Thursday, March 08, 2018

Pages From History: "THE MYTH OF THE THIRD WORLD" BY DR. KWAME NKRUMAH, Labour Monthly, October 1968
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, founder of the 
Convention People's Party (CPP) in center with 
Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Shirley Graham 
Du Bois of the Communist Party USA 
in Guinea-Conakry. 
The Myth of the Third World by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Labour Monthly, October 1968

By Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

THERE is much loose talk and woolly writing about the so-called Third World. To some it means all the developing nations; to some it suggests the coloured peoples of the world; others think of it as referring to a vague, amorphous mass of uncommitted peoples, the oppressed and exploited of the earth who are neither 'east' nor 'west' but who are a kind of third, neutral force in the world.

To Frantz Fanon, the 'Third World' clearly meant the colonies and ex-colonies, and in his book The Wretched of the Earth he makes a specific case study of the problems of decolonisation. For him, the 'wretched' are those who have suffered the oppression and exploitation of colonialism.

'The Third World is not cut off from the rest. Quite the contrary, it is at the middle of the whirlpool,' and is characterised by 'neutralism.' Its people are committed to a non-capitalist road, since capitalist exploitation is their enemy.

But the 'Third World' should refuse to become a factor in the fierce competition which exists between the capitalist and socialist systems, and ought 'to find their own particular values and methods and a style which shall be peculiar to them.'

Fanon did not mean non-commitment or non-alignment in the commonly-accepted sense, though both have come to be associated with the term. The very mention of the 'Third World' suggests to some a kind of passivity, a non-participation, an opting out of the conflict between the two worlds of capitalism and socialism.

It is this concept which seems to have led to most of the misuse of the term 'Third World', and renders its use so misleading. There is no middle road between capitalism and socialism.

Two questions must be asked. First, does a 'Third World' really exist? Secondly, is it possible, either in terms of ideology or practical politics, in the ever-sharpening conflict between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces in the world to adopt a position of neutrality or non-alignment ?

Clearly, the 'Third World' is not definable on a racial or colour basis, though in fact most of the oppressed peoples are non-white. Is it then the apparently uncommitted or non-aligned who form the 'Third World'?

The expression first came to be widely used when two Conferences of Non-Aligned States had been held. The first was in Belgrade in 1961. There were 25 participating states and three observer countries.

The cold war and nuclear arms race was at its height and there seemed a very real possibility that the world might be plunged into a war which would mean the end of civilisation as we know it. The main purpose of the Conference, therefore, was to employ all the efforts of the participating countries to bring about the destruction of nuclear stockpiles and to divert the vast scientific and technological resources at the disposal of the great powers to positive and progressive channels.

The Second Conference of Non-Aligned States was held in Cairo in October 1964. There were then 46 participating states and ten observer countries. Non-alignment seemed to be practical politics.

In my address at that Conference I said: We are all here as Non-Aligned nations but the term 'Non-Aligned' as applied to us has not yet covered every form of policy which it connotes. We came into existence as a protest and a revolt against the state of affairs in international relations caused by the division of the world into opposing blocs of east and west.

We came into existence as a revolt against imperialism and neo-colonialism which are also the basic cause of world tension and insecurity. I went on to say that these states which claimed to be non-aligned had the right to choose the political and economic philosophy which was considered the most suitable for their rapid development and advancement.

The fact that Ghana accepted socialism did not necessarily imply opposition to any other country or people.

'Socialism,' I said, 'does not belong to the Soviet Union or to China, or for that matter to any other country; it is an international idea.' Many of us thought at that time that it was the duty of the Non-Aligned States to assert their full weight against the senseless buildup of nuclear weapons which threatened the whole world.

With 'east' and 'west', two power blocs of roughly equal strength, poised it seemed on the brink of nuclear warfare, there appeared to be reprieve for the world only in the holding of a balance of power by some third force which would prevent either of the two sides from starting a major war.

After the First Conference, Pandit Nehru and I went to Moscow on behalf of the Non-Aligned States, and President Modibo Keita of Mali and President Sukarno of Indonesia went to Washington.

Although there was no sudden and dramatic lessening of world tension as a result of these missions, the threat of nuclear warfare has to some extent lessened.

However, in the present world situation, with the armed phase of the revolutionary struggle well-launched in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and in the USA itself by the Black Power Movement, it is no longer possible to adopt a third position outside the main conflict. The world struggle, and the cause of world tension, has to be seen not in the old political context of the cold war, that is, of nation states and power blocs, but in terms of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary peoples.

It cuts right across territorial boundaries and has nothing to do with colour or race. It is a war to the finish between the oppressed and the oppressors, between those who pursue a capitalist path, and those committed to socialist policies.

Yet old beliefs die hard. Although non-alignment is an anachronism, there are still a few politicians and heads of state who cling to the idea of neutralism and who advocate the holding of more Conferences of Non-Aligned States. Their thinking is a form of political escapism—a reluctance to face the stark realities of the present situation.

The oppressed and exploited peoples are the struggling revolutionary masses committed to the socialist world. Some of them are not yet politically aware. Others are very much aware, and are already engaged in the armed liberation struggle.

At whatever stage they have reached in their resistance to exploitation and oppression, they belong to the permanent socialist revolution. They do not constitute a 'Third World'. They are part of the revolutionary upsurge which is everywhere challenging the capitalist, imperialist and neocolonialist power structure of reaction and counter-revolution.

There are thus two worlds only, the revolutionary and the counterrevolutionary world—the socialist world tending towards communism, and the capitalist world with its extensions of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

Today then, the 'Third World' is neither a practical political concept nor a reality. It is merely a misused expression which has come to mean everything and nothing. It has been used with equal looseness both by those committed to the revolutionary struggle and by those who are its deadly enemies.

The western press has gladly made use of it to serve its own ends by associating it with racism, and by equating it with concepts such as non-alignment, neutralism and coexistence. It has thus helped to prevent the full weight of the so-called 'Third World' being identified openly and decisively as part of the socialist world.

If we are to achieve revolutionary socialism, then we must avoid any suggestion that will imply that there is any separation between the socialist world and a 'Third World.' Misused and misleading political terms must be either abandoned or denned clearly.

Where the revolutionary struggle is in the armed phase as in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it is particularly important that there should be the utmost clarity of political expression.

The purpose of an article I wrote in 1966 under the title 'African Socialism Revisited' published in African Forum, Vol. 1, No. 3, was to show that there is no such thing as 'African Socialism.'

The term had come to be employed as proof of the existence of brands of socialism peculiar to Africa, such as Arab socialism, pragmatic socialism, and this or that socialism, when in fact there is only one true socialism: scientific socialism.

I do not deny the existence of the struggling 'wretched of the earth,' but maintain that they do not exist in isolation, as a 'Third World'. They are an integral part of the revolutionary world, and are committed to the hilt in the struggle against capitalism to end the exploitation of man by man.

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