by Max Peterson
"There are two theories of how world revolution will emerge in the 21st century: the theory that the Western proletariat will have to seize control of Western nations in order to spread socialism to the Global South (also known as the Third World), and the theory that the Global South will first have to be emancipated to put social and economic pressure on Western nations which will intensify the class contradictions and lead to revolution in these nations. I firmly believe that the second theory, also called Third Worldism, is the only way for global revolution to occur on a mass and continuing scale. There are four major reasons for this, in my opinion: super-exploitation will not be ended organically in the West, most productive property is now in the Global South, there is a far vaster and poorer proletariat in the South, and because Western material standards are too high to enable socialist revolution".
Critique: first reason and the fourth are essentially the same. "Western material standards are too high to enable socialist revolution". Probably, it is true.
However, the essential point is the second reason: "most productive property is now in the Global South". It is correct to assert that industrial production has migrated to "the South", i.e. the Third and the Second world. However, "the most productive property" today is not industry, like steel and coal, but knowledge production. And this is not an exclusive "property" of Indian or Russian engineers, but much more present in the heartland of impeerialism: the U.S.
The third reason - "there is a far vaster and poorer proletariat in the South" - is true, but this presupposes that today proletariat is the revolutionary class, as it was in the XIX century. Wrong. To be revolutionary today, one must strive to be a universal person, i.e. of intellectual and manual labor. To be at the forefront of advanced technologies and to be working together with the most oppressed sections of humanity. Take the image of Che Guevara working as a loader as an example of such a modern revolutionary.
Proletariat is no more revolutionary today than peasantry was revolutonary in XIX and XX centuries. Yet, if we remember the English revolution (from XIII century on) and the French revolution, and even the Russian and the Chinese revolutions, we see the peasantry as a revolutionary class.
All in all, that means that modern revolution should not be shoved onto the shoulders of the Third world, and the First world radicals to wait for it to happen, like beggars, but that modern revolution will be a combination of the First and the Third world revolutionaries into a single organization.
As a proof of this view, witness the dynamic of spread of global protests in 2011-12: first, they started in Spain and Portugal - two former Empires, imperialist states, then picked up in the Arab world ("Arab spring"), and in the fall have flared up in the United States and other imperialist states. They were even felt in the Second world states, such as Ukraine.
"Super-exploitation refers to how profits that are made from production in Third World countries are magnified in Western markets when products are sold and exchanged in Euros or dollars after being purchased and produced with labor power that is paid in weaker, non-Western currencies. When, for example, a pair of Nikes are made in a sweatshop in Cambodia, the workers are paid in weak Cambodian currency, using goods purchased in the same weak currency. Upon arriving in a Western store, the price is magnified by the necessity for triple-profits: i.e., the owner of the factory in Cambodia and the owner of the store in the West, as well as the Nike corporation, are all trying to make profit off of this process. This super-profit typically ends up mostly going to the store and to Nike. Some of these excess profits that don’t need to be accumulated to maintain a competitive edge are then used to pay relatively high wages (in terms of the global labor market) to Western workers who either market or sell the products, though they didn’t produce them.
Ironically, although the massive manufacturing capital flight hurt Western workers engaged in these industries and led to a stagnation of Western wages, the fact that production was moved overseas meant that most commodities could be made far cheaper for the average First World worker, while their wages could still be maintained to be enough to keep a high material standard of living
Through the maintenance of a relatively high material standard of living in the West, as well as through the collaboration between the ownership class and the labor aristocracy, most First World workers have become very passive and apolitical. Most of them honestly have more to lose from global socialist revolution than they would gain, at least in terms of material conditions and availability of cheap consumer goods. This makes organic revolution incredibly rare and unrealistic in most peoples’ eyes in these Western nations
Another key problem is that most productive property is now located in Third World countries. This means that most factories, sweatshops, ‘mills’, and other means of production that generate most consumer goods are now in countries like Cambodia, Mexico, India, Indonesia and Thailand. These are the things that generate tangible value, while most work in Western nations is involved with the distribution and management of value."
Comment: Industrial revolution is now in the Third World countries, while there are openings for production of knowledge and creative work in the First world. Witness “TED”
"most workers in the West have many sources of potential profit, from stocks and bonds to expensive houses and even retirement funds and 401(k)s
the child laborers in Vietnam working 13 hours a day, the garment workers in Chinese sweatshops who work 10 hours a day, and the rural African farmers who can barely grow enough food to live but still need to sell some of it after working entire days in the boiling sun are the true global proletariat. One of the biggest sources of proletarian power comes from the slums of global mega-cities, where millions of people live in abject poverty and barely get buy because of the ‘race to the bottom’ (with wages) mentality that has taken hold in much of the Third World since the rise of neoliberalism. There is the greatest revolutionary potential within these proletarian communities, and in fact, many of the people in these regions are waging people’s wars or are engaged in some form of class struggleIf global revolution is to start anywhere, it
will be in the Third World nations where there are the most impoverished and enraged proletarians with the most to gain from world revolution. If they are to succeed, they could socialize their wealth and production, put heavy tariffs on exports, and nationalize foreign companies. These actions would seriously increase the price of doing business in these countries and put economic pressure on consumers in the First World. Prices would go up and wages would go down, since super-profits would be seriously reduced and the amount of goods imported to Western nations would be cut back to maintain rising rates of profit. Once the material standards of Western nations are severely threatened, the contradictions between the ownership class and working class will magnify and create the proper historical and material conditions for revolution in these nations"