Part 1: Response to the American Party of Labor: It’s too bad word processors don’t have a factcheck
The American Party of Labor (APL) is a First Worldist, Hoxhaist organization. Recently, they wrote an article that purports to “refute Maoism-Third Worldism” (an early term for Leading Light Communism). (1) We thank the APL for engaging with our work. We encourage people to take a look at their web page.
The main problem with the APL article is that it does not get the basic facts right. For example, the article accuses Maoist-Third Worldists (an early term for Leading Light Communists) of upholding Mao’s Three Worlds Theory of the 1970s. APL thinks that by discrediting China’s reactionary foreign policy associated with Three Worlds Theory that they are discrediting Maoism-Third Worldism (an early term for Leading Light Communism). However, the Leading Lights have long rejected China’s reactionary foreign policy of that period and Mao’s Three Worlds Theory in numerous articles. (2) (3) (4) So, the APL’s main criticism falls totally flat. Mao’s Three Worlds Theory and “Maoism-Third Worldism” (an early term for Leading Light Communism) have very little in common except that the names of the two theories happen to be similar. In fact, the APL’s class analysis is closer to that of the Chinese Communist Party from the 1970s than either is to Leading Light Communism Much of APL’s confusion is a product of their method. Instead of approaching these issues critically, the APL simply parrots the confused writings of Enver Hoxha. It should be a bit embarrassing to the APL that they have produced pages and pages based on such shallow errors.
On Three Worlds Theory of the 1970s versus Leading Light Communism
Leading Light Communism traces its history back to the global people’s war line of Lin Biao’s 1965 article Long Live the Victory of People’s War!, not to Mao’s Three Worlds Theory of the 1970s. The global people’s war line was influential in the Chinese Communist Party from 1965 until, roughly, 1971, although it began losing influence around 1969. The global people’s war line saw the main contradiction as the global city versus the global countryside, the imperialist, wealthy countries versus the exploited, poor countries. The global people’s war line saw the world revolution as a global people’s war. People’s wars of national liberation in the poor countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America were seen as merging into a global people’s war that weakens the the imperialist countries on many fronts, slowly the global countryside surrounds and crushes the global city. According to the global people’s war view, the world revolution proceeds from the global countryside to the global city. The proletariat and its allies are almost exclusively located in the global countryside, the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The reactionary forces are mainly the imperialist countries and their comprador allies. The socialist countries are considered to be red zones, base areas, in the global people’s war. The global people’s war line proclaimed that “revolution is the main trend in the world today.” Lin Biao wrote that Maoism “is Marxism-Leninism in the era when imperialism is headed for total collapse and socialism is headed for worldwide victory.” These formulations, associated with Lin Biao’s group, reflected the optimistic times. A wave of national liberation was sweeping across the world: Korea, China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. Even though socialism had waned in the Soviet Union, socialism had been revitalized in China and the world. Maoism and the Cultural Revolution energized a whole new generation of revolutionaries worldwide. Tactically, this line stressed the urgency of organizing of people’s wars. Sometimes it was even said that whether one dared to wage people’s war was a mark of whether one was a true communist or not. Even though the Chinese Communist Party ruled over a liberated zone populated by roughly a quarter of the world’s population, they did not seek to establish themselves as a “patriarchal party” as the Russians had. Mao very much opposed any attempts to re-establish the Comintern, a world party, a new international. There was not to be an organizational center; however, there would be an ideological one. Maoists recognized the importance of placing the most advanced science in command of the revolutionary movement. Maoism was systematized and elevated by Lin Biao and Chen Boda to a “new, higher stage of Marxism.” Thus it was the banner of Maoism at the head of the global people’s war. Proletarian science, not bourgeois nationalism, was at the head of the global people’s war.
During the height of radicalism in China, the first half of the Cultural Revolution Decade, Lin Biao’s line had a strong influence on the official rhetoric. The global people’s war line also had an influence on China’s foreign policy. Lin Biao’s view saw Western imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism as working in conjunction against the poor countries of the world. Thus this view sought to oppose both. This view did not seek an alliance with one imperialist against the other. According to Lin Biao’s line, the only allies of China would be revolutionary movements and popular regimes in the global countryside. This view subordinated China’s foreign policy interests to the global people’s war. Under its influence, the Foreign Ministry would seek to spread Maoism worldwide and support people’s war. However, the global people’s war line began to be seen as ultra-left as the Chinese Communist Party began to shift rightward from 1969 through the 1970s. According to the opponents of the global people’s war line, this isolated China since it put China at odds with most of the regimes in the world. It was perceived that this line left little room for the Foreign Ministry to engage in normal diplomacy. Thus Mao launched a behind-the-scenes effort to replace this line even as early as the Ninth Congress in April of 1969.
The new direction in foreign policy was unopposed after the fall of Lin Biao in 1971. The new line would eventually become tied to Three Worlds Theory. The new line sought to advance China’s narrow interests, even at the expense of the global proletariat. The new direction saw the Soviet Union as the main enemy. Thus the new line aligned China with all those opposing the Soviet Union, including the U.S. and comprador states. Hoxha is partly correct in the following quote provided by the APL. However, we’ll show later that the Chinese leadership did not see Three Worlds Theory as disregarding all other contradictions, including alleged class contradictions in the First World:
“The Chinese revisionists claim that there is only one contradiction in the world of today, and that this puts the ‘third world,’ the ‘second world’ and half of the ‘first world’ in confrontation with the Soviet Union”. (5)
The new direction of the 1970s signaled that the Chinese leadership no longer considered revolution to be the main trend, at least not in practice. The new view implied that the world situation had changed and that revolution was no longer on the rise, thus China needed a more pragmatic orientation in foreign policy. Mao’s Three Worlds Theory was not the source of the new foreign policy turn that began earlier. Rather, Mao’s Three Worlds Theory was an ad hoc justification of the opportunistic, new line in foreign policy.
Mao’s Three Worlds Theory is very different from the global people’s war line, the proto-Leading Light line, that it replaced. According to the Theory of Three Worlds, the superpowers like the U.S. and Soviet Union were the First World. Mao’s Theory defined the smaller imperialist powers like Europe and Japan as Second World. And, the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America were the Third World. Mao did not say too much about his Three Worlds Theory. The theory was advanced mostly by others. For example, Deng Xiaoping was one of its main advocates. Mao’s main statement on his Three Worlds Theory was made on February 2, 1974, during a conversation with Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.
“Chairman Mao Zedong (hereinafter referred to as Mao): We hope the Third World will unite. The Third World has a large population!
President Kenneth David Kaunda (hereinafter referred to as Kaunda): That’s right.
Mao: Who belongs to the First World?
Kaunda: I think it ought to be world of exploiters and imperialists.
Mao: And the Second World?
Kaunda: Those who have become revisionists.
Mao: I hold that the U.S. and the Soviet Union belong to the First World. The middle elements, such as Japan, Europe, Australia and Canada, belong to the Second World. We are the Third World.
Kaunda: I agree with your analysis, Mr. Chairman.
Mao: The U.S. and the Soviet Union have a lot of atomic bombs, and they are richer. Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada, of the Second World, do not possess so many atomic bombs and are not so rich as the First World, but richer than the Third World. What do you think of this explanation?
Kaunda: Mr. Chairman, you analysis is very pertinent and correct.
Mao: We can discuss it.
Kaunda: I think we can reach agreement without discussion, because I believe this analysis is already very pertinent.
Mao: The Third World is very populous.
Kaunda: Precisely so.
Mao: All Asian countries, except Japan, belong to the Third World. All of Africa and also Latin America belong to the Third World.” (6)
In the conversation with Kaunda, Mao explicitly rejects the suggestion by Kaunda that the First World is made up the “exploiters and imperialists.” By contrast, the Leading Lights hold that the First World or global city is indeed made up of the exploiter and imperialist countries. Mao does not consider all exploiting, imperialist countries as First World. Contrary to Leading Light Communism, Mao’s main criterion for the First World seems to be military strength. Mao places the U.S. and Soviet Union in the First World on this basis. And, Mao places European countries and Japan in the Second World. Mao never explains how exactly he arrives at this scheme. The categories of Three Worlds Theory are left arbitrary and vague because the Theory of Three Worlds was not a serious scientific theory designed to set policy. Rather, it was merely an ad hoc attempt to cloak a counter-revolutionary line in revolutionary rhetoric. The important point, however, is that even Mao explicitly draws a distinction between his Three Worlds Theory and other, very different, theories that speak of “worlds.” And, it is very obvious that Mao did not agree with the division of the world as advanced by the global people’s war line of Leading Light Communism.
The main problem with the APL’s approach here is that instead of actually researching the topics they address, instead, the APL just dusts off the works of Hoxha. Reproducing dusty dogma is not a serious approach to argument. Hoxha did not have a good understanding of the various lines in China. Hoxha too conflates Mao’s Three Worlds Theory with other theories, including those that it opposed. Hoxha’s work on this topic is sloppy to begin with; the APL’s work is sloppier, second-hand slop. Hoxha criticizes Three Worlds Theory for many wrong reasons and a few right ones. The problem with Hoxha’s work on Three Worlds Theory is that it is so poorly researched and filled with misunderstandings that it is not worth the time untangling the good from the bad.
APL and Hoxha incorrectly imply that Mao was a Third Worldist
It is strange that the APL polemic features a heading, in bold and in quotations: “‘There are No More Classes’.” The APL puts quotation marks around the statement as though it were attributed to Mao or Leading Light Communists. However, Mao nor the “Maoist-Third Worldist movement” (part of the Leading Light Communist movement) has ever asserted such a thing. Either the APL is being purposefully misleading or or they are just being sloppy again. The APL echoes Hoxha by criticizing the Chinese leadership for disregarding supposed class struggles in the First World during the Three Worlds Theory period. However, APL is totally wrong on this point. The Chinese leadership did not see Three Worlds Theory as a rejection of the supposed struggles of the workers in the First World against the bourgeoisie in the First World; struggles in the exploiter countries were seen as very much compatible with Three Worlds Theory. In fact, China’s leadership’s First Worldism, their support for class struggle by the First World so-called working class, increased with the adoption of the Three Worlds Theory in the 1970s. During the earlier, global people’s war period, China’s agitprop was more ambivalent toward struggles in the exploiter countries, except those of oppressed nations within the exploiter countries. There are a few years, at the height of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), where there is almost no mention of the struggles in exploiter countries at all in the Chinese Press, except national liberation of the Black Nation. China’s main publication for foreign consumption was Beijing Review. Beijing Review was the theoretical lifeline of the worldwide Maoist movement. During the earlier years of the global people’s war period, Beijing Review stayed mostly silent on the First World. However, Beijing Review almost let the proto-Leading Light cat out of the bag a few times. For example, Beijing Review published Robert F. Williams’ proto-Leading Light articles in 1966 and 1967:
“Most white workers identify with their white imperialist rulers. White liberals insist on paternalism. Even bourgeois minded so-called socialists are more and more identifying and grouping on a racial basis rather than on a class basis. We Afro-American revolutionaries have discovered that some so-called socialists, we thought to be our comrades and class brothers have joined the international Ku Klux Klan fraternity for white supremacy and world domination.” (7)
“This is the era of Mao Tse-tung, the era of world revolution, and the Afro-Americans’ struggle for liberation is a part of an invincible worldwide movement . . . . In keeping with the principles of people’s war, wherein the great masses of exploited peoples of the world represent the rural masses surrounding the cities (the exploiting industrial countries), the Afro-American revolutionaries represent a mighty urban underground within the city. Our people will further develop and master people’s warfare.” (8)
By the time of the Three Worlds Theory period in the 1970s, Beijing Review increased their promotion and coverage of First World “class struggle” as they perceived it. They reprinted many articles from First Worldist organizations that held very similar lines as the APL. In this period, the Chinese leadership firmly upheld a First Worldist line that very much supported what they perceived as a First World proletariat. The Chinese leadership saw the struggle in the U.S., for example, as that of a vast multi-national proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Here are a few quotes, chosen at random from dozens of articles, on First World supposed class struggle from the Three Worlds Theory period:
“Economists and the press in the United States estimate that as a result of the energy shortage, the U.S. gross national product for 1974 will be down by 25,000 million to 30,000 million dollars, inflation and unemployment will be more serious with the rate of unemployment exceeding 6 per cent.” (9)
“The Worker, organ of the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), pointed out in an article in a recent issue that that the present international situation is excellent… The article said that the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. are both imperialisms, which are contending and collaborating as they subjugate and exploit their own people and other peoples.” (10)
“The sharp rise in consumer credit and huge increase in individual debt in the United States have more clearly shown the cruel exploitation of the people by monopoly capitalism and the inherent weakness of the U.S. economy… Burdened by heavy taxation and soaring prices and, consequently, lowered purchasing power, millions of Americans are forced to buy on the installment plan — consumer credit, mortgages on houses totaled 714,700 million dollars at the end of 1972.
In normal circumstances, the working people, by tightening their belts, can manage to meet their payments. If, however, they are unemployed, sick or injured in labour accidents, more often than not it can be disastrous. The number of bankruptcies rose drastically from 25,000 in 1954 to 100,000 in 1960 and then to 200,000 in 1971…” (11)
“An article in the December issue of Revolution, a monthly of the U.S. Revolutionary Union, pointed out that the capitalist system cannot solve the unemployment problem… Anarchy of production is still the rule under capitalism. It is, of course, the working people who suffer most directly and brutally as a result — in a hundred forms, including unemployment, which grows to tremendous proportions whenever, inevitably, the anarchy of capitalism leads to crisis and depression.” (12)
“The American workers’ struggle has advanced this year against the background of a growing economic deterioration and increasing efforts by monopoly capitalists to shift their burden on to the workers. According to official U.S. figures, consumer prices in the country climbed 8.8 per cent in 1973 while workers’ wages rose only 5.8 per cent on the average. The unemployment rate went up from 4.9 per cent last December to 5.2 per cent in January. In the latter month alone 370,000 workers lost their jobs and more faced the same fate in February. This is bound to arouse discontent and resistance among the workers.” (13)
“The broad masses of American working women with a glorious fighting tradition have waged one struggle after another against oppression and exploitation.. Only 3 million of the 33 million women job-holders in the United states are trade unionists, the rest being barred from unions and denied any rights to collective bargaining with the management…” (14)
“A study by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in December 1973 that at least one out of every five American households lived in ‘substandard’ or overcrowded conditions or was forced to spend an excessive part of its income on rent.
Slum housing conditions are particularly deplorable. The Washington Star-News pointed out last November that news reports on Washington slums ‘have overflowed with accounts of human misery.’” (15)
“Over 110,000 Chrysler workers downed their tools last September 14 to 23, bringing production to a standstill…” (16)
It is simply not true that the Chinese leadership in the 1970s disregarded “class struggle” by First World workers against the First World bourgeoisie. Mao upheld an incorrect line not unlike the First Worldist line of Hoxha or the APL throughout his career. Like the APL, for example, Mao upheld the line that First World workers, Black and White, should fight against their common enemy, the big bourgeoisie. Here are two examples of what Mao had to say on the topic:
“The Chinese people firmly support the revolutionary struggle of the American people. I am convinced that the American people who are fighting valiantly will ultimately win victory…” (17)
“In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world.” (18)
Despite what Hoxha and the APL claim, the Chinese Communist Party continued to support supposed First World class struggles. The Chinese Communist Party even increased their coverage of supposed First World struggles in the 1970s, the period of Three Worlds Theory. This First Worldism was one of Mao’s biggest errors. It is an error shared by Mao, Hoxha, and the APL. First Worldist revisionism is the main revisionism today. The First Worldism of Mao, Hoxha, and the APL is in stark contrast to the politics of the global people’s war line, the Leading Light line, that holds that “in the final analysis, the whole cause of world socialism hinges on the struggle of the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.” (19) In contrast to the First Worldists, Leading Light Communism rejects the position that there is a significant First World proletariat. Moreover, Leading Light Communism holds that to advance the class interests of First World workers is to advance the interests of an exploiter class. First Worldism is reactionary whether it is advanced by Mao, Hoxha, or the APL.
Check (your facts!) please!
One would think that someone writing a polemic would at least read up on the topics they are criticizing. The APL has failed to do even the most surface-level investigation into our theory or Mao’s theory. Otherwise they would have realized, what is plainly obvious, that our theory is not Mao’s theory. They would also realize that Mao was a consistent First Worldist, not a Third Worldist. This too is very obvious.
It isn’t a great mystery to us why the APL makes such obviously false statements. The APL, instead of actually reading our materials, instead of actually researching these topics, made a big assumption that our theory and Three Worlds Theory must be one and the same. After all, the names happen to be similar. So reasoned the hapless APL author. Then, the APL author found that Hoxha had already written on Mao’s Three Worlds Theory. So, instead of actually thinking for themselves, the APL found a ready-made polemic. Dust off the Hoxha. String a few a quotes together and “Voilà!” Nuff said.
The problem with the APL approach is an extreme case of the problem with Hoxhaism, and First Worldism, in general. First Worldism, including Hoxhaism, is not living science, it is stale dogma. Instead of actually investigating these issues, comparing them to the world, the APL’s first instinct is to dust off scripture. Their approach does not take its cue from the world. Rather than evaluating theory by looking at its ability to predict and explain, their approach is religious. They look at their ideological cannon the way that a priest looks at holy scripture. They can’t even be bothered to investigate what they are criticizing. It’s too bad that word processors don’t have a factcheck alongside the spellcheck feature. It would have saved everyone a lot of time.
This polemic will be continued in several additional parts.
6. Mao Zedong. On Diplomacy. Foreign Languages Press. Beijing. 1998. pp. 454.
7. Beijing Review. August 12, 1966.
8. Beijing Review. August 18, 1967.
9. Shih Chi-ping. Capitalist World’s Economy in Serious Difficulties. Beijing Review. no. 3 January 18, 1974. pp. 15
10. “The Worker” (Britain). The Two Imperialist’ Crises. Beijing Review no. 4. January 25, 1974. pp. 21.
11. USA: Sharp Rise in Private Debt. Beijing Review no. 5. February 1, 1974. pp. 21.
12. “Revolution” (U.S.A.). Evils of the Capitalist System. Beijing Review no 8. February 22, 1974. pp 20.
13. U.S.A.: Succession of Workers’ Strikes. Beijing Review no 10. March 8, 1974. pp. 22.
14. U.S.A.: Working Women Are Further Awakening. Beijing Review no 11. March 15, 1974 pp. 20.
15. U.S.A.: Deplorable Housing Conditions For Working People. Beijing Review no 13. March 29, 1974. pp. 29.
16. Capitalist Countries. Workers’ Strikes in Past Year. Beijing Review no 18. May 3, 1974. pp. 23.
18. Mao Zedong. Statement Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism. August 8, 1963. http://marxistleninist.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/two-articles-by-mao-zedong-on-the-african-american-national-question/