By Freya Brown and N. Brown
In the course of discussions over the past several months, it is clear that a number of misconceptions about Maoism (Third Worldism) are being circulated by friend and foe alike.
In an effort to clear up major confusion, this document will deal with some of the major concepts that are distinct to M(TW), specifically those that relate to strategic orientation of practice.
“Combating the hegemony of First Worldism”
We consider First Worldism itself to be a form of revisionism within the International Communist Movement.
The problem with First Worldism is that it tacitly supports many of the ideological obfuscation put forward by the ruling class. It effectively says that the significantly better standard of living and more luxurious mode of life First Worlders generally enjoy when compared with Third World workers is due to higher productivity in the imperialist centers, or some other factor apart from value transfer. Almost always, the explanations First Worldists give for the great divergence in wealth and mode of life between the imperialist countries and the oppressed nations attribute the divergence merely to the more “advanced” state of capitalism in the First World, and they consider this more “advanced” state independently of any exploitative relationship between imperialist countries and the Third World. More importantly, by mischaracterizing a global worker elite as a normative part of the exploited proletariat, First Worldism effectively states that capitalism is a better long-term bet for all workers than socialism. It tactically promotes the ruling-class myth that capitalism can, over the long run, provide a decent ‘middle class’ standard of living for most people. After all, if capitalism in the First World granted significant gains to the majority of “its” workers all on its own, why can’t it do the same in the Third World? First Worldism, by assigning no particular significance to the opulence of qualitatively privileged workers, promotes the common belief that the masses of people can attain a similar lifestyle under capitalism. As Omali Yeshitela aptly pointed out in Stolen Black Labor, for those on the nominal left who seek to explain away the high standard of living in the First World without investigating how people in the First World benefit from the theft of the labor of others, the problem with the Third World then becomes “that they don’t have enough capitalism, they don’t have the concentrated productivity that the coming of capitalism will afford. In this, [they] unite with imperialist development theorists from Walt Rostow to Ronald Reagan.”
Therefore, we see the struggle against First Worldism, particularly within the ICM, as a principal task for all communists.
“Global People’s War”
Global People’s War refers to the development of numerous people’s wars in various neo-colonial countries causing the defeat of different comprador ruling classes and the establishment of revolutionary base areas for the launching of further people’s wars against further neo-colonial states, thus upsetting the whole dynamic of the capitalist-imperialist world-economy.
The goal of Global People’s War is to cut off the major source of wealth in the First World: the exploitation of the Third World. The defeat of imperialism in various parts of the Third World will necessarily change the balance of power within global political economy. The establishment of a series of socialist states will put pressure on the imperialists, leading to their defeat via global new democratic revolution.
“Global New Democratic Revolution”
GNDR refers to the wide-ranging defeat of imperialism in all realms of life. In order to build the requisite basis for socialism, the global relationship of imperialism must be negated. This will require not simply a political defeat of the imperialists, but a complete retooling of the global economy. The economic infrastructure in the First World must no longer primarily facilitate the circulation and capture of surplus-value. Technical resources, means of production, and labor from the First World will likely be directed toward the Third World as a form of reparations. New history books will be written that refer to the old U.N. as something akin to a ‘gang of imperialists and their lackeys,’ .
Ultimately, building socialism today is not about having the rest of the world ‘catch up’ to the First World, but about revolutionizing production and distribution away from long value-chains predicated on the displaced exploitation of a global working class. A simple question might be asked: what should be done with all the elite workers who currently shuffle papers, sell useless shit bound to the transfer of value, work as security guards at banks, etc? What sort of useful role might they play in an economy in which migrants are not picking our tomatoes nor children in Africa digging up cobalt for our leisure.
“Building a political culture of opposition in the First World”
A ‘political culture of opposition‘ refers to all those elements entailed in a revolutionary movement: institutions, organizations, channels of information, levels of capability for self-defense and strategic offenses, media and education platforms, ideological and belief-based elements, cultural dispositions, and infrastructural elements with which people organize themselves.
Typically, political cultures of opposition develop against a particular regime, government, or ruling-class leader. Given the right external conditions and internal elements, it can transform into a popular movement that is at least successful in unseating a particular target from power.
In the First World, our task is modified. We aim to build a political culture of opposition against the relations of capitalist-imperialism and its political representatives. Moreover, our objective aim is not the direct overthrow of First World governments and thus to enact some Trostkyist vision of top-down global socialism. Rather, we aim to build a political culture of opposition in the First World that necessarily divides the attentions of the imperialists, thus giving proletarian revolutionary movements and people’s war more space to develop and succeed. As Global People’s War develops against imperialism, those political cultures of opposition internal to the First World will play a key role in transforming into revolutionary movements in unity with the global proletariat, thus securing the victory for GNDR.
In any political culture of opposition or revolutionary movement, there are those elements playing a leadership role in a specifically revolutionary way. This is the revolutionary vanguard.
One could imagine a parade of people, the masses, standing along a street, representing the march toward socialism and communism. Most people are clustered together and not indicating which direction the group should travel. Some people stand far ahead of the masses, unable to convince them to move forward. These are ultra-leftists. Some people simply stand with the crowd. These people tail whichever direction the masses go, occasionally giving voice to the general movement but never actually influencing direction or pace. Some stand way in the back, espousing reaction and encouraging the crowd to move backwards. Finally, some are ahead in the front, but not too far ahead, effectively encouraging the group to move forward toward revolution. This is the vanguard, the role communists ought seek.
The vanguard plays a decisive role in the political culture of opposition, pushing it forward toward revolution. Without a vanguard role by communists, the revolutions carried out by political cultures of oppositions tend to be circumscribed, resulting in little substantive long-term gain for the masses. In the First World, the revolutionary vanguard role is played by those forces which actively contribute to the development of GNDR.
A revolutionary vanguard is not the result of a declaration. Rather, vanguards develop and manifest in direct relation to the mass movement and political culture of opposition with which they are intertwined. Rather than being a title, vanguard refers to a specific leadership role to aspire to, that of leading the development of an effective political culture of opposition and its transformation into a living movement with revolutionary potential.
While these ideas are exclusive to Third Worldism, they are not exclusive to RAIM. Samir Amin and the Maoist Internationalist Movement, for example, have put forward similar ideas to that of ‘Global New Democracy.’ People’s war relates (in basic terms) to the combination of the mass line and guerrilla-like military strategies. It developed as a theory based on the experience of the Chinese Revolution, and people’s wars are currently being waged today in India and the Philippines. Vanguard is a fairly common concept in Marxism. Unfortunately, it is a term that is far too often misused, mostly for the purpose of empty hype and self-aggrandizement. We don’t refer to ourselves as a vanguard, but hope to prove so in the act. While the term ‘political culture of opposition’ is borrowed from John Foran, here it references work in imperialist centers as part of a larger contextual strategy that is protracted and based specifically on the given terrain sculpted by the history of capitalist-imperialism.
1. Omali Yeshitela, Stolen Black Labor: The Political Economy of Domestic Colonialism (Oakland: Burning Spear Publications, 1983), 10.