By Bob Avakian
Revolutionary Worker #901, April 6, 1997
Let's look at some key aspects of the objective situation--in the U.S. and the world--since this sets the overall framework for carrying out our strategy of United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat (UFuLP) and our revolutionary work as a whole. I want to emphasize that I'm not attempting here any thorough analysis of the objective situation. Such an all-around analysis of the objective situation and its development (including summation of our Party's analysis of this in the 1980s, with its focus on the danger of world war stemming from the intensifying contradictions among the imperialist blocs at that time) is an important task that has been set by the Central Committee of our party, and ongoing work is being done on this. But here I want to touch on some key features of the objective situation and how they are affecting the mood of different sections of the people.
The first thing to emphasize--which we have already emphasized--is that this is a period of major transition in the world as well as the U.S. There's the whole phenomenon of the "End of the Cold War" and its political and ideological but also its material effects.
One feature of this period has been the "down-sizing" of the U.S. military, which isn't simply a quantitative down-sizing but has qualitative aspects in terms of trying to integrate even higher technology into the U.S. military while reducing its absolute numbers.
I was reading a book about the Middle East and in particular the Pax (or is it Pox?) Britannica that was imposed on the Middle East after World War I. And one of the main points that struck me was how Churchill, in the aftermath of World War I--when Britain was somewhat exhausted from the war, economically as well as politically, even though they were on the winning side--adopted a certain military strategy that sought to avoid long-term occupation of outlying areas, which would require a lot of military commitment and reach by the British. For example, particularly in the Middle East, Churchill went for the approach of positioning a small number of occupying forces, combined with the beginning use of airplanes and very early mechanized warfare to be able to be in a position to react quickly to a situation--for example, to an upheaval of some kind or other--to put it down before it became more protracted.
Although history doesn't repeat itself--things don't happen exactly the same way today as they did in the past-- and the U.S. empire is different in this period from the British empire then, there are some analogies that can be drawn. This is something worth thinking about in terms of this strategy Churchill adopted and how the U.S. imperialists are seeking to adopt a strategy for enforcing their worldwide domination today, in the context of the economic changes and the necessity they're facing.
So down-sizing should not be seen simply as the imperialists reducing military forces. They are also trying to qualitatively change their military to meet the military requirements they have--in the context not only of the current "geopolitical situation" but also of the economic situation and difficulties they have to confront. And this has effects not only internationally but within the U.S. economy. A lot of the workers at places like Boeing, for example, are being affected materially and also socially, politically and ideologically by these changes--by this down-sizing of the military. So that's one particular feature of the present situation overall, of this period of major transition and upheaval in the U.S. economy and U.S. society as well as in the world as a whole.
There are major changes in the formation and functioning of capital, within different countries--and in particular in the major imperialist countries, including the U.S.--and internationally. I'm not going to try to go into great detail on this, but this is a backdrop that is important to keep in mind. But here I do want to touch on some of the important aspects of changes that are going on in connection with major developments in world geopolitics and the world economy--in particular, changes in the social composition and class configurations throughout the world. This includes major changes in the Third World.
There is a very widespread, profound and accelerating phenomenon of the dispossession and uprooting of huge masses of people, in particular the peasantry, in many parts of the Third World. There have been, over the past several decades, huge increases not only in the dispossession and uprooting of the peasantry but, associated with that, in the urbanization, or we could say "shantytownization" of the uprooted peasants--and this trend is accelerating. All this is taking place within the context of imperialist domination and lopsidedness and the accompanying disarticulation of the economies of these countries.
A particularly important aspect or expression of this is that these masses who are being dispossessed, uprooted, urbanized or "shantytownized" are not being "organically integrated" into the dominant economy (or what's often called the "formal economy"). And this again is finding an even more extreme expression with the present major technological changes and transitions that are going on in the world economy, with the development of the "enclave economies" within these countries--enclaves of privilege and "high technology" within the overall dispossession, disarticulation and immiseration in society--and a sharp repolarization, or worsening of the existing polarization, within these Third World countries.
I recently came across the statistic that in some countries in Latin America it's estimated that a majority, in some cases a significant majority, of the people are outside the formal economy. They are not integrated into the formal economy. They are making their way by petty peddling and other means. The majority of people in some Latin American countries are outside the formal economy! This gives a very sharp picture of what this phenomenon represents.
Connected with this, there is a provocative question which I think is worth raising, or is in fact being imposed by reality: to what degree is it the case and will it increasingly be the case that this phenomenon of disarticulation and massive dislocation and even in a certain sense "marginalization" will not only apply in the Third World but also in the imperialist citadels themselves, including the U.S.? And will this not just affect a minority of people who historically have been on the bottom of society, but over a period of time will this come to affect broader strata as well?
There have been and continue to be major changes and upheaval in economic-social relations, including in the workforce in Third World countries as well. For example, a major change and feature in the Third World is what has been termed the "feminization of wage labor," that is, women entering more fully into the economy not only in a general sense but actually taking on jobs as proletarians, being exploited as wage slaves. This is a major change and feature in the third world--the "feminization of wage labor" to a qualitatively greater degree than before. One sharp example is the maquiladoras on the U.S.-Mexico border--on the Mexican side of the border--that's one of the distinguishing features of these maquiladoras, the employment of large numbers of women under very exploitative conditions. But there are many other examples--in Thailand, Haiti, India, throughout the world. This is a very significant development.
At the same time, and with all of these changes, it is important to emphasize that it is not the case that there are no longer large and significant numbers of peasants still in the countryside in Third World countries in general. On the contrary, there still are. And this is important because it underlines that the basic strategic orientation and road in these countries generally remains the same--that is, protracted people's war, surrounding the cities from the countryside, and everything involved with that. So the strategic road remains the same. And let me underline this. To attempt to deal with this phenomenon of increasing urbanization, or "shanty-townization" in many Third World countries by abandoning the strategic road there of encircling the cities from the countryside would only lead to being less able to give revolutionary expression to the desperate situation of these uprooted masses. To abandon this strategic road would be to weaken and undermine the ability to turn this situation of the masses into a further force for overthrowing the system that has uprooted them and driven them into further destitution.
It is a great strength and advantage in these countries, even with the heightened urbanization (or "shanty-townization"), that struggle, in various forms, built among the masses driven into these urban areas and shantytowns can be taken up in the context of a protracted people's war centered in the countryside and can, in an overall sense, be integrated into this overall strategic revolutionary road of encircling the cities from the countryside. But, at the same time, on the basis of maintaining and carrying forward this strategic orientation and road, these major changes and their acceleration in terms of social and class configuration obviously do have to be taken into account, as a significant tactical question, by our comrades in these countries and by the international communist movement as a whole. This is also something I am not going to try to elaborate on at this time. But it is something good to raise: it is food for thought.
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