Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Third World

by Keith Buchanan,  New Left Review,1963

—Its Emergence and Contours

“Wir wollen auf Erden glücklich sein
Und wollen nicht mehr darben.”

Heinrich Heine


The most striking political development of the last two decades has been the emergence of what French geographers and social scientists term the Tiers Monde—the Third World. This term is applied to a great bloc of countries stretching from the Andean republics of South America, across Africa and the Middle East, to Indonesia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. It is made up of over a hundred political units, greatly differing in size, in population or in political status. Some, like Pakistan or Indonesia, have populations of close on one hundred million; others, like Gambia or Gabon, have populations of under half a million and a problematic chance of long surviving as isolated units. Some, like Cambodia or Cuba, are socialist in their politics—though their socialisms are often very different from the western form of socialism; others, like Saudi Arabia or Ethiopia, are feudal theocracies; some, like Angola or Kenya, are still colonial territories of the old type; some, like Guatemala or Katanga, are classic examples of “new colonialism”. All are poor, most are backward, all are either crippled by lack of development or deformed by exploitative development. They contain an aggregate population of almost two thousand million people—two-thirds of the world total.

That their emergence should be treated as a “striking phenomenon”, that we should still be unwilling to recognise the implications of this emergence, serves to underline the ethno-centric, Western-oriented (if I can use such a paradoxical term) character of our world vision . . . But, one may stress, this “Third World” is relatively new—and its emergence means that we have got to make an “agonising reappraisal” of our world view. For those of you who are young this is not easy, since, born into, and living amid, a world in flux, you cannot always realise that “the earthquakes of change” to which you have grown accustomed, which, indeed, for you represent the normal world condition, are symptomatic of the end of a world. And for those of us who are older, who grew up in a world whose major lineaments seemed fixed and unchanging (because we did not recognise that the Long March and the rioting in India and the shooting down of Africans were the twisting birth pains of a new world), it is no less difficult to adjust to the reality of an era in which most of the old and familiar land marks—the Empire, the supremacy of Europe, the dependence of Africa, the inscrutable chaos of the East—have disappeared, along with Loretta Young and Laurel and Hardy . . .

“Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?”

“Not so very long ago,” says Sartre, “the world contained two thousand million inhabitants, or five hundred million men and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former possessed the World, the others borrowed it . . .” [1] The emergence of the Third World is the assertion, by this three-quarters of humanity who were “natives” of their human dignity. And we in the West have not found it greatly to our liking that these folk, these “natives”, should assert their humanity and demand that they, too, should be heard, that the “four Freedoms” should be applied, not only to Nordics, or Europeans, or Aryans, but to all men . . . And so the assertion of this humanity had to be made with the machete and the machine gun; in armed conflict the oppressed finds freedom and asserts his humanity so that, as Sartre puts it “the weapon of a fighter, that is his humanity.” Vietnam and Cuba; Cyprus, Kenya and Algeria, Angola and South Africa—all these are stages in the progressive assertion of their humanity by the “damned of the earth” . . .

The Social Structure of the Third World

This Third World shows a great human diversity. It includes white and black and brown and yellow peoples; it includes some of the oldest civilisations created by man and great islands of primitiveness; it includes countries still colonies and others with a Potemkin-facade of independence; it includes Muslims and Marxists, Christians and Confucians, Buddhists, and Animists . . . Yet whatever the diversity of colour or creed it has an overriding unity and this tendency to unity comes, in the words of Ché Guevara, “from a similarity in economic and social conditions and from a similarity in desire for progress and recuperation.” [2] From Korea and Laos, across southern Asia and the forests and deserts of Africa to the rich plantations of the Caribbean and the parched backlands of Brazil, the emergent states of the Third World share a common legacy of past humiliation, of exploitation and of poverty, a legacy which binds together two thousand million people in a vast “fellowship of the dispossessed”, a “commonwealth of poverty”.

The same Western impact which warped the economies and prolonged the poverty of these countries has transformed their social structure. The social pattern today is far from simple; Western influence manifested itself in a variety of forms, from outright colonial conquest to economic and cultural penetration. In some countries it has lasted for centuries, in others it has been relatively recent; it fell, moreover, on traditional societies differing greatly in complexity, sophistication and powers of resistance. Nevertheless, in spite of this diversity, certain themes run through the class structure and social geography of the countries of the Third World, and before commenting on some of the variations it is perhaps helpful to sketch in these general similarities and the role played by the various classes. These roles are often different from the roles played by similar classes in Europe or North America, and these differences are of critical importance to an understanding of the socio-economic processes which shape both the struggle for independence and the character of the emergent society. My account draws heavily on the schema of the Algerian nationalist writer Frantz Fanon; [3] Fanon’s work is critical to an understanding of the “colonial” social situation and of the attitudes to Europe of an important group of Third World thinkers.

The character of the bourgeoisie is of decisive importance in any analysis of the contemporary social geography of the countries of the Third World. The national bourgeoisie in the formerly colonial territories was in large measure created by the colonial power. It was through this bourgeoisie that the exploitation of the colonies’ resources was made possible and the “civilising mission” of the colonial power initiated. Indeed, it is fashionable to hold that the creation of this élite provides a justification for the whole colonial process. In character and function this bourgeois élite is very different from the classical bourgeoisie of the West. This latter group, trained, dynamic, and venturesome, initiated the process of capital accumulation, laid the foundations of modern industry and commerce and gave the nation at least a minimum of prosperity. The colonial bourgeoisie has done none of these things. Its functions have been largely those of an exploitative middleman group, intermediary between the metropolitan economic interests and the colonial masses. In its values it has aped the metropolitan bourgeoisie, turning its back on, perhaps despising, the peasant masses who make up the greater part of the population. Daniel Guérin comments caustically on the attitudes of this group in the French Antilles. He speaks of “the need felt by the bourgeois or petty bourgeois to consolidate his rather precarious social position by increasing the distinction between himself and the ‘rest of them down there’.” Guérin underlines the great gap between the city-dwelling élite and those who toil on the land and, stressing the Europo-centric character of élite culture, comments: “The Caribbean middle class has not shown itself capable of developing an original and authentic culture.” [4] Economically, socially, culturally, the role of the “colonial” bourgeoisie has been largely negative; at the worst it has been parasitic and destructive.

Where decolonization has been swift, formal power has been handed over by the metropolitan governments to this group, which has moved into the administrative field but which wields only the semblance of power. The real power, and the direction and character of economic development, remains firmly in the hands of the great overseas monopolies. The interested collaboration of bourgeois leaders is, however, essential to the re-establishment, the strengthening, of western exploitation on neocolonial lines; these leaders spend much of their year travelling [5] and seeking financial aid in exchange for concessions, while the old pattern of exploitation continues. Colonial domination had always concentrated capital and development effort in certain limited and resource-rich areas such as the Central African copper-belt or the coffee lands of Brazil; these developed and market-oriented economies stood out as islands in a sea of stagnating peasant production. To reduce the gradients of wealth and poverty, comprehensive and far-sighted development plans are essential. Since, however, formal independence brings no change in the economy, but merely a prolongation of the old predatory practices behind an indigenous facade, these regional disparities persist, may even widen. [6] The richer regions are unwilling to place their resources at the disposal of the whole country; hence regional and tribal separations emerge and these tendencies to fission can be exploited by those who would divide and rule. [7] The break-up of the West Indies Federation, the separations of Kasai and Katanga, the developing separatisms of Kenya and Nigeria, all illustrate that the bourgeoisie, intent on its own interests, can achieve no real unification of its country. And this same narrow and self-centred outlook is a formidable obstacle to the elaboration of those federal or regional groupings of territories which are essential if the continental-scale poverty of Africa or Latin America is to be wiped out.

The failure of this bourgeois group to tackle the problems of development effectively is, meanwhile, hidden behind a facade of “prestige development” in the capital. Ostentatious but socially irrelevant public works programmes and a proliferating bureaucracy open up opportunities for many—for the unskilled labourer and the partly-educated from the rural areas, desperately seeking the work and food which the underdevelopment of the countryside denies them; for the petty traders and those with contacts, capital and a craving to augment this capital rapidly; for the ambitious who see in the ranks of the ruling party the first rung of the ladder which will take them too into the magic circle of the élite. City populations spiral dizzily upwards—in five years the population of Bangkok increases by half a million, that of Djakarta by a million; Caracas doubles its population in a decade and of its 1.3 million inhabitants some 200–300,000 are unemployed and live in hovels . . . The gap between city and countryside, between townsman and peasant, between those who live in ease and ostentation in the new suburbias and those who rot in the shanty-towns, widens and the social situation becomes increasingly unstable.

Panis may be lacking but circenses are not and perhaps the poverty-stricken wretches in the bidonvilles may find distraction from their misery in the glittering goings-on of the country’s leaders and their wives. Since the poor are usually also illiterate they can only watch and, perhaps fortunately, are not able to follow the “humaninterest” stories on the wives of the great or the foibles of the emergent élite which frequently enliven the pages of Time. Typical is this write-up of the “African Orchid”, Mme. Thérèse Houphouet-Boigny, wife of the President of the Ivory Coast, First Lady of an African state whose per capita income is little over £1 per week:

“No caged bird, but a delicious, capricious worldling, the Ivory Coast’s sensuous, luxury-loving Marie-Thérèse Houphouet-Boigny, 31, delights Parisians even more than Jacqueline Kennedy or the Empress Farah . . . The Ivory Coast’s First Lady is coifed by one of the most exclusive Parisian hairdressers (Carita), and dressed by Dior, whose salon is strategically located across the street from the Houphouet-Boignys’ apartment . . . The affluent Houphouet-Boignys also have a villa in the stylish Swiss resort of Gstaad (her six-year-old adopted daughter, Helene, is attending school in Switzerland), an Ivory Coast beach house, an ultramodern five-storey tower in the fashionable Cocody sector of Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s capital. Thérèse loves orchids and sables, pilots a fast Lancia . . . Frenchmen, who call her the Ivory One and see her as the forerunner of a new Europe-influenced African woman, delight in her exhuberant, ultrafeminine wit. It did not go unappreciated at a recent luncheon party at Bobby Kennedy’s house, at which, latching on fast to New Frontiersmanship, she switched tables after every course. Murmured Thérèse, raising male expectations: ‘I suppose I’ll be in the swimming pool for dessert.’” [8]

Perhaps it’s not necessary to add that the Time write-up was meant to be eminently flattering; that there’s not a breath of criticism of the immorality—even the ultimate political foolishness— of a ruling group of an African state whose per capita income is less than £60 per annum flaunting their wealth in this fashion. [9] As Frantz Fanon observes, a group such as this is “a bourgeois bourgeoisie, meanly, stupidly, cynically bourgeois . . . It is necessary to oppose it because it is useless. This bourgeoisie, mediocre in its gains, in its achievement, in its thought, tends to mask this mediocrity by prestige achievements at the individual level, by the chrome of American cars, by Riviera holidays, by weekends in neon-lit nightclubs.” [10] The phase of dominance by this group is a useless phase, in which no real advance towards a solution of basic social and economic problems is made; once this group has been swept away the process of initiating real development can begin, from zero, and in a different framework.

Following the classical pattern, the political parties in colonial countries tend to devote much of their effort to winning over the urban proletariat. This includes the artisans and transport workers, the miners and dockers, in some territories the petty officials. In many ways an informed group, it shows itself in two sharply contrasting roles. In certain countries, its members represent an insignificant proportion of the total population—in Africa, [11] for example, except in the mining territories, they nowhere make up more than eight per cent of the total population. They enjoy, moreover, a relatively favoured position within their own society and, in contrast to the “classical” proletariat of the West, have everything to lose and nothing to gain from violent upheaval. In such territories the proletariat tends, like the bourgeoisie, to be cautious, non-violent and given to compromise in the struggle for independence. Elsewhere, where the colonial period has been more protracted and the economic and cultural impact of the West greater, this group appears more clearly in its traditional role as an agency of change. This is certainly the case in many countries of Southern Asia and the Middle East; it is also the case in many of the Latin American countries such as Brazil or Venezuela. The role of the proletariat is, in general, linked with degree of urbanization: it is most radical in countries where urbanization has outstripped the growth of the productive sector of the economy. The significance of this generalisation becomes apparent when we bear in mind that the mushroom growth of parasitic capital cities, “macrocephaly”, is increasingly a feature of the Third World and more especially the African sector of the Third World.

The decay of traditional society, the pace and haphazard character of city growth and the conditions of labour exploitation in some of the overseas territories have created a sizeable “lumpen-proletariat”, a mass of hungry, rootless and detribalised wretches living in the shanty towns and squatters settlements. These are the people described by Ahmed Mezerna: “the bands of men, women and children and aged, almost totally naked, whom misery and fear of death has pushed towards the cities and who, each morning, search the garbage pails, disputing with dogs and cats the remnants of food, the rags and the empty tin cans.” [12] Politically trained and organised, these groups can form “an urban spearhead of the revolution” and in the struggle for liberation can reassert that human dignity which colonial exploitation smothered in the filth of the shanty town. The classic example of this is provided by the Algerian war where the integration of the Casbah, the slum quarter of Algiers, into the FLN campaign marked the real beginning of the battle for Algiers. [13] Disregarded or by-passed by the national liberation movement, this mass of starving and status-less beings may turn for salvation to what Hodgkin terms the “confessional parties” [14], to the various messianic movements [15] or may be used as a weapon by the forces of reaction. In the Congo the anti-Lumumba mobs in Leopoldville were recruited from among the “lumpen-proletariat”, and the “harkis”, the Algerians used by the French against their fellow-Algerians, came from the same group. Political work among the masses, and all sections of the masses, is thus essential if the colonialist policy of turning class against class and tribe against tribe is to be defeated.

Behind this urbanized, semi-westernized facade, the Third World remains a peasant world and, as the events of the last 15 years show, the peasantry is the truly revolutionary class in colonial countries. Hungry, exploited, his old social position eroded, the peasant has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the destruction of the colonial society in which he exists. He discovers, and discovers rapidly, that violence, and violence alone, pays off; for him there is no possibility of compromise or of negotiated agreement. In China and Vietnam, in Cuba, Kenya and Algeria, in Brazil’s North-east and in the back country of Angola, the peasantry has emerged as the decisive driving force in revolutionary struggles. In the words of Fidel Castro: “Because of the subhuman conditions under which it lives (it) constitutes a potential force which—led by the workers and the revolutionary intellectuals—has a decisive importance in the struggle for national liberation.” That the peasantry should be regarded with doubt and suspicion by the great majority of politicians in the emergent countries arises doubtless in part from the fear of any drastic or real changes in the structure of society, and partly from the western-influenced vision of the character of this class. For in the West peasant society has been shattered by the industrial revolution and the individual peasant has tended to be anarchic, undisciplined, avid for gain, and politically reactionary. In colonial areas, by contrast, the peasantry, more than any other group, has managed to preserve much of the traditional pattern of values, remaining disciplined, clinging to communal values, solidarist . . . [16] The recent history of East Asia, the more recent history of Algeria and Cuba, demonstrate how powerful these peasant qualities can be if channelled into a revolutionary struggle.

Old Wine in New Bottles

The above remarks give only a very general picture of the elements which may be involved in the emergence of a country from colonial or semi-colonial status. The recent history of the countries of the Third World demonstrates that there is little uniformity in the patterns of emergence. In some areas, such as the countries of the former French Community (excluding Mali), power has been successfully transferred to the national bourgeoisie: violent changes in social, political or economic structures have been averted for the time being; the metropolitan power and its indigenous partners in the emergent countries have conspired to create a new, more sophisticated version of the old colonial pattern. This is the condition described by Nkrumah as “clientele-sovereignty”; this comes, he explains, from “the practice of granting a sort of independence by the metropolitan power, with the concealed intention of making the liberated country a client-state and controlling it effectively by means other than political ones.” [17] Latin America offers many crude examples of such client-sovereignty; a more sophisticated and recent example is the Ivory Coast. As the Economist observes: “In colonial days French West Africa was ruled through a governor in Dakar and lieutenant-governors in the other capitals; today the French design seems to be a spread of influence—commercial, financial, ‘cultural’, and political—through M. Houphouet-Boigny of Abidjan and Paris.” The translation from the status of a colony to that of a client-state brings little change in the economy. This remains largely extractive, often dangerously overspecialised, producing mineral and agricultural raw materials for the former metropolitan power and the other industrial countries of the West: 82 per cent of Malaya’s exports consist of rubber and tin, 78 per cent of Pakistan’s exports of jute and cotton, 93 per cent of Venezuela’s exports of petroleum, 67 per cent of Brazil’s exports of coffee, cotton or cocoa . . . Industrialization is bridled, though there may be some limited development of consumer goods industries and of assembling plants. More ambitious programmes of industrialization take the form of the extension of operations of the great overseas monopolies; they are made possible by the close collaboration of overseas interests and the ruling bourgeois groups, and are carried through at the expense of national industry. [18] To take the single example of Brazil, foreign investments between 1955 and 1958 rose to 1,095 million dollars while the outflow of capital over the same period was 2,020 million dollars—representing a net loss of almost one thousand million dollars, at the expense of the country’s capital accumulation. [19]

Under these conditions—an expanding population, an exploitative export-oriented agriculture, a highly localised and dependent industry with limited employment potential, and an absence of any genuine and nation-wide development planning—the stagnation of whole areas persists and the grubbing misery of the rural masses increases, thrown into dangerously sharp relief by the ostentation of the urban ruling class.

“Brazil, a ‘Christian country’, has land to spare, but there is not enough land for millions of campesinos. Brazil, a ‘Christian country’, has inexhaustible resources, but also hundreds of thousands of unemployed. Brazil, a ‘Christian country’, has landlords that live off the rent from one hundred,, two hundred, five hundred, one thousand houses, while there are millions crowded in miserable huts like pigs. Brazil, a ‘Christian country’, has millionaires that make a 9,000 per cent profit on their capital that multiplies as fast as the germs of pest, and, like those murderers, coldly kill those who make possible the miracle of the multiplication. Brazil, a ‘Christian country’, has the sad privilege of having the highest infantile mortality rate in Latin America, in spite of the industrialization and the development so much vaunted during the most foreign-dominated administration in the history of Brazil.” [20]

Thus Francisco Julião, the Brazilian peasant leader, and his indictment constitutes the backdrop to the Alliance for Progress (“words, panaceas, patches, everything to hide the unending plundering of riches”), to the urban strikes and desperate peasant uprisings of Latin America, to the widely-separated revolts [21] of that two thirds of mankind whose human dignity has been so long denied . . . And as the threat of social upheaval assumes increasingly ominous proportions, as the confused and inarticulate dreams of the damned become increasingly sharply focussed and emphatic (“esta revolución es de los humildes, por los humildes y para los humildes”), those challenged, the ruling group and their party, move progressively to the right and seek to buttress their position by calling first on outside economic and then ultimately military, aid. “The dominating classes . . . always resorted to massacre, invoking the ‘defence’ of society, of order, of the homeland; the defence of their society of privileged minorities over the exploited majority; their ‘class order’ which they maintain by blood and iron.” [22] And since, quite apart from its economic and strategic interests, the Latin American bloc represents for the USA “a reserve supply of votes in international organisations”, the maintenance of the present social and political structures is of vital importance to the maintenance of America’s international position.

The general conditions described above apply to most of the client-states of the West—to much of Latin America and Africa, to many Middle Eastern countries, to Pakistan and the SEATO countries of South-east Asia, increasingly to India. A more detailed analysis would enable us to refine the generalized picture and to sketch in the some of the variants within the schema—the Latin American bloc, whose countries have enjoyed five generations of “independence”, which have not yet achieved any real economic or social integration as nations, [23] where the techniques of foreign economic penetration and reduction to client status were first elaborated; the emergent states of Black Africa, striving to integrate traditional values with the needs of twentieth century life, rent by tribalism, exposed to new and more subtle imperialisms; the countries of Southern Asia, struggling with the problems of increasing demographic pressure and of complex, almost fossil, social structures, [24] with the warping legacy of old colonialisms and the new containment programmes of Cold War strategists . . . It is hoped to examine some aspects of this diversity in a later study.

Land and Bread

In a much smaller group of countries (though containing an aggregate population of close on 750 million people) the anticolonial or revolutionary struggle has taken on a more radical form. In these countries the leaders of the liberation movement have recognised the key role of the peasantry and based the revolutionary struggle on the countryside. The classic examples of this are China, North Vietnam and Cuba; in Kenya, Algeria, Angola, and Egypt the land question played or is playing an important role in the struggle against colonialism; in Guinea and Cambodia the élites recognized the fundamental role of the peasantry and have made possible the emergence of socialist-type societies with strong rural roots. The radical restructuring of society carried through in some of these countries has been bitterly opposed by the West. The protracted American opposition to the People’s Government of China or the North Vietnamese government needs no recapitulation. Even more clear has been the opposition to the emergence of left-wing governments in Guinea and Cuba. In Guinea the swift withdrawal of the 4,000 French administrators, teachers and technicians almost crippled the new state, while both countries were exposed to every form of economic pressure in an attempt to break the new regimes. [25] Both survived largely as a result of assistance from the socialist camp and, in the case of Guinea, from her neighbour Ghana. Once a radical reorientation of society has been begun, the young state can survive and start the long slow climb to “economic take-off” only with the help of such aid as may come from the socialist camp or from a hazardous policy of non-alignment, or by an unprecedented effort of “human investment”, by a rigorous austerity, backed up by maximum use of all available labour, in order to initiate the process of capital accumulation. We may shrink away from the austerity of People’s China, from the massive mobilization of men and women and children, but we must in honesty ask ourselves what real alternative existed for the Chinese? And this problem is going to present itself in other parts of the Third World, in Southern Asia, in Latin America, above all in the poorer territories of Black Africa. We in the West may ignore the implications of China’s experience or that of Cuba—but the sober assessment of the French agronomist Dumont underlines the relevance of China’s experience to the solution of some of Black Africa’s problems. And at a more emotive level the starving peasants of Brazil’s North-east and the land-hungry peons of the Latin American backlands see in “Fidelisimo” more than a slogan, they see the promose of land and bread and the red dawn of a fuller life . . . [26]

“Land and bread: what must be done to have land and bread? This set viewpoint of the people, apparently limited, apparently narrow, constitutes in fact the most fruitful and efficacious programme for action.” [27] In the light of the class situation in the countries of the Third World, it seems probable that the shattering of the neocolonial structures which the West has so laboriously erected during the last two decades will, when the moment is ripe, be initiated by a spreading wave of peasant-based revolts. Such revolts are already under way in South Vietnam and parts of the Latin American backlands and may in the next five years engulf the whole of Latin America, [28] parts of the Caribbean, many of the emergent African states (Kenya, the Rhodesias, Angola for example) and the landlord-dominated countries of Southern Asia.

And, because these revolts will be desperate uprisings of the exploited, the pauperized and the despised—“armed with stones, sticks, machetes, now here, now there, daily occupying lands, digging their hooks into the soil which is theirs, and defending it with their lives”—because they will be concerned only with land and bread as their immediate objectives, they may well be confused and demagogic in their initial stages. [29] But if they retain their impetus and continue beyond agrarian reform to a radical restructuring of society (and a comparison of, say, Cuba and Venezuela, or North and South Vietnam underlines the importance of this “continuing revolution”) we may expect the countries of the Third World to move increasingly towards a pattern of peasant-based socialisms. And they will do this, not because of subversion, or because of the missionary zeal of Cuban or Guinean or Chinese leftists, but because the solutions these latter countries are finding to the problem of underdevelopment are more relevant—because more concerned with human values—and more attractive—because their restructuring of society achieves a quicker break-through from misery to decency—than the refurbished colonialisms and outmoded liber alisms [30] which the West is pressing on its client-states. And just as Christianity, Buddhism or Islam adapted themselves in their spread to a diversity of national environments, by subtle changes in dogma or ritual so too, in many parts of the non-Western world distinctive and indigenous variants of “classical” European socialism are beginning to emerge. These may be almost aggressively non-Western and while they accept, or at least pay lip-service to, the basic social and economic concepts of Western socialism, their cultivated traditionalisms their elaborate symbolisms and obscuring mystiques represent one facet of the rejection of a narcissistic and self-centred Europe [31] by the emerging non-Western peoples.

Against this background the half-forgotten ideas of the early Tartar revolutionary, Sultan Galiev, take on a new relevance.

Sultan Galiev’s Vision

Over 40 years ago there was a Tartar who was a member of the Communist Party in Russia. His name was Mir Sayit Sultan Galiev and he was born around 1880. With the help of his friends he created in Russian Central Asia a Muslim Communist Party. He dwelled in a society all of whose members—feudal leaders, local bourgeois and peasants—were collectively oppressed by Tsarist Russia. In such circumstances, he saw little profit in creating an artificial class war; rather, given the scanty likelihood of cadres emerging from the ignorant and exploited peasantry, was it essential to enlist in the revolution all who gave proof of their loyalty irrespective of their class. The socialist revolution had moreover, to adapt itself to the conditions of Muslim society and here he saw a mission for the Muslim Bolsheviks of Russia—that of carrying the message of socialism to the peoples of Asia, and in the process, of correcting the excessive preoccupation of the Comintern with the West. He strove to make Kazan a centre of Islamic communism, struggling all the time against local leftists who, supported by the Russians, sought a struggle with the bourgeoisie; he strove to replace Russian by Tartar as the administrative language. His thesis was that the socialist revolution did not automatically solve the problem of “racial” inequality and that, as far as the minority groups of Russia were concerned, the Bolshevik revolution meant merely the replacement of oppression at the hands of the European bourgeoisie by oppression at the hands of the European proletariat. [33] He was exiled, imprisoned, released; arrested again in 1928 and sentenced to ten years forced labour; he finally vanished in 1940.

His legacy? Perhaps his most important contribution to the development of world socialism was his vision of the emergence in the dependent countries of a marxist nationalism, committed to a programme of national independence and socialization. Such a vision could scarcely be translated into reality during the Stalin era, for during this phase the policies of the colonial communist parties were subordinated to the global strategy of the Internationale, and this was based ultimately on the white world. With the rise of Fidel Castro, Sekou Touré, and Modibo Keita the vision has become reality; the last decade has seen a growing development of “national marxisms” and “objective socialisms”. Galiev’s rejection of the mechanistic and unimaginative idea of the predominance of the proletariat (even if virtually non-existent) in the revolution has been vindicated in recent revolutionary movements. The “Colonial Internationale” which he strove for, a grouping of non-Western peoples united against white domination, takes on shadowy form in the shape of the Third World, though this shows a wide range of philosophies, from a marxist to a conservative wing. And if since 1954 the USSR has supported this, and the neutralist Afro-Asian bourgeoisie, it has done so partly as a means of exerting pressure on the colonial powers. Certainly it has shown no great revolutionary ardour as far as the socialization of these emergent nations is concerned. China offers the sole example of a national marxism triumphing within the framework of a traditional Communist Party and the Chinese themes of colonial revolution, distrust of neo-colonialism and even, be it added, of neo-paternalism within the socialist fold, echo some of the ideas of this forgotten Tartar revolutionary.

Today, the left-wing regimes of the Third World show a wide divergence from the monolithic socialism offered for overseas consumption by earlier Internationales. China has developed her distinctive variant of socialism, deriving in part from her traditional heritage, [34] in part from the specific qualities of her social geography. Cambodia has developed a “royal socialism” or “Khmer socialism” which finds its roots in Buddhism on one hand, in the past history of the Khmer people on the other and which, since marxism is supranational, claims to be non-marxist. [35] Even the conservative Senegalese Senghor can claim that “Negro African society is collectivist or, more exactly, communal . . . we had already realised socialism before the coming of the European.” [36] In Guinea, Sekou Touré, attempting to build a socialist state with the financial and technical assistance of the Soviet bloc and China and on the principles of “democratic centralism”, has declared “Communism is not the path for Africa. [37] The class struggle is impossible here because of the absence of social classes . . . The family is the fundamental base of our society which rests always on the community basis of village life.” Ghana and Mali are treading this same road to an African socialism, to a variety of African socialisms. In Martinique, after Aimé Césaire broke with the French Communist Party in 1957, the struggle for racial and social emanicipation assumed the form of a national communism. [38] And in Cuba, and on the American mainland in British Guiana, yet other types of socialism are emerging and these will impinge increasingly on the Latin American world.

It is not easy to estimate the viability of these experiments and, indeed, as the recent history of Cuba indicates, they are exposed to many quite unpredictable hazards. Cheverny, in his discussion of the new regimes of Asia, paints a pessimistic picture, [39] stressing the contradictory elements in programmes designed to protect the populace from the seductions of communism and at the same time to capture the enthusiasm and drive of that ideology. This desperate attempt of the leaders to emulate the Irish of Honor Tracy’s story and “stay on the straight and narrow path between right and wrong” may go some way towards accounting for the eclectic, often mystifying, character of some of the Third World ideologies. And the outside observer of Third World politics is not greatly assisted by the reckless abandon with which the term “socialist” is used: Venezuela and Senegal have “socialist” leaders, but are client-states of the West; Phoumi Nosavan, leader of the Laotian reaction, founded a “social democratic” party; Nepal is relinquishing the feudal society of the Middle Ages for a “socialising society”— whatever that may mean; as Cheverny observes “the concept of socialism covers all manner of wares” . . .

Genuine progress, in the sense of the beginnings of a breakthrough from stagnating poverty to certain basic levels of human decency, seems confined to those countries whose governments are “left”, not so much by their own definition as in the view of the West—People’s China, North Korea and North Vietnam, Cuba, Guinea, possibly the new Algeria, [40] and more problematically, British Guiana and Cambodia. If, as seems likely, the neocolonial grip on so much of the Third World persists or, as may well be, tightens, then these widely scattered left wing regimes assume an importance out of all relation to their number, their population or their impoverished treasuries. They are, in a very real sense, the growing points of a new world. And if they can demonstrate that their own variants of socialism can achieve an economic breakthrough and can bring to their peasant masses a richer and fuller life, the political balance in the Third World will shift decisively to the left . . . and the Third World, including China, contains, I remind you, almost two-thirds of humanity . . . They can, perhaps achieve this break-through on their own, but only at the cost of an immense and painfully protracted mass mobilization and investment of human effort. The harshness and the suffering of this transition could be greatly mitigated by massive outside aid. Unless there is a drastic change in Western policy such aid is not likely to be forthcoming from the West; as the examples of China, Guatemala, Cuba, Guinea and South Vietnam show, Western policy has been more concerned with crippling radical social revolution by economic pressure, or, where possible, by outside military aid. Under these conditions, aid from the socialist bloc, and this means the “European” members of the socialist bloc, will be critical. And the extent of such aid is likely to depend on, firstly, the extent to which cold war conditions will continue to demand the allocation of funds to improved weaponry rather than to wiping out hunger in the Third World; secondly, on the extent to which the working class in the “European” socialist countries is prepared to postpone the attainment of an “affluent society” in their own countries to achieve, through a far-reaching policy of aid, at least a minimum level of well-being in the underdeveloped world. The despairing thesis that the European proletariat would be as indifferent to the needs of the non-European world as was the European bourgoisie, has yet to be demonstrated false.

The Soviet Union, the 22nd Congress and the Third World

The diversion of economic resources from preparation for nuclear warfare to the raising of living levels in the Third World, and especially in the socialist countries of the Third World, is critical here and is discussed by many of the spokesmen of this two-thirds of humanity. Fanon, for example, emphasises that the cold war prevents either of the blocs from helping the underdeveloped countries on the scale they should. He adds: “These literally astronomical sums invested in military research, these engineers transformed into technicians in nuclear warfare could, in 15 years, raise the level of living in the underdeveloped countries by 60 per cent.” [41] This is not the place to discuss “the balance of blame” in the headlong Gadarene race towards nuclear suicide; it has been objectively and dispassionately analysed by C. Wright Mills. [42] What is clear is that, in the present world context, the Soviet Union, however strong may be its desire for peace and disarmament, cannot afford the risk of “going it alone”; in the absence of a genuine Soviet-American accord it is committed, willy-nilly, to this infernal contest. But in one very real way the cold war does influence the possibilities and the pattern of development in the Third World. For, as Pierre Moussa has observed, “The cold war . . . causes the two blocs to make their greatest effort not where the need is greatest but on the outskirts of the groups for which they consider themselves responsible.” [43] This obviously deflects a large volume of aid to outliers, to peripheral members of either power group at the expense of the rest of the Third World.

The problem of the relationship between the rapidly-rising living standards of the “European” socialist countries and the struggle to achieve some minimum level of decency—in the shape of freedom from exploitation, from disease and from hunger—in the underdeveloped countries, and especially those underdeveloped countries with socialist regimes—is perhaps even more critical. The Soviet Union is beginning to approach the condition of an “affluent society” and, as Moussa puts it, “tends more and more to appear in the eyes of other nations as an ‘old rich one’—in other words to suffer the fate which has dogged the United States for the last 25 years.” [44] This is brought into sharp focus by the 22nd Congress of the CPSU which envisages an increase of Soviet national product by 500 per cent in 20 years, and an increase in real per capita income of 350 per cent over the same period; at the end of these two decades the Soviet people are to enjoy the highest standard of living in the world, the shortest working week and the most comprehensive social welfare services. Paul Baran has commented: “The majestic edifice of plenty projected at the 22nd Congress has produced mixed reactions in the Chinese and some other Communist parties struggling desperately to overcome abysmal poverty in their countries . . . they can hardly fail to experience the strong sense of estrangement which ‘have nots’ usually develop towards the ‘haves’.” [45]

The whole problem is complexly interwoven with Soviet internal policies, since under conditions of increasing liberalization and democratization in the USSR, its leaders cannot suddenly allocate resources and funds to a vast campaign of aid to the socialist regimes of the Third World without risking some measure of unpopularity among the Soviet masses who are emerging from austerity. Yet the risk that glaring inequalities in living standards between the peoples of the USSR and those of the emergent countries will introduce new and dangerous rifts within the community of socialist nations (rendered more dangerous by the fact that the cleavage seems to follow “racial” lines)—the very real risks that, in the absence of such aid, the emergent socialist countries will founder or else be pushed to inhuman extremes of mass mobilization of their labour force to achieve a break-through from hunger and poverty to the essentials of a decent life, these risks are at least as great and as ominous in their potential repercussions. For even though the socialisms of the emergent world are “national”, or “objective” socialisms, even though they may show deviations in dogma from the “European” socialisms, if the momentous experiments being carried out in China and Cambodia and Guinea and Cuba fail, the neo-colonial curtain will fall over the whole of the Third World. And if a pennywise policy towards the aid of other emergent revolutionary movements should be followed, or if there should be a deliberate policy on the part of the USSR of discouraging radical change, because the emergence of other left wing regimes will mean a yet further drain on the resources of the older socialisms, the pessimism of Sultan Galiev will be tragically vindicated.

“Con los pobres de la tierra Quiero yo mi suerte echar,” Jose Marti

“With the poor of the earth I will cast my lot.” Thus the 19th century Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti—and though this ideal has become a living force in Cuba’s latest revolution, it embodies a sentiment which has never greatly troubled either the affluent societies of the West or the left wing politicians of these societies. Indeed, as Marcel Péju comments acidly, some sections of the European left seem to wish “to construct a socialism de luxe with the fruits of imperialist rapine.” [46]

We have drawn attention above to the “crisis of conscience” which will face the socialist countries as they move increasingly towards a condition of affluence. This same moral problem has confronted the wealthy nations of the West for at least a generation; they have either ignored it or salved their consciences and purchased yet a little more time with much publicized but minuscule aid schemes—the United Kingdom’s assistance to the underdeveloped world thus amounted to precisely 0.71 per cent of her gross national income in 1958. And this absence of any really effective aid cannot be laid solely at the door of the great monopolies or a greedy group of capitalists; the working class has forced up its standard of living in very large measure at the expense of fellow-workers in the colonial world and, in the opinion of Moussa, these efforts of Western workers to raise their standards of living have contributed more to the deterioration of the position of the underdeveloped countries than has the profit motive of industrial or commercial leaders. [47] Having tasted the delights of affluence, European workers have tended to become “embourgoisé” and ever more Europo-centric and parochial in their attitudes. A Fanon may cry that the well-being and progress of Europe have been built with the sweat and corpses of black man and yellow man, Indian and Arab—but the cry is unheard amid the distractions of a new and delightful opulence.

The record of the political leaders of the left in Europe has been as my teenage daughters would put it, “pretty crumby”; this record, seen in a context of world socialism, has been one of defection and treason, of resounding phrases and empty gestures. Preoccupied with the redistribution of wealth within their own countries (with “the sharing of the booty” as Péju puts it) they have consented to a token embellishment of the ghettoes of the Third World, but have never dreamed of showing their solidarity with the workers who live in these ghettoes by formulating measures to redistribute wealth on a global scale. Since many of us believe that one of the main forces behind socialism is its morality and its human decency, it may well be that much of the impotence of the left in Europe today derives from the neglect of these primary virtues, from the bankruptcy of its ideas and its leaders when confronted with the problems of a global socialism. Equally, it may well be that a courageous confrontation of the political and moral issues posed by the Third World—a real rejection of and active opposition to all forms of economic and political domination, the formulation and adoption of a massive policy of genuine redistribution of wealth between the affluent nations and the proletarian nations—it may be that such a confrontation will restore to the left the drive and idealism which it possessed when confronted with these problems at a national level.

To the newly-affluent nations of the socialist bloc and to the left of the old rich countries, the Third World poses the same question— where, in Marti’s phrase, will you cast your lot? On the answer to this question is going to depend not only the future shape of the Third World and the qualify of life of its people, but also the future of socialism in our time.

[1] Sartre, J. P., Preface to Les damnés de la terre, by Frantz Fanon (Paris, 1961), p. 9.

[2] Guevara, Ché, Guerilla Warfare, trans. J. P. Morray (New York, 1961), p. 119. Seel also Lambilliotte, M., “Avec ou contre l’histoire”, Synthèses (Brussels), March 1961, pp. 9–10.

[3] Fanon, Frantz, Les damnés de la terre (Paris, 1961). See also the same writer’s Peau noire, masques blancs.

[4] Guérin, D., The West Indies and Their Future (London, 1961), Chapter XI.

[5] “The President . . . is abroad half the year, mostly in France. Perhaps one of his ministers could help? The one required is likely to be on a trip seeking decisions from the absent President . . .” Thus the Economist, 18th August, 1962, of conditions in the Ivory Coast.

[6] A recent geographical study of Salvador illustrates in striking fashion the way in which a country’s economy can be warped by unplanned and profit-hungry investment in both agriculture and industry: Tricart, Jean, “A propos du cas Salvador: le geographe et le développement economique et social” in Développement et Civilisations (Paris), April—June, 1962, pp. 80—93.

[7] See “Majimbo for All” Economist, 18th August, 1962, p. 598, for the reactions of the Kenya Europeans to the regionalist opposition to KANU.

[8] Time, 8th June, 1962, p. 35.

[9] What is even more incredible is that a French-educated group should behave thus, forgetting how important a role the glaring gap between the rich and the poor played in the French Revolution . . . See, for example, Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.

[10] Fanon, F., op. cit., pp. 114, 132.

[11] See table in Hodgkin, T., Nationalism in Colonial Africa (London, 1956), p. 118. According to Hodgkin’s data trade union members make up a negligible negligible proportion of the workers in many territories.

[12] Quoted by Joan Gillespie, Algeria: Rebellion and Revolution (London, 1960), p. 69.

[13] Gillespie, op. cit., p. 146. Behr, E., The Algerian Problem (Penguin Books, 1961), p. 112, refers to the incorporation into the struggle of the “welders and dockers . . . the pimps and petty racketeers.”

[14] Hodgkin, T., African Political Parties (Penguin Books, 1961), p. 67.

[15] e.g. The Ras Tafari Movement in Jamaica, see Ruth Glass, “Ashes of Discontent: The Past and Present in Jamaica”, in Monthly Review (New York) May, 1962, and esp. pp. 27–29.

[16] Though limited land reform, as in Venezuela, or modifications of the traditional patterns of tenure as in the Kingdom of Buganda, may result in conservative peasantries.

[17] Nkrumah, Kwame, I Speak of Freedom (New York, 1961), p. 265.

[18] The latter, owning to lack of planning, is inefficient and wasteful in terms of both labour and capital; its products, moreover, are regarded by the wealthy as inferior to the imported product, and can scarcely be absorbed by other groups owing to lack of purchasing power. Friedmann, G., Problèmes d’Amérique Latine (Paris, 1959), pp. 27–8. Josué de Castro comments on “the connivance between government and monopolies to ruin the real interests of the nation.” “Les visages de la faim en Amérique Latine,” Développement et Civilisations, July-Sept. 1961, p. 31.

[19] Montaigu, G., “Les causes profondes de sous-développement” in Recherches Africaines (INRD, Conakry), April-June, 1961, p. 9. The Ivory Coast had a capital inflow of £14 million in 1961; £28 million were repatriated as profits. Segal, R., African Profiles (Penguin Books, 1962), p. 248.

[20] Julião, Francisco, “Brazil, a Christian Country” in Monthly Review (New York) Sept., 1962, p. 249. Jean Tricart documents this increasing gap between rich and poor between countryside and city, and adds “It is creating a pro-revolutionary situation whose evolution could be very swift, as the case of Cuba shows.” See “Un Exemple du deséquilibre villes-campagnes dans une economie en voie de developpement: le Salvador” in Développement of Civilisations, July-Sept., 1962, p. 102.

[21] “These do not appear to be the manifestations of the growing pains of industrialism, though there is an element of this too; rather they seem to be the symptoms of a grave social disease, with the dispossessed and vengeful millions swarming at the vortex of every disorder.” A Travelling Observer, “The Coming Latin American Revolution” in Monthly Review (New York), March, 1962, p. 508.

[22] Second Declaration of Havana.

[23] de Castro (op. cit p. 31) refers to “the monstrous duality of structure, with an industrial economy, often highly developed, superimposed on a precapitalist agricultural system.” This same lack of integration is illustrated by the 32 million Indians who remain geographically, socially and politically marginal to the life of the countries of which they are citizens: “Hounded into the depths of America across the Paraguayan plains and the Bolivian plateaux, sad, melancholy races resorting to alcohol and narcotics in order to manage to survive under the subhuman conditions in which they live.” Second Declaration of Havana. See also Ciro Alegria’s great novel Broad and Alien is the World, trans. Harriet de Onis (New York, 1941).

[24] André Gorz emphasises the role played by the United States in the maintenance of these outmoded structures: “Gaullisme et néo-colonialisme” in Lex Temps Modernes, March, 1961, p. 1161. In Iran, Western diplomacy “has chosen to lean on the worst aspects of economic liberalism in its fight against subversion, it has based its action on the feudal class; doing this, it has moved much closer to the critical explosion point.” Simonet, Pierre A., “Feudalisme et liberalisme economique en Iran” in Développement of Civilisations, July-Sept., 1962, p. 54.

[25] For a short account of the attempts to isolate Guinea see Chronique de Politique Etrangère (Brussels), Jan.-May, 1961, pp. 268–70.

[26] See for example René Dumont’s remarks on this topic in his programmes for agricultural development in Guinea and Mali; Afrique Noire: Developpement Agricole (Paris, 1961), pp. 32, 34, 172 and esp. 176–7, 209. And on the whole problem of rural development the same writer’s Terres Vivantes (Paris, 1961); the final sections of this volume are especially relevant.

[27] Fanon, F., op. cit. p. 39.

[28] Julião, F., op. cit. The Mexican press reported (mid-1962) that guerilla warfare was spreading in Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay.

[29] Thus, speaking of the type of democracy needed in Brazil, Julião says: “The name matters very little, as long as it is for the people. Let it be called Christian, popular, or socialist, as long as it brings as its first step a radical agrarian reform.”

[30] See Mende, Tibor, South-East Asia Between Two Worlds (London, 1955), pp. 278–81.

[31] Expressed most forthrightly by Fanon, op. cit, pp. 239–42.

[32] This account of Sultan Galiev’s views is based on Maxine Rodinson’s valuable study “Communisme et Tiers Monde: Sur un précurseur oublié” in Les Temps Modernes, Jan., 1961, pp. 853–64.

[33] Not borne out by internal developments in the USSR but of some validity on a global scale. Cf. Senghor’s observation: “The European proletariat has profited from the colonial system; therefore, it has never really—I mean, effectively—opposed it.” Senghor, L. S., African Socialism (New York, 1959), p. 19. On this topic see Cheverny, Julien, Eloge du colonialisme (Paris, 1961), and especially pp. 280–1.

[34] See Needham, J., “The Past in China’s Present” in The Centennial Review, Vol. IV, Nos. 2 and 3 (1960).

[35] See Considérations sur le socialisme Khmer (Phnom Penh, 1961) and Buchanan, K., “Buddha, Marx and Sihanouk” in Pacific Viewpoint (Wellington) Vol. III, No. 2 (1962), pp. 105–8.

[36] Senghor, ibid, p. 32. See also Dia, M., The African Nations and World Solidarity (New York, 1961).

[37] Chronique de Politique Etrangère, Jan.-May, 1961, p. 247.

[38] Guérin, D., op. cit., p. 115.

[39] Cheverny, Julien, op. cit. and esp. Chapter 1 “Césars d’Asie, Idées d’ailleurs.”

[40] Which may hold great promise owing to the experience gained by the FLN in the social and economic organisation of the guerilla-held areas. This parallels, though with a shorter duration, the Chinese experience in the Communist-held Border Areas; it is described by Fanon, op. cit.

[41] Fanon, op. cit., p. 61. Given existing living levels (over most of South Asia incomes are under $100 per capita annually) this will still leave most of those countries in abysmal poverty and, since income levels may well rise at a faster rate among the affluent nations, the gap between them and the proletarian nations will widen.

[42] Mills, C. Wright, “Causes of World War III”(London, 1959) and The Balance of Blame (Reprinted from The Nation by American Friends Service Committee, 1960).

[43] Moussa, P., The Underprivileged Nations (London, 1962), p. 184.

[44] Moussa, op. cit., p. 181.

[45] Baran, P., “The Great Debate” in Monthly Review, May, 1962, p. 40. Compare this increase of 350 per cent in 20 years with Fanon’s figure for the underdeveloped nations of 60 per cent in 15 years.

[46] Péju, M., “Mourir pour de Gaulle?” in Les Temps Modernes, Oct.-Nov., 1960, p. 499.

[47] Moussa, P., op. cit., pp. 6—7.