Marxism, the Third World and the Middle East

It has become common in the West to question the relevance of Marxism to advanced capitalism, and to suggest that, as a theory, it is in “crisis” and requires substantial revision. Paradoxically, more orthodox versions of Marxist theory and politics seem to retain an appeal in the Third World. Since the end of World War II, nearly 20 countries have acquired governments professing adherence to Marxist ideas. Within the past decade alone, more than ten states have gone through social upheavals that have brought regimes of a Marxist orientation to power. As a force in world history, Marxism’s success in the Third World contrasts with its more checkered fate in the developed countries.

Warren’s Revision of the Marxist Critique

The theory of imperialism is in profound disarray. Many have recognized that dependency theory is inadequate to the task of analyzing the international capitalist economy, [1] while the touchstone of all Marxist analysis of imperialism—Lenin’s Imperialism: Highest Stage of Capitalism—has been questioned as the authentic expression of the Marxist theory of international production and distribution. [2] No fully developed alternative has gained currency in the English-speaking Marxist community.

The Theory of Imperialism and Its Consequences

Between 1900 and the end of World War I, the concept of imperialism developed among Marxist thinkers and activists to denote the contemporary expansion of formal colonial empires and the intense conflicts over that expansion among particular capitalist industrialized countries. In subsequent decades, the theory of imperialism has attained the status of the Marxist concept for grasping the course of economic, social and political developments in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the relationship of this Third World to the advanced capitalist countries.


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