Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Unity Organization

Sooner or Later

Questions & Answers on War, Peace & the United Front

Section B: The United Front Against Hegemonism

1. Doesn’t the united front against hegemonism represent an abandonment of the theory of the differentiation of three worlds which upheld the united front against both superpowers?

The theory of the differentiation of the three worlds which Mao and his collaborators developed over a period of years was made public in 1973. It is important to recall that this theory was not a theory of three separate groups of nations in fixed relation to one another; rather, Mao’s thesis spelled out a differentiation of the world’s political forces using a “scientific analysis of present day world realities”.[1] That imperialism stratifies the world into oppressor, oppressed and intermediate countries was recognized long ago by Lenin and Stalin. Mao’s analysis was an application of these thoughts given the concrete reality of the world of 1973.

In their pamphlet, “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism”, the Chinese discussed how to approach this problem:

In order to have a correct understanding of Mao’s thesis of the differentiation of the three worlds, we must apply dialectical materialism to appraising present-day international political phenomena and start from reality and not from abstractions.[2]

They went on to caution against hard and fast formulas for differentiating ourselves, our friends and our enemies:

It is inevitable that in the process (of transition from capitalism to socialism on a global scale) there will be different alignments of the world’s political forces in different periods. The objective realities of world class struggle determine the proletariat’s differentiation of the world’s political forces and the consequent strategy and tactics to be adopted in the struggle.[3]

The “present day realities” at the time of the first expositions of the theory in 1973 by Mao and in 1974 by Deng Xiaping were the basis of the three worlds pamphlet written by the Chinese in 1977. The pamphlet described the division of the world into three parts – first, second and third worlds and called for a united front against the main enemies, the U.S. and Soviet superpowers. This united front did not include the U.S., but in singling out the Soviet Union as the most dangerous source of world war, the pamphlet recognized a united front against hegemonism as a future possibility.

Many events have taken place since 1973 – the decline of the U.S. as evidence by the fall of Saigon, the Watergate scandal, and the beginning of the Soviet offensive. Since 1977 the pace of change has accelerated. The invasion of Kampuchea and Afghanistan presage a new stage in Soviet strategy. In 1979 the Chinese and U.S. normalized relations. The United States, Japan and Western Europe have all moved towards closer relations with China, in large part because of world events and China’s success in convincing these countries of the danger of Soviet hegemonism. In the Third World, the increasingly open nature of Soviet hegemonism has led to new alliances and a new understanding of the struggle for national independence. Chinese leaders agree that these common understandings and concerns about the Soviet war danger are developing into a united front against Soviet hegemonism.

2. How can you advocate a united front with an imperialist superpower?

This really breaks down to four questions. One, are united fronts with imperialist superpowers contrary to Leninist principles? Two, are the relative dangers of the two superpowers different enough to warrant a united front with one of them? Three, do the interests of the world-wide proletariat in the current situation demand a united front with the U.S.A.? And four, does the united front against hegemonism mean foregoing the struggle against U.S. imperialism?

(i) United fronts with imperialist blocs and superpowers are in no way inconsistent with Marxism-Leninism and in fact have been important for communists on many occasions. The united front against war and fascism was a united front with a bloc of imperialist powers. The alliance of France, Great Britain and the United States in World War II created a potent economic and military power which sought restoration, preservation and extension of each of these countries respective empires. In the context of the World War II era, this alliance was comparable to a superpower of today.

The united front against U.S. imperialism of the 1960’s and early 1970’s provides another example. In that period, Mao Zedong targeted the U.S. as the main enemy of the world’s people. China united with the other imperialist superpower in defeating that enemy, particularly in the crucial struggle in Southeast Asia. Mutual consultations and joint actions were engaged in not only on the Indochinese battlefield but also in the anti-war movements in nearly all the countries of the world, and certainly in the United States. That the Soviet Union was a vacillating ally, ever ready to appease U.S. imperialism and subvert the united front, does not alter the fact that such a front existed. By uniting all who could be united against the main enemy, the united front delivered a crushing blow to U.S. imperialism, putting it on the strategic defensive.

(ii) Because of the very success of the united front against imperialism and because of the social fascist and aggressive nature of the Soviet Union, it is clear that the superpowers do not represent “the same danger to the same degree and the same extent.” But are the differences between the superpowers so great as to justify regarding one as the principal enemy?

Let’s take the question of war and peace. The Soviet Union as a late-coming superpower has an interest in war if other means for repartitioning the world fail. Since 1977 alone it has provoked wars in the Horn of Africa, Angola, Zaire, Yemen and Southeast Asia. The U.S., on the other hand, has an interest in peace, because for one thing it has an interest in the imperialist status quo. It has sought negotiated solutions in the Middle East, Southern Africa, and South America (the Argentine-Chile and Chile-Peru disputes), preferring diplomacy to the victory of “its side” on the battlefield. The American imperialist camp has broken up and it must seek to mend fences and re-build alliances. The Soviet Union on the other hand is on the offensive and its military bloc is highly centralized and coordinated.

Or consider the question of national independence. Who has been the main violator of national independence and the main danger to peace. It is the U.S.S.R. through its Vietnamese agents and not the U.S. that must be held accountable for trampling on the national sovereignty of Kampuchea and threatening its very existence as a nation. It is the U.S.S.R. and not the U.S.A. which today launches massive invasions as in Afghanistan. The U.S.A., on the other hand, has shown that it is capable of respecting national independence in several recent cases in its own backyard: Panama, Nicaragua, Bolivia. This is not because of a change in the nature of U.S. imperialism but is rather a rational response to changed circumstances. On the one hand U.S. imperialism has been exposed and struggles against the U.S. for national independence have already driven it back. On the other hand, the Soviet Union stands to gain from those struggles against U.S. imperialism which do not yet recognize the danger of Soviet imperialism. Thus, in order to prevent Soviet gains, the U.S. has been forced to make concessions to the countries of the Third and Second Worlds, even to seek their friendship.

The same differentiation applies on the question of democratic rights – it is the U.S.S.R. and not the U.S. which constitutes the principal threat to national independence and democracy the world over, if not in each individual country. U.S. leaders are beginning to recognize that the military dictators they have installed or maintained in power throughout the world may be a liability rather than an asset. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, is now engaged in subversion by “dirty tricks,” espionage and coups, tactics similar to those used by the CIA, tactics that backfired and made the U.S. the hated enemy of all democratic forces.

The situation is somewhat analogous to the position of the Chinese proletariat after the Japanese invasion. The Koumingtang, led by the arch reactionary and fascist Jiang Jieshi (Chang Kai Shek) had been the main enemy of the Chinese people during the early years of the Chinese revolution. With the Japanese invasion, they became objective allies and eventually, pressured by the masses and events, conscious allies of the C.C.P. Did this mean that the K.M.T. had undergone a change in nature? No, Jiang Jieshi was just as big a fascist during the united front as before and after. But events and the interests of the proletariat demanded that he be allied with. He represented a positive force that could be mobilized against the Japanese. The interests of the Chinese revolution in that situation demanded a united front with the K.M.T.

(iii) Given the present world situation in which the Soviet Union’s fascist and hegemonist offensive has reached such threatening proportions, peace, national independence and democracy can only be saved by building the broadest possible united front, uniting all who can be united against the main enemy.

The Chinese have pointed frequently to the fact that Munich was made possible by the failure of the Western powers to join in “collective defense” against Hitler (Beijing Review 1978 #30:37). In the present situation of overwhelming Soviet military strength and the military weakness and disunity of the Second and Third Worlds, “collective defense” requires the active participation of the United States. It is a “positive factor” which must be mobilized against the main enemy.

This does not mean that the U.S. has “changed color.” The U.S. imperialists have an interest in peace only because they have an interest in the status quo, in the shoring up of the U.S. empire. But in this particular case the interests of the American bourgeoisie and that of the American and the world proletariat overlap, yet they do not coincide.

(iv) Finally, the united front against hegemonism does not mean foregoing struggle against U.S. imperialism. In the Third World, it is precisely the continuation of the struggle for national independence which forces concessions from the U.S. and contributes to the building of the united front against hegemonism. Similarly, it is the struggle for national independence by the countries of the Second World against both the Soviet Union and the U.S. which pressures the U.S. to treat these countries more like equals. It is the need to defend their national independence which provides greater opportunities than ever before for the Third World countries still dominated by the Second World to strengthen their own independence.

Within the United States, the struggle against U.S. imperialism must also continue within the context of the united front against hegemonism. (Later sections of this pamphlet will deal with this in greater detail.)

3. Are you saying that on account of its military strength the U.S. will be the main force in the united front?

Not at all. There are three great forces in the world today which are opposed to Soviet hegemonism. The main force is the Third World, struggling for independence, national development and unity against the attempts of the hegemonists to divide it, re-colonize it or engineer a simple “change of masters”. Its interests are unalterably opposed to any form of colonialism, imperialism and hegemonism. Its rising trend is towards anti-imperialist, anti-hegemonist consciousness, struggle, unity and organization. It is the most potent social force in the united front against hegemonism, the main force. But at present it is weak militarily and disunited politically as compared to the highly centralized and integrated political and military power of the Soviet bloc.

Another great force is the Second World. Its economic and technological development and its geopolitical centrality make it the focus of U.S.-Soviet contention. In the past two decades, its industrial base and its economic and political unity vis-a-vis the U.S. has grown under the protection of, and in part due to its reliance on, U.S. military strength. Now Japan is strengthening its ties in Southeast Asia as Western Europe is coming to see the need to develop its economic, political, and military unity and independence distinct from the U.S., and in opposition to Soviet hegemonism. The strength of the appeasement forces in Europe impedes this development. In addition, the continued efforts of these imperialist powers to hold onto what remains of their past empires not only diverts their political energies and economic resources from their struggle for collective unity but also constitutes a continual basis for disunity of the Third and Second Worlds, despite the growing danger of Soviet hegemonism, and the increasing threat to their national independence.

The U.S. is the third great force against Soviet hegemonism. U.S. opposition is based mainly on the threat the Soviet Union poses to the strong but declining American empire. But a Soviet victory over Europe would threaten the national independence of the U.S. too. The U.S. therefore has an interest in, and the capability of, using its military strength to oppose Soviet expansionism in both the Third and the Second worlds. Right now the individual defense of these countries depends on the collective defense of all those opposed to Soviet hegemonism. It is absolutely essential that the countries of the Second and Third World take energetic steps towards developing their individual and collective defense. The U.S. is crucial in bolstering Europe’s and Japan’s defenses and in supplying the Third World with the technology and arms to strengthen itself economically and militarily. The American-dominated Third World military alliances such as SEATO and CENTO have collapsed. The Soviet Union meanwhile has been forming military alliances with Third World countries such as Ethiopia, South Yemen, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and is pursuing treaties with Syria and Iraq. In Southeast Asia the ASEAN countries have begun to band together to meet Vietnamese expansionism, but they are still overshadowed by Vietnam’s military strength.

This makes the U.S. an extremely positive and major force. It does not make it the main force. Weapons and technology have an important role in this struggle, but in the last analysis it will be people and not arms which will be the decisive factor. The Third World with its great population and its historic struggle against imperialism is the main force.

4. But as you recognize, the U.S. is still a superpower. Won’t it attempt to dominate the united front and bend it to its own imperialist, hegemonist objectives?

Most assuredly, but the question is will it succeed? There can be no doubt that the United States will strive for the leadership of the united front, just as it did in the united front against fascism. Look at what Brzezinski had to say at the 25th anniversary of the Algerian revolution in Algiers last October.

In the first place, he said, the United States has acknowledged that the “Eurocentric era” has come to an end. He spoke of the “politically organized” forces of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and in effect acknowledged the reality of the concept of the Third World as the “main force” in current history. The United States, he said, is not trying “to build dams against the forces of history”. But, he added significantly, “it is seeking to channel these forces in a positive direction,” that is, to lead them in the direction it wishes them to go.

To lead the forces of the Third World in the direction which serves its interests is the aspiration of the bourgeoisie, whether it be the American “freedom-loving” bourgeoisie or the Soviet “socialist,” “natural ally” bourgeoisie. To channel, dominate, control, enslave, to perpetuate or restore the old imperialist political and economic order, that is the ambition of the world bourgeoisie, whether it is led by the Soviet or the U.S. faction. In the united front against hegemonism, the U.S. will of course seek to dominate, lead and “channel”. The outcome will depend on struggle.

This struggle is a class struggle, just as the struggle for leadership of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia in 1905 and 1917 was a class struggle. “The outcome of the revolution,” Lenin wrote, “depends on whether the working class will play the part of a subsidiary of the bourgeoisie... or whether it will play the part of leader of the people’s revolution.” This struggle for leadership was one of which “the more intelligent representatives of the bourgeoisie” were “perfectly aware,” as, of course were Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Without in any way denying the “bourgeois-democratic boundaries of the Russian revolution,” Lenin argued strongly against the Mensheviks who stood aloof from the struggle on the grounds that “after all, this is a ’bourgeois revolution.’”[4] A similar awareness of the need to struggle for the leadership of united fronts marks the struggles in China, Vietnam, and Korea. They were struggles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie within the united front.

The struggle for leadership of the united front against hegemonism between the proletariat (in particular the C.C.P.) and the bourgeoisie (the U.S. monopoly capitalist class) is a class struggle. In the decades to come, it may well prove to be the main form of struggle against U.S. imperialism.

5. Aren’t you calling for a united front with the U.S. too soon? In the face of a European invasion certainly, but now?

The interests of the people of the world lie in delaying the outbreak of the world war towards which world events have been running with alarming speed. To form a united front only after the invasion of Europe, which would signify either its occupation and colonization or the outbreak of World War Three, is rather like shutting the barn door after the horses have gotten away. We must shut the barn door now. Waiting, as you recommend, would bring nearer the day of the invasion of Europe. It would permit the Soviet Union to add to its military strength and improve its strategic position. It would divide and deplete the anti-hegemonist resistance. This would not be postponing war but courting it, unconsciously acquiescing to Soviet plans.

How can it be argued that it is “too soon” to call for an anti-hegemonist united front? Is there still confusion among Marxist-Leninists as to the true intentions of the Soviet Union? Is the international situation not already exceedingly dangerous? Or is it not yet sufficiently clear to us who constitutes the main instigator of aggression and war? Must we wait for more independent countries to be occupied and colonized?

Among the peoples of the world there is great confusion as well as alarm. Among the American people this is also the case. But this only makes it more urgent that the struggle for the united front be taken up. Our tasks are great; our time is short.

The united front against fascism became the general line of the communist movement shortly after the Nazis came to power in Germany, long before it passed to the global offensive. When the line of the united front was officially endorsed in August 1935, it was acknowledged that the ultra-left errors of the previous period had delayed its adoption, that it was already late in the game. And indeed, it was too late to postpone the outbreak of World War II! Today, five years after the Soviets began their offensive drive can it be considered too soon to commence the immense labor of ideological, political and organizational work entailed in building the united front in the United States?

The sooner communists begin to work for a united front, the sooner they can begin to develop the strength of the proletariat and the oppressed nationalities within it. In our present state of inaction we are abdicating leadership of the struggle in America to postpone world war. Should we wait for an invasion of Europe our exercise of “independence”, however “principled” and politically safe, would in fact prevent our exercise of initiative in the united front. When we finally joined the united front, we would be viewed with the suspicion deserved by those who bend with the political wind and jump on the passing bandwagon. As late arrivals to the struggle against Soviet hegemonism, discredited and politically isolated, how would we influence the direction of the united front much less contend for leadership? Many of those who fear it is too soon to build the united front against hegemonism feel an honest concern that the danger of American imperialism will be underestimated and that liberation of its empire will be delayed or thwarted. But to acknowledge an enemy even greater than the one you have been fighting is not to underestimate the former opponent but indeed to show that you know how to assess things in their correct proportion.

Naturally it is in a primitive and formative stage. To some extent this corresponds to objective reality. While formal military alliances or pacts are unlikely in the near future, “mutually reinforcing” actions are not ruled out by the U.S. and China, for example, in the case of Afghanistan. But largely it is a case of subjective understandings lagging behind reality. On the whole, we can say that the united front against hegemonism exists “in itself” but not yet “for itself.” It exists objectively in certain understandings and actions, but it is not yet a conscious subjective reality for most of its constituents.

A thief has accosted us in a narrow alley. We have repelled his first assault, but as he crouches to spring upon us again another assailant appears, more ferocious than the first and clearly intent on dispatching both of us and seizing the booty for himself. Are we “underestimating” the first attacker if we strike a bargain with him to put aside our differences until we have warded off our common enemy? Would our estimation of the “correlation of forces” be more correct if we chose to take on both at once?

You say that we are calling for the united front too soon. We, on the other hand, fear that we may be too late.

6. Is the united front against hegemonism a current reality or merely a project and a desire?

The united front against hegemonism is coming into existence. We should not conceive this process narrowly. The term might suggest to us an office with a sign reading “United Front Against Hegemonism”, an organization with different constituent groups and countries, etc. But the question is not whether such and such organization with such and such a name exists, or even whether the constituents regard themselves as being in a united front. The question is whether it exists as an historical force, an historical reality.

As an historical reality the united front is being born in the normalization and development of U.S.-China relations, common understandings and joint actions such as the Geneva Conference on the Boat People in July 1979, the U.N. General Assembly vote to assign the Cambodian seat to the Pol Pot government in September 1979, the joint action on Nicaragua of the O.A.S., led by the Andean Pact and Mexico, the united front resistance to the invasion of Kampuchea, the international concern and cooperation on military aid to Pakistan, the international boycott of the Olympics. The united front is being born in the concrete struggle against hegemonism.

This is reflected in the extremely low level of mutual assistance and co-operation. One example is the continued resistance by certain Second World countries and by the U.S. to the proposals of the New International Economic Order. Another is the treatment of the situation in Southeast Asia. Among many leaders in the United States, Japan and certainly Third World countries, vacillation prevails over decisive action. This is reflective of the fact that at this point only the most advanced and conscious forces – in particular the C.C.P. and other Marxist-Leninists around the world – have a developed conception of the united front against hegemonism and its real significance.

There is a contradiction between objective reality and subjective understanding. Objectively the interests of the Third World, the Second World and the U.S. temporarily coincide “just as... forces moving in opposite directions may, when they have to take a curve or make a detour, temporarily run parallel or almost parallel” (China Broadsheet vol. 16, no. 3, March 1979; reprinted in Third World Unity, May 1979:37) Subjectively the united front against hegemonism will become fully “for itself” when the people and the leaders of the countries of the world recognize the fact that it is the only way of postponing a third world war.

This means that on a world level the task of the conscious forces, of Marxist-Leninists in particular, is to bend their efforts to the bridging of this gap between objective necessity and conscious understanding – to build the united front against hegemonism: to be its mid-wife, nurse and tutor. And in the United States that means struggling against American imperialism and hegemonism and appeasement – all of which are destructive to the united front against hegemonism and to the struggle to postpone war.


[1] “Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism”, Peking Review, Volume 45, Nov. 1977, p. 11.

[2] Ibid., p. 11.

[3] Ibid., p. 12.

[4] “Two Tactics...” LCW, IX, pp. 19, 52.