In these reflections on the Third World project, we arrive at the point of understanding that revolutionary popular coalitions that seek to take power in the nations of the North are both necessary and possible. Let us review and reassess what we have seen in these previous twenty-two posts on the Third World project.
We have seen that, in reaction to centuries of conquest, colonialism and peripheralization, the colonized peoples of the world have not, for the most part, sought vengeance. The prevailing concept of justice among Third Word peoples has not been that of just punishment for crimes committed. Rather, the colonized peoples for the most part have held to a concept of social justice, which has led them, with full consciousness of the past, to project a different future for humanity, leaving behind the legacy of domination and superexploitation.
In the period of 1948 to 1979, the leaders of the Third World movement for national and social liberation accomplished a formidable political task: they attained the international organizational unity of the formerly colonized peoples of the world on the basis of a consensus with respect to fundamental principles. They formulated a vision of a New International Economic Order, characterized by full respect for the equal sovereignty of all nations, the protection of the social and economic rights of all persons, and harmony with the natural environment.
But the New International Economic Order was disdainfully cast aside by the global powers. In reaction to the proposals of the governments that formed the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77, they aggressively attacked the Third World project. There was no moral restraint on their methods: they sent the armed forces; they assassinated leaders; they created the phenomenon of the external debt, and used it to impose weak and accommodating states on the formerly colonized peoples of the world. In the Islamic World, taking advantage of the tension within the Islamic movement between anti-colonial modernism and traditionalism, they supported Islamic radicalism in order to derail national liberation, and without any intention of accepting a world envisioned by the Islamic traditionalist.
Through their military and economic aggressions and their duplicity, the global powers were able to block movement toward a New International Economic Order and to preserve the colonial foundations of the neocolonial world-system. But in doing so, the global powers failed to attend to the fundamental contradictions of the world-system. These contradictions included the economic need to expand without limit, consuming natural resources on a planet whose finite limits had been reached and overextended. And they included the contradiction between, on the one hand, the democratic ideals of the sovereign equality of nations and the human rights of all persons, and on the other hand, the negation in practice of these ideals, through economic and financial penetration, military intervention, and military dictatorships.
Third World hopes were deferred by the global neoliberal turn of the 1980s, and the Third World project died; but it was born again. We can see in retrospect that the first signs of rebirth occurred in 1994. During the period 1998 to 2012, self-proclaimed socialist governments would appear in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua; progressive governments would emerge in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay; socialist Cuba would endure and attain respect and admiration throughout the world; China and Vietnam would persist in their historic socialist projects, and they would deepen ties with the socialist and progressive governments of Latin America; popes would applaud the new tendencies in Latin America and would deepen relations with the socialist and progressive governments of the region; the Islamic Republic of Iran would persist in its insistence on its right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and it would expand economic and cultural relations with the Non-Aligned Movement and with socialist and progressive governments of Latin America; and the nations of the Third World would reaffirm their historic commitment to the Third World project of national and social liberation and to South-South cooperation (see “Hugo Chávez Frías” 8/4/2016; “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” 8/5/2016; “The Chávist presidency of Nicolás Maduro” 8/9/2016; “The Movement toward Socialism in Bolivia” 8/11/2016; “The citizen revolution in Ecuador” 9/19/2016; “The Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua” 9/20/2016; “Latin American and Caribbean unity” 9/21/2016; “The renewal of South-South cooperation” 9/22/2016; “The spirit of Bandung lives” 9/26/2016).
Meanwhile, as the Third World project renews, the global powers have used all available means to undermine it. Hypocritically and cynically declaring itself to be defending of democracy and human rights, the United States seeks to delegitimate and destabilize the governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua; and to undermine BRICS. As in the 1970s and early 1980s, the global powers fail to attend to the fundamental contradictions of the neocolonial world-system, seeking only to defend their particular short-term interests. They seek to preserve their domination in a world-system that increasingly demonstrates its unsustainability.
There are numerous signs of the unsustainability of the neocolonial world-system. Historically, transnational corporations made concessions to popular demands in the core and accepted a certain level of social programs by core states. The social programs were financially feasible as a result of core exploitation of peripheral regions, and through a strategy of government deficit spending. But as profits stagnated and the government debt became overextended, the global elite launched in the 1980s an ideological attack on the state, preventing core governments from making adjustments in a form that would have preserved social programs, which were necessary for political legitimation and social control. As a result, core states are ideologically and financially limited in their capacity to make concessions to popular demands, reversing a tendency that had been evolving since the nineteenth century and especially in the post-World War II period. Since 1980, the peoples of the nations of the North have been increasingly abandoned by their governments, giving rise to a loss of faith in the state and a delegitimation of the political process of representative democracy. The lack of structures of popular education in the North facilitate that the peoples of the North do not understand the sources of the global crisis and of their abandonment. But they correctly sense that they have been abandoned.
In the absence of a proposed political project that defends one or more sectors of the people, the political system of representative democracy has degenerated. Politics has become the technique of fund raising and political advertising, accompanied by the art of appearing to defend the people while actually defending particular interests that finance electoral campaigns. In the context of the decadence of the political system of representative democracy, and the limited understanding and anxieties of the peoples of the North, politicians emerge with neo-fascist messages, speaking against immigrants, gays and terrorists. In this panorama, the Left shows signs of life, but the European and US Left have failed to propose a comprehensive, moral, and historically informed political-economic alternative that would be able to attain the support of the people.
At the same time, the increasing deterioration of economic and social conditions in peripheral and semi-peripheral zones has provoked an uncontrolled migration to the core. This structurally rooted peripheral-core migration had been expressing itself since the 1960s, but it has been exacerbated by the neo-fascist wars and military interventions unleased by the global powers in the Middle East.
In short, rather than seeking, beginning in the 1970s, a reform of the neocolonial world-system in response to the proposal by the Third World project for a New International Economic Order, the global powers have ideologically, economically and physically attacked the dignified delegates of the colonized, the oppressed and the poor. As a result, we are left today with a world-system that increasingly shows signs of profound structural crisis: terrorism, violence, social and economic insecurity, environmental degradation, ideological manipulation, political delegitimation, and spiraling financial speculation. It is a world with spectacular wealth for a few; and increasing poverty, exclusion and vulnerability for the majority. It is a world in which cynicism reigns. And it is a world from which many seek retreat; through consumerism, individualism, religious fundamentalism, or various unhealthy or healthy addictions.
The situation appears to be hopeless, but this is only a matter of appearance. The Third World vision of a New International Economic Order (of the 1970s) and a more just, democratic and sustainable world-system (today) remains a viable option for humanity, and this is understood by the peoples in movement in the Third World.
In the North, however, we continue to act as though the proposal from below has never been made, a tendency found even among organizations and intellectuals of the Left. So the key to the future of humanity is an awakening of the organizations and intellectuals of the Left in the North, based on an appreciation of the wisdom of the proposal for a more just and sustainable world-system, proposed by the colonized peoples of the planet.
We have seen that intellectuals of the North can arrive at universal understanding through cross-horizon encounter, which involves personal encounter with the charismatic leaders and social movements of Third World national and social liberation, taking seriously their insights (“Beyond Eurocentrism” 10/5/2016). Through cross-horizon encounter with the colonized, we learn fundamental facts about the structures of domination of the world-system: colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism and neoliberalism. And we learn that colonial and neocolonial domination simultaneously creates development and underdevelopment.
In cross-horizon encounter, we also learn that the neocolonized peoples have created an international social movement that integrates the major social issues of national domination, class exploitation, racial and ethnic discrimination, gender domination and exclusion, and ecological degradation. The Third World project has been from the beginning an integrating project. It appropriated, expanded and deepened the concepts and values of the bourgeois democratic revolutions, seeing in them the basis for defending the rights of the colonized. It appropriated the concepts and values of the proletarian revolution, adapting them to the conditions of the colonized, thereby creating a synthesis of Marxism-Leninism and the Third World perspective. When the women’s and ecology movements gained force in the West, the radical Third World project appropriated their concepts, reformulating them in accordance with the principles of the Third World movement. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the radical Third World project had attained an integration of issues in theory and in practice. As a result, the radical Third World project represents a theory and practice more advanced than what is found in the North, where understandings and action are fragmented into distinct issues.
When intellectuals and activists of the North do not encounter the Third World project, they do not see the integration that the Third World movements have attained. Looking at the Third World project from a partial perspective rooted in a particular popular sector, they perceive the Third World movement approach to a particular issue (e.g., race, gender, ecology, or sexual orientation) as deficient, not grasping that the essential insights of each have been reformulated in order to accomplish their integration. They do not perceive that the integrating reformulation is central to the force that the movement has attained in the minds and hearts of the people, each formulated in accordance with the particular ideological, political and social conditions of the nation. Rather than rejecting Third World formulations from a partial perspective, intellectuals and activists in the North would do better to appreciate the advanced character of the Third World project, and learn from it.
When we encounter the integrated and historically conscious international Third World social movements, we learn that, beginning with Vietnam in 1945, it has been taking power in key countries. Charismatic leaders have been nurtured, and alternative political parties and political formations have been created, and they have led the people in the taking of power. The road to power was made possible by: the formulation and dissemination of a historically and socially accurate explanation of the structures of domination and exploitation, thus delegitimating leaders that accommodated to the colonial-neocolonial powers and foreign corporations; the emitting of concrete proposals that connect to the daily needs of the people; and the demonstration of courage and self-sacrifice by revolutionary leaders, thereby showing their commitment to defending the people and the nation.
If intellectuals and activists of the North were to study the speeches and writings of Third World charismatic leaders and the Third World movements of national and social liberation, they would find the fundamental ingredients of the necessary direction for the popular movements of the North: the formation of an alternative political party that educates and organizes the people, with the long term goal of taking political power. It would be an alternative political party that redefines in practice what a political party is and does. It would issue concrete demands connected to the frustrations of the people, but it would see the issuance of demands as a tactic for the organization and education of the people. It also would develop and disseminate materials for popular education, and it would form study groups and popular schools for leadership formation. It would engage in direct action strategies in order to involve the people in a social and personal quest for liberation from the dominating economic, social and ideological structures, seeing these strategies also as integral to popular education.
The Third World charismatic leaders have understood the importance of the unity of the people, and so should we. No popular sector should see its issues and concerns as having priority over those of other sectors of the people. We intellectuals and activists of the United States need to formulate a comprehensive understanding that affirms the historic demands of all of the sectors of our people. We need to form a popular coalition that theoretically and strategically unites the various sectors of our people, in a popular movement that seeks to defend the nation and the people, in cooperation with the peoples and government of the Third World. Such a popular movement would see itself as a component of the movement formed by humanity in defense of itself, seeking to break the power of those who would sacrifice humanity in defense of particular interests (see “A socialist revolution in the USA” 2/1/2016).
A revolutionary popular coalition that seeks to take power in the United States and in other nations of the North is necessary. As revolutionary parties have taken power in the South, they have found that the most serious obstacle is the amoral and determined opposition of the governments of the North, through military and/or political interventions, ideological manipulations, and economic warfare. Therefore, the taking of power by the peoples of the North, transforming imperialist and interventionist foreign policies into a policy of North-South cooperation, is necessary for the transition from an increasingly unsustainable capitalist world-economy to a socialist world-system. And a revolutionary popular coalition is possible. The intellectual legacy of Marx, Lonergan, Wallerstein and others, and the dignified example of the leaders and movements of the colonized peoples of the earth, establish its possibility.