Does the Third World really exist?

Terms such as Third world, semi-colony are freely used. What is exactly meant by such words? Perhaps Nestor can provide criteria by which states in the world can be classified as belonging to 'Third World'? Does 'Third World' really exist?

Ulhas Joglekar


Ah, Ulhas, this is our never finally engaged debate again.

More urgent things press all of us on the list, so that I don't think it is now the time to engage it. But at least I will give a rule of thumb.

A country belongs to the Third World when a sizable and / or hegemonic fraction of the ruling classes is in direct association with ruling classes in a foreign country, so that the struggle for state power immediately becomes a political struggle for the expulsion of the representatives of the foreign country from power. That is, in these countries domestic policy is never domestic, but international, in the sense that these countries are subject to direct or indirect, overt or vicarious, intervention from the ruling countries in the world.

Perhaps this has been as much as inviting the storm, but let it be so.

Nestor Gorojovsky


I shall profit from the opportunity to engage Ulhas:

1. I would put the stresses somewhat differently from Nestor in defining the 3rd World. The 3rd World is a place where imperialist capitalism has developed from the outside and therefore a place where internal and external politics coincide, but *also* a place where imperialism and international capital accumulation have found a support basis on the old, already existing ruling classes(as in the Indian subcontinent, where, according to Trotsky, imperialism melded with all kinds of vested interest (usury capital, trading, landowning, old ruling castes)inherited from the Asiatic Middle Ages" - or on an archaich, pre-capitalist, transplanted class basis (as in Latin America, where, e.g., an archaic structure of feudal grants of land provided the basis for the making of the Brazilian landowning oligarchy).

2. Therefore, the 3rd World is a blend of modern- i.e., full-fledged capitalist- mechanisms of capital accumulation, and archaic political mechanisms for retaining political clout in the hands of old, pre-capitalist castes and ruling states- a condition that has not been superseded in most of 3rd. World countries except in the event of a socialist revolution or in very special circumstances ("Asian Tigers").

3.Therefore again, the liberal-democratic Revolution that happened in Europe and N. America during the XVIIth century has not spread to the 3rd World, where *de jure* constitutional arrangements have a hardly surprising way of being distorted out of recognition in their *de facto* consequences, in that oligarchical power remains unchallenged.

4. as it is, the National Question is above all a question of whole groups in the population of 3rd World states being systematically and/or formally denied *de facto* political rights. The right of self-determination - wrote Lenin, should be upheld as far as it favours the development of (liberal) democratic policies and of democratic rights- a course of action that ultimately leads to socialist demands.

5. Therefore the opposition of all list members- and of mostly of the World Left- to the Kosovar movement for independence in the present circumstances, given the fact that its being lead by the NATO-supported KLA- which is seemingly a compact of archaic clanic groups organized to retain political clout over the Kosovo Albanian population in general.

Carlos Rebello


I am glad to receive a response from Carlos. I am not sure if the term the Third World is useful any longer. And my observations were made in the context of the ongoing, but intermittent argument between Nestor and myself. I will briefly explain the simple point I am making.

1. One could say that Malvinas, Maldives and Macao belong to the Third World. This hardly tells you anything about respective entities. As Marx puts it in Grundrisse,'The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of diverse.' The term Third World as it is generally used, is not a concrete reality in this sense.

2. Contemporary India is vastly different from India during Trotsky's lifetime. What Trotsky wrote about India is not relevant now, even if we assume that Trotsky was right.

3. If the Third World is really as it is described in paras 2,3 and 4 below, then contemporary India does not belong to it. This is my view. I suspect that not many Indian Marxists are likely to agree with me.

4. I am neither a supporter nor an opponent of Kosovar independence. I don't know enough about the history and culture of Balkans to have an opinion on this question. I am certainly against NATO and its bombing campaigns, whether it is against Serbia or Iraq or some other state etc. I have indicated my understanding of Marxist position on the national question in my immediately preceding post on Nestor-Jim exchange.

Ulhas