded that it be made the basis of the Party’s international line.

But even while struggling against the reactionary application of the “three worlds” line even before it was consolidated into an international general line after Hua Kuo-feng’s coup, it must be said that the Party and the RU before it did fall into errors on this question.

In the June 1974 issue of Revolution (then the organ of the RU) an article reporting on the UN session which Teng Hsiao-ping addressed comments favorably on his speech and repeats several of his erroneous formulations. The next month a major article was published attacking the Communist League (a now largely irrelevant pro-Soviet sect) which made many correct points in criticizing CL but which defended Teng’s speech. In other articles and documents of the RU and the Party (especially right around the time of its formation) one can find some reflection of the “three worlds” analysis.

The only other major statement by the Party up to this time specifically on the “three worlds” analysis was in the July 1977 issue of Revolution. That article was written as a polemic against tendencies to make the “three worlds” analysis the guiding line for revolutionaries throughout the world. It correctly describes the nature of the imperialist countries, including in Europe and Japan, and the tasks of revolutionaries there, specifically combatting such notions as fighting for “national independence” and pointed out that “still less can communists support imperialist military alliances...”

The article clearly stated:

Can the three worlds analysis decide and govern the revolutionary strategy in every country? No, it cannot. Such a strategy can only be arrived at and carried out country by country by using the method of concrete analysis–class analysis–of concrete conditions in each country, in the context of the international situation. And such a strategy cannot be developed by simply formulating an alignment of countries on a world scale, nor can the main enemy in any situation simply be determined by such a method.

However, while the Revolution article did not accept the “three worlds” analysis as a strategy, and in fact was a polemic against making it such, it was in some ways self-contradictory and made the mistake of failing to treat the “three worlds” strategy as a counterrevolutionary line and accepted it as valid in certain regards. This can be seen especially in the following excerpt:

This three worlds analysis gives, in our view, a correct appraisal of the general role that countries, or groupings of countries, are playing on a world scale. As such it is one important part of the more general worldwide united front line. It is part of making use of all contradictions and for isolating to the extreme the two superpowers, who are to the same degree and the same extent the main enemies of the world’s peoples.

The above quotation contains a serious mistake. It maintains that the division of countries into three “worlds” is the fundamental way of describing the various alignments among states, when in fact the actual alignment of states in the capitalist world is much more, and increasingly, a question of lining up in two rival blocs headed by the superpowers.

The mistakes in the July ’77 Revolution article are a result of several factors. At the time, the Party had not yet drawn conclusions as to the nature of the revisionist regime in China and two opposite lines were emerging within the Party on this cardinal question. Second, the Chinese party had not yet, at least formally, raised the “three worlds” to the position of overall strategy for the world revolutionary movement. (This occurred at the 11th Congress in August 1977 and in the major “three worlds” article in Peking Review #45, September 1, 1977.) For these reasons it was impossible for the Party to reach a unified conclusion that the overall international line coming out of China was, in fact, qualitatively different than the line coming out before Mao’s death.

Since the above conclusion had not yet been reached, the July ’77 Revolution article still reflected the general stand taken by the Party toward China’s international line under Mao’s leadership. We understood Mao to have made a general description of countries as dividing into “three worlds” and we did not and do not today feel that such a description, in and of itself, is revisionist. Revolutionaries in Party leadership sought to defend Mao and to attack the “strategic” line bellowing increasingly loudly from China after Mao’s death and the coup. Thus we defended the general grouping of countries into three worlds, while stressing that this could only be a partial explanation of certain phenomenon of the present situation and could in no way replace the analysis of the “four contradictions” cited earlier.

To the extent that this kind of grouping of countries into three broad categories had a practical significance, it was, in our opinion, limited to the role that countries (i.e. regimes in power) played and especially to how China could make use of its state-to-state relations, particularly to improve its defense posture vis a vis the superpowers and the Soviets especially. Our mistake in this regard was, as reflected in the Revolution article, that even in describing the role of countries the “three worlds” analysis could at best describe only an aspect of the situation, and one clearly secondary to what is the principal and determining factor in the conduct of regimes in todays international arena: the lining up of imperialist blocs for war.

The “three worlds” strategy as propounded by Hua Kuo-feng and company after Mao’s death specifically argues against the very criteria on which the RCP upheld an even limited usefulness to the kind of three worlds analysis we understood Mao to have made. This came out fully later in 1977. The new revisionist rulers declared that:

They refer to the “three worlds” as a global strategy ”for the international proletariat and the oppressed people” (p.20) and say that it

gives immense confidence to the international proletariat and the people of the socialist countries and enables them to see clearly the essential relationships between the three forces–ourselves, our friends and our enemies–in the present-day world. .. (p.76)

In reference to the “Soviet main danger” question this article says,

Of the two imperialist superpowers, the Soviet Union is the more ferocious, the more reckless, the more treacherous, and the most dangerous source or world war.

Why must we say so? Is it because the Soviet Union occupies Chinese territory along China’s northeastern and northwestern borders in contravention of treaty obligations and threatens its security? No. The United States, too, has invaded and occupied our Taiwan, likewise posing a threat to our security. Undoubtedly the people of each particular region can decide which superpower or imperialist country poses the more immediate threat to them according to their won specific conditions. But here we are discussing a general question concerning the world situation as a whole rather than a particular question concerning a particular region. It is not due to any accidental, transitory or partial causes that the Soviet Union has become the more dangerous of the two superpowers on a world scale, (pp. 33-34)

So it is no longer a case of the quite legitimate task of socialist China making use of contradictions to help defend herself against Soviet attack. Now “on a world scale” we are all mandated to mainly target the Soviets.

In the course of the RCP’s struggle to uphold Mao’s revolutionary line and the Four who fought for it against the revisionists usurpers in China and those within our own ranks who drew inspiration from and were emboldened by these revisionists, the Party has come to a correct all-round assessment of the counterrevolutionary “three worlds” strategy. The fact that the Party, while maintaining and fighting for an overall revolutionary line, fell into certain errors associated with the “three worlds” theory only increases the Party’s determination to further analyze the international situation and deepen its grasp of the correct line and to carry through the task referred to by Comrade Avakian (quoted earlier from the Mao Tsetung Memorial Meeting) of conducting critical summation of the experience, positive and negative, of the international communist movement around these important questions.

The Three Worlds Theory and the Struggle in the International Communist Movement

Since the death of Mao Tsetung and the revisionist coup in China, the international communist movement has faced the most important struggle since the capture of the Soviet Union by a new bourgeois class led by Khrushchev. The struggle is an all encompassing battle between Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought and revisionism. Revolutionaries everywhere have been and are being put to the test.

Already important victories have been won as a large number of Marxist-Leninist parties, organizations, and individuals have refused to blindly follow the baton of Hua Kuo-feng and Teng Hsiao-ping and lay down the red flag of proletarian revolution. These victories are due in great part to the tremendous experience and understanding gained in the struggle against modern revisionism, and in the tremendous battle of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution led by Mao Tsetung. At the same time, this struggle is far from over: initial victories must be built upon and deepened, Marxism-Leninism must be more deeply grasped in the fight against revisionism and reaction generally and further victories must be achieved.

Clearly, the struggle against the revisionist international line of the Chinese rulers, the counter-revolutionary “theory of the three worlds,” occupies a very important place in this worldwide battle. Already many Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations around the world have criticized this reactionary line and have made some important contributions to the understanding of the international communist movement in this regard.

At the same time, the RCP is convinced that the struggle against the “three worlds” theory, as critical it is, cannot occupy the center place in the current struggle against Chinese revisionism, nor still less be de the equivalent of that struggle. The central question raised by the emergence of revisionism in China, as was the case when the Soviet Union was dragged back down the capitalist road, is the question of the class struggle under socialism, of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and correctly understanding socialism and the proletarian dictatorship as the transition to classless society, communism.

The international line of a country cannot be separated from the class that rules it, nor can the line of a party be understood outside the context of determining what class that party represents. The counter-revolutionary “three worlds” theory and its history cannot be fully and correctly understood outside of its context in the class struggle in China between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and the present all-round assault on Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought by the new bourgeois rulers of China.

To attempt to do otherwise, to try to wage the struggle against the “three worlds” theory in any other context, will lead to confusing the part with the whole and reversing the correct relationship between the internal nature of the Chinese regime and its revisionist international line. This is fraught with dangerous pitfalls. Of course, it is absolutely correct and necessary to study the relationship between the international situation and the struggle over international line on the one hand and on the other hand the overall class struggle in China, but in doing so it is vital to grasp the basic truth of dialectics that the internal contradiction in a thing is what determines its character.

It is worth noting the experience gained in the struggle against Soviet revisionism. There were in the U.S. and other countries many who were revolted by Khrushchev’s betrayal of the world revolution under the signboard of the “three peacefuls” (peaceful coexistence, peaceful competition and peaceful transition to socialism). But at the same time many of these forces never really adopted a Marxist-Leninist criticism of the Soviet Union and never really understood the actual nature of Soviet society under the rule of the revisionists. Many of the petty bourgeois radicals, revolutionary nationalists, and even neo-Trotskyites seemed to share Marxist-Leninist criticisms of the Soviet Union. But as capitalism was fully restored in the Soviet Union and as it developed into social-imperialism the character of the Soviet foreign policy radically changed.

No longer could it be characterized as mainly collaboration and capitulation to U.S. imperialism. Instead bitter contention with the U.S. over “spheres of influence” grew more and more predominant. Those forces who had opposed the USSR simply on the basis of its conciliation and collaboration with the U.S. became confused and disoriented when the Soviets began “supporting” certain liberation struggles to further their own imperialist aims and generally adopted a much more militant posture toward the West. As is well known, many of these people degenerated into out-and-out apologists for Soviet social-imperialist interests especially as represented by Cuba, and ended up supporting Cuban intervention in Africa, among other things.

While it is not possible for the Chinese revisionists, whatever their intentions, to turn China into an imperialist superpower (the backward character of that country will lead to it being once again a dominated state) it is highly likely that its foreign policy and international line could radically alter. Even today it is thoroughly based on pragmatism. Precisely because the Soviets are more of a threat to China it is easy to see how the Chinese revisionists could readily capitulate to the Soviet social-imperialists. And no doubt this very question is one that the current revisionist rulers are hotly debating. If this were to happen, the Chinese would very probably junk (or possibly “creatively re-interpret”) the “theory of the three worlds” and discover that the international situation demanded yet another “global strategy,” one that could on the surface appear very r-r-revolutionary and include a militant stand against the U.S. and in support of struggles aimed at it.

If this were to happen there would again be the grave danger that those who based their opposition to the Chinese revisionists solely, or even primarily, on the “three worlds” theory could become disoriented and end up tailing a thoroughly reactionary line of one kind or another.

Deeper Analysis

Of course, it is not only the possibility of future dramatic changes in the international situation and the line of the Chinese revisionists which requires that a shallow and simplistic approach to the criticism not be taken. We have seen several instances, in our own country and others, of parties and organizations who previously supported the “three worlds” theory but who are today vociferously denouncing it without ever really coming to grips with the overall questions involved, and, in fact, continuing to fall into many of the errors characteristic of the “three worlds” theory.

One such organization in the U.S. is the Central Organization of U.S. Marxist-Leninists (COUSML, a tiny sect characterized by total dogmatism and utter isolation from the struggle of the masses, as well as a political line based on toadyism to whomever they feel has the most “capital” in the international communist movement).

COUSML and its parent group, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), were uncritical supporters of all the worst tendencies (including the “Soviet main danger”) associated with the “three worlds” analysis for years. They even made such “vanguard” interpretations of it as raising money for UNITA in Angola (the CIA and South African-backed guerrilla group which was fighting the Soviet-backed MPLA after the collapse of Portuguese colonialism) at the very time the U.S. bourgeoisie was openly recruiting mercenaries to fight on UNITA’s side. They referred to the leader of this dubious outfit as “Comrade Savimbi”!

Yet today COUSML, without any serious self-criticism, parades about like a peacock, claiming to be in the forefront of the struggle against the “three worlds theory.” And COUSML and the CPC(ML) (of which it is virtually a part) continue to uphold the line of “national independence” in the imperialist countries allied with the U.S. With such a line it is no wonder that they cannot sum up why they embraced the “three worlds” in the first place.

(A word should be said about COUSML’s contender for the title of “supreme fighter against the three worlds theory,” the Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee. MLOC also shamelessly trailed all the worst aspects of the international line coming out of China–they, too, supported UNITA, repeated the “Soviet main danger” and so on. The chairman of their outfit even appointed himself the U.S. disseminator of the thought of E.F. Hill, the leader of the social-chauvinist Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), and ordered huge quantities of Hill’s garbage. E.F. Hill first concluded that Australia was a “third world” country (!) many years ago but then decided Australia was a “second world” country that could still wage a war for national liberation. Originally this independence war was to have been waged against the U.S.; now he says they will fight for independence in alliance with the U.S. and the “patriotic” sections of the Australian bourgeoisie–an alliance directed against the USSR. Hill has generally achieved advanced world levels in ludicrous “creative applications” of Chinese revisionism.)

Of course, few, if any, other organizations in the world can be classified along with COUSML (or even MLOC), with its own particular and bizarre opportunist history. But the political tendency they represent cannot be said to be totally absent among other, genuine, revolutionaries. In particular, the question of what attitude to take toward the slogan of “independence” in the imperialist countries allied with the U.S. bloc is a vital question from the point of view of making revolution in these countries–an incorrect answer can easily lead to one form or another of “defending the fatherland,” especially in the event of world war. Obviously this question is closely linked with repudiating the “three worlds” theory, but the fact that some have criticized the “three worlds” while remaining muddled or even outright wrong on the question of “national independence” in these countries shows that simply denouncing the “three worlds” theory is not enough.

Uphold Mao Tsetung

Finally, it is crucial to examine how taking the external (international) line of the Chinese revisionists as the basis for determining their internal nature (that is, their class nature) can lead to serious pitfalls. (Here we are not criticizing those comrades who took up study and struggle over the international line before studying the internal struggle in China, but rather we are speaking of the approach of using the international line as the sole or main basis for examining the domestic struggle in China.)

It is quite obvious that the counter-revolutionary “three worlds” theory has its origins prior to Hua Kuo-feng’s revisionist coup. Fundamentally, its origins were with the capitalist-roaders, the bourgeoisie, in China who were building up strength and usurping important parts of the Party and state apparatus (including, as we pointed out, the Foreign Ministry), even as Mao and the Four were waging a fierce struggle against them and China remained under working class rule and guided by the Marxist-Leninist line of Mao. In addition, we have already pointed to some errors made by Mao and the Four in regard to the international situation, especially the analysis of the Soviets being the “main danger to the world’s people.”

Yet it is absolutely wrong, and quite dangerous, to see China’s international line as a direct continuum of development since China’s “opening to the West” in 1971. Many of the actions of the Chinese revisionists today seem in appearance to be basically the same as other, correct actions taken by China when it was still socialist. But the essence of these things is quite the opposite.

It is one thing to make compromises (and even establishing diplomatic relations, trade agreements and so are exactly that) with imperialists and reactionaries from the point of view of making use of the contradictions in the enemy camp. It is quite another to join the enemy camp itself. It is one thing to try to strengthen the defense position against those who were the main threat to China (the Soviets), providing such defense never takes precedence over the general world revolutionary struggle. It is quite another thing to make the defense of China and its “modernization” the highest goal, which can only be the line of the bourgeoisie.

Failure to recognize the fact that most of the moves made internationally by China during the period 1971-76 were not, in principle, wrong can lead to serious errors. When coupled with viewing the international line as the central question in evaluating China it leads to completely misunderstanding the class struggle in China, even to the conclusion that revisionism triumphed in China not in October ’76 but when Nixon visited there (in 1972) or when Teng made his counterrevolutionary UN speech (in 1974). This kind of analysis would also lead to downgrading or even openly attacking the great role of Mao Tsetung and his defense and enrichment of Marxism-Leninism.


The “three worlds theory” is a counter-revolutionary line of capitulation and betrayal. It must be fought and defeated as part of the life and death struggle facing the international communist movement of fighting the revisionist usurpers in China and their motley pack of scraggly dogs who follow them and try to sabotage the revolutionary struggle in countries around the world. Efforts to cloak counterrevolution in the name of Mao Tsetung, the greatest revolutionary of our time, must be ruthlessly combated. We are confident that this struggle will end in victory for the international proletariat.