“We want a better world. We want a world based on equality and mutuality. We envision a future in which the full potential of humanity is realized: one without unequal power relations and one of ecological harmony. Creating such a world is our common cause.” Such is the revolutionary refrain.
However pious the statements are, they stand disconnected from the world today: one full of inequality, oppression, coercion, violence, poverty and so on. If we really seek to create such a new, ‘utopian’ world, one thing is clear- we have a lot of work to do. Before we embark on this huge project, we need a plan or some sort of road map. Before we can chart a course towards the world we’d like to see, we must understand where we are now.
The world today is marked by extreme inequalities and stratification. The vast majority of people, around eighty percent, subsist on less than ten dollars a day. (1) Theirs is a world of poverty, toil and deprivation. Contrasted to this is a privileged minority noted for affluence, consumption and waste. Generally speaking, this social divide breaks down geographically: vast impoverishment being the norm of the ‘Third World’ and widespread affluence characteristic of the ‘First World.’
The scope and depth of this situation is unimaginable. In India alone, seven hundred million people live on less than two dollars dollars a day. (2) This is roughly equivalent to the entire English-speaking world. Around half of the world, about 3.5 billion people, live on less that $2.50 a day. (1) The human effects are devastating. For example, every year over 2 million people die of water born disease and every five seconds a child dies of starvation or malnutrition. (3) (4) All of these deaths are preventable: on a daily basis Amerikans alone have an average intake of 3,700 calories, throw away almost a third of their edible food and use 5.8 billion gallons of potable water just for toilets. (5) (6) (7)
The squalor of the of Third World and the squander of the First are directly related. Each world’s respective condition is the direct result of exploitation. The modern system of exploitation, whereby a global minority in a few rich countries lives at the expense of the impoverished global majority, is called imperialism. That is to say that in relation to the imperialist system and the Third World masses, those in the First World are beneficiaries of the former and a petty class of exploiters towards the latter.
Imperialism is currently the most widespread, fundamental form of oppression. This does not mean that other forms of oppression do not exist. Rather, imperialism is currently the dominant form of oppression: it touches the most people in the most fundamental way; it is the foremost determinant of life-options and class; and other forms of oppression are almost always negated, heightened, co-opted or superseded by imperialist exploitation. Imperialism drives social life today.
Attitudes and trends of thought, or ‘class consciousness,’ confirm this social reality. Whereas apathy and post modernism are common in the West, this is due to the lack of a functional need for a politically charged population. When First Worlders do express political views they are almost always supportive of imperialism. Mindless consumerism, a natural aspect of any society fattened on stolen wealth, is also a major phenomenon in the First World. On the other side of the social world, those in the Third World naturally resist their oppression. Radical Islam, the fastest growing social movement of the last thirty years, is in many regards an opposition movement against imperialism. This amalgamation of religion and anti-imperialism is no accident. Rather, it is evidence of two truths. First, the main social antagonism today is between the Third and First World. Second, oppression and resistance are inseparable.
Insofar as imperialism is the most fundamental form of oppression, resistance and revolutionary struggles are regular features in the Third World and at the margin. It is the Third World’s anti-imperialist struggle which is both the most widespread and common struggle amongst the global masses and by definition one against the core of global power. Containing amazing diversity, flaws and potential, the global anti-imperialist struggle is the struggle of the world’s exploited majority.
The anti-imperialist struggle is the modern day revolutionary struggle. The struggle of the global masses who are exploited by imperialism is of primary importance for those who seek a fundamentally better world: one that cannot freely evolve from the current one.
Anti-imperialist initiatives and revolutions in a single country or territory weakens the imperialist system as a whole and gives a new impetus for further, more widespread change. It is as part of the global fight against imperialism that the foundations for a new world are built and of this process itself from which further revolutionary potential emerges. In our period, the complete abolition of capitalism, patriarchy, youth oppression and other unequal structural relationships as well as arriving at a state of mutuality and ecological harmony are directly tied the destruction of the current order via anti-imperialist struggle.
For revolutionaries around the world the current task is to advance and support the ongoing struggle against imperialism as part of our radical vision of a world free from all oppression. Those revolutionaries in the First World, who owing to class composition are few and far between and separated from the struggle of the world’s exploited masses, naturally find this task daunting. Nevertheless, for all those who desire a new world, this is the struggle we must engage in.
No doubt, the path before us is long and arduous. However, the place to begin is here; the time to start is now.