the way we were

Going through old speeches of Deng Xiaoping, I came across his 1974 address to a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, using Third World theory that Zhou Enlai had presented at Bandung 1955. Those were the days, when socialist utopianism inspired the oppressed Peoples of the Third World to roar their anger and retake what had been taken. Of course, two years after Deng’s New York gig, Zhou Enlai and then Mao Zedong would pass, the Gang of Four would be vanquished in a bloodless transition of power (if we don’t take the PLAs one-year foray into Vietnam as a concession to hardliners), and Deng Xiaoping would emerge as the new leader of the People’s Republic of China, employing cats of various colors to jumpstart the economy first in Shekou (1978) and then in Shenzhen (1979), with the SEZ established in 1980.

And yet. As events in the Middle East force us to reflect on the resentments that inequality and oppression foster, Maoist language resonates. And yes, Socialism with Chinese characteristics would qualify for condemnation as “that country which styles itself socialist” if only because the USSR, the other country that styled itself socialist disbanded as Gorbachev, Reagan, Thatcher, and Deng renegotiated the post Cold War order. Memory snippets from the Marxist Internet Archive.

[…] In this situation of “great disorder under heaven,” all the political forces in the world have undergone drastic division and realignment through prolonged trials of strength and struggle. A large number of Asian, African and Latin American countries have achieved independence one after another and they are playing an ever greater role in international affairs. As a result of the emergence of social-imperialism, the socialist camp which existed for a time after World War II is no longer in existence. Owing to the law of the uneven development of capitalism, the Western imperialist bloc, too, is disintegrating. Judging from the changes in international relations, the world today actually consists of three parts, or three worlds, that are both interconnected and in contradiction to one another. The United States and the Soviet Union make up the First World. The developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions make up the Third World. The developed countries between the two make up the Second World…

The numerous developing countries have long suffered from colonialist and imperialist oppression and exploitation. They have won political independence, yet all of them still face the historic task of clearing out the remnant forces of colonialism, developing the national economy and consolidating national independence. These countries cover vast territories, encompass a large population and abound in natural resources. Having suffered the heaviest oppression, they have the strongest desire to oppose oppression and seek liberation and development. In the struggle for national liberation and independence, they have demonstrated immense power and continually won splendid victories. They constitute a revolutionary motive force propelling the wheel of world history and are the main force combating colonialism, imperialism, and particularly the superpowers.

The essence of the problems of raw materials and development is the struggle of the developing countries to defend their state sovereignty, develop their national economy and combat imperialist, and particularly superpower, plunder and control. This is a very important aspect of the current struggle of the Third World countries and people against colonialism, imperialism and hegemonism.

As we all know, in the last few centuries colonialism and imperialism unscrupulously enslaved and plundered the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Exploiting the cheap labour power of the local people and their rich natural resources and imposing a lopsided and single-product economy, they extorted superprofits by grabbing low-priced farm and mineral products, dumping their industrial goods, strangling national industries and carrying on an exchange of unequal values. The richness of the developed countries and the poverty of the developing countries are the result of the colonialist and imperialist policy of plunder.

In many Asian, African and Latin American countries that have won political independence, the economic lifelines are still controlled by colonialism and imperialism in varying degrees, and the old economic structure has not changed fundamentally. The imperialists, and particularly the superpowers, have adopted neo-colonialist methods to continue and intensify their exploitation and plunder of the developing countries. They export capital to the developing countries and build there a “state within a state” by means of such international monopoly organizations as “trans-national corporations” to carry out economic plunder and political interference. Taking advantage of their monopoly position in international markets, they reap fabulous profits by raising the export prices of their own products and forcing down those of raw materials from the developing countries. Moreover, with the deepening of the political and economic crises of capitalism and the sharpening of their mutual competition, they are further intensifying their plunder of the developing countries by shifting the economic and monetary crises on to the latter.

It must be pointed out that the superpower which styles itself a socialist country is by no means less proficient at neo-colonialist economic plunder. Under the name of so-called “economic co-operation” and “international division of labour,” it uses high-handed measures to extort superprofits in its “family.” In profiting at others’ expense, it has gone to lengths rarely seen even in the case of other imperialist countries. The “joint enterprises” it runs in some countries under the signboard of “aid” and “support” are in essence copies of “trans- national corporations.” Its usual practice is to tag a high price on out-moded equipment and sub-standard weapons and exchange them for strategic raw materials and farm produce of the developing countries. Selling arms and ammunition in a big way, it has become an international merchant of death. It often takes advantage of others’ difficulties to press for the repayment of debts. In the recent Middle East war, it bought Arab oil at a low price with the large amount of foreign exchange it had earned by peddling munitions, and then sold it at a high price, making staggering profits in the twinkling of an eye. Moreover, it preaches the theory of “limited sovereignty,” alleges that the resources of developing countries are international property, and even asserts that “the sovereignty over the natural resources is depending to a great extent upon the capability of utilizing these resources by the industry of the developing countries.” These are out-and-out imperialist fallacies. They are even more undisguised than the so-called “inter-dependence” advertised by the other superpower, which actually means retaining the exploitative relationship. A socialist country that is true to its name ought to follow the principle of internationalism, sincerely render support and assistance to oppressed countries and nations and help them develop their national economy. But this superpower is doing exactly the opposite. This is additional proof that it is socialism in words and imperialism in deeds.

Plunder and exploitation by colonialism, imperialism, and particularly by the superpowers, are making the poor countries poorer and the rich countries richer, further widening the gap between the two. Imperialism is the greatest obstacle to the liberation of the developing countries and to their progress. It is entirely right and proper for the developing countries to terminate imperialist economic monopoly and plunder, sweep away these obstacles and take all necessary measures to protect their economic resources and other rights and interests…

And then Deng concludes:

History develops in struggle, and the world advances amidst turbulence. The imperialists, and the superpowers in particular, are beset with troubles and are on the decline. Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution — this is the irresistible trend of history. We are convinced that, so long as the Third World countries and people strengthen their unity, ally themselves with all forces that can be allied with and persist in a protracted struggle, they are sure to win continuous new victories.

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