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 Second World Is a Force That Can Be United with in the Struggle Against Hegemonism

In dealing with the world political situation in recent years, Chairman Mao always regarded the second world countries as a force that could be united with in the struggle against the two hegemonist powers. He said, “We should win over these countries, such as Britain, France and West Germany.”[1]

How is it that the second world countries constitute a force which can be united with in the struggle against hegemonism? The reason is that an important change has taken place in their role in international political and economic relations during the last thirty years.

Through twenty to thirty years of struggle against U.S. control and simultaneously through taking advantage of the severe world-wide setbacks suffered by the United States in its policy of aggression, the West European countries have succeeded in altering the situation prevailing in the early post-war years when they had to submit to U.S. domination. Japan is in a similar position. The establishment of the Common Market in Western Europe, the independent policies pursued by France under De Gaulle, the passive and critical attitude taken by the West European countries towards the U.S. war of aggression in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, the collapse of the dollar-centred monetary system in the capitalist world and the sharpening trade and currency wars between Western Europe and Japan on the one hand and the United States on the other – all these facts mark the disintegration of the former imperialist camp headed by the United States. True, the monopoly capitalists of the West European countries, Japan, etc., have a thousand and one ties with the United States and, in face of the menace posed by Soviet social-imperialism, these countries still have to rely on the U.S. “protective umbrella.” But so long as the United States continues its policy of control, they will not cease in their struggle against such control and for equal partnership.

But today Soviet social-imperialism obviously represents the gravest danger to the West European countries, for Europe is the focal point in the Soviet strategy for seeking world hegemony. The Soviet Union has massed its military and naval forces in Eastern Europe and on the northern and southern European waters, which are deployed to encircle Western Europe. At the same time it has stepped up its seizure of strategic areas along the line running from the Red Sea through the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope to the eastern shores of the South Atlantic, endeavouring to outflank and encircle Europe and seriously menacing the main lines of communication vital to Western Europe. This poses a grave threat to the security of the West European countries and compels them to strengthen their defences, coordinate their relations with each other and maintain and enhance their unity economically, politically and in defence. In the Far East, Japan is also faced with a serious threat. The massive Soviet military build-up in the Far East, aimed at China as it is, is directed primarily against the United States and Japan. The Soviet Union has forcibly occupied Japan’s northern territories and territorial seas, and it is posing a growing threat to Japan and intensifying its infiltration of the latter. This has aroused strong indignation and resistance on the part of all Japanese patriotic forces. Australia, New Zealand and Canada too have heightened their vigilance against Soviet expansion and infiltration.

In recent years, new changes have also taken place in the relations between the West European countries, Japan, etc., on the one hand and the third world on the other. Although Britain, France, West Germany, Japan, etc., have been striving to maintain their control and carry on their exploitation of many third world countries by political, economic and other means under new circumstances and in new forms, on the whole they no longer constitute the main force dominating and oppressing these countries. In certain cases, their own interests even compel them to make certain concessions to third world countries or to give some support to the third world’s struggle against hegemonism or to remain neutral. For instance, after the 1973 struggle over the oil embargo, the West European Common Market countries called for dialogue instead of confrontation with the oil-producing countries and offered some reasonable suggestions for a settlement of the Middle East question. This year, when Zaire was repelling the armed invasion masterminded by the Soviet Union, France rendered it some logistic support.

The East European countries have never ceased waging struggles against Soviet control. Since the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, the people’s resistance has continued to grow. In 1976 the Polish people repeatedly launched widespread movements to protest the inclusion of a provision on the Polish-Soviet alliance in the new Constitution, and there were workers’ strikes and demonstrations in which slogans like “We want freedom,” “We want no Russians” were raised. The governments of some East European countries have also shown a more perceptible tendency to oppose Soviet control. There have been open complaints in some articles in their press, for example, “principles of . . . mutual benefit have been violated partially and in varying degrees”;[2] there have been statements that the relationship of the East European countries to the Soviet Union “cannot be built on the basis of one socialist country constantly making sacrifices for the benefit of another,”[3] and that the attempt to “’co-ordinate everything’ can in practice only lead to ’nothing can be coordinated’”[4] and there have been demands such as those for “considering the specific interests of each CMEA country”[5] and for maintaining an “independent national economy.”[6] As the Soviet Union steps up its contention for world hegemony, East Europe becomes a forward position in Soviet preparations for war against West Europe and the United States. Soviet control and interference in the East European countries through the Warsaw Treaty Organization has become increasingly intolerable. Thus uneasiness is growing among the East European people and the struggle to defend their independence, security and equal rights is gathering momentum.

Of course, it must be realized that some second world countries will not easily relinquish their deep-rooted exploitation of and control over many third world countries. For the third world to establish relations of equality and mutual benefit with the second will involve a long and arduous struggle. However, as already indicated, the second world is being subjected to interference, control and bullying by the two hegemonist powers and to their war threats, particularly on the part of the Soviet Union. This has become a grim reality and will become more so. In explaining the policy of the Chinese Communist Party with respect to imperialism during the War of Resistance Against Japan, Chairman Mao said: “The Communist Party opposes all imperialism, but we make a distinction between Japanese imperialism which is now committing aggression against China and the imperialist powers which are not doing so now, between German and Italian imperialism which are allies of Japan and have recognized ’Manchukuo’ and British and U.S. imperialism which are opposed to Japan, and between the Britain and the United States of yesterday which followed a Munich policy in the Far East and undermined China’s resistance to Japan, and the Britain and the United States of today which have abandoned this policy and are now in favour of China’s resistance.”[7] For the same reason, drawing the distinction between their chief enemies at present–the two hegemonist powers – and the second world countries is an important question which the countries and the people of the third world must take into account in the course of their struggle. In the common struggle against the Soviet Union and the United States, it is both necessary and possible to ally with the second world under given conditions.

Since the Soviet Union regards Europe as the strategic focal point, countries in both East and West Europe will have to bear the brunt of its attack. They face a grave problem of safeguarding their national independence.

Is it correct in principle today to put forward the slogan of defending national independence in such developed countries as those of the second world, particularly of Europe?

At different periods in modern European history, classical Marxist-Leninist writers explained and proved that, under given conditions, wars in defence of national independence were not only permissible but necessary and revolutionary even with regard to the developed countries of Europe, and even when the opportunists were being denounced for making use of the slogan “defence of the fatherland” to cover up their betrayal of proletarian internationalism.

In 1891 when Germany was confronted with an immediate threat of aggression from Russia, Engels wrote: “Russian tsarism is the enemy of all Western nations and even the enemy of the bourgeoisie of these nations.”[8] “Should the danger of war become greater, we can tell the government that we are ready, given a square deal making it possible for us to do so, to support it against the foreign foe, on the assumption that the government employs all means, including revolutionary means, to wage the war relentlessly. ... It would be a question of national existence, and for us it would also be a question of maintaining the position and the prospective opportunities we have gained.”[9]

In 1916, while opposing the opportunists of the Second International for supporting one or the other side in the imperialist war, Lenin stressed the absolute correctness of the above-mentioned thesis of Engels’[10] and maintained that national wars against imperialism were still possible in Europe: “Even in Europe national wars in the imperialist epoch cannot be regarded as impossible. . . . This ’epoch’ ... by no means precludes national wars on the part of, say, small (annexed or nationally-oppressed) countries against the imperialist powers, just as it does not preclude large-scale national movements in Eastern Europe.” “National wars against the imperialist powers are not only possible and probable; they are inevitable, progressive and revolutionary. . . ”[11] Lenin again pointed out, “The characteristic feature of imperialism is precisely that it strives to annex not only agrarian territories, but even most highly industrialized regions.”[12] He also said, “I am not at all opposed to wars waged in defence of democracy or against national oppression, nor do I fear such words as ’defence of the fatherland’ in reference to these wars or to insurrections.”[13]

The above statements of our revolutionary teachers show that provided a country, developed or otherwise, becomes a victim of invasion and annexation by an imperialist power, the national war it wages against such invasion and annexation is a just war and ought to enjoy the support and assistance of the international proletariat.

In the 1930s when the forces of fascism were running amuck and the threat of wars of aggression was looming larger and larger prior to their actual outbreak, the Communist International called upon the working class of all countries to build a broad united front against fascism and war. When the war of aggression finally broke out, the working class in all lands played an active part in defending national independence and combating fascism and heroically contributed to the victory in the war.

Today, the European countries are faced with the grave threat of invasion and annexation from the Soviet social-imperialists. Chairman Mao told the political leaders of West European countries more than once, “The Soviet Union has wild ambitions. It wants to lay hands on the whole of Europe, Asia and Africa.”[14] If West European countries were to fall under the iron heel of the new tsars, they would be reduced to dependencies and their people to the status of second-class citizens, who would be doubly oppressed by the foreign conquerors and domestic capitulationists. Engels once observed that if tsarist Russia were to defeat Germany where the working-class movement was then more advanced, “the socialist movement in Europe would be kaput for twenty years.”[15] Engels’ grave warning must arouse our most earnest attention today! Engels’ and Lenin’s observations several decades ago concerning national wars inexorably compel us to draw similar lessons today! Many European countries are once again faced with the question of safeguarding their national independence, and the working class in Europe is once again faced with the question of maintaining the positions and the prospective opportunities already gained. In present-day 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. Therefore, while rallying the broad masses in the sharp struggle against oppression and exploitation by domestic monopoly capital and for democratic rights and a better life, the proletariat in the second world countries must hold high the banner of national independence, stand in the van of resistance to the threats of aggression from the two superpowers, and especially from Soviet social-imperialism, and under certain conditions unite with all those who refuse to succumb to superpower manipulation and enslavement and actively lead or take part in the struggle. This will also help promote the revolutionary situation in these countries.

Marxism-Leninism has always stressed the enormous significance of winning over the middle forces in the fight against the enemy. Efforts by the third world to establish varying degrees of unity with the second world countries will deal a direct blow to the policies of aggression, expansion and war of the two hegemonist powers, and especially of Soviet social-imperialism. In wilfully slandering the anti-’hegemonist forces of the second world as “jingoists” and “nationalists” who are against “internationalism,” Soviet social-imperialism is purposely confusing the issues and covering up its true features as the most dangerous instigator of world war. Isn’t that clear enough?

Of course, when we refer to the second world as a force that can be united with in the struggle against hegemonism, we certainly do not mean to write off the contradictions between the second and third world countries and the internal class contradictions in the former, nor do we in the least mean that the struggle of the oppressed nations and people against oppression and exploitation should be abandoned. The world can only advance in the course of struggle, and it is only through struggle that unity can be achieved. If unity is sought through struggle, it will live; if unity is sought through yielding, it will perish. This unity can be achieved and enhanced step by step only in the course of the struggle against national betrayal, appeasement and neo-colonial-ism and in the course of countering the attacks of the reactionary forces against the progressive forces.

Since the second world countries are faced with the superpowers’ growing threat of war, it is necessary for them to strengthen unity among themselves and their unity with the third world and other possible allies, so as to advance in the struggle against the common enemy. United struggle is the only correct path for them to take in defence of their national independence and survival, even though this path is strewn not with roses but with thorns.


[1] From a talk by Chairman Mao in October 1970.

[2] “Some Problems in the Price-Formation in the Socialist Market,” the Bulgarian quarterly Mezhdunarodni otnoshenia (International Relations), No. 4, 1974.

[3] “The International Socialist Relations of Production and the Principle of Distribution According to Work,” the Bulgarian journal Ekonomicheska Misl (Thoughts on Economics), No. 8, 1975.

[4] “The CMEA Countries on the Road to Economic Integration,” the Hungarian journal Kozgazdasagi Szemle (Economic Review), No. 9, 1974.

[5] “Theoretical Problems of Deepening the Socialist Economic Integration of the CMEA Countries,” Wirtschaftswissenschaft (Economic Science), GDR. No. 4, 1977.

[6] Op. cit.

[7] Mao Tsetung, “On Policy,” Selected Works of Mao Tsetung Vol. II.

[8] F. Engels, “Socialism in Germany,” Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vol. 22

[9] “Engels to A. Bebel, October 13, 1891,” Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vol. 38.

[10] See Lenin’s three letters to Inessa Armand, December 18, 23 and 25, 1916, Collected Works, Vol. 35.

[11] V. I. Lenin, “The Junius Pamphlet,” Collected Works, Vol. 22.

[12] V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” Collected Works, Vol. 22.

[13] V. I. Lenin, “An Open Letter to Boris Souvarine,” Collected Works, Vol. 23.

[14] From a talk by Chairman Mao in September 1973. Chairman Mao made similar remarks in his talks in November 1973 and in April 1975.

[15] “Engels to A. Bebel, September 29-October 1, 1891,” Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vol. 38.