BY JOSÉ CARLOS MARULANDA
A Black comrade named Mond recently published an article on his Medium accusing Third Worldism of “wrecking working-class and internationalist movements built by workers in the capitalist-imperialist centers.”
The introductory paragraph argues that white guilt and chauvinism, though sometimes seen as opposites, come together to ultimately uphold white supremacy. He proposes that white supremacy, whether manifested through overt chauvinism or subtly through white guilt, both distort class struggle in the United States. Up until the end of this paragraph, we have no issue with the piece, and would only add that these distortions are logical conclusions for white supremacists in order to justify their material interests in the capitalist system.
In the second paragraph, however, he makes a huge and unexpected leap, pinning white guilt to Third Worldism as “it’s most popular formation.” He goes on to reduce Third Worldism to a position taken by white people (because of their white guilt) to justify their “inaction” and “nihilism.” Through taking a Third Worldist line, according to him, one necessarily believes that “there is no revolutionary potential for the working class in the U.S.”
This reductionism of Third World communism is not only lazy, but is also a long-standing accusation by mainstream communist parties in the West in order to deflect that they are beneficiaries of imperialist loot and embrace Eurocentric ideals in general. In this case, it is regurgitated by a member of color, which is unfortunate.
So what is the genuine Third World communist line?
What separates Third Worldism from classical communism or mainstream leftist analysis of class struggle is the argument that Western/First World workers benefit from imperialism. This is not a mere “feeling” (white guilt in this case), but an actual material relationship that can be scientifically understood through a thorough study of the global capitalist system.
Take the example provided by Dr. Zak Cope in his book “Divided World Divided Class.” In 2012, around $1.7 trillion of value was transferred from non-OECD countries (mainly Third World nations) by means of unequal exchange in manufactures. Simply put, Third World or Global South workers and nations are being robbed of a large portion of their wealth, helping to maintain the high wages of First World workers (and other benefits derived from their governments’ public spending).
Similarly, British Marxist economist Tony Norfield exposes the current imperialist system in his book, “The City,” by demonstrating that First World nations continue to rob the rest of the world out of their material wealth through an intricate web of financial dealings. To give just one example, Norfield shows that even though the United Kingdom has a large trade deficit every year due to producing less goods than it imports, it nevertheless survives or makes up for this gap through its worldwide “financial services,” which is really another way of saying imperialist unequal exchange. The profits made from this system are subsequently used to subsidize failing U.K. industries and, of course, its workers — directly through its public services like the National Health Service, or indirectly through employment.
First World workers’ dependence on stolen wealth from the super-exploitation of the Third World is further exposed in the recent book “Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century” by John Smith. Smith shows that while just €0.95 are given to Bangladeshi manufacturers to share between them and their employees for one t-shirt, once in Europe, that same t-shirt will be sold for €4.95 to be shared by the company, its employees and the state through taxation.
Smith criticizes Western Marxists for wrongly attributing wealth and development in the West to technological advances, correctly identifying imperialist unequal exchange as the main source of profit for First World companies, states and workers.
Rather than Third World communism being “revisionist,” it is in fact an application of a materialist analysis, or a Marxist analysis, to the present conditions of global capitalism. It is not bourgeois white intellectuals who have arrived at this conclusion either. In the 1920s, for example, the Marxist Latin American revolutionary José Carlos Mariátegui maintained that socialism in the region could not be “a tracing or a copy” of European socialism, but a “heroic creation” that explained “our own reality, in our own language.”
Linked to Mariátegui’s call for a non-Eurocentric application of Marxism are revolutionary leaders and thinkers from the Third World such as Lin Biao, Ruy Mauro Marini, Che Guevara and more recently, Omali Yeshitela. They suggested that revolutionary struggles in imperialist centers are stunted by some layers of the working class benefiting from imperialist loot.
Exposing the fact that a large portion of the workers in the West benefit materially from imperialism should not serve as a cause to be “nihilistic” and “reckless,” as suggested by comrade Mond. Instead, it should serve as a reason to join hands with billions of oppressed people across the Third World who wish to destroy parasitic capitalism and imperialism, prioritizing their struggles ahead of those in the First World.
Furthermore, despite accepting that workers in the First World benefit from imperialism, it does not mean that there is not a case for communist mobilization there. No Third World communists I have met have ever denied the oppression of certain sections of the working class in First World nations.
Poor Black people, Latinx immigrants, immigrants in general and even some white workers in the West have more in common with the Third World than with the middle and upper classes of the countries they reside in. These sectors, however, are a small minority compared to the majority of workers in the First World who earn dozens of times as much money as their counterparts in the Third World.
The claim that Third Word communism is a white chauvinistic line may have to do more with a narrow and outdated understanding of Marxism, causing some to associate a serious communist tradition with aberrations from the likes of Jason Unruhe, who has posted various videos unnecessarily demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement and who responded to Comrade Mond by calling him a “punk” — something we will not stand for.
Comrade Mond’s whole piece was, in essence, a rant that made blind accusations against the most progressive anti-imperialist movement in the West while ignoring the inherent Eurocentrism of mainstream communist parties.
Ultimately, the outdated idea that the working class in each country is equally exploited by the same global capitalist class is simplistic and ignores the nuances that have been articulated above.
The most oppressed under global capitalism will be the first ones to destroy it. First World workers as they stand today continue to be in bed with their imperialist governments and companies. One only has to look at labor unions like the AFL-CIO that supported Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, despite the fact that she orchestrated imperialist offensives in Libya, Syria, Honduras, Somalia, Pakistan and countless other Third World nations.
The diaspora of oppressed Third World peoples in the West can join this fight if only they turn away from the myopic First World struggles that Eurocentric leftists and so-called communists (mis)lead us to.
They are invited to join ANTICONQUISTA and help us fund revolutionary groups across Latin America, the Caribbean and the Third World as a whole.