Internationalism and Philosophy: An Overview of Systems and Revolution





The idea central to this paper is that the internal affairs of a locality or country are essentially, or ultimately, determined by external world affairs. This is in opposition to the view which takes world socio-economic affairs as important, but nevertheless secondary in affecting the socio-economic affairs of a country or locality.


The view that world socio-economic affairs are secondary to those of a locality has been predominant for sometime in both bourgeois academic social science, and among those calling themselves Marxist.  This view stems from and reinforces the notion that changes in things in general are always, mainly due to processes internal to the things.


The primary view of change held by both Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong was that the internal is mainly key. For Stalin, this view was associated with his inability to realize a socialist society should primarily serve and subordinate its interests to those of the of the worldwide socialist movement.  This was also tied in with his somewhat mechanical understanding of materialist dialectics.  I believe that Mao tended toward this view mainly because of the low level of material and social conditions prevailing in China during his lifetime.  On the whole however, Mao’s view of change in a thing was not as internally oriented as Stalin’s view.


From 1949 until 1976 China was a socialist country that followed the principles of Marxism-Leninism as extended by Mao.  In the main during this time, China practiced a correct proletarian foreign policy that supported the interests of the worldwide proletarian struggle.  However, China's foreign policy during this period also had secondary aspects of incorrectly favoring China as a nation over the interests of the worldwide proletarian movement.  The errant philosophical perspective that the "internal is mainly key to change" was at least partially responsible for these errors in Chinese foreign policy at that time.


My break with this "internal is mainly key to change" view, began in 1977 after my reading of V.I. Lenin's "Draft of Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions". In this work Lenin says firstly, "there is a tendency toward the creation of a single world economy" and secondly, to paraphrase him, the proletarian struggle of each locality must subordinate its interest to that of the same struggle globally.  The full quote precedes the beginning of the work which follows.


After reading this work by Lenin, I realized that not only is there a single world economic process, but also there is a single world political process. And further that, the social processes of each country or locale and social processes operating throughout the world are integrated in a single system. This system has parts, and the parts are subordinated to and mainly influenced by the system as a whole. This led me to see that Mao was in error when he asserts in his treatise "On Contradiction" that the internal is mainly decisive in the change of a thing, and this is especially false with regard to the parts of a system, such as the social affairs in each locality, or country today.


I began to present these views, in their essentials, in discussion, forums and other activities, primarily in Detroit beginning in 1977.  In particular, I developed these ideas at length in a speech I gave at an African Liberation Day rally in Detroit in the spring of 1977. 


This paper summarizes my present understanding of systems with parts, and the relationship of the proletarian struggle of each country, or locality on the one hand with the world proletarian struggle on the other, as they relate to proletarian internationalism.


Tim Reid,

March, 1987.






Internationalism and Philosophy: An Overview of Systems and Revolution


....whereas proletarian internationalism demands, firstly, that the interests of the proletarian struggle in one country be subordinated to the interests of that Struggle on a world scale, and secondly, That a nation which is achieving victory over the bourgeoisie be able and willing to make the greatest national sacrifices for the sake of overthrowing international capital.

~ V. I. Lenin, "Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions"



In the preceding excerpt Lenin makes an important point about the relationship between the proletarian struggle of each country or locality on the one hand and the global proletarian struggle on the other, as they relate to proletarian internationalism. Local struggles must subordinate their interests to the interests of the global struggle: each local struggle must be based on and guided by mainly serving the interests of the worldwide struggle. This is necessary for either struggle to accomplish its aim of abolishing exploitative class society. The correct understanding of the relationship between the two struggles is so important that it wouldn't be a bad idea for revolutionary internationalists to put the above excerpt from Lenin's work up on their wall. It should be right next. to the powerful set of letters Karl Marx wrote to Dr. Kugelmann, on the Paris Commune, which Lenin recommends that proletarian revolutionaries put up their wall.


In what follows the philosophical aspect, social basis and various key implications of the relationship between the world wide proletarian revolutionary struggle and the proletarian revolutionary struggle going on within each country, as they relate to proletarian internationalism, will be explored.



The global proletarian struggle on the one hand and local proletarian struggles on the other are in dialectical contradiction. A dialectical contradiction, or what is the same thing, a dialectical unity of opposites consists of two related, yet opposed tendencies which imply and need each other to exist. Mutual struggle between the tendencies characterizes their relationship, although they are not always in conflict.


Dialectical contradiction is within and underlies all things or processes in reality. It is like positive vs. negative voltage, hot vs. cold temperature, north vs. south direction, hard vs. soft surface, quantity vs. quality measurements, etc. and so on.


In a given set of circumstances, or conditions, typically one of the tendencies of a contradiction predominates while the other is subordinate to it. At times during the development of a thing or process, the predominant tendency may become the subordinate one, while the subordinate tendency may become the predominant one[1].  For example during the summer while hot weather predominates over cold, on some days the weather is much colder than normal.


This switching of roles by the tendencies is due to the mutual struggle between them in external conditions conducive to the switch. And in this paper such switching will be called the "identizing of opposites", the "identizing of contradictions" or simply "identizing". (The common term for this phenomena is the "identity of opposites", but "identizing" will be used here instead to emphasize the difference between "switching roles" itself and the way the term "identity" is used in formal logic. In formal logic "identity" means that one opposite is the same as the other. But when opposites change places in terms of which one is dominant and which one is subordinate, they do not become the same as far as their internal properties and behaviors are concerned.)


Although the two opposites or tendencies may undergo frequent identizing throughout a process, when a stage in the process or the complete process is considered, one tendency is mainly found to be subordinate and the other dominant. Lenin points out in the very first excerpt of this work, that in the dialectical relationship between the proletarian struggle of each country or locality on the one hand and the global struggle on the other, the local struggle is subordinate to the global struggle, which is dominant.


The proletarian struggle of each country is not only in dialectical contradiction and identizing with the global proletarian struggle, but related to this, the struggles in each country together with the global struggle forms a system. The proletarian struggle as world wide system phenomena dialectically contradicts and identizes with each of its local parts. The parts of a system are generally subordinate to the dominant system as a whole. This is consistent with the concept in the section before this one which says that local proletarian struggles are subordinate to the world wide proletarian struggle.


It is helpful to note here that viewed in one way, the global proletarian struggle linked together with the various local proletarian struggles constitutes a single whole. On the other hand, the global struggle and the local struggles are distinct parts of a single system. The global struggle represents the whole aspect part of the system, whereas each local struggle is a smaller part of the system. So that while the local struggles together with the global struggle are a single whole, it also true that the local struggles may, both individually and in combination, be in a dialectical contradiction with the global struggle.  The local struggles both individually and in combination are system parts in relationship to the global struggle as the whole part of the system.


But this is not all there is to the philosophical relationship between local proletarian struggles on the one hand and the global proletarian struggle on the other, as they relate to proletarian internationalism. There are various kinds of predominance and subordinate relationships between a system as a whole and its parts, depending on the type of system involved. Before discussing the different kinds dominance and subordination relationships, and how they relate to the relationship between the global and local proletarian struggles, it will be helpful to delineate the general features of systems and the various types of systems.



Systems arise from a number of factors which influence each other. The chief factors are the parts of the system (each having a contradictory inner essence), the order and organization of the parts, and from preexisting processes (which may include preexisting systems). A system may arise and play various roles as a result of nature's development, people's conscious or unconscious action, or a combination of them.


The process which predominates in a system is the fundamental contradiction of the system. The fundamental contradiction is not necessarily the same as the chief visible trait, or manifestation of the system. The fundamental contradiction determines and subordinates the parts of the system. The fundamental contradiction gives each system its uniqueness which sets it apart from all other things.


The uniqueness of a system in given external conditions makes it possible for the system to play specific roles or to have specific purposes. Most of the time a system can play a number of different roles or have a number of purposes, not only in different given conditions but in the same given conditions. In the same conditions a television set may be watched or used to place something upon.


A distinction should be made between the fundamental contradiction and the parts of a system that operate directly throughout the system. A system with parts has a fundamental contradiction which determines its thingness. Some of the parts directly operate throughout a system and others only take place in a more limited sphere of the system. The fundamental contradiction has effects throughout the system whether it operates directly or indirectly throughout a system.



Now the different categories of systems will be described. There are three major ones:

·         the simple

·         the lower complex

·         the higher complex

Each kind of system has unique relationships-including unique subordinate/dominance relationships between the system on one hand and its parts on the other, as well as amongst the parts themselves. A process may involve one or more of these kinds of systems, and different kinds of systems may exist within one another. The issue or question one is interested in, given its context (its time, place, and other conditions) determines the kind of system or systems one is dealing with. The outline of the three types will proceed from the simple to the lower complex, and finally arrive at the higher complex system.


Simple systems generally involve no more than simple mechanical mass, volume, and velocity. Things such as a portable hand operated air pump, a grain mill powered by water, or a pencil sharpener with a hand crank are typical simple systems.


These kinds of systems might not manifest their systemness as we're interested in them, unless they are in motion. For example the above mentioned pencil sharpener's inner contradiction primary to its role as a pencil sharpener, comes into play only when we turn the crank connected to the blade assembly. This inner contradiction is always connected with its necessary parts (such as the blade assembly) and less so with its contingent parts (such as the shavings catcher).


Lower complex systems mainly involve hyper-mechanical processes. That is they involve essential processes which result from the operation of simple systems and mechanical processes. Many chemical and electrical phenomena are common hyper-mechanical processes. Many lower complex systems also include a number of the features of simple systems. A personal computer is an example of lower complex systems, and we will go over its features shortly.


Globally operating parts play a more prominent role in the functioning of systems above the simple level. As parts of a system they are subordinated to and determined by the system's fundamental contradiction. They are also in dialectical interaction with the fundamental contradiction, other globally functioning parts like themselves, and the remaining parts of the system.


Most personal computers are good examples of lower complex systems, as mentioned above. They are primarily electrically based systems. Computation with binary numbers (0's and l's) which represent dialectically opposite states is their fundamental contradictory process. And there are numerous secondary electrical processes operating throughout it as well. Notable amongst the processes operating throughout them is the timing process. Signals are sent throughout the computer to keep the computer's parts operating synchronously—in step together.



Higher complex systems generally involve biological or social processes which develop as we're interested in them. Lower complex and simple systems may or may not involve development in the context we're considering them, but higher complex systems almost always do. Also, since higher complex systems are at qualitatively higher level and are more complicated than the other types of systems, higher complex systems give rise to higher broader kinds of development than the others are capable of. Just as many lower complex systems include a number of the features of simple systems, many higher complex systems also include a number of the features of simple and lower complex systems. The human body and imperialism are examples of higher complex systems.


Higher complex systems usually develop through stages (phases). Often each stage of a higher complex system has its own principal contradiction, which drives forward the development of that stage itself. A major difference between a principal contradiction and the fundamental contradiction is that a principal contradiction only lasts for the duration of a stage whereas the fundamental contradiction remains throughout the life of the system. That is because the fundamental contradiction drives the development of the system as a whole through all of it various stages. Often the fundamental contradiction of the system intensifies as it passes through each stage. While the principal contradiction arises from and is ultimately subordinate to the fundamental contradiction, it is also somewhat independent of the fundamental contradiction and often has a life of its own.


As higher complex systems develop, sometimes parts that were formerly contingent become necessary and vice versa. In addition, it frequently happens that the dynamicity of the parts necessary to the system as a whole intensifies.


While its true the parts of a system have been subordinated to the system's fundamental contradiction, and can only be resolved as a result of and in tandem with resolving this contradiction, that does not mean there is a direct one to one relationship between the processes associated (both internal and external) with the parts on the one hand, and the processes associated with the fundamental contradiction on the other. Especially in higher complex systems, the parts have processes similar and parallel to the fundamental and principal contradictions, but these processes are not necessarily exactly the same as the fundamental or principal contradictions. Shortly, we will see how all of the abstract points discussed so far in this section and in the next few paragraphs apply to the human body.


The parts of higher complex systems often have quasi-independent development apart from the system's fundamental contradiction and are more or less influenced by the system's fundamental contradiction at any time. The parts of higher complex systems can usually focus and re-radiate processes operating throughout the whole system. In focusing and re-radiating the fundamental contradiction, principal contradiction, and other processes of the system, the parts often "color" them according to their nature. Frequently in this manner, the parts play a crucial role in the fundamental and principal contradictions of a higher complex system. But parts may play a role in these contradictions even if they do not focus and re-radiate them.


A phenomena called synergy often occurs in higher complex systems. Synergy exists when the parts of a system work together to create effects greater than the simple addition of the system's parts when the parts are considered in isolation from each other. Sometimes these new effects are called emergent properties. Emergent properties often play a very significant role in the operation and development of a system. Due at least partially to synergy and emergent properties, the fundamental contradiction and other processes, of higher complex systems are typically more concealed or obscured than they are in other kinds of systems.

Often higher complex systems have a greater degree of self-determination than the other types of systems. They tend to be more self regulating and self-controlled than the other types.


It should be remembered that just as in the other systems, aspects of the higher complex system are switching roles, identizing, amongst themselves; especially important in this regard is the identizing between the parts on the hand and the whole system on the other. Identizing contributes to the obscuring and synergistic effects of higher complex systems.


The human body is a higher complex system, when considering it from a physical standpoint, it clearly exhibits the properties of higher complex systems. The whole body develops and its parts have quasi-independent processes which parallel those of the whole body. The body's parts have quasi-independent metabolic processes which parallel the metabolism of the body as a whole. The metabolism of the parts of the body can have a profound effect on the metabolism of the body as a whole. The parts of the immune system have a greater effect working together than they do in isolation and lastly the body can regulate its temperature.


All of what has been said about the higher complex system shows the impossibility of taking a straight line, rectilinear, or algebraic approach to analyzing and drawing conclusions about  (synthesizing the affairs of), these kinds of systems; a calculus like approach must be taken. Calculus was developed to deal with curvilinear processes in motion as opposed to the straight line simpler processes algebra is applied to. To analyze higher complex systems one must use methods analogous to differentiation in calculus, and when drawing conclusions about them, methods analogous to integration in calculus must be used. Differentiation "breaks down" and integration "builds up" a mathematical function according to continuously varying aspects of the function as a whole.


Before leaving this section, 2 points should be noted. First one type of system and processes characteristic of that type of system, as a whole, may give rise to, or play a role in bringing about, systems or processes like themselves, as well as, other types of systems or processes characteristic of other types of systems as a whole. For instance lower complex systems and their characteristic mechanical processes may give rise to higher complex systems, and this can happen the other way around. Second, the outline of the three different kinds of systems is an approximation of reality, and in life there are no hard and fast lines between things.


The proletarian struggle forms a higher complex system. Prior to exploring the implications of the proletarian struggle forming a higher complex system let's examine imperialism. Imperialism and its predecessor capitalism are higher complex systems. The proletarian struggle, as a specific form of struggle in the history of the oppressed masses, arose as a result of the workings of capitalism and has been indelibly modified by capitalism's successor, imperialism[2].



Imperialism forms a global village, albeit riven with contradictions. The social processes of every country are inextricably tied together and ultimately determined by the workings of social processes on a world scale. The 2 major political traits of the imperialist era are inter-imperialist war, proletarian revolution, and the interlocking of these two things. The global village determined as a whole and major political traits characteristic of imperialism stem from its fundamental contradiction, which is the contradiction between the socialized production forces (which imperialism functions on the basis of and further develops) versus the non-socialized, private character of appropriating wealth from the operation of these socialized productive forces-appropriation is for a handful of blood suckers and not to remake the world through abolishing classes and whatever is necessary to advance after that.


Phenomena of world imperialism common to all higher complex systems such as synergy, emergent properties, obscuring of the sources of events, inability to draw conclusions with a linear, algebraic approach, and subordination of the parts to the whole are caused by many related, dialectically interacting processes of the worldwide imperialist system. The operation and interaction of all the things just noted also further intensifies the fundamental contradiction and often themselves. Some of the key things responsible for the above mentioned phenomena of imperialism common to all higher complex systems are international capitalist economic competition, inter-imperialist rivalry in general, and the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In the next section we will discuss the relationship between local proletarian struggles on the one hand and the global proletarian struggle on the other. It will help with this discussion to briefly explore international capitalist economic competition, inter-imperialist rivalry in general, and the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.


Because of capitalist competition, in order to survive, each imperialist country must "expand or die". A key requirement of this expansion is the need for each national imperialism to export finance capital . This primarily occurs through its monopoly enterprises. This finance capital builds worldwide relations and systems of production distribution and exchange. These relations and systems are world wide, but they are controlled by a financial community of interests which is nationally based and tied together. The export of finance capitol invigorates the mass of a national financial communities capitol although it may be small relative to this mass.


Inter-imperialist rivalry causes each national imperialism to practice empire geopolitics: each national imperialism practices actions which serve to maintain and strengthen the integrity of their respective spheres of domination and influence in an overall way, as opposed to necessarily making immediate economic gains. Make no mistake, economic gains are important to each national imperialism, but in order to get them they must have a division of the world favorable for them to do so. This "favorable division" is mainly achieved through periodic inter-imperialist war. As a part of their contention and preparation for war, each national imperialism makes chess like moves and counter moves against their rivals.  Geopolitics and world war have profound, complex effects internationally.


The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie builds both ideological and organizational unity within each class internationally. The capitalist rulers of a single locality often unite with those of other localities to make international moves against both local proletarian struggles and the worldwide proletarian struggle. The unity of opposed imperialist blocs in moving against these proletarian struggles is usually in inverse relation to the prevailing degree of their rivalry. The proletarians of all localities who, as Marx says, have no country, have no loyalties to their local or any other capitalists, require international unity and action to fulfill their aim of abolishing class society throughout the world.


Although the social processes of any one country are subordinated to and ultimately determined by world events and processes, the development of these world processes may operate to make those of any one country key or very significant to further developments in the world as a whole. Social processes of a single locality may become a focal point of world social processes and as a result that locality's social process may react back exerting a significant influence upon those of the world . The fact that a part of system may focus and re-radiate processes of the system as a whole is a characteristic of higher complex systems as mentioned in the earlier "Higher Complex System" section.


Good examples of how the social processes of one locality significantly affect global social processes are the relationship of Russia to the world around the period of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and similarly China's relationship to the world around the time of the Chinese cultural revolution of the mid 60's to early 70's. Particularly important about these revolutions, was how they advanced proletarian revolution around the world. (Russia and China are no longer under the control of the proletariat, but, nevertheless, their periods under proletarian control pushed forward the world proletarian cause. Even the restoration of capitalism in these countries provided lessons for the world proletariat.)


Another illustration of how local social process may profoundly affect world social processes is demonstrated in how world events have come together so that it is only the Soviet and U.S. imperialists who can lead opposing blocs into contention and war for world domination.



The higher complex system of the local and global proletarian struggle arises from and is linked to the higher complex system of worldwide imperialism. The nature of the system of proletarian struggle is determined by its fundamental contradiction which is the international contradiction between the revolutionary proletariat and the bourgeoisie. We've seen in the preceding section that local events are determined by and subordinated to world events and they must be appraised from a world perspective to grasp their actual nature and impact; local events must be appraised holistically.


Local proletarian revolution primarily results from global imperialist processes and the global proletarian revolutionary struggle.  This is demonstrated by the fact that a technologically backward, neo-feudal colony of imperialism is often able to achieve socialism without having to go through an extended period of capitalist development. Frequently, such a colony may be able to advance to socialism after a only few years of capitalist development under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat. Such a capitalist period is called people's revolutionary new democratic society. The world-historic affects of international proletarian revolution, and international capitalism along with the fact of proletarian leadership of new democratic society make this possible.


As the dialectical opposite of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat strives to abolish oppressive and exploitative class society. The abolition of classes can only be achieved after destroying imperialism and capitalism throughout the world, and world events, as a whole, are decisive in this happening.


Wiping out imperialism and classes worldwide has to be the central strategic concern of all local movements and their local tactical tasks should serve primarily to advance this strategic concern. Setting strategy and tactics in this manner properly subordinates a local to a global proletarian movement.


Tactically all movements should oppose and support the overthrow of all capitalism and imperialism, including where they are located. For a local movement to advocate and struggle for the downfall of capitalism and imperialism everywhere but where the local movement is situated is chauvinism and means capitulating to capitalism and imperialism. Apart from this, where a specific local movement directs its main tactical fire, at any one time, should be determined by the current needs and demands of the world movement in relation to the specific circumstances that movement faces.


Within imperialist countries, generally the best way to advance the world proletarian struggle is for the local movement to put most of its energy into the fight to overthrow the local imperialists. Overthrowing an imperialist ruling class pulls down their international exploitation, undermines the world imperialist system, and can contribute to preventing imperialist world war or ending one in progress. For local movements in 3rd world countries most often the best way they can advance world revolution is to direct their main tactical efforts to liberate local territory and unleash the revolutionary initiative of the local masses.


It is generally true that the greatest contribution to world revolution is made by local struggles getting rid of their local capitalists pests. However, at times it may be crucial to the advance of revolution world wide for a local struggle to give foremost tactical attention to overthrowing the bourgeoisie or helping to make a revolutionary stand in another locality. If this is true, the struggle in the other locality should receive foremost tactical attention while continuing the struggle for revolution where the movement helping out is located.


Suppose for example the movement in Mexico was on the edge of seizing power while the movement in the U.S. had no immediate prospect for advance. Suppose also it appeared that if revolution occurred in Mexico it would qualitatively debilitate U.S. imperialism, and imperialism world wide. Given this situation it would probably be correct for the movement in the U.S. to give the Mexican situation its foremost tactical attention while not missing any opportunity to carry out revolution in the U.S. itself.


A strong pull on any locality to put the overthrow of its local bloodsuckers on the back burner to aid a neighboring revolutionary movement must always be carefully examined. But not shifting foremost tactical attention in the example given above would more than likely be harmful to the interests of the global proletarian fight. It would be akin to petit bourgeoisie nationalism which "proclaims as internationalism the bare recognition of the equality of nations, and nothing more, while ...preserving national egoism intact...." as Lenin says in the same work excerpted from in this paper's introduction. (In fact it is immediately after this quote that Lenin makes this paper's introductory excerpt.)


Regardless of the degree of attention the proletarian movement any one locality demands from that of other proletarian movements, the plan for overthrowing the bourgeoisie of every locality should be constantly reassessed from the holistic perspective of world developments. If revolutionaries in any one country correctly subordinate their tasks to the needs and demands of the world revolution they may be able to create more favorable conditions for local struggle. That is because not only do world conditions provide the underlying basis for a local movement, but conditions in the world at any specific time have a powerful effect on the nature and speed of the revolutionary struggle in a locality at that specific time.


For example the revolution in the technologically backward, colony mentioned above may even be able to skip new democratic society and go directly to socialism, if the struggle there is correctly able to take advantage of the state of worldwide events at any given time. This is possible if the local, colonial events are constantly appraised from and guided by a world holistic, proletarian revolutionary perspective.


Finally, we should always think globally when we act both locally and globally!



Tim Redd


November 1983.

© 1983-2006

[1] When the predominant side loses its dominance, that does not always imply that it or the opposite tendency continues to exist. The old contradiction may give way to, or produce, a totally new contradiction. The new contradiction may or may not have one or more of the opposites from the old contradiction.


[2] Of course the struggle between classes has been going on since the advent of class society with the onset of slave societies like Greece, Rome, China, Egypt, etc.