Comments on Agriculture and Food in Crisis

Comments on Agriculture and Food in Crisis (2010, Monthly Review Press) ed. by Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar.


In the period between 2006 and 2008, a world food crisis emerged. Agriculture and Food in Crisis (2010, Monthly Review Press) is an anthology of articles describing the causes and effects of this crisis. The collection is edited by Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar. Since the book contains the works of so many authors, many views are presented. The articles contain the typical liberal problems of academic treatments of oppression. Even so, the work contains useful information on how neoliberalism intersects with the growing food crisis, especially in the Third World. Rather than looking at each author, this review comments on useful information found throughout the volume.

Global food shortages have become a major issue, especially for the poorest peoples, those living in the Third World. Food prices are rising. Over the last few years, millions have gone hungry, unable to afford basic nutrition. In the poorest countries, 125 million more people fell into extreme poverty in just the years between 2006 and 2008. Many declared a global food crisis. The World Food Program worried that food reserves would not be able to meet the urgent demand. (33) However, what was not recognized was that this food crisis is part of a larger crisis, the crisis of capitalism itself. Capitalism regularly creates artificial crises. Marx called this the anarchy of capitalist production. The current methods of agricultural production and food distribution, formed and maintained by capitalism, are crises in and of themselves. Global food production is decreasing even though current human needs are not being met, especially in the Third World. Grain and soybeans previously grown for human consumption are being diverted into industrial meat production, factory farms, to maintain profit margins and First World consumption patterns. Third World countries are compelled to accept neoliberal structural-adjustment policies, turning them into food importers. This leads to lower food production and higher food prices in the Third World. Due to depeasantificaiton, one sixth of humanity now lives in slum conditions, mostly in the megacities of the Third World. (10) The transformation of peasants into slumdwellers takes place at the same time as corporate domination of the world’s food system increases on an unprecedented scale. More than one billion people suffer from severe hunger. Nearly two billion more, almost all of the Third World, suffer from food insecurity. (12) The current systems of agriculture production and food distribution are failing at least half of the planet’s people. Yet, even with decreases in food production, the world still produces enough food to feed everyone. (13) Although this should not be taken to mean that either infinite population growth,  population and consumption levels are necessarily sustainable. The work details the grim realities of food production under capitalism today. The global poor cannot compete in terms of purchasing power with multinational corporations, global institutions, and First World states that wish to see the world’s food supply appropriated for meat production, fuel production, or simply consumed by populations in the wealthier countries. The global capitalist economy distributes wealth in a vastly uneven manner both between individuals within countries, and between countries themselves. (14) The current system is unsustainable, ecologically and socially. What most of treatments of the issue fail to understand is that the solutions to such problems require going beyond capitalism itself.

The essays describe how the neoliberal power holders interact to ensure their control of the food system. The IMF and World Bank have both created and maintained the neoliberal policies behind the food crises. Structural adjustment policies, forced upon indebted countries, have contributed to a global “capitalist transformation of the countryside.” (43) Structural adjustment means power accumulates in the hands of the few. A handful of corporations increasingly monopolize the food system. (211) The number of corporations controlling food production and distribution has contracted. Two companies control two-thirds of the world’s grain market. (211) Three companies — Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta — have cornered the commercial seeds trade, controlling 40 percent of that market. (21) These corporations have declared themselves owners of the very seeds that humanity has been forced to rely on by patenting their genetic modifications. Yet their genetically modified crops have not shown increases in yields. (23) Even so, farmers from Mexico to India find themselves forced to purchase these seeds. Once producers, Indian farmers today find themselves as consumers, forced to purchase expensive corporate-owned seeds from landlords and lenders to get by. (46) Moreover, ten companies control 75 percent of the agrochemical market. Thus dependency of growers and the power of corporations are increased. Traditional producers have little options within a global system that is increasingly rigged against them.

Truly free markets are a myth. Despite neoliberal propaganda touting the power of the free market, control of food supplies has been anything but free. Open markets by themselves are not enough for corporations to profit in the Third World. Governments must intervene to ensure and increase corporate profits. The rich countries of the First World rely on subsidizing their own population while muscling Third World states against such policies. Domestic production of food is subsidized by First World governments so too are  crops billed as ecofriendly. The 2008 Mitchell Report, a suppressed report from an economist at the World Bank, alleges that increases in biofuel production in the United States and the EU were to blame for three-fourths of the huge increase in food prices in the years between 2002 and 2008. (36) For the purported reason of “energy independence,” and to placate First Worldist environmentalists, the US government offers subsidies that promote shifting the production of corn to agrofuel, making the shift a profitable venture. (122) In addition, profits are made by exporting subsidized, non-nutritious foods from the First World to the poor countries of Third World. These corporations have had to wage campaigns with state help to change the diets of people in the Third World. For example, people in the Third World seldom consumed wheat. With wheat-producing corporations looking to expand their markets, the US government provided “charitable” wheat for countries that had never produced it. A United Nations report describes similar campaigns. First World states and their corporate allies through “massive marketing and advocacy” made “high-fat, high sugar and low-fiber fast foods and soft drinks” palatable to a new base of consumers in the Third World. Predictably, the influx of these foods and the changing of diet coincided with an “escalating trend” of non-communicable disease in poor countries. (22)

First World government policies have turned food production upside down. Mexico was the first country to domesticate corn. Corn was a staple of Mexico’s ancient indigenous cultures. Corn only reached the “old world” after contact with European explorers and settlers. Yet by 2007, Mexico was dependent on importing its corn from the United States. According to one set of authors in the volume, this is the result of IMF and World Bank structural-adjustment polices that began in the 1980s. The result was trade liberalization, land privatization of formerly-collective land, and elimination of various government protections for peasants that had been in place since the Mexican Revolution. NAFTA further solidified this shift. Mexico, traditionally a country with a rich tradition of food production, soon became a net importer of its food. (40)

The neoliberal impact on food production and distribution has resulted in vast demographic changes in the Third World. Depeasantization and its correlate slumification have been major trends over the last decade. Modern primitive accumulation drives peasants from their land to undeveloped urban areas. In Marx’s day, capitalism forced the peasantry into the factories of new urban production zones. Migration to cities today does not correspond to any industrial need. Thus, today’s peasants are driven into informal slum economies. (27) Nearly one-sixth of humanity lives in slums. The peasants who migrate to the slums essentially drop out of the economy, they are cut off from society. The slumification of the peasantry correlates with an increase of corporate control of agriculture as well as the massive increase in the number of people facing food insecurity. Depeasantization takes other forms as well. In the countryside, farmer suicides have increased dramatically. In rural Maharashtra India, suicide rates tripled from 1995 to 2005. Some 150,000 Indian farmers took their lives over the last few years alone. (46) The depeasantization and slummification that results, in part, from neoliberal control of the food supply has created a vast, new social and geographic base for revolution. The course of future revolutions will surely be imprinted by the neoliberal food policies.

There are numerous suggestions about how to challenge the neoliberal control of the global food supply. “NGOs will save the world,” say many liberals. Since the 1980s, the number of “development-oriented” NGOs in the Third World has increased dramatically. NGOs have attracted vast sums of investment from foreign donors by creating the impression that NGOs are less corrupt, more innovative, more efficient, and closer to the community than states and corporations. NGOs advocates claim that NGOs allow knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices to travel between various “social worlds,” allowing these disparate groups to “unite,” to offer alternatives to current agricultural practices. (276) Having to satisfy the interests of foreign donors and the local elites, NGOs do little to challenge the economic system as such. NGOs’ focus on their local projects rather than the broader social change necessary to solve the problem and protect such gains. NGOs end up as social bandaids that fail to offer any real alternative to the system. Instead NGOs form a pillar of the system within those communities most oppressed by the system. NGOs, consciously or not, often come to occupy the social space ripe for revolutionary activism and the creation of the revolutionary institutions of New Power. NGOs come to compete with and block New Power. Thus, despite themselves, NGOs end up serving the very system they criticize. Other recommendations in the volume end up reinventing the wheel. For example, two authors advise that looking to certain aspects of centuries-old traditional food production practices can inform new agricultural practices that do not rely on corporate agrochemicals or monoculture. The current system of food distribution is inefficient. Currently, food items travel an average of 1,300 miles before reaching someone’s plate. (47) Keeping food production close to its consumers is one part of the solution, a solution pioneered, in part, by past socialist societies. Decentralization combined with collectivism of agricultural was part of the socialist model pursued in China during the Cultural Revolution. Self-reliance was pushed by China’s people’s communes. However, it is hard to see how such recommendations could be implemented without a revolutionary, proletarian state dedicated to protecting such localization from neoliberal domination.

The essays emphasize not only today’s aspects of imperial control, but also the continuity with imperialism’s past. The extractive policies of the colonial era share commonalities with the neoliberal policies of today. Just as in the past, raw materials flowed from the Third World to the First World, where they were transformed into finished goods, today, the First World has transformed the Third World into a “world farm.” (51) The wealthy countries of the First World, representing a minority of global consumers, feed, quite literally, on the labor and resources of the Third World. Today’s imperialism, like earlier forms, transfers power and wealth to the top, leaving the vast majority impoverished. The solution is not found within a system driven by profit and expansion. The nature of capitalism is to place profit above the vast majority of humanity. Capitalism’s nature is to continually expand even if the consequences threaten humanity and the Earth itself. Just as the bourgeois state is not the answer, neither can NGOs and small-scale community organizations upend the extractive relationship between the First World and the Third World that drives the modern food system. The best intentions of liberals do little to really solve the crisis facing the global poor. The crises caused by today’s capitalist agriculture and food systems require revolutionary change. A real solution requires an alternative system that serves the interests of the poor and the Earth itself. The people of the Third World suffer. The earth suffers. The system is rotten. No one should starve. No one should go hungry. Food production should empower, not exploit the people. The answer is not reformism of any kind. Oppression leads to resistance. In response to the global food crisis, popular eruptions occurred in dozens of countries, from Bangladesh to Mexico. In Haiti, riots in 2008 led to the ousting of the prime minister. These policies also led to reinvigorated resistance movements across Mexico, notably the Zapatistas and the Popular Revolutionary Army. However, to truly restructure global society, we need global people’s war waged by the poor of the Third World led by the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism.


MIM: Review of the “Black Book of Communism”


MIM: Review of the “Black Book of Communism”


[Before MIM’s crackpot degeneration and despite their errors, MIM made some outstanding contributions to the proletarian struggle.]

The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press) is the bible of the anti-communist movement. The book is often cited as an academic work proving the barbarism of communism. Its figures for deaths under communism are probably the most cited of any other work on the topic. It has also been marshaled into the larger projected of trying to prove that socialism was worse than fascism. Thus, the book is used to not only let fascism off the hook, but as part of the revisionist project of rehabilitating fascism.

In 2001, MIM informed Harvard University Press of undeniable errors in The Black Book of Communism. MIM even got Harvard University Press’ Mark Kramer to admit that the book contained remedial math errors.

MIM’s work exposing the Black Book as a hack job was a great contribution to the international communist movement. So, we are reprinting MIM’s review of the Black Book of Communism. To read the full exchange between MIM and Harvard University Press, click here . This article unfortunately contains MIM’s gender spellings, we have chosen to publish it anyways. — MSH]

The Black Book

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes,Terror, Repression  Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panne, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin Translated by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999), 856pp. hb

reviewed by MC5, February 2000

The Black Book came out in France in 1997 and has provoked a storm of controversy since then. Now it has reached the shores of the English- speaking nations in translation through the dubious editorial choice of Harvard University Press.

MIM has already rebutted this book in the context of struggling against Internet fascists in 1999. Our challenge to the proponents of the book was: ” our critics become emotional and can’t use their methods to both sides of anything. The thread started because it was about famine only in allegedly socialist countries. The only problem was that they left out famine in the capitalist countries to give us a comparison!”(1)

Our fascist critics trumpeted this book against us all over the Internet as if something new were said. They cited the 100 million death toll in the introduction as the main message. Yet it remains that it is an 856 page book and there are no statistical comparisons of premature deaths between capitalist and socialist countries anywhere in the book, just as MIM charged all along. The reason is simple: the Communists doubled the life expectancies of the people of the Soviet Union and China. That is the overall picture. It does not mean there were not civil wars or executions, including some unjust ones, but overall, the violence of communism is less than that of capitalism, by far.

The simple scientific link missing in the minds of our critics is the link between poverty under a system of private property and death. Poverty under capitalism causes death from lack of food, a decent environment and adequate health care. Twist and turn as it might, the pre-scientific intelligentsia will never treat this fact in a systematic and thereby scientific manner despite 800 page wailings. It turns out that the capitalists have a Black Book of Capitalism forthcoming. It is like Lenin said about the capitalists bidding for the rope contract for the hanging of their class. We hope it teaches the people how a life expectancy is calculated and why it is superior to tallying millions of deaths in selective patches the way our critics do. The death toll for capitalism reaches 100 million from starvation alone, every 8 to 12 years as MIM has already discussed in its essays on this available on our FAQ web page. It is a measure of general ignorance of the public that purchases monopoly capitalist periodicals and the conscious evil of some intellectuals that the Black Book could create any stir at all with its 100 million figure while so many more die each decade under capitalism.

Overall, somehow or another, the Black Book of Communism has managed to raise the debate one notch. It is a measure of the success of the class struggle that the reactionary intelligentsia felt compelled to write an 854 page book touching on the death toll of communism. By seeking to put a number on the premature deaths caused by communist movements in the 20th century, the pre-scientific intelligentsia who wrote the book brought the subject right to the edge of science before recoiling in horror and retreating to atemporal moral dogmas more fit for inner spiritual reflection than discussion in public.
What is not scientific cannot produce unity, so the anti-communist authors split as the book went to press. Werth and Margolin –the authors of the Soviet, Chinese and other sections of the book disagreed with Stephane Courtois who introduced the book. Courtois suggested in the only comparison in the book that the communist movement was responsible for 100 million deaths, while the Nazis were only responsible for 25 million (p. 15) (which obviously excludes some of the more than 22 million Soviet peoples who died at the hands of Nazis, mostly civilians or the six million Jews or the millions of others of other nations including the Germans themselves.) Werth and Margolin reportedly said that Courtois inflated the figures to arrive at 100 million as the total death toll for communism.

The communism versus Nazism comparison was the only comparison of figures offered in the book and it is mostly a comparison of war time deaths with some extra and invented famine deaths thrown in on the Soviet side, which we will address further in the essay below. The Nazism vs. all communism comparison is easily recognized as absurd just on the basis that communism ruled in more countries decades longer. More importantly it is absurd, because the most deaths occur from the steady grind of daily life, not in war, and the Black Book of Communism simply does not compare life expectancy in ordinary life under socialism and capitalism–thereby whitewashing capitalist starvation, poor distribution of health services and environmental degradation. More intelligent anti-communists realized that Courtois’s mistakes as exposed by his co-authors might encourage the readers to undertake comparisons of death tolls and adopt a scientific approach. In addition, they knew that the masses would realize that the Nazis were stopped at millions killed instead of billions because of the Soviet troops who stopped the Nazis. Thus Courtois was aiming at the masses reading the uncritical filter of the monopoly capitalist media while Werth and Margolin were worried that some intellectuals might notice the huge holes in Courtois’s story.

Courtois obviously believes that tactically speaking, the media will buy anything anti- communist, because it is too ignorant or bought-off to do otherwise. So the question in the minds of the pre- scientific intelligentsia like Courtois becomes “how aggressively should we rehabilitate Nazism and attack communism?” As MIM has long said, there is nothing scientific about fascism. It is simply a ideology justifying open repression on behalf of capitalism. Hence, it is no surprise that intellectuals will never be able to put forward coherent, consistent and detailed books on fascism’s behalf. The authors are largely ex-communists who had thought communism is some kind of purified Christianity. They never understood the science involved in supporting communism. The anti-communists can take advantage of religious mysticism, selective human-rights absolutism and the relativism of post- modernism that is so trendy today, but they themselves can never put forward a coherent and historically detailed line themselves, for the same reasons that one religion can never conquer the whole world.


The introduction by Courtois demonstrates that he is one intellectual who consciously manipulates the pre- scientific sentiments of the masses and other intellectuals. When it comes to communism, he correctly says, “there will always be some nitpickers who maintain that actual Communism has nothing in common with theoretical communism.”(p. 2) Yet he goes on to say, “Of course it would be absurd to claim the doctrines expounded prior to Jesus Christ, during the Renaissance, or even in the nineteenth century were responsible for events in the twentieth century.”(p.2 ) In his own mind, Courtois believes it is wrong to do to Jesus what he is doing to the communists by holding up some idealized scheme and measuring it against real life.

We agree that anyone who counter-poses a dogma goal to a reality is going to make numerous mistakes. We can only compare realities with realities and decide which reality is closer to the goal. Comparing “actual” life and “theory” is really ethical dogmatism and has nothing in common with scientific Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. “Theory” does not mean our long-range goals of what is right and wrong. Theory is the body of ideas that accurately describe how the world works in its vast mesh of cause and effect and change. Christians and other religious people are liable to substitute “Heaven” for “theory” and assume that Marx’s “communism” plays the same role as “Heaven” in their own thought. Not surprisingly they then find communism in practice to be flawed and hypocritical.

Courtois ends up quoting the same Catholic Church that supported the fascist Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany for his moral basis.(p. 29) His last sentence in the introduction quotes, “thou shalt not kill.”(p. 31) In return, the Cardinal Mindszenty foundation put up a favorable review of Courtois’s book on the web.

For this reason, Courtois feels justified when he says “our purpose here is not to devise some kind of macabre comparative system for crunching numbers.”(p. 15) We can only hope he contracts HIV and decides to forgo the “number crunching” and thus takes chicken soup instead of protease inhibitors.

Courtois is also the perfect case of what Stalin called a “social-fascist.” Claiming to be a social-democrat, Courtois has been attacked for fascist sympathies widely. Le Pen is his greatest admirer. It is so striking that it is not only defenders of Stalin who have noticed Courtois’s benefit to fascism. Even the social-democratic “Le Monde” in France had some complainers with regard to fellow social democrat Courtois.(p. xvii)


Courtois attempts to blame Stalin for contaminating himself by signing a pact with Hitler in 1939.(pp. 5, 22) He says it was a crime. No where does he mention all the pacts that the capitalist countries signed with Hitler before Stalin did. It is typical in that most of the book’s distortions are by omission of comparative context.

The Polish signed in 1934 and the French and British of course had their Munich appeasement in 1938. In 1938, Stalin offered to attack Hitler over Czechoslavakia if either England or France sided with him and if the Polish granted passage through their territory. Instead, what happened is Poland took a slice of Czechoslavakia–the Teschen district–in a deal with the Nazis.(3) The fact that Stalin was the last to sign a pact with Hitler is not mentioned by Courtois, because by his own logic, the capitalist countries would be guilty of greater crimes than the socialist countries.

Supposedly these are the scholars, but it is MIM explaining the comparative context once again. Our readers should ask whose standards of scholarship are fairer, MIM Notes’s or the bourgeois scholars’. These bourgeois scholars do not even mention the capitalist countries’ agreements with Hitler while citing Stalin for “crimes” for signing agreements. This same Courtois does not mention anywhere why Hitler’s crimes stopped at the supposed 25 million mark–Soviet troops who defeated him–and these are supposedly historians. They are simply revisionist historians taking advantage of the youth for whom World War II is very distant.

Nor does Courtois or Werth mention the numerous and successful pro-Nazi rebellions throughout Europe when they talk about there being no reason to repress anyone in the Soviet Union and when they talk about how bad conditions in the USSR were that they drove people into the arms of the Nazis. If so, conditions were even worse in the capitalist countries, because Nazi fifth columns overthrew those European governments outright and paralyzed the anti- fascist fighting ability of all continental Europe except for the Soviet Union and mostly communist guerrillas in other countries.

The term “quisling” arose because of a former Norwegian “Defense Minister” who helped the Nazis overthrow the government of Norway in 1940–Vidkun Quisling. In France, in 1940, Henri Philippe Petain, a former Command-in-chief who achieved that post in 1917 headed a Nazi collaborator government in France seated in Vichy. Even the French bourgeoisie agreed he had to receive life imprisonment after World War II. The Belgian Leopold III surrendered his country to the Nazis unconditionally and was dubbed a collaborator.(3) In Sweden, the family that owned half of all the country profited from Nazi gold taken from Jews killed in the Holocaust. Assisting that family in the legal matters was the US future Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles–and of course, the Swedish government.(4) Not surprisingly, Finland joined the Nazi side in 1941, but less known is that the French premier Edouard Daladier had to resign in March, 1940, because his opposition to attacking the Soviet Union in Finland was unpopular! That’s correct: the French public and portions of the bourgeoisie wanted to attack the Soviet Union, not Germany in an effort to get on Hitler’s good side! Hungary and Bulgaria joined the Axis powers outright and made war against the Allies–greatly assisting Hitler in his invasion of the Soviet Union.

In all the above countries overrun in part by internal Nazism, there was also resistance to Nazism, but the point remains that Courtois and Werth failed to mention them while downplaying the threat of Nazi collaborators in the Soviet Union. If they wish to speak for the “human-rights” of Nazis and their collaborators, they should do so without denying that these sorts of fascists existed in the Soviet Union as they did everywhere in Europe. To do as Courtois and Werth do is distortion of the facts to suit a religious agenda of human-rights for fascists.

Karel Bartosek came closer to the truth saying “the repression was especially severe in countries that had sent troops to fight against the Soviet Union–Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia–where the NKVD deported hundreds of thousands to the Soviet gulags.”(p. 394) However, contrary to the impression left by Bartosek (p. 397), Bulgaria also sided with the Nazis as can still be found in common encyclopedias.(3) It is indicative that Bartosek chose to stress the fact that Bulgaria did not send troops against the Soviet Union without mentioning that Bulgaria was occupying Soviet allies in Yugoslavia and Greece–after having received a piece of Romania through the offices of Hitler. There were active fascists in countries other than Italy, Germany and Japan, but the Cold War historians needed to whitewash fascism in Europe, especially Eastern Europe in order to vilify Stalin.

For his part, Nicolas Werth wrote a whole chapter exonerating the peoples who sided with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union and listed their executions in the midst of war as crimes counting against communism. Apparently the context of being in a war is not relevant to these selectively timeless historical moralists. Adam Shatz found Werth’s position to be too much as well, thus proving that not all historical commentators at this time are asleep while speaking: “His lament for the fate of the Vlasovtsky is particularly bizarre. Named after their leader, Andrei Vlasov, the Vlasovtsky were a group of Russian prisoners of war who defected to the German side in 1942. ‘On the basis of his anti-Stalinist convictions,’ writes Werth credulously, ‘Vlasov agreed to collaborate with the Nazis to free his country from the tyranny of the Bolsheviks.’ Vlasov paid with his life, and his 150,000 soldiers ended up wasting away in the gulag, an unhappy fate, to be sure. But it’s hard to get worked up, as Werth does, over the imprisonment of traitors whose ‘anti-Stalinist convictions’ led them to embrace the Nazis.”(5)

Having written about these Vlasov supporters and also about various Nazi centers that actually did exist in the Soviet Union amongst certain ethnicities (e.g. pp. 219-20, 223-4), Werth still says, “the elimination of potential and mythical ‘fifth columnists’ was at the heart of the Great Terror.”(p. 202) As some of his own work shows, there was nothing “mythical” about the fifth column and the number that sided with Hitler was greater than the number that Stalin executed in the “Great Terror,” according to Werth’s own accounting.

Later Courtois and Karel Bartosek want our hearts to bleed for the Germans who revolted against the Soviet occupation in 1953. (see photos & p. 439) After killing more than 22 million Soviet people, the Germans were lucky to be left alive. Had Stalin been as bad or worse, than Hitler, as Courtois says, no Germans would have been left alive to revolt.

Outside of the Great Leap in China, most of the accusations regard violence in the midst of war. Reading about Vietnam or the Soviet Union or Korea (which is still in a state of war), one would often be able to forget there was a war going on as atrocities were listed.

Anti-semitism and genocide more generally

By placing Nazism at one-quarter the danger of communism, Courtois rightly invoked a charge of anti- Semitism, even in the staid pages of the social- democratic “Le Monde.”(p. xv) While Stalin fought a war against Nazis and toward communism, the goals of the Nazis were always for extermination of all but the master race, which did not even include all whites.

Given his sympathy for the Soviet fifth column in World War II, it is not surprising that Ukrainian fascists quote Werth on their web pages, in the midst of their anti-Semitic filth.(6) Kooky or un-rebutted anti- Semitism was just beneath the surface throughout the book (e.g., p. 86, p. 99). The whole title of the book comes from the title of a book about the holocaust of Jews by Nazis also titled Black Book.

One bourgeois reviewer said that France lagged far behind in recognizing anti-Semitism from World War II: “In fact, the Jewish genocide barely registered among French intellectuals until the late 1980s, when Raul Hilberg’s seminal study, The Destruction of the European Jews, finally appeared in translation. The Russian gulag, as exposed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, had received far more attention thanks to the new philosophers of the 1970s.”(5)

Shatz went on to add: “After all, this was a country where, as the Princeton historian Anson Rabinbach observed in Dissent last year, ‘the demand for a ‘Nuremberg trial of communism’ has a particular connotation, frequently reiterated by Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front, to justify not prosecuting French crimes of the Vichy era.’ Since the book’s publication coincided with Maurice Papon’s trial on charges of Nazi collaboration during the Vichy years, French readers were invited to contemplate the notion that partisan resistance fighters, many of them communists and all of them in alliance with Soviet Russia, were on no firmer moral ground than a pro- fascist bureaucrat who sent Jewish women and children to the ovens.”(5)

Shatz complains about Stalin’s banning of a book that focussed on the Jews and World War II. Yet it is true that the Nazi genocide hit other ethnicities besides the Jews. The communists and Jews were only first in line for extermination by Hitler.

Even Nicolas Werth admitted this, if only in passing in the book and without impacting Courtois’s conclusions obviously. “The barbarism of the Nazis created some reconciliation between the Soviet government and the people, in that Germany classed Russians as sub-humans destined for extermination or slavery.”(p. 215) Also Courtois and a co-author correctly said, “Hitler considered that all Slavs were subhuman and hence were to be disposed of en masse.”(p. 320) Given that most Russians were white, Werth and Courtois should have also said that Hitler planned on the extermination of the vast majority of the world’s population. People seeking to equate Stalin and Hitler do so to whitewash racism and they take advantage of historical ignorance as Nazism recedes in time.

The Ukrainian famine

Throughout his essay, Werth talks about grain requisitions by the Soviet state as if grain so obtained disappeared and thereby caused rural starvation.(e.g. p. 121) No mention is made of city people’s non-negotiable rights with regard to eating. Even though the property system was no longer the capitalist style, he continued to refer to the grain as the “fruit of their[peasants’] labor”(e.g. p. 66, p. 148) that they were entitled to keep–omitting that some people work on much better land than others if there is no socialist cooperation to even out disparities in the means of production.

From 1923 to 1928, the peasants had a free market in grain. Yet, the bourgeois peasants blew their chance in 1928, because grain delivered to the cities was down to 4.8 million tons from 6.8 million the previous year. That spurred Stalin to favor collectivization of agriculture.(p. 142) No doubt, had Stalin let the peasants keep their grain, Courtois and Werth would have blamed Stalin for the starvation of people in the cities instead–unless Stalin changed the system to capitalism, in which case an 8 digit figure of peasants could die each year to this day without the bourgeois propagandists uttering a peep. Whether people starved in cities or in the countryside, Stalin was going to be blamed by these critics.

All along some of the fiercest resistance to doing the right thing centered in the Ukraine and Werth says the Ukrainian famine was the largest death toll Stalin was responsible for. The Ukraine is the equivalent of the US “breadbasket”–states like Iowa or Kansas. Werth admitted as much in a concluding throw-away sentence: “The richest and most dynamic agricultural regions, which had the most to offer the state and the most to lose in the extortionate system of enforced collectivization, were precisely the regions worst affected by the great famine of 1932-33.”(p. 168) The fact that these areas were the equivalent of Iowa should have been a clue that having the peasants just keep their food was not an option that should have been suggested lightly.

In 1929, more than 3,200 Soviet civil servants suffered terrorist attacks.(p. 145) 1,300 riots spread through the countryside in the years 1928-9. That is one indication of the class war going on. They had a history behind them of a movement called the “Greens” that also resisted requisition of food to the city.(p. 81-, p. 91- )

In the midst of this sort of political resistance, many Ukrainians resisted delivering grain to the state. Werth says that in response, Stalin starved 4 million of them to death in 1932-3 for a total of 6 million when other regions of the Soviet Union are counted for being in a similar situation.(p. 146)

New York’s newspaper the “Village Voice” of January 12, 1988 has already debunked the claims about the Ukrainian famine, as being wildly exaggerated and as having been created by fascist Ukrainians, in some cases caught in the act of fraud in propaganda creation.(7) Ludo Martens has also debunked poet, fiction-writer and government official Robert Conquest for his use of Nazi sources, Nazi collaborator sources and fiction books to buttress his most widely cited story of the Ukrainian famine.(8) 80,000 Ukrainians served in the Nazi army including some in the SS and that is the kind of human material that gets wide quotation.(p. 244)

Hence, while some people may have starved in the Ukraine, Werth’s numbers are inflated to the point where the Village Voice referred to the famine as a “hoax.” Nonetheless, Werth touches on the political choices some Ukrainians made. He quotes an alleged Stalin letter that MIM did not check on (because it was consistent with the times) as saying “the workers in your district–not just your district, but in many districts–went on strike, carried out acts of sabotage, and were prepared to leave workers from the Red Army without bread!”(p. 166) From MIM’s point of view, even if all the fascist propaganda were true, Stalin would have been correct to take harsh measures against those who disobeyed the law, cut back their farming and generally acted as the spoiled and privileged owners of the best farming land.

Where Werth and Courtois agree is that the political choice of some peasants to resist delivering grain to the state is not an act of violence in itself against the city-dwellers; even though realistically, food has to come from farmland, especially the Ukraine and other lands in question. They speak of the land as if it were only the property of peasants who live on it. When peasants cut back their work only to grow their own grain and contrary to law, Werth and Courtois defend them. Indeed, Werth comes out openly in saying his approach depends on not recognizing Soviet law. He said that “‘destruction of Soviet property’” and other items including “‘speculation’” should not be counted as crimes.(p. 206) In contrast, we socialists are happy to deport such Ukrainian people as they were deported by Stalin and replace them with people who will do something with the fertile land–because people’s lives are at stake and we see political games played by Ukrainians on breadbasket land as violence against city-dwellers.

The case of the Ukrainian breadbasket land is also important in reminding us why we have to oppose “local control” perfected under Tito’s “market socialism” in Yugoslavia and also adopted by anarchists in Spain. After a revolution implementing “local control,” people who happen to live on gold mines will become rich. People who live on the best land will have an easier time farming, and so on. “Local control” cannot be thought of as socialism, just a switch of owners. The central government has to play some role or the means of production are not truly socialist. Only when that day comes when people cooperate economically across large distances without coercion or reward will it be possible to take an easy-going approach to dividing up resources at the local level, because no one would think of hurting people in the rest of the country or the world based on their fortunate local position.

At a MIM Stalin talk coming out on CD, one critic from the audience said that Stalin induced the Ukrainian famine “for his own power.” When asked what Stalin used that power for, the critic had nothing to say. In the capitalist countries, the sights of the masses are lowered to persynal gain, such that when they see someone with vast power and no persynal gain, they have no idea what to say. Stalin did not gain from starving Ukrainian peasants, unlike the way capitalist speculators who hoard food gain when peasants starve. To say that Stalin did gain is a simple projection of life under capitalism to life under socialism where often the politicians also persynally gain from development, weapons or other deals they broker politically.

In contrast the most bourgeois peasants in the USSR known as kulaks did gain monetarily and persynally from speculation in grain by letting the cities starve. Stalin did not himself benefit from the New Economic Policy (NEP) that allowed the free market in grain. It was the peasants in the countryside actually trying to increase their own power for persynal gain, so our critic has the accusation against Stalin completely upside-down.

In no way are Courtois and Werth correct in equating the holocaust of Jews with the starvation of some peasants who sat on fertile land and decided not to obey the law or cooperate in a new economic system. They chose to cut back their work and hide their grain despite knowing what targets of production they were to reach and despite having come closer to meeting them in the past. It is not that Werth ever claimed these peasants were struck by typhoon or drought. They had a choice, unlike the Jews who are born Jews according to the racial theories of the Nazis.

Since Werth says that Stalin’s single largest crime was the alleged Ukrainian famine,(p. 263) our readers should note it carefully and decide how much credibility the overall criticism of the Soviet Union under Stalin has.

Admissions regarding the Soviet Union

As intellectuals, these fascist and fascist-leaning intellectuals could not help trying to distinguish themselves from historical simpletons. What is more, they claim to do so based on the study of the most recently released Soviet archives.

1. Citing the work of an A. Blum, Werth no longer believes Stalin masterminded the Kirov assassination in 1934. It was the killing of Kirov that resulted in a swing in Soviet public opinion toward a crackdown on “dissent” as World War II was progressing, notably the Japanese invasion of China in 1931 and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

2. Werth correctly believes Robert Conquest’s work on the “Great Terror” to be exaggerated, (p. 185) MIM would say fictional.

3. According to Werth, the 85% of executions after the Civil War in the Soviet Union and while Stalin was still alive (1922 to 1953), occurred in the “Great Terror,” also sometimes referred to as the “Purges” of 1936-1938.(9) However, Werth says the number of executions has been vastly exaggerated. The number was 681,692.(p. 191)

While everyone agrees that the majority of executions occurred in the 1936-1938 period–while the Soviet Union and Germany were already fighting each other in Spain– the numbers range wildly. Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko said that the “Great Terror” was responsible for 19 million deaths from 1935 to 1941, (10) while Werth says the figure is 720,000.(p. 206) This is just an indication of how wildly the bourgeoisie speculates against Stalin.

4. Purges in the Red Army prior to World War II were previously exaggerated and affected 30,000 out of 178,000 relevant cadres.(p. 198)

5. Documented cases occurred where all Mensheviks said to be shot were not shot but imprisoned.(p. 262)

Embarrassments to others in the anti-Stalin swamp

Because the bourgeoisie rushes to attack Stalin from an immense number of improbable angles, it is not surprising that its statements stand in contradiction all the time, even 47 years after Stalin’s death. Like prison cellmates with 47 years to practice their alibis, the bourgeoisie still can’t come up with a consistent story.

1. Werth’s essay tends to confirm that Bukharin was in fact a Liberal in the right-wing of the Communist Party with links to Yagoda, a security chief under Stalin. In 1918, Bukharin was criticizing the Cheka (internal security that arose in civil war) for its “‘excessive zeal of an organization filled with criminals, sadists, and degenerate elements from the lumpenproletariat.’”(p. 79)

In 1924, Bukharin again wrote to the head of the ex- Cheka then called the GPU. His name was Felix Dzerzhinksy. “‘It is my belief that we should now progress to a more liberal form of Soviet power: less repression, more legality, more open discussions, more responsibility at local levels.’”(p. 134) The other major Bolshevik leaders disagreed with Bukharin.

2. The famous Ukrainian anarchist Makhno organized bloody pograms against the Jews in 1919, just as Lenin charged. A picture continues to emerge of only Bolsheviks in the Ukraine as not anti-Semitic.(p. 96)(11)

3. Also contrary to some anarchists today who paint the anarchists as blameless, Werth points out that rebellion and class war against the Bolsheviks did continue into 1921. The Kronstadt rebellion did not occur in a context of social peace.

4. According to Courtois and a co-author, in 1937, Trotsky went to the French police to get French communist Jacques Duclos in trouble, despite having no evidence against him for a murder Trotsky wanted avenged. Trotsky relied on the French police to find the evidence and conduct the investigation.(p. 307)

China: more botched numbers

To their credit, the authors admitted that their criticisms of Asian communists and therefore most of their criticism of communism is speculative.(p. 459) The reason is that they would like the governments there to fall so that they can see the archives before they pass judgement.

The largest part of the 100 million deaths they are attributing to communism comes from the Great Leap, where they use the upper end of a range of estimates–43 million deaths. MIM recently reviewed this literature again in MIM Notes 203, since Harvard professor Roderick MacFarquhar’s book just came out in paperback.

Contrary to MacFarquhar who details all the actions the Communist Party took and how Mao made public self- criticism, Margolin says Mao refused to admit a problem during the Great Leap.(p. 464) He then goes on to list wartime atrocities in World War II by the communists.

Even more than MacFarquhar who misplaced a decimal in his single largest accusation against Mao to make it 10 times worse than it was, Margolin leaves us seriously questioning his basic quantitative skills. We can only hope it was the editors or translators who introduced the errors, but there were numerous basic mathematical errors in his chapter and no matter how one slices it, the chapter does not reflect well on the authors and editors.

“This last province [Anhui], in north-central China, was the worst affected of all. In 1960 the death rate soared to 68 percent from its normal level at around 15 percent, while the birth rate fell to 11 percent from its previous average of 30 percent. As a result the population fell by around 2 million people (6 percent of the total) in a single year.”(p. 492)

The above is such a bungle that it is difficult to sort out all the errors and curiously enough, it refers to Margolin’s biggest accusation at the provincial level. The first number is actually 68.58 per thousand. 68 percent is 68 per hundred. Once again, we have an error overestimating by a factor of 10. What is worse is the stupidity in saying that the mortality rate was 68 percent but only 6 percent died! In this way Margolin exceeds the stupidity of MacFarquhar’s mistake. Of course, the birth rates are similarly exaggerated by a factor of 10. At least MacFarquhar correctly reported these figures in a table in his third volume.(12)

In more obvious moralistic “have your cake and eat it too,” Margolin denounces the regime in China for creating a situation where “the birth rate fell to almost zero as women were unable to conceive because of malnutrition.”(p. 494) He does not realize that if that is true, his death toll must be very low, much less than the 20 million lower end estimate he uses. It’s clear that he has never sat down to think through questions like what goes into creating a life expectancy figure.
Further exceeding MacFarquhar by covering more years with his ignorance, Margolin says “For the entire country, the death rate rose from 11 percent in 1957 to 15 percent in 1959 and 1961, peaking at 29 percent in 1960. Birth rates fell from 33 percent in 1957 to 18 percent in 1961.”(p. 495)

Given this sort of record it is not surprising Margolin also botched the imprisonment rate figures where he momentarily got on the right track before falling off (and actually compared the imprisonment figures with the USA’s and found them equal in his own error-prone way). (p. 541) He apparently is OK with reporting 8 digit figures raw and re-reporting percentages, but anything actually involving his own understanding of division is suspect.

At one point saying that the peasants were too weak to harvest grain rotting on the farms, (p. 493) Margolin also says that once capitalist-style organization came into place, the peasants quickly ended the famine. (p. 496) Which was it Margolin? Were the peasants too weak as the Great Leap went on to harvest or just needing capitalist incentives? Nor does Margolin seem to flinch at saying the worst year was actually 1961,(p. 491) after the Great Leap had ended and widescale private farming and systems tantamount to it had come into play.

It is obvious that Margolin likes to study history, but his quantitative skills are so lacking it is no wonder that he came out against communism. His essay along with MacFarquhar’s error introduces further doubt into the basic competence of the people doing bourgeois academic research on the Great Leap. Anyone with any experience in mortality figures, life expectancies or statistics and the slightest knowledge of the Great Leap from any perspective should have caught Margolin’s mistakes right away and should have known off the top of their heads that what he was saying was impossible. Anyone with a high school education should have caught the mistakes if studying carefully. When talking about China with its large population and the potential for 8 digit famines, it is essential that an author be comfortable with numbers.

With regard to the charge of 100 million dead from communism, 85 million are from the Soviet Union and China, 20 million from the Soviet Union and 65 million from China.(p. 4) As we have just shown the crucial lynchpins to that argument concern a famine reported by Nazi collaborators in the Ukraine and a Great Leap toll where repeated and obvious arithmetic errors were published in the book. Together these two items account for 49 million dead out of 100 million alleged victims.


The book goes on to treat other countries as well, but those countries are all said to stem from the Leninist “genetic code.” Many of these other regimes that Courtois et. al. attack are not communist and as usual they omit significant facts such as the landslide Sandinista victory’s portion of the population (not just the voters) won in a bourgeois style election (p. 670) or the fact that their notion of “responsible” for deaths in the case of the Sendero Luminoso refers mostly to indiscriminate killings carried out by the government but which the Sendero Luminoso is “responsible” for because they started a civil war.(p. 680)

The Black Book sold 70,000 copies in four weeks in France.(13) Of course, the Wall Street Journal endorsed it as well as most of the rest of the bourgeois press. There are 175 entries in an Internet search using the “Google” search engine. Many of the book reviews can be seen by visiting MIM’s bookstore under reviewed books and going to the Amazon bookstore link for the Black Book. The positive reviews can be taken as an indication of the lack of historical knowledge of some, the weak quantitative skills of others and the overall conscious distortion of the bourgeoisie. In the end, MIM agrees that Courtois has recognized the truth about the media: it will buy anything anti-communist.

Despite his correct recognition of the nature of the monopoly capitalist media, Courtois will fail in his goal, because the truth regarding the overall situation is already widely available and cannot be excised from history by selective compilations of statistics or gruesome detail of death on one side of the capitalism versus communism conflict. Despite the whinings of the Solzhenitsyns, Khruschevs and other intellectuals and former party members, nothing will eradicate the fact that the average persyn lived longer under socialism than under capitalism.(14)


1. &CONTEXT=949783412.290127893&HIT _CONTEXT=942257934.934412361&HIT_NUM=1&hitnum=9

2. I thank HC88 for the following reference: William Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 296, 526, 563f.







9. 12/1997-12-10/1997-12-10-054.html

10. See our article on this at

11. For some examples of the half-assed anarchists who continue to support Makhno against Lenin, unfortunately we have to refer to some of the better anarchists including the Rage Against the Machine, the International Workers of the World, the web and

12. Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: The Coming of the Cataclysm 1961-1966, vol. 3, pb., (NY: Columbia University Press, 1997), pp. 7-8.


14. We suggest readers follow the following links:


Hitler’s Beneficiaries (2005) by Gotz Aly reviewed by Prairie Fire


Hitler’s Beneficiaries (2005) by Gotz Aly reviewed by Prairie Fire


Gotz Aly’s book Hitler’s Beneficiaries (2005) is a groundbreaking book. Aly breaks with the dogmatic view held by many myth-makers on the “left” that the German working class despised Hitler’s tyranny. It dispenses with the shared mythology found among almost all First Worldists, be they Trotskyist or Marxist-Leninist or whatever. Aly thoroughly shows that Hitler’s regime did not survive at the expense of German working class, but because of it. Hitler’s regime was able to stay in power, even when it was losing the war, because it was popular among ordinary Germans:

“Precisely because so many Germans did in fact benefit from Nazi Germany’s campaigns of plunder, only marginal resistance arose. Content as most Germans were, there was little chance for a domestic movement that would have halted Nazi crimes. This new perspective on the Nazi regime as a kind of racist-totalitarian welfare state allows us to understand the connection between the Nazi policies of racial genocide and the countless, seemingly benign family anecdotes about how a generation of German citizens ‘got through’ World War II.” (2)

Aly explains how the fascist regime’s imperial conquests were used to elevate the standard of living of ordinary Germans. This made the regime quite popular and dulled any resistance to its policies, including its radical racist policies. Nazi policy makers were very aware of the connection between imperial conquest, expropriation of the wealth of oppressed peoples, and domestic social peace. So much were they aware of this connection that they often sought to micro-manage every aspect of the plunder and exploitation of the conquered lands in order to assure continued German popular support. Aly’s book is important for those seeking to understand the relationship between the First World and Third World today. Just as the average German reaped benefits from German conquests, so too do First World workers reap huge benefits from the imperialist world system. Just as the Nazi regime designed a system to expropriate the wealth of oppressed peoples and other countries to benefit the German population, so too do policy makers today in the First World seek to benefit the populations of the First World at the expense of the Third World. The book is an important one for those seeking to understand how class structure changes due to imperialism.

Popular, Young and Radical

The word “Nazi” gets thrown around to mean all kinds of things. It is almost always associated with brutal, unpopular dictatorship. Though the Nazi regime was a brutal and unpopular dictatorship toward those that it oppressed, most Germans did not perceive it that way. Most Germans were not on the receiving end of its jackboot. According to Aly:

“The Third Reich was not a dictatorship maintained by force. Indeed, the Nazi leadership developed an almost fearful preoccupation with the mood of the populace, which they monitored carefully, devoting considerable energy and resources toward fulfilling consumer desires, even to the detriment of the country’s rearmament program.” (25)

Aly paints another picture of the regime, at least as it was experienced by Germans. Hitler’s regime was very popular, radical, and young. It was not perceived as representing the old, stale, conservative order. It was seen as very new and different. The Nazi revolution was seen as exciting. It was a revolution for and by the young. For example:

“When Hitler came to power in 1933, Joseph Goebbels was thirty-five years old. Reinhard Heydrich was twenty-eight; Albert Speer, twenty-seven; Adolf Eichmann, twenty-six; Josef Mengele, twenty-one; and Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank, both thirty-two. Hermann Göring, one of the eldest among the party leadership, had just celebrated his fortieth birthday.” (13-14)

Later, during World War 2, according to one survey, the average age of mid-level party leaders was 34, and within the government 44. (14) Nazi leaders were some of the youngest in the world. Germans in their 20s and 30s were deciding major state policies. The Nazi young were shaping the world. They were deciding the fates of peoples and nations. Most Germans did not see the regime as oppressive and stogy, they saw the regime as redesigning a young and brave new world:

“For most young Germans, National Socialism did not mean dictatorship, censorship, and repression; it meant freedom and adventure.” (14)

Even during the war, the regime was popular:

“The German leadership created and maintained a kind of wartime socialism aimed at attracting the loyalty of ordinary citizens.” (53)

The regime was not dominated by conservative pessimism, but by youthful optimism about overcoming the old divisions between Germans. The regime saw the traditional divisions and inequality between Germans as a big part of the problems that faced the nation. The youthful spirit of the regime meant that it was more likely to take on ambitious social programs to overcome these divisions. The regime put a premium on unity and social peace, at least among Germans. This peace was more often than not bought at the expense of other peoples. Even though the Nazi ideology preached inequality between the races, it placed great importance on equality among Germans. This was the “socialist” aspect of “National Socialism.” Although, in reality, there was nothing truly socialist about the Nazi regime. There is no such thing as “National Socialism,” the only true socialism is internationalist. Real socialism does not merely represent the interests of a single nation’s workers. Real socialism represents the interests of the proletariat, which is the international revolutionary class. Socialism and communism should not be confused with nationalism.

Debt, Taxation, Aryanization

As the Nazi regime began its rearmament program, it borrowed extensively. As the regime rearmed, and even as it went to war, it sought to shift the burden away from ordinary Germans. The regime sought to keep the social peace. During World War 1, between 1914 and 1918, the average German’s standard of living fell almost 65 percent. The Third Reich did not want a repeat of this situation as they planned for World War 2. (35) In 1939, one Nazi law stipulated: “Previous standards of living and peacetime income levels are to be taken into account when calculating degrees of family support for members of the Wehrmacht.” (69) The Nazi regime sought a “socially just sharing of the burden” in the years leading up to the war and after. (38) The regime accomplished this in many ways. For example, the Nazis regime’s taxation policies were redesigned to lift the burden from the ordinary German. (55) The Nazi hierarchy rejected tax policies that would alienate their popular support.  (50) The Nazis implemented progressive taxation designed to create popular support. One Nazi report was happy of the successes in 1943: “People meet their financial obligations, mortgages are paid off, and court-ordered repossessions are on the decline.” (58) Tax breaks were especially extended to farmers and subsidies were extended (55) At the same time, the Nazis increase the tax burden on the wealthy. “The trend toward soaking businesses and the wealthy gained further momentum in the fiscal year 1942-43.” (62) Hitler also increased the burden on those who made “effortless income” through investments in the stock market. (65) Industrialists complained that the Nazi regime was siphoning off 80 to 90 percent of business profits in 1943. Even though this figure is an exaggeration, it gives a sense about the Nazi’s orientation to keep the social peace at home. (68)

In addition, the Nazis kept the social peace by increasing welfare and state benefits. They voted for an increase in social programs and in pension payments, especially for small-time pensioners. They called for “blue- and white-collar workers to be put on equal footing” to give them a preliminary taste of the harmonious future to come. This future would be achieved by “generous reform of the social welfare state in the interest of working people.” Over and over, the more ideological wing of the regime often intervened against the more pragmatic wing. Social peace and social benefits often won out over fiscal responsibility. Despite budget problems, people like Martin Bormann, Albert Speer, Heinrich Himmler, and Food and Agricultural Minister Herbert Backe intervened for ordinary Germans. Hitler was able to stay aloof from the debate. (57)

As it rearmed, made war, and sought to keep the social peace, the regime went into massive debt so much so that it faced eventual financial collapse. The Nazis borrowed from domestic and foreign sources. Eventually, they would strong-arm occupied countries into “loaning” the regime large sums. The Nazis had no intention of paying these sums back and entered them as revenue in their books. (266) The Nazis used whatever financial tricks were available to hide the true extent of their borrowing. In 1938, Göring stated, “I know no other way to keep my Four Year Plan and the German economy going.” (45) The borrowing reached a point where the only solution to keeping the German economy afloat was to cannibalize the Jewish population and, eventually other peoples. The cannibalization of Jewish assets was referred to as “Aryanization.” Aly writes:

“Forced to come up with ever more creative ways of refinancing the national debt, they turned their attention to property owned by German Jews, which was soon confiscated and added to the so-called Volksvermogen, or collective assets, which by no means restricted to German society, implied the possibility of dispossessing those considered ‘alien’ (Volksfremden) or ‘hostile’ (Volksfeinden) to the ethnic mainstream.” (41)

Aly writes:

“[The state] distributed material goods that improved the popular mood. The political leadership unambiguously directed civil servants ‘to act, in light of their special responsibility toward all the people, with corresponding understanding of the concerns and needs of family members of front-line soldiers.’” (70)

Aryanization was the transfer of Jewish assets into the hands of the regime and into the hands of ordinary Germans. (41) The regime sought the “definitive removal of Jews from economic life” and “transforming Jewish wealth in Germany into assets that will deny [the Jews] any economic influence.” (44)

“Aryanization was essentially a gigantic, tans-European trafficking operation in stolen goods. It may have taken different forms in different countries, but the ultimate destination of the revenues generated was always the German war chest. These funds enabled the Reich to defray its main financial burdens.” (184)

Aryanization took various forms from outright plunder of assets and terror against Jewish people to legal and quasi-legal measures. Banks and other financial institutions helped the process. “The bank directors were not the ones doing the actual plundering here, but they acted as accessories, helping maximize the efficiency of the dispossession campaign.” (50) Often, the transfer was thinly disguised. For example, the regime forced Jews to surrender their assets for government stocks and bonds. On paper, the Jews were compensated. (43) Göring stated:

“The Jew is being driven from the economy and is surrendering his economic assets to the state. In return he is being compensated. His compensation is noted in the ledger sheet and accrues a certain amount of interest. That is what he has to live on.”  (45)

In the end, the population would be driven into exile and liquidated in the Holocaust, never redeeming their property. For example, in 1938, Jewish liquid assets, according to one calculation, which excluded real-estate and business assets, totaled 4.8 billion reichsmarks which could be confiscated by the Reich.  The process was repeated again and again. This helped keep the state solvent. The state also took preemptive measures when Jews sought to flee or transfer assets out of Germany.  In 1938, the state issued an edict that the proceeds of the expulsion of Jews go directly to the Reich.  Jewish goods were sold at cheap prices to the public, while at the same time financing the regime’s war-chest and social democratic policies. (43-47) Librarian Gertrud Seydelmann recalled the auctions of Aryanized goods in Hamburg’s working-class districts:

“Ordinary housewives suddenly wore fur coats, traded coffee and jewelry, and had imported antique furniture and rugs from Holland and France… Some of our regular readers were always telling me to go down to the harbor if I wanted to get hold of rugs, carpets, furniture, jewelry, and furs. It was property stolen from Dutch Jews who, as I learned after the war, had been taken away to the death camps…” (130)

Aly writes:

“The Reich and its citizens also benefited from the increased availability of capital, real estate, and goods ranging from precious stones and jewels all the way down to the cheap wares sold at flea markets. The dispossession of the Jews also stabilized the economies and calmed the political atmosphere in occupied countries, greatly simplifying the task of the Wehrmacht. Goods sold off at less than their actual worth provided an indirect subsidy to both German and foreign buyers.” (248)

The regime sought to justify the plunder of Jewish assets with their racist, but also social democratic, ideology. Those who pushed for social democratic reform were also those who pushed the most genocidal policies. The two were linked. (57) In 1938, Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick stated:

“Assets currently in Jewish hands are to be regarded as the property of the German people. Any destruction of or decrease in their value means a decrease in the collective assets of the German people.” (45-46)

Selling off of Jewish goods also slowed down inflation, associated with the war. It also eased the tax burdens on ordinary Germans, yet more benefits accrued from plunder. (186) The Aryanization of assets helped keep the economy afloat, increased the luxuries available to the German population, and helped keep government benefits flowing. The policies were popular with ordinary German tax payers. The Aryanization of Germany would later become the model for a more ambitious Aryanization throughout occupied Europe. (46-48)

War, Occupation, Plunder

Even during the height of the war, Germans were, generally, satisfied with their lot. Just as the Nazis cannibalized Jewish assets in order to increase social peace, they also transferred value from those countries they occupied to Germany. Aly writes:

“[O]nce the Nazi state undertook what became the most expensive war in world history, the majority of Germans bore virtually none of the costs. Hitler shielded the average Aryan from that burden at the cost of depriving others of their basic subsistence.” (9)

“The Nazi regime required the constant military destabilization of the periphery in order to maintain the illusion of financial stability at the center of the Reich.” (40)

The regime designed elaborate methods to offset war costs and also to keep value flowing from the occupied countries to Germany in order to keep Germans happy. One way that they accomplished this was by requiring occupied countries to pay for their own occupation.

“Over the course of World War II, Germany mandated unprecedented contributions, along with compulsory loans and population-based ‘quotas,’ on the defeated countries of Europe. These financial tributes soon exceeded the total peacetime budgets of the countries in question, usually by more than 100 percent and in the second half of the war by more than 200 percent.” (77)

“By 1943 the majority of the Reich’s additional war-related revenues came from abroad, from foreign slave laborers in Germany, and from the dispossession of Jews as ‘enemies of the state.’ These sources of income underwrote a significant portion of Germany’s military efforts.” (79)

These occupation costs were used to exact more and more tribute from the defeated. For example, the French complained that the tribute paid to Germany for occupation costs was being used for things that had nothing to do with occupation. (78) In Greece, plundering wiped out “some 40 percent of real Greek income” in 1941. (248) This was part of a larger process of shifting the burdens of the war away from Germans onto other peoples.

Another way that the Germans offset their costs and plundered occupied peoples was through requisitioning materials needed on the spot from occupied peoples. Germans introduced Reich Credit Bank certificates, a kind of promissory note for services and goods used by the occupation forces. These were used so that the military did not have to forcibly confiscate goods. The certificates gave the plunder the appearance of legality, an air of legitimacy. The introduction of certificates was the introduction of a second currency:

“German bayonets forced the defeated enemy to accept ultimately worthless pieces of paper as a de facto equivalent of their own currency. The damage to the French economy was scarcely noticeable at first, while the German economy earned a tidy profit.” (88)

This was repeated elsewhere in occupied areas. This second currency made the short term transfer of value easier, but it also had the side-effect of destabilizing the local currencies of occupied peoples. This made long-term transfer of value more difficult because the introduction of a second currency controlled by the Germans wrecked the economies of the occupied peoples. The introduction of the certificates helped streamline the short-term plunder of occupied peoples. Later, in 1943, these certificates were withdrawn to stabilize the franc in France. (87) This was part of an ongoing conflict between policy makers. Some sought to transfer as much value back to Germany as immediately as possible to offset war costs and keep Germans happy. Others recognized that there would be a bigger pay off to Germans if the economies of occupied countries were kept stable. More value could be siphoned off to Germany in the long term.

Plunder was also carried on through other financial manipulations that benefited Germans at the expense of occupied peoples. The Nazi occupation forces disguised their plunder of the occupied peoples through currency manipulations that favored Germans. The Germans consciously manipulated currency exchange rates in their favor. Currency manipulation benefited both the German economy and soldiers in the occupied countries. Germany relied on the importation of raw materials to maintain its war effort and domestic production. Currency manipulation made the purchase and export of materials to Germany cheaper. It gave German soldiers in the occupied areas more purchasing power to buy more goods for themselves and allowed them to send more to Germany.  Manipulating foreign currencies both kept German consumers well supplied and it added to Germany’s war-chest. (76-81)

Plunder in Hand and Mail

German soldiers emptied the shelves of occupied countries. They plundered and stole. However, they also paid for goods that were radically undervalued. German policy was designed to crash the economies of the occupied countries to aid in value transfer to Germany. An intended effect of this was to increase the purchasing power of German soldiers. The goods they acquired were consumed by soldiers themselves or sent back home to Germany through military packages. Also soldiers carried goods back with them when they could. Many Germans look back fondly of the abundance of foreign luxuries made possible by the war. Germans who received goods from the occupied lands “boasted and bragged.” Aly quotes a German who lived through the period:

“I remember a number of nice things.. that friends and relatives would proudly unpack from parcels received from ‘abroad’… People had more respect for the sender and compared him favorably with those who hadn’t sent anything back.” (97)

Laws were changed to encourage the smooth flow of value to Germany. Deputy Finance Minister Reinhardt intervened to settled complaints on Germany’s northern and eastern borders. He invoked a decree by Hitler: “It is the Fuhrer’s will that as many foodstuffs as possible be brought back home from the occupied eastern territories and that customs authorities take a hands-off approach.” (106) Also, the customs border between Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Monrovia was abolished. This prompted a “purchasing frenzy” among German soldiers. One official wrote, “the luggage nets of the express trains are packed to the roof with heavy suitcases, bulky packages, and stuffed bags.” Everyone, even those of high rank, were packaging their luggage with “the most extraordinary consumer goods – furs, watches, medicines, shoes – in nearly unimaginable quantities.” (97) One historian describes what the French called “potato beetles”:

“Loaded with heavy packages, German soldiers departed from the Gare de l’Est for home leave. They had been acquired in countless petty transactions, but they did significant damage to the French national economy, playing a significant role in the development of the black market and inflation. They were the reason it was increasingly difficult for everyday French people to procure the basic necessities.” (98)

In 1942, when debate arose over the failure to enforce customs policies, Göring intervened, “Mr. Reinhardt, desist with your customs checks. I’m, no longer interested in them… I’d rather have unlimited amounts of goods smuggled in than have customs duties paid on nothing at all.” The Nazi elite intervened against the bureaucracy and in favor of the ordinary German. Thus ordinary Germans benefited in a very direct and tangible way from the occupation of defeated peoples.

Conflicts again arose between those bent on helping the ordinary Germany by the immediate plunder and those with a more long-term approach. In these debates, Göring stated:

“It has been said that we need to restrict soldiers’ access to their pay, or it will cause inflation in France. But inflation is what I want to see more than anything else… The franc should be worth nothing more than a sheet of a certain type of paper used for a specific purpose. That will hit France exactly the way we want to hit France.” (105)

Throughout the war and occupations, debates arose within the regime about how best to transfer value out of the defeated and occupied countries. Bureaucrats weighed the pluses and minuses of short-term and long-term strategies. However, throughout, the Nazis were very aware to design occupation policies to benefit the German state, but also to benefit the ordinary German and keep the social peace.


An estimated 8 to 12 million slave laborers, mostly from Eastern Europe, worked for the Nazi regime. They worked under dangerous and inhuman conditions, often in the German arms industry.  In the most infamous cases, especially in the East, German and German-backed enterprises  and organizations “worked to death [their forced laborers] in conditions of virtual slavery.” (161) Even capitalists complained on occasion. For example, conditions were so bad for forced laborers that sometimes German companies protested their treatment. For example, in East Prussia, German companies complained that Polish workers were being so brutally exploited that there was no incentive to work. They complained to the Nazi regime that the system was so brutal that it was hindering the ability to produce. Sometimes these workers received a nominal “pay” that was 15 to 40 percent lower than  the average German pay. They “paid” the workers as part of public relations to shield themselves from criticism. However, the reality is that the authorities invented a number of schemes to cheat their workers and confiscate this “pay.” For example, when Germans occupied northern Italy, in September 1943, they put more than half a million POWs to work in the Reich as forced laborers. “Pay” was deposited into an account supposedly set up for the workers’ families to be able to withdraw the funds. However, the pay never made it back to the families of the forced laborers. Rather, the funds were secretly converted into German treasury bonds to pay for external occupation costs. (156-161)

The Germans stole the possessions of forced laborers. For example, when forced laborers were conscripted in the Ukraine, “Possessions left behind as well as any cash” were handed over and sold. “Animal inventory (horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, geese, etc.) as well as hay, straw, and field crops” were offered up for sale to the economics command of the local Wehrmacht division. The money from the sale of the assets of forced laborers eventually made their way to the German treasury. In theory, these funds would be transferred back to their owners at a later date. The reality is the funds only made their way into German accounts. This pattern was repeated over and over. The plunder, exploitation and taxation of German forced laborers ended up benefiting the German populace. It gave the cash-strapped German welfare programs a boost. (163-164)

Fat Germans and the Starving East

The Nazis also enacted policies of total plunder, designed to both aid Germans and to destroy enemy populations. In 1941, Göring issued a statement,“As a general principle for occupied territories, only those who work for us should be assured of receiving the food they need.” He advocated “ruthless conservation measures” to ensure the flow of food to Germany. Some of the first to be affected by these policies were Soviet POWs. Goebbels noted: “The catastrophic starvation there exceeds all description.” In Riga, German soldiers discussed their “assignment to let Russian POWs starve and freeze to death.” By, February 2, 1942, 2 million of the 3.3 million Red Army prisoners, 60 percent, had died in the hands of the German camps or in transit. (174-175)

The policy of starving Soviet POWs and Jews was also applied to Soviet cities. Göring addressed an audience in 1942, telling them that “we are feeding our entire army from the occupied territories.” He went on to announce that food rations would be increased and there would be a “special allocation” for Christmas. Göring proclaimed:  “From this day on things will continue to get better since we now possess huge stretches of fertile land. There are stocks of eggs, butter, and flour there that you cannot even imagine.” He also announced that there would be an “opening up of space in the East” that would allow for a return of “near-peacetime conditions.” He promised that the war would be fought to “successful conclusion without major privations.” One report stated that “Göring spoke to the heart and stomach.” (175) Aly shows some representative statistics showing how much food was transferred:




In 1942, one official wrote that his job was to relieve “the home front as much as possible from the need to send supplies.” All that was left over that  “the Wehrmacht couldn’t find a use for” was to be sent back to Germany.

“Huge amounts of wheat, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, and eggs are being transported for distribution to the Reich. If, as my wife wrote me, the few weeks of food production should see the successful delivery of sunflower oil, I can say with pride that I was directly involved in the operation.” (178-179)

In 1942, extra food sent back from the front was directed especially toward Germans engaged in hard physical labor, pregnant women, and Aryan senior citizens. Ordinary German citizens also benefited. Their access to food and purchasing power increased as a result of the plundering of food. One German recalled after the war, “During the war we didn’t go hungry. Back then everything worked. It was only after the war that things turned bad.”  (178-179)

German National “Socialism”

Nazis sought to advance the interests of Germans by creating a great German-centered empire.  This vision was linked to the subjugation of other peoples, including the genocide of the Jews and Eastern peoples. Other countries were to be subdued, their populations made to work for the benefit of Germans. Eastern peoples would be enslaved and exterminated, so their land could be settled. Hitler once compared his Eastern ambitions with the genocidal Western expansion of the United States in North America. This vision aimed at German social peace, at elevating the standard of living of ordinary Germans. Aly writes:

“The constant Nazi talk of needing more space and colonies, of Germany’s place on the world stage and eastward expansion, as well as of the imperative of ‘de-Jewification,’ was aimed at hastening a rise in the German standard of living, which the domestic economy alone could never have supported.” (317)

Himmler, in his capacity as Reich commissioner for settlement projects, stated:

“The territories in question have been conquered by armed campaigns as part of a war waged by all Germans [so that] the fruits of this victory may benefit the entire German people.” (306)

Reducing class differences was a big part of the plan to settle Germans in Eastern Europe. (30-31) Reducing divisions and social peace among Germans were a big part of Nazi ideology.  Hitler promised  equality to all members of the Volk. During the war, every member of the Volk was to be provided for. In 1940, an observer from the Social Democratic Party reported that in Berlin: “The working classes thoroughly welcome the fact that ‘the better off’ have, in practical terms, ceased to be that.” Rationing policies during the war strove for equality among Germans. (322)

Elevating ordinary Germans was a big part of Nazi policy. Their loyalty was secured through progressive taxation policies designed to lift the burden from working and lower-strata Germans. Their loyalty was bought by increasing their wages, purchasing power, and access to consumer goods.  Nazi policies sought to increase the benefits to ordinary German workers. They sought to expand privileges once reserved for the upper classes to the lower classes. For example, the Berlin regional warden of the German Labor Front was very energetic in his promotion of benefits to labor:

“In 1938 we want to devote ourselves more and more to reaching all those comrades who still think that vacation travel isn’t something for blue-collar workers. This persistent misconception must finally be overcome.” (21)

In 1943, at the height of the war, Nazis were fixated on keeping Germans happy. Martin Bormann stated: “The spending power of the broad masses is what’s important!” (57) Nazi policy did much to shift the burden off of ordinary Germans to the conquered peoples, but also to the upper classes in Germany:

“From the fall of 1941 onward, the political leadership blocked all proposals by finance experts to levy supplementary wartime taxes on the wages and everyday consumer spending of average Germans. They had no such scruples about taxing the upper classes.” (312)

All of these popular measures combined in National “Socialism.” The Nazi regime kept Germans well fed. It turned genocide and the conquest of other peoples into a gold rush. Ordinary Germans willingly participated. “[C] oncern for the welfare of Germans was the decisive motivation behind policies of terrorizing, enslaving, and exterminating enemy groups.” (309) Aly holds that it was the Nazi appeal to the stomach more than ideological pronouncements about the “master race” that kept the German population loyal. “The Nazi regime profited from the basic satisfaction of ordinary Germans, regardless of whether they felt a sense of attachment to or… distance from the party ideology.” (311) Because the regime sought to advance the interests of ordinary Germans, real resistance to the regime “from below” never materialized. Aly dismisses the myth-making that has surrounded a German supposed “resistance” to Hitler.

“Germans were kept passive and generally content by a lavish social welfare system that was paid for by these riches. The improvement in the public mood that came with increases in people’s material welfare…” (304)

“Nothing less than massive popular greed made it possible for the regime to tame the majority of Germans with a combination of low taxes, ample supplies of consumer goods, and targeted acts of terror against social outsiders. The best strategy in the eyes of the public-opinion-conscious Nazi leadership was to keep all Germans happy.” (324)

“Later, when the fighting was over, the fateful collaboration of millions of Germans vanished, as if by magic, to be replaced by a wildly exaggerated — and historically insignificant — record of resistance to Hitler.” (319)

This lack of resistance was also reflected in the size of the Gestapo:

“[T]he Gestapo in 1937 had just over 7,000 employees, including bureaucrats and secretarial staff. Together with a far smaller force of police, they sufficed to keep tabs on more than 60 million people. Most Germans simply did not need to be subjected to surveillance or detention.” (29)

The parallels today are obvious. Just as Hitler elevated the German population on the backs of the defeated peoples, First World peoples live on the backs of the Third World peoples. Just as people waited in vain for a German worker’s revolution against Hitler, they wait in vain for First World worker’s revolution. The Nazis were not defeated internally, the Nazis were defeated externally, by the Red Army. German workers did not oppose the Nazi regime because they benefited from it. They willingly joined in the cannibalization of other peoples. Today, First World peoples as a whole join with their own rulers against the peoples of the Third World. We are in the middle of yet another world war, a war by the First World against the Third World.This war only benefits the First World at the expense of the Third World. Just as Hitler was defeated by the Red Army, so too must the First World be defeated by a global people’s war led by Leading Light Communists.

Metaphysics versus Materialism

Karl Marx famously critiqued the idea that history should be explained as a series of great men. Instead of looking at history as the result of great men or cabals of great men, Marx looked at history scientifically. Marx looked at the world through the lenses of power. Marx traced historic and social phenomena back to power systems of classes, nations, and genders. Marx called this historical materialism. Aly applies historical materialism to the question of  how Nazism could have happened.

“So complex an answer to the question of how Nazism could have happened does not lend itself to mere antifascist sloganeering or didacticism of museum exhibits. It is necessary to focus on the socialist aspect of National Socialism, if only as a way of advancing beyond the usual projections of blame onto specific individuals and groups — most often the delusional, possibly insane Fuhrer but also the cabal of racist ideologues or the members of a particular class, like bankers and business tycoons, or certain Wehrmacht generals or the elite killing units. The chief problem with such approaches is they all suggest that a special group of evil ‘others’ bears culpability for Nazi crimes.” (8)

Aly extends our understanding of the relationship between fascism and social democracy. Aly’s book develops the analysis of the Comintern in the 1930s. Whether Aly is aware of it or not, Aly stands in the tradition of Marxists like Rajani Palme Dutt and the theories of “social fascism.” Aly casts aside “leftist” dogma. Rather Nazism is explained by ruthlessly looking at its material origin. The Nazis represented an alignment of social forces, which included German workers. German workers supported the Nazis. The Nazis returned the favor. In many ways, the Nazi’s politics was very similar to their social democratic opponents. It was Lenin who criticized the German and French social democrats when they supported the war efforts of their imperialist homelands in World War 1. The revisionists placed their own peoples, their own workers, ahead of the global proletariat by doing so. Lenin, by contrast, advocated the policy of revolutionary defeatism. Lenin sought the defeat of the Czarist empire in the hope that a defeat for his imperialist homeland could lead to a revolutionary situation. Contrary to Lenin, the revisionists of the Second International were the social imperialists and social fascists of their day. They were socialist in name, but in reality, they were imperialists. Even the Nazis’ official party name was the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” Today, First Worldism is the main form of social imperialism and social fascism. Like the Nazis in World War 2 and the social democrats of World War 1, First Worldists may use Marxist and socialist rhetoric, they may even claim to care about the Third World, but, in reality, they seek to advance the interests of their populations at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. First Worldism raises the red flag to oppose the red flag. Like Lenin before, Leading Light Communism represents the interests of the proletariat and oppressed as a whole. Just as Lenin made the break with the kind of narrow, unimaginative, dogmatic thinking of his day, so does every real revolutionary scientist, so too does Leading Light Communism.

The First Worldist outlook is not based on scientific analysis, it is based on dogma. Aly helps demonstrate the bankruptcy of First Worldist chauvinism and the vulgar “workerism” that simply assumes that everyone who makes a wage or receives a salary has a common interest in socialism. Such “workerism” makes the assumption that all employees have a common class interest and can be aligned for socialism. To maintain that all of those who are employed, both in the First World and Third World, are part of the same class is pure metaphysics. The entire twentieth century has shown us that this is simply not the case. The reason that “communism” is considered dead today is that people can easily see that the rhetoric of those claiming to be “communist” does not correspond with reality at all. Even radical Islam, and its jihad against the West, draws the lines of friends and enemies more accurately than First Worldist so-called Marxism. By contrast, Leading Light Communism looks at the real world. Leading Lights look at the actual historical record; Leading Lights look at the actual way social forces align, not how we imagine them to align. Leading Light Communism has brought science back to communism. The Leading Lights have elevated revolutionary science to a whole new stage. Aly’s book is a powerful weapon in the struggle against dipshitism posing as Marxism.


Aly, Gotz. Hitler’s Beneficiaries. Holt Paperbacks, USA: 2005


Molotov, MIM, Dogma, and Stalin’s support for Israel


Molotov, MIM, Dogma, and Stalin’s support for Israel


Stalin was a great socialist leader, but it is important to tell the truth about his mistakes. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a high-ranking, important member of Stalin’s regime. Today’s Stalinists occasionally choose him as their favorite candidate to have succeeded Stalin in  “what if” fantasy histories. “What if Molotov had led the Soviet Union rather than Beria or Khrushchev?” they ask. One of the biggest questions about both Molotov and Stalin is why they supported an apartheid state like Israel. Decades later, Molotov states in his memoirs:

“Everyone objected [to recognizing the State of Israel] but us — me and Stalin. Some asked me why we favored it. We are supporters of international freedom. Why should we be opposed if, strictly speaking, that meant pursuing a hostile nationalist policy? In our time, it’s true, the Bolsheviks were and remained anti-Zionist… Yet it’s one thing to be anti-Zionist and anti-bourgeois, and quite another to be against the Jewish people. We proposed, however, an Arab-Israeli union, for both nations to live there together. We have supported this version if it could have been arranged. Otherwise we favored an Israeli state… Israel has turned out badly. But Lord Almighty! That’s American imperialism for you.”  (1)

The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) extrapolates on Molotov’s defense of Stalin:

“Stalin has been criticized for his recognition of Israel. There is a limit to what the revolutionary forces are capable of. In the case of the existence of Israel, the progressive forces were not able to stop its creation as a separate, exclusive state. Once created, the question became whether or not to recognize it. From Molotov’s quote above, it is clear that Stalin would not recognize the right to self-determination of only those nations with progressive impact, and that he said Molotov thought that not recognizing Israel would have been ‘against the Jewish people.’ They believed they should not oppose the fait-accompli in Israel, though they would have preferred a different outcome.” (2)

These are good examples of how not to approach political errors and history. In his memoirs, Molotov washes his hands of responsibility for Israel even though he had a big role in policies that aided Israel’s creation. Rather than accepting his errors, Molotov obfuscates. He shifts the blame onto United States, who subsequently became the main supporter of Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian peoples and wars against the Arabs. The genocide and wars continue to this day. MIM does not confront Molotov on his dishonesty. MIM articulates Molotov’s excuse better than Molotov. According to MIM, Stalin’s power was limited and he had no choice but to recognize Israel. Since the Zionists had won their war, what is gained by an infantile refusal to recognize them? This might make sense if all you had to go on was Molotov’s word. However, the reality is that Molotov is lying by omission. And MIM doubles down on the lie.

Stalin’s regime did more than extend de jure recognition to an already victorious Israel on May 18, 1948, they were the first. Several Eastern Bloc countries followed suit, extending de jure recognition to Israel before the United States, which only got around to de jure recognition by January 31, 1949. Golda Meir, one of Israel’s founding elders and Israel’s Fourth Prime Minister, wrote in her memoirs:

“… [T]he Soviet recognition of the State of Israel on May 18 was of immense significance to us.  It meant that the two greatest powers in the world has come together, for the first time since World War II, to back the Jewish state, and although we were still in deadly danger, we knew, at last, that we were not alone. It was in that knowledge – combined with sheer necessity – that we found the spiritual, if not the material, strength that was to lead us to victory.” (3) *

Stalin’s recognition of Israel gave a tremendous morale boost to the Zionists. It also boosted their international legitimacy and gave them diplomatic cover. What Molotov and MIM fail to mention is that  Stalin’s support for the Zionist movement goes back prior to the Israeli victory. The Eastern Bloc played a key role in the victory of the Zionists.

The Jewish Agency, an organization that later became the state of Israel, between June 1947 and October 31, 1949, began seeking weapons for Operation Balak. Weapons were procured using communist help in Czechoslovakia. As the communists became more influential after World War 2, material support for Zionism increased. The communist coup increased Czechoslovakia’s support for the Zionists. The Soviet Bloc arms shipments were very significant. Most of the arms were of German design. They were either leftover arms from World War 2 or new arms manufactured in Czechoslovakia using German designs. The arms shipments up to October, 1948 included: 34,500 P-18 rifles, 5,515 MG 34 machine guns with 10,000 ammo belts, 10,000 vz.24 bayonets, 900 vz. 37 heavy machine guns, 500 vz. 27 pistols. Other infantry weapons: 12 ZK-383 submachine guns, 10 ZK 420 semi-automatic rifles, 500 vz. 26 light machine guns (shipped, yet delivery not confirmed in Czech sources). Ammunition: 91,500,000 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridges, 15,000,000 9mm Parabellum cartridges, 375,000 13mm cartridges for MG 131, 150,000 20mm cartridges for MG 151, 375,000 7.65mm cartridges for vz. 27 pistol. Aircraft: Israeli Avia S-199, 1948, 25 Avia S-199 fighters, 61 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX fighters. (4) The Israelis continued to receive arms and support after 1948. In addition, the Soviet bloc provided weapons and tactical training the the Zionist insurgency. Eighty-one pilots and 69 crew specialists were trained. Some of these later formed the first units of the Israeli air force. The equivalent of a brigade of Jewish-Czech volunteers were trained on Czechoslovakian soil from August 20, 1948 until November 4, 1948. The Czechoslovakian codename for the operation was “DI,” an abbreviation for “Důvěrné Israel,” which means “Classified Israel.” A motorized brigade was also trained, but the war had been won before they were deployed. (5)

Golda Meir was especially appreciative of Stalin’s help, which saved their movement:

“Had it not been for the arms and ammunition that we were able to buy in Czechoslovakia and transport through Yugoslavia and other Balkan countries in those dark days at the start of the war, I do not know whether we actually could have held out until the tide changed, as it did by June, 1948. For the first six weeks of the War of Independence, we relied largely (though not, of course, entirely) on the shells, machine guns, bullets – and even planes – that the Haganah had been able to purchase in Eastern Europe at a time when even the United States had declared an embargo on the sale of shipment of arms to the Middle East. ” (6)

Elsewhere, she states:

“I shall always remember the profound understanding shown by the Russian authorities to the many problems of our young state.” (7)

Stalin’s aid to the Zionists is not some big secret. On May 14, 1947, before the Zionist victory that led to the Israeli state, the Soviet ambassador Andrei Gromyko announced:

“As we know, the aspirations of a considerable part of the Jewish people are linked with the problem of Palestine and of its future administration. This fact scarcely requires proof…. During the last war, the Jewish people underwent exceptional sorrow and suffering… The United Nations cannot and must not regard this situation with indifference, since this would be incompatible with the high principles proclaimed in its Charter…The fact that no Western European State has been able to ensure the defence of the elementary rights of the Jewish people and to safeguard it against the violence of the fascist executioners explains the aspirations of the Jews to establish their own State. It would be unjust not to take this into consideration and to deny the right of the Jewish people to realize this aspiration.” (8)

Although the Soviets said they preferred the partition, they also supported an Israeli state. So the Soviet support for Israel was not because Israel was a fait-accompli, as MIM claims. The socialist bloc had been giving moral, diplomatic, and material support to the Zionist insurgency long before its de jure recognition of Israel.

It is easy to see how the dishonest historical narrative arose. MIM approaches history as other dogmatic revisionists do. Their method is to construct a narrative in favor of their pantheon of revolutionary icons, then gather information that appears to support it, ignore what does not support it, make excuses, avoid political responsibility for errors. In this case, they present a small tidbit from Molotov that appears to the uneducated to sound reasonable. MIM leaves out the rest of the story because they are not interested in truth. The are not interested in the genuine historical record, they are interested in deflecting criticism from Stalin. They do not practice historical science, they practice apologetics. Truth does not matter. Defending Stalin on all things matters most, even if it means sacrificing truth. MIM uses this same method in their work on the Maoist era. All the more damning is that two of MIM’s cardinal points of unity involve historical claims about when the Soviet and Maoist revolutions were reversed. Either MIM was demanding unity about historical eras it did not understand or MIM was consciously misrepresenting these eras in an effort to be in line with Maoists internationally. Whether MIM was sloppy and ignorant or dishonest, their approach was not scientific. Unfortunately, MIM’s “cutting the toes to fit the shoes” approach to history is all too common among revisionists that claim to be communist. By contrast, the scientific, true communist historian goes where the data leads. He does not begin with picking good guys and bad guys, then proceed to cherry pick data to support the good guy and defame the bad guy. A serious historian looks at and presents all the data, even data which goes against his political instincts. A serious historian examines all possible reasonable narratives, weighing them against each other and the data. A serious historian integrates his narrative with what we know about systems of oppression. A serious historian is out to discover truth, even if truth goes against his political instincts.  We must uphold what is good in all things, all leaders, and reject the bad. We must uphold what is good in Stalin and come to terms with what is not. Writing history should not be like writing a novel.

Several factors led to Stalin’s support for Israel. After World War 2, the Soviet policy continued to be based on Lenin’s idea of continuous intra-imperialist conflict. Stalin thought that the Western allies of World War 2 would break down. As the imperialists sought more and more expansion, they would inevitably lead the world into another great war. Stalin saw the British empire as the strongest of the European powers after World War 2. The Zionist insurgency could be used to weaken British rule over Palestine. In addition, the British still wielded power and influence over those lands neighboring the Soviet Union’s southern flank. The Soviets had their buffer zone of satellite states in Eastern Europe, but were encircled in the south. The Zionist war against the Arabs was also a war against the British who had restricting migration and enforcing an embargo on Palestine in hopes of keeping the peace with the indigenous Palestinians. The British did not want to see their colonial possession destabilized or fall into sectarian conflict. Stalin was hoping to fan the flames of the conflict between the Zionists and the British. Golda Meir states, “There is now no doubt in my mind that the primary Soviet consideration was to get the British out of the Middle East.” (9) Furthermore, the Zionist movement had a strong pole that was perceived as leftist, socialist, anti-capitalist. The Kibbutz movement and Golda Meir herself represent this trend. Golda Meir and Molotov’s wife briefly discussed collective property in 1948:

“I had a much more interesting and rewarding encounter with another Soviet citizen at the reception given by Mr. Molotov on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, to which all the diplomats in Moscow are invited each year… After I had shaken hands with Molotov, his wife, Ivy Molotov, came up to me. ‘I am so pleased to meet you, at last,’ she said with real warmth and even excitement. Then she added, ‘I speak Yiddish, you know.’

‘Are you Jewish?’ I asked in some surprise.

‘Yes,’ she said, answering me in Yiddish, ‘Ich bin a yiddishe tochter.’ (I am a daughter of the Jewish people.) We talked together for quite a long time. She knew all about the events at the synagogue and told me how good it was that we had gone. ‘The Jews wanted so much to see you,’ she said. We touched on the question of the Negev, which was being debated at the United Nations. I made some remark about not being able to give it up because my daughter lived there and added that Sarah wa with me in Moscow. ‘I must see her,’ said Mrs. Molotov. So I introduced Sarah and Yael Namir to her, and she talked to them about Israel and asked Sarah dozens of questions about kibbutzim, who lived in them and how they were run. She spoke Yiddish to the girls who were overjoyed when Sarah answered in the same language. When Sarah explained that everything in Revivim was owned collectively and that there is no private property, Mrs. Molotov looked troubled. ‘That is not a good idea,’ she said. ‘People don’t like sharing everything. Even Stalin is against that. You should acquaint yourself with Stalin’s thoughts and writings on the subject.’ Before she returned to her other guests, she put her arm around Sarah and, with tears in her eyes, said, ‘Be well. If everything goes well with you, it will go well for all Jews everywhere… after that conversation with us, Ivy Molotov had been arrested, and how earlier that day, we had watched the military parade in Red Square. I had so envied the Russians all those weapons on display – the tiniest fraction of which was beyond our means – and, as if he read my thoughts, Molotov had raised a glass of vodka to me later and said, ‘Don’t think we got those in a single day. The time will come when you, too, will have these things. It will all be all right.” (10)

Because there was some perceived ideological overlap between parts of the Zionist movement and the Soviet Union’s ideology, there was a hope that Israel might emerge as not just friendly to the Soviet Union, but as a satellite country, similar to the Eastern European people’s democracies. In this way, Israel could help not only break up the imperialist encirclement on the Soviet southern flank, but an Israeli people’s democracy could also become a southern buffer against imperialist attack.

The Arab world suffered in more ways than one. The Zionist war led to the racist, apartheid state of Israel. The genocide against the Palestinians continues. Israel has become the right hand of imperialism in the Middle East. Israel is on the front lines suppressing resistance movements and regimes on behalf of the First World. Israel is a kind of permanent, giant aircraft and troop carrier in the troubled region, always ready to do battle with the people. Recently, Israel has been called on to check Iran’s growing power in the region. In addition, in  almost every large region of the Third World there have been communist or nominally communist parties that seized state power: Asia, Latin America, Africa, all had genuine Marxist or nominally Marxist movements seize power. Even though the Arab world is very large, spreading over the whole of northern Africa and much of the Middle East, very few Marxist or nominally Marxist movements have gained any real significance. Conditions there are not fundamentally different than in other Third World countries. In the Middle East, nationalism, Baathism, and Islamic movements have, for the most part, led the concrete anti-imperial struggle, not Marxists nor revisionists. There was South Yemen’s pro-Soviet regime and forces in Oman connected to Yemen, but, on the whole, both real Marxism and revisionism have lacked strength in the Arab world. Even though Stalin changed his policy toward Israel in the following years, the international communist movement suffered from Stalin’s error.

During World War 2, Stalin’s regime had to resurrect Russian nationalism as a way of motivating the people to fight the Nazi invader. This carried over into the post-war years. Stalin’s Israel policy placed Russo-Soviet national or imperial interest above the interests of the global proletariat, including the Palestinians who were suffering an invasion by a racist enemy that eventually led to occupation and depopulation. Stalin placed the narrow geopolitical concerns of the Soviet Union as a country above the international proletariat. Even if Stalin was able to win Israel to his side on a more permanent basis, it should have been obvious that support for such an invasion and occupation would taint communism in the eyes of the Arab people. Stalin’s approach does not calculate in the agency and potential of the Arab people, a poor and colonized people. Instead of the masses making history, in such a worldview, geopolitical machinations by powerful states make history. Stalin was looking too much to powerful states, not class struggle as the motor of history. In the case of Israel, the Soviet outlook does not seem totally different from those of the Western imperialists. No matter what superpower won, the Arabs lost.

Other changes were afoot in the Soviet Union. The Soviet regime edged toward traditionalism in gender and culture during and after World War 2. Traditional roles were recommended to women again in Soviet art. After World War 2, for example, a genre about overambitious wives who neglect their children develops in Soviet literature. The Soviet support for Israel is another indicator of regression. Soviet foreign policy seems to be operating, in this case, according to the national interests of the Russo-Soviet state, not the global proletariat. The fight for communism appears to be taking a back seat both domestically and in foreign policy.

Maoist China split with the Soviet Union over its imperialist policies after Khrushchev delivered his famous “secret speech” criticizing Stalin at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956. Mao used Stalin as a battering ram against Khrushchev’s domestic capitalism and imperialist foreign policy. However, these tendencies that Mao so criticized pre-dated Khrushchev’s rise to power. Even though Mao posed as an orthodox Stalinist to criticize Khrushchev, the reality is that the these tendencies began to arise under Stalin’s watch. Interestingly, Stalin’s inner circle – Molotov, Malenkov, and Beria – all moved for a less confrontational Soviet foreign policy after Stalin’s death. At Stalin’s funeral, Malenkov unveiled a “peace initiative.” “There are no contested issues in U.S.-Soviet relations that cannot be resolved by peaceful means.” (11) The idea of “peaceful coexistence” between the Soviet bloc and the United States was mainly blamed on Khrushchev by the Maoists. This was one of the main reasons for the Sino-Soviet split. The claim that the contradiction between socialism and imperialism is non-antagonistic is thoroughly revisionist. Thus the Maoists correctly identified Khrushchev as a social imperialist. By the Khrushchev era, the Soviet state was really imperialist even if claimed to be socialist. When Mao’s own revolution went off the rails in the 1970s, Mao too began to place China’s narrow interest above that of the international proletariat. This is why Mao began to align with the West. This is why Mao aligned with the West in Angola, Bangladesh, Chile, etc. Just as such policies discredited the Soviet Union as it slid into revisionism, they also discredited Mao in the 1970s. Nationalism has proven a big danger to socialist regimes.

Leaders often play important, decisive roles. Leaders are often representatives of and concentrations of  great social forces. Great leaders, great geniuses, great warriors, can be indispensable. Even so, the analysis of history has to go beyond leaders. We should not organize our analysis of revolution and counter-revolution around a hero and villain. To do so is really just a version of what Marx criticized as the Great Man Theory of History. A truly scientific, materialist approach to history is looks beneath the surface. It is important to be honest with the masses. It is important to tell the truth, to have a real scientific attitude, about past revolutions. We are initiating the next great wave of revolution. It is important that we go further than all past revolutions. It is necessary that we achieve total revolution, Leading Light Communism. Only through a scientific account of the history of revolution can we really understand the errors of the past so that we can avoid them the next time we have power.

Friedrich Engels stated, “without theory, practice is blind.” Dogmatism blinds the people. It keeps the masses ignorant. Those who espouse dogma show a basic lack of trust in the masses. The masses can handle the truth. They are waiting for it. They demand it. Leading Light Communism is about rejecting all dogma. It is about advancing the science, pure and simple. It is about advancing the science in an all-round way, in history, in political economy, in aesthetics and culture, in power struggle, in military science, in constructing communism, in epistemology, and on and on. The proletariat must be given the weapons they need to liberate themselves, not dull knives, but sharp blades. Open your eyes. There is a new breakthrough, a new science, a new organization, a new leadership capable of leading us to victory. It is not about individuals. It is about the science, the masses, and the Earth.  There is a way to victory.


1. MIM. MIM Theory: The Stalin Issue. MIM. 1994 p. 43

2. ibid. p. 45

3. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231



6. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231

7. Syrkin, Marie. Golda Meir: Israel’s Leader. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1969 p. 234


9. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 pp. 230-231

10. Meir, Golda, My Life. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. New York, USA: 1975 p. 254

11. Zubok, Vladislav and Pleshakov, Constantine. Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War. Seventh Printing. Harvard University Press. USA: 2003 p.155

* Golda Meir mentions, contrary to most accounts, that the Soviet recognition occurred after the US recognition. She may be confusing de jure and de facto recognition.


Lumpenbourgeoisie: Lumpendevelopment


Review of André Gunder Frank’s Lupenbourgeoisie: Lumpendevelopment


André Gunder Frank’s Lumpenbourgeoisie: Lumpendevelopement, written in 1972, is a short summary of the evolution of dependency in Latin America from the colonial period through the neocolonial period up to the 1970s. Frank shows how the class structure of Latin American countries evolved in connection with changes between the imperialist countries and the underdeveloped countries. One can’t understand the evolution of class in Latin America without understanding the imperialist system. The wealthy countries and poor countries are two sides of the same coin.  One is tied to the other. The ruling class that became dominant in Latin America is a comprador bourgeoisie. The comprador bourgeoisie works with the imperialists to transform their Latin American countries into countries that are underdeveloped. Frank describes underdevelopment as “lumpendevelopment.” Working with the imperialists, the comprador bourgeoisie, what Frank calls the “lumpenbourgeoisie,” is the main local actor responsible for the stunted, unhealthy status of Latin American economies since the colonial period up to the time of his book. Although Frank describes his terminology as “poetic,” many would find it confusing. Although underdevelopment has changed in some of the details since the 1970s, underdevelopment itself continues to exist in many forms. Latin America and the rest of the Third World still suffer from imperialist domination and underdevelopment today.

Frank asks why Latin America ended up as underdeveloped when the United States, especially the North, did not. Frank convincingly rejects as chauvinist the Weberian view that the protestant work ethic is why the United States became wealthy. He rejects the view that a Catholic culture of laziness is why Latin America became poor. Frank less convincingly argues that the United States did not benefit at all from the capitalist culture of Britain. Frank unconvincingly claims that capitalism arose first in Catholic Spain, Italy, and Portugal. (1) Frank holds a version of the commercialization model of the origin of capitalism. Frank, presumably, connects the development of capitalism to the wealthy trading cities of the late middle ages, not to a unique transformation of the mode of production that spread outward from Britain. Whether or not Frank is correct about the origin of capitalism or whether others, such as Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood, are correct has no immediate relevance to Frank’s broader arguments about underdevelopment. Even though Brenner came to be associated with the worst forms of First Worldist so-called Marxism, this incorrect aspect of his work does not necessarily follow from his work on capitalism’s origin. In fact, a parallel can be found in the Brenner-Wood explanation of early capitalism in Britain and Frank’s explanation of development of the northern United States. Both develop on the edges of much wealthier economic regions. According to Wood, British agrarian capitalism arises in, what was then, the isolated backwoods of Europe. And, Frank explains the progress of the industrial bourgeoisie over the agrarian bourgeoisie in the northern United States was a result, paradoxically, of its lack of wealth. In part, these breakthroughs  in development happened as a kind of survival strategy for an initially poorer periphery. According to Frank:

“Thus a comparative study of the varieties of European colonies established in the New World leads us to a fundamental conclusion which may at first seem paradoxical, but is nevertheless an accurate reflection of the dialectic of capitalist development: the greater the wealth available for exploitation, the poorer and more underdeveloped the region today; and the poorer the  region was as a colony, the richer and more developed it is today. There is only one basic reason for this: underdevelopment is the result of exploitation of the colonial and class structure based on ultraexploitation; development was achieved where this structure of underdevelopment was not established because it was impossible to establish.” (2)

In those colonial countries where there was great wealth, the imperialist imposed underdevelopment. They did this by transforming local economies into economies with a very limited range of production, sometimes only a single commodity was produced: sugar, tobacco, coffee, minerals, etc. The imperialists turned whole countries into giant plantations or mines. Export economies were created all across Latin America. Raw materials were exported to Europe to be used in industry. Europe produced consumer goods to flood colonial markets. This type of economic model benefited Europe to the detriment of the colonies. Frank describes the outlines of underdevelopment:

“The colonial and class structure is the product of the introduction in Latin America of an ultra-exploitative export economy, dependent on the metropolis, which restricted the internal market and created the economic interests of the lumpenbourgeoisie (producers and exporters of raw materials). These interests in turn generate a policy of under- or lumpendevelopment for the economy as a whole.” (3)

“The bulk of the capital available for investment was channeled, by the institutions of underdevelopment, into mining, agriculture, transport, and commercial export enterprises linked to the metropolis; almost all the rest went to luxury imports from the metropolis, with a very small share left for manufacturers and consumption related to the internal market. Because of commerce and foreign capital, the economic and political interests of the mining, agriculture, and commercial bourgeoisie were never directed toward internal economic development. The relations of production and the class structure of the latifundia, and of mining and its economic and social ‘hinterlands,’ developed in response to the predatory needs of the overseas and the Latin American metropolis.” (4)

Europe was able to impose this model on Latin America with the help of a comprador bourgeoisie whose interests were bound to the export economy. Imperialists and compradors achieved this by passing laws that made it very difficult for local industries to develop or compete with European imports. In addition, they often imposed the system with brute force. Europe often supplied the arms or armies to suppress revolts by the industrial bourgeoisie or other popular  revolts against the system. This tradition survived into the modern period. After World War 2, the United States, for example, increasingly used brutal military dictators such as Batista in Cuba, Samoza in Nicaragua, or Pinochet in Chile to crush opposition to comprador policies. Today, the United States has tried to clean up its image. Now, the United States crushes popular opposition under the banner of democracy. The United States supports brutal wars against the people of Peru and Colombia waged by their puppets under the banner of so-called democracy. The imperialists also sought to topple Hugo Chávez in Venezuela under the banner of democracy.

Even though underdevelopment has survived the many twists and turns of Latin American history up to the present day, there were points where those whose interests lie with development sought to assert themselves against the comprador class who defended underdevelopment. Frank describes the conflict between two sections of the bourgeoisie, one nationalist and the other comprador. It was usually in times when there was a disruption, wars or depressions, in the imperial system when the industrialist, nationalist bourgeoisie tried to assert itself in Latin America. Nonetheless, they were almost always defeated. For example,  the economic depression in Spain in the seventeenth century, “which reduced the shipping tonnage between the mother country and New Spain to one-third of what it had been in the sixteenth century made possible a significant development of local manufacturing.” This prompted the viceroy of New Spain to propose in 1794 that “the only way to destroy such local manufacturers would be to send the same or similar products from Europe, to be sold at the same or lower prices.” (5) In the nineteenth century, this conflict was represented by the struggle by the “American” party against the “European” party. Frank quotes Guizot, who, in a letter to the French Chamber of Deputies, writes:

“There are two great parties in the countries of South America: the European party and the American party. The less numerous of the two, the European party, includes the most enlightened men; those who are most familiar with the ideas of European civilization. The other party, closer to the soil, imbued with purely American ideas, is the party of the land. This party seeks to develop the region through its own efforts in its own way, without loans, without relations with Europe…” (6)

In all the struggles between these two forces in Latin America, victory went to those who defended underdevelopment and had strong ties with the imperialists. According to Frank, the United States had a very different experience, which is why the United States avoided underdevelopment:

“But, as we observed at the start of our study, the settlement of northern North America did not involve the same type of colonization and dependence as did South America’s; conditions for this type of exploitation did not exist in the North. Consequently, the class structure which developed there, based at the start on small farmers, did not present any obstacle to a development policy which permitted the Northern bourgeoisie to become strong enough to use independence to promote integrated development, to defeat the planter/exporters of the South in the Civil War, to impose a policy of industrialization and arrive at their own industrial  ‘take-off’ point and, finally, to arrive at the period of imperialism and neoimperialism.” (7)

The industrial path taken in the northern United States avoided underdevelopment and laid the basis for the transformation of the United States into an imperialist power which would come to cut out Europe and dominate all of Latin America. This continues to this day with ever new forms of underdevelopment evolving to subject the vast majority of Latin America to extreme poverty to the benefit of First World populations. Frank described this trend four decades ago:

“The inequalities of income distribution in Latin America are much greater than in developed capitalist countries or in the socialist countries. According to estimates for 1965, 20 percent of the population receives only 3 percent of all income, or an average of $60 per year in 1960 prices. The poorest 50 percent of the population receives 13 percent of income, or an average of $100 per year (in El Salvador and Brazil, $.15 and $.20 a day). The richest 20 percent of the population receives 63 percent of the national income, and the richest 5 percent among these receive 33 percent, or more than half of that income; while the richest 1 percent of the population receives more than half of that, or 17 percent of the national income. Thus 1 percent of the population of Latin America receives about one and one-third (133 percent) as much income as 50 percent of the population, or the poorest half of all Latin Americans. By comparison, the poorest half of all United States citizens receives about 24 percent, or nearly twice as much relative income (and of course, several times more absolute purchasing power), while the richest 20 percent receives 45 percent of U.S. national income…Furthermore, part of the poorest group in the United States is there only temporarily, due to cyclical unemployment, while the Latin American poor are in permanent poverty because of structural unemployment, or low productivity employment. Forty percent, or 100 million people, are permanently without the minimum income necessary for ‘minimum access to the possibilities offered by civilized life in Latin America.” (8)

The trends in inequality that Frank describes continues to exist. Today, the median income worldwide is about $2.50 a day. By contrast, a rough figure for median personal income per workday for people (working and non-working) in the United States over 15 years of age is $119. (9) Elsewhere, I write:

“All First World peoples fall within the top 20 percent of global income. Most of the world’s richest 20 percent are First World peoples. Every working person in the United States, for example, falls within the top 15 percent. A person in the United States at the US ‘poverty line’ is at the richest 13 percent globally. The top 20 percent, which includes the entire First World, accounts for three-quarters of world income. This leaves only one-quarter to be distributed to the bottom 80 percent in, mostly, the Third World. The only way that the current income levels for First World peoples are maintained is through the imperialist exploitation of the Third World. The world economy is one that directs value flows from the Third World to the First World such that the First World as a whole benefits. The only way to maintain or expand current income levels in the First World is by maintaining these flows. This is going to be the case whether a regime in the First World calls itself socialist or not. In fact, many regimes, especially in Europe, have called themselves socialist or social democratic. None of these regimes sacrificed the income levels of their populations in order to redress Third World exploitation by the imperialists.

Three-quarters of the private consumption in the world is accounted for by the world’s richest 20 percent, mostly in the First World.  Nearly all adult workers in the United States fall within the richest 10 percent. The richest 10 percent accounted for over half, 59 percent of the world’s private consumption.

The current share of First World peoples is already much larger than what would be entailed by a rough egalitarian distribution.” (10)

The inequality between the First World and Third World is the most glaring fact about our world today. Underdevelopment in the Third World is directly tied to the wealth and social peace that exist in the First World. Value is transferred out of the Third World, poverty is created in the Third World, so that First World populations can live lives of relative luxury. The value that is transferred from the Third World is distributed across socioeconomic lines in the First World. So much value is appropriated by the First World so-called working class, for example, that it has ceased to be a proletariat, ceased to be a revolutionary class, in any meaningful sense. In fact, the First World so-called working class, like the First World bourgeoisie, consumes more than its share of the global social product. Thus First World workers, like the First World bourgeoisie,  are exploiters that benefit from capitalism-imperialism. This is why First World workers continually align with their own ruling class against the Third World. The contradiction between the First World so-called working class and the First World bourgeoisie is not antagonistic. Lenin referred to this as the phenomenon of the labor aristocracy. Engels called it the bourgeoisification of the working class.

Much has occurred since Frank wrote. The First World has become so parasitic that less and less  of the First World population is  employed in production, while the same First World population consumes more and more. At the same time, industrial production has been transferred to the Third World, including Latin America. However, this industrial production does not translate into development, it is merely a new form of underdevelopment. Even though industrial production has increased in Latin America since Frank’s day, this production is controlled by and benefits imperialists and  local comprador populations at the expense of the vast majority in Latin America. For example, Mexican maquiladoras are industrial plants in the Mexican border regions that employ Mexicans at subsistence-level wages to produce goods to be consumed by First World, especially North American, populations. This is hardly a model of healthy development.

Imperialists, including First Worldist so-called Marxists often hold that imperialism can be a progressive force in the world because, according to their view, imperialism brings capitalism and development to backward parts of the world. Frank thoroughly debunks this myth. Within the international communist movement, it was both Lenin and Mao who agree with Frank and oppose the chauvinist view. Lenin held that capitalism, in its highest form, was no longer progressive, but had become decadent. Mao held that imperialism did not bring real development. Rather, imperialism stunted the healthy development of countries. In order to ensure the transfer of value from exploited countries to exploiter countries, the imperialists enter into alliances with and prop up the most reactionary comprador and feudal elements within the exploited countries. Maoists call various aspects of underdevelopment “semi-feudalism,” “comprador capitalism,” “bureaucrat capitalism.” Mao’s theory of New Democracy is an answer to this. Since the national bourgeoisie of the underdeveloped countries can no longer move forward with healthy development and build up national capital, this task falls to the proletariat and its party. Frank’s works, including this one, fills in many of the details of the traditional Maoist  analysis. It is also helpful for those trying to understand the new breakthrough of Leading Light Communism. Frank also does not shy away from the realities of revolution. The Leading Light is in full agreement with the conclusion reached by Frank:

“As they modernize Latin America’s dependence by means of reforms within their alliance for progress of imperialism, the contradictions of lumpendevelopment in Latin America are deepened and can only be resolved by the people — with the  only true development strategy: armed revolution and the construction of socialism.” (11)

Only global people’s war, led by Leading Light Communism, is capable of destroying imperialism and liberating humanity once and for all. Those, for example, in Nepal, who call off people’s war in the name of development fail to understand the most important lessons from the past.


1. Frank,  Andre Gunder. Lumpenbourgeoisie:Lumpendevelopment. Monthly Review Press. USA: 1972.  p. 17
2. Frank, p. 19
3. Frank, p. 14
4. Frank, p. 23
5. Frank, pp. 24-25
6. Frank, p. 51
7. Frank, p. 59
8. Frank, pp. 116-117
9. Amerikkkans rich, Indians poor, so-called “ICM” deaf and dumb. Monkey Smashes Heaven. August 19, 2007.
10. Prairie Fire. Real Marxism versus Fake Marxism on Socialist Distribution Monkey Smashes Heaven. August 5, 2010
12. Frank, p. 145


Book review of Malcolm Caldwell’s The Wealth of Some Nations


Book review of Malcolm Caldwell’s The Wealth of Some Nations
Prairie Fire

Malcolm Caldwell was one of the only Westerners to visit Kampuchea (Cambodia) under the “Khmer Rouge” regime. He is mostly remembered as the academic activist who was assassinated in Democratic Kampuchea on December 23rd, 1978, shortly after interviewing Pol Pot. The Western media, starved for anything that could be used to discredit the Pol Pot regime and “communism,” jumped all over the incident as yet more proof that Pol Pot, like all “communists,” was cruel and insane. The anti-communists make no distinction between real communists and revisionists like Pol Pot.  In any case, the true reasons for Caldwell’s death may never be known. Some claim, with little evidence, that the relationship between Caldwell and Pol Pot soured. They claim that Pol Pot had Caldwell killed in order to avoid the embarrassment that would result if one of regime’s most prominent Western supporters were to do a 180. Others say differently. According to some of his Western traveling companions, Caldwell continued his ardent support of the regime throughout his revolutionary tour. They say that his conversation with Pol Pot went well and that Caldwell was impressed with “Brother Number 1.” The regime’s official explanation, which got far less media attention, fits with this. The official explanation from the regime was that Caldwell was killed by a dissident, pro-Vietnamese faction in order to embarrass the regime’s leadership. The Vietnamese began their invasion of Kampuchea two days following Caldwell’s death. The “who done it” remains.  In any case, Caldwell’s death gets more attention than his life, which is unfortunate because Caldwell penned several noteworthy books and articles. Published in September 1977, roughly a year before his death, The Wealth of Some Nations was the last book he wrote.

Caldwell’s book is complex and disjointed. The book itself digresses from its main topics, and it is not always clear how the digressions tie back to the main thesis. His book feels like two or three books — a book on the development of underdevelopment inside a book on the problems of peak oil  inside a book  value and agriculture — all smushed together. This review is limited to some of the main topics Caldwell hits on. It is not exhaustive of the book’s many complex claims and digressions. The bulk of the book is a fair treatment of underdevelopment in the Third World. Caldwell rejects typical chauvinist views that see underdevelopment as a result of non-European barbarism. Caldwell specifically criticizes those First Worldists  who see imperialism as progressive:

“Even some Marxists in the West were inclined to accept the need for advanced countries to exercise trusteeship over the backward until such time as the latter might in due course catch up sufficiently to be entrusted with all the responsibilities of self-government. Some went so far as to proclaim that even when the imperialist countries had undergone proletarian revolution they would need to retain their colonies for the economic advantages they yielded: these advantages, it was said, helped sustain Western civilization, which was then seen as the sole ultimate guarantor of progress for the peoples of advanced and backward countries alike.” (1)

Like Caldwell, both Lenin and Mao rejected the line that imperialism is progressive. This is why Lenin stated that capitalist imperialism was decadent. In other words, capitalism, in its imperialist form, had exhausted its progressive potential in the world. Lenin even described the relationship between imperialism and dependency thus:

“Since we are speaking of colonial policy in the epoch of capitalist imperialism, it must be observed that finance capital and its foreign policy, which is the struggle of the great powers for the economic and political division of the world, give rise to a number of transitional forms of state dependence. Not only are there two main groups of countries, those owning colonies, and the colonies themselves, but also diverse forms of dependent countries which, politically, are formally independent, but in fact, are enmeshed in the net of financial and diplomatic dependence…” (2)

Mao too held the view that colonialism and imperialism stunted the healthy development of countries. Mao’s theory of New Democracy is conceived as a solution to the underdevelopment imposed by colonialism and imperialism. Yet the revolutionary view is often a minority one, even among those calling themselves “revolutionary,” there are many revisionists. Revisionists will tend to outnumber communists until we approach victory on a worldwide scale. Before 1917, on the world scene, revisionist social-imperialism and chauvinism ruled the day. Lenin was very marginal, for example. Today, real communism is in a similarly weak position. Fake Marxism, First Worldism, social-imperialism, social-fascism and chauvinism dominate. Whether such over-the-top chauvinism, that Caldwell describes, is asserted openly or not, these or similar ideas are implicit in the so-called Marxism of all First Worldists. First Worldists refuse to acknowledge that First World populations as a whole, including the First World workers, benefit significantly from imperialism. They refuse to admit that the quality of life of First World populations is directly connected to poverty and suffering in the Third World. Unless one is advocating  for a reduction in the quality of life of the First World, one is advocating de facto imperialism. In fact, some First Worldist revisionists deride a just redistribution of wealth and power between countries as a “revenge line.” These First Worldists reject equality between countries if it reduces the standard of living for First World workers, which, of course, it does.

Caldwell exposes First Worldism as pure fantasy by giving First Worldists a lesson in the history of colonialism and underdevelopment.  Caldwell asks why the countries of Western Europe were the principal imperialist players until the end of World War II, when the United States took over their role. Caldwell’s explanation of the ascendancy of Europe, then the United States, and the First World, adds a twist to the familiar explanations found in other quasi-Third Worldist academic activists like Andre Gunder Frank, for example. Caldwell believes that only Western European countries were able to take full advantage of the emerging markets of the late middle ages. They were situated between the cold countries of Scandinavia and the warm countries of the Mediterranean. Their geography let them take advantage of the emerging world markets. They had access to the ocean, the highways of the emerging world system. So, when they discovered the New World, they were uniquely positioned to take advantage of its wealth.

“[A]rising from the seaward expansions of the 15th and 16th centuries onwards, the countries of western Europe were able to seize and concentrate in their own coffers a wealth of plunder of a magnitude far beyond any ever before imagined… To the gold and silver looted from Latin America, to the Dutch the fortunes built on the bones of the Indonesian people, and to British booty from India,  aided in the trade of human flesh, supplying slaves to pioneering white planters and mine-owners in sparsely populated lands of recent settlement, such as the Americas. ” (3)

Caldwell quotes Ernest Mandel’s estimate that the total haul by the colonialists was over one billion pounds. This is an astonishing sum considering that as late as 1770, the British national income was a mere 125 million pounds. Leading Lights  estimate this number to be much higher. This influx of value from the plunder and exploitation of the New World was the “primitive accumulation” that allowed western Europe to make the leap to industrial capitalism. (4)

Phases of underdevelopment

According to Caldwell, there have been several distinct phases in the development of underdevelopment since the eighteenth century. The first phase lasts from the beginnings of the industrial revolution in the second half of the eighteenth century until the last third of the nineteenth century. Caldwell describes this period. Industrial production is limited to the imperial countries of Western Europe (and to their offspring in North America). Surplus value is extracted from wage labor that is employed in large-scale manufacturing. On the edge of the emerging Euro-American world economy, the countries of eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America provide an influx of value to the coffers of the industrializing countries, mostly in Western Europe. Primitive accumulation occurs in numerous forms to the benefit of the peoples in the industrializing, imperial countries and to local compradors in the colonies. From the imperial countries, manufactured goods drown the colonial world. Along with imperial policies aimed at destroying colonial manufacturing, the flooding of local colonial markets largely eliminate many pre-industrial handicrafts and emerging industries in the colonial world. The colonial economies are transformed into very lopsided economies, dominated by export of a few items. In this period, transport over long distances is not fully mastered. Because of  this, according to Caldwell, there is an opening for some countries  outside of western European world to make limited steps toward autonomous industrialization. For example, steps are taken in Russia, Japan, Spain and Italy. Elsewhere, autonomous industrialization is stunted by local compradors beholden to imperial interests.   (5)

The last third of the nineteenth century marks the beginning of the next phase, according to Caldwell. A technological revolution is taking place, especially in transport and communications: the steamship, the electric telegraph, the opening of the Suez Canal, etc. This technological revolution combines with the growing release of capital, expertise and productive capacity in the imperial countries. Virtually all populated parts of the globe are linked by a world market. Western commodities travel everywhere, destroying the remaining bastions of handicraft production and emerging  industry in the colonial world. The ability to generate vastly more capital allows the industrial countries to export capital on an unprecedented scale. This further undermines autonomous development across the colonial world. The exception here is Japan, where effective first steps were taken to prevent foreign investment. Export of Western capital stunts and aborts colonial development. Economic activity in the colonial or semi-colonial countries is subordinated to the interests of the Western imperialists. Only economic activities compatible with or complementary to imperial interests are permitted to survive in the colonial world: distribution of Western imports; purchase and delivery of small-holder cash-crop produce to Western warehouses to exit ports; clerical work in Western offices, banks, insurance; trading and agency houses, services from the domestic to hotel-keeping, bars, casinos and brothels, etc; catering to the tourist trade; some construction; land dealing; small-scale machine repair, etc.  Demand for raw materials explodes. Capital reaches out worldwide to replace older production and extraction methods.  Britain moves  directly into South Africa, the Malay states, etc. Raw materials begin a century-long downward slide in price from 1873 to 1973. Extraction of raw materials rapidly “modernizes” in the colonies. However, “modernization” of raw material extraction does not lead to developed, independent and balanced economies. Rather, it creates a situation where economies are stunted in an unbalanced and dependent pattern characterized by primary sector predominance, and by secondary and tertiary sectors specifically fashioned to facilitate imperialist exploitation of resources and labor. Because the economies of the colonial world fail to move forward, labor remains cheap. Thus the colonial world remains an attractive place for Western investors. (6)

The third phase emerges out of the “prolonged inter-war depression and the interlude between Britain’s relinquishing the reins of overall responsibility for maintaining the rules and momentum of the international capitalist economy and America’s picking them up.” (7) Technological change is accelerating, complex economic repercussions result. There is an increased conscious effort at international economic management and international economic integration for the benefit of the  imperialist countries and their compradors and mercenaries in the now post-colonial Third World. It is this aspect that is described in 1965 by Lin Biao’s Long Live the Victory of People’s War! Inter-imperialist rivalry has become less acute. Integration of imperialist interests makes it difficult for revolutionary forces to play imperialists against each other. Instead, the popular classes in the Third World stand against the First World as a whole. Rapid industrialization is increasing in much of the Third World in the post-war period. However, it is an industrialization of a particular type. Much of it undertaken by multi-national corporations in order to gain the benefits of super-exploitation of labor and resources. Such industrialization does not break the curse of underdevelopment, it only continues it. Comprador states in the Third World savagely repress the labor force using the police, military and paramilitary,  often trained and armed by the imperialists, especially the United States. There is also a rise in state-run Third World enterprises. This is a rise in what Maoists have described as the “bureaucrat-capitalist” aspect of Third World economies. Industrialization in the Third World is to the benefit of the First World, directly or indirectly. Nowhere in the Third World is there an experience of industrialization that fits the model of fully autonomous national development. Instead, what is seen is a highly specific pattern of dependent underdevelopment. (8)

Dependency in this phase has several other features. One is the reliance on foreign aid and loans, which leads to a dependence which grows over the passage of time. The imperialists giving out the aid and loans are, naturally, the ones with the power. Aid and loans come with a great deal of conditions attached. These conditions are not to the short- or long-term benefit of the recipient country. Aid and loans mostly just benefit comprador elites and the imperialist countries themselves. Aid and loans are a way that imperialists exercise increased control over their semi- and neo-colonies It is also a way that imperialists buy support in the international community. It can also be a way that they strong-arm Third World countries into granting them access to build military bases on Third World soil. Caldwell points out that aid and loans have a “hard economic purpose: construction of infra-structure vital for modern sophisticated investment projects; restriction of local credit to reduce local competition and to preclude local state activity in areas deemed profitable terrain for ‘market forces’ (namely, foreign investors) to operate in; dictation and imposition of legislation granting favorable conditions to foreign investors; and the like.” (9) Another feature of dependency in the post-World War 2 period is that the increasing scale of the economy in effective foreign hands. In places like Kenya or Malaysia, foreign-owned plantations take the lion’s share of the arable land. This creates the problems of poor and landless peasants who have a harder and harder time supporting themselves as they are squeezed out of the traditional economy. The suffering of the peasantry is only made worse by the ecological problems and famine that can result when plantation methods replace traditional farming.

Another feature is the presence of foreign advisers whose mandate is very far from the interests of the vast majority of the Third World population. These advisers can be expert personnel stationed in a Third World country to make sure that the country stays on a path that benefits the imperialists. They can be made up of foreigners from the First World countries, mercenaries, or local populations trained in the West in order to help manage the imperialist domination of their country. In the most notorious cases, advisers are military or armed mercenaries stationed in a Third World country to help maintain a dictatorial order over the local population. Or, they can provide training to or act as local “death squads” to roam the countryside and universities, killing suspected dissenters and poor peasants.  (10)

Finally, Caldwell points out that another feature is that the way that domestic capital behaves in dependent, neo-colonial industrialization is much different from its behavior in past industrializing processes. This is true for a number of complex reasons. However, the outcome is clear enough, according to Caldwell. Local capital, although participating in the industrial sector, tends to wash back into its traditional and less productive or non-productive uses, such as land speculation, usury, services, etc. A true national capital does not develop. In other words, this industrialization process is not typically moving Third World countries in the direction of First World countries. (11)

First World wealth = Third World poverty

Caldwell notes the causal links between the wealth in the First World and  poverty in the Third World:

“Once industrialization was securely launched, and the working class of the pioneering countries had begun to gain some benefit from it (partly by means of their own struggles; partly as a consequence of unequal exchange), a number of key indices edged upwards…on average, and smoothing the trends, we can see that over a long period of time in the richer countries of the world there have been improvements in the standard of living of the population as a whole. This shows up clearly when one looks at long term series of figures…” (12)

“Certain measurable socioeconomic changes have hitherto invariably accompanied development (as conventionally understood) and growth. It is not difficult to demonstrate that during the colonial period in the subject countries many of these indices were moving in the opposite direction to that associated with development. For instance, the percentage of the population in the primary sector frequently rose, as in Java. Or literacy rates fell, as in Burma under British rule. Or calorie and protein intake per capita per diem fell; this was quite common, if not universal.” (13)

“[F]rom the earliest period of European expansionism and imperialism, we should note that today an international system of ‘unequal consumption’ exists, a kind of protein imperialism, whereby the peoples of the rich countries in a literal sense take food out of the very mouths and bellies of the poor…” (14)

Just as the masses in the underdeveloped world are consigned to poverty, the populations of the “overdeveloped” world gain access to a higher quality of life. Caldwell states that “a handful of countries have been able to construct and benefit — workers and rulers alike — from an elaborate system of unequal exchange condemning the poor of the poor countries to a poverty frequently referred to by Western scholars and liberals as ‘hopeless’…” (15) Because First World workers benefit from the underdevelopment that imperialism creates in the Third World, First World workers align with imperialism against Third World popular classes. This results in the breakdown of internationalism between First World peoples and Third World peoples. Lenin called this the “split in the working class.” Caldwell quotes Arghiri Emmanuel on how, when their imperial privilege was threatened, the French workers in Algeria aligned with imperialism against the national liberation movement:

“It was the European proletariat of Bab-el-Oeud (previously a stronghold of the Algerian Communist Party) that mobilized in defense of French Algeria and supplied the OAS killers. For them it was a question of life or death. Their privilege was their quality as Europeans or whites. Algeria as a French dependency guaranteed them European, or French, wages in an underdeveloped country. They earned in a few days what an Algerian earned in a month… ‘La valise ou la cercueil’ — the suitcase (for an escape to France) or the coffin — was the saying that related to their problem alone.” (16)

This pattern is repeated again and again. Fredrick Engels referred to this phenomenon as the bourgeoisification of the working class. Lenin described this bourgeoisified, reactionary class as the “labor aristocracy.” The waged class of the First World does not constitute a proletariat in any meaningful sense. They are not a social base for socialist  or communist revolution. They are an exploiter class that receives more than its share of the global social product. Like the bourgeoisie, First World workers appropriate value created by Third World producers. Just because the exploitation is not always direct does not mean it is not exploitation. And, when First World privilege is threatened, First World workers move toward fascism, not internationalism.

Bourgeoisification of the First World population as a whole accompanies the growth of the non-productive sector, as Caldwell points out. For Marx, non-productive labor is labor that does not contribute to the global social product; it does not create value. First World peoples consume more and more, yet produce less and less. This is the growth of the First World mall economy. First World economies can be seen as akin to malls. Very little is produced at the mall. Yet many people are employed in management, in distribution, and in services. However, the value that allows the mall to exist is produced outside the mall, in the Third World. Caldwell too points out that “overdevelopment” in the First World has meant a growth in the nonproductive sector to gross proportions.

Resource entropy

Parts of Caldwell’s book feels very contemporary, some are dated. Caldwell was many decades ahead of his time in his discussion of ecological topics. Caldwell points out that the behavior of humans on their environment, the generation of energy and its allocation to human purposes, does not escape the laws of physics, especially the second law of thermodynamics, entropy.  Caldwell has an extended discussion of diminishing energy reserves, including “peak oil” and “peak coal.” In 1977, Caldwell places peak oil production “in the next 50 to 100 years.” And, anticipating the current oil wars, Caldwell writes, “as peak production approaches there must be fierce competition for control over remaining reserves..” (17) Caldwell’s prediction of the peak production years roughly corresponds with other estimates of peak production. For example, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas predicts that peak oil production worldwide is in 2010. (18) Caldwell points out that the affluence enjoyed by the First World is based on its supplies of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, all of which are declining. Caldwell makes the point that “overdeveloped countries are dependent on the continued net flow of non-renewable real resources… from the underdeveloped countries, for the populations of which this represents an obstacle to their autonomous development.” (19)

“The fossil fuels are, however, in finite supply, and while we may substitute energy derived from other sources to power machines — sources such as solar energy, nuclear power, and subterranean heat — there is no known or even theoretically conceivable substitute for the fossil fuels in enabling the production of food to remain at its present volume, a volume much in excess of the optimum ‘natural’ one which would be possible in a world unable to call upon carbonaceous reserves (fossil fuels) we are currently squandering. It follows that we either conserve — as far as possible — the remaining fossil fuels for agricultural purposes in order to postpone and make more ordered re-adjustment to a world economy independent of them.” (20)

Caldwell also makes the point that First World food production, which is unsustainable and relies on imperialism, has terrible consequences for underdeveloped countries:

“An overdeveloped country, then, is one in which the forces of production have developed to the point that, regardless of the prevailing relations of production, it must be a net importer of proteins and hydrocarbons over time if it is to maintain or improve upon a certain level and type of consumption per head of its population.” (21)

“The overall picture is roughly this. The poor underdeveloped countries as a whole annually send to the rich overdeveloped countries as a whole something like 3.5 million tons of high-quality protein (fish, oil cakes, peas, beans, lentils, etc.), while in return the overdeveloped countries ship to the underdeveloped about 2.5 million tons of gross mainly grain-based protein. Africa exports about 2.5 million tons of ground nuts; Peru fish; Mexico, Panama, Hong Kong and India shrimps; in each case at the expense of their own poor, who — the exports retained and fairly distributed — could take a giant stride towards nutritional adequacy. In contrast… Denmark imports huge quantities of oilseed cakes and grain to support livestock (for their milk, butter, cheese, meat and eggs); annually, Denmark takes 140 pounds of proteins per head of her population, three times the Danish average annual protein consumption. Here we have the typical prodigality of overdevelopment. It has been calculated that the same amount of food that feeds 210 million Americans would feed 1.5 billion Asians on an average Chinese (that is, in Asian terms, a good, adequate and nutritious) diet. Animals must consume an average of ten pounds of plant protein to produce one pound of meat protein, while for cattle the ratio is as high as 21:1, which means that every pound of steak consumed in overdeveloped countries could (in theory) provide an equal amount of protein for twenty other people. American consumption of meat absorbs an amount of protein equivalent to 90% of the world’s annual protein deficiency.” (22)

“Overdevelopment” of the First World entails terrible suffering for the vast majority of humanity in the Third World. In addition to being unjust, the current distribution of value and energy worldwide simply cannot last forever. The continued existence of the First World is  not only intolerable on moral grounds, but is intolerable to the laws of physics. First World energy use and food consumption is not sustainable. The First World, and its decadent way of life, will end one way or another.

What is to be done?

Caldwell points out that economic road of the First World is simply not available for the Third World:

“Are the countries presently intent upon attaining higher living standards really supposed to model themselves on the first industrial countries? This would entail their annexing colonies the non-renewable real resource endowments of which are yet virtually untouched. Aside from whatever difficulties might attend annexation, all that need be said is that, as a result of development of the already rich countries, no such untouched areas exist in today’s world.” (23)

“[W]hat has taken place historically in the way of a net movement on a massive scale of non renewable resources from the poor countries to the industrialized cannot be reversed.” (24)

The non-renewable resources for the Third World to develop into the First World do not exist. And, Third World countries today are, because of centuries of underdevelopment, starting with already depleted non-renewable real resource base. The world of cheap raw materials will be a thing of the past as peak production is reached. (25)

Although Caldwell is a bit of a fence sitter because he is unable to remain consistent in his criticism of the First World workers, Caldwell still has much to offer. If Caldwell were more honest, he would be a full Third Worldist. In this regard, Caldwell suffers from the same lack of courage as Hayter and other fence sitters. However, Caldwell is clearly correct in recognizing that the road to development in the Third World is armed struggle. His book concludes by describing many examples of successful, autonomous development in the Third World, especially Southeast Asia. However, Caldwell writes from a very different time. In 1977, many had not recognized the reversal of socialism that had taken place in China and Vietnam. In China, the Maoist revolution ended its forward progress in 1971 with the fall of Lin Biao, the end of the global people’s war line and the scuttling of the radical Maoist economic advance  unofficially known as the “Flying Leap.” China began aligning with the West, reversing the purges of the Cultural Revolution, and backing away from radical Maoist economics through the 1970s.  Lin Biao’s fall was the major, shattering moment. The further reversals in the 1970s were whimpers by comparison. Mao’s death and the rise of Deng Xiaoping were the final nails in the coffin. And, Vietnam’s socialism was stillborn due to the influence of revisionism and Soviet social-imperialism. At this time, when socialism was fading elsewhere, after waging a heroic war against genocidal U.S. imperialism, the Khmer Rouge seemed to be pushing forward with a radical attempt at social revolution. In 1977, Caldwell’s hope, like many others, rested with the apparent radical social proposals advanced by the Khmer Rouge. However, this hope would be revealed as misplaced when the errors of the Khmer Rouge were revealed after their regime collapsed when the Vietnamese invaded and occupied their country. Even though Caldwell was wrong in lauding the supposed “success” of the Kampuchean state, Caldwell was correct in recognizing that the way to development is armed revolution and socialism. Today, this is the path of the global people’s war, under the banner of Leading Light Communism.


1. Caldwell, Malcolm. The Wealth of Some Nations. Zed Press London: 1977 p. 51
2. Lenin, 1967, Vol. 1. pp. 742-743
3. Caldwell, p. 55
4. Caldwell, p. 55
5. Caldwell, pp. 54-59
6. Caldwell, pp. 54-59
7. Caldwell, p. 58
8. Caldwell, pp. 54-59
9. Caldwell, pp. 60-61
10. Caldwell, pp. 60-61
11. Caldwell, pp. 59-62
12. Caldwell, p. 109
13. Caldwell, p. 69
14. Caldwell, p. 93
15. Caldwell, p. 92
16. Caldwell, p. 92-93
17. Caldwell, p. 13
18. Caldwell, p. 12
19. Caldwell, p. 108
20. Caldwell, p. 13
21. Caldwell, p. 98
22. Caldwell, p. 103
23. Caldwell, p. 68
24. Caldwell, p. 68
25. Caldwell, p. 71

The Slum within the Global Countryside

The Slum within the Global  Countryside: Reflections inspired by Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums slum
Prairie Fire


“The brutal tectonics of neoliberal globalization since 1978 are analogous to the catastrophic process that shaped a ‘Third World’ in the first place, during the era of late-Victorian imperialism (1870-1900). At the end of the nineteenth century, the forcible incorporation into the world market of the great subsistence peasantries of Asia and Africa entailed the famine deaths of millions and the uprooting of tens of millions more from traditional tenures. The end result (in Latin America as well) was rural ‘semi-proletarization,’ the creation of a huge global class of immiserated semi-peasants and farm laborers lacking existential security of subsistence. As a result, the twentieth century became an age not of urban revolutions, as classical Marxism had imagined, but of epochal rural uprisings and peasant-based wars of national liberation.” (1)

Chen Boda and Lin Biao were the ones who really systematized Mao’s contributions. Chen Boda was the one who spoke of Mao’s contributions as the universal Marxism for the colonial world. Lin Biao introduced the idea that Mao’s contributions were a new stage. And it was Lin Biao who first introduced the concept of the global people’s war. World revolution was seen as a global people’s war, a wave of world revolution that spread across the global countryside to encircle the global city. This powerful metaphor has been, and continues to be, a key part of the highest revolutionary science to date, Leading Light Communism. However, the world is changing drastically. For the first time in history, the majority of humanity lives in cities, not rural areas. (2) This explosive demographic shift is part of a revolutionary change in human geography, perhaps comparable to the neolithic or industrial revolution. One of the most important implications of this shift is the growth of the global slum, especially within the global countryside, within the Third World. To change the world, we must understand it. For those seeking to make revolution in the twenty-first century, it will be necessary to understand the shifting social topographies that revolutionaries will have to deal with. The global slum must be integrated into our conception of people’s war.

The New Urban Explosion

There has been a population explosion in world, especially urban population. Today, the urbanization rate in parts of the Third World is greater than Victorian Europe of the industrial revolution was (3):sc01

According to Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums:

“The world’s urban labor force has more than doubled since 1980, the present urban population — 3.2 billion — is larger than the total population of the world when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. The global countryside, meanwhile, has reached its maximum population and will begin to shrink after 2020. As a result, cities will account for virtually all future world’s population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050.” (4)

Not all this growing population of the urban poor live in slums. (5) However, the slum-dweller is growing faster than any other demographic group. Slums have multiplied. There are more than 200,000 slums on earth. These slums can be a few hundred people or contain more than a million.sc21

There is also the phenomenon of the megaslum:sc22

Megaslums are created when shantytowns and squatter communities merge into continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the edge of urban areas. (6) Gautum Chatterjee warns, “If such a trend continues unabated, we will have only slums and no cities.” (7) Using conservative estimates, there were 921 million slum-dwellers in 2001 and more than one billion in 2005, “nearly equal to the population of the world when the young Engels first ventured onto the mean streets of St. Giles and Old Town Manchester in 1844.”  (8) In the next few years, Black Africa will have 332 million slum-dwellers, a number that will continue to double every fifteen years. (9) Gaza, considered by some to be the world’s largest slum, is an urbanized amalgamation of refugee camps. Two-thirds of the population subsist on less than 2$ a day. (10) “Of the 500,000 people who migrate to Delhi each year, it is estimated that fully 400,000 end up in slums; by 2015 India’s capital will have a slum population of more than 10 million.” (11) The majority of the world’s urban poor no longer live in inner cities, from where many have been evicted. (12) Rather, they live in the slums on the periphery of Third World cities. (13)  The new poor usually exist on the edges of cities, not in the centers.sc32

Thus the stereotypical patter of the American city is reversed. No longer is it rich suburbia on the edge of  a poor downtown. The emerging pattern in the Third World city is very different:

“[T]he principal function of the Third World urban edge remains as a human dump. In some cases, urban waste and unwanted immigrants end up together, as in such infamous ‘garbage slums’ as the aptly named Quarantina outside Beirut, Hillat Kusha outside Khartoum, Santa Cruz Meyehualco in Mexico City, the former Smokey Mountain in Manila, or the huge Dhapa dump and slum on the fringe of Kolkata. Equally common are the desolate government camps and crude site-and-service settlements that warehouse populations expelled in the course of municipal wars against slums. Outside of Penang and Kuala Lumpur, for example, slum evictees are marooned in minimalist transit camps.”  (14)

Historically, imperialism inflicts tremendous pain on the Third World, especially its countryside.  Many things cause people to move to the city to seek a better life: poverty, violence, war, etc. However, all of these existed before the modern period. Prior to the 1950s and 1960s, slums in the Third World experienced slow growth. It was only later that there was a great acceleration. To understand why slums grew so rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, it is necessary to understand why growth was slower in the first half. Even though European colonial powers were responsible for creating slums,  colonial policies were often a fetter on slum growth. Colonial policies sought to prevent peasants and refugees from overwhelming cities, which were often centers of colonial administration. Colonial policies aimed at keeping the colonial social peace. They segregated cities according to nationality, color, and class. They sought to discipline rural migrations.  When regimes of the Third World gained nominal independence and became neocolonies, some of these fetters were removed. (15) As the nature of  underdevelopment changed from mono-crop and extraction-based underdevelopment to industrialized underdevelopment, and though the process of globalization, restrictions on migrations to urban centers were lifted. Originally, in a repeat of the industrial revolution in Europe, this helped to create the workforce necessary for the new industries, which were located in urban areas of the Third World. However, soon the flood of migration outpaced the needs of industry. This created a surplus humanity and the modern slum. In addition,  neo-liberal economic policies  contributed to the rise of the new urban poor and slumification. The austerity measures and structural adjustment policies imposed on the Third World by the First World and international lending agencies, especially from the 1980s to the present, and the end of big-state, slow-growth regimes only contributed to the slumification of the Third World city.  (16)

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, SAP-enforced austerity during the 1980s reduced public investment in sanitation and potable water, thus eliminating the infant survival advantage previously enjoyed by poor urban residents. In Mexico, following the adoption of a second SAP in 1986, the percentage of births attended by medical personnel fell from 94 percent in 1983 to 45 percent in 1988, while maternal mortality soared from 82 per 100,000 in 1980 to 150 in 1988.” (17)

“The massive transfer of resources from poor African countries to wealthy Northern creditors is one of the factors that has critically weakened health care and education in the countries that are now worst affected by the pandemic [of HIV/AIDS].” (18)

“[T]he coerced tribute that the Third World pays to the First World has been the literal difference between life and death for millions of people.” (19)

Just as changes in the imperial order contributed to the new urban landscape, so too has the collapse of both real and imagined socialism. Both socialist and revisionist regimes tried to enforce an orderly relationship between town and countryside. (20) However, this mostly ended with the end of the cold war. During the 1980s, under the revisionist, capitalist regime of Deng Xiaoping, China, for example, moved away from Maoist policies that sought to eliminate the contradiction between town and countryside. The revisionists moved away from the Maoist approach of balanced development. The Great Leap and Cultural Revolution aspiration of bringing the positive aspects of urbanization to the countryside, factory production, cultural and education, and services, was largely abandoned. As part of the capitalist restoration process, the revisionists began to relax restrictions on urban growth in the 1980s. (21) The result was urban overspilling into the rural, destroying farmland. (22) Revisionist policies reconfigured the relationship of both town and countryside, but not the way that Maoists imagined during the socialist period:

“The result of this collision between the rural and the urban in China, much of Southeast Asia, India, Egypt, and perhaps West Africa is a hermaphroditic landscape, a partially urbanized countryside that Guldin argues may be ‘a significant new path of human settlement and development… a form neither rural nor urban but a blending of the two wherein a dense web of transactions ties large urban cores to their surrounding regions.’” (23)

Traditional social problems, exacerbated by neocolonialism and globalization, the end of socialism, and new emerging landscapes,  contributed to the urban explosion and the slum. There is no sign of  slumification abating in the Third World.

Cardboard, Not Glass

The new urban landscape is not the one imagined by modernists and futurists. The modern city is not a well-ordered utopia of steel and glass:

“From Karl Marx to Max Weber, classical social theory believed that the great cities of the future would follow in the industrializing footsteps of Manchester, Berlin,  and Chicago — and indeed Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Pusan, and today, Ciudad Juarez, Bangalore, and Guangzhou have roughly approximated this canonical trajectory. Most cities of the South, however, more closely resemble Victorian Dublin, which, historian Emmet Larkin has stressed, was unique amongst ‘all the slumdoms produced in the western world in the nineteenth century… [because] its slums were not a product of the industrial revolution. Dublin, in fact, suffered more from the problems of de-industrialization than industrialization between 1800 and 1850.” (24)

The global slum is born of cardboard, recycled plastic, crude brick and straw, cement blocks and scrap wood. Such materials shelter the typical urban-dweller of this century. She is desperately poor. She lives in squalor and decay, in excrement and waste, without urban planning, sanitation and services. (25) (26) If she works, the slum-dweller often has to commute long hours every day to work. Hours are spent every day just looking for water and food. (27) Life in the slum is crowded and desperate, a fight to survive. Life is cheap in the slum. Her landscape is one of make-shift shelters, shanty towns and pavement dwellers. For example, one million people live on the sidewalks, on the pavement, of Mumbai alone. (28) Also:

“In Mumbai the typical chawl (75 percent of the city’s formal housing stock) is a dilapidated, one-room rental dwelling that crams a household of six people in 15 square meters; the latrine is usually shared with six other families.” (29)

Although squatting contributed to the modern slum, the golden age of squatting has ended. Cheap spaces for the urban poor no longer exist. Today’s slum  is a rent plantation. People pay to be packed into tight spaces. Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi in Mumbai, for example, has a maximum density more than twice that of nineteenth-century New York. In Kolkata, an average of 13.4 people are crowded into each occupied room. Slums of rent-free living have been replaced by latifunda and crony capitalism. (30) New Democratic and socialist revolution of the future will take ever new forms to meet the concerns and interests of the slum-dwelling poor.

Toxins and Garbage

The slum is dangerous to one’s health. Industrial toxins, natural disasters, disease and sickness, lack of services, all contribute to the problems of the slum. One famous case is the Bhopal incident. In Bhopal, India on December 3, 1984, a gas leak killed about 10,000 people in a few days. Later, 25,000 more are estimated to have died and the over half a million who survived the initial effects are thought to have suffered from  severe aftereffects. Lung cancer, kidney failure, liver disease and other illnesses related to the accident have killed many others in the two decades since the initial gas leak. According to the government of India, 500,000 people were affected by the gas. After the disaster, Union Carbide simply abandoned the factory, leaving India stuck with the mess. Almost a quarter century since the leak, slums have grown around the site of the accident. Slums now exist side-by-side with millions of tons of toxic waste that have yet to be cleaned up. The Union Carbide factory site has yet to be cleaned up. Authorities have yet to study the effects of the remaining toxic waste on the drinking water and environment of local communities. The assumption here is that the poor of India are not worth the cost involved in removing the waste. The crimes of Union Carbide are typical examples of how First World corporations, literally, get away with murder. This pattern is repeated again and again.

The air itself is often toxic and polluted in the slum. The slum-dweller chokes on polluted air from cars, industrial production, and human waste. According to some, breathing Mumbai’s air is the equivalent of smoking two-and-one-half packs of cigarettes a day.  (31) Mexico’s pollution is also legendary. In addition to the volcanic smoke, massive human and industrial pollution, “Mexico City residents, for example, inhale shit: fecal dust blowing off Lake Texcoco during the hot, dry season causes typhoid and hepatitis.” (32)

The slum-dwelling population wades in a sea of garbage, toxins and filth. The new slum intersects with the global sanitation and water crisis. “From a sanitary viewpoint, poor cities on every continent are little more than clogged, overflowing sewers.” Kabul’s city palling director:

“Kabul is turning into one big reservoir of solid waste. If all 40 of our trucks make three trips a day, they can still transport only 200 to 300 cubic meters out of the city.”

Davis writes:

“The content of the waste is sometimes grisly; in Accra, the Daily Graphic recently described ‘sprawling refuse dumps, full of black plastic bags containing aborted fetal bodies from the wombs of Kayayee [female porters] and teenage girls in Accra. According to Metropolitan Chief Executive, ‘75 percent of the waste of black polythene bags in the metropolis contains human aborted fetuses.’”  (33)

“[D]igestive-tract diseases arising from poor sanitation and the pollution of drinking water — including diarrhea, enteritis, colitis, typhoid, and paratyphoid fevers — are the leading cause of death in the world, affecting mainly infants and small children. Open sewers and contaminated water are likewise rife with intestinal parasites such as whipworm, roundworm, and hookworm, and so on that infect tens of millions of children in poor cities. Cholera, the scourge of the Victorian city, also continues to thrive off the fecal contamination of urban water supplies, especially in African cities like Antananarivo, Maputo, and Lusaka, where UNICEF estimates that up to 80 percent of deaths from preventable diseases (apart from HIV/AIDS) arise from poor sanitation. The diarrhea associated with AIDS is a grim addition to the problem.” (34)

A billion people have no access to clean or usable or piped water, many of them are slum-dwellers. Basic amenities such as water are expensive and out of reach for many. For example, the population of Kibera slum pays up to five times for a liter of water more than the average American. (35)sc43

This contributes to a massive health crisis. Illness related to water supply accounts for 75 percent of the illness that affects humanity. (36) Roughly a third of the slum-dwelling population is ill at any given time. In any other urban context, such a figure would amount to a pandemic.  (37)  However, the suffering of the slum is largely ignored by the bourgeois world.

Worlds Apart

The slum-dwelling population lacks access to health and other services. This is part of a growing polarization in the Third World. The most extreme health differences are no longer between towns and countrysides. Rather the most extreme differentials are between the urban middle classes and urban poor. For example, the mortality rate for children under five (151 per 1000) in Nairobi’s slums is two or three times higher than in the city as a whole, and half again as high as in poor rural areas. Also in Quito, infant mortality is 30 times higher in the slums than the wealthier neighborhoods. In Cape Town, tuberculosis is 50 times more common amongst poor blacks than amongst affluent whites. (38) This growing disparity between the slum and the middle and upper strata is part of what some have referred to as a return to medieval segregation. (39)

“In Luanda, where in 1993 a staggering 84 percent of the population was jobless or underemployed, inequality between the highest and lowest income deciles ‘increased from a factor of 10 to a factor of 37 between 1995 and 1998 alone.’ In Mexico the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty increased from 16 percent in 1992 to 28 percent in 1999, despite the much-hyped ‘success stories’ of the border maquiladoras and NAFTA.” (40)

This polarization is reflected in a growth of social and economic inequalities and growing geographic separation. As the slum grows, new, oft-walled enclaves appear. These “off worlds” are sub-cities for the middle and upper strata within the city. These “off worlds” are often self-contained, American-style walled communities:

“Brazil’s most famous walled Americanized edge city is Alphaville, in the northwest quadrant of greater Sao Paulo. Named (perversely) after the dark new world in Godard’s dystopian 1965 film, Alphaville is a complete private city with a large office complex, an upscale mall, and walled residential areas — all defended by more than 800 private guards.” (41)

These “off worlds” offer a stark contrast to the poverty of the slum. (42) While the middle and upper strata stay safe, the slum population is subject to the ravages of poverty, illness, natural and ecological disasters. Revolutionaries in Peru had an expression: they carried their lives on their finger tips. This meant that they might be called to make the ultimate sacrifice at any time. Those in the global slum also live on the edge, but not by choice. Theirs is a precarious existence, where death is always near. Such conditions make for a potentially explosive, revolutionary situation, which is why the reactionaries seek to control the slum through the “soft-imperialism” non-profits, NGOs, and criminalization and militarization.

Slum Economy, Excess humanity

A city’s population size bears little relationship to the size of its economy. (43) The growth in urban population does not correspond with economic growth. Production does not necessarily increase with population. Where there is capitalist production in the slum, it is carried out under barbaric conditions.  The growing slum has sometimes resulted in a reversal of the traditional Third World economy, rather than a labor-intensive countryside and capital-intensive city, now there are capital-intensive countrysides and labor-intensive de-industrialized cities. (44) Often the worst affected by production in the slum are not  the muscle-bound proletarian, stereotypical male  factory worker, as imagined by many so-called Marxists. The worst affected are often poor women and children:

“In exchange for tiny loans and cash payments, incredibly poor rural Dalits and Muslims sell their children — or entire families — to predatory textile contractors. According to UNICEF, thousands of children in the carpet industry are ‘kidnapped or lured away or pledged by their parents for paltry sums of money.’” (45)

“Most of them are kept in captivity, tortured and made to work for 20 hours a day without a break. Little children are made to crouch on their toes, from dawn to dusk every day, severely stunting their growth during formative years.”

“The children work twelve or more hours a day, six and a half or seven days a week, under conditions of physical and verbal abuse. Starting as young as age five, they earn from nothing at all to around 400 rupees (US $8.33) a month.” (46)

The growth of the global slum looks very different than the future predicted by First Worldist so-called Marxists. Slums have become a dumping ground for excess humanity, rather than a place of prosperity. (47) The typical slum-dweller is not a factory worker. Many slum-dwellers are unproductive in Marx’s sense; they are not even an industrial reserve army of the unemployed in Marx’s sense. In other words, they are not necessarily  used to depress wages. Wages are so low in the slum that they, often, cannot really go any lower. Sometimes, as in the case with Gaza, slum-dwellers rely on relief from international agencies. The slum economy is often dominated by the informal sector, not the traditional productive sector of Marx’s original vision of the future.  (48)

“The traditional stereotype of the Indian pavement dweller is a destitute peasant, newly arrived from the countryside, who survives by parasitic begging, but research has revealed, almost all (97 percent) have at least one breadwinner, 70 percent have been in the city at least six years, and one third had been evicted from a slum or chawl. Indeed, many pavement-dwellers are simply workers — rickshaw men, construction laborers, and market porters — who are compelled by their jobs to live in the otherwise unaffordable heart of the metropolis.” (49)

Remarking on late twenty-century Mexico City, one urban planner observes:

“[A]s much as 60 percent of the city’s growth is the result of people, especially women, heroically building their own dwellings on unserviced peripheral land, while informal subsistence work has always accounted for a large proportion of total employment.” (50)

The slum-dweller is not Marx’s stereotypical, male, proletarian factory worker. According to the CIA in 2002, “By the late 1990s a staggering one billion workers representing one-third of the world’s labor force, most of them in the South, were either unemployed or underemployed.” (51) And there is no expectation that these people will be integrated into production in the near future. The slum-dweller is not typically  or principally engaged in productive labor, in the creation of value. Rather, the slum-proletarian tends to be from the marginalized, lumpen, sometimes de-classed elements, and, even, oppressed small business class. (52) In fact, in certain places in Latin America, the traditional industrial and unionized worker constitutes a relatively privileged section of the Third World population. This is one reason why it is important to separate our concepts of exploitation and proletarian from point of production, from the factory and field. While the Labor Theory of Value may provide important insight into the creation of value, a far more useful global indicator of exploitation and revolutionary potential is  the equality  measure and simple poverty.  (53) (54) With the vast majority of industrial workers now living outside of the First World, the typical First World person may not be engaged in productive labor as Marx described, but neither is an ever more important segment of the dispossessed, Third World population. (55) Revolution is the hope of the hopeless.

Global Class

Marx predicted that the trends that he witnessed during the industrial revolution in Western Europe would occur globally. He thought that society would become polarized into two great classes, the industrial capitalists and their workers. Thus, as capitalism advanced, the paradigmatic producer and impoverished person would come to be represented by the industrial worker. He saw the industrial working class as the proletariat, the revolutionary agent. Marx thought competition and development would even out from country to country. Thus revolution was a matter of “workers of the world, unite!” However, things did not work out exactly the way Marx foresaw. Even Engels began writing of the bourgeoisification of large segments of the population of wage earners. Engels said that whole nations could be bourgeoisified. In Lenin’s time, the Bolsheviks began referring to a “labor aristocracy.” There is Lenin’s famous statement that the “seal of parasitism” affected whole nations. Lin Biao offered an alternative vision of polarization: the global city versus the global countryside. Lin Biao said that the proletarian struggle in the First World was “delayed” while it was vigorous elsewhere. This polarization of the global city of the rich countries and the global countryside of the poor countries, the First World and Third World, continues. The household per-capita income differential between a rich, First World city like Seattle and a poor, Third World city like Ibadan is as great as 739 to 1. (56) “In 46 countries people are poorer today than in 1990. In 25 countries more people are hungry today than a decade ago.” (57)

Lin Biao’s conception of the polarization is still essentially correct, although it is important to take note of the growing global slum within the global countryside. The growing urban population in the Third World has tremendous implications for the global class structure. Most city dwellers in the Third World are desperately poor. (58) Roughly a quarter of all urbanites in 1988 live in “absolute poverty,” surviving on one dollar or less a day. (59) According to one expert:

“Slums, however deadly and insecure, have a brilliant future. The countryside will for a short period still contain the majority of the world’s poor, but that dubious distinction will pass to urban slums no later than 2035. A least half of the coming Third World urban population explosion will be credited to the account of informal communities. Two billion slum-dwellers by 2030 or 2040 is a monstrous, almost incomprehensible prospect, but urban poverty overlaps and exceeds slum populations per se.”  (60)

The true proletariat, the revolutionary agent, has nothing to lose but its chains. The proletariat has long since passed from the First World. The real proletariat lives almost exclusively in the Third World. Over the next century, more and more, the typical proletarian will come to be represented by the slum-dweller of the Third World. This isn’t to discount other segments of the revolutionary and exploited classes, such as the poor peasant and industrial worker in the Third World, this is only to point to the rising influence of the slum-dweller, a demographic group that is going to play more and more of a role on the world scene.

Global People’s War

Anthropologist Michael Taussig writes of the outskirts of Cali:

“It dawns on me that just as the guerrilla have their most important base in the endless forests of the Caqueta, at the end of nowhere on the edge of the Amazon basin, so the gang world of youth gone wild has its sacred grove, too, right here on the urban edge, where slums hit the cane fields at Carlos Alfredo Diaz.” (61)

Mao famously compared the guerrilla among the peasants to a fish in the sea.  If trends continue as they do, the slums will be a new sea in which  people’s warriors swim. The rise of the global slum has implications for global people’s war, just as it has implications on our conceptions of what exploitation is and who constitutes the proletariat. Mao articulated a model of people’s war that was protracted, his model of people’s war began in the countryside then advanced to surround the city. People’s war of the past was mainly a rural affair. Red zones were areas that the revolutionary forces controlled in the countryside. Within red zones, the revolutionary forces created a new state and new economy in miniature. The red zone was the Maoist adaptation of Lenin’s conception of dual power to the Third World countryside. People’s wars, along with the red zone and dual power, will have to be adapted to the global slum.  People’s wars of the future may not necessarily advance from the countryside to the city. Although the global people’s war will still move from the global countryside, which contains the global slum, to the global city.  Global people’s war will advance from the Third World to the First World. While Lenin’s warnings about overestimating spontaneity and Maoist warnings about overestimating   insurrectionary models still apply, protracted people’s war applied to the slum will be explored in the coming century by Leading Light Communists. RAND researchers commented on how slum-based resistance could have tipped the scales in El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s, “had the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front rebels effectively operated within the cities earlier in the insurgency, it is questionable how much the United States could have done to help maintain even the stalemate between the government and the insurgents.” (62) The lessons of the Iraqi resistance, both Sunni and Shia as urban-based resistance  movements, should also be studied. Air power, the favorite weapon of the imperialists, the scourge of rural guerrilla movements, is also less effective in urban contexts.

Georg Lukacs  once wrote that even if all of Marx’s individual predictions proved false, one could still be an “orthodox Marxist” because real Marxism, at its core, is simply revolutionary science. Marx was the beginning. Lenin was the first one to make the ideological breakthrough that led to the first sustained proletarian revolution. Mao was the one who made the next breakthrough. They were real revolutionary scientists despite their errors and limitations. They did not just inherit the mainstream so-called  revolutionary theories of their day. They adapted and expanded revolutionary science. They understood that Marxism is not a set of dogmatic formulas, it is a science — the science of human liberation.  Today, leftovers from the last revolutionary breakthroughs remain: “Marxist-Leninists” and “Maoists.” The forces that fly these banners today were not the ones who made the breakthroughs themselves. What is called “Marxism-Leninism” and “Maoism” today are merely an echo of the past breakthroughs. “Marxist-Leninist” and “Maoist” forces today grab the pre-scientific and popular form of these breakthroughs and run with them. These forces never grasped the scientific core, even if they applied the popularized, dogmatized form of the ideology. In some cases, the dogma works well enough so that these forces have been able to create sizable armed organizations and seize large swaths of territory in the Third World. However, the dogma is not good enough to conquer state power, let alone to reach communism. Times have changed. Old dogma won’t cut it. It is over 60 years since Mao declared the People’s Republic of China. It is almost a half century since the initiation of the Cultural Revolution. Science learns. Material reality, including the global class structure, is much different. The composition of the global countryside, with the growth of the global slum, is very different. Our conceptions of people’s war and global people’s war must evolve. Imperialists have been perfecting and advancing their science of oppression. We must advance the science of liberation to beat them. Marxism must adapt or die. Leading Light Communism is the revolutionary science of today. It is the new breakthrough.

1. Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums Verso, USA: 2007, p. 175
2. Davis, p. 1
3. Davis, p. 15
4. Davis, p. 2
5. Davis, p. 25
6. Davis, pp. 26-27
7. Davis, p. 18
8. Davis, p. 23
9. Davis,  p. 19
10.  Davis, p. 48
11. Davis, p. 18
12. Davis, p. 32
13. Davis, p. 37
14. Davis, p. 47
15. Davis, pp. 50-54
16. Davis, pp. 147-148
17. Davis, p. 148
18. Davis, p. 149
19. Davis, p. 148
20. Davis, pp. 50-54
21. Davis, p. 60
22. Davis, p. 135
23. Davis, p. 9
24. Davis, p. 16
25. Davis, p. 19
26. Davis, p. 7
27. Davis, pp. 93-94
28. Davis, p. 36
29. Davis, p. 34
30. Davis, pp. 87-93
31. Davis, pp. 133-134
32. Davis, p. 144
33. Davis, p.134-139
34. Davis, p. 145
35. Davis, p. 145
36. Davis, p. 142-145
37. Davis, p. 147
38. Davis, p. 146
39. Davis, p. 119
40. Davis, pp. 164-165
41. Davis, p. 188
42. Davis, pp. 117-118
43. Davis, p.13
44. Davis, p. 16
45. Davis, p. 187
46. Davis, p. 187
47. Davis, p. 175
48. Davis, pp. 177-179
49. Davis, p. 36
50. Davis, p. 17
51. Davis, p. 198
52. Davis, p. 179
53. Prairie Fire. Equality and Global Alignments. Monkey Smashes Heaven.
54. Prairie Fire Real versus Fake Socialism on Socialist Distribution. Monkey Smashes Heaven.
55. Davis, p. 13
56. Davis, pp. 25-26
57. Davis, p. 163
58. Davis, p. 49
59. Davis, p. 25
60. Davis, p. 151
61. Davis, p. 49
62. Davis, p. 102

Book review part 2 of 2 of Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty

Book review part 2 of 2 of Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Povertybrac_microcredit_borrowers_and_children_gazipur_district_1_500x375


Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty was first published in 1981 as a response to the World Bank’s Brandt Report. Even today, decades after it was first published, Hayter’s book is more accurate than not in its depiction of the most glaring fact about our world today, the gap between the rich and poor countries. Hayter’s book is certainly more accurate than the accounts of First Worldists. Even though Hayter may not be fully correct, the overall politics of this work are. Hayter’s work serves as a good introduction to the work of dependency theorists who have come to correct conclusions even though they, often, work within academia. Her work should be placed alongside the work of authors like André Gunder Frank, Walter Rodney, and Samir Amin. The first part of this review traced the origin of the gross inequality between countries to the beginnings of capitalism and the European colonial period. Hayter holds that Western Europe rose to dominance because capitalism first arose there and was given a boost by the influx of value from the colonial world. Thus Western Europe, then the United States, then other First World countries were able to take full advantage of all the benefits of capitalism. Thus the First World was able to propel its own development forward while it locked the colonial world in perpetual underdevelopment. This next part of this review focuses on the development of underdevelopment in more detail.

Development of Underdevelopment

Hayter considers the argument advanced by some First Worldists that even though colonization was brutal, colonization helped bring backwards parts of the world into modernity. They argue that imperialism advances the political culture and the productive forces of the colonies. Karl Marx discussed the supposed progressive role of colonialism in the Communist Manifesto, a popular work that oversimplifies historical materialism, not his most scientific work:

“The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.

Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.” (1)

First Worldists often quote Karl Marx selectively, while ignoring the Third Worldist implications of Marx’s more advanced scientific works,  in order to “justify” their “White man’s burden” arguments today. Hayter points out that others, including Mao Zedong, argued for a very different position. Mao argued that colonization and imperialism does not advance “backwards” countries. Rather, the imperialists stunt and retard the development of these countries. According to Mao, imperialists often enter into alliances with the most backward segments of the reactionary classes. Thus imperialists often prop up the most backwards aspects of Third World society. This alliance results in semi-feudal economies that hinder the development of national capital. The East India company’s role in India propped up the most reactionary feudal  and comprador elements, thus stunting development. Hayter points out that the Spanish, for example, introduced many semi-feudal forms to Latin America where such forms had not previously existed. Imperialists carved up China and propped up and allied with many of the most backward feudal and warlord elements. Mao’s theory of New Democracy was an answer to this. Mao recognized that the bourgeoisie of China was too weak to carry out its anti-feudal mission. Thus it was up to the proletariat and its party to lead semi-feudal countries in throwing off the chains of feudalism and imperialism. It was up to the Communist Party to direct society to carry out the historic tasks associated with the bourgeois class and capitalist revolution in Europe, then to go on to lead society to socialism and communism. (2)

In agreement with Mao, Hayter holds that there is nothing natural about underdevelopment. Hayter holds that underdevelopment is developed. She quotes Andre Gunder Frank on the topic:

“Contemporary underdevelopment is in large part the historical product of the past and continuing economic and other relations between the satellite underdeveloped and the now developed metropolitan countries.” (3)

Hayter also quotes Walter Rodney:

“The developed and underdeveloped parts of the present capitalist section of the world have been in continuous contact for four and a half centuries. The contention here is that over that period Africa helped to develop Western Europe in the same proportion as Western Europe helped underdeveloped Africa.” (4)

Underdevelopment did not happen by accident. It was the result of conscious policies by the imperialists. For example, in the seventeenth century, the British passed the Navigation Acts and similar laws that prohibited colonies by law from engaging in any industry that might compete with the imperialist country. Instead, colonies were expected to export the raw materials to the imperialist country where goods were manufactured and, then, sold back to the colonies. For example, British occupiers of India even lopped off the hands of Indian weavers in order to reduce domestic production of cloth and force India to buy more cloth from Britain. These policies retarded the industrial development of the colonies, turning them into export economies. In addition, it made the colonies dependent on the imperialist country for goods. Hayter describes how the British destroyed the industrial economy of India:

“One of the more notorious facts of British colonial history is that the British subsequently proceeded to destroy the industrial economy of India itself. Between 1815 and 1832 the value of Indian cotton goods exported fell from £1.3 million to below £100,000. Not only that, but the value of English cotton good imported to India rose from £156,000 in 1794 to £400,000 in 1832. By the middle of the nineteenth century India was importing a quarter of all British cotton exports. The British eliminated competition from Indian textiles through an elaborate network of restrictions and prohibitive duties. Even within India, taxes effectively discriminated against local cloth. The resulting hardship was great for the Indian weavers…” (5)

Similar policies were enacted across the colonial world. Thus “free trade” is largely a myth. However, this did not stop imperialists from invoking free trade rhetoric in order to subdue countries. China, for example, had banned the importation of opium. This outraged the imperialist drug lords. The sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, in 1842, intervened on the side of the imperialist narco-traffickers:

“The moral obligation of commercial intercourse between nations is founded entirely, exclusively, upon the Christian precept to love your neighbor as yourself… But China, not being a Christian nation… admits no obligation to hold commercial intercourse with others… It is time that this enormous outrage upon the rights of human nature [i.e. China’s refusal to buy opium]… should cease.” (6)

In 1840, the British fleet attacked China. At gunpoint, the British imposed a series of treaties on China. These granted foreigners special privileges in the so-called Treaty Ports. They forced China to cede Hong Kong, reduce duties on imports, and, eventually, the opium trade was legalized. The use of force to open up markets and subdue colonies was a common practice. (7) This pattern of imposing their will at gunpoint, opening markets with cannons, is repeated again and again in the history of the colonies.

Single-commodity export economies

Underdevelopment was developed, often, by creating economies that mainly exported one or two commodities. Colonies were reduced to producing only a few products, and, sometimes, only a single product. Whole countries were reduced to producing a single crop or reduced to mining. Whole colonies in the New World were transformed into giant sugar or tobacco plantations, for example. As part of this process, the imperialists took the best land. They transformed it from producing food crops to producing cash crops. This often required removing local populations. Indigenous peoples were often killed or forced off their land into reservations or into mountainous regions. The land that was left to the indigenous populations was too intensely cultivated or the soil too poor to sustain the populations. This also led to huge ecological damage. Hayter quotes Josue de Castro’s Geography of Hunger:

“In Africa it is not only because it cuts down local production of foodstuffs that the regime of production is ruinous to the natives, but also because it exhausts the soil by in intensifying the factors of erosion. This has happened… with monkey-nut growing in Senegal.” (8)

This continues today. When Hayter wrote, primary commodities and raw material exports accounted for 81 percent of the total exports of “low income countries.” Excluding the oil-exporting countries, more than half the Third World received more than half of their export earnings from the export of one or two commodities.  Zambia received 94 percent of its export earnings from copper, Mauritius 90 percent from sugar, Cuba 84 percent from sugar, Gambia 85 percent from groundnuts (peanuts) and groundnut (peanut) oil. (9)

In colonies, where the imperialists did not take the land themselves, they persuaded local populations to produce for the market, not for the people. This gave some strata of the local populations access to European imports. However, sometimes the populations did not care to produce to export crops or to work on estates of imperialists. When there was not a local population wiling to work, the imperialists simply imported the labor, often in the form of slaves. Even after slavery was officially abolished, these populations remained a captive workforce with little alternatives but to continue working for the imperialist plantations. One way to get local populations to produce cash crops was to simply impose a tax that had to be paid in the form of the cash crop or paid for by working for Europeans. This meant that the time and land that could be devoted to food production was reduced and that subsistence farming was deprived of able-bodied people. Another way imperialists motivated the local populations to work producing cash crops or in mines was by enacting policies that purposefully depressed living conditions. This was achieved through legal and policy means, and by buying up extra land simply to prevent it from falling into the hands of local populations. (10)  These policies had terrible consequences.

“The inexorable conversion of the dominated areas into markets for European manufactured goods and suppliers of primary commodities and raw materials for European consumption undermined not only their previous self-sufficiency in manufacturers, but also, increasingly, their ability to feed themselves.” (11)

“Although famines are not only a modern phenomenon, there are some indications that they have increased in intensity and depth. In India there appears to have been a drastic increase in deaths from famine from 1800 onwards..” (12)

“In general it is clear that a very important factor contributing to hunger is the unequal distribution of food and the money to buy it… this inequality is increasing. The colonial powers have reinforced the power of landlords or, as in the case of Latin America and Africa, to create new landlords. In India peasants have become deeply indebted to money-lenders and traders who are able to force them to sell their crops cheaply in order to obtain further credit. Such traders hoard food and sell it in times of scarcity at prices that peasants cannot afford… There is much evidence that this increasing inequality means not only that the rich are getting richer, but also that the poor are getting poorer.” (13)

Although she mentions Cuba, Hayter fails to point out that this pattern of reducing whole colonies to a single crop or product also was practiced under Soviet social-imperialism. The social-imperialists advocated what they called the international division of socialist [sic] labor. This meant that instead of developing well-rounded economies, Soviet colonies might be dedicated to one or two products to be exported and coordinated through Moscow. King Sugar, for example, ruled Cuba under both Western and social-imperialism. “Ten years after their revolution even Cubans, whose revolutionary leaders had spoken of the servitude of sugar, found themselves resorting to the chimera of the ten-million-ton sugar harvest.” (14)  Some suggest that Che Guevara  and Fidel Castro split over this issue. Che, in contrast to Fidel, called for a militant stance against imperialism; he called for “many Vietnams” across the Third World. Che objected to the application of the revisionist model, with the dependency that it entailed, to Cuba. Across the globe in Albania, Evner Hoxha, for example, was offended when Nikita Khrushchev proposed turning Albania into a giant fruit plantation to service the Eastern Bloc. Maoist China objected to both imperialists and social-imperialists reducing colonies to dependency. Instead, Maoists put self-determination at the heart of socialist economic development. Part of the Maoist breakthrough, why Maoism was the third stage of Marxism, is its quantum leap in the understanding of socialist development and the transition to communism. This set China, in its revolutionary phase, against both superpowers. Lin Biao’s Report to the Ninth Congress in April of 1969 adopted the line that revolution was the main trend in the world and that the contemporary era was the era of Mao Zedong, an era when imperialism is headed for total collapse and socialism is advancing toward worldwide victory. Maoism was the ideological leader of the global people’s war by revolutionary forces of the Third World against the First World, both imperialists and social-imperialists, and their lackeys. Maoists thought imperialism was on its last leg. Lin Biao called on people of the global countryside to rise up in a global people’s war to kill imperialism once and for all.

Another feature of underdevelopment is that underdeveloped countries have little market power. They compete in limited commodity markets like tea, coffee, sugar, or rubber. (15) Prices for their primary commodities and raw materials fluctuate greatly, especially because of commodity speculation by First World peoples.

“In the mid-1970s, the price paid for a pound of sugar dropped from 64 cents a pound to 6 cents a pound in 18 months.  Tanzania’s first five-year plan was based on a minimum world sisal price of £90; soon afterward, the price dropped to £60. In the late fifties, cocoa prices went in the US$ from $1,000 per ton one year to $400 then back to $1,000 the next, then down to less than $600… copper prices [in Zambia] took the price $3,034 in April 1974; it then fell to $1,290 before the end of the year.” (16)

Cash crops of underdeveloped countries are “false riches.” Not only do they destroy the indigenous economy and create dependency, they tend to decline in value over time. In 1960, 25 tons of natural rubber exports from Sri Lanka could be exchanged for 6 tractors. By 1970, they could be exchanged for 2. Similarly, banana prices declined 30 percent between 1950 and 1970. (17) The pattern that Hayter describes continues to exist. So-called free trade destroyed much of Haiti’s agricultural sector in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1986, Haiti imported just 7,000 tons of rice, the main staple of the country. The bulk of rice used in Haiti was grown in Haiti. After Haiti became compliant with the free-trade policies of international lending agencies, cheaper rice immediately flooded the country from the United States, where rice production is subsidized. In the United States, the state increased rice subsidies with the 1985 Farm Bill. In the United States, 40 percent of the profits of the rice industry were from state subsidies in 1987. Haiti’s peasants simply could not compete. In 1996, Haiti was importing 196,000 tons of rice at a cost of 100 million dollars a year. Haitian rice production became negligible. Once Haiti was dependent on foreign rice, prices began to rise. Haiti’s population, especially the urban poor, was devastated.  (18) Underdeveloped countries are caught in a vicious cycle. They have to produce more cash crops to continue to maintain their profits. Thus they are caught up in overproduction and declining prices. And when they can’t keep up, they have to keep imposing austerity on their peoples in order to borrow more and more. (19) The First World gets rich. The Third World gets debt, poverty and dependency.

The myths of  investment and aid

The imperialist countries exert pressure on underdeveloped countries to open up their markets to goods manufactured in the imperialist countries. Imperialists flood local markets and destroy local industries, clearing the way for imperialist monopolies. Hayter refutes the imperialist claim, common to both imperialists and some First Worldists, that the imperialists do the poor countries a favor by providing investment of capital. Hayter argues that investments in the Third World are actually a way of draining the Third World of wealth. Gunder Frank describes this process in India:

“Two of the principal instruments the British used to drain India of its capital were the railroads and debt. The railroads were not only the physical instruments used to restructure the economy in order to be able to suck raw materials out and pump manufactured commodities in along the right of way. The Indians were also obliged to pay themselves for the installation of this exploitative mechanism on their soil. And the ‘Indian debt’, to which all imaginable and unimaginable items of British colonial administration were charged, became in the particular circumstances of India one of the principal fiscal instruments for extracting the economic surplus from the colony to the metropolis.” (20)

Foreign investment is really a way of taking over or destroying local business. Gunder Frank writes:

“The railway network and electric grid, far from being net-or grid-like, was ray-like and connected the hinterland or each country and sometimes of several countries with the port of entry and exit, which was in turn with the metropolis.” (21)

Outflows from underdeveloped countries to imperialist ones increasingly exceed inflows from imperialist countries to underdeveloped ones. Hayter quotes Richard J. Barnet and Ronald E. Muller on “welfare in reverse,” “incredible as it may seem, the poor countries have been an indispensable source of finance capital for the worldwide expansion of global corporations.” Hayter points out that the capital that is “invested” in an underdeveloped country is usually raised there in the first place. On average, 80 percent of the capital invested in underdeveloped countries is raised from the underdeveloped countries themselves. (22) So much for the myth that the First World is risking its own wealth on Third World development.

Another way the imperialists bully the Third World is by attaching conditions to aid. They make “free-market” reforms a condition of loans from agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Yet at the same time, the imperialists put up barriers against “cheap imports” from the Third World. Often, trade unions in the United States lead the charge in trying to legislate “Buy American.” Hayter shows that aid is a tool used to perpetuate underdevelopment. At the time Hayter wrote, roughly 1/3rd of the flows of capital to underdeveloped countries was aid. Most of this aid is in the form of loans that come with many strings attached. Aid has played a big role, especially since World War 2. Aid is in the common interests of the imperialist and Third World comprador elite. Aid is a bribe used to make it worth their while to continue to cooperate in draining their countries of wealth. Aid is a way for imperialists to try to keep the Third World in line. President John F. Kennedy said in 1961 that “Foreign aid is a method by which the United States maintains a position of good influence and control around the world and sustains a good many countries which would definitely collapse or fall to the Communist Bloc.” In 1968, Nixon said that “the main purpose of American aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves.” Aid is used to prop up despots who will do the bidding of imperialists. Aid is used as a carrot to dangle in front of a starving country: comply and it’s yours. For example, Hayter describes how the United States sought to influence the “somewhat leftist Bangladeshi government of Shaikh Mujib, which was very ‘dependent’ on food imports but was not a the time very co-operative, to co-operate. In 1974 between 27,000 and 100,000 Bangladeshi died in.. a manmade famine.” Hayter quotes a source, “[the] primal source of the crisis lay in the breakdown of the import programme… The United States appears to have opted for a dramatic demonstration of the awesome power of food politics.” Aware that Bangladeshi society was on the brink, the United States purposefully delayed its normal commitments of food aid. Thus the United States strong-armed Bangladesh’s government to revise its investment policy in favor of the private sector. To add insult to injury, the United States continued to hold back food because Bangladesh continued to have economic relations with Cuba. In the end, Shaikh Mujib was murdered, probably with the help of the CIA, and replaced by one of his more  compliant colleagues. (23)

A whole ideology of development has been created to give philanthropic cover to the imperialists and patriotic cover to the compradors in the underdeveloped countries. People in the United States often say how they are the most giving people in the world. People in the United States are often dumbstruck: Why do the Third World peoples hate us so? Why are they such ingrates? Why do they bite the hand that feeds them? Third World comprador elites tell their people that they are partners with the imperialists in bringing development. “We can live like people in the United States too,” they say. They condemn rebel organizations as anti-patriotic and primitivist for blowing up railroads and power-lines. The reactionary ideology of development over the class struggle, of aspiring to the First World,  the Theory of Productive forces, was key in reversing socialism in China in the 1970s. Hayter thoroughly exposes the myth of aid and the false promises of the First Worldists.

Workers and value transfer

The development of underdevelopment locked Third World workers into the kind of precarious existence that Karl Marx described in the Communist Manifesto. Unlike their First World counterparts, Third World workers are forced to exist at subsistence or sub-subsistence levels. One method of keeping down incomes for workers in the Third World was to make sure that, although wages might provide for bare subsistence of the workers themselves, the cost of providing for them in old age or in sickness and of providing for children was not borne by the employers or state, but by others.  This continues to be used today. Multinational corporations, especially those that, in special low-wage zones, manufacture consumer goods bound for rich countries pay wages that are a fraction of those paid to workers in the rich countries themselves. Such companies pick and choose among workers. They use women, children and apprentices. Often, these workers are landless and severely impoverished. They have no alternative but to seek employment in the “formal sector” of the economy until they are no longer useful. They take them at their fittest and fire them when they are worn out. They leave them in the “informal sector” in the slums of cities to take care of the needs that they or their families may have. Thus the employers and state are freed from the burden of providing for them. Parallel to this is the brain drain in the Third World. Third World countries, often Third World states, educate and train highly skilled personnel like doctors or engineers. Yet these personnel leave to practice their trade in the First World. Thus the Third World ends up paying for their training and provides for them when they are not working. All the benefit goes to the First World. All of this drains the Third World and creates a situation where cheap labor is available. Massive unemployment, under-employment, migration from impoverished rural areas, refugees fleeing conflict, all contribute to this situation that is exploitable by the corporations. In addition, attempts to collectively resist or rebel against these conditions have been met with brutal repression: lynching, massacres, death squads. Thus exploitation through low wages today has its roots in colonial policy of the past. (24)

Leading Light Communists often note that workers in the Third World fit Karl Marx’s description of the proletariat to a T. Third World workers truly have nothing to lose but their chains. They have been separated from traditional means of subsistence such that they only have their labor-power to sell. They only make enough in wages to keep themselves alive from day to day. They work day-in-day-out, doing grueling or mind-numbingly repetitive labor, often for 10-14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. By contrast, First World workers live lives of luxury. They often have or have access to houses, large durable luxuries like cars, computers, televisions, stereos, ovens, refrigerators. They also enjoy huge wardrobes, toys for their children, running water, sanitation, etc. Many have investments. They have relatively pleasant work environments, weekends off, vacations, etc. They have more in common, both politically and culturally, with their own bourgeoisie than they do with the  Third World proletariat. In addition, workers in the First World receive exploiter-level incomes; they receive more than their share of the global social product. First World workers have much more to lose than their chains. They align with their own ruling class and imperialism against the Third World. Hayter also notes the great disparity in wages between the First World and Third World. She notes that some imperialists are very aware of the connection between the domestic peace in the First World and underdevelopment in the Third. The arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes wrote in 1896:

“I was in the East End… and attended a meeting of the unemployed. I listened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for ‘bread’, ‘bread’, ‘bread’, and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism… My cherished idea is a solution for the social-problem, i.e. in order to save 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we, colonial statesmen, must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced by them…The empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question.” (25)

Also, the communist Palme Dutt wrote in the 1950s:

“The imperialist economy of Britain is a parasitic economy. It is increasingly dependent on world tribute for its maintenance. By the eve of the first world war close on two-fifths of British imports were no longer paid for by exports of goods; and this proportion had risen still higher by the eve of the second world war… By 1951 [the import surplus] had soared to a total of £779 million.” (26)

Value flows to the First World raise living standards there, creating social peace bought at the expense of the Third World. There must be mechanisms, besides plunder, that transfer value from the Third World to the First World. Hayter points to Arghiri Emmanuel’s classic book Unequal Exchange and Samir Amin’s Accumulation on a World Scale for possible explanations:

“[T]he theory suggests that, since exports of underdeveloped countries are produced at very low wages and their imports of mainly manufactured goods from Europe and North America are produced at higher wages, the exchange is an unequal one. Samir Amin, in Accumulation on a World Scale, has made quantitative estimates of the amounts transferred in this way. He says that: underdeveloped countries got $35,000 million for their exports in 1966; allowing for differences in productivity which were much less than differences in wage rates, they would have got an extra $22,000 million if their workers had been paid at the rates prevalent in the developed countries; and this amount is about equal to the underdeveloped countries’ total investment.” (27)

Hayter suggests that another way to look at this is to say that this involves goods produced at a low level of technology exchanged with good produced at a high level of technology. Those with higher levels of technology have an advantage in the market, just as skilled workers have an advantage over unskilled workers. Those with higher levels of technology can command greater prices for their products, just as skilled workers can. First Worldists often use this argument to justify why First World workers deserve more than their Third World counterparts. They say that First World workers are akin to skilled workers, and therefore deserve more. Of course Marx argued against the First Worldists that productivity of producers (bracketing for a moment the fact that very few in the First World produce!) should not be tied to entitlement. Do not capitalists always argue, like the First Worldists, that they are not idle, but contribute highly skilled mental labor to production? Do not superstar CEOs argue that they are the big-idea people without which the whole enterprise would fail? In any case, this is moot because it is a myth that First World workers are more productive than Third World workers. The United States Tariff Commission reported in 1973 that levels of productivity are the same in similar types of industry. (28) In fact, as Hayter points out, the productivity of labor in underdeveloped countries, or the amount produced at a particular time, is increasingly recognized as similar to that in developed countries. Since machinery is often inferior or secondhand in the Third World, and Third World workers have worse working environments, are paid substantially less, work longer, etc., it can be argued that Third World workers are more productive than First World workers. (29)

Against Arghiri Emmanuel, Hayter argues via Charles Bettelheim that within the current system of capitalism-imperialism merely lowering wages in the First World is unlikely to help Third World workers because that would result only in more profit to the capitalists, not a higher standard of living for Third World workers. While this may or may not be true, it must be pointed out that raising wages in the First World is likely to result in less of a share of the social product for the Third World. Any increase in the share of either exploiter class in the First World is likely to have negative consequences for the Third World. Although there are contradictions between First World  exploiters, for example, between First World capitalists and First World workers, these contradictions are not antagonistic. Both First World capitalists and First World workers, even though they contend against each other for an increased share of the social product, are exploiter classes. Thus both classes align with each other, and capitalism-imperialism, against the Third World. This is why Leading Light Communists don’t involve themselves in wage struggles in the First World. The struggle over wages in the First World is, almost always, a struggle between two exploiters. No matter who wins the wage struggle, the Third World loses. However, Hayter fails to point out that under socialism, the wealth of the First World can be redistributed to the Third World to the benefit of the vast majority of humanity and to the loss of the exploiter classes in the First World, including First World workers. In fact, to fail to redistribute the global wealth to the detriment of First World populations as a whole is to de facto support continued imperialism. This is why so many revisionist are really social-imperialists despite their internationalist rhetoric. In addition, it must be pointed out that socialism would necessarily entail a reduction in First World consumption simply because current consumption levels are not sustainable ecologically. To continue to allow the First World to consume as it does is not only to continue the super-exploitation of the Third World workers, but also puts the future of humanity at risk.

Our world today

Many of the trends that Hayter describes exist to this day, three decades after the original publication of her book. However, in the past decades, underdevelopment has taken new forms. Although Hayter’s book does a good job describing the creation of poverty in the Third World, there is a big gap in her book: it only describes one side of the process. She describes how the theft of its value affects the Third World, but fails to describe how this process has radically alters First World society. She fails to describe, in detail, the wealth and domestic social peace that the First World receives from its domination of the Third World. She fails to describe the rise of the mall economy that has really taken off in the past few decades. Leading Lights have described this phenomenon:

“Global society has not polarized exactly in the way that Marx foresaw. Instead, there exist different configurations of class society across countries. In some countries, there are very few direct producers at all. These are First World mall economies. Factories no longer dominate the lives of First World peoples. In fact, only a small percentage of people in the First World work in factories anymore. A far greater number are employed in management, services, etc. This can be described in Marx’s terms as a decline in the percentage of the population engaged in productive labor, labor that adds to the total social product. Many First World economies can be described as a mall writ large.  Nothing, or very little, is produced at the mall. Yet people are employed managing, transporting, securing, etc. goods that are produced elsewhere but are sold at the mall.  It is the influx of goods from outside the mall that keeps the mall afloat. Production is going on outside the mall, in the Third World. It was the evaporation of direct production, and along with it the evaporation of revolutionary consciousness, that caused Friedrich Engels to write of the bourgeoisification of the English working class on the back of India and the world.” (30)

Although she extols a vague concept of “socialism,” by failing to fully explore the relationship of the domestic situation of the First World to underdevelopment in the Third World, Hayter fails to understand that socialism must entail a very radical transformation of First World society. The First World standard of living is not sustainable materially or ecologically. A socialist redistribution of wealth worldwide will entail the drastic lowering of the incomes and standard of living of First World peoples. First World workers will not be allowed to live high off  surplus created by Third World peoples. The First World consumer culture and current level of energy consumption, which is neither just, desirable, nor ecologically sustainable, will not exist under socialism. She fails to understand the New Power as the dictatorship of the proletariat of exploited countries over exploiter countries. If Hayter wrote this book today, she would be a fence sitter. Often, fence sitters embrace Leading Light Communism on an intellectual level, but fail to have the political courage to go all the way. They fail to make the leap to real, Leading Light Communism. We must remember the Jacobin lessons of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Communists must be willing to go to extremes, to go all the way.


1. Marx, Karl. The Manifesto of the Communist Party. * It is interesting how often First Worldists invoke Marx’s more popular works, his oversimplifications, against Leading Light Communism. Yet, when confronted by Marx’s more advanced, scientific works, like Capital, with its Third Worldist implications, First Worldists have no response. See: Prairie Fire’s “Revisiting Value and Exploitation.”

2. Hayter, Teresa. The Creation of World Poverty. Third World First. Great Britain: 1990. . pp. 37-39
3. Hayter, p. 38
4. Hayter, p. 38
5. Hayter, p. 48
6. Hayter, p. 20
7. Hayter, p. 52
8. Hayter, p. 54
9. Hayter, p. 69
10. Hayter, pp. 59-63
11. Hayter, p. 53
12. Hayter, p. 57
13. Hayter, p. 57
14. Hayter, p. 67
15. Hayter, p. 67
16. Hayter, p. 68
17. Hayter, p. 67
18. Review of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Eyes of the Heart. Monkey Smashes Heaven. June, 10 1910.
19. Hayter, p. 67
20. Hayter, pp. 75-76
21. Hayter, pp. 75-76
22. Hayter, p. 77
23. Hayter, pp. 86-87
24. Hayter, pp. 59-63
25. Hayter, p. 71
26. Hayter, pp. 71-72
27. Hayter, p. 64
28. Hayter, p. 97
29. Hayter, p. 107
30. Prairie Fire, Revisiting Value and Exploitation. Monkey Smashes Heaven. June 11, 2010.

Book review part 1 of 2 of Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty

Book review part 1 of 2 of Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty african-slum1


The most glaring fact about our world today is the tremendous gap between the wealthy countries and the poor countries. This division of global society is sometimes referred to as the First World versus the Third World, the global city versus the global countryside, the West versus the East, the North versus the South. In one form or another, the conflict between these populations has been the principal contradiction in the world since at least the end of World War 2. First published in 1981 as a response to the World Bank’s Brandt Report, Teresa Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty details the origins of the great global divide. Hayter’s book is part of a large body of political economy that took off in the post-World War 2 era. Often, this political economy was influenced by Maoist and Third Worldist world views. Although there are a few moments when she loses her nerve, and ends up sitting on the fence, the politics of the work as a whole are thoroughly Third Worldist. Hayter’s book can be placed alongside the work of other economists who have reached Third Worldist or quasi-Third Worldist conclusions, such as André Gunder Frank and Samir Amin.

Inequality between First and Third World

Even though her book was originally published in 1981 and, then, republished in 1990, much of its description of the world remains more correct than not today:

“The North including Eastern Europe has a quarter of the world’s population and four fifths of its income; the South including China has four billion people — three quarters of the world’s population but living on one fifth of the world’s income.” (1)

“Wage rates in underdeveloped countries are often one twentieth to one thirtieth of those in the richer countries for the same type of work.” (2)

“According to the estimates in the World Development Report, the average adult literacy rate in 1975 in the 18 most industrialised countries was 99 per cent; in the 38 ‘low income’ countries it was estimated to be 38 per cent. Average life expectancy in 1978 was 74 years in the former group and 50 years in the latter. The proportion of children of school age in secondary schools in 1977 was, respectively 87 per cent and 24 per cent. The average daily calorie supply per head in 1977 was, respectively, 3,377 (or 131 per cent requirements) and 2,052 (or 91 per cent of requirements). The population per doctor in 1977 was 630 in the former group and 9,900 in the latter… Energy consumption per head in the former group in 1978 was 7,060 (kilograms of coal equivalent); in the later it was 161.” (3)

Little has changed since 1981. The vast inequality between the First World and Third World continues in 2010. For example, the median income worldwide is about $2.50 a day. By contrast, a rough figure for median personal income per workday for people (working and non-working) in the United States over 15 years of age is $119. In addition, there are more people earning less than $0.80 a day in India than there are people in the United States. In addition, this disparity of income is greater than these daily figures indicate because Indians often work more hours per day. (4) And, conditions are not getting better. For example, since last year, 100 million more people have slipped into hunger. The number of hungry people has recently risen drastically in the Third World. Hunger  has risen 11 percent in the past year. The number of hungry people is estimated to have reached 1.02 billion according to a recent United Nations report. (5) Hayter notes that those living in the most dire circumstances were increasing when her book was written. She comments that, excluding the  Soviet and socialist blocs, there were 700 million destitute people at the time her book was written. Almost 40 per cent of the population of developing countries was destitute. (6)

“In some countries one child in four dies before the age of five. Millions of people live in houses or huts made of corrugated iron, cardboard boxes and other ‘impermanent’ materials. They have no running water and no toilets. Electricity is a luxury. Health services are rarely within walking distance, and have to be paid for. Primary education may be available and free but often children are needed for work. There is generally no social security or unemployment pay, and many people, some 300 million according to the ILO, are without any kind of employment. Trade union rights and organisation are often minimal or non-existent and severe repression by government authorities is the rule rather than the exception.” (7)

The destitute, the wretched of the Earth, are currently a very dynamic population. Since her book was published, there has been a major demographic shift. For the first time in history, more people live in cities than not. However, the city life that exists is not that predicted by utopian futurists. This urbanization has resulted from the growth of Third World megacities with huge slum dwelling populations. The destitute have grown to enormous proportions in these slums. In many cases, the new destitute are not completely integrated or integrated at all into economic production. There are huge pools of what Karl Marx called the industrial reserve army. They are expendable people surviving on the very edges. However, their very existence ensures that there is always a pool of workers for capitalists to exploit. And, their existence as a large potential labor pool ensures that wages will be depressed to near survival or sub-survival levels in much of the Third World.  The growth of this class has accompanied the industrialization and shift in production to the Third World. Along with this comes the deindustrialization of the First World. This class, despite its idleness, plays an important role in the global economy. So large and dynamic is this new slum dwelling group, that these populations are a potential security concern for imperialists and their Third World proxies. These dispossessed classes may very well be the front line soldiers of future people’s wars in the Third World.

Hayter’s picture of the world, even though two decades old is, more accurate than the narrow conception of contemporary First Worldists Most First Worldists focus on their own population to the exclusion of the global population. They fail to realize the true size of the gap between the rich countries and poor countries. They fail to connect the status of one to the status of the other. They fail to connect the domestic situation in the imperialist countries to the global class structure. Such tunnel vision by First Worldists is chauvinist and imperialist.

Historic Origins of Inequality

Hayter shows that the traditional bourgeois explanations for the origins of inequality are false. Such explanations are grounded in racist and imperialist assumptions: inequality is a result of the natural superiority of Europeans; is a result of weather, according to such a view, hot weather makes one lazy; is a result of the superior Protestant work ethic of Northern Europe; etc. Similar chauvinist explanations are offered by First Worldists. In order to justify the continued standard of living of the First World working class, First Worldists refuse to look at the origins of the great wealth enjoyed by the populations of the imperialist countries. Hayter makes the point that reality matters, that history matters. To ignore the real history of the formation of global inequality is to accept the racist, imperialist narrative.

Hayter points out that Europe arrived late on the world scene. One theme of Marco Polo’s work was how advanced China was compared to Europe at the time. As late as 1793, the Emperor of China informed King George II that China had everything it needed and had no use for English products. In 1498, in India, Raja of Malabar sent a message to the King of Portugal saying much the same thing. Europe was a backwater. The accumulation of wealth in Europe and North America, including their technological and industrial advance, are relatively recent. In the nineteenth century, with the industrial revolution, the great advance in British, then other European, North American and later Japanese wealth and productive capacity occurred. Hayter points out that the rise of what Fredrich Engels called the bourgeoisified working class and Vladimir Lenin called the labor aristocracy is a recent phenomenon:

“[S]tandards of living for working people in Europe were precarious at the beginning of the twentieth century.. But throughout the last two centuries there have been slow gains in the strength and organisation of the European and North American working class, against the vigorous resistance of the state and employers, and it cannot be denied that their situation now is in comparably better than it was in the nineteenth century, and than it is still for workers and peasants elsewhere.” (8)

Hayter links the change in the global position of the West to many factors. Five centuries ago, European expansion began overseas. Trade, plunder, slavery, and piracy in the “New World” filled the coffers of Europe. Much of what passes for “free trade” is really plunder. This influx of wealth provided some of the primitive accumulation of capital that would help speed up capitalist development in Britain, then elsewhere. In other words, the infusion of wealth from the New World propelled capitalism forward where capitalism existed in Europe. Those countries where capitalism developed first could take full advantage of the infusion of capital. Spain, although having a larger influx of plundered wealth from the Aztec and Inca civilizations, could not take full advantage of the infusion of wealth since Spain lagged behind other countries in terms of capitalist development. Hayter points out that capitalism reaches its fully developed form in Britain in the nineteenth century. However,  the beginnings of the factory system were seen as early as the sixteenth century. As early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, agriculture in Britain became increasingly capitalist. Capitalism resulted in a massive expansion of productive capacity and technological innovation. Production became more social and scientific. The idle were drafted, often against their will, into production. Goods could now be produced on a mass scale, and for much cheaper.  Capitalism resulted in a higher output per producer. (9) Hayter’s explanation correctly combines elements of those who point to the role of the infusion of capital from the New World and those, such as Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood, who point to capitalism’s roots in agrarian Britain.

Hayter’s book is an excellent introduction for those researching the origins of inequality between countries in the modern period. Even though Hayter wavers in her Third Worldism from time to time, her book is undeniably Third Worldist in its overall conclusions. The gross inequality that characterizes our world is not natural. It has a long history that is well described by Hayter. The ascendancy of First World and the poverty of the Third World is not a mystery. The development of the European and other First World countries is directly linked to the underdevelopment of the Third World. Hayter’s The Creation of World Poverty helps us understand this connection in its complexity. Hayter’s book also serves as an introduction to much of the literature of dependency theory, unequal exchange, etc.  To better understand the world is to better be able to change it. If the proletariat of the Third World is to succeed in its historic mission, its leadership must bring the most advanced science to bear in making revolution. Science is key to revitalizing the Global People’s War of the Leading Light.


1. Hayter, Teresa. The Creation of World Poverty. Third World First. Great Britain: 1990. p. 16
2. Hayter, p. 18
3. Hayter, pp. 17-18
4. Amerikkkans rich, Indians poor, so-called “ICM” deaf and dumb. Monkey Smashes Heaven. August 19, 2007.
5. One billion go hungry.. socialism is better than capitalism. Monkey Smashes Heaven. June 28, 2009.
6. Hayter, p. 18
7. Hayter, p. 18
8. Hayter, pp. 27-29
9. Hayter, pp. 33-35
10. Hayter, pp. 37-39
11. Hayter, p. 38
12. Hayter, p. 38
13. Hayter, p. 48
14. Hayter, p. 20
15. Hayter, p. 52
16. Hayter, p. 53
17. Hayter, p. 57
18. Hayter, p. 57
19. Hayter, p. 54
20. Hayter, p. 69
21. Hayter, p. 67
22. Hayter, pp. 59-63
23. Hayter, p. 64
24. Hayter, p. 97
25. Hayter, p. 107
26. Hayter, p. 66
27. Hayter, p. 67
28. Hayter, p. 68

Book review: The Cleanest Race (2010) by B. R. Myers

Book review: The Cleanest Race (2010) by B. R. MyersThe-Cleanest-Race-9781933633916


The Cleanest Race (2010) is a must read for those trying to understand northern Korea. Ultimately, the book aims to influence US policy toward northern Korea in order to further imperialist ends. In that sense, it is a book by the enemy for the enemy. Even so, the book represents a real, very rigorous attempt to get to the bottom of how northern Korean society thinks. The book is cutting-edge thinking from the CIA wing of US imperialism, from liberal imperialism. For Leading Lights and anti-imperialists, the book is worth reading because it is important to know thy enemies and to know thy friends. The enemy is not all thumbs. The book is an example of contemporary literary and cultural analysis in service to imperialist policy makers. Even if the outlook of the book is fundamentally imperialist, even if it is organized around a set of imperialist questions, the book, in many respects, demonstrates an understanding of northern Korean ideology that is far more advanced than those orthodox “Marxist-Leninists” who defend northern Korea as their own. The book confirms the Leading Light’s position on northern Korea: Though it should be defended from imperialist attack, northern Korea is not a communist-led society, it is not socialist. Northern Korea’s regime is a monarchy that serves  one segment of the national bourgeoisie. Power there passes from father (or parent — more on this later) to son. The Cleanest Race shows that, even though it is a monarchy, the regime has some unique and surprising features that do not easily fit with preconceived notions. The book seeks to refute the cliches that northern Korea is “the last Stalinist state” or that it is a Confucian, patriarchal despotism. According to the author, northern Korea is unlike the Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe. Instead the book claims that northern Korea’s ideology is a racial one much more akin to the fascist states of World War 2. Although the author may overstate his case on some points, the book itself is an important piece of a puzzle. It increases our understanding of how northern Koreans see the world and how some of their more enlightened, liberal adversaries are coming to understand them.

Imperialists don’t get it, neither do orthodox “Marxist-Leninists”…

In the tradition of liberal imperialism, the author dispels the crudest lies about the northern state. The author  makes the point that the regime is, despite crude Western propaganda, a genuinely popular one. The sensationalist accounts promoted by the southern Korean regime, of dissidents who hire themselves out to the Western propaganda apparatus,  and other reactionaries, are dismissed by the author. The author admits that the regime is a plainly popular one; it had mass support even in the crisis years of the famine. Even so, external realities are slowly pushing the regime closer toward a legitimacy crisis:

“What is more, this ideology has generally enjoyed the support of the North Korean people through good times and bad. Even today, with a rival state thriving next door, the regime is able to maintain public stability without a ubiquitous police presence or a fortified northern border. Sensationalist American accounts of the ‘underground railroad’ helping North Korean ‘refugees’ make it through China to the free world gloss over the fact that about half of these economic migrants—for that is what most of them are —voluntarily return to their homeland. The rest remain fervent admirers of Kim Il Sung if not of his son. Though we must never forget the men, women and children languishing in Yodŏk and other prison camps, we cannot keep carrying on as if the dictatorship did not enjoy a significant degree of mass support. How significant? Enough to make the regime desperate to hold on to it. I intend to argue, however, that this support cannot be sustained for long, because what the masses are taught—especially in regard to South Korean public opinion—is coming increasingly into conflict with what they know to be true. It is the regime’s awareness of a pending legitimacy crisis, not a fear of attack from without, which makes it behave ever more provocatively on the world stage.”

The author describes migrants from northern Korea:

“Even among the few North Koreans who have left the country and stayed out, a heartfelt admiration for the Great Leader is mainstream. (I personally know migrants who still cannot talk of him without tearing up.”

In place of cliches, the book asks imperialist policy makers to take a new look at their subject matter. The author observes that the Western world is not interested in ideology. True enough. Americans know as much about Islamism after 9/11 than they did before it. Even with the 9/11 attacks, policy makers believe that the end of history is at hand and that the age of the big idea is over. Western liberalism is, so the story goes, the highest form of society. The ideology, the personality cult, in the view of many, could be nothing but a cynical tool used by the northern regime to create obedience. Northern Korean leaders could not actually believe such nonsense. The idea that ideology does not matter, that the northern Korean ideology is patently absurd, is a big obstacle in understanding the regime. Liberals believe that ideology must be epiphenomenal. Nothing so absurd as northern Korean ideology could influence its state’s decisions on the world stage. A similar criticism could be made of those “on the left” who advocate on behalf of the northern Korean regime. While the Pyongyang watchers put too little emphasis on ideology, the collection of Korean Friendship circles, internet Juche-ists, friendly leftist scholars, and others put too much emphasis on the regime’s official statements of ideology, its statements about the so-called “Juche Idea” and its statements crafted for an external readership. Just as the imperialists get it wrong when it comes to northern Korean ideology, so do many of those who elevate the obtuse speeches or works of Kim Il-Sung as the leading ideology of the regime. Just as those who dismiss the role of ideology will never understand the logic of the regime either will those who take the regime’s proclamations about “Juche” at their word. Juche, according to the author, is, at best, window dressing. To understand the regime and society it is necessary to dig deeper:

“Unfortunately a lack of relevant expertise has never prevented observers from mischaracterizing North Korean ideology to the general public. They call the regime ‘hard-line communist’ or ‘Stalinist,’ despite its explicit racial theorizing, its strident acclamation of Koreans as the world’s ‘cleanest’ or ‘purest’ race. They describe it as a Confucian patriarchy, despite its maternal authority figures, or as a country obsessed with self-reliance, though it has depended on outside aid for over sixty years. By far the most common mistake, however, has been the projection of Western or South Korean values and common sense onto the North Koreans. For example: Having been bombed flat by the Americans in the 1950s, the DPRK must be fearful for its security, ergo it must want the normalization of relations with Washington…. In this book, therefore, I aim to explain North Korea’s dominant ideology or worldview—I use the words interchangeably—and to show how far removed it is from communism, Confucianism and the show-window doctrine of Juche Thought. Far from complex, it can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader. More must be added perhaps, if only to explain that ‘therefore’ to an American reader, but not much more of importance. I need hardly point out that if such a race-based worldview is to be situated on our conventional left-right spectrum, it makes more sense to posit it on the extreme right than on the far left. Indeed, the similarity to the worldview of fascist Japan is striking. I do not, however, intend to label North Korea as fascist, a term too vague to be much use. It is enough for me to make clear that the country has always been, at the very least, ideologically closer to America’s adversaries in World War II than to communist China and Eastern Europe. This truth alone, if properly grasped, will not only help the West to understand the loyalty shown to the DPRK by its chronically impoverished citizens, but also to understand why the West’s policy of pursuing late Cold War-type solutions to the nuclear problem is doomed to fail.”

Just as “Marxism-Leninism” and Confucianism are neither northern Korea’s real ideology,  Juche or “self-reliance” isn’t.  Despite proclamations of the regime to the contrary, despite much pomp, Juche is not its real ideology. Juche is described correctly as a “sham” doctrine by the author. The works of Juche, the writings of Kim Il-Sung, are convoluted, repetitive, and banal. Despite official praise of the works to the skies, the works are filled with little that is original. And what is true in the works are banalities repeated in better style by many others throughout history:

“The official worldview is not set out coherently in the leaders’ writings. These are more often praised than read. So-called Juche Thought functions at most as an imposing row of book-spines, a prop in the personality cult. (A good way to embarrass one’s minders in the DPRK is to ask them to explain it.) Unlike Soviet citizens under Stalin, or Chinese under Mao, North Koreans learn more about their leaders than from them.”

The propagandists of the regime are very good at their jobs, the clumsy thoughts and prose found in the works of Juche are not meant to be read seriously. They are to be admired from afar, proof that Kim Il-Sung is a great thinker, just like Mao. This is by design. In addition, the Northern Korean Central News Agency’s English-language press releases do not represent the worldview of the regime either. According to the author, domestic propaganda aimed at northern Koreans differs significantly from the image that is projected worldwide:

“Too many observers wrongly assume that the (North) Korean Central News Agency’s English-language releases reflect the same sort of propaganda that the home audience gets. In fact there are significant differences. For example, where the DPRK presents itself to the outside world as a misunderstood country seeking integration into the international community, it presents itself to its own citizens (as I will show later) as a rogue state that breaks agreements with impunity, dictates conditions to groveling U.N. officials, and keeps its enemies in constant fear of ballistic retribution. Generally speaking the following rule of thumb applies: the less accessible a propaganda outlet is to the outside world, the blunter and more belligerent it will be in its expression of the racist orthodoxy.”

According to the author, there is a big disconnect between what the regime projects and its deeper ideology. In order to understand the regime and its ideology, it is necessary to go beyond the clumsy banalities found in the works of Kim Il-Sung and the official press releases meant for the outside world. It is necessary to look at the propaganda diet that northern Koreans are actually fed. It is necessary to look at the history of those ideas in northern Korea. This is the key to understanding northern Korea, according to the author.

Imperial Japanese origins of northern Korean ideology

According to the author, Korea has a long history of xenophobia. Even so, Korean nationalism is more recent. Koreans historically saw themselves as part of the edge of the great Chinese cultural realm. This state of affairs existed for many centuries. This began to change when, in 1905, the Japanese established a protectorate over the peninsula. Annexation followed in 1910. Patriotic opposition grew toward the Japanese conquest until on March 1, 1919 in Seoul, Korean nationalists read a declaration of independence. A nation-wide Korean uprising was followed by a brutal crackdown by the Japanese. The mess caused the Japanese to reevaluate their strategy. The Japanese decided to change their game plan to avoid further rebellions. Rather than fight Korean nationalism, they would now try to cultivate it. They would promote Korean nationalism within the context of Korean-Japanese unity. The new message was: Koreans should be proud to be Korean, as Koreans are part of the greater Japanese people. The Japanese now promoted Korean-language media outlets. The Korean-language media spread the message of Korean-Japanese unity. Korean intellectuals and celebrities promoted the Japanese message that “Interior [Japan] and Korea as one body.” The Japanese co-opted Korean patriotism by asserting that Koreans and Japanese shared the same ancient racial progenitor. The peoples were part of the same ancient family, the same ancient bloodline. As early as the 1920s, the Korean upper and middle classes and celebrities were speaking Japanese fluently. Marriages between Koreans and their Japanese colonizers were socially accepted, such a marriage was “perhaps even a mark of distinction.”

“But even while these writers glorified the emperor, they urged their countrymen to cherish their Koreanness. In romance novels frail Japanese women fell in love with strong Korean men, much as they still do in South Korean films and dramas. Illustrations in newspapers and magazines showed girls in traditional hanbok costume waving the Japanese flag, and Confucian gentlemen in horsehair hats standing proudly by their newly recruited sons. The regime stimulated pride in ‘peninsular’ history for imperial ends, encouraging Koreans to reclaim their ancient territory by settling in Manchuria. One writer invoked the elite hwarang soldiers of the Silla dynasty to whip up fighting spirit. Another called on young men to ‘demonstrate the loyalty of a Japanese citizen and the spirit of a son of Korea’ by volunteering to fight in the ‘holy war’ against the Yankees. As the historian Cho Kwan-ja has remarked, these collaborators regarded themselves as ‘pro-Japanese [Korean] nationalists.’”

At first, the author informs, there were some nationalist efforts to resist the Japanese co-opt of Korean nationalism. Nationalist writers revived interest in the legend of Tan’gun, the mostly forgotten progenitor of the uniquely Korean people described in works dating from 1284. Tan’gun established a Korean bloodline distinct from that of the Japanese in the eyes of the nationalists. One writer pointed to Mount Paektu, a volcanic mountain on the Chinese border, as Tan’gun’s birthplace. Even though the nationalists were trying to oppose Japan, this Korean ideology was a carbon copy of the Japanese one. Tan’gun replaced the ancient Japanese emperors. Mount Paektu replaced Mount Fiji. By the 1930s, however, the ideological resistance to the Japanese had mostly crumbled among the nationalists. When dissidents were rounded up in the early 1930s, most did an about face. Whether they had been communists, nationalists or libertarians, the author states, most began to support the pro-Japanese order. Even though the middle and upper classes, intellectuals and celebrities, supported the Japanese war as part of the same Korean-Japanese racial team, little of this propaganda reached the illiterate lower classes. As World War 2 progressed, the burden fell heaviest on the poor as Japanese demands for soldiers, workers, prostitutes, etc. increased. Even near the end of the war, Korean papers wrote: “If our destiny is thwarted in this war… it would be a tragedy for all mankind.. We must win.”

The US dropped two atomic weapon in the summer of 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died in this warcrime. The Japanese empire stood defeated. The Soviets occupied the northern part of Korea. The Soviets set out to create a Soviet-friendly people’s democracy similar to the states of Eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army. However, unlike other places, according to the author, little effort was made at decolonization of hearts and minds by the Soviet or American authorities. The persecution of collaborators, the author informs, was greatly exaggerated by later accounts:

“Contrary to South Korean left-wing myth, which the American historian Bruce Cumings has done much to nurture, almost all intellectuals who moved to Pyongyang after liberation had collaborated with the Japanese to some degree. Several who had done so with special enthusiasm, like the novelist Kim Sa-ryang, had been virtually run out of Seoul. The North was more and not less hospitable to such collaborators. As a history book published in the DPRK in 1981 puts it, ‘the Great Leader Kim Il Sung refuted the mistaken tendency to doubt or ostracize people just because they … had worked for Japanese institutions in the past.’ Kim’s own brother, it is worth remembering, had interpreted for Japanese troops in China.”

Collaborators were mostly welcomed back into the post-war fold. The author informs that the post-war regimes needed them. After all, the Soviet effort to build a people’s democracy in the north was hindered by the lack of a left-leaning population, especially a left-leaning intelligencia. Prior to the Soviet occupation, the north of the country was a haven of conservatives and Christians. The Soviets moved quickly to install the Workers’ Party into leadership, transferring ownership of the media outlets in 1945. The Soviets sought to establish the legitimacy of their order in the peninsula at a mass rally on October 14, 1945:

“Among the Koreans who took the podium that day was Kim Il Sung, a Pyongyang-born thirty-three-year-old who had attained the rank of captain in the Red Army. Although Kim had sat out the Pacific War in the USSR, he had earlier fought against the Japanese as a commander in Mao Zedong’s army, acquiring brief renown in 1937 for an attack on an imperial outpost just south of the Yalu River. For better or worse Kim was the closest thing to a resistance fighter the Koreans had. He is said to have wanted a military career, but the Soviets, finding no more appropriate person to work with, persuaded him to assume leadership of the new state. Yet Kim was by far the least educated of all the leaders in the socialist world. His spotty schooling had ended at seventeen, and although he had spent a year at an infantry officer school in the USSR, it is unlikely that he understood enough Russian to grasp anything theoretical. None of his writings evinces an understanding of Marx. Equally ignorant of communist ideology were the guerilla comrades who comprised the core of Kim’s power base. Andrei Lankov, a prominent Korea researcher, has written that ‘with the exception of the Soviet Koreans, no top cadres had undergone training in … Marxism- Leninism.’ It is no wonder that instead of guiding the cultural scene in ideological matters the party allowed itself to be guided by it.”

It would not be until 1948 that the Workers’ Party received its own crash course in Marxism-Leninism. In the meantime, artists, writers, and intellectuals, many of whom had been collaborators, were expected generate support among the masses for the new regime. The cultural elite fell back into what it knew. Their work bore similarities with the racial outlook that existed when the Japanese occupied the country, albeit with some important differences:

“Having been ushered by the Japanese into the world’s purest race, the Koreans in 1945 simply kicked the Japanese out of it. The legend of the ancient racial progenitor Tan’gun, which Korean nationalists had failed to popularize during the 1920s, came almost overnight to be regarded as historical truth. Japanese symbols were transposed into Korean ones. Mount Paektu, hitherto known only as the peninsula’s highest peak, suddenly attained a Fuji-like, sacral status as the presumed place of Tan’gun’s birth. Much of the Japanese version of Korean history—from its blanket condemnation of Chinese influence to its canards about murderous Yankee missionaries—was carried over whole.”

Unlike other racial ideologies, the northern Korean racial purity and moral superiority did not necessarily translate into superiority in other areas:

“No physical superiority over other races is claimed. Propaganda freely acknowledges, for example, that Americans are much taller. Nor is superior intelligence asserted with any real conviction, though Kim Jong Il has described Koreans as ‘sensible’ and ‘prudent,’ and propaganda acclaims the will power they show in the face of adversity. To be uniquely virtuous in an evil world but not uniquely cunning or strong is to be as vulnerable as a child, and indeed, history books convey the image of a perennial child-nation on the world stage, wanting only to be left in peace yet subjected to endless abuse and contamination from outsiders. Films and novels routinely show invaders mistreating Korean children.”

Greater racial and moral purity does not translate into greater material wealth. As the information wall between the North and South has weakened, the author states that it is common knowledge in northern Korea that southerners are wealthier in material terms. According to the author, the northern regime does not derive its legitimacy from the level of consumption it provides. The author informs that the drastic drop in consumption following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the famine of the 1990s did not drastically affect the stability of the regime as some Pyongyang watchers anticipated. With a rival regime in the south able to provide its population with greater consumption, the northern regime, less able to provide, will, according to the author, fall back on its racial ideology to justify its existence and its claims to military prowess. Getting aid from the West was only a side benefit to displays of northern military strength in recent years. The more important reason for the displays was to prop up the regime’s legitimacy at home.

The Korean racial ideology from which the regime derives its legitimacy is very different than the racialism of  the Japanese occupation. Gone is the tone of a regime bent on conquest and the subjugation of  others. Although there is a kind of wish-fulfillment depicted in posters of northern Korean soldiers and missiles obliterating the US.

“This racialism is utterly irreconcilable with Marx and Lenin; not for nothing was the DPRK almost as isolated from the rest of the East Bloc as it still is from the West. But while drawing a clear line between North Korean ideology and communism, we should not overlook that which distinguishes the former from Japanese and (even more so) German fascism. The Text has never proposed the invasion of so much as an inch of non-Korean territory, let alone the permanent subjugation of foreign peoples. This is not to say that it does not propose military action against the US either as a pre- emptive strike or as revenge for past crimes. (I have already mentioned the wish-fulfilling posters of the US Capitol being blown to pieces.) But this is not the same as wanting to re-shape the world. Where the Nazis considered the Aryans physically and intellectually superior to all other races, and the Japanese regarded their moral superiority as having protected them throughout history, the Koreans believe that their childlike purity renders them so vulnerable to the outside world that they need a Parent Leader to survive. Such a worldview naturally precludes dreams of a colonizing or imperialist nature.”

The author states that purity of the Korean blood does not, according to the ideology, allow the northern Koreans to be world conquerers as the Japanese imagined themselves to be. Rather, their pure blood has historically made them victims until the arrival of the Leader and his protective embrace. According to the author, the propagandists portray Koreans as innocent and childlike in a world of monsters. Their purity was a weakness in the hostile sea of the less pure. There racial virtue had made them too pure for the world until the Leader’s arrival:

“The new racial self-image manifested itself clearly in stories of Soviet-Korean friendship written and published in the late 1940s. Writers depicted ailing men and women being carried to hospitals on the backs of Russian nurses and female doctors. Lest anyone miss the symbolism, the heroines were explicitly compared to mothers, the locals to children… The genre was evidently meant to flatter the Soviets with the implication of faithful subservience, and at the same time to plead for motherly protection of a race too pure to survive on its own. These tales should not, however, be misread as asserting the moral equality (let alone superiority) of the Russian people… so it is that only the child race is inherently virtuous; foreigners can at best do the occasional good deed.”

The author continues:

“Like the blood-based Japanese nationalism of the colonial era, the new Korean nationalism went hand in hand with the slavish imitation of foreign models and an often contemptuous indifference to indigenous traditions. In his speechifying Kim declared servile tribute to the USSR’s ‘superior’ culture. Literary critics  tossed around Soviet catchwords—“typicality,” and so on—in an effort to cut down their rivals on the cultural scene. University students scrambled to learn Russian, the new linguistic ticket to social status.”

To appease the Soviets, the regime would project Soviet-style “Marxism-Leninism” as needed. And, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the regime has dropped mention of “Marxism-Leninism” for the most part if not entirely. Neither the works of Marx or Lenin are allowed to be read without special permission. Similarly, the author states, Juche is just another face projected, often, for external consumption. The actual ideology that governs the regime’s domestic propaganda machine is a racial one that has little to do with real Marxism. If the author is correct, then Pyongyang watchers and Korea’s self-styled orthodox “Marxist-Leninist” friends are both wrong. If the author is right, then  — surprise, surprise — then the ones who have the best understanding of the regime in its own terms  are the weird circles of internet fascists, third positions, nationalists, and video game enthusiasts. This is not to say northern Korea is fascist, it isn’t. It is a bourgeois-nationalist state in the Third World that has come into conflict with imperialism, especially US imperialism. It is a society that has suffered terribly under the jackboot of the United States. The author makes a compelling case that imperial Japan’s fascist ideology has been transformed, modified in many ways,  in Korean hands into a tool that, at least at times, has served to resist American, Western, and Soviet fascism and imperialism albeit in limited ways. Whereas the Japanese regime a century ago used the dualism of racial purity versus impurity, cleanliness versus filth, toward imperial ends, northern Korea does so to thwart the efforts of northern Korea’s imperialist enemies.

A tale of two Great Marshals…

Kim Il-Sung, according to the author, took on many of the characteristics of the Japanese emperor. Just as Hirohito was depicted in white clothing, symbolizing racial purity, so is Kim Il-Sung. Just as Hirohito was depicted against a backdrop of white mountains and pure snow, so is Kim Il-Sung. Just as Hirohito is depicted on a white horse, so too is Kim Il-Sung. Later, Kim Jong-Il would be depicted in many similar ways. Even Pyongyang itself is a white city filled with white plazas and marble. Kim Il-Sung was dubbed “the Great Marshal,” the exact title used by Korean collaborators to designate Hirohito in the war years.

Kim Il-Sung’s biography was rewritten. Instead of living in the Soviet Union, he was now depicted as spending the Pacific War years fighting from a secret base on Mount Paektu, the birthplace of Tan’gun, mythological progenitor of the Korean race. Contrary to popular belief, Koreans had not always venerated the peak. The author states that veneration of Mount Paektu began in the 1940s in the north and decades later in southern Korea. Kim Jong-Il’s biography, as heir to the Great Leader, would be re-written also. He was now born, like Tan’gun, on Mount Paektu though he was really born in the Soviet Union. Later, the regime would claim to have excavated the tomb of Tan’gun outside Pyongyang, furthering establishing a link to the ancient racial progenitor. “As one propagandist recently put it, Kim Il Sung is ‘the symbol of the homeland.’”

The author informs that the cult in northern Korea differs significantly from Marxist cults. It has far more in common with fascist cults of personality. Stalin and Mao were both depicted as teachers. Marxist authority was, at least to a large degree, depicted as derived from their mastery of revolutionary science. The cult of the Kims, by contrast, derives from their embodiment of ethnic virtues: Kim “is the most naïve, spontaneous, loving, and pure Korean—the most Korean Korean—who ever lived.”

According to the author, the regime’s propagandists, in accord with the racial view, stress that the Leader’s virtues are inborn rather than acquired. They do this by stressing his impeccable lineage. Kim Il-Sung’s grandfather is said to have led a famous attack on a US warship in 1866. His father Kim Hyŏng-Jik is portrayed as a resistance fighter, even if enthusiasm for him is somewhat lacking. The invented link to the legendary Tan’gun, his birthplace on Mount Paektu, and resting place at Pyongyang are also significant. The young portrayals of the Leader’s virtue also underscore that his traits are innate and, ultimately, racial. This lineage is also carried by Kim Jong-Il and, now, Kim Jong-un.

“A wall poster photographed in September 2009 bears the lyrics of the song under a legend congratulating the masses on being blessed not just with the General, but with ‘the young General Kim Jong Un’ as well. The latter, whose title is written with a different Korean word for general (taejang) than the one applied to his father (changgun), is described as carrying on both the ‘bloodline of Man’gyŏngdae,’ i.e. of Kim Il Sung’s birthplace, and ‘the bloodline of Mount Paektu,’ i.e. the birthplace of Kim Jong Il. This roundabout way of indicating his parentage seems to reflect the regime’s sense of awkwardness in celebrating someone whose very existence was kept secret for so long. The song itself, with its puerile onomatopoeic refrain, adds nothing to our knowledge of the young man.”

The Leaders, beginning with Kim Il-Sung, are presented as ideal types, according to the author, of a child race. This runs into problems with depicting the Leader as, well, uh, as a leader:

“One may well ask how a leader can pose as the embodiment of naivety on the one hand and a brilliant strategist and revolutionary on the other. In the 1940s and 1950s writers made ludicrous efforts to explain away this contradiction, claiming, among other things, that Kim’s best ideas came to him in his sleep. The propaganda apparatus soon realized it would be better simply to divert public attention elsewhere. While the leader’s genius and invincibility on the battlefield are accorded all due praise, only his ethnic virtues— his naivety, his purity, his spontaneity and solicitude—are constantly shown in action.”

This is also why, according to the author, the regime cannot be considered a patriarchal Confucian one. Even though the Korean race is portrayed as a child too innocent for the world, the Leader is portrayed not so much as a father figure, but as a motherly figure in many instances. According to the author, the motherly wins out over the fatherly qualities in northern Korean ideology, especially when depicting the Leader.

Motherland, Mother Party, Mother,  child race

The author argues that the cult of the Leader, so central to the regime, is not a cult of the father, but a cult of the parent where the maternal is emphasized more then the paternal. For domestic consumption, “Motherland” is preferred over “Fatherland.” Kim Jong-Il himself stated: “The homeland is everyone’s mother … [from whose] bosom all true life and happiness springs.” A mythological Mother Korea, informs the author, plays an important role in the ideology. It was on this peninsula that, thousands of years ago, one of the first distinct races, the Koreans emerged. Tan’gun later arrived to create the Korea nation with Pyongyang as his capital. Over the hundreds of years since, Korea had been subjected to invading forces, Chinese, Japanese, American. Even so, northern Korean purity survives intact, according to the state mythology. It is only when a great leader emerges that the innocence and purity of the race becomes a source of strength in this narrative. Since the arrival of the Kim dynasty, northern Koreans can be free to indulge their childlike instincts. They can  be Korean  in peace.

Similarly,  the Workers’ Party of Korea is referred to in maternal terms. The Rodong sinmun newspaper explained the metaphor in 2003:

“The Great Ruler Comrade Kim Jong Il has remarked, ‘Building the party into a mother party means that just as a mother deeply loves her children and cares warmly for them, so must the party take responsibility for the fate of the people, looking after them even in the smallest matters, and become a true guide and protector of the masses.’”

The following is an excerpt from “Mother” (Ǒmŏni), one of the country’s best-known poems:

“Ah, Korean Workers’ Party
At whose breast only
My life begins and ends;
Be I buried in the ground or strewn to the wind
I remain your son, and again return to your breast!
Entrusting my body to your affectionate gaze,
Your loving outstretched hand,
I will forever cry out in the voice of a child,
Mother! I can’t live without Mother!”

Just as there is the Motherland, and the Mother Party, there is the Mother herself, as leader. In depictions of his guerrilla days, the young Kim Il-Sung is not pictured in combat. Instead, his motherly qualities are emphasized. Kim Il-Sung is depicted as plump. He usually “appears between battles, fussing cheerfully over his soldiers’ food and well being.” Even his wife, Kim Chong-Suk is depicted in a more martial role in her position as bodyguard. He, unlike Lenin, Stalin and Mao, does not personify the triumph of intellect and will over the instincts. Kim Il-Sung did not need to pose as an ascetic or intellectual. Motherly qualities have been even more emphasized in the depictions of Kim Jong-Il. The Leader’s designation is pointedly androgynous. He is mostly referred to by the hermaphroditic designation “parent,” as in “Parent Leader” (ŏbŏi suryŏng).  Even so, his maternal qualities are always at the fore, according to the author. His maternal side is praised far more often. Kim Jong-Il himself has long said that the key to his father’s success was his motherly qualities, which had manifested “even in his teenage years.”

This motherly side is often depicted in how Kim Il-Sung approaches problems:

“Indeed, the Leader’s published remarks are always trite: ‘Rainbow trout is a good fish, tasty and nutritious.’ Foreigners who mock these platitudes fail to realize that the content of Kim’s guidance is not as important as the time and effort he takes to administer it. (In many pictures of these visits, he is merely listening with a smile.) After all, to impart consciousness and discipline to the child race would be to make it less pure and childlike, which must never happen. Nor could Kim pose as an educator or disciplinarian without seeming an imperfect embodiment of Koreanness. In short stories, the emotional climax comes after Kim’s breezy solution of the problem, usually in a scene in which he fusses over someone in the adoring throng who looks cold or tired. It is this loving attentiveness on the part of the world’s busiest man that moves the characters to tears, and is meant to make the reader cry too. Even when Kim is referred to as Father Leader (abŏji suryŏng), therefore, there is nothing Confucian or patriarchal about him. In a short story called “Father,” for example, he neither exercises authority nor imparts wisdom, but rushes an injured child to hospital. The official encyclopedia praises the story in maternal terms, describing “the Great General as the loving parent who holds and nurtures all Korean children at his breast.”

His motherly breast is a recurring theme in northern Korean art and literature. Depictions in art often exaggerate the size of his chest to make him, physically, more woman-like. Northern Korean soldiers and children are depicted burying their faces in his breast. His face too is depicted soft, pale, and woman-like. “In one illustration he is tucking children into bed. The title of another, “The Parent Leader General Kim Il Sung Holding the Children of Mt. Ma’an to his Breast,” speaks for itself.” The first verse of a northern Korean children’s song:

“The Leader came all the way to the sentry post
And held us affectionately to his bosom
So happy about the warm love he bestowed on us
We buried our faces in his bosom
Ah! He is our parent! Ah! A son in his embrace Is happy always, everywhere!”

Depictions of the masses as forever infantile alongside depictions of the Leader as an intuitive caregiver has little in common with the official ideologies and state-promoted myths that existed in true communist-led regimes. Although the care-giver aspect may exist to various degrees in Marxist cults, the masses are regard as the true heroes and leaders, not as children.  The reality of northern Korea’s ideology is also very different than what is professed, in a very poor style, by the sham ideology of Juche.

The author speculates that this may protect the regime:

“This has much to do with the far greater psychological appeal of nationalism itself, but Kim Il Sung’s peculiarly androgynous or hermaphroditic image also seems to exert a far more emotional attraction than any of the unambiguously paternal leaders of Eastern Europe were able to… This may explain why Jesus and Buddha are far more feminine and maternal figures in the popular imagination than in the original scriptures of Christianity and Buddhism. The North Koreans’ race theory gives them extra reason to want a leader who is both mother enough to indulge their unique childlikeness and father enough to protect them from the evil world… Interestingly enough, the absence of a patriarchal authority figure may also have helped the regime preserve stability by depriving people of a target to rebel against. C. Fred Alford has written, ‘In ‘society without the father’ … everything just is, nature-like in its givenness, so that it does not even occur to one to rebel, just as one does not rebel against the mist.’ Perhaps it is no wonder that the propaganda apparatus decided to make the country’s next leader even more of a mother than Kim Il Sung had been.”

In a patriarchal world, it may be more difficult for the masses to direct their displeasure at an androgynous or even motherly leader than a fatherly one. In such a world, it is harder to think of a mother as an adversary, especially a worthy adversary. There may be a tendency to write off the problems of the regime as beyond mother’s control. Mom cannot be blamed after all. The “que sera sera”-style  comments of Kim Jong-Il only reinforce the author’s point.

The Cultural Revolution in China

People all over the world were looking toward China for inspiration. A quarter of humanity was standing up to embark on a radical social course to try to eliminate all oppression, end all exploitation, end all class, to reach communism. The Cultural Revolution was a storm. Chinese students began criticizing Kim Il-Sung as a revisionist just across the border. The northern regime sought to protect itself.  Propagandists in northern Korea further inflated the cult to out pace Mao’s. Northern Korea sought to insulate itself from any potential storms inspired by China. Mao, of course, had a much more genuinely impressive resume than Kim Il-Sung:

“The personality cult also played a vital role in garnering support for the regime. With the young Kim Jong Il at its helm, the propaganda apparatus made sure that the cult kept pace with its Chinese counterpart. Mao’s renown as a poet, for example, inspired the DPRK’s cultural apparatus to ‘revive’ revolutionary plays, hitherto unmentioned, which Kim Il Sung had allegedly written during his youth. It was also ‘remembered’ that in the 1930s the General had taken his partisans on an Arduous March every bit as heroic as Mao’s Long March. And if Mao had routed the Japanese without foreign help, then by golly, so had Kim. This last claim necessitated the withdrawal of countless reference works and school books that had paid fawning tribute to the Soviet Red Army.”

It was in this context that the sham of Juche was born. One of Kim Il-Sung’s advisers, a self-styled philosopher named Kwang Chang-yop, persuaded the leader to entrust him the task of creating a philosophy. In September, 1972, Juche was revealed to Japanese journalists:

“Establishing the subject/juche means approaching revolution and construction with the attitude of a revolution and construction with the attitude of a master. Because the masses are the master of revolution and construction, they must assume a master’s attitude in regard to revolution and construction. A master’s attitude is expressed in an independent position and a creative position. Revolution and construction are endeavors for the sake of the masses, and endeavors that the masses themselves must carry out. Therefore, in reshaping nature and society an independent position and a creative position are called for.”

The author comments:

“Only when talking of Juche Thought does the regime express itself in this peculiar style, which is far too repetitive and dull not to be so by design. It recalls a college student trying both to stretch a term paper to a respectable length and to discourage anyone from reading it through. Far more concise and stirring language is used to espouse the true ruling ideology of paranoid nationalism. Though Juche Thought is enshrined in the constitution as one of the country’s guiding principles, the regime has never shown any indication of subscribing to its universal-humanist bromides: ‘man is the master of all things,’ ‘people are born with creativity and autonomy,’ etc. I do not mean to imply that if an ideology is not lived up to, it is ipso facto a sham. (Judged by that standard, no ideology will ‘scape whipping.) But Juche is not even professed in earnest, and no wonder; its central notion of the masses’ mastery of their fate runs counter to the sacrosanct notion of a uniquely vulnerable child race in the Leader’s protective care. Koreans must thank him, after all, even for what they earn by their own labor.”

The author continues:

“The pseudo-doctrine of Juche continues to serve its purpose all the same. It enables the regime to lionize Kim Il Sung as a great thinker, provides an impressive label for whatever policies it considers expedient, and prevents dissidents from judging policy on the government’s own ostensible terms. Just as importantly, it decoys outsiders away from the true dominant ideology. Instead of an implacably xenophobic, race-based worldview derived largely from fascist Japanese myth, the world sees a reassuringly dull state-nationalism conceived by post-colonial Koreans, rooted in humanist nationalism conceived by post-colonial Koreans, rooted in humanist principles, and evincing an understandable if unfortunate preoccupation with autonomy and self-reliance.”

Mao was a genuine man of the people. Mao was a genuine intellect. It was said of Mao that, while not a technical thinker, he is a deep thinker. People all over the world who seek a revolutionary, new world, read Mao’s works, looking to the questions and approaches found in them. By contrast, Juche was not designed to be read, but designed to convince — by way of book spines and verbosity — the childlike population of the regime (and naive onlookers) that its leader was as great as Mao. In part, this is the origin of the sham of Juche.

In orientalist style, enemies and friends alike stand stupefied before Juche:

“But how could foreign scholars read the English-language versions of the official Juche discourse without realizing how empty it is? One answer is that by the time those texts started appearing in the 1970s, North Korea’s allegiance to the mysterious doctrine was already accepted overseas as fact. Another answer is that the very incoherence, dullness and evasiveness of Juche convey to the postmodern Western reader an impressive difficulty. Now this, he thinks, is what an ideology should look like, as opposed to the race-based nationalism espoused in the DPRK’s schoolbooks, films and paintings, which is too crude and direct to be taken seriously. Even scholars aware of the triteness of the Juche discourse assume there has to be more to it than meets the eye. The historian Bruce Cumings, in apologetic desperation, concludes that it is ‘inaccessible to the non-Korean.’ As if North Koreans were not as baffled by it as everyone else! The regime’s decision not to publish a comprehensive Juche treatise under Kim Il Sung’s name turns out to have been a stroke of genius. Whatever one reads, one is always left thinking the profound stuff must be somewhere else.”

The emperor has no clothes.

Despite superficial similarities, the Maoist outlook in China was very different than that of the northern Korean regime. Both regimes put on extravagant displays that involved masses of people. Both regimes elevated personality cults. While both emphasize collectivism, the collectivism are of two very different varieties. Even in those years where the personality cult was the greatest in China, the collectivism was never a kind of narrow, racial nationalism witnessed in northern Korea. The Chinese leadership made an effort to show China’s ethnic diversity. Mao and the Chinese leadership took a humble stance toward their foreign guests. Mao would extend his hand to the smallest of communist parties in the world. Just as Black-leader Robert F. Williams was honored by standing alongside with Mao and Lin Biao from Tiananmen, the Chinese leaders were also honored to have met the emissary of North American revolution. The Chinese press was very worldly, always emphasizing the importance of struggles all over the world. By contrast, the northern Korean regime often portrays foreigners as coming to pay tribute to the Leader. The Maoist personality cult was much more in the Marxist tradition of leader as teacher. Mao himself once remarked that he only wanted to be remembered as a teacher. The goal of communists is to raise the people up, to elevate the best in them, to help them become capable of leading. Eliminating the division of labor between leadership and led is an important part of reaching classless society. By contrast, the northern Korean cult is there to protect the purity and innocence of a child race. The Marxist personality cult seeks to empower the masses to make them masters of their own destiny, the northern Korean cult, says the author, seeks to preserve their ethnic identity as an innocent, child race. The author comments:

“Believing that ‘the people is an eternal child,’ as the French revolutionary Saint-Just famously remarked, Lenin saw the communist party’s raison d’être in forcing it to grow up. The Soviet party posed as an educating father, as did the dictator who so famously talked of the need to “re-engineer” the human soul. A leading American scholar of Stalinist culture has shown that the so- called spontaneity-consciousness dialectic forms the master plot of socialist realist fiction. Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel Was Tempered (Kak zakalyalas’ stal’, 1936), for example, tells how a party cadre, armed with the teachings of Lenin and Stalin, educates a headstrong youth into a politically conscious ‘positive hero.’

In contrast, the DPRK’s propaganda is notably averse to scenes of intellectual discipline. Because Koreans are born pure and selfless, they can and should heed their instincts. Often they are shown breaking out of intellectual constraints in a mad spree of violence against the foreign or land-owning enemy. Cadres are expected to nurture, not teach, and bookworms are negative characters. In short: where Stalinism put the intellect over the instincts, North Korean culture does the opposite. When a sympathetic British documentary about life in the DPRK entitled A State of Mind (2004) was shown in Pyongyang, the authorities changed the title to ‘Maŭm ŭi nara’” or The Country of Heart.”

Rather than seeking to overcome the contradiction, the division of labor, between between leader and led, northern Korea propaganda codifies the importance of the leader over the masses. Even at the highest point of Mao’s cult, there was the promotion of the theories of Maoism that spoke of overcoming traditional divisions between intellectual and manual labor, between cadre and masses, between leader and led. Even at the height of the cult in China, the Maoists sought to remain in touch with the masses through calls for “big debates” and “mass line.”

“The following excerpt, which is strikingly reminiscent of the imagery of Japanese wartime propaganda, puts the cult of the ‘military-first’ leader in a nutshell.

Held together not by a mere bond between a leader and his warriors but by the family tie between a mother and her children, who share the same blood and breath, Korea will prosper forever. Let the imperialist enemies come at us with their nuclear weapons, for there is no power on earth that can defeat our strength and love and the power of our belief, which thanks to the blood bond between mother and child create a fortress of bond between mother and child create a fortress of single-heartedness. Our Great Mother, General Kim Jong Il”


“An enormous sign held up in a recent parade, footage of which was shown on the television news in 2009 whenever ‘The Song of General Kim Jong Il’ was played, bore the slogan, ‘We Cannot Live Away From His Breast.’

This is no empty rhetoric; the masses are reminded with increasing frequency that because the nation cannot survive without the leader who constitutes both its heart and its head, they must be ready to die to defend him. As if the logic were not in itself reminiscent of fascist Japan, the regime makes increasingly bold use of the very same terms—such as “resolve to die” (kyŏlsa) and “human bombs” (yukt’an)—that were so common in imperial Japanese and colonial Korean propaganda during the Pacific War. In the summer of 2009 the evening news periodically played a stirring anthem entitled “We Will Give Our Lives to Defend the Head of the Revolution.” The text runs, “Ten million will become as guns and bombs … to give one’s life for the General is a soldier’s greatest honor.”

The people are there for the leader, not the other way around. Such sentiments are more inline with Hirohito’s cult than Mao’s or Stalin’s or Lenin’s.

The Cultural Revolution was unleashed in China in order to further propel society toward communism. According to Mao, antagonistic contradictions continue to exist throughout the socialist period. Therefore, it is necessary to continually make revolution. Otherwise society slides back toward capitalism. Communist art of the Maoist era sought to depict these life-and-death struggles within society in very exaggerated, vivid ways. The art and outlook in northern Korea is fundamentally different than the communist view. Although northern Korean art depicts conflict with the outside world, especially the US, it downplays conflict within northern Korea. Although some minor conflicts are portrayed in northern Korean art, they are not seen as antagonistic ones.

“While the party does not explicitly deny the existence of conflict inside the republic, it contends that conflict is not ‘typical’ of North Korean life and therefore unworthy of depiction. There are few of the harsh clashes between rural and urban values, older and younger generations, chauvinist husbands and progressive wives, etc, that were so common in Soviet propaganda.”

Communists aim at communism. The northern Korean regime does not. The northern regime depicts itself as having already reached a harmonious state where class is dissolved into racial unity.

Depiction of foreigners

The racial ideology is revealed in the regime’s depiction of foreigners. There is little effort to depict proletarian internationalism in Korean propaganda. During the Korean War, Americans as a whole are condemned. Little effort is made to distinguish between the US government and its citizens as both the Soviet Union and China did, rightly or wrongly. There is little effort to draw the kind of distinctions the Soviets did when they, rightly or wrongly, distinguished between the Nazi state and the average German. No effort was made to distinguish between the US state and women and children, for example. Even if the demarcation between friends and enemies regarding the First World may be slightly more correct than that of First Worldists who failed to recognize the bourgeois nature of First World peoples as a whole, the northern Korean demarcation is made for all the wrong reasons. In this sense, it can be compared to some Islamists that point their spear at the West as a whole. During the Korean War, some northern writers celebrated abuses heaped on captured prisoners of war. The Caucasian features were depicted in racist, exaggerated ways in the northern Korean press. One author asserted that such features reflected an inner “idiotization.” They are also portrayed as stinky and unkempt. Americans are sometimes depicted with Caucasian and African features to get across the point that the American bloodline is polluted.

“While the Text strongly implies that all foreigners are inferior, and occasionally criticizes the Jews’ influence on world affairs, it subjects only the Japanese and Americans to routine vituperation. As might be expected, the ‘Japs’ (oenom) feature mainly in accounts of the colonial era. In contrast to Soviet depictions of the Germans in World War II, the Text does not distinguish between colonial-era Japanese according to class; all are inherently rapacious. It follows that they have no right to humane treatment. In this scene from a classic novel of the 1950s, one of Kim Il Sung’s guerrillas exacts retribution on an unarmed prisoner.”


“Like the ‘Japs,’ the Yankees are condemned as an inherently evil race that can never change, a race with which Koreans must forever be on hostile terms. Readers should therefore not be misled by the Marxist jargon so common in the KCNA’s English-language rhetoric. In propaganda meant only for the domestic audience, the terms ‘US imperialism’ (mije) and ‘America’ (miguk) are used interchangeably, and Americans referred to routinely as ‘nom’ or bastards. In a recent picture printed in the monthly art magazine, a child with a toy machine gun stands before a battered snowman. The caption reads, ‘The American bastard I killed.’ The DPRK’s dictionaries and schoolbooks encourage citizens to speak of Yankees as having ‘muzzles,’ ‘snouts’ and ‘paws’; as ‘croaking’ instead of ‘dying,’ and so on.”

Racial animalization of other peoples has a long history. Historically, the imperialists have been experts at it. Some might argue that such racist and nationalist hate is justified or acceptable given the history of imperialist aggression against Korea. To a limited extent this would be true, hating the enemy is better than capitulating to him. However, such a tone that plays to the lowest instincts of the masses is hardly compatible with trying to reach communism in the longterm. While hate can be the beginning of liberation, it cannot be the end. Such small-minded racism and nationalism when put toward the anti-imperialist struggle quickly reveals its limits. Such a racial outlook not only makes racial enemies of the imperialists, but all outsiders. The regime’s allies and other oppressed peoples become racial enemies too. Even during the Korean War, northern Koreans regarded their Chinese allies with hostility. This disdain for friendly foreigners is depicted in the culture, according to the author:

“Typical of the disdain shown even to the friendliest foreigners is a panoramic painting of a procession of exultant visitors to 1989’s Pyongyang World Youth Games. Whatever direction they happen to be looking in, their faces are all partly obscured by a sinister shadow. A fat Caucasian woman wears a low-cut blouse, while a few African women sport what appear to be halter-tops: even in today’s DPRK such clothing is considered indecent. Here and there, unsavory-looking men show long sideburns and denim, more signs of Western decadence. The only well-groomed and attractive person in view, and the only one whose face is evenly lit, is the Korean guide—a girl, naturally—who leads the way in traditional dress. There are no Koreans in the procession proper; the pure race must be kept apart. On the rare occasions in the Text when foreigners and locals meet, the former employ highly respectful, sometimes obsequious Korean, while the latter respond informally as if to subordinates. Real fraternity between the pure and the impure is impossible; the DPRK’s so-called Friendship Museum contains only gifts given by foreigners— ‘offered up,’ as the Text always puts it— to the Leaders.”

This was reported by diplomats too:

“East European diplomats had, however, already begun reporting home about the xenophobia in Pyongyang. Some were cursed and pelted with rocks by children on the street. Koreans who had married Europeans were pressured to divorce or banished from the capital. (Internally the East German embassy compared these practices to Nazi Germany.) One Soviet wife of a Korean citizen was beaten unconscious by provincial police when she attempted to travel to Pyongyang. In 1965, the Cuban ambassador to the DPRK, a black man, was squiring his wife and some Cuban doctors around the city when locals surrounded their car, pounding it and shouting racial epithets. Police called to the scene had to beat the mob back with truncheons. ‘The level of training of the masses is extremely low,’ a high-ranking official later told the shaken diplomat. ‘They cannot distinguish between friends and foes.’ This was precisely the mindset that the regime sought to instill.”

As late as 2006, a northern Korean general criticized the southern regime for welcoming an American football star, only one of whose parents had been Korean. The southern delegate had mentioned that people in his half of the peninsula were now marrying those from other countries. The northern general responded: “Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance… I am concerned that our singularity will disappear.” When the southerner rebutted him that such miscegenation was merely a “drop of ink in the Han River,” the northern general stated that “since ancient times our land has been one of abundant natural beauty. Not even one drop of ink must be allowed.”

Only a few weeks earlier, similar views were echoed in the northern media:

“Mono-ethnicity [tanilsŏng] is something that our nation and no other on earth can pride itself on … There is no suppressing the nation’s shame and anger at the talk of ‘a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society’… which would dilute even the bloodline of our people.”

Along with the such racist depictions, homosexuality too is attacked as a distinctly American or Western perversion. Stories based on the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968 contrast the purity of the Koreans to the depraved Americans. One retelling of story:

“One crew member, it is claimed, felt so disillusioned by the incestuous goings on in his family that he ‘began sleeping with whatever women came his way. Tiring of that, he became gay.’ The Text regards homosexuality as a characteristically American ‘perversion.’ Here one of the Pueblo’s crew pleads for the right to indulge it in captivity.

‘Captain, sir, homosexuality is how I fulfill myself as a person. Since it does no harm to your esteemed government or esteemed nation, it is unfair for Jonathan and me to be prevented from doing something that is part of our private life.’

[The North Korean soldier responds,] ‘This is the territory of our republic, where people enjoy lives befitting human beings. On this soil none of that sort of activity will be tolerated.’”

According to the author, one of the regime’s main anti-American books, The Jackals (1951), continues to be published to this day. Its story of American missionaries injecting Korean children with malicious germs has far more in common with fascist propaganda than propaganda of Marxist regimes. It seems less designed to raise the understanding of the masses about the real enemy, about power or class. Instead it seems closer to anti-Semitic tales about Jews who eat babies during the witching hour. The author remarks that the book, as popular as it is, has “one obvious root in nineteenth-century peasant rumor and another in fascist Japan’s anti-Christianity campaign.”

The book is an important piece of a larger puzzle

For a long time, efforts have been made by the northern regime to liberalize aspects of its economy. There have even been attempts at creating Special Economic Zones. The northern Korean website even boasts of the “lowest labor costs in Asia.” Chinese capitalists are heavily invested there.

“Nor did they consider their entrepreneurial activities to be at odds with the official ideology. ‘Making money is patriotic’ was said to be a popular if informal slogan. In short, the spread of capitalism did not appear to be eroding support for the regime.”

The author points out that exposure to more and more Western culture may not lead to a quick downfall of the regime as the imperialists hope. He makes the point that the fascist regimes of World War 2 that had based themselves on race incorporated many of the consumer goods, styles and fashions from more liberal societies. Whatever the future of the regime, the author makes the point that it will not commit suicide. To abandon its ideology and military means doing just that. The regime needs to maintain some reason for its existence vis-a-vis the South.

Leading Lights have long recognized that the northern Korean state is not socialist. It is not heading toward communism, it is not communist-led. The book implies that northern Korean was never socialist. Its Party and state were never communist-led, according to the author. Rather, from the beginning, the state was a regime of patriotic-national development that legitimated itself using the idea, language, cultural forms of a Korean-version of Japanese-fascist ideology. It is not as simple as all this. Of course there is more to the story. In order to prop themselves up, the regime wedded itself to its powerful socialist neighbors: the Soviet Union and China. When those neighbors went revisionist, northern Korea continued to maintain the relationships. As a result of the years of interaction with the socialist camp, no doubt, northern Korea adopted some of the models, some of the language, and ritual of their neighbors, even if it was often superficial. As the new century progresses, northern Korea mentions “socialism” less and less. Despite its talk about self-sufficiency, northern Korea makes unequal deals with its capitalist Chinese neighbors. Northern Korea long received aid from the Soviets until the demise of the Soviet Bloc. Northern Korea has strong-armed much aid out of the United States, becoming one of the top aid recipients at times. At the same time, northern Korea has continued to build up its military program, especially its nuclear and missile capabilities. The regime makes defiant shows to drum up domestic support, but also to keep the imperialists negotiating. The regime has come into numerous conflicts with the US over its military. Although the regime produces vivid propaganda posters, a favorite of the state’s internet groupies, video-game enthusiasts, and nostalgists, its anti-imperialist practice lags behind other states like Iran and Venezuela that are more engaged with the world. Northern Korea is not at the forefront in the construction of institutions like ALBA to challenge First World hegemony in the global market. Northern Korea is not fanning up regional Bolivarian or Islamist movements to weaken imperialism’s hold over its neighbors. There is no northern Korean-aligned Hezbollah or Hamas. Although northern Korea has reportedly sold its ballistic technology to other oppressed countries, the racial and xenophobic nature of the regime tends to run counter to such internationalist sentiments. In this sense, northern Korean, in its best moments, should be seen as junior, lesser partner in the united front. Northern Korea should be defended against imperialism, yet we do not do anyone any favors by removing our brains and pretending northern Korea is a good society or even “the last Stalinist state.” It isn’t. One doesn’t build convincing anti-interventionist solidarity by slobbering all over internet forums in praise of northern Korean leaders or by pretending Juche is some deep idea when it plainly isn’t. Pretending northern Korea is a workers’ paradise is absurd. The KFA can’t even convince its own tourists of this, it sure isn’t going to convince anyone else. Such cheerleading does not help the Korean people. (1)

Real solidarity involves building a credible anti-interventionist movement. It involves educating people around the history of US imperialism in Asia, and Korea. It means exposing real warcrimes and atrocities committed by Americans and other imperialists, not adopting the internal language of a monarchy that whips up anti-Americanism with ghoulish tales of Christian missionaries. Real solidarity means building anti-interventionist alliances with humanists, people of good conscience and other bourgeois liberals. Real solidarity means defending the regime in a way that does not lie to the global proletariat. Despite what the weird circles of self-styled internet Juche-ists, third positionists, fascists, nationalists, nostalgists, “Marxist-Leninists” and video game enthusiasts who latch onto northern Korea think, nobody, except Koreans, outside those circles will ever be inspired by the regime. And Koreans are inspired by it for many of the wrong reasons, as the author demonstrates. The global proletariat may lag, but it does not lag that much. You will not con your way to revolution on the back of the Kim dynasty or other crackpotism. Proletarian revolutions are not con games. Real revolutions are the result of proletarian social forces armed with the highest revolutionary science, organization, and leadership in command. The people’s movement may be in disarray, revisionism is widespread, but the situation is not to the point where northern Korea’s ideology will ever be confused with genuine liberation by the broad masses globally. In this time of confusion, it is absolutely necessary for real communists, Leading Lights, to come forward, to blaze a trail, to lead. It is imperative that people understand the real revolutionary science, organization, and leadership from the shams out there. Leading Lights do not tail. Fight  for Leading Light science, organization, and leadership within in the united front. Uphold the broad united front against imperialism! Hold the Red Flag high!



To see a video lecture by the author visit here: