Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Workers Collective Position on the International Situation

First Issued: September 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Within the last several months there has been a great deal of discussion within the international communist movement concerning the international situation and in particular the validity of the “three, worlds” analysis out forward by the Communist Party of China for approximately 10 years. The Party of Labor of Albania has sharply criticized the “three worlds” analysis, terming it anti-Marxist and a capitulation to the bourgeoisie. It is in this context that we are attempting to develop our own analysis of the international situation.

Before attempting to analyse the world situation in a particular moment of history, it is important to be clear about the general nature of the era in which we live. We live in the era of imperialism, the highest, as well as the moribund and final, stage of capitalism. As Lenin defined it, imperialism is characterized by: (1) The monopolization of manufacturing and industry and the development of huge multinational corporations; (2) The primacy of finance or banking capital over industrial capital; (3) The world-wide export of finance capital from the imperialist powers to the less-developed countries; (4) The division of the world into colonies and spheres of influence by the imperialist powers; and (5) Wars among the imperialist powers as they contend over colonies and spheres of influence.

The dialectical movement of history shows that in each of the major periods of human history, the fundamental driving force, or contradiction, within the historical process is that between the means of production and the relations of production. The result of the development of the fundamental contradiction within each major, period of history is that each period will inevitably come to an end and be replaced by a higher form of society. Within the whole historical period of capitalism, the fundamental contradiction is that between the means of production, by which we refer to large scale, socialized, industrial production by workers who produce all the wealth of society, and the relations of production, by which we refer to the system in which workers are forced to sell their labor power to individual capitalists who own the means of production and reap the profits created by workers’ labor.

Exploited by the relations of production under capitalism, the working class has a direct material interest in the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by socialism, the system in which the working class owns and controls the means of production and collectively Shares in the products of its labor. The working class, created by capitalism, is also the destroyer of capitalism.

Capitalism in its final stage, imperialism, is the mortal enemy of the broad masses of people in the less developed countries which are raped by imperialism for their raw materials, markets, and labor power. The people of these countries can win independence, peace, and democracy only by throwing off their imperialist oppressors. The working class in the imperialist and capitalist countries and the broad masses of people in the less developed countries are together the two forces successfully fighting to destroy the imperialist system.

Imperialism suffered its first major defeat and the beginning of its downfall and general crisis with the triumph of the Russian revolution in 1917. The Russian revolution marked the first instance in human history – and still the only instance – in which an imperialist ruling class was overthrown by its own people and a socialist state established. Since 1917, the major blows against imperialism have been struck by the people of the less-developed nations who have liberated themselves, including over one-half of the world’s people, from imperialist domination. Many of these nations have established socialism. These nations include China, Vietnam, North Korea, Albania, and People’s Yemen. Other countries have rid themselves of direct imperialist rule and attempt to pursue an independent line in international affairs. Examples of these countries are Nigeria and Peru. A third group of countries, such as Iran, Zaire, and Chile, have freed themselves from direct political and military control by the imperialist powers but remain tied to them economically and politically through reactionary capitalist governments.

In that imperialism represents the moribund and dying stage of capitalism, capitalism in the process of being swept off the world stage to be replaced by socialism, the era of imperialism is also the era of revolution. Throughout the whole historical period of imperialism, revolution is the main trend.

The weakening of most of the imperialist powers as a result of the two world wars greatly assisted the oppressed countries and nations in their struggles for independence and liberation. Since World War II, the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have succeeded in liberating the greatest part of their continents from imperialist control, in the process virtually destroying Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Portugal as imperialist powers. The internal dynamics of imperialism require exploitation of the less developed countries for their resources and labor power, but especially for their markets for the manufactured goods produced by the imperialists in their need to increase sales to maintain their profits. The loss of their colonies creates economic crises within the imperialist countries to “bribe” the workers of their countries with the “superprofits” made from the exploitation of the less developed nations. The result is a reduced standard of living for the working class, which as a result must struggle all the harder to maintain its standard of living and inevitably will struggle to create a new form of society, socialism, in which collective resources are used for the common good.

Of the imperialist powers which existed prior to World War II, only the United States remains strong. Today it is the strongest and the richest imperialist power in the world. Since World War II, the U.S. has been the greatest enemy of the world’s people struggling for independence and liberation. It is one of the two imperialist superpowers in today’s world.

Within the last 25 years, the United States has been joined by a newcomer to imperialism – the Soviet Union. The USSR has degenerated from its place as the world’s first socialist country and chief defender of socialism to a capitalist country run by a class of bureaucrat-capitalists who have usurped the role of the working class to establish itself as a new ruling class. This ruling class has intensified class divisions within the Soviet Union and appropriates the wealth created by the Soviet working class for its own benefit and privilege.

The Soviet Union emerged as a new capitalist country in a world in which colonies and spheres of influence no longer existed for the taking. Many former colonies had already liberated themselves from imperialism and were certainly unwilling to suffer new domination, while those countries not vet liberated were already claimed by one or another imperialist power. The only option open to the Soviet Union was to compete and contend for areas already claimed by the other imperialist powers. Disguised as a socialist country and posing as the friend and “natural ally” of the newly-liberated countries and the liberation movements, the Soviet Union has relied on subterfuge, tricks, blackmail, and economic power to establish its domination. Through these means, it has been able to dominate or strongly influence many countries, including Cuba, Angola, India, and Egypt. Egypt is an example of a country which soon saw through the Soviets’ tricks and has broken ties with them. The USSR resorts to force only when necessary to maintain its rule, as it did in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The countries of Eastern Europe have been the recipients of the Soviet Union’s most direct military influence. The Soviet Union also poses a serious threat to the capitalist countries of Western Europe. The USSR’s military development poses the risk of invasion while at the same time it works to extend its political influence through the revisionist “communist” parties contending for power in several key countries. Like any imperialist power, the Soviet Union exports capital at high rates to less developed countries, forces the making of unequal trading and loan agreements, and create “joint stock” companies to maintain its control over enterprises it sets up in less developed areas. As it did in Angola in 1975 and 1976, the Soviet Union is eager to subvert liberation movements to gain advantages for itself in areas liberating themselves from Western imperialism.

The Soviet Union, because it is hungry, aggressive, and on the rise as a world power, and because its true nature is not understood by many people in the world who therefore turn to it as an ally against U.S. imperialism, presents the greatest danger to the world’s people. The Soviet Union and the United States are the two imperialist superpowers in the world. While the U.S. is still the stronger of the two, it is already in a state of decline and stands largely exposed to the world’s people. Contending for domination in every part of the world, the danger of war between the Soviet Union and the United States is great and growing. War is inherent in imperialist competition, and war between the two superpowers is inevitable unless prevented by the development of the world revolutionary movement.

The Communist Party of China has developed the “three worlds” analysis as a way of understanding the alignment and development of the main political forces in the world today.

The first world consists of the two superpowers, attempting to dominate the world and competing between themselves to do so. Together they are the main enemy of the world’s people.

The second world consists of the secondary imperialist countries such as Canada, Japan, and the countries of Western Europe. These countries seek to dominate the less developed countries of the world while at the same time seeking to avoid domination by the two superpowers. In seeking to avoid superpower domination, they share an interest with the countries of the Third World.

The Third World includes the vast majority of the world’s people who live in the less developed countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which have been historically oppressed and dominated by imperialism. They all share an interest in being free from superpower domination. Since the mid-1950’s, the countries of the Third World have formed a bloc to resist superpower domination. They have acted together in the United Nations and through organizations such as OPEC.

In making this analysis, the Communist Party of China calls for the formation of a united front, consisting of the countries of both the Third and Second Worlds as well as the working class within the two superpowers, against the two superpowers. As this analysis has developed, the CPC has stressed unity within the united front in order to defeat the superpowers.

While we agree that the “three worlds” analysis is a valuable tool for understanding world-wide political developments and developing a strategy for uniting the world’s people against their main enemies, the two superpowers, we think that serious errors are made when the “three worlds” analysis is substituted for an all-sided understanding of the international situation. As stated earlier, in the era of imperialism, the fundamental contradiction is that between socialized production, represented in class terms by the proletariat, and individual ownership, represented by the bourgeoisie. The resolution of this contradiction results in the overthrown of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. This is the fundamental historical development of the era, yet the “three worlds” analysis does not speak at all to the relative level of the development of this process in each country when it groups countries into three worlds. It goes without saying that it is impossible to understand the world situation without reference to the revolutionary process at work within each country.

In practice, the proponents of the “three worlds” analysis fail to make any distinction whatsoever among Third World countries with respect to the social and political system which exists within those countries. But this “omission” is extremely important. The Third World includes socialist countries such as China, Vietnam, Albania, and North Korea which are both independent of the imperialists and a strong force for the world wide revolutionary movement. But the Third World also includes reactionary capitalists and semi-feudal regimes, such as those which exist in Iran, Zaire, and Chile. The governments of these countries are the enemies of their own people, who like people throughout the world yearn for peace, freedom, and socialism. Many of these governments are also the direct agents and stooges of one or the other superpower.

Revolutionary people and countries cannot have the same attitude towards both Vietnam and Chile. In Vietnam we see a strong anti-imperialist government working in the interests of its people to establish socialism and democracy. We should give active support to that government. In Chile we see a pro-imperialist fascist government which brutalizes and exploits its people. Our task is to support and join with the people of Chile to struggle in every way for the destruction of the Pinochet regime. Yet many proponents of the “three worlds” analysis see only unity within the Third World. In their efforts to build the anti-imperialist united front against the two superpowers, they fail to distinguish between the progressive and reactionary governments of the Third World and thus neglect what must be for all revolutionaries our highest duty, the duty to stand with the working class and oppressed people of every country in their struggles for peace, freedom, and socialism.

Likewise, many proponents of the “three worlds” analysis tend to analyse the governments of the Second World countries in a way which neglects the fundamental fact that these are capitalist governments. The bourgeoisies of the Second World countries are the fundamental enemies of the people of those countries, and it is our responsibility as revolutionaries to give support to the working class in every capitalist country in its struggle to overthrow capitalism. We cannot call for the abandonment of the class struggle within those countries in the interest of unity against the superpowers. Instead, while we should support and unite with the efforts of the Second World governments to remain independent of the superpowers, we must see this unity as secondary to our efforts to replace those governments with working class rule. Thus, we must say to the government of France: “Of course we applaud your efforts at independence from the economic and political grasps of the two superpowers (although we know you do it not from concern over the interests of your people, but rather due to the greed of your own capitalists); but we shall applaud and assist ever more strongly the efforts of the French people to overthrow you and establish a truly dependable ally against the two superpowers – a socialist France!”

Those proponents of the “three worlds” analysis, such as the Communist Party (M-L), who see the growing threat of war between the two superpowers and are ready to sacrifice revolution to build a united front against the superpowers are classical opportunists. They wish to sacrifice the interests of the people in both the Second World and many of the Third World countries to build the united front against the superpowers. They fail to see that their strategy is self-defeating. An attitude of conciliation towards the Shah’s regime in Iran or the Pinochet junta in Chile provides objective support to those governments as they fight against the revolutionary initiatives of their own people. This approach is self-defeating because these fascist regime are weak and vacillating “allies” against imperialism. Their independence from the superpowers is conditional and as a whole they act in the interests of imperialism. The sacrifice of the interests of the working class and oppressed people in the countries of the Second and Third Worlds is not only social chauvinist and a betrayal of revolutionary principles. By setting back the revolutionary movement it also serves to weaken the united front and to strengthen the imperialists. Who can deny that socialist Vietnam is a much stronger and stauncher ally against imperialism than fascist Uganda? The united front against imperialism can only be strengthened when socialist and even democratic regimes replace fascist governments subservient to imperialism.

In practice, the CP (M-L) and other proponents of the “three worlds” analysis fail to oppose both superpowers but instead unite with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union. By taking such actions as supporting the build-up of NATO and opposing Carter’s decision to cut funds for the B-l bomber, the CP (M-L) and others are working to strengthen the reactionary ruling classes in the U.S. and Western Europe. In doing this, they are working contrary to the interests of the masses of people within the United States and the capitalist countries of Western Europe.

Therefore, we conclude that the “three worlds” analysis is not opportunist or anti-Marxist in itself; rather, we see it as an important tool for the understanding of political developments as they have unfolded in the world over the past 20 or so years. At the same time, we hold that many proponents of the “three worlds” analysis have employed it as a justification for their opportunist unity with imperialists and fascists and for their social chauvinist failure to support revolutionary movements in both Second and Third World countries. We further hold that the “three worlds” analysis, because, it fails to analyse countries according to their social and economic systems, can provide us only with a very partial understanding of the world situation today.

At any given period in history, there are several major contradictions, each of which in some way manifests the fundamental contradiction of the era of which the period is a part. Thus today all of the major contradictions are connected to the fundamental contradiction of the era of capitalism, that between socialized labor in production and individual ownership of the means of production and the commodities produced by labor. The major contradictions are: (1) the contradiction between the imperialist countries and the socialist countries; (2) the contradictions between the proletariat (labor) and the bourgeoisie (capital) in the capitalist countries; (3) the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism; and (4) the contradictions among the imperialist countries, particularly that between the two imperialist superpowers. There are many other important contradictions to consider, such as that between the exploiting and exploited classes with the countries oppressed by imperialism, but these four are the most important today.

Among the contradictions in any process or phenomenon, one must be primary, by which we mean that at any given moment the development of one contradiction will have the greatest influence over the development of others. Since World War II, the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism has been the primary contradiction. Its development has meant the weakening of imperialism, the strengthening of socialism, the strengthening of the proletarian movements within the capitalist countries, and the heightening of contradictions among the imperialist countries. In this period, when we say that, “Revolution is the main trend,” we mean two things, First, that revolution is the main trend throughout the era of imperialism as the worldwide proletariat overthrows the worldwide bourgeoisie to establish socialism; and second, that in a period when the principal contradiction is that between the oppressed nations and imperialism, the primary aspect of that contradiction is the revolutionary success of the oppressed nations.

But although revolution is the main trend in this era, we know that history proceeds through zigs and zags and that the struggle for revolution may suffer setbacks. This could occur if what is today a secondary contradiction – that between the U.S. and the Soviet Union – were to become primary and a world war broke out. The trend towards this war is on the rise. We think that the trend towards war manifested in the heightened contention between the two superpowers has already slowed the revolutionary process in the world from what it was just a few years ago. Most glaring has been the result of superpower contention in Southern Africa, which resulted in the disunity of the liberation movement in Angola and a setback for the revolution there. The Angolan people today remain divided as the superpowers back rival groups in a continuing struggle for power. In the Middle East, superpower contention has weakened the progressive forces while helping to strengthen Israel. The Palestinian movement in particular has been victimized as the superpowers appear to be in a contest among themselves to see which one can do the most to urge its allies to attack the P.L.O.

We can be sure, however, that recent setbacks are temporary and that revolution is inevitable. As Mao Tsetung stated, either revolution will prevent war, or war will give rise to revolution.

In this process, the role played by revolutionaries is crucial. The failure of many self-proclaimed revolutionaries to support liberation movements in Third World or revolutionary movements in Second World countries for the sake of unity against the superpowers holds back the cause of revolution, assists all capitalists and reactionaries, and actually accelerates the trend towards war. At the same time we do not unite with the view that brands the “three worlds” analysis as “revisionist” or “anti-Marxist.” This view makes a serious error in underestimating developments in the world since the Bandung Conference in 1955 and the importance of the “nonaligned movement” in recent years. Its further development could lead to a refusal to support national democratic revolutions that do not have consistent proletarian leadership. Our alternative to both of these policies must be a consistent policy of building and encouraging all possible unity against the two superpowers while at the same time fulfilling our internationalist proletarian duty of giving all possible aid and support to the liberation movements in the Third World and the working class movements for socialism within the capitalist and imperialist countries.