Equality and Global Alignments
“To tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise, the dictatorship is impossible, especially in West-European countries.” — V. I. Lenin, Speech on the Terms of Admission into the Communist International July 30 (1)
“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.” — Lin Biao, Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (2)
The first eight words of Mao’s Selected Works are “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” Marxism is revolutionary science. Marxism applies science to the task of reaching communism. And communism is nothing less than total human liberation, the end of all oppression. Mao called the question of friends and enemies the question of first importance. If an organization can’t answer this question correctly, then everything else is moot. If one’s class analysis is off, then one won’t be able to make communist revolution anyways. Visions of social revolution mean nothing, they are merely utopian dreams, if they are not based in material analysis. Only by understanding the material basis for revolution, only with a correct class analysis, will one be able to align the necessary social forces to bring the proletariat to power in order to begin socialist construction, to begin the long march toward communism. In order to understand who can and cannot be aligned against imperialism and aligned in favor of socialism, it is necessary to ask: who will benefit and who won’t under socialism? Those social forces that do benefit from socialism will fall on the side of revolution. Those that do not will not. This is basic materialism.
In some sense, everyone will benefit from communism. Ultimately, life under communism will be more fulfilling and healthier for everyone, even those who were once members of reactionary classes. Also, capitalism’s destruction of the environment is so great that, in a sense, it is in everyone’s long-term interest to support an alternative. In that distant future, classes will have ceased or nearly ceased to exist. Nearly everyone will benefit then. Even though everyone will benefit from communism in the long run, in the short run, many will lose out. Socialism is about redistribution of wealth and power. And, in the real world, these are finite and limited. For the vast majority to have more, the minority must have less. This is the material reality that prevents the wealthy from aligning with the poor worldwide. The real world is a world of class conflict. In other words, we must orient toward classes as they currently exist. Just because a member of the bourgeoisie may cease being so decades from now does not mean that we appeal to him today as though he were a proletarian. To do so is to toss class analysis in favor of bourgeois humanism and vague moral appeals. We must orient toward the present, not toward some distant, possible future.
The single most glaring fact about the world is the gap between the First World and the Third World. The capitalist-imperialist system is one where power and wealth are concentrated in some places and not others. Power and wealth are channeled to some populations at the expense of others; a minority of countries benefit and a majority do not. Looking at income globally, across populations, we get a good sense of who is wealthy and who is not. After all, income will roughly tend to correlate with other indicators of wealth, such as assets. Looking at income will give us a good picture of how wealth is distributed globally. It is no secret that wealth and power are correlated. Those social groups that have more wealth tend to have more power; those that tend to be poorer have less. Looking at income distribution globally will give us a rough picture of where First World workers stand in relation to the world system.
Let’s use a thought experiment to show what a world would look like if income was evened out. This is not a real image of socialism, obviously. Socialism is a much more profound transformation; it is not just about income. However, the thought experiment will give us a sense of which populations are benefiting from the imperialist distribution and which ones are not. The median income per household member in the United States for a year is roughly 19,400 dollars. (3) Income is not just wages and salaries, but also includes such items as unemployment payment, welfare, disability, child support payments, regular rental receipts, as well as any personal business, investment, or other kinds of income received routinely. The average Joe American, who is 25 or older, has a total income of 32,000 dollars per year. (4) Hardly anyone in the United States is merely paid the minimum wage of 7.25 dollars per hour. Most entry-level jobs, for example, employ workers at 10 dollars or more per hour. Very few make merely this wage either. The rare individual who only makes minimum wage who works full time in the United States makes about 15,000 dollars a year, plus he may have other sources of income too. (5) By contrast, the median income globally is about 850 dollars a year. Most do not even make 3 dollars a day in the exploited countries of the Third World. Most of humanity in the Third World just subsists, just survives. What would things look like if equality governed the global economy? What would incomes look like under a system where income was distributed equally, where everyone receives an equal share of the global social product? If the world’s income was divided up equally among the world’s population of 6.7 billion, each person would be entitled to the equivalent of roughly 8,000 dollars (PPP) (5,500 dollars using Atlas method). (6) (7) (8) In other words, each worker in the United States is, at most, entitled to a share of the pie equal to roughly 8,000 dollars of total income under this distribution. Even the rare person who makes minimum wage in the United States would stand to lose out substantially under an equal distribution. Such a person would lose about half of their total income. Also, a person receives all kinds of secondary benefits simply by living in the First World including: greater class mobility, public and social services, access to infrastructure, greater public education, greater security, etc. Even the very poorest of First World workers is unlikely to benefit under a more equal system. In addition, such an equal distribution scheme does not even take into consideration the need to rectify the historically entrenched, uneven development globally. The exploiter countries of the First World have benefited due to centuries of plunder, exploitation and underdevelopment of the Third World. To truly even out the situation, extra value would need to be directed to the exploited and poor countries. In other words, the population in the United States and First World generally would be entitled to even less, Third World peoples even more. There are those utopians who object to this. They baldly assert that First World wealth can be maintained under an equal distribution if production was, as if by magic, increased by leaps and bounds. Firstly, it is not possible to even-out the consumption level between the top 20 percent, where nearly all First World peoples fall, and the rest of humanity even if the social product dedicated to consumption were doubled with all of the extra product going to the bottom 80 percent. It would take, roughly, a tripling of the pie. (9) Secondly, First World consumption and the First World lifestyle generally are not even ecologically sustainable. First Worldism is killing the planet and our future.
What our thought experiment shows is that First World peoples receive more than their share of the global social product. They do not have a material interest in an equal distribution of private income, let alone socialism. Socialism aims for an egalitarian or near egalitarian distribution. However, this obviously doesn’t mean socialism is merely about evening-out incomes. Real socialism will end up reducing private wealth even more than our hypothetical distribution does. This is because socialism aims to collectivize property, not to just even out private property. Socialism is about radically altering society in order to reach communism, to end all oppression. However, using equality as a regulative idea shows us what most people with common sense already know. There are winners and losers in any unequal distribution. First World peoples lose out under a global distribution that evens out income. Under a truly socialist system, not only would equality govern the global distribution of value, socialism has the goal of eliminating of private property and bourgeois right altogether. In other words, under real socialism, First Worlders would lose more than their wealth, their lives would be turned upside down.
Socialism has always been closely linked to the idea of equality. Just as class society is a system based on inequality of power and wealth, so too is the current world order based on inequality. The criticism of imperialism is a criticism of inequality. Rather than a global system where some countries have wealth and power at the expense of other countries, real Marxists advocate a system where countries have equality. To advocate, as Lenin did, for the self-determination of nations is to advocated for a transnational system that is organized around equality. After the Soviet Union fell to revisionism and became imperialist itself, Lenin’s flag was raised to new heights by Maoism. Maoism too criticized imperialism, social imperialism, chauvinism, hegemony and global inequality. Maoism was an explicit plan of action to destroy the old global order and replace it with the new. It was Chen Boda and Lin Biao who articulated Maoism as Maoism, as a new stage of Marxism. Chen Boda’s conception was of Maoism as the universal Marxism of the colonial and neocolonial countries. Lin Biao too linked Maoism to the collapse of imperialism worldwide. Lin Biao’s conception included Maoism at the forefront of a global people’s war that advances from the poor countries to the rich ones. Maoism advanced our understanding significantly, but it took Leading Light Communism to make the total breakthrough. It was Leading Light communism that finally dispensed with all First Worldism, that purified the global people’s war and socialism. A socialist distribution globally is one that rectifies the inequalities of wealth and power that exist under the current order. Socialism may not always deliver. Errors are made. Poor planning exists. However, the gross inequalities that exist under imperialism are a far cry from what will exist under socialism even at its worst. If inequalities are tolerated, they will be inequalities that benefit the poorest countries. Equality, in a general sense, is what socialism aspires to. True communists reject all First Worldism.
The First World is simply incompatible with socialism worldwide. Even those at the bottom of First World societies will, for the most part, be entitled to less under socialism. This is why First World workers have always aligned with their own bourgeoisie against the popular classes of the Third World. First World workers align with imperialism against the vast majority of humanity, including the vast majority of workers. This is one reason why First World workers should be regarded as part of the imperial bourgeoisie. The First World workers are not a social base for proletarian revolution because they are not a proletariat. They are not an exploited class nor are they a revolutionary class. First World workers sometimes have more access to capital than Third World capitalists. Marx linked poverty to revolution. For Marx, the proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains. It is an immiserated, exploited class, a class reduced to subsistence or near subsistence. It is the class that is made up of those who have only their labor to sell. The proletariat is the main source of value under capitalism. Marx’s description of the proletariat hardly describes the First World worker. However, it does describe many in the Third World. Marx’s description should be uncontroversial. Those who rebel are those the system has failed. The social peace in the First World is a product of the high standard of living there. It is no great mystery why the past century witnessed many revolutions in the Third World and, yet, there has never been one in the First World. Thus Mao’s question of first importance is answered.
Revisionism is very powerful. Neither the Soviet Union nor China were conquered militarily. Capitalism was restored to both. It was the enemy within that reversed socialism and restored capitalism. Sugar coated bullets proved the most dangerous, as Mao warned. Revisionism has been criticized by every great leader since Marx. Lenin criticized the revisionists of the Second International for their narrow, chauvinist outlook. The revisionists of the Second International voted for imperialist war when it worked to the benefit of the working class of their individual countries. French social democrats voted for French imperialism. German social democrats voted for German imperialism. Lenin, by contrast, took the outlook of the global proletariat. Lenin advocated for the defeat of his own country and for an end to imperialist war. The First Worldist so-called socialists deserve to be labeled as social imperialists and social fascists just as Lenin labeled the revisionists of his day. Just as the revisionists advocated imperialism in the name of socialism, so to do First Worldists today. First Worldism seeks to increase the wealth of those who already receive more than their fair share at the expense of the proletariat in the Third World. By contrast, the Leading Light communist movement advocates on behalf of the vast majority, the exploited and truly oppressed. Leading Light Communism explains our world as it really is. Our banner is at the head of the global people’s war. The Leading Light shines the way forward.
1. V. I. Lenin, “Speech on the Terms of Admission into the Communist International July 30,” Collected Works, Vol. 31, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1960), pp. 248-9.
2. Lin Piao, Long Live the Victory of People’s War!, (Foreign Language Press,1965), Retrieved from: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch07.htm
3. Household Income for States: 2008-2009, (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), p. 1 (50,221 dollars was median household for 2008-2009. Divide this by 2.59, the average number in a U.S. household to get roughly 19,400 dollars.)
5. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_calculate_work_hours_for_a_year (multiply hours per year by 7.25 dollars; either way, the figure is roughly 15,000)
6. Income of the Average Person on Earth, Retrieved from: http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2006/MateNagy.shtml
7. Per Capita Income around the world, Retrieved from: http://www.success-and-culture.net/articles/percapitaincome.shtml
8. Average Earnings Worldwide, Boston Globe, October 7, 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/10/07/average_earnings_worldwide/ also http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-median-income-worldwide.htm (These sources use another method that would reduce First World entitlement even more)
9. Real versus fake Marxism on socialist distribution, 5 August 2009, Leading Light Communist Organization