Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Editorial Department of Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily)

Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism

The Countries and People of the Third World Constitute the Main Force Combating Imperialism, Colonialism and Hegemonism

The countries and people of the third world constitute the main force in the world-wide struggle against the hegemonism of the two superpowers and against imperialism and colonialism. In a message dated October 25, 1966, Chairman Mao said: “The revolutionary storm in Asia, Africa and Latin America will certainly deal the whole of the old world a decisive and crushing blow.” This is Chairman Mao’s scientific prediction and high evaluation of the role of the Asian, African and Latin-American people as the main force in the world-wide anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle.

What are the grounds for our saying this? Since the end of World War II, the revolutionary people of Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions, standing in the forefront of the anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist struggle, have waged one revolutionary armed struggle after another and scored a series of magnificent victories that have changed the face of the world. This has greatly inspired and supported the international proletariat and the people of all countries in their anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles. The victorious Chinese revolution in 1949, the victory in the Korean war of resistance against U.S. aggression and for the defence of the fatherland in 1953, the Bandung Conference of Afro-Asian Countries in 1955, the Egyptian people’s victory in the war over the Suez Canal in 1956, the victories in a series of national democratic movements in Latin-America from the Cuban revolutionary war of 1959 to Chile’s struggle for democracy in the early 1970s, the victory in the Algerian national liberation war in 1982, the world-shaking heroic struggles waged by the people of many Asian and African countries to win and safeguard their independence in the 1960s, the restoration of China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971, the victories won by the people of Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos in their war against U.S. aggression and for national salvation in 1975, the victorious wars of independence in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique and the progress of the wars of independence in other countries in the 1970s, the powerful blows dealt by Egypt, the Sudan and other countries to Soviet schemes for control and subversion, the Zairian people’s success in repelling invasion by Soviet mercenaries in 1977, the persistence of the Arab countries and the Palestinian people in waging wars and other forms of struggle against aggression over the past two decades, the African people’s mounting resistance to white racism, the deepening of the national democratic movements of the people of Southeast Asia despite all obstacles, and the independence won by more than 80 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world over the past three decades – all these magnificent victories constitute a powerful force promoting revolutionary change in the post-war world. The colonial system has fallen apart at the seams. U.S. imperialism, the superpower that emerged first, has suffered a historic setback, and Soviet social-imperialism, the other superpower coming onto the scene immediately after, is landing itself in the same quandary as the United States.

The third world has become the main force in the world-wide struggle against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism, and this has ushered in a new and unprecedented situation. How are we to evaluate it?

First, the roughly 3,000 million enslaved people who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population have shaken off or are freeing themselves from the fetters of colonialism. This means that a radical and historic change has taken place in the balance of world class forces.

Ever since nations were first oppressed, they have put up resistance to such oppression. But over the centuries, this resistance was, with few exceptions, sporadic and isolated. A tremendous change came about after the October Revolution. In quite a few countries Communist Parties were built, and large-scale anti-imperialist revolutionary struggles were waged under the leadership of the proletariat and with the worker-peasant alliance as the mainstay. Big victories were won and valuable experience accumulated. But from an overall point of view there was as yet no world-wide movement embracing all areas. World War II greatly accelerated the revolutionary tempo of history. Today, although the third world, composed as it is of oppressed nations, oppressed countries and socialist countries, still accounts for over 70 per cent of the world’s population, the situation is vastly different from that facing Lenin in 1920. As a world-wide anti-imperialist force, they are today in the mainstream of the world revolutionary struggle. In scope and depth, in achievement and experience, today’s struggle has far surpassed those of the past. A large number of third world countries now have their own armies and in varying degrees have shed the influence of colonialism. China, which comprises one-fifth of humanity, has been transformed from a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country into a great socialist state. Along with other socialist countries which persist in opposing imperialism and hegemonism, she stands resolutely with other third world countries, and they have become a stalwart force in the third world.

Second, subjected as they were to the most ruthless oppression, the countries and people of the third world have been the most resolute in their resistance. Lenin said, “Colonies are conquered with fire and sword.”’[1] Similarly, it is only with fire and sword that the colonial people can win complete emancipation. World imperialism cannot develop or survive without plundering colonies, semi-colonies and oppressed nations and countries. The liberation struggles of the colonial people have shaken and will finally destroy the foundation on which imperialism depends for its survival. It is natural that imperialism will put up a desperate struggle.

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.

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. It must be realized that though they have declared their independence, they are still faced with the grave task of winning complete political and economic independence. For in the raging tide of national liberation most of the imperialists have been forced to “pull out” of their former colonies and accord these new countries recognition of their independence, but whenever the opportunity presents itself, they will use every new device or tactics to preserve their influence, and then there are new imperialists or hegemonists waiting to take their place. Economically, the imperialist countries, and the superpowers in particular, not only go in for large-scale penetration of the third world, but ruthlessly exploit it by using their monopoly position in the world market to control the products of those developing countries with a monoculture economy, force down the prices of primary products and raise the prices of manufactured goods. Politically, they resort to a variety of methods to subject the newly independent countries to their control, subversion and interference, flagrantly infringing on the latter’s independence and sovereignty and doing their utmost to foster obsequious yes-men. Militarily, with a view to subjugating the third world countries and seizing strategic resources, strategic areas and strategic routes, they try by every possible means to control the supply of arms to these countries and the training and commanding of the latter’s armed forces. Moreover, they brazenly threaten to use force, stage armed invasion and even unleash wars of aggression. In order to be independent, to survive and to develop, the countries and people of the third world have no choice but to wage a sustained and fierce life-and-death struggle against the aggressive and expansionist activities of imperialism, and above all of the superpowers. New national liberation wars are bound to break out. These inevitable contradictions and struggles between the third world on the one hand and imperialism and the superpowers on the other determine the long-term role of the third world as the main force in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism.

Third, the countries and people of the third world have immensely enhanced their political awareness and strengthened their unity in the course of struggle. In the 30 years or so since World War II, many countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere have come to realize a profound truth through prolonged and arduous struggle against imperialism, namely, that a weak nation can defeat a strong and a small nation can defeat a big. This has meant a great emancipation of the mind and a big political leap for the entire third world. In his well known statement of May 20, 1970, Chairman Mao said: “Innumerable facts prove that a just cause enjoys abundant support while an unjust cause finds little support. A weak nation can defeat a strong, a small nation can defeat a big. The people of a small country can certainly defeat aggression by a big country if only they dare to rise in struggle, dare to take up arms and grasp in their own hands the destiny of their country. This is a law of history.” This statement of Chairman Mao’s is as much a scientific summing-up of the main experience gained by oppressed nations in their anti-imperialist struggle over the past decades as it is a tremendous inspiration to all the people of the third world. The basic historical trend of the world today shows that it is no longer the countries and people of the third world that are afraid of imperialism and hegemonism, but imperialism and hegemonism that are afraid of the countries and people of the third world.

Before World War II, the anti-imperialist struggle of the oppressed nations often lacked strong, sustained world-wide support. Things are different today. Mutual support among the third world countries, including the socialist countries, and among the forces opposed to aggression, including the international proletariat, has made it possible for the third world countries and people to play an even more effective role as the main force in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism. By exercising the state power in their hands the independent third world countries have gained broader arenas and more means to carry on the struggle than in the past, and they can steadily enhance their co-operation and take joint action. The third world countries have turned major international forums into the bar of public opinion before which the imperialist superpowers are arraigned. They have set up international organizations for regional purposes or as specialized agencies through which they join forces to safeguard their common rights and interests. The non-aligned movement has become an important world force in co-ordinating the interests of its numerous member countries and in jointly combating hegemonism, a force that has to be reckoned with. Growing unity in struggle has made it possible for the third world countries to broaden their anti-hegemonist struggle, wage it on a higher level and achieve more striking results. For example, the struggle initiated by the Latin-American countries against superpower maritime hegemony, the struggle waged by the Arab and other oil-exporting countries in the third world to defend their oil rights and the struggle of other raw material producers have inflicted unexpected and severe defeats on imperialism and hegemonism. The fact that the Asian, African and Latin-American countries, which were hitherto held in contempt, have boldly taken their destiny into their own hands and wrested back the rights due them would have been inconceivable before World War II.

Fourth, from an over-all viewpoint, not only are there limits to the imperialist countries’ capacity for suppression in the vast areas of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania where the 120 or more countries of the third world are located, but their interests in these areas clash in one way or another. This provides the anti-imperialist revolutionary forces of the third world with a favourable condition in which to grow in strength over the long period. Europe, which is the focus of contention between the two hegemonist powers, has drawn and pinned down the bulk of their strength. They are not likely to maintain tight control over many third world countries, for it is very often the case that they cannot grab at one without losing hold of another. The countries and people of the third world, who have enhanced their political consciousness and strengthened their unity in protracted struggle since World War II, have begun to make conscious use of this weakness of their enemies, exploit the contradiction of the two hegemonist powers with the second world countries and the contradiction between the two hegemonist powers themselves, turn their own strong points to account and surmount every obstacle so as continually to push forward the revolutionary movement against imperialism and hegemonism.

The workers’ movements in the countries of the first and second worlds and the anti-imperialist struggles of the third world support each other. The working class and revolutionary masses of the developed capitalist countries have scored many signal victories in their heroic struggles, dealing imperialism and social-imperialism telling blows and rendering powerful support to the people of the world in their fight against imperialism and hegemonism. As the situation develops, they will bring about new upsurges in the revolutionary movement and grow in strength in their fight to repulse the attacks of monopoly capital, win economic and political rights for themselves and the people of various strata, oppose the ruling class policy of aggression and support the struggle of the third world against imperialism and hegemonism. But generally speaking and for the time being, as a result of the Soviet ruling clique’s betrayal, the spread of revisionist ideology and the splits in the ranks of the working class, the workers’ revolutionary movement in the developed capitalist countries cannot but remain at the stage of regrouping and accumulating strength. In these countries there is as yet no revolutionary situation for the immediate seizure of state power. Such being the case, the more actively the third world countries and people play their role as the main force in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism, the more important will be the support and impetus they give to the workers’ movement in the developed countries.

Does recognition of the third world as the main force in combating imperialism and hegemonism mean any reduction of the responsibility or role of the international proletariat in this struggle? The struggle against the two hegemonist powers, which is an essential component of the world proletarian socialist movement, is extremely arduous and complex. The proletariat of all countries must make an effort to study and disseminate Marxism-Leninism, play the exemplary role of vanguard in this struggle, fulfill their internationalist obligations and give all-out support and assistance to the people of all countries in their fight against imperialism and hegemonism so that this struggle can advance along the correct path and win final victory. Thus the fact that the third world has become the main force in combating imperialism and hegemonism in no way reduces the responsibility and role of the international proletariat in this struggle. When Lenin founded the Red Army of workers and peasants, the poor peasants formed its mainstay. Did this lighten the Russian proletariat’s responsibility towards the Red Army? When Stalin stated that the question of the peasantry is the basis and essence of the national question and that “the peasantry constitutes the main army of the national movement,[2] did he forget the proletariat’s role in this movement? When Chairman Mao pointed out that the poor peasant masses in China are “the natural and most reliable ally of the proletariat and the main contingent of China’s revolutionary forces,”[3] didn’t he simultaneously stress the role of the Chinese proletariat in the revolutionary cause as a whole? In the historical conditions of today, if anyone should try to use the leading role of the international proletariat as a pretext to form a so-called centre to order the people of various countries about in their anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle, or even try to subordinate this struggle to the private ends of one country, this would only damage and undermine the struggle of the people of the world and go diametrically against the interests of the international proletariat, as experience has shown time and again. The social-imperialists describe the organization of armed intervention and invasion of other countries by mercenaries as “fulfilling the internationalist duty of the proletariat.” This is a barefaced fraud which can only end in dismal failure.

In affirming that the third world countries are the main force in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism, do we mean to deny the differences among these countries with respect to their social and political conditions and their conduct in the international struggle? Their social and political systems differ, the level of their economic development is not uniform, and there are constant changes in the political situation in each country. Hence it is often the case that the authorities of these countries adopt different attitudes towards imperialism and the superpowers and towards their own people. Owing to certain historical causes, and especially owing to the fact that the imperialists and social-imperialists keep sowing dissension among the third world countries, certain disputes have arisen and even armed conflicts have occurred between some of them. But taken as a whole, the majority of these countries are for struggle against imperialism and hegemonism. There are of course struggles between different political forces within the third world countries themselves. Some people are revolutionaries who firmly stand for carrying through the national democratic revolution. Others are progressives and middle-of-the-roaders of various descriptions. A few are reactionaries. And there are even some agents of imperialism or social-imperialism. Such phenomena are inevitable so long as there are classes, so long as there is a proletariat, a peasantry and a petty bourgeoisie and a variegated bourgeoisie and landlord and other exploiting classes. However, this complex situation does not affect the basic fact that the third world countries are the main force in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism. When we look at a question, we must first grasp its essence and its main aspect and see the actual results as shown by the general balance sheet. Whatever the differences in the political conditions of the third world countries, they cannot change the fundamental contradiction between imperialism and hegemonism on the one hand and the countries and people of the third world on the other. Nor can these differences change the irresistible historical trend that countries want independence, nations want liberation, and the people want revolution. Judging from their deeds and general orientation in international political struggles over the last 30 years or so, the oppressed nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America are revolutionary and progressive as far as their essence and main aspect are concerned, and they are indisputably the main force in the world-wide struggle against imperialism and hegemonism.

Socialist China is part of the third world. Chairman Mao stated, ”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.”[4] China suffered from imperialist oppression for a long time and waged struggles against it. Now the socialist system has been established in China, but, like other third world countries, she is still a developing country and faces the task of waging a prolonged and determined struggle against the imperialist superpowers. Common experience, common tasks in struggle and community of interests past, present and future, determine that China belongs to the third world.

China has proclaimed that she belongs to the third world. This is precisely an indication that China adheres to the socialist road and upholds Leninist principles. When Lenin put Russia and the oppressed nations in the colonies in the same category, could he possibly have forgotten that Russia was already a socialist country? Can it be said that Lenin had thus altered the socialist orientation of Russia’s development? Nothing of the kind. His stand completely accorded with the interests of the cause of the international proletariat and he truly upheld the socialist orientation of Russia’s development. Today, China and other socialist countries stand together with the rest of the third world countries, and they support and help each other and are advancing shoulder to shoulder in the struggle against imperialism and hegemonism. In so doing they have faithfully inherited this great concept of Lenin’s and are carrying it forward.

Chairman Mao repeatedly admonished us: “In international relations, the Chinese people should rid themselves of great-nation chauvinism resolutely, thoroughly, wholly and completely,”[5] “treat as equals all small foreign countries without exception and never be arrogant”[6] and “never seek hegemony.”[7] This is a categorical requirement of China’s socialist system and Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line. Today, China is a developing country, and she belongs to the third world and stands together with the oppressed nations. In the future, when she is economically developed and has become a powerful socialist country, she will still belong to the third world and will continue to stand together with the oppressed nations. On April 10, 1974, at the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly Comrade Teng Hsiao-ping solemnly declared on behalf of the Chinese Government and the Chinese people, “If one day China should change her political colour and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should put the label of social-imperialism on her, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” We would like to ask: Is there any other power today that dares to make such a candid and honest statement?

However, the Soviet revisionist renegade clique had the cheek to revile China as a country ”seeking hegemony” in the third world. Such shameless slander is ludicrous. In China’s relations with other third world countries over the years and in the provision of aid to them within her capacity, is there a single instance to indicate that she is seeking hegemony? Has China ever sent a single soldier to invade and occupy any country? Has she ever demanded a single military base from any country? Has she ever extorted a single penny from any country or held any country to ransom? Has she ever, in giving aid, ordered any recipient country about, requiring it to conduct itself towards China this way and that? Chairman Mao always held that the people of the world support each other in their just struggles.[8] There is never a one-way street from donor to recipient. In her relations with other third world countries, China has initiated and faithfully observed the well-known Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the eight principles of economic aid to other countries. This is plain to all. The vain attempt by the Soviet revisionist renegade clique to confound the friendly ties between the Chinese people and the people of the third world only serves to expose once again its reactionary features. Clearly, in the eyes of the hegemonists, there are only two categories of people on earth, those who exercise hegemony and those who submit to it. How pitiable and myopic these unworthy descendants of Lenin’s are! They cannot even get this simple fact into their heads: the great solidarity between the Chinese people and the people of the other third world countries is cemented with the blood and sweat they shed in fighting and working together, and this no renegade can destroy.


[1] V. I. Lenin, “Socialism and War,” Collected Works, Vol. 21.

[2] J. V. Stalin, “Concerning the National Question in Yugoslavia,” Works, Vol. 7.

[3] Mao Tsetung, “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party,” Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. II.

[4] From a talk by Chairman Mao in February 1974.

[5] Mao Tsetung, “In Commemoration of Dr. Sun Yat-sen,” Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. V.

[6] Speech by Chairman Mao at the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in April 1958.

[7] Quoted in Comrade Chou En-lai’s “Report to the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.”

[8] From a talk by Chairman Mao at a reception for public figures and delegates from twelve African countries and regions, May 7, 1960.