Thread: Thoughts on Third Worldism?

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  1. #1
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    Default Thoughts on Third Worldism?

    I recently delved a bit into Maoism-Third Worldism and Third Worldism and I would like to know what other people think of it, because to me, it just seems as idealist, obscurantist fringes of the communist movement that use some communist concepts (like primitive communism, exploitation, etc) but generally abandon the Marxian approach and don't have any meaningful theoretical framework whatsoever. To be honest, Third Worldism to me seems as a quest to form the most "edgy" theory that ever existed, incorporating nationalist, socialist, and even fascist elements. I plan on writing an article about TW because it is an interesting phenomenon despite being utterly unsympathetic, but first I would like to know what people of different tendencies think about it.
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    It's a capitulation in the face of the capitalist powers in the developed regions of global capitalism and a fetishism of guerrillaism. Third Worldists don't believe that there is a proletariat in the 'west' instead believing that there are only labour aristocrats, which is basically an abuse of the term, and so they don't believe that a revolution is possible in the centres of capitalist power. They laud guerilla formations wherever they crop up in the less developed regions of global capitalism, especially if they wave the red flag in defiance of imperialism. But this all amounts to basically ignoring the centres of imperialism and the power workers could have in the developed regions to end imperialism by toppling the imperialist powers. It's ultimately an abandonment of marxism.
    Modern democracy is nothing but the freedom to preach whatever is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie - Lenin

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    I think it's revisionism. They support Lin Biao, a rightist who attempted to assassinate Mao and launch a Bonapartist coup. It's net exploitation(that all First World workers are receiving rent in the form of superwages and have no revolutionary potential, or are even class enemies) is nonsense. This should be dispelled by actually reading Capital. Yeah, there's a significant minority of labor aristocracy in the core nations(which Engels and Lenin said was a minority of the workers). But there's definately an exploited and even super-exploited proletariat(those who sell their labor power to survive). There's nothing that says you get paid $10 or $20/hr and automatically become jingoistic anti-communists because your labor might be unproductive from capital's standpoint. You're still selling your labor power, qualitatively it's still the contradiction between the proletariat and bourgeoisie.

    Even if the proletariat was a minority in the core nations, who says it has to be a majority for a revolution? The industrial proletariat was not a majority in Russia or China, and it wasn't a majority in France or Germany in Marx and Engels day. It's entirely possible for the proletariat to lead a revolution with a petite-bourgeois majority. The "deep core" of the proletariat can unite the advance, win over the intermediate and isolate the backward.

    I guarantee you that the best thing communists in the First World could do to support the revolutions in the Third World is raise hell and start making revolutions at home. I'm certain that Third World revolutionaries would fucking love that far more than North Americans whining on the internet about how pointless doing anything is, so they're going to sit tight until the entire Third World is red.

    I think Third-Worldism is a "left"-deviation in response to a right-deviation, that the workers in the core nations are more productive(so no superexploitation of Third World workers), there's no labor aristocracy, the site of the struggle is in the labor bureaucracy and that even Third-World workers has less revolutionary potential(dressed up in a variety of ways). One form of opportunism tends to begot the other.

    However, I don't think some of the things put out of this tradition are without value. J. Sakai's Settlers, Zak Cope's Divided World, Divided Class are pretty good, if flawed. In fact, I'd say some of the ideas in these works help explain the rise of right-wing populism in the First World.
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    My primary concern is how we should approach TWists. If they disavow basic notions of Marxism and trade it for shady obscurantism (like LLCO), juvenile mental gymnastics (like the infamous MIM) and in some cases, adopt spiritualist and even near-fascistic beliefs (like this blog: http://sarvanash.blogspot.hu/) I think they are no longer part of even a broadly interpreted communist movement. I understand why some aspects of Maoist-Third Worldist critiques could have some relevance to the struggle, but, especially from my left-of-Leninist point of view, they are so distant from the basic minimum of the revolutionary left that they are not to be considered part of our movement(s). Still looking to delve deeper, though.
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    I recently delved a bit into Maoism-Third Worldism and Third Worldism and I would like to know what other people think of it, because to me, it just seems as idealist, obscurantist fringes of the communist movement that use some communist concepts (like primitive communism, exploitation, etc) but generally abandon the Marxian approach and don't have any meaningful theoretical framework whatsoever. To be honest, Third Worldism to me seems as a quest to form the most "edgy" theory that ever existed, incorporating nationalist, socialist, and even fascist elements. I plan on writing an article about TW because it is an interesting phenomenon despite being utterly unsympathetic, but first I would like to know what people of different tendencies think about it.
    I dont think its anymore anti marxist or revisionist than Leninism is. How can an autonomous socialist state exist without developing from the 3rd world and against the first, if can we say that 1st world countries exploit the labor of 3rd world countries then you can say that it is possible to separate the worlds social classes by geography. Meaning we can have an entire country populated by one class and the usage of super inflated wages to create a false secondary class. It doesn't mean that's what has happened or that's the current state of world affairs but that it is merely possible, and if I were in China, Vietnam, or Cambodia and were interested in creating a marxist socialist republic, or whatever than I would not be concerned with whether or not first world Marxist vanguard parties were developed enough to take us into some ethereal 1st world revolution. I would proclaim this state of affairs (third worldism) to be in the here & now whether we are in the 1950's or the 2020's because it is politically advantageous to do so.

    I think its worth pointing out that China will be the richest country on earth in literally a matter of a few short years
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    I dont think its anymore anti marxist or revisionist than Leninism is.
    It deviates from communism not in the usage of basic concepts. It applies (well some kind of) class analysis. My concerns are more about the line of TWism that abandons materialism in favor of obscurantist mumbo-jumbo, hard idealism, and all that jazz. I mean I kind ofhave problems with the basic notion that First World workers are not exploited but exploiters but this is not the primary reason why I think that many Third Worldist are so far from the Marxian basics that they could not be considered part of the Marxian "tradition" of the revolutionary left. When it comes to third world nationalism, spiritualism, and bad history (there is a thought of Third Worldism which proclaims that capitalism replaced "organic" forms of society in the third world and that the original societies in the "global south" were some kind of egalitarian utopia close to primitive communism), Third Worldism is especially bad and especially non-Marxist. I don't have problems with ideologies existing outside of the Marxist, post-Marxist (whatever) tradition of the communist movement but they should be approached different than actual communists who use the Marxist methods and theory.
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    there is a thought of Third Worldism which proclaims that capitalism replaced "organic" forms of society in the third world and that the original societies in the "global south" were some kind of egalitarian utopia close to primitive communism

    I don't know about utopia, but before the modern advent of capitalism many societies (like the Ruc of Vietnam ) existed for thousands of years in roughly the same lifestyle, no real scientific advancement, and 100+ year lifespans were not uncommon.

    Caribbean native islanders struggled against the capitalists who would take their native fishing spots where they may have fished for their entire lives who declared them private houses and tourist hotels, so the natives could no longer fish there
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    [TW:] that the workers in the core nations are more productive(so no superexploitation of Third World workers)

    But isn't this part true, empirically -- ? (Just saying.)

    My understanding is that, in capitalist economics, the relatively-more-'productive' (by pricing) *service sector* emerges in the most economically advanced countries, while *manufacturing* becomes passe / has-been, with plenty of Third World industrial proletarian workers vying for work positions, driving that kind of wages sharply downward (see China and Southeast Asia).

    On the other hand, one could say that the overall local economy parallels wages, so if typical local wages are relatively lower, the cost of living is lower as well, and so it all evens-out regardless of geography.

    But here's the point: The overall local economy of goods and services is *less developed* than in the advanced Western economies, so if a Third-World-worker wanted some higher-end, cutting-edge technological good or First-World-type specialty service -- to 'keep up' with the First-World 'Joneses' -- they would be *unable* to find it locally and would have to pay a large premium for it, probably for its importation from a First-World economy.

    In this way their labor *is* being super-exploited because their local currency / economy / buying-power *sucks* in relation to the greater world economy, and in comparison to the goods and services available to the average *First-World* worker with *their* access to available, advanced goods and services, with their average wages.
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    There was a time I called myself a Maoist, looking to developing world, supporting national liberation movements, etc. Now I don't call myself anything, nor do I look anywhere or support anything. I've become numb. Just dead to everything. My sympathies still lie with the working people, and my heart is still soft towards the revolution, but all political enthusiasm and hope has been sucked out of me.

    Third Worldism is just wrong anyway. Developing nations are light years behind the west in terms of conditions conducive to communism. An ugly fact I always pretended didn't exist...but it's true. You might more easily get a socialist state in one of those countries, but it's only because their current governments are so flimsy from a total lack of national competence...and guess what? It will be a piss poor socialist state - the people themselves will be backwards, reactionary, superstitious, and light years away from achieving communism.

    The older I get, the more I understand the world, the deeper my appreciation becomes for the ideas and positions of Marx and Engels.
    Last edited by GLF; 1st April 2017 at 05:25.
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    There are ways in which capitalism is unlike the previous stages of history. It's a truly global system. All parts are interconnected. International trade is essential. A simple pencil in your country will be made from parts manufactured in several different countries. Transportation and communication technologies are widely accessible. Only capitalist imperialism could achieve world domination.

    First of all, even though I don't accept the Third Woldist theory of labor aristocracy, we, as ones who don't, have a lot of explaining to do as to why the West hasn't seen any significant wave of working-class uprisings since 1968. (The closest thing to it since has been the Occupy Movement protests of 2011, but those didn't come close in impact and legacy.) From 1776 to the mid-20th century, the West experienced ceaseless revolutions; since then, crickets. Instead, since around 1980, we've seen a new, ongoing regression toward inequality, like the one during the Gilded Age, coinciding with the rise of neoliberalism.

    An alarming question arises: could it be that revolution has been rendered impossible in the developed world because a certain level of development and population-wide prosperity has been attained, because now the workers do have something to lose besides their chains? Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the developed world lost its revolutionary potential sometime in the 20th century (if not 1968, then perhaps 1945 or 1923). What will happen when the rest of the world catches up in development? Will revolution be possible anywhere?

    This is where it's useful to remember Luxembourg's theory of capital accumulation. Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto:

    The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
    Following a meticulous analysis of the economic and social conditions surrounding WWI, Luxembourg concluded that the war was not a matter of simple rivalry between the European ruling classes over the spoils of capitalism, but a fight for capitalism's very survival. Capitalism would have suffocated had it not found new markets to expand into. It bought some time. But what about when the entire world has been converted to the capitalist mode of production and there are no markets left to expand into? If this is true, we can assume that the world will fall into severe crisis which, unlike previous capitalist crises, will be unstoppable until the entire mode of production has been revolutionized.

    In contrast to this conclusion, Marx, towards his later life, became more inclined to believe that capitalism had no deadline but could continue recreating itself indefinitely, through all the cycles of Schumpeter's gale, unless overthrown.

    Regardless, whether we choose to believe any of this, international solidarity is the most powerful weapon of the oppressed, and Third World struggles are highly important for our cause.
    Last edited by Fellow_Human; 1st April 2017 at 16:23.
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    An alarming question arises: could it be that revolution has been rendered impossible in the developed world because a certain level of development and population-wide prosperity has been attained, because now the workers do have something to lose besides their chains? Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the developed world lost its revolutionary potential sometime in the 20th century (if not 1968, then perhaps 1945 or 1923). What will happen when the rest of the world catches up in development? Will revolution be possible anywhere?
    This reminds me of the quote, I can't recall from whom or what exactly. Something like 'If we don't make a revolution before capitalism reaches a certain level of technological development, then there's no hope.'

    Already all parts of the world are subsumed into the capitalist mode of production, even the most barbarous backward regions. Revolution is possible, especially for this reason, since there are no vestiges of ancien regime or anything similar left today, that the struggle we face across the globe is the same one at all levels. That is, Europe is everywhere today, and the struggle is that of confronting the conflicts within European modernity everywhere, as they express themselves in China, Africa, the USA etc.

    There's no mechanism which dictates that when a certain saturation is reached, then revolution is impossible, since like you said, capitalism is continually changing etc. However if I were to be pessimistic I could put forward various science-fiction futures where human beings are psycho-chemically altered at birth or continually altered for docility. Or even straight-up mind controlled. This area is one which surely is a possible future, what with all the talk of human beings being machines/animals, our subjectivity as explained through the story of brain chemistry etc.

    As for the idea of revolution being impossible, the rise of the political Right is enough indication that this is false, going by the well known saying that 'behind every fascism there lies a failed revolution.'
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    Already all parts of the world are subsumed into the capitalist mode of production, even the most barbarous backward regions.
    Well, not fully. 84% of the US population has been urbanized, while the current average for low-income states is still only 31%. What other measures could we use? Perhaps GDP sector composition, consumer spending, or employment-to-population ratio. There's definitely space to expand into.

    But yeah, the proletariat has by now become the largest class on earth. Even in Germany, for example, at the turn of the 19th century, the largest class was the peasantry, not the proletariat.

    Revolution is possible, especially for this reason, since there are no vestiges of ancien regime or anything similar left today
    Daesh would beg to differ. The Tajdid is alive and growing, since the 1970s. This is one example.

    There's no mechanism which dictates that when a certain saturation is reached, then revolution is impossible, since like you said, capitalism is continually changing etc.
    What do you then make of the fact that socialist movements are currently in decline? And not only in the West. They kept rising after the Great Depression until after the 1960s, in some aspect until the 1980s, and now they're in decline. Socialist parties lose parliamentary seats; trade union participation is at new lows; worker cooperatives are treated as old-fashioned; far-left anachronists are drowning in nostalgic reminiscences about bygone days of yore; etc., etc. Is this a mere aberration?

    I guess we just have to do what we have to do, and time will tell.

    As for the idea of revolution being impossible, the rise of the political Right is enough indication that this is false, going by the well known saying that 'behind every fascism there lies a failed revolution.'
    I'll tell you what. I am anticipant of something, or rather apprehensive. Conditions are becoming eerily reminiscent of the first half of the 20th century: rise in inequality, economic crisis, far-right fervor, and finally a march toward destruction.

    Professor Peter Turchin, the founder of cliodynamics, observes that outbreaks of violence in the US have occurred in roughly 50-year cycles. These have been combined with decline of living standards and "declining fiscal health of the state."
    * 1867-- Civil War and aftermath
    * 1918-- labor unrest and racial tensions in the aftermath of WWI, First Red Scare
    * 1968-- counterculture and civil rights movement
    Last edited by Fellow_Human; 1st April 2017 at 23:06.
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