Essay by Logan, Edited and Revised by Aaron
While plenty of writings exist explaining the justifications for Marxists to focus their attention to parliamentary politics in the first world, while building legitimate revolution elsewhere; however, these writings often find themselves confusing things further, rather than explaining them properly. This writing, then, exists to rectify this, and instead offer a primer on the subject. While this paper is far from scholarly and is in no way ground-breaking, I do hope that it will help explain why third worldists feel the way we do. It should be noted that this writing assumes the reader is already a Marxist. While many of the same principles apply to anarchists as well, this writing is intended for a Marxist audience.
Firstly, as any Marxist should understand, the material base of a society is responsible for the general shape of society. While a “great man” (who also is only a product of his or her conditions) may impact society more so than is natural, all changes happen slowly and within the confines of the material conditions that society finds itself. Thus, to know if revolution is even possible in a first world country (By first world country we refer to imperialist nations, exploiter nations), we should analyze the material conditions in a society. For the purpose of this essay, I will use the United States as an example to describe all first world countries. While not entirely accurate, I believe it should suffice for a primer piece.
Historically speaking, and currently even, revolution has occurred almost exclusively in poorer nations. Revolution succeeded in Russia, not Germany. While this is in part due to the Germans underestimating the power of the German military, it is also due to the much greater support for revolution in Russia. The Russian people were mad, not just at their economic situation at home, but additionally because of their involvement in WW1. The Russian people had no stake in this war, only the aristocracy had anything to gain from Russian involvement. While the Russian military lost nearly every battle they were involved in, such as in the Battle of Tannenburg, the Czar did not care. And why would he? He was not on the front-lines, nor were his sons. The Czar had nothing to lose from the slaughter of Russian troops and everything to gain if they were victorious. This contradiction proved too great for the Russian population, who en-masse overthrew the government. Germany, on the other hand, faced a much steeper hill to climb, with its people having less reason to revolt. The German citizen had country pride on the line, the average German felt there was a reason to fight. They didn’t mind being in an imperialist war, because they were the imperialists.
A similar attitude can be seen in first world liberals, happy to accept refugees but not willing to face what caused those Syrians to seek refuge in the first place. Most Americans are unashamed and ignorant of their imperialist history. History classes give little mention to intervention in Nicaragua, in Costa Rica, or in Guatemala (to name but a few). Even the wars the average citizen knows were unjustified, the imperialistic undertones are all but ignored. Popular liberal news host Kyle Kulinski mentions the Iraq War often, but when he does it’s within the context of how many American soldiers lost their lives or how much money was spent. I don’t think Mr. Kulinski is an imperialist apologist, when confronted with the Chelsea Manning links he was, rightly, outraged at the savagery our soldiers laid out on display, but this isn’t the only instance of such acts, nor are such acts representative of the deeper, immoral nature of the war. Good men and women who become soldiers are, without their realizing it, very typically pawns in an imperialistic game, but to say so is treated as disrespectful and silly. We’re more worried about our soldier’s feelings than we are with the lives of Iraqi children. In the same way that the average bourgeois may look out for other people of his class and their interests, but give absolutely no regard for the people whose backs they sit on to build their privilege, the average first world person looks out for his or her fellow first world friend and their interest but have no regard for the third world laborers whose back they sit on to build their privilege.
While those in the first world benefit from imperialism materialistically, they are still subject to the sociological determinants of capitalism. While this is true, these truths are far more abstract than what those in the third-world face. Being depressed thanks to capitalist alienation is a far harder concept to rally a revolution around than, say, starving children. While financial insecurity has risen in America since the early 80’s, there is little chance of an American citizen falling into homelessness or into destitute poverty. Additionally, the ideology of first world nations teaches people to see financial failure as a personality flaw. Those well off rarely sympathize with anything more than an abstract, idealized grouping of “the poor”, rather than the homeless themselves. Because of the combination of the issues being faced in the first world are too immaterial to revolt against and first world ideology, I find it hard to believe that there could ever be a revolt in the US, at least while it remains largely a parasitic exploiter nation wherein the whole of its people, whether they like it or not, are beneficiaries of imperialism.
On the other hand, there are revolutions and popular Marxist parties in the third world. For example, the Indian Maoist party has been a massive force for years, the Maoists in Nepal are the third largest party in the country, and the cease-fire between Maoist rebels in the Philippines and the government ended not but a few weeks ago as of the writing of this essay. Unlike in the first world, Marxism is as relevant as ever in most third world nations. This alone should speak volumes about the revolutionary potential in the third world as opposed to in the first. Further, because of the lack of revolutionary potential, first world marxists post but a miniscule threat to their governments. There’s a reason the RCPUSA (Revolutionary Communist Party USA) can have its HQ in Chicago but third world marxists need to have their HQ deep in a jungle hidden from authorities.
However, many may argue that these third world nations could follow a similar path to that set out in the United States around the time of the union boom. However, this can not be the case. As unions became more popular and workers demanded higher wages, things beyond just wages changed. The nature of the economy in the West shifted, from producing good to producing services. Unlike production jobs, service jobs can rarely be outsourced, forcing companies to pay their laborers minimum wage law if they want to take advantage of this market. With industrial labor, this can be shipped elsewhere. Minimum wage law didn’t end poverty, it instead merely shifted that poverty. The production in capitalism was shifted from America to the third world, and with it came capitalist poverty and exploitation as well.
After the third world, though, the capitalist has no-where left to send his labor. The capitalist would then be faced with a choice, use force to keep laborers in line, or give in and raise third world wages. To do this, however, capital must then be shifted away from the west. Not everyone can work service jobs. Someone, somewhere will have to work production. If they choose the latter, they will have to equalize first world and third world wages. Either path the capitalist class chooses, revolution becomes increasingly likely.
Assuming they follow the first, revolution is almost guaranteed. Faced with such obvious oppression, the chances of workers not rising up is almost zero. This revolution would already have a base, the unions, from which to build. With the anger and organization needed to revolt, the third world could become Marxist very quickly.
Alternatively, the capitalists may choose to lower wages in the West in order to fund higher wages in the third world. This brings with it contradictions of its own. Firstly, with wages being more equalized across the board, the role of class would become much more apparent. The middle class would likely die out, instead producing the two classes of “rich” and “worker”. This is of course a gross simplification, but a simplification close enough to reality to function. Additionally, with more disposable income, the service sector would likely grow in third world countries. With wealth equal across the board (among workers) and no one left to do cheap labor, issues arise almost immediately. The workers will either, as a class, accumulate more wealth, or the wealthy will accumulate more wealth as a class. With wealth comes power, and since the wealthy have more money, they have more power. With more power, they are far more likely to be the class to accumulate wealth. With poverty accumulating on one end of the spectrum, as the wealthy became wealthier and wealthier, a revolution on a global scale wouldn’t be out of the picture.
In short, in order to allow the first world nations to have prosperous workers, the must have the third world provide goods for cheap. As these third world workers demand higher wages, new labor markets must be found in order to provide the cheap labor capitalism demands. Eventually, when these wells of cheap labor dry up, contradictions will arise that capitalism can not overcome. Either all workers in all countries will become poor, or the third world workers will be violently repressed. Either way, the conditions for revolution arise, specifically manifesting itself in Global People’s War. To quote Lin Biao;
Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called the ‘cities of the world,’ then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world.’ Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of the cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
For further research on the topic, the YouTube channel “Maoist Rebel News” is a quality source. Providing both news from a third worldist perspective, as well as explanations of Marxist and third worldist theory in digestible bites, “Maoist Rebel News” is a must. MRN’s host, Jason Unruhe, also has a book on the topic. The book Divided World, Divided Class is also worth a read. Not explicitly third worldist, but Vladimir Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans all help explain the phenomenon of neo-imperialism and provide better context for third-worldist theory. Ha-Joon Chang’s Kicking Away the Ladder also helps explain what policies have already been taken in order to help maintain status-quo in the third world and promote business interests there.