Socialism was born into a world whose limits were those of capitalism itself. North-Western Europe, with its American extension, was the sole, sovereign source of history; the rest of the world simply the arena of its annexations. Inevitably, socialist thought itself was influenced by this unique supremacy: the liberation of society would be inaugurated in the capitalist countries themselves. Europe, even in its recovery of man, would retain the initiative.
Events proved this belief both right and wrong. Socialism remains the vocation of our time; the dethronement of capital has proved both possible and necessary. But the revolutions were not made in Europe. Two vast upheavals have destroyed the racial and social absolutism of the West. The Russian and Chinese revolutions resulted in a continuous Communist world stretching across the length of Eurasia, numbering one-third of mankind. And since 1945, a third world has emerged, in violence and war. The decolonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America, which is forcing capitalism back upon its homelands of the nineteenth century, has created an immense community of newly or imminently independent nations.
Today these three great zones structure the contemporary world. The triangular pattern of the relations between them will shape the next decades. Their competitive confrontation already conditions and accelerates the internal evolution of each of them. The drive of the Communist world to overtake the Atlantic economies, the struggle of the Third World to terminate famine and exploitation, the effort to unify and renovate the West: each finds much of its meaning in the others. World history is now immediately single and indivisible as never before; but its agents have become multiple.
At the moment of writing, few countries illustrate this unprecedented absorption into global history as dramatically as Britain. The future of the British government, and beyond that of our economy and foreign policy, is being decided in France, in the light of military decisions made previously in America. The complacency and myopia of British society in the fifties is so widely recognised that it has overnight become a truism. It is now irresistibly obvious to what extent the future of our society, and of British socialism, is bound up with the changing structures and relations of the great world zones. Thus, if socialists everywhere in
We have chosen to begin with the most acutely oppressed and explosive zone in the world today: the colonial and independent countries which make up the Third World. It covers the whole of the tropical world, spans three continents, and includes the majority of mankind. It is united in its experience of imperialism, which produced ultimates in poverty and degradation. Its condition cannot adequately be described in the polite euphemism “under-development”; only a real use of the socialist concept of scarcity can describe or explain it. The Third World is a universe of radical scarcity. Defining and determining every dimension of men’s relationship to each other—their topography, their economy, their society—the inadequacy of the means of livelihood to the living is the first and distinguishing truth of this area. Pauperization is the next. The infamous exploitation of the primary producing areas on the world market, aggravated by the demographic leap in these countries, threatens to reduce still further even the irreducible living standards of the present. At current rates of growth, the Third World’s share of total world product, which was 13.5 per cent in 1953, will fall to 9 per cent in 1970, 7 per cent in 1980, and to 5.5 per cent by the year 2000.