In the forging of independence movements in the colonies of what would later become the Third World, movement leaders and intellectuals defined the issue of independence in a form that integrated issues of national liberation and class. The leaders understood that national liberation could not be achieved without a national unity that overcame class differences. Although the leaders and intellectuals came mostly from the national bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie, they recognized that the attainment of their goals could not be accomplished without significant mass participation, and this required the formulation of platforms that addressed the specific needs of peasants and workers, as felt and understood by them.
In the Caribbean, where African slavery was significant, as well as in those African colonies in which there were significant numbers of European settlers, race also was an inescapable factor. Accordingly, the movements also embraced the principle of racial equality.
Thus, the Third World movements of national liberation were born with an integrating dynamic, in which the most politically astute understood the necessity of integrating issues of national liberation, class and race. They evolved in this integrated form from the end of the eighteenth century to the twentieth. Other issues later emerged: women during the twentieth century; and ecology and the original peoples of America during the second half of the twentieth century. As a result of the historic integrating dynamic of the movements, leaders were able to include these new sectors and issues, such that by the beginning of the twenty-first century the movements of the Third World had accomplished an integration of issues of national liberation, class, race and ethnicity, gender and ecology.
The integration of the issue of women faced challenges. The women’s movement emerged in the West, so Third World women leaders, who always had been present but not as spokespersons for the cause of women, had to formulate their proposals in ways that made clear that they were not the unwitting transmitters of a form of cultural imperialism. They thus re-formulated the Western women’s agenda, not only because it was an intelligent political strategy, but also because doing so reflected their deepest beliefs, as citizens of the emerging Third World. As one dimension of this, they left aside the issue of lesbianism, not wanting to create divisions among the people and to risk rejection of the demands and issues that affected the great majority of women (see “The rights of women” 11/11/13; “Gender and revolution” 1/21/2016).
The integration of the issue of ecology also was complicated. In its initial formulation in the West, the ecology movement viewed economic growth and environmental protection as opposites. But the Third World, in conditions of underdevelopment, had to increase production. Recognizing the essential validity of the claims of the ecology movement, the Third World arrived to the notion that it was necessary to expand production, but in a sustainable form, thus giving birth to the concept of sustainable development, which today is a central demand of the Third World movements of national and social liberation (see “Sustainable development” 11/12/13).
The integration of the indigenous movements of America into the struggle of Third World national and social liberation was the least complicated. It emerged late, in the last decades of the twentieth century, by which time the integrating dynamic had been consolidated as a movement tendency. The historic exclusion of indigenous nations from the Latin American movements of peasants and workers came to be recognized as unjust and as an historic error.
Thus, the Third World movements arrived to be movements that integrated the various issues that today are in debate, except for the issue of gay rights. On this issue, there is some marginal discussion and debate in the Third World, but by and large it is left aside as potentially undermining the necessary unity of the people.
In the Third World, the various issues are integrated around the organizing principle of the nation. The theoretical integration does not give primacy to race, nor to gender, nor to class, as occurs with grand narratives developed in the West. Rather, primacy is given to the nation: the right of the nation to exist and to be sovereign; the historic development of the nation; the values that are the foundation of the nation; the place of the nation in the world; and the values that ought to guide relations with other nations, especially respect for their sovereignty.
Patriotism, therefore, is fundamental to the Third World movements: love for the nation; loyalty to the nation; and heroic sacrifice in defense of the nation. In the Third World narratives, patriotism is the foundation of commitment to the cause of justice that is formulated with respect to the various issues of national liberation, class, gender, race and ethnicity, and ecology.
The Third World example of giving centrality and primacy to the nation could serve as an inspiration for those committed to social justice in the North. All modern nations have a story that includes a struggle for democracy in some form or other, even those nations that became colonizing or imperialist nations in the world-system. These stories can be the foundation for national narratives that mobilize the peoples in defense of the true and the right.
The integrated movements of national and social liberation of the Third World are comprehensive. Not only do they integrate a number of key issues, but they also have an historical and a global perspective. They possess consciousness of the historic development of the nation, largely understood as a dialectal and evolving contradiction between domination and democracy. And they possess global consciousness, with a scientifically-based understanding of the position and function of the nation in the modern world-system.
When we intellectuals and activists in the North look at the Third World revolutions, we should appreciate what they have accomplished, for in truth, in spite of the significant political, economic and military obstacles they have encountered, they have accomplished much more than have the movements of the North. If we were to ask how they did it, we would find that they constructed an integrated movement that was attentive to the sensibilities of each sector of the people. This could inspire us to formulate narratives for our own peoples that are integral and comprehensive, rooted in knowledge and in historical and global consciousness.
Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned by the Left in the North from the Third World is the centering of the concept and sentiment of patriotism. In these times, we should note the importance of patriotism in the neo-fascism of Trump and his team. They want to defend our nation, against foreign companies that steal our jobs and sell their products in our land; and against immigrants who enter the country without an adequate process of regulation. So they have a patriotic discourse that is effective among the people. But their patriotism is narrow, for it wants to ignore the rights of other nations. The Left can effectively counter their narrow patriotism not with a belief that patriotism is an antiquated sentiment, possessed only by those who lack sophistication; nor with a posture that gives insincere lip service to narrow patriotism. Rather, neo-fascism can be effectively countered with a form of patriotism that is guided by an internationalist spirit, that recognizes that all nations have rights, and that proclaims that such was the full intention of the American promise of democracy, even though the founders of the American republic could not, in the context of their times, grasp its full implications. We today, with the greater wisdom that results from experience, must further develop the great work that the Founding Fathers began.