Whereas Marxism-Leninism sees the exploitation of workers by capital as the fundamental axis of domination, the Third World perspective focuses on colonial domination. Whereas Marxism-Leninism sees a fundamental class division between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the Third World perspective perceives a world divided between the colonizer and the colonized. Marxism-Leninism, therefore, engages in class analysis, whereas the Third World perspective engages in colonial analysis.
And this difference shapes visions of the future: Marxism-Leninism sees the possibility for a socialist society on a foundation of automated industry, characterized by structures of popular democracy, worker control of production and of political structures, and the gradual elimination of the state bureaucracy, with administrative functions carried out by workers themselves, whose productive labor time would be reduced by the advances of automated industry. In contrast, the Third World perspective sees the possibility for a post-colonial society characterized by the self-determination of peoples, solidarity and cooperation among peoples, and the true sovereignty of nations, thus enabling the peoples and nations to eliminate poverty and to promote their economic and cultural development as well as protect and conserve the planet.
To be sure, Marxism-Leninism discerned elements that would later become central to the Third World perspective. Marx understood that capitalism is an international system, and he understood that the source of the primitive accumulation of capital is force. Lenin understood the role of imperialism in the advanced stage of capitalism, and he affirmed the principle of self-determination in relation to the oppressed and exploited nationalities of the Russian Empire. Nevertheless, it is a question of a basic frame of reference in the context of which these elements are understood. Marxism-Leninism, on the basis of observation of bourgeois and proletarian revolutions in Europe, established a frame of class analysis; whereas the Third World perspective, on the basis of the experience of the conquest and peripheralization of the Third World, established a frame of colonial
From a Marxist-Leninist perspective, it is tempting to view the Third World Revolution as not a true revolution, as representing merely reform within the structures of capitalism. But if we pause for personal encounter and reflection, we find that Third World intellectuals and leaders have developed in theory and practice a process of change that involves the replacement in power of one social group by another, the formulation of alternative concepts and understandings, and the development of structures with fundamentally different practices and consequences. And these are precisely the elements that Lenin, Trotsky, and Luxemburg defined as essential components of revolution, as distinct from reform. The Third World Revolution does not look like the revolution that they envisioned, but it has the characteristics that they understood to be essential to the revolutionary process.
The most advanced of the Third World leaders, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro, who themselves were formed by advanced anti-colonial and anti-neocolonial movements, forged a creative synthesis of the Third World perspective with Marxism-Leninism. Their formulations thus can be understood as stages in the development of Marxism-Leninism.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, Vietnam