p The period of the awakening of the East in the contemporary revolution is being succeeded by a period in which all the Eastern peoples will participate in deriding the destiny of the whole world.

p V. I. Lenin

p Perhaps the most marked feature of contemporary international relations, a feature which distinguishes them from the recent past, is the crumbling of colonial empires and the vigorous, increasingly purposive role of Asian, African and Latin American countries. These processes vividly testify to the clarity of vision of Lenin who was able to reveal the fundamental laws both of international relations in his time and their development for many decades ahead.

p Today, when these processes are developing in breadth and depth and are changing the picture of international relations, Lenin’s views on the national-colonial question in the imperialist epoch and the experience of Lenin’s policy with regard to peoples and states of the East are highly relevant.

p Only a few decades ago the bourgeois politicians and ideologists were convinced that the division of the world into a handful of wealthy, strong and civilised nations and a multitude of poor, weak and backward peoples was a normal and irreversible state of affairs; they believed that the civilised nations were destined to rule the backward peoples, doomed forever by their very nature to retain a dependent, subordinate and oppressed status, sometimes, direct slavery. As Rudyard Kipling, the writer who sang 227 the praises of the colonising mission of British imperialism, put it, “East is East and West is West".

p The periodical outbursts of discontent, some on a large scale, like the Indian national uprising of 1857–1859, or the Boxer uprising of 1899–1901 in China, were cruelly put down by the colonialists, and it seemed that nobody could disturb the existing state of affairs. The image of the East did not differ essentially from the picture painted by the Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov in the middle of the 19th century. In the mystical East, he wrote, “a human tribe sleeps on deeply for eight centuries and more".

p This sleep lasted so long that to bourgeois politicians it seemed unlikely that the East would ever wake and that progress here would be reduced to slow and steady removal of the most crude and inhuman forms of colonial oppression (like the slave trade), the gradual accustoming of “coloured peoples" to the various blessings of civilisation as a result of the philanthropy of colonialists.

p Marx and Engels severely criticised the system of oppression of some nations by others and indicated the interconnection between the destinies of the revolutionary movement and those of the national liberation struggle of oppressed nations. Engels formulated the inscription on the standard taken by the internatjonal working-class movement: “No nation can be free while it oppresses others.”  [227•* 

p Lenin took these views a step further in relation to the national-colonial question which, in the imperialist epoch, acquired a new historical sense.

p The awakening and mounting struggle of the peoples of the East has had immense universal importance. Lenin spoke of the hundreds of millions of people living in the East, “whose historical passivity and historical torpor have hitherto conditioned the stagnation and decay of many advanced European countries....”  [227•**  He justly evaluated the huge revolutionary potential of the colonial, dependent and deprived nations which "until now have been objects of international imperialist policy, and have only existed as 228 material to fertilise capitalist culture and civilisation”.  [228•* 

p Lenin’s analysis of the social direction of the national liberation struggle had great significance for comprehending the part played by colonial and dependent nations in international relations and the prospects for its evolution: ”. . .The movement of the majority of the population of the globe, initially directed towards national liberation, will turn against capitalism and imperialism....”  [228•** 

p He often underlined the direct link between the national liberation movement and the workers’ struggle in the advanced countries: ”. . .The socialist revolution will not be solely, or chiefly, a struggle of the revolutionary proletarians in each country against their bourgeoisie—no, it will be a struggle of all the imperialist-oppressed colonies and countries, of all dependent countries, against international imperialism.”  [228•*** 

p Lenin also put great store by the role of oppressed peoples in the world revolutionary process, and he formulated the tasks of the working class in advanced countries tor the revolution ahead. “We shall exert every effort,” he wrote in 1916, “to foster association and merger with the Mongolians, Persians, Indians, Egyptians. We believe it is our duty and in our interest to do this, for otherwise socialism in Europe will not be secure.”  [228•**** 

p Lenin foresaw the inevitable awakening of oppressed peoples to active political life and the growing role they would play in world development as they became participants in international relations.

p Lenin’s views were completely borne out and developed further after the October Revolution, which gave a strong impetus to the national liberation movement in Eastern countries.

p The new historical situation and the objective role of oppressed peoples as natural allies of the working class in the struggle against imperialism was eloquently expressed in the 229 slogan “Workers of all countries and all oppressed peoples, unite!”. In reply to the doubts of some of his comrades, because this slogan differed from that of the Communist Manifesto, Lenin said: “Of course, the modification is wrong from the standpoint of the Communist Manifesto, but then the Communist Manifesto was written under entirely different conditions. From the point of view of present-day politics, however, the change is correct.”  [229•* 

p The new and powerful upsurge of the national liberation struggle in Asia and elsewhere was linked with the outcome of the Second World War. Its liberatory nature, the leading part played by the Soviet Union in defeating fascism and solving issues of the postwar settlement, and the overall change in the world balance of power in favour of socialism, all combined to create a favourable external atmosphere for the national liberation movement to attain success. In North Korea, North Vietnam and China the popular struggle for national and social liberation grew into socialist revolutions.

p Imperialism, weakened by war, could not, despite all its efforts, halt this course of events. Indonesia gained its freedom from the Dutch colonialists immediately after the war, Syria, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon also soon gained their independence. The victory of the revolution in Egypt and the country’s ultimate liberation from British dependence had great international and political significance. The watershed of the 1950s and 1960s signified the crumbling of the many bastions of colonialism in Africa and the formation of a large number of new sovereign states. Morocco and Tunisia gained their independence in 1956, Ghana in 1957, and Guinea in 1958. Today there are over 40 independent states in Africa.

p The rapid upsurge in the national liberation struggle and the downfall of colonial empires, the end put to the omnipotence of the colonialists in Asia and Africa have had a great effect on the whole historical situation. "The breakdown of the system of colonial slavery under the impact of the national liberation movements ,” the Statement of the 1960 Moscow Meeting said, "is a development ranking second in historic 230 importance only to the formation of the world socialist system."  [230•* 

p This fact has had far-reaching consequences for international relations. Dozens of new national states with their own specific problems and interests and their own historical tasks, very different from the problems, interests and tasks of the economically advanced capitalist countries and the countries that have taken the socialist road, have appeared on the political atlas in place of the vast colonial empires.

p Despite the great differences in geography and the great variety of social and economic conditions and political regimes in various countries of Asia and Africa (and, to a lesser extent, in Latin America), they all share a certain community of tasks and objective status in the contemporary historical situation.

p This community of interests is valid today even though as time passes the part played by liberated countries in the world undergoes certain changes, especially under the impact of the complicated internal economic and socio– political processes. It is in place here to recall Lenin’s remark about how important it is “to establish the concrete economic facts and to proceed from concrete realities, not from abstract postulates, in all colonial and national problems”.  [230•** 

p The fact is that the newly independent nations are confronted by more intricate problems after they have gained political independence—the first and relatively easier task of the national liberation revolutions, which was resolved by a common onslaught and in the settlement of which the favourable international situation and favourable world balance of power played a very important part. The Main Document of the 1969 International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties said: "In most of the independent Asian and African states, along with the task of consolidating and safeguarding political independence and sovereignty, the central problems of social progress are to overcome economic backwardness, set up an independent national economy, 231 including their own industry, and raise the people’s standard of living.”  [231•* 

p The young national states are objectively faced with the need to overcome their dreadful social and economic backwardness caused by the very long domination of the colonialists. But this is a complex task which demands time, great effort and vast resources. Suffice it to mention the gap between the gross national product per head of population in Asian, African and Latin American countries (238 dollars) and the developed capitalist countries (about 3,150 dollars).  [231•** 

p The tremendous gap between the standard of living in economically advanced countries and developing countries is recognised today by politicians and bourgeois journalists in imperialist countries, to say nothing of progressive writers. James Reston, the w.ell-known American commentator, has written in The New York Times that in African, Asian, and Latin American countries there are some 2,000,000,000 people living in poverty, and this at a time when poverty creates greater discontent than ever because men everywhere know that poverty is no longer a fact of nature but is correctable.  [231•*** 

p Despite the economic progress achieved by developing countries after their political independence, the gap between them and the industrial countries of Europe and America is in fact widening as the scientific and technological revolution makes headway in the latter. Moreover, most Asian, African and Latin American countries have an extremely rapid population increase with which the production of food and other material goods cannot keep up. Recent development in these countries shows a growing differentiation of class forces, a tremendous tangle of various social sectors, very acute internal and external contradictions. The highly varied nature of the liberated countries has an adverse effect on the nature and complexity of the contemporary epoch as a whole.


p The swift growth of political activity in Asia, Africa and Latin America is in sharp conflict with instances of economic stagnation and sometimes the degradation of the national economy, and correspondingly the standards of living, which produce mass discontent and this, in turn, causes political regimes to become unstable.

p All this turns the developing countries into a gigantic reservoir of inflammable material, and even more increases their huge revolutionary potential, which Lenin had indicated. While in the past, bourgeois politicians and ideologists had tried to ignore the real situation in Asian, African and Latin American countries or to explain the periodical exacerbation of the class struggle there as " Communist plots”, or "Moscow intrigues”, now the situation has changed.

p President Kennedy and former Defence Secretary McNamara made revealing admissions on Latin America—the main preserve of US monopoly capital; Kennedy regarded Latin America, which was confronted by the dilemma of resolving its internal problems, as the most critical area in the world. McNamara was even more forthright. This area of the world harboured a real threat which was associated, he said, not with an armed communist attack or even with communist subversive activity. The real danger in Latin America, in his opinion, lay in the doom, disillusionment and despair of the peoples because of the comparatively slow rate of economic and social progress.

p The new stage in the development of independent Asian and African states is associated with the growing struggle between the national bourgeoisie and forces opposed to it over the ways of resolving vital issues. To paraphrase what Lenin said about a revolution in Russia and the West, it has been much easier to start a revolution in most developing countries than to continue it.

p Differentiation within individual countries is being accompanied by various forms of differentiation of newly independent countries as a whole. Some countries under the leadership of national-democratic forces rely on the support and experience of the world socialist system and have made 233 definite steps along the path of non-capitalist development. These countries, as mentioned at the 24th Congress of the CPSU, have become a foremost detachment of the present-day national liberation movement. On the other hand, the national bourgeoisie which, in its struggle for power and for class privileges, relies on the developed capitalist countries, is strengthening its positions in other countries.

p A number of specific features may be identified in the development of the Third World: these include primarily nonalignment (at least, in the political sense) with one of the two world systems and -with existing military and political blocs, the social and economic heterogeneity of countries, the incomplete process of formation of nations and classes, internal social and political instability, and the vacillation in foreign relations. Everything is in perpetual motion and the direction can change at any time.

p Despite this, the developing countries which are united by the fundamental interests of all peoples suffering from oppression by imperialism,  [233•*  may be seen as a certain homogeneous group in the system of modern international relations. It is this community of principal social and economic tasks and basic interests, the community of the destinies of these countries, and the specific part they play in the world balance of power and in international relations, which give some grounds for the above conclusion, despite the divergence of specific conditions and their various fluctuations. Indeed, the economically underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America are confronted by the common objective task of securing economic and social progress. World imperialism remains their common enemy and world socialism is their natural ally.

p Asian and African countries have not only achieved political independence comparatively easily in conditions of the confrontation and struggle between the two world systems, when the forces of socialism are able effectively to contain the aggressive actions of imperialism, they have also, despite the continuing economic dependence on former 234 colonial powers, an opportunity of pursuing an independent foreign policy.

p In contrast to a few countries with pro-imperialist regimes which are members of military-political blocs under the aegis of the United States, the majority of newly liberated countries have chosen the path of neutralism and non-alignment. Since the aggressive designs of imperialism have prevented a stable international situation and the internal consolidation of newly free states, their neutralism has objectively had an anti-imperialist bias and has helped the cause of world peace. It was not by chance that the first noticeable manifestation of the neutralist policy of these states was the war in Korea and the campaign to end this war. The neutralist states also made a positive contribution to ending other international crises. The maintenance and strengthening of world peace is a necessary prerequisite for successfully resolving the tasks facing the newly liberated states.

p The emergence of a large group of countries pursuing a neutralist policy has had a beneficial effect on United Nations activity and has resulted in that organisation relinquishing to a large extent the role which imperialist powers tried to impose on it as a “voting machine" ratifying resolutions in their favour.

p Alongside the neutralist policy, another important element in international relations associated with the emergence of new sovereign states has been the movement of Afro-Asian solidarity since the mid-1950s.

p The objective grounds for a common foreign policy of the developing countries and for neutralism and non– alignment, although less homogeneous, with a large number of variations and shades of meaning, remain to the present day. Thus, despite the great shifts in Asia and Africa since the last world war, despite the changes taking place today and the possible fluctuations in the future, the basic Leninist propositions concerning the objective role of the peoples of the East in the world revolutionary process and in the settlement of world issues are as relevant today as ever. The problems associated with the development of countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America occupy increasing attention in 235 modern international relations. The tangled complex of contradictions associated with the newly independent countries is developing alongside and against the background of the basic contradiction of the epoch—that between the two world systems.

p The various forms of theoretical constructions concerning “rich” and “poor” nations, “the world village and the world city”, and “the backward South and the developed North”, are ideological reflections of these objectively existing contradictions of contemporary international affairs. In propagating these concepts, the more reactionary bourgeois ideologists, who strive -to avoid the issue of the historical responsibility of imperialism and colonialism for the existing state of affairs, are on the same side as the ultra-Left, extremist elements, Maoists and their supporters, who are unable to work out and implement a constructive programme for solving economic tasks, and are inclined to look for a way out for the difficulties by embarking on foreign political adventures.

p Certainly, the problems facing developing countries do exist, their importance and complexity are irrefutable, but it is also quite evident that the settlement of the problems is invariably associated with the whole course of world development. The question of how to resolve these problems is a subject of fierce struggle between imperialism and revolutionary forces of the present day.

The special role played by developing countries in world politics exists in the sphere of their relations both with the socialist and with the imperialist countries. Mutual relations between the newly liberated countries are also acquiring mounting international importance.

* * *


[227•*]   Marx/Engels, Werke, Bd. 18, S. 527.

[227•**]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. *33, p. 233.

[228•*]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, p. 159.

[228•**]   Ibid., Vol. 32, p. 482.

[228•***]   Ibid., Vol. 30, p. 159.

[228•****]   Ibid., Vol. 23, p. 67.

[229•*]   Ibid., Vol. 31, p. 453.

[230•*]   The Struggle for Peace, Democracy and Socialism, p. 61.

[230•**]   V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 240.

[231•*]   International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Moscow 1969, p. 28.

[231•**]   See U.S. News and World Report, October 16, 1972.

[231•***]   The New York Times, February 1, 1961.

[233•*]   See V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 491.