Maoism and Third Worldism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Thu Apr 20 12:37:39 MDT 1995

I pretty much like what Kenny said here (see his subsequent post). Sure,
Maoism--I mean Mao's Maoism, not the RCP's or PL's, etc.--was different
from Stalinism in its Soviet form. It had some attractive features which
attracted some of us some time ago. I suspect that history _may_ judge
Mao more kindly than Stalin. And I don't deny that an internationalist
movement has to learn from all over. But American Maoism--indeed world
Maoism--has proved infertile as a revolutionary strategy in the advanced
industrial countries. We should learn from Mao, Maoism, and other
revolutionaries and movements, but "carrying pictures of Chairman
Mao/Isn't going to make it with anyone anyhow." Least of all here or in
the UK.

I would qualify Kenny's account in certain ways. The picture of
revolutionary strategy he sketches for the '60s movements is a bit
abstracxt--in fact it is hard to see the differences between what he calls
60's third worldism and Trotskyist permanent revolution, as Kenny
acknowledges by referring to Lenin on the weakest link. A key difference
and a feature of third worldism is this: the '60s 3W model, represented in
its most intellectually respecxtable form by Baran and Sweezy (Monopoly
Capital) and Monthly Review magazine, accepted in essence the possibility
of building socialism in one or several third world countriues (like
China) as a model for revolution and socialist contruction in the US. In
Lenin and Trotsky's view this is impossible: revolution in the colonies
may be saprlk that ignites the prarie fire, but it burns in the
metropolitan countries, not just the periphery, or no socialism.

On a more crude and popular level idealization of third world revolutions
has (had?) someting to do with a rather immature glorification of
revolutionary violence, motivated, in part, by an understandable
frustration at the slow progress of socialist politics at home, and by an
apparently deep need many people have to have an actual model they can
point to. If not Russia, China. If not China, Albania. Cuba. Whatever.

--Justin Schwartz

On Thu, 20 Apr 1995, Chris Burford wrote:

> See below snip
> _________________________________________________
>  > Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 22:33:51 -0400 (EDT)
>  > From: Justin Schwartz <jschwart at>
>  > Subject: Re: "loons in RCP"
>  > I'm not sure I want to go on about this, but I have, briefly, three
>  > problems with RCP. (a) Maoism is irrelevant in a country with no peasants.
> My comment is not about the RCP about which I do not exactly feel fully
> informed. I  assume it is a mixture of contradictions like most
> groups and individuals. I may be making the thread drift but
> I wanted to pick up Justin's remark that Maoism is irrelevant in a
> country with no peasants. This seemed to me to be not quite as sharp as I
> have come to expect from Justin.
> While I share with him and I think everyone on this list, discomfort with
> "Maoism", and in the past like him and others, eg I understand Althusser,
> I considered the Chinese model as one genuinely different in important
> respects from the Soviet "Stalinist" model, nevertheless there were major
> strengths in the political, organisational and ideological position
> developed not just by Mao, but by the Chinese Commuist Party up to the
> 1950's.
> Even if there are other disadvantages with this model, its
> relevance is not restricted to a country with a majority of peasants.
> That is what I wanted to clarify with Justin although I accept he may
> have meant a different set of attributes when he spoke of Maoism.
> In fact any serious marxist in any "third world country" has relevant
> things to say to anyone attempting to be a serious marxist in an
> "advanced capitalist country" about the problem faced in almost all
> countries now: the proportion of the population that make up the kosher
> industrialised working class, concentrated by capitalism naturally in
> large factories, and amenable to marxist politics and organisation, is a
> minority. If you believe in a strategic vanguard, (and the Chinese Party
> never said the peasants were the strategic vanguard) how do you
> consolidate that vanguard but also manage to be seen as relevant to the
> great majority of the population?
> It is obviously so abstract as to be a thought experiment, which I hope
> will not confuse anyone, but suggest things in a different light:
> supposing Mao had died in 1953 and the Chinese Party had kept China at
> the stage of New Democracy longer, might this not have had wider relevance?
> That is why I have tried to suggest from time to time on this list, for
> exploration and critical clarification, that curiously, for marxists in
> the "West" the decades old strategy of national democratic movement,
> (stripped of any nationalism), or a new democratic movement, is a serious
> route to explore.
> I don't want to lumber Ron with my terminology or my approach but some
> time ago he suggested that the South African political situation might
> have relevance more widely. I detected no positive response to what he
> said on this, and wondered if most of the list thought it was
> far-fetched. But I don't think it is far fetched for the reasons I have
> indicated above for myself.
> It does mean thinking of coalitions, of a most unlikely
> kind. Joe Slovo went into government with Nationalists. Mandela went into
> government with Buthelezi. The neo-classical comprador finance minister
> has as his deputy a very able communist (Alec Irwin). It requires thinking
> analytically and dialectically. It requires posing the overall political
> questions in terms of the good of the overall population. It requires a
> realistic understanding of the very limited strength of the "pure"
> working class, and a shrewd idea of how to strengthen this.
> Apologies for shameless thread drift, but I feel encouraged that the
> list is grappling with some serious arguments while people on the whole
> are just about still able to listen to each other. (?!)
> Regards,
> Chris Burford.
>      --- from list marxism at ---

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list