Jose Maria Sison loves America

Jose Maria Sison loves America


In a recent statement entitled “Support coordinated actions to demand the bail out of the American People, not the bankers,” Jose Maria Sison kisses American ass. (1) The “Communist Party of the Philippines” demonstrates, once again, that it is led by a First Worldist revisionist, not a proletarian internationalist. Sison consistently advocates for First World populations at the expense of Third World populations. Sison consistently allies himself with social-fascist parties in the First World against the Third World.

Revolutionary Political Economy versus First Worldist Revisionism

In this statement, Sison laments that there was a bailout for the “finance oligarchy,” but “there is no bailout money for the American people who are the real creators of wealth and who have long fleeced by the monopoly bourgeoisie and its imperialist state.” Sison also states, “The bailout money poured into the financial banking sector does not flow into the money stream available to the working classes and the people nor to the real economy.”

1. American people are not the main creators of their wealth. In fact, very few are employed in the productive sector at all, “the real economy.” Americans are, in the main, employed in the white collar, service and distribution, and public sectors. Americans are employed realizing value that has been created elsewhere. The vast majority of American wealth has come to Americans through imperialist mechanisms. The very land that Americans build their houses on was plundered from hundreds of indigenous nations. The wealth that allows Americans to buy such luxurious homes originates in exploitation of the Third World. America is the most thoroughly bourgeoisified nation in the world. Virtually all sectors of American society benefit by aligning with the monopoly bourgeoisie and its imperialist state against the Third World. By obscuring this point, Sison promulgates the racist, settler, imperialist myth that Americans deserve the land that they occupy and the wealth that they stole.

In abandoning proletarian political economy, Sison implicitly embraces the Theory of Productive Forces. If wealth is not generated by human labor, then technology is the main factor as such an argument implies. Sison’s line directly contradicts the Maoist line of the Four Firsts policy that the human element is principal over the technological. Sison’s argument implies the wealth of Americans is a product of their technology, hence the enormous wealth of the First World belongs to First World populations, whereas Marxists recognize that wealth is created by productive labor.  Since Americans barely do any productive labor, the source of their wealth lies elsewhere, the Third World.  This wealth is stolen by imperialist mechanisms in order to maintain the American way of life. The Theory of Productive Forces was exposed by Maoists during the Cultural Revolution as the revisionist theory par excellence.

2. Sison complains that nothing will be done to “rescue or help the ordinary American people, including the American working class, and now the impoverished middle class, from the rigors of industrial decline, rising unemployment, unpaid debts, mortgage foreclosures and the aggravating conditions of recession which can no longer be hidden by debt financing.”

So, who are these “ordinary Americans” that Sison has chosen to advocate for? The median annual household income for 2006 was $48,201 (USD), or 2,371,007 Philippine pesos (PHP), according to the United States Census Bureau. (2) Per household member (including all working and non-working members above the age of 14) it was $26,036 (USD). (3) Sison has become the advocate for those who have incomes of 1,293,992 Philippine pesos (PHP) a year. Sison believes that Americans who make 1,054,000 Philippine pesos (PHP) a year deserve more than they currently have. About half of the Philippine population lives on less than 2$ a day, 98 Philippine pesos (PHP).

The majority of the world’s population in the Third World exists in a permanent state of crisis. The majority in the Third World exist in a state of catastrophic poverty created by imperialism. They exist  on the edge of annihilation.  Americans, even the poorest segments of the American “working class,” are some of the wealthiest people in the world; they fall around the richest 10-13%. In other words, the American “working class,” are richer than around 90% of the world’s population. There is no meaningful sense in which the American “working class” constitute an exploited class, a proletariat, a revolutionary class. They may earn a wage or be salaried, but that is where the commonality ends between American “workers” and Filipino workers. What kind of communist advocates for the richest people in the world? Sison sells out his own people in order to make the rich richer.

3. Sison says that he supports the mass movement against the bailout. What mass movement is Sison talking about? A mass movement against bankers does not exist in the United States, unless Sison is talking about Obama rallies. Sison’s politics, in the immediate term, tail the Democratic Party. In the long term,  Sison is  fanning the flames of fascism, social fascism in particular. Sison is greatly misleading his readers in the Philippines about the true status of the revolutionary movement of the First World. Those who talk about “mass line” in the First World are full of hot air. There is, generally, no mass line in the First World because there are no masses. Sison is serving up the Filipino people to the imperialists.

Contrary to Sison, Leading Light Communists hope that the financial crisis worsens for Americans. The American way of life that Sison defends not only results in millions and millions of deaths, it is also ecologically unsustainable. The American way of life puts our children’s  future in jeopardy.  Leading Light Communists seek to return all of the wealth that Americans have stolen back to the Third World . For the sake of humanity and the planet, Leading Light Communists want to bury the American way of life once in for all.

Exposing Sison.. revisionist globe-Trotter

Sison has a level of prestige because of his past involvement in people’s war. Today, Sison is a mover and shaker, a First Worldist, revisionist scenester. Sison makes himself available as a tool, as a mascot, to First Worldist organizations. Sison and his First-World allies are arch-opportunists. Sison’s main visible political activity, based in the First World, is directed against the revolutionary movement. Sison uses his prestige to betray the revolution by promulgating of the new, modern revisionism: First Worldism. He sells out the Third World to the First World.

The International Communist Movement is at a turning point. The impotent ripples of revisionism represented by First Worldist “umbrella” organizations like the RIM and ICMLPO has done nothing to restart the next wave of communist revolution, save to discredit the reputation of communism in the eyes of the masses.  The parties that have most closely been identified with “Maoism” globally have exposed themselves as thoroughly revisionist. These organizations are intellectually dead. As a brand, “Maoism” has been so sullied as to make it next to useless even by the revisionists who have created this situation. This is the kind turning point represented by Lenin’s confrontation with the social chauvinists of the Second International or Mao’s confrontation with the Soviet social-imperialists. Leading Light Communists are confronting the revisionists of our age.  Do you stand with the Leading Light Communists, the ideological vanguard, with the vast majority in the Third World?  Or, do you stand with Sison, the Americans, the First World?

Get off the fence!


1. Sison, Jose Maria.
2. *numbers adjusted using current exchange rate
3. *numbers adjusted using current exchange rate


First Worldist “left” hacks the 2016 US Presidential Election for Donald J. Trump

First Worldist “Left” hacks US presidential election for Donald J. Trump

by Jacob Brown


How the First Worldist “left” united with Obama-Clinton regime to bring Trump to power:

One of the more blatantly reactionary examples of pseudo-feminists in action.

With the current “#J20” US Inauguration Day protests against Donald J. Trump, a First Worldist pseudo-feminism is presenting itself as the protests’ main ideological engine, and allowing the CIA, anti-Russian narrative pushed by the US imperialist Democratic Party to buttress questions of “illegitimacy”. (1, 2)  Of course, the purported protection of the reproductive health choices of First World women, while signing onto rhetoric about the supposed necessity of US Marines to help “fight for the global sisterhood” in the Third World has rendered itself hollow to the world’s masses after 15 years of the imperialist “War on Terror”.  Imperialist patriarchy packaged as liberation has produced the worst of both patriarchal worlds for the majority of Third World women, both with the proliferation of misogynistic Western gender culture and with its mirror opposite of imposition of traditional patriarchal gender roles and gender apartheid. It would appear that a repeat of the 2006 US International Women’s Day protests is upon us on “J20”. The 2006 IWD protests saw alleged “communists” marching with the likes of Zionist “feminist” Phyllis Chesler to denounce the Iranian state while NATO troops were imposing imperialist patriarchy in Afghanistan and Iraq. (3) With the current rhetoric being used by First Worldist activists who take their cues from the CIA and Democratic Party, perhaps Russia is the next target for “regime change”. The utilization of “Cold War” militarist rhetoric and pseudo-feminism by the imperialists are but only two dimensions of what these kinds of imperialist politics produces in the real world.

The 2011 Wisconsin protests injected First Worldist economism into the “Arab Spring” as it was beginning in Egypt, following the demonstrations in Tunisia. An example of this includes the infamous photo depicting the false statement “One World, One Pain.” (4) Pretending that the First World majority populations were a natural friend of the Third World had its genesis in this First Worldist fallacy. When the “Arab Spring” found its way into Libya just one month later, this First World “solidarity” was extended to mean NATO providing a free air force for anti-Qaddafi neocolonialist Jihadists. The fall of the Jamahiriya in Libya gave both a material and morale boost to NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which would fuel the “pipeline wars” in Syria for the next 5 years. (5)  “Occupy Wall St.”, and the First Worldist networks that followed it, were advancing First Worldist populism with a vengeance. They continued the social-chauvinist thrust of the Wisconsin protests with anti-imperialist politics given less priority or mostly silenced altogether. A kind of false internationalism was supposedly bringing together social-democrats, anarchists, “left communists”, Maoists, Trotskyists, environmentalists, the EZLN, the social-imperialist parties in Greece, and various “rebels” associated with the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood, based on a rather nebulous idea about “tears in the fabric of history”. (6) These First Worldists, so enthusiastic for the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, were silent on the 2013 mass revolt that overthrew the US-backed stooge Mohammed Morsi (7), with numbers that dwarfed the Tahir Square protests by a factor of 7. (8)

If any population within First World borders was sharing “one pain” with Egyptian masses in either the 2011 or 2013 protests, it would have been the migrants who participated in the May 1, 2006 “Day Without An Immigrant” strike. (9) However, many of those migrants ended up getting deported by the Bush administration in the millions, and by the Obama administration by even greater numbers. First Worldists missed the mark on that issue as well, because too many of them were putting all their energy into pseudo-feminist posturing in tandem with the US State Department and the Zionist entity just 2 months before, or otherwise complaining about the presence of Mexican flags as “nationalist” and “divisive”!

The imperialist pseudo-feminism we saw deployed against Iran in 2006 was also utilized in Libya in 2011, with bogus reports of “Viagra-fueled mass-rapes” advanced by Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton. (10)  Of course, no evidence exists to support such claims, but there is ample evidence and testimony of sub-Saharan migrant African women being kidnapped and raped by the very “Libyan Revolutionaries” hailed as anti-patriarchal heroes in the West. (11) In addition to the pseudo-feminist propaganda track in the prelude to the NATO/GCC aggression against Libya, we had a First Worldist “false nationalism” coming from neocolonialist Libyan exiles that was selectively applied in an attempt to silence any non-Libyan supporter of the Jamahiriya with a potent voice. The “authentic voice of the subaltern” was used to justify NATO’s neocolonialist false “liberation narrative” (12), where juxtapositions such as “Muammar Qaddafi = Bad Dictator / Mahatma Gandhi = Good Liberator” were passing for a theoretically solid approach. (13)  Adding the false narrative of the “impending massacre of Benghazi’s population”, and the list of phony justifications for NATO intervention start to gain support in the realm of First World public opinion.

Matthew VanDyke, the American “Freedom Fighter” mercenary in Sirte during the NATO “revolution” Libya  in , would ask the various manifestations of “Occupy” in the First World for donations to continue his imperialist activity in Syria on the side of the neocolonialist “Free Syrian Army”.  He still breathes in 2017.

As the calls for NATO/GCC/Turkish intervention in Syria were increased, the pseudo-feminist angle was used to less of a degree, with some bogus propaganda about “regime rape rooms” being recycled from the last imperialist adventure in Libya. This time however, the false nationalist narrative was more heavily relied upon. The narrative spinning involved equating the imperialist-backed Muslim Brotherhood in Syria with the legitimate indigenous and African anti-colonial struggles (14), or variably by tokenizing Kurdistan liberation forces as a “Third Camp” (15). It is curious that the loudest voices claiming that the Kurdistan liberation forces were on a “long march to Damascus” to topple the Assad regime were doing so in tandem with the US State Department rhetoric about how “Assad must go”, not unlike what transpired in 2006 with the anti-Iran protests.

To understand why purportedly “anti-war” activist scenes around the First World gave space for neocolonialist identity politics to sell the NATO “revolution” in Libya and ramp up the call for NATO intervention in Syria, we can look at the populist and “critical race theory” trends coming into conflict with each other within formations like Occupy. The deliberate First Worldist populism mostly driving the message of Occupy was bound to come into conflict with other forces in and around the Occupy movement calling for decolonization, the politics of which is inherently at odds with the mantra of “We Are The 99% [of the First World]”, regardless if the particular decolonization politics presented is Leninist, anarchist, bourgeois liberal, or something else purportedly “beyond labels” in content. (16) As the “decolonize” rhetoric in the First World activist circles began to congeal, the populist politics of Occupy waned and ended with the Occupy brand itself becoming defunct. The people involved put away their Guy Fawkes masks and copies of Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals”, and started to pick up art and/or poetry and Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” instead (often to the exclusion of other anti-colonial classics). It became easy for these “radical” First World protest scenes to tokenize pro-Muslim Brotherhood migrants from Palestine, Egypt, and Syria, and accept their neocolonial bogus “decolonial” narratives with unquestioning submission, in tandem with US imperialist “regime change” objectives.

With the uptick of police and paramilitary terrorism against the African diaspora in the United States between 2012-2016, alongside the already existing criminalization of generations of Black youth by the state, the First Worldist activist void left by Occupy was filled with the “Black Lives Matter” network.  This network came together at the same time rebellions were picking up in US cities affected by high profile incidents of police terror like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Many well meaning veterans of the anti-colonialist movements within the United States had mistakenly believed the myth that the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s was coming back. (17)  As the Democratic Party’s presidential primary elections approached, the original militant anti-colonial thrust of those involved with the Black Lives Matter network was being put on hold in exchange for engaging with Democratic Party candidates over reformist policy issues, and a First Worldist confining of the issue of reparations to the African diaspora within the United States exclusively. (18)   It did not matter what any “official” BLM statement said at that point about refraining from electoral politics, as the horizons of BLM at that point had been limited by both reformist illusions and First Worldist chauvinism. This had practical implications as well, with the noticeable rift causing some around the BLM network to initiate an armed struggle without the material support of a large portion of the network busy with reformist politics.

An example of some weenie First Worldist “communist”  hack that helped pave the way for Trump, like the pseudo-feminist hacks pictured above.

At the same time that BLM was proliferating around the United States, nominally “communist” First Worldist forces were politically capitalizing on conceptions of group identity embraced by the increasingly college student base of the BLM network, smashing several layers of formal and informal First Worldist male dominated leftist groups in the United States and England in sometimes quite public ruptures. However, breaking the hegemony of historical oppressor groups over First Worldist formations did nothing to break the hegemony of First Worldism and social-imperialism in their general orientation. Indeed, even purported “Third Worldist” formations in the First World managed to sneak First Worldism through the back door by denying that most First World women and non-men constitute an enemy gender aristocracy (but use the opposite logic to justify the idea of a labor aristocracy!). (19) In all cases, the results of these social-chauvinist “communist” forces whether they consciously knew it or not, was to slow the progress of building New Power and preparing for Global People’s War. This is even the case when “Global People’s War” or “Third Worldism” is mentioned by these posturing First Worldists, as their penchant for bourgeois identity politics, navel-gazing, and tokenization betrays their true nature.

A parallel First World decolonization movement drawn from indigenous peoples in North America had emerged to confront domestic oil drilling and pipeline construction on indigenous lands. The relatively smaller population size of the indigenous internal colonies (20, 21) in comparison to the African diaspora in the US made for some interesting contrasts in political trajectory. This smaller sized force of mostly indigenous peoples consciously struggle for decolonization before it was trendy in activist circles, to emphasize the preservation of culture in opposition to Euro-American settler-colonialism.  The element of cultural preservation is more pronounced than other historical internal colonies in the US.  How this has played out on the ground, from “Idle No More” to the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipeline blockades has been almost the mirror opposite of the trajectory of BLM. Unlike the social movement network that originated with BLM, the indigenous protests tended to start out essentially with reformist politics and liberal, settler-imperialist boot-licking, and then more militant and uncompromising anti-colonial Native forces followed and increased the militancy (and may continue to do so, winter weather permitting, as of the time of this article’s publishing). It is not clear with a Trump administration allied with the non-Rockefeller wing of the US oil industry (inclined towards domestic oil drilling / piping in the US) (22), and with those identifying as indigenous people in North America at less than 5% of the total US and Canadian population, that anything besides Global People’s War will be able to stop any new settler-colonial “domestic drilling” agenda under the new regime. At the very least, the Native Warriors at Standing Rock have found themselves outside the capacity for First Worldist “Marxists” or the US Democratic party to co-opt them at this time. However, it isn’t likely that these social-imperialists will give up trying to do so, as their public fawning over US military veterans as some kind of “anti-colonial force” to oppose DAPL attests to. (23)

In 2006, the USA was at the lowest point in global public opinion it had been in decades. (24) There was no Leading Light Communism as an independent system operating in the world at that time. If there were, there may have been a basis to “globalize” the anti-imperialist left under Leading Light Communist leadership. Instead, genuine imperialists were stuck with a dogmatic ideological framework that prevented them from “thinking and acting globally”. Rather, many genuine anti-imperialists and friends of the Third World never escaped the left-liberal horizon of “think globally, act locally” for many years.  Only Leading Light Communism provides any real basis for genuine communist politics independent from First Worldist chauvinism promoted by “mainstream” social-imperialist political parties in the First World, and neocolonialist parties selling First Worldist fantasies to the masses of people in the Third World. The First Worldist “left” offers sometimes-true promises to First World bourgeois majority for more imperialist loot, and always-false promises to the world’s majority in the Third World of attaining First World status by adopting imperialist maldevelopment programs. What these First Worldists of all stripes like to ignore is that such false “proletarian internationalism” actually serves to corral people into pro-imperialist politics. This by default includes electing imperialist politicians for US president, despite any pretense by First Worldist “communists” of opposing electoral politics in principle! When First Worldist “communists” confine their notion of “mass line” to First World peoples exclusively, they are forced to essentially come to a synthesis with social-imperialist electoral politics, regardless of their stated inclinations towards some fantasy of “preparing the masses People’s War” in the First World.

The US social-patriot Michael Moore saw all this coming. (25) The white populist movement that started in 2010 as the “Tea Party” politically evolved into the anti-migrant and economic protectionist force that was to be the social base for Trump’s electoral victory, which Trump’s strategic adviser Steve Bannon coined as the “Alt-Right”. Traditional anti-labor, plus free trade conservative politics was turned on its head with Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP during the Republican presidential primaries, with Donald Trump himself calling for the Republican Party to become an “American Workers Party”. (26)  The identity-based political patchwork combined with the cynical “middle class centrism” that the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair has used to great effect in First World since the fall of the Soviet Union politics were utilized by the Hillary Clinton campaign.  However, the old Democratic Party electoral strategy could not stop Donald Trump’s campaign in a contest for US electoral votes. Along with Michael Moore, surrogates of the US Democratic Party like Van Jones, most of Hollywood, and even Barack Obama himself could not make the liberal politics of the past 25 years work for Hillary Clinton. As Donald Trump himself said many years ago in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he would only run for president if he thought he could win. (27) Well, the First Worldist “left” set up this whole scenario for Trump to achieve electoral victory.

Without a doubt, the First Worldist “left” worked with Barack Obama and the Democrats to hack the election for Donald J. Trump. It is the nature of their politics, as they have been social-imperialist “hacks” for over a period of 15 years with zero credibility, even amongst their own bourgeois First World social base! The First World “masses” prefer Trump’s new GOP “workers party” to the fantasy “communist” outfits of the First Worldists.

“Daddy Donald wants a big kiss, you precious little First Worldist “leftist” weenies!  You did such a good job at not making revolution, that my ascendancy to USA Emperor was a piece of cake!”

How Leading Light Communists should operate during the ascendance of Trump, Marine Le Pen, Brexit, and the general First World nationalist political trends:

Both paramilitary, white nationalist violence and state repression against Third World migrants in the First World could increase. This could be a catalyst for an explosive May 1st within First World borders.  While their demands are likely to be confined to reformist and First Worldist politics, the connection that migrants have to the Third World masses might make for some great potential Leading Light Communist leaders.  This does not mean that Leading Light Communists should be leading some significant “anti-colonial movement” within First World borders, and such notions will need to be quashed both inside and outside the organization if these ideas find expression.  All that aside, it does mean that there are new opportunities to expose the global capitalist-imperialist system, and put Leading Light Communist politics in command of an emerging anti-imperialist united front.

Current efforts to oppose Trump and other hard right nationalists in the First World are dominated by the “left” First Worldist populists, pro-imperialist pseudo-feminists, and neocolonial and individualist fake posturing around “decolonization” connected to the liberal “globalist” wing of the imperialists.  This is unlikely to change beyond a general “washing out” of the more overtly liberal imperialist forces within such an anti-Trump, unorganized, left leaning coalition.  The commitment to building independent institutions of Dual Power within the First World itself is a noble but ultimately fruitless gesture, with no mass social base for revolution. The same gesture to “not allow US imperialism to go unchallenged” is equally noble yet fruitless if not linked up with the New Power of the Leading Light, based on uniting the world’s exploited in their billions as the driving force for a genuinely militant, material challenge to US/NATO imperialism. Nevertheless, Leading Light Communists in the First World should stay engaged with all people who seek an alternative to the current system, and be ready to impart political education and engage in ideological struggle. (28)

Outside of the First World, the First Worldists have failed terribly at supporting the international united front with their acquiescence to Western imperialist taking points since 2001. Ironically, it is now the right-wing nationalists who have taken up a pretense of “anti-imperialism” and “internationalism”.  Theirs is based entirely on a pan-nationalist framework devoid of any historical perspective on colonialism. (29)  This is why we are faced with the ugly and tenuous First World populist unity of anti-migration and anti-interventionism. This is also why Leading Light Communist politics in command can prevent us from becoming surprised by turns towards fascism from those we once believed were firmly in the progressive anti-imperialist camp. The fact that Donald Trump is very popular among the Egyptian, Syrian and Libyan masses (30, 31, 32) for his anti-NATO/anti-interventionist and anti-Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric during the US presidential campaign, even when often couched in a generalized reactionary anti-Muslim chauvinism suited for Trump’s electoral base in the United States, should be an indication that the First Worldist “left”, especially the “antiwar left” has lost its way on genuine anti-imperialism from a communist perspective. Consider this a wake up call to First Worldist so-called “communists”: These vulnerable populations you claim to represent, chose Donald Trump over you, most likely because of your adherence to outdated social-imperialist programs that puts them last, and not first.

Leading Light Communists can combat both the fake First Worldist “leftists”, and the right-wing usurpers of the anti-imperialist movement. We don’t have to defeat both camps simultaneously, but we need to understand that there cannot be strategic unity in coalition with either of these enemy forces within the anti-imperialist united front. Both the white nationalist imperialist camp and the phony “left wing” social-imperialist camp alike advance a politics that demand more for the First World and less for the Third World. The former wants to build border walls and fences to keep Third World migrants away from the value stolen from them. The latter call for a $15 minimum wage for First World workers exclusively, paid for by the international proletariat. Same politics, but different packaging. As long as the political line of the First Worldist “left” remains fundamentally indistinguishable from the line of white nationalists on questions of global value transfer, superficial differences between the two lines on gender and nation will not matter to the world’s oppressed and exploited majority.

Stopping US imperialism begins with Leading Light Communist politics in command!

The only silver lining about the impending Trump regime would be a temporary pullback of the imperialist military from the Global South early in his term (with the exception of some “hotspots” where there is talk of cooperation against Daesh), as well as a reshuffling of existing First World military alliances like NATO and trade agreements like NAFTA. This could potentially allow an opening for the New Power to expanded into places where it has yet to be built, and to deepen the roots of the New Power where it currently is being built. There is much that Trump is keeping close to his chest, so comrades should be mindful if his international policy rhetoric starts to lean less on making deals and more on stealing resources. This could be an indication that US imperialism is seeking to reimpose itself on the world’s oppressed and exploited majority in a rapid and expansive fashion. (33)  Such an aggressive move by Trump and Exxon’s Rex Tillerson could indeed be the catalyst for unleashing Global People’s War in the future, if the international defense of the New Power of the Leading Light is under such an aggressive imperialist attack.

Help us prepare for the best and worst case scenarios alike, by joining with and donating to the Leading Light Communist Organization! A New Power is being born in this dark world! Cherish and nurture it to total victory with your material solidarity!

5. Oil & Energy Insider; “IRAN-IRAQ: Pipeline to Syria Ups Ante in Proxy War with Qatar”;
February 22, 2013
13. Tidal; “General Strike!”; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak; December 2011


Revisiting value and exploitation

Revisiting value and exploitation

Prairie Fire

(June, 2011)


When her father died in 1883 Eleanor Marx wrote an article celebrating her father’s achievements. At the heart of these was “his theory of value, by which Marx explains the origin and the continued accumulation of capital in the hands of a, thereby, privileged class.” (1) What was seen as so important at the time of his death has fallen by the wayside over a century later among the majority of those calling themselves “Marxist.” So-called Marxists today are content to forget Marx’s true theory of value because of the embarrassing fact that it would, if taken literally, preclude most First World workers from being exploited. It would count them outside of the proletariat,  outside the revolutionary class.  It is the mark of a scientific theory that it has a higher degree of explanatory and predictive power than its competitors. Whether Marx’s theory of value is the most scientific theory today is still an open question. However, Marx’s actual theory, in its best version, is far more scientific than the kind of butchered “Marxist” theories so often put forward by First Worldists. Not only does Marx’s theory gives us the tools, the language, to account for the rise of the mall economy of the United States and other First World countries, it helps us predict and explain the lack of revolutionary sentiment amongst the vast majority of those in the First World. Marx’s theory of value is the astronomy to the astrology of the First Worldist soothsayers.

Eleanor Marx describes the origin of value under capitalism:

“The sum thus entering the pocket of the capitalist Marx calls surplus-value. It is not all profit, but includes the employer’s profit. He has to share it with others: with the Government in the shape of rates and taxes, with the landlord for rent, with the merchant, etc… Thus, all of the classes of society not composed of actual and immediate producers of wealth… all classes, from kings and queens to music-masters and greengrocers, live upon their respective shares of this surplus value. In other words, they live upon the net producer of the surplus labor which the capitalist extracts from his work people, but for which he does not pay. It matters not whether the share of surplus-labor falling to each member of society not actually a producer is granted as a gift by Act of Parliament from the public revenue, or whether it has to be earned by performing some function not actually productive. There is no fund out of which they can be paid, but the sum total of the surplus value created by the immediate producers, for which they are not paid.” (2)

According to both Karl and Eleanor Marx, the value that makes society run has only one source, the “immediate producers of wealth.” In the England of Marx’s day, most of this class would have been industrial, waged workers — this would include workers on industrial farms since peasant direct producers were passing from the scene. Marx predicted that the trends that he witnessed 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 direct producer 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.

It is always important to note that many of Marx’s conclusions were arrived at because he extrapolated from abstract models just as economists do today. This and a good deal of teleology  informed his views. However, the real world is more complex. 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. 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. Of English workers, Engels writes, “workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.” Even though Marx may have been wrong on unitary development and about the polarization of class, his theory of value does account for today’s world.

The world economy is made up of chains of economic interaction. Each commodity has a point where it was produced. Before a commodity finally leaves circulation it might be exchanged several times. Let’s say a commodity was produced at point A. It was bought by a middleman company and transported and sold again at point C. After being sold at the department store, the commodity leaves circulation. This chain can be represented thus:


At each stage of the commodity’s journey profit may be obtained. Let’s suppose profit is obtained when the commodity is sold from the factory at A to the middleman at B. Profit is obtained when the middleman company B sells it to the retail store C. And profit is also obtained when the retailer C sells the commodity to the consumer. Even though profit is obtained at each point in the circulation chain, surplus value can only be produced by the direct producer. Even though profit is obtained by the middlemen and distributor, this profit is not produced by the workers employed by either the middleman B or the retailer C.  This allows Marx to make the point that the merchant does not get rich by cheating his clerks:

“We must make the same distinction between him and the wage-workers directly employed by industrial capital which exists between industrial capital and merchant’s capital, and thus between the industrial capitalist and the merchant. Since the merchant, as mere agent of circulation, produces neither value nor surplus-value.. it follows that the mercantile workers employed by him in these same functions cannot directly create surplus-value for him.. In other words, that he does not enrich himself by cheating his clerks.”  (3)

When Marx is at his most consistent he extends this point very broadly. There is no reason we cannot extend Marx’s point about clerks to all of those outside production. Even if Marx isn’t always clear, and sometimes contradictory, one has to make this generalization to be consistent with the Labor Theory of Value. Direct production is the origin of value and the original source of all profit in the Marxist Labor Theory of Value paradigm. Thus, as Eleanor Marx points out, the value that is obtained by all classes has its origin in the direct producers. This is true not just of  true of the traditional ruling classes, but also of those who are employed but are not direct producers or part of direct production. These workers may help realize value but they do not produce it as the direct producer does. A bank does not create its profit by squeezing value out of its tellers. A bank obtains its profit by receiving a share of the total social product produced by direct producers. Banks obtain their share through investments and financial manipulations, but the origin of that value lies in direct production. The same is true of supermarkets. It isn’t like they grow the lettuce in the store parking lot. Santa’s elves are not toiling away in the back of the Toys ‘r’ Us.

Because of the tremendous productive capacity of capitalism, these unproductive sectors have expanded significantly. These unproductive sectors have come to dominate whole national economies in the First World. Walmart, for example, is the biggest employer in the United States, with over 1 million employees. (4) The total population of the United States is 309 million. Of the 145 million people who are employed (this includes the undocumented too) within the United States, roughly 26 million are employed in those sectors of the economy that loosely (since we are relying on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data) correspond with direct production.  (5)  However, it is important to note that many of those employed in these sectors are not the direct producers themselves. Many in these sectors are management, etc., even if they are employed in the direct production sector of the economy. It is a conservative estimate that at least 10% to 30% of this sector can be considered to not be direct producers in a literal or extended sense.  We can generously say that 23.4 million to 18.2 million people in the United States can be counted as direct producers in the loosest sense of the term. By contrast, 126.8 million to 121.6 million in the United States are employed but are not direct producers. (6) This tremendous lopsidedness is why the United States’ economy can be described as a mall economy. As great as the productive forces may be, 23.4 million to 18.2 million people cannot account for the sum of the incomes of the 145 million employed plus the incomes of those  tens of millions who are not employed but still have incomes, i.e. capitalists, the petty bourgeoisie, the unemployed, those on  welfare, retirees, students, etc. Rather, it stands to reason, the value that allows for this tremendous lopsidedness has to be coming from outside “the mall,” from the Third World. It is, of course, no accident that the increase of this lopsidedness in the United States corresponds to the rise of the United States as the supreme imperialist power after World War II and the decline of inter-imperialist rivalry. Imperialism aided this lopsided development, and continues to maintain it. The lopsidedness is production, but also in wealth and power, after World War II, is why Lin Biao noted that revolution in the First World had halted even while revolution was bursting on the historical stage in the Third.

“Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously.” (7)

Another assumption Marx made was that the incomes of the direct producers under capitalism, which for Marx mostly meant the industrial workers, would be reduced to subsistence or sub-subsistence. This is because in a pure model competition between capitalists results over time in equalization of technique. So, the only way left for a capitalist to increase profits is to reduce wages. So much did Marx think this an inevitability of capitalism that Marx identified the value of labor-power with the bare minimum necessary to keep the worker reproducing his labor from day to day. Although this immiseration of direct producers does bear out in much of the Third World, it hardly characterizes any worker in the United States except perhaps some negligible undocumented workers at the very edges of the economy. Often, this does not even characterize the situation of prisoners who are forced to produce. Even those who produce in the First World obtain a wide range of incomes, all of them well above the value of labor-power as set by Marx. Their incomes and standard of living are so high as to make them generally happy with their lot within the system. They align with the imperialist system. Even though Marx was wrong about the exact details of immiseration, this view of value allows for what is seen today. Under Marx’s model, it is possible for value to be transferred from direct producers to others.  It is  also possible for value to be transferred from direct producers to direct producers. In other words, First World direct producers can obtain a share of the surplus that originates in the Third World. Even if a direct producer in the First World is adding to the global social product through his labor, at the same time, he is subtracting from the global social product the same way that other exploiters do. He is obtaining a share of value from the Third World. This offsets whatever value he produces. This makes him a net-exploiter, just like  members of other exploiting classes.

Marx’s theory of value allows for these possibilities that go a long way in explaining current reality. The claim by First Worldist that if profit is being obtained by a particular business, then there is exploitation by that business of its workers does not follow. An epistemological problem arises: how do we know whether a worker is an exploiter or not? Because value can be transferred in so many ways from one person to another, from one direct producer to another, it is necessary to establish a way to measure who is and who is not exploited. Either it is necessary to assign a value to labor-power or it is necessary to find another way to measure exploitation. Today virtually the entire world’s economy is integrated into one giant imperialist formation. The production of a commodity may take place across several countries. To complete a commodity it is not unusual for producers across vast distances to have contributed to its completion. To maintain that the labor-power of First World producers is different than the labor-power of Third World producers is pure chauvinism, especially since economies are so globalized today. Any approach to solving this problem should apply to workers everywhere. Comrade Serve the People has advanced a solution to the problem that establishes a rough estimate for the value of labor-power:

“Comrade Marx pointed out that labor is the substance of value. He said that the number of hours of average abstract socially necessary labor needed to produce a commodity represents its value. That means labor of average productivity under the given working conditions for the specified type of work. Therefore, if traded at value, one hour of labor put into harvesting parsnips is exchangeable against one hour of assembling washing machines (if the labor in both cases is of average productivity).

The nominal GDP of the entire world was $31.9 trillion in 2002. This figure represents everything produced in the world, including services (which tend to be overvalued), in a year’s time. The population is about 6.4 billion people. Assume that 2/3 of them work full time on a typical US schedule of 2000 hours per year. Then the value of average labor is $7500 per year, or about $3.75 per hour. (Slightly higher, actually, since the world’s population was a bit lower in 2002 than it is today.)

Elsewhere I have seen estimates from the UN that the world’s nominal GDP in 2005 is about $36 trillion. That would put the value of labor at $8400 per year, or $4.20 per hour. What is the implication? In the US, the minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, and even higher in some states and cities. If average labor is worth $4.20, then even people making the minimum wage are overpaid on average by about 23%. The average wage in the US is about $18 per hour, which is more than 4 times the value of labor.” (8)

Let’s look at another, stronger, less orthodox solution. In her characterization of her father’s theory of value, Eleanor Marx discusses the distribution of  the global social product under capitalism. Her father’s theory of value implies certain distributions are capitalist ones, other distributions are socialist ones. Eleanor characterizes the society of her day as a capitalist one with a distribution where those who do not contribute to the global social production receive shares from it. In fact, the majority of the shares of surplus-labor are distributed to non-producers of various kinds under capitalism. It is correct to criticize the distribution of the social product to reactionary  non-producing classes. However, any contemporary socialism has to direct distribution toward not only producers, but also the vast destitute stagnant, non-working poor across the Third World. The non-working destitute are a very significant, potentially explosive, class that is coming into its own as a class in the slums of Third World cities. Had the world polarized as Marx suggested, then a socialist distribution aimed at producers, to near exclusion of others, makes sense. However, this is not our world today, or our socialism. Our problem is that given that, under Marx’s scheme, value can be transferred from producers to both non-producers and to other producers, a bar needs to be set to establish who is and who is not exploited. I have advanced another possible solution to this problem that moves away from Marx’s theory of value, but can be said to be implicit in the Marxist criticism of imperialism:

“Some might object that a socialist distribution is not an egalitarian distribution. Rather, a socialist distribution is one where wealth is spread out, not evenly, but to those who do the work and those nations who do the work: she who does not work, shall not eat. Whereas the labor theory of value may be necessary for explaining the mechanics of exploitation, the distribution principle associated with it is not adequate to rectify the problem of inequality between countries that has been generated by imperialism. Such a distribution principle does not address the problem of underdevelopment. Surely populations in the most underdeveloped parts of the Third World, that have been rendered unproductive by imperialism, should not continue to remain in dire poverty under a global socialism. Whole countries of the “industrial reserve army” in the Third World may not currently be productive, but should not resources and development be directed to such populations under socialism? According to demographers, very soon, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s populations will be living in cities. The new “global countryside” as the base areas of the global people’s wars may very well be the ghettos of Third World megacities. These ghettos are less sites for production then blights that show just how capitalism’s anarchy of production has failed to bring huge segments of the human population into production. Surely socialism must speak to these vast populations that will be the soldiers of the people’s wars over the next century.

The global economy is a causal nexus where value in various forms is transferred around the globe from one person to another. So, if one person is receiving more than an equal share, then somebody else is receiving less somewhere in the causal nexus. Likewise, if someone is receiving less, someone else is receiving more. Imperialism has created a world order where those who receive less and those who receive more correspond to populations in the Third World and First World respectively. Using egalitarianism as a regulative idea, one is exploited when one does not receive an equal share. One is an exploiter when one receives more than an equal share. A country is exploited when its population is largely made up the exploited who have less than an equal share. A country is an exploiter when its population is largely made up of exploiters who have more than an equal share. Implicit in the Marxist critique of imperialism is the idea that countries of the world should exist side by side as equals. The opposite relationship to the imperialist one is a relationship based on egalitarianism and self-determination.” (9) (10)

Marx avoided the problem by ascribing historical necessity to the trends he saw around him.  Even though Marx’s real theory of value is largely forgotten, it is much better than anything advanced by First Worldists today. We must start from, but also go beyond, Marx’s theory of value in order to answer what Mao called the question of first importance, the question of class: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” Global society looks very different today than in Marx’s day.  Lenin writes, “Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” (11) Today this division has evolved such that whole countries lack the proletariat as the revolutionary class. This is why the world revolution has taken a very different shape than that in Marx’s day. Lin Biao writes:

“[T]he contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (12)

Today’s revolutionary path will much different than that of Marx’s time. It will be different than both the Bolshevik and Chinese experiences. The changing world requires a new strategy to really make revolution. Our path is the Global People’s War led by the Leading Light.


1. Marx, Eleanor “Marx’s Theory of Value,” in When Karl Marx Died ed. Foner, Philip S. International Publishers. USA: 1973 p. 230
2. ibid. p 235
3. Marx, Karl Capital Vol. 3 Chapter XVII
5. Data extrapolated from BLS statistic from 2009 and 2010 and
6. The method here is to add up all industries that can loosely be considered “direct production.” We do the same for other sectors. Also, 10% to 20% is subtracted in order to roughly account for those employed in the direct production sector, but who are not themselves direct producers, i.e management, etc. The numbers are from the employment charts at the Census Bureau.
7. Lin Biao Long Live the Victory of People’s War!
8. Serve the People A Rough Estimate of the Value of Labor.    *The minimum wage in the US is now $7.25 per hour.
9. Prairie Fire Real versus Fake Marxism on Socialist Distribution.
10. Prairie Fire Global Inequality or Socialist Equality.
12. Lin Biao Long Live the Victory of People’s War!


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.


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


Oxfam’s lie that richest 85 people as “wealthy” as the bottom 3.5 billion


Oxfam’s lie that richest 85 people as “wealthy” as the bottom 3.5 billion


We have all heard it or read it in some version or another. We have all seen some version of the sensationalist statistic that 85 people at the top own the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion. The statistic recently made it into numerous mainstream papers when Oxfam, the anti-poverty charity, affirmed the statistic in a 2014 report. It is a statistic often used by people to attempt to refute Leading Light Communism. They say “if 85 people own the same as the bottom 3.5 billion” then the First World middle strata can’t be siphoning off as much, consuming as much, as the Leading Light claims. They say Leading Light must be wrong when Leading Light says we have to not only reduce the standard of living for the very top, but we have to lower the standard of living for most of the First World too, including the First World working class. They say that if 85 individuals are really the main problem, then just overthrowing the very top percentage richest people ought be enough to dramatically even out the standard of living for the whole planet. Thus, the First Worldists say, Leading Light is wrong when it says that the middle strata of the First World will not gain materially from socialism. Thus, they say, the Leading Light is wrong when it says First World workers and ordinary people are not a proletariat, but an enemy of the proletariat. Who is right?

The original sensationalist statistic comes from Oxfam. Oxfam has done decent work compiling data on global poverty, but the statistic is a joke. In addition, the joke has wings. All kinds of other people and organizations have modified it to suit their needs. The statistic has a life of its own. No doubt, we will be hearing about it 10 years from now. There are numerous versions of the statistic floating around, but they all share the same flaw as the original Oxfam statistic. The statistic is so misleading that it is not an exaggeration to call it a lie. Felix Salmon, who has written elegantly on this topic, discusses the history of the statistic:

“The meme is older than the 2014 report. It started, back in 2011, with the Waltons: six members of the family, we were repeatedly told, were worth as much as the bottom 30% of all Americans combined. In the Oxfam version, the world’s top 80, or top 67, or top 85 richest people have the same wealth as the bottom half of the global population. The latest report has a new twist: it adds up the total wealth of the top 1%, and tries to work out how that compares to the wealth of the bottom 99%.

How does Oxfam arrive at its conclusions? When it’s just adding up a few dozen people at the very top, it’s easy: they just start at the top of the Forbes billionaires list, and start counting. As for the rest of the data, it comes from Credit Suisse, which puts out an annual Global Wealth Databook. Oxfam then uses the Credit Suisse data to derive all the rest of its numbers: it does no real empirical work of its own.”

One of the flaws is that the Credit Suisse data is too vague to reliably extrapolate as Oxfam does. That’s one error, but there is a more fundamental error. The more fundamental error stems from the problem that people do not know what the word “wealth” means when used by bourgeois economists. People do not understand that “wealth” is not the same thing as standard of living. “Wealth” simply means assets minus debts. For example, someone in the United States might have a tremendous amount of debt, perhaps they owe money on a house, a car, credit cards, student loans, and so on. Even though this person has negative wealth, they enjoy a happy, comfortable life as a member of the American, First World “middle class.” Another person, let’s a say a subsistence farmer in Bangladesh might have little or no debt. They may be on the verge of starvation. Their children might have to do child labor just to earn enough for food or medicine to get by. They might end up as a sex slave in order to avoid starvation. They might just survive on little more than handfuls of rice each day. This Bengali person who barely survives, because they have no or little debt, is technically counted as more wealthy than the American in the first example. Here’s a more famous example: Donald Trump had tremendous debt in the 1980s and 1990s. He had to declare bankruptcy. He had very little wealth, even though he was living in a huge mansion, owned numerous luxury cars, and was flying around in a helicopter around New York. Technically speaking, Donald Trump was not as “wealthy” as the peasant or sex slave in Bangladesh.


If the Credit Suisse data is examined closely, we see just how flawed Oxfam’s extrapolations are. The following graphic visually represents the distribution of wealth between the various geographic-economic entities, which are represented in different colors. The 1 to 10 are deciles. “1” on the chart represents the distribution of wealth across the bottom 10 percent. “2” represents the bottom 20 percent, and so on. Look at the left side of the graph, the bottom deciles. What immediately jumps out? Felix Salmon answers in an excellent article debunking Oxfam:

“The weird thing is that triangle in the top left hand corner. If you look at the tables in the Credit Suisse datebook, China has zero people in the bottom 10% of the world population: everybody in China is in the top 90% of global wealth, and the vast majority of Chinese are in the top half of global wealth. India is on the list, though: if you’re looking for the poorest 10% of the world’s population, you’ll find 16.4% of them in India, and another 4.4% in Bangladesh. Pakistan has 2.6% of the world’s bottom 10%, while Nigeria has 3.9%. But there’s one unlikely country which has a whopping 7.5% of the poorest of the poor — second only to India. That country? The United States.”

Felix Salmon’s work is worth quoting in full:

“How is it that the US can have 7.5% of the bottom decile, when it has only 0.21% of the second decile and 0.16% of the third? The answer: we’re talking about net worth, here: assets minus debts. And if you add up the net worth of the world’s bottom decile, it comes to minus a trillion dollars. The poorest people in the world, using the Credit Suisse methodology, aren’t in India or Pakistan or Bangladesh: they’re people like Jérôme Kerviel, who has a negative net worth of something in the region of $6 billion.

America, of course, is the spiritual home of the over indebted — people underwater on their mortgages, recent graduates with massive student loans, renters carrying five-figure car loans and credit-card obligations, uninsured people who just got out of hospital, you name it. If you’re looking for people with significant negative net worth, in a way it’s surprising that only 7.5% of the world’s bottom 10% are in the US.

And as you start adding all those people up — the people who dominate the bottom 10% of the wealth rankings — their negative wealth only grows in magnitude: you get further and further away from zero.

The result is that if you take the bottom 30% of the world’s population — the poorest 2 billion people in the world — their total aggregate net worth is not low, it’s not zero, it’s negative. To the tune of roughly half a trillion dollars. My niece, who just got her first 50 cents in pocket money, has more money than the poorest 2 billion people in the world combined.

Or at least she does if you really consider Jérôme Kerviel to be the poorest person in the world, and much poorer than anybody trying to get by on less than a dollar a day. All of whom would happily change places with, say, Eike Batista, even if the latter, thanks to his debts, has a negative net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

There’s no doubt that the trillions of dollars owned by the world’s top 1% constitute an enormous amount of money: there is an astonishing amount of wealth inequality in the world, and it’s shocking that just 80 people are all it takes to get to $1.9 trillion. You could spread that money around the ‘bottom billion’ and give them $1,900 each: enough to put them squarely in the fourth global wealth decile.

Oxfam claims that the $1.9 trillion owned by the world’s top 80 people is equal to the amount of wealth held by the bottom 50% of the world’s population. But look at just the top two-fifths of the 3.5 billion people referred to in the Oxfam stat. That’s 1.4 billion people; between them, they are worth some $2.2 trillion. And they’re a subset of the 3.5 billion people who between them are worth $1.9 trillion. As you add more people at the bottom of the wealth distribution, the Oxfam aggregate doesn’t go up, it goes down.

The first lesson of this story, then, is that it’s very easy, and rather misleading, to construct any statistic along the lines of ‘the top X people have the same amount of wealth as the bottom Y people’.

The second lesson of this story is broader: that when you’re talking about poor people, aggregating wealth is a silly and ultimately pointless exercise. Some poor people have modest savings; some poor people are deeply in debt; some poor people have nothing at all. (Also, some rich people are deeply in debt, which helps to throw off the statistics.) By lumping them all together and aggregating all those positive and negative ledger balances, you arrive at a number which is inevitably going to be low, but which is also largely meaningless.

The Chinese tend to have large personal savings as a percentage of household income, but that doesn’t make them richer than Americans who have negative household savings — not in the way that we commonly understand the terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. Wealth, and net worth, are useful metrics when you’re talking about the rich. But they tend to conceal more than they reveal when you’re talking about the poor.”

Far from being a sign of poverty, tremendous debt, hence, negative wealth, can be a sign of access to capital. First World people with debt are able to lose more money than most Third World people ever see in their entire lives. It can be a sign that you have privilege to be able to accrue so much debt.  Debt means something far different to people who survive at or near subsistence level. For most people in the Third World, debt is not access to capital, debt is dangerous. In the Third World, debt can lead to their starvation, pauperization, enslavement. It can commonly lead to death, literally. Even though they may have more wealth than rich Americans, ordinary people in the Third World have a much lower standard of living. This is why wealth is not the best way to measure global poverty. Income is a far more reliable measure.

First Worldists always think themselves very clever. They see the sensationalist Oxfam statistic and think “ah ha! Now I can silence those Leading Lights!” They don’t realize they are out of their league when they debate the Leading Light. Their epic battle is our swatting flies. To be fair though, most First Worldists who use the Oxfam statistic probably don’t understand what it means. Their First Worldist readers don’t know what it means either. Most First Worldists are simply ignorant, but the Oxfam economists who put the statistics together almost certainly knew they were misleading, lying to people.

To state the obvious, the Oxfam statistic does not refute Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism is about redistributing global standards of living so there are no rich and no poor, so everyone has a just distribution, so everyone prospers, so everyone has a happy life, to everyone can be their best selves. It should be obvious by now that wealth does not correspond to standard of living. People with very little wealth, even negative wealth like a bankrupt Donald Trump or Jérôme Kerviel, can have some of the highest standards of living. Those who say we only have to redistribute the top few percentiles of the economic pyramid in order to reach a just, socialist distribution of the standard of living, those who try to refute Leading Light Communism, are engaged in a big non-sequitur. On the contrary, once the wealth statistics are broken down, the data confirms the Global Class Analysis of the Leading Light. The data gives us insight into the interesting role of debt in American life. Debt is not only a means of access to capital, it is a form by which the American population have a kind of collective ownership of or tie to their parasitic society. To have debt is one way that you acquire a stake in the United States, the First World, its banks, its businesses, its economy. Debt is one of the ways that ownership of society, the value that flows into the borders, privilege, the means of production and distribution become collectivized, democratized across American society. Maoists in China wrote of a new bourgeoisie that had arisen there. This new bourgeoisie did not privately own capital  as the old bourgeoisie did. Yet the new bourgeoisie still had collective influence over and profited from the economy. The rise of the First World working bourgeoisie is similar in some ways to new bourgeoisie. The point is that class has changed dramatically since the days of Karl Marx. In any case, once examined under a microscope, once the statistics are understood, the Oxfam data confirms the class analysis of Leading Light Communism.

Socialism is not about re-distribution of “wealth” from those individuals with positive wealth to those with great negative wealth. In fact, it is capitalism that regularly takes value from poor and working people in the Third World to bail out those with great negative wealth, who are disproportionately in the First World. When the rich go bankrupt, when banks fail, when their wealth drops into the negative, ordinary people in the Third World end up footing the bill. In fact, it is ordinary people in the Third World who are the ones who, on a daily basis, invisibility bailout the debt-ridden, “middle class” and working populations of the First World that often have big negative wealth. The whole imperial system is based on an upward flow of value from poor and ordinary people in the Third World to the First World. To really change the system, we have to have a scientific understanding of economics, not one based on internet memes. Socialism is about changing the global flow of value. It is about redistributing the standard of living globally in order to end all oppression, to bring freedom and happiness to all, to reach Leading Light Communism.


Oxfam’s misleading wealth statistics



A letter from a reader: Do all Americans live like Bill Gates?


A letter from a reader: Do all Americans live like Bill Gates?


We received the following letter:

“I do not agree with the positions of Leading Light

At the time of Marx sub continent was a colony of British Imperialism. Many other Asian countries along with Afrcian and Latin American countries were colonies of European Imperialist Countries. But there was also exploitation going on in Britain , France , Holland and other world powers.

Marx condemned this Imperialist exploitation along with the exploitation of workers inside those European countries and raised the slogan of “workers of the world unite!”

At the time of Lenin difference between First and Third world was also there. Russia was a backward country whereas Germany , Britain , USA etc. were advanced capitalist countries. But Lenin always emphasized the role of International unity of working class.

Lenin and Trotsky built Third International which was also called Communist International or Comintern. In which comrades from all countries around the world were welcome.

If we will condemn the workers of advanced countries or consider them same as capitalists and Imperialists then we will make a big blunder theoretically.

There is a big class divide even in advance capitalist countries of West. There are billionaires and there are people who live in poverty. Many live in difficult economic conditions.

Though these conditions are much better than those in backward countries but how can one say that there is no class divide exist in USA , Britain , France .

Does all people in USA live like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey etc? No”

LLCO replies:

Thank you for raising important issues. True revolutionary scientists, Leading Light Communists, do not fear debate. True revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, is an all-powerful weapon that can solve the problems facing humanity and our planet today. We thank you for having the courage to engage with new scientific breakthroughs. Dogma must be left behind if we are to really win. The exploiters, their intellectuals and intelligence agencies, have been perfecting the science of oppression. To defeat the oppressors, we must perfect the science of revolution. It is absolutely imperative that we spread Leading Light consciousness amongst the masses.

There are several points that need to be addressed.

1. It is true that Marx witnessed the birth of earlier phases of imperialism. Marx commented on the crimes of imperialism across the world, in places as diverse as Ireland and India. Also, Marx raised the slogan “workers of the world unite!” in the Manifesto. Even so, just because Marx raised a particular slogan does not make it true. Similarly, just because Lenin and Mao asserted something does not make it true. Marx, Lenin, and Mao were not infallible gods. Marxism is not religion. True Marxism is not simply what Marx said. True Marxism, today Leading Light Communism, is the most advanced form of revolutionary science. True Marxism, Leading Light Communism, is applying the most advanced science to the problem of ending all oppression. Real scientists do not appeal to Marx the way that Christians appeal to the Bible. Just because Marx called on all wage earners to unite a century and a half ago does not make such a slogan eternally true. Just because something may have been true then does not make it true now. It is important to elevate science, not metaphysics.

Marx raised that slogan a century and a half ago when  the world was very different. Marx looked at the trends he witnessed in Western Europe at the time, especially industrial England. He saw that as England was industrializing, two great classes were emerging: the capitalist class and the class of wage earners. Marx identified the latter class as the proletariat of his day. In the Manifesto, Marx projected that this pattern would be repeated globally. As it turns out, the world developed in more complex ways. In his more scientific works, like Capital Vol. 3, Marx began to note that all workers did not have the same relationship to the means of production. Even in Capital, Vol. 1, Marx speaks of “how industrial revulsions affect even the best-paid, the aristocracy, of the working-class.” In addition, Engels, toward the end of his life, noted that imperialism had a profound impact on the class structure of what would become the First World. For example, Lenin quotes Engels as early as 1858 as stating:

“The English proletariat is becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy, and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world, this is, of course, to a certain extent justifiable.”

Arguing with the social-imperialist revisionist Kautsky, Engels stated:

“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy? Well exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, and the workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.”

Lenin too noted changes in class structure resulting from imperialism:

“Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” (1)

China’s great Maoist general Lin Biao pointed to important transformations in the global system since World War 2:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (2)

Great Marxists of the past stated many things. At times, they noted the tendency of imperialism to transform some workers into a new type of bourgeoisie. At other times, they made statements contradicting this. Other writers have also noted the effect of imperialism on the class structure of the First World. However, the Leading Light was the first to fully understand and synthesize  global class analysis scientifically. It is not important to list all the quotes one way or another. Reality is what important, not what Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Mao may have said. It is important to realize that, in the case of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, they were writing at a time when the First World had not fully formed as the First World. The different statements in their work reflect the transitory period of the time in which they wrote. Today, there are imperialist countries of the First World, like the United States, that lack a significant proletariat. There are also imperialist, semi-imperialist, and emerging imperialist countries that retain a significant proletariat as Russia did in 1917. It may have been correct in Marx’s day to raise the slogan “workers of the world unite!” even in imperialist countries. However, it does not apply to today’s First World.

2. When Marx described the proletariat, the modern revolutionary agent, in his day, he was describing the emerging industrial worker in Europe. Marx described the proletariat as only making enough to reproduce his own labor from day to day. Marx described a class that was only paid enough to survive, not enough to accumulate. Marx described the proletariat as having no other income source but its labor. Marx described a producer class. Marx described an exploited class. Marx described a class that toiled in misery, a class that “has nothing to lose but its chains.” Marx described it as a revolutionary class.  Even if we were to accept Marx’s description of the modern revolutionary social base, the proletariat, as religious scripture, Marx’s characterization of the proletariat would not describe most workers in the United States and other First World countries. Firstly, most workers in the United States do not produce. Most are employed in management, services, and distribution. Industrial production has been in decline for a long time in the United States. The value that props up the economy of the United States is mostly created outside the United States. Just as the traditional bourgeoisie is parasitic, so too does the working bourgeoisie of the First World receive its income through exploitation of the Third World. Secondly, the First World working bourgeoisie often receives income and wealth from sources other than its labor. Many earn interest on bank accounts, receive social-democratic benefits, own stock — often through retirement plans, own small businesses, etc. They are not the simple worker that Marx described. Thirdly, they are not exploited in any significant sense. They currently earn more than they would under an equal system, a socialist system. Their lifestyle of consumption isn’t even ecologically sustainable. They would lose out under socialism, materially speaking. Fourthly, they do not toil in absolute misery as Marx described. They usually work in relatively comfortable environments. They earn vacation time. Their experience and lifestyle are closer to their own bosses than they are to the average Third World person. Fifthly, they have far more to lose than their chains. Sixthly, there is a whole history that confirms that the working bourgeoisie of the First World aligns more with its own overlords than with the proletariat of the Third World. They are not a revolutionary strata.

3. You ask the question whether all people in the USA live like Bill Gates? Does the man who makes a billion dollars (83,272,800,000 BDT) live the same as the man who makes a million (83,272,800 BDT)? Does the man who makes a million dollars (83,272,800 BDT) a year live as the man who makes 60,000 (4,910,000 BDT) dollars a year? Of course not. There is a great deal of stratification amongst exploiters (and exploited) everywhere. This is true in the First World also. A billionaire receives more of the social surplus than a millionaire. This does not mean that the millionaire is exploited. A millionaire receives more of the social surplus than a man who makes 100,000 (8,327,280 BDT) dollars a year. This does not mean the man who makes 100,000 dollars (8,327,280 BDT) a year is exploited. A person who makes 30,000 dollars (2,498,000 BDT) a year is not exploited either. The average person in the United States is not exploited either:

“The average ‘Joe American,’ who is 25 or older, has an income of 32,000 dollars (2,665,000 BDT) per year.  By contrast, most people in the world barely survive on less than 1,000 dollars (83,000 BDT) a year. For example, there are more people in India who make under a dollar a day than there are people residing in the United States. With his high income, the average Joe has access to luxuries and a lifestyle that is far out of reach for most people in the world. With this income a decent house, a car, a computer, stereos, a modern kitchen, swimming pools, education, vacation travel, entertainment, investments, are all within reach of Joe. Joe earns far in excess the value of his labor. With this income, Joe has more access to capital than many capitalists in the Third World. Joe earns far in excess of the amount that would be entailed by an egalitarian distribution of the social product worldwide. In other words, socialism would entail a big pay cut for Joe. He would lose most of his income according to a global, socialist distribution of income. He would lose his American lifestyle under socialism. In other words, Joe has about as much interest in socialism as the imperialist bourgeoisie. And he knows it, which is why again and again Joe lines up with his own bourgeoisie against the Third World.

According to the myth, Joe is a blue-collar worker… The reality is different. The average Joe holds a white-collar office job. These jobs are not the backbreaking, body-wrecking, life-ending jobs that many in the Third World endure. By comparison, Joe’s job is incredibly high paying, comfortable,  with short hours and long breaks. The culture associated with this kind of job has less in common with the work culture of the proletariat of the Third World, and more in common with the work culture of the bourgeoisie. Also, Joe does not identify himself with the global proletariat, those Marx described as ‘having nothing to lose but their chains.’ It is more common that Joe identifies himself with the imperial bourgeoisie.” (3)

We do not oversimplify. Even though the poorest working people in the United States are within the richest 15 percent globally, pockets of genuine poverty and exploitation do exist in the First World, especially amongst the homeless, migrants, drug addicts, etc. However, these pockets of poverty and exploitation tend to be unstable, scattered, and small. They do not provide a significant social base capable of making revolution in the First World. These pockets are surrounded by class enemies. In addition, because of class mobility in the First World, even the most impoverished tend to align with the system rather than against it. Asking people to make revolution is asking them to make sacrifice. It is asking them to risk losing their home, family, and life. Even the poorest in the United States have too much to gain by aligning with capitalism-imperialism. Revolution is the hope of the hopeless. Even amongst the most impoverished in the First World, too much hope remains.

There is only so much value created in the world. The vast majority of people in the First World earn more than the value of their labor. In other words, they directly and indirectly appropriate value from others. They are exploiters. The vast majority of the population in the First World would lose out under an equal distribution of the global social product, under a sustainable socialist system. This is true of both the traditional bourgeoisie and the working bourgeoisie in the First World. Organizing the First World working bourgeoisie around their immediate and mid-term economic interests, organizing around their class interest, is organizing them to secure a bigger piece of the global social product. It is organizing them for a bigger piece of the global pie. However, both the traditional bourgeoisie and working bourgeoisie of the First World already receive more than their fair share due to imperialism. To dangle the carrot of more wealth in front of First World peoples is to agitate for more imperialism. The Third World pays the price. In addition,  the vast majority of the population in the First World have lifestyles that are unsustainable. The bourgeois way of life that most First World people enjoy cannot be maintained forever. The planet simply cannot endure such a parasitic way of life forever. The vast majority of First Word people would see their incomes and wealth reduced under socialism. The global bourgeoisie, including most First World people, as a class have no economic interest in socialism.

Generally speaking, organizing First World peoples along economic lines is a characteristic of fascism and social-fascism, not genuine socialism. Both traditional fascism and social-fascism are an alignment of social forces where the lower bourgeoisie puts pressure on the upper bourgeoisie in order to secure a better deal for itself. The upper bourgeoisie enters into this arrangement with the lower bourgeoisie in the First World in exchange for social stability in the First World and to launch attacks on the global proletariat in the Third World. Since the upper bourgeoisie’s main source of income is imperialist exploitation, increasing the lot of the lower bourgeoisie in the First World usually means an increase in imperialist exploitation of the Third World. Fascism in the First World can take on two varieties. It can appear as traditional, conservative, rightist. Or, it can appear social-democratic, liberal, socialist, communist, leftist. This latter form often “waves the red flag to oppose the red flag.” The latter form is social-imperialism or social-fascism. Currently, there is a resurgence of fascism and social-fascism in the First World due to the economic crisis. The Occupy protests in the United States, for example, do not aim at global socialism or communism. They do not aim to return the wealth stolen by the United States to the Indigenous peoples of North America and Third World peoples. The Occupy protests aim to protect the imperial standard of living of the lower bourgeoisie in the United States. The Occupy movement is contradictory and diverse, but its overall direction is social-democratic and social-imperialist.  This is repeated over and over in the First World. Almost all revisionist parties, all First Worldist parties, are social-fascist in some aspects. By contrast, Leading Light Communists do not advocate for more wealth for the First World. Leading Light Communists advocate true equality and sustainability. For true equality and sustainability, for true socialism, for Leading Light Communism to exist, the First World way of life and the First World must cease to exist as it has. In the First World, the Leading Light organizes First World peoples not for their class interests, but against their class interest to stand with the exploited and oppressed in the Third World. The Leading Light organizes for true global equality and sustainability, not more privilege and consumption for the First World. Leading Lights in the First World advocate a healthier life that is based on global equality and sustainability. Since most First World peoples are class enemies at present, most will reject the communist message.

4. The Third International or “Comintern” welcomed all comrades of all countries. This is the correct line. Politics should be in command, not identity. There are true communists in the First World just as there are true communists in the Third World. Just because the First World as a whole is bourgeois does not mean that true communists do not exist there. Engels was one of the Leading Lights of his day. He came from a bourgeois background. Marx too was not a traditional proletarian. He was from an intellectual background. Lenin was trained as a lawyer. Mao was a privileged peasant who was able to go to school in the city. Che Guevara was trained as a medical doctor. Many of the greatest revolutionary leaders had access to bourgeois education. They had access to the world of science. They also had a foot in the world of the masses. They were bridges, conduits. The most advanced ideas of science passed through them to the masses. They forged ideological weapons that could be wielded by the masses. There are many First Worldist revisionists in the Third World just as there are many First Worldist revisionists in the First World. Also, there are Leading Light Communists, true communists, who are from the First World just as there are Leading Lights from the Third World. The criterion for whether one is a member of the true communist movement is not whether one is rich or poor, First World or Third World, etc. The criterion is whether or not one upholds the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism is what it means to be a true communist today. Politics in command. Leading Light Communism in command.

5. There is no scientific reason to claim that the working bourgeoisie of the First World and the workers of the Third World are the same class in any meaningful sense. There is no real evidence to suggest that there is potential for a revolutionary alignment amongst these groups; there is no evidence they share material interests. There is little history of genuine solidarity of any kind. Again and again, the First World working bourgeoisie aligns with its own traditional bourgeoisie in support of the capitalist-imperialist system. Again and again, it aligns against the Third World. The First World working bourgeoisie has far more in common with those above it than they do with the vast majority of humanity in the Third World. Real science is not dogma. Science is about predicting and explaining the world. First Worldism generates false predictions over and over about the revolutionary potential in the First World.  It does not explain the real world. First Worldism is fantasy. Leading Light Communism, by contrast, predicts and explains how people actually align and potentially align. Reality is the basis of science, not what Marx may or may not have said.

The world is much different than Marx described in the Manifesto. Not all those who are paid a wage or salary are revolutionary or potentially revolutionary. Even CEOs are employees of big corporations. They receive a salary, but that does not make them revolutionary. Police earn salaries yet are some of the biggest defenders of the system. The same can be said of management even though they earn wages or salaries. This has long been recognized by revolutionaries. This point can be extended to most First World people as a whole. The First World working bourgeoisie has far more in common in terms of its interests, culture and lifestyle with those above it than with those below it. Many First World working bourgeoisie have more access to capital than many capitalists in the Third World. They have access to capital in the form of loans, credit, homes, land, cars, etc. Just because they happen to earn a wage or salary does not make them revolutionary. Some, not all, earn more than capitalists in the Third World. In addition, ownership in the modern world is not as simple as it was in Marx’s time. Maoists began to discuss a new type of bourgeoisie that emerged in China within the Communist Party. It was not as though Liu Shaopqi or Deng Xiaoping literally owned factories. Yet Mao still called them a new bourgeoisie. Earlier, Lenin began to discuss the role of banks in the socialization of ownership across the bourgeoisie. Today, this socialization has democratized in various ways in the First World. Many of those who work in the First World buy stocks in corporations or own them through retirement plans. They earn interest on their bank accounts from their bank’s investments, exploitation of the global poor. They receive social-democratic benefits and the benefits of their state’s imperialist adventures. Many of those who work in the First World also own small businesses. The person who works in the First World is not the worker or proletarian that Marx described. There has been a kind of socialization of wealth across First World society. What makes First World affluence possible is imperialism, the impoverishment of the Third World. This is why there are never any real, significant socialist movements in the First World. This is why there is no history of real revolution, even though there is a long history of fascism and social-fascism. This is why there is a long history of social democracy, but no socialism.

Real communists represent the exploited, not the exploiters. They represent those who have a material interest in socialism, not those who have an interest in capitalism-imperialism. The world’s resources are not infinite. For the Third World to be equal, the First World must reduce its standard of living. Real communists do not stand for inequality; they do not stand for the preservation of the First World and continuation of exploitation. Real communists stand for global equality and sustainability, not for the continuation of First World privilege and  mindless consumption. We do not stand for the continuation of the imperialist, unsustainable, consumerist, First World, American way of life. We stand for a healthier, simpler, funner, more colorful, more intelligent, more heroic way of life. Leading Lights stand with the global poor who are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Third World. Leading Lights serve the people.

Saying Marx said so is no argument, especially since Marx’s real views are not as simple as they have been presented in your letter. If we are really to make revolution, we must look at reality, not dogma. We are raising the scientific bar. The way forward is clear. Leading Light Communism is the weapon of the most advanced revolutionary science. Armed with Leading Light Communism, led by the Leading Light, the masses will wipe away the old world. Down the First World and its agents! Up the poor peoples of the Third World! Global People’s War of the Leading Light! Our day will come.

Leading Light Communist Organization
June 28, 2012



* currency conversions from June 28, 2012


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


Global Inequality Versus Socialist Equality



[This is an old article that was originally published about 5-7 years ago. It shows some of the development of our political economy.]

Global Inequality Versus Socialist Equality


An approach to economics centered on equality as a regulative idea is in no way contrary to approaches that center around the mechanics of exploitation. It is not necessarily contrary to the labor theory of value or the theories of unequal exchange. Putting equality at the forefront also does not commit us to the kind of ultra-egalitarianism that Mao Zedong famously criticized. Obviously, there are certain cases where some inequalities are necessary and, even, desirable. It does demand that we act to greatly reducing the gaps between wealthy and poor populations, especially the gaps between the First and Third World. Equality demands the global social product be distributed evenly amongst the world’s population as best as possible.

Some might object that a socialist distribution is not an egalitarian distribution. Rather, a socialist distribution is one where wealth is spread out, not evenly, but to those who do the work and those countries who do the work: she who does not work, shall not eat. Whereas some have argued that the labor theory of value is necessary for explaining the mechanics of exploitation, the distribution principle associated with it is not adequate to rectify the problem of inequality between countries that has been generated by imperialism. Such a distribution principle does not address the problem of underdevelopment. Surely populations in the most underdeveloped parts of the Third World, that have been rendered unproductive by imperialism, should not continue to remain in dire poverty under a global socialism. Whole countries of the “industrial reserve army” in the Third World may not currently be productive, but should not resources and development be directed to such populations under socialism? According to demographers, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population is living in cities. The new “global countryside,” the base areas of the Global People’s Wars, will include the slums of Third World megacities. These slums are less sites for production then blights that show just how capitalism’s anarchy of production has failed to bring huge segments of the human population into production. Surely socialism must speak to these vast populations that will be the people’s warriors in the decades to come.

The global economy is a causal nexus where value in various forms is transferred around the globe from one person to another. So, if one person is receiving more than an equal share, then somebody else is receiving less somewhere in the causal nexus. Likewise, if someone is receiving less, someone else is receiving more. Imperialism has created a world order where those who receive less and those who receive more correspond to populations in the Third World and First World respectively. Using equality as a regulative idea, one should be regarded as exploited when one does not receive an equal, a fair, a just share. One is an exploiter when one receives more than an equal, a fair, a just share. A country or region is exploited, is part of the Third World, when its population is largely made up the exploited who have less than an equal share. A country or region should be regarded as part of the First World when its population is largely made up of exploiters who have more than an equal share. (1)

A quick look at global inequality

The income gap between the wealthy, imperialist countries and the poor countries of the global countryside points to the tremendous parasitism of the former on the latter. The income gap between the fifth of the world’s people in the former and the fifth in the latter was 74 to 1 in 1997, up from 60 to 1 in 1990 and 30 to 1 in 1960.

Now, all of the population of the First World are in the world’s richest 20% by income, which owns more than 85% of the world’s wealth. But if more than 50% of the world’s assets are own by the richest 2% of adults (most of whom live in the First World), the First World majority (less than 20% of the global population) owns 35% of the world’s wealth. 80% of the world’s population must make do with owning 15% of the world’s wealth. This First World monopoly of assets translates into a hugely disproportionate share of world consumption. In the 1998 study cited, 20 percent of the population in the developed nations were reported to consume 86 percent of the world’s goods. This astonishing degree of parasitism is underscored by a more recent 2002 World Bank study that reports that the richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor people. (2)

After decades of “development” and market liberalisation, structural adjustment programs and Washington Consensus neoliberalism, the average income for the Third World is still only around 15% that of the First World in purchasing power parity terms, and more like 5% in foreign exchange rate terms. (3)

Parasitism is reflected in consumption also. The fifth of the world’s people living in the highest income countries consumed:

86% of the world’s GDP – the bottom fifth just 1%.

82% of the world’s export markets – the bottom fifth just 1%.

68% of foreign direct investment – the bottom fifth just 1%.

74% of the world’s telephone lines – the bottom fifth 1.5%.

93.3% of internet users – the bottom fifth 0.2%.

84% of the world’s paper – the bottom fifth 1.1%.

87% of the world’s vehicles – the bottom fifth less than 1%.

58% of total energy – the bottom fifth 4%. (4)

The majority of the increase in world consumption during the 1990s accrued to those already in the top 10% of world income distribution. Between 1993 and 2001, some 50 to 60% of the increase in world consumption accrued to those living on more than PPP$10,000 1993 – around 10% of the world’s population. For this 10%, 4/5 lived in the high income countries and most of the rest in Latin America. The remaining 40-50% of the increase in world consumption accrued mainly to those living on around PPP$3000-$6000, of whom the majority were in the burgeoning middle class of semi-comprador China. “Hardly any of the increase accrued to those on less than PPP$1000 a year ($2.73 day). Most of the latter lived in South Asia, Africa, and China.” (5)

The First World worker does not gain under an egalitarian distribution of the world’s wealth. If a socialist order existed between peoples and regions, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the First World populations as a whole would lose out in terms of income, assets, life opportunities, etc. Thus the First World worker has little interest in overthrowing the status quo in favor of socialism, in favor of equality.

The revisionist script is a predictable one. Whether the revisionists choose to justify or explain these global disparities in wealth according to “productivity” differences or the protestant work ethic, manifest destiny, white racial superiority or predestination makes not one whit of difference. Like other imperialists, First Worldist revisionists will do all sorts of ideological contortions to justify the current standard of living of First World “workers. ” Not only do they maintain that the current imperial standard of living in the First World is deserved, but that First World workers deserve even more of the global pie. Karl Marx would be spinning in his grave, Lenin too, if they were around to hear these scumbags justifying parasitism in their names. Reality matters. Theory has to match reality, it must predict and explain, it must be scientific if it is to be a guide to action. Leading Light Communism is a set of eye glasses whose lenses allow the masses to see the world as it is. We can stumble around blindly or we can choose reality, revisionism or Leading Light Communism.


  1. In value terms, it is true that the poorest people in the world are often those who are unable to find work and, hence, are not technically exploited. But since exploitation has taken on profound geo-political dimensions after World War II, if a group of people lives in an exploited nation (a nation which turns over the bulk of its surplus value to the First World) and is paid below the international value of labor, then it is exploited and its lumpen status ensures competition for wages drives down their value in their country, contributing to superprofits.
  2. United Nations Human Development Report 1998, ‘Consumption for Human Development’ (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York 1998) online:
  3. Robert Hunter Wade, ‘Globalisation, Growth, Poverty, Inequality, Resentment, and Imperialism,’ in John Ravenhill, (ed.), Global Political Economy (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 378.
  4. United Nations Human Development Report 1999, ‘Globalization with a Human Face’, (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York 1998) online:
  5. Wade, 2008, p. 380.

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