Analysis of Classes, Trajectory of Worldwide Revolution, and the Problems of First Worldism
As has been outlined in the work of various Third Worldists and those near it, the world is not as simple as the dogmatic ‘Marxist’ understanding of ‘workers vs. bosses.’ Moreover, the precise explanation of ‘who are our enemies, who are our friends’ is understood by revolutionary Marxists to be of primarily significance. Thus, we are obliged to be more precise in our class analysis than rephrasing rhetorical passages from the Communist Manifesto.
A basic sketch of modern classes (nevertheless, with room for improvement) is laid out in my previous essay entitled, On Global People’s War and Global New Democratic Revolution:
- Direct representatives and holders of finance capital
- The comprador bourgeoisie of the Third World
- Bourgeois-nationalist forces of the Third World
- A section of embourgeoisfied, largely non-productive and hence wholly parasitic workers: i.e. the working petty-bourgeoisie or ‘labor aristocracy’; those who derive material privilege from the accumulation of capital (from who we might subtract a progressive section of petty-bourgeoisie as a strategic social variable)
- Those nationally oppressed within the First World, including migrants, or those otherwise forced into especially oppressive productive relations
- Those layers of people who form the modern proletariat, i.e., those who receive few of the benefits of modern society; their labor used to further perpetuate their own economic disenfranchisement while forming the basis of the capitalist-imperialist economy.
While this is an imperfect sketch of present classes, it does serve as the basis for understanding the potential for modern socialism and communism via global people’s war and global new democratic revolution.
This essay, Behind Enemy Lines, serves as a necessary companion and sequel to On Global People’s War. As such, I will not spend much time rehashing issues which were primarily discussed in the previous essay. Instead, I hope to outline the specific role of revolutionary work in the First World as it relates to the larger trajectory of global people’s war and global new democratic revolution.
It is worth reexamining early-on the Third Worldist critique of First Worldism.
First, it is worth defining exactly what First Worldism is. First Worldism is a chauvinistic or slavish attitude toward the First World-centered embourgeoisifed section of the working class. Because First Worldism directly relates to a misunderstanding of political economy and global class structure, it is often related to views which are tied to the Theory of the Productive Forces and/or idealistic voluntarism.
The standard First Worldist explanation is that well paid workers produce more value via the utilization of higher organic rates of the composition of capital. This is a sleight of hand: using one expression of parasitism to explain another expression. More importantly, it dismisses the role of oppression in mediating exploitation and soliciting support for the maintenance and protection of capitalist-imperialist social relations. Considering a great degree of economic activity in the First World is the circulation of commodities or is otherwise tertiary, it is questionable whether a higher rate of constant capital is the particular cause of higher wages instead of another symptom of a common phenomenon. Furthermore, those industries which are involved in the actual production geared for international trade are frequently monopolistic. Otherwise, what might First World workers seize as part of a socialist revolution? Espresso machines and deep fryers? Gas stations and Walmarts? Lockheed Martin and Amazon warehouses? Perhaps this is the vision of First Worldist socialism. But if this is the case, such nominal socialists should admit theirs is (at best) a ‘socialism from above’ in relation to the structural international division of labor.
Internationally and on the level of class struggle by the Third World-centered proletariat, First Worldism inadvertently promotes capitalism. If the supposedly ‘exploited’ Amerikan owns a single family home, several cars throughout their working lives and retirement years, etc., what does that say about the status of liberated workers during 20th century socialism, who during their more austere and work-worn lives were formally emancipated from exploitative wage-labor? ‘It is easier to struggle to be a well-off worker under capitalism like First Worlders than to struggle for revolutionary socialism,’ is the implied message of First Worldism.
Even within the First World, there is no evidence that petty pandering to embourgeoisfied workers advances the revolutionary movement. Instead, there has existed a variety of First Worldist sects with minor differences yet which all agree on the necessity of organizing a mythical First World ‘proletariat.’ All of these sects are equally insignificant and impotent in this task they have laid before themselves. Instead, First Worldism correlates to ideologically and practically dismissing the significance of the struggles of exploited and oppressed peoples. This, of course, is done for the purpose of accommodating embourgeoisfied oppressors who are mistakenly assumed by First Worldists to be the ‘rightful’ proletariat.
When critiquing First Worldism, we need to make it clear that we are not critiquing the revolutionary content of limited work which may be occurring the First World, denying its existence, or further potential. Nor are we dismissing any progressive work done by First Worldists.
Rather, it is important we situate such critiques within practical strategies based on the central importance of class dynamics for revolution.
As was expressed in On Global People’s War:
The main thing which Third Worldism changes for practice in the First World is to provide a more accurate and strategic conceptual framework for internationalism in localized work. It does not ask First World Communists to do less; it asks them to do more and with a more advanced understanding the necessity for global people’s war and global new democratic revolution.
Before we can correctly outline a strategy for revolutionary work in the First World, we need more than a basic overview of classes in the world-economy, a loose understanding of the trajectory of world revolution (global people’s war and global new democratic revolution), and a general idea of what not to do (First Worldism). We need a theoretical understanding of the relationship between revolutionary work in the Third and First Worlds.
A Dialectical Process of the Development of Factors for Revolution and Between the Subjective Forces of the Third and First Worlds
Two variable factors which contribute to the cause and success of revolution include the development of an oppositional political culture and the development of a world-systemic opening.
Political cultures of opposition include the institutions, working coalitions, historical understandings, and psychological conditionings which become instruments in targeting, opposing, and overthrowing an existing set of rulers. A world-systemic opening is a moment of hesitation, internal conflict, error, or ineptitude on the part of international imperialist forces relating to the best means to stem the success of a particular revolution. Between these two variable causal factors of revolution, there are multiple layers of connection.
A world-systemic opening is largely the product of revolutionary movement generated in part by a political culture of opposition. The world-systemic opening, which is typically short-lived if it arises, functions to embolden the oppositional political culture and impel its decisive action: the seizure of power. The world-systemic opening also entails the inability of capital to mount any immediate, unified, or successful counter-offensive. That is to say: revolutionary movements may take place in the context of or generate a world-systemic opening; this world systemic-opening is of great importance for the immediate success and consolidation of the revolution in a particular country or area.
The world-system opening which results from and aids one political culture of opposition may be the growth and development of oppositional political cultures elsewhere. The best example of this was the decolonization of Portugal’s African colonies. After over a decade of fighting against independence forces in Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea, a popular-backed military coup in 1974 (known as the ‘Carnation Revolution’) overthrew a fascistic regime in Portugal and led to the withdrawal of its anti-independence military forces in Africa.
Another example which is less stark but perhaps more familiar is the political culture of opposition which arose the United States in partial response to drawn out aggression against Vietnam. Partially as a result of the political culture of opposition in Vietnam, an oppositional political culture grew in prominence in the US. This in part caused the US to pull out its troops beginning in the early 1970s, leading to the communist military victory in 1975.
Oppositional political cultures are also tied together, often inspiring and modeling themselves on one another. An upsurge of an oppositional political culture or revolution in one place can inspire the development of oppositional political cultures elsewhere. This was the case of the Bolshevik Revolution’s influence in immediately popularizing communism throughout the world. Likewise, there exists a tendency of unequal influence between oppositional political cultures. Insofar as political cultures of opposition exist in the First World, they exerts disproportionate influence on those in the periphery. This particularly results in accommodating theoretical lines and practical measures within the International Communist Movement which run counter to the development of revolution.
In all, between the casual factors of vibrant oppositional political cultures and world-systemic openings, there exists the potential for a historical dialectic. The development of opposition political cultures can influence each other in positive ways, increasingly the likelihood of a world-systemic opening and local revolutionary victories, thus qualitatively advancing the further potential for development of these and other oppositional political cultures.
The strategy pursued by the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement is not simply rooted in an understanding of class relations and the strategic trajectory of global revolution but also within an understanding of the relationship between political cultures of opposition, world-systemic openings, and revolution.
The Roles of Revolutionary Organizing in the First World
Within the scope of world revolution, revolutionary work in the First World takes on particular characteristics. The traditional work of building an oppositional political culture is augmented by the task of building one that strengthens the potential of oppositional political cultures elsewhere. Because all efforts at building oppositional cultures inside the First World will run up against the structural impediment of a large embourgeoisifed working class, it is essential that such efforts at building oppositional culture in the core are strategically situated to directly and indirectly contribute to the development of oppositional cultures in the periphery. Efforts to build oppositional political cultures here should take place, but only with the understanding that their ultimate success depends on the development of a wider revolutionary situation. Hence the development of a wider revolutionary situation should be a central focus of any oppositional political culture in the imperialist core.
For Third Worldists, a central question is the manner that oppositional political cultures in the imperialist core affect the development and revolutionary success of political cultures in the exploited periphery.
As previously explained, First Worldism is not a principal cause of the lack of revolutionary struggles in the First World. However, First Worldism does have consequences. Especially when posited as revolutionary ideology, First Worldism has a negative effect on international oppositional political cultures and helps stave off revolution generally. Thus, not every aspect of oppositional political cultures in the core aids those in the periphery. Some aspects of First World ‘revolutionary’ ideology can actually be quite damaging to the international revolutionary movement.
It should be stated outright that a principal aim of the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement is to break the hegemony of First Worldism within the International Communist Movement. As a matter of strategy, the best way to do that is to break the hegemony of First Worldism within the tiny and otherwise ineffectual First World ‘revolutionary left.’ And, the only way we can effectively break the hegemony of First Worldist revisionism is through creating, maintaining, and acting on behalf of our own independent political and dual power institutions.
Independent Third Worldist political cultures reference Third Worldist organizational structures, working networks, media and other public opinion outlets, historical narratives, and world-views. While these are best to be built and maintained independent of First Worldist political cultures, they cannot exist in a vacuum.
Working to break the hegemony of First Worldism does not imply taking an agitational or hostile attitude towards all First Worldist forces in the First World. In some cases and on some issues, debates should not be avoided. Yet we largely support the unity of different sections of oppositional political cultures in the First World, especially if aids in the breaking of First Worldist hegemony.
‘Beaking the hegemony of First Worldism’ does not imply doing away with First Worldism entirely, which would be impossible outside of global new democratic and socialist revolution. Breaking the hegemony of First Worldism merely implies doing away with the extreme dominance of First Worldist distortions of revolutionary Marxism along with the corresponding necessity of raising up Third Worldism as a viable alternative. Yet again, only by building up independent Third Worldist political cultures in the First World can we work with the wider oppositional political culture in a manner that breaks the ideological hegemony of First Worldism and advances the forward momentum of revolution generally.
When thinking on the larger scale, breaking the hegemony of First Worldism in the First World simply implies the development of larger oppositional political cultures with a proportionately larger Third Worldist section. Conceptualized in this manner, we can begin to narrow in on the sort of activity which can achieve our aims.
Political Aspects of Revolutionary Work in the First World
In terms of our our everyday work, we want to politicize wider sections of people in a specific way, i.e., build public opinion in support of the revolutionary struggles against imperialism by the world’s exploited and oppressed.
The most direct way this is done is through organizing as well as producing and distributing agit-prop in direct support of revolutionary struggles.
Rather than opportunistically jumping behind every imperialist-hyped ‘dissident’ movement, we should prioritize the promotion of the best existing models of ongoing revolutionary struggles. Practically, this means working to increase awareness and support for the ongoing people’s wars in India and the Philippines. More generally, it means promoting broader support in the First World for the wider development of revolutionary struggles in the Third World.
Building public support for people’s revolutionary movements serves a greater purpose than simply supplying moral aid. Within the scope of First World organizing, it helps build the epistemological connections regarding the global dimensions of revolution. Likewise, building wider awareness and support for existing people’s wars also contributes to building wider interest in Maoism.
Another manner of politicizing people in the First World and building the proportionate strength of Third Worldism is through organizing and agitating around the sharpening contradictions of imperialism which are naturally capturing the attention of many people. Issues like the effects of ecological destruction and militarism, for example, are increasingly antagonizing the relationship between embourgeoisfied First Worlders and the imperialist bourgeoisie. It is these sort of contradictions which Third Worldists should organizing around while building public support for a wider revolutionary struggle.
It is of strategic importance to support the development and unity of national liberation consciousness among internally colonized peoples within the imperialist core. Likewise, we must draw out the connection between struggles for national liberation and struggles of the oppressed peoples at large. Our point on this should be firm: we see no utility in the continued existence of the political entities which represent monopoly capital. As such, we see no further utility for the ‘United States’ and ‘Canada’ (for example). Instead, we would rather see a coalition new revolutionary states representing newly-empowered internal colonies act in unity with a larger movement of revolution globally.
Over time, there is the need to develop dual power institutions. In essence, during any revolutionary struggle in which the great mass of a society withdraws its support from the system in an oppositional manner, there exists the need to fulfill the daily requirements of life. The same institutions, set up to fulfill the requirements of daily and long-term existence for the masses engaged in struggle, have the potential to transform into the new regular institutions following the overthrow of society. Dual power institutions also enable regular contact and the develop of support between the vanguard and masses.
In revolutionary historiography of occupied Amerika, the most apparent example of dual power were ‘Serve the People’ programs put into place by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Unfortunately, this example is not readily applicable to today’s conditions in the US. Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ programs kicked off a range of welfare programs designed to undercut such efforts by revolutionaries. In essence, efforts by revolutionaries to do ‘breakfast programs’ are in competition against school lunch programs, a variety of non-profits and food banks, churches, food not bombs, and new age cults masquerading as Eastern religions.
Revolutionaries must be more creative when developing future oppositional dual power institutions to support the struggle. Nonetheless, such dual power institutions are a key element of oppositional political cultures. Especially as the hegemony of First Worldism begins to crack and the potential for the development of wider global struggle begins to rise, the establishment of such dual power institutions will be of critical importance.
RAIM and the necessity of vanguard organizing
In every movement representing a class interest, there is a leading element known as the vanguard. In the course of the revolutionary struggle, the ability of a revolutionary vanguard to itself become a leading element of the wider oppositional political culture is of dramatic significance. Without a strong revolutionary vanguard, oppositional cultures are either fractured and weak by this virtue alone or dominated by revisionist and liberal elements which serve to hold back the actual revolutionary movement.
What makes the vanguard the vanguard? First, it is obviously a relative statement. The vanguard acts as the leadership of a wider movement. More specifically, the vanguard element is able to organize the mass elements through the influence it wields through dual power and other institutions. Requisite to the ability to organize the masses is the ability to organize itself. In order to carry out the varying technical and political tasks necessary to mobilize larger numbers of people and weather the battle against the exploiting classes, the vanguard itself takes on organizational forms with divisions of labor, chains of decision making, means of internal and external communication, etc.
A vanguard is necessary because class interests are not expressed spontaneously. Instead, in the course of class struggle, class interests are personified through representative individuals who collectively organize with varying degrees of quality and effectiveness to further their identified interests. The imperialists and other forces are not busying themselves with idle squabble over abstract theories and model choices. Rather, they are organizing to apply various strategies and methods to intervene against the potential of rising people’s struggles. Revolutionaries must, on a certain level, be even more diligent and ruthless in organizing to develop, broaden, and lead forward oppositional political cultures
Even on the level of organizing a Third Worldist section of oppositional political culture, because this will not occur spontaneously, there exists the de facto need for a leading element.
At the most basic level, the vanguard is made up of cadre, or individual committed members. The quality of cadre is of crucial significance. In order to develop as a political force, we must train ourselves in a variety of skills related to advancing the pressing tasks of the revolutionary movement and above all to become ‘organic intellectuals,’ i.e., thinkers tied to day to day events in the development of revolutionary struggles. Moreover, we must place a special emphasis on recruiting and training new cadre of high quality.
Of course, the ‘vanguard’ is often thrown around as an empty slogan. RAIM, as it is, does not see itself as a vanguard as much as an organization trying to aid the development of broader and more advanced oppositional political cultures in the First and Third Worlds. Likewise, we aim to engage in the main aspects of revolutionary work in the occupied Amerika. We do not see ourselves as special or particularly great leaders. Rather, we see various tasks left unfulfilled. We aim to organize as efficiently as possible to carry them out to maximum effect. Moreover, in acting politically we are mindful to set a positive example and model for others, to lead by example, pick up pieces when need be, and carry out tasks to their end.
Just as the world is more complicated than ‘workers vs. bosses,’ strategies which address the requisites of revolution are more complicated as well. Moreover, not only is revolution still possible, it is increasingly necessary for greater sections of people.
Through understanding both class relations and the interrelation between oppositional political cultures, world-systemic openings, and revolution, we aim to actively build a movement to contribute to global new democratic revolution, socialism, and communism. Guided by revolutionary Marxism, we aim to build a movement for a new world.