New world, new challenges, new science
by Prairie Fire
In 1965, as wars of liberation waged around the world, Lin Biao wrote of the great divide between the global city versus the global countryside, the rich countries versus the poor countries, the First World versus the Third World. This continues to be the principal contradiction today. Lin Biao saw the world revolution through the lenses of people’s war. Just as Mao’s people’s war in China advanced from the countryside to surround, then conquer, China’s cities, so too would global people’s war advance from the global countryside to surround, then conquer, the global city. This basic outlook continues to be correct today, as it was in 1965. However, the world has changed greatly in the last half century. Our political economy, our concepts of underdevelopment, class, revolutionary agency, and practice must all be updated to meet these challenges. Here are some basic points that need to be understood by revolutionaries:
1. Underdevelopment has taken new forms. Imperialism has created a lopsided world. Development has been, and continues to be, uneven from country to country. In the past, those countries that were considered to be developed were industrialized and also had diversified economies. Some of these developed countries were imperialist ones, others were socialist. The socialist ones built themselves up and sustained themselves through their own labor and resources. By contrast, the imperialist countries became developed on the backs of their colonies and neo-colonies. The imperialist countries built up their economies at the expense of others. For example, the industrial-revolution economies of Western Europe and North America were made possible and given a boost by the value created by slavery and value transfers from colonies. Cheap labor and raw materials, plunder of land through genocide, and the opening of new colonial markets aided in the modernization of the West. This process continues in various forms today. However, underdevelopment today differs in some respects than past underdevelopment. In the past, underdevelopment was often linked to both lack of industrialization and lack of diversification of production. In the past, an underdeveloped economy was usually a poor economy that was mainly geared toward production of one or two cash crops or mineral or other resource extraction. These products would then be processed, or refined, or enter into a larger production process in the imperialist developed countries. In other words, in the past, industrialization and diversification was almost always associated with development. And, lack of industrialization and lack of diversification was almost always associated with underdevelopment. Even though this old pattern continues in some places, in other places new patterns are emerging. Today, the wealthy, imperialist countries are no longer industrialized as they once were. Today, in many parts of the First World, fewer and fewer people are employed in factories. Rather, more and more people are employed in distribution, commerce, management, and the public sector. In many parts of the First World, populations consume more and more, but produces less and less. This is the rise of the mall economy of the First World. At the same time, factories are moved to the Third World. Many Third World economies have become industrialized and diversified, yet the primary beneficiaries of this are not Third World populations, but the imperial populations of the First World. In other words, even though the Third World countries are producing, the value is mainly directed outward to the First World. The surplus is not directed into the Third World economies in a way that benefits the population, aids self-determination, or produces truly national capital. Instead, the beneficiaries are the imperialists and the imperial populations. Thus healthy development is not simply a matter of industrialization and diversification. And underdevelopment is not simply a lack of these qualities. Today both the First World and Third World are increasingly mal-developed. The First World, producing less and consuming more, is increasingly parasitic on the Third World.
2. New Democracy will take new forms. In the past, imperialism divided the world, for the most part, into traditionally developed and traditionally underdeveloped countries. Traditionally underdeveloped countries were described in various ways: “semi-feudalism,” “comprador capitalism,” “bureaucrat capitalism,” etc. These descriptions emphasized various aspects of mal-development in the Third World. One implication of this was that revolution in the Third World could be described as a two stage process. The first stage is the New Democratic stage. The New Democratic revolution unites much of the peasantry, workers, petty bourgeoisie, and even some of the patriotic capitalists of the Third World against imperialism, for land reform, national development and basic democratic reforms. New Democratic revolution lays the basis for the second stage. The second stage is socialism, where the proletariat further reorganizes society in its interest. This lays the basis for communism, the end of all oppression. The changing nature of underdevelopment in the Third World today will affect the revolutionary process. The New Democracy of the future may not necessarily be an agricultural affair based on “land to the tiller.” It may not be based on land struggles at all. It may not be centered on the countryside. The slum dwelling classes and their concerns for shelter, to have their own small trade and businesses, and survival generally, may become a greater and greater part of the early revolutionary process, and of New Democracy. Or, this may lay the basis for a whole new kind of socialist revolution in the Third World: New Socialism.
3. The revolutionary agent will take ever new forms. The world economy has created vast reservoirs of impoverished people in the Third World who do not add to the total social product, but, rather, survive on the edges. Many of these people barely survive in the megaslums of the Third World. Many of them live in refugee camps or survive on aid. At the same time, in some parts of the Third World, the unionized industrial working class has become a relatively privileged strata among the population with less immediate interest in radical social transformation. This working class is sometimes more privileged than the numerous street vendors and small traders who reside in Third World slums. The concept of the proletariat need not be tied exclusively to a role within production per se, but can be tied to overall social position and impoverishment. In some places in the world, those who match Marx’s famous description of having “nothing to lose but their chains” are not always those who sell their labor to capitalists. Thus there is a rise of new proletarians.
4. Just as the class structure of the Third World has changed, so has the class structure of the First World. In the First World, the revolutionary class has passed from the scene. In the 1960s, there was some basis for thinking that a revolutionary social base existed within the ghettos and captive nations of the First World. Such a base is nonexistent today. There is no significant First World revolutionary class, no significant First World proletariat. There is no significant stand-in First World revolutionary class. This means that we must look beyond the First World for a revolutionary social base. This means global people’s war is the primary means of bringing the New Power of the proletariat to the First World.
5. With the growth of the global slum and new proletarians, the shape of future people’s wars will change. In some parts of the Third World, people’s war will follow the traditional Maoist pattern. It will be mostly peasant movement led by the communist line that establishes ever greater base areas and red zones, the new society in miniature, in those places where the state is weakest. It will be tied to New Democratic demands, especially the demand for land. It will be a protracted advance from the countryside to city. However, the changing world will make this pattern not viable everywhere. Some geographies make the traditional Maoist model problematic. Also, the growth in imperialist air power will affect the ability to set up traditional base areas and red zones. Most importantly, the growth of the urban population will make the urban slum more and more important in the people’s war.
6. There is a growing ecological crisis. The capitalist system is based on infinite expansion beyond our means. Yet our Earthly resources are finite. Thus capitalism is incompatible with the continued survival of the planetary ecosystem. First World consumption is out of proportion; it is leading us toward ecological catastrophe. Environments are rapidly changing due to human intervention. Revolutionaries of the future are going to have to adopt strategies that take this into account. Revolutionaries need to examine not just the forces of production and social relations, but also the conditions of production themselves. Revolutionaries need to take the natural world into account. Socialist development cannot treat nature as a never ending resource to be consumed. The New Power of the future will need to be ecologically sustainable. The survival of all life on Earth is on the line.
7. New technology and greater mobility open up new paths for revolution. Greater communication and mobility mean that revolutions may be increasingly dynamic in important ways. Subjective and objective conditions can change in explosive ways, very rapidly. Tempos can accelerate seemingly out of nowhere. Events in one location can quickly influence events and conditions around the world. Revolution will become more globalized in important ways. New technologies will have a profound impact on how revolutions are made. New technologies will open up new possibilities during socialist construction.
Leading Light Communism has advanced revolutionary science in almost every way. This is a big part of why Leading Light Communism is a whole new stage of revolutionary science. It is the pinnacle of revolutionary science today. Political economy is key to making revolution. However, it is not enough to limit these advances to the realm of theory. To match our advances in theory, we must also advance our organizational forms to meet today’s challenges. We must strike out in ever new, bold ways. We must not be afraid to lead not only in the ideological realm, but also on the ground. We have the plan, the organization, the leadership. Follow the Leading Light. Be the Leading Light.