With the uprisings of these last couple of weeks, the country’s poor and colonized people have shown how much power they’re capable of commanding. But until this mass anger and willingness to mobilize is turned towards advancing a coherent plan for overthrowing the capitalist state, it won’t bring about an end to the systemic violence that this revolt has emerged in response to. When all the available options are honestly debated, it becomes clear that Marxism-Leninism is the plan we need.
As the social upheaval continues, the anarchists and the social democrats will be the main ones to compete with the Marxist-Leninists in propagating their agenda. So I’ll refute the arguments of these two strains, then clarify what it means to fight for Marxism-Leninism in the context of modern America.
Anarchism doesn’t provide a viable path for the exploited and colonized peoples to overcome imperialism
As Lenin wrote in The State and Revolution, anarchists “want to abolish the state completely overnight, not understanding the conditions under which the state can be abolished.” Marxists also want to abolish the state, but we recognize that the state can’t be broken up until the capitalist class is sufficiently defeated. This is because Marxists know that the state must be utilized by the proletariat to suppress the bourgeoisie, who will try to retake whatever territory that comes under the control of a newly formed proletarian state. Only after the threat of capitalist reaction is neutralized can the proletarian state then wither away.
The counterarguments that anarchists have to this usually depend on a variation of one simple sentiment: the state will lead to oppression regardless of whether it’s run by the bourgeoisie or by the proletariat. The idea this sentiment rests on is that after being formed, a proletarian-run state will never wither away but will instead stay firmly in place forever.
Over a hundred years after the first socialist state was created in Russia, history has vindicated Marx and Lenin’s expectation that the state will begin to grow weaker as proletarian revolution progresses. While anti-communist propaganda would have us believe that China, Cuba, the DPRK, and the other existing socialist states are despotic or “authoritarian” regimes, their internal affairs haven’t disproven the “withering away” theory.
In the DPRK, the government has become less centralized over the decades, with the position of the presidency having been abolished within the country in 1998. Now leadership positions are being increasingly filled by the masses instead of by a small party elite, reflecting Lenin’s predictions about how the decentralization of politics would begin after a proletarian revolution happens. In the other socialist countries, a democratic political system prevails-one which opens the possibility for similar developments to happen within them. As journalist Charles McKelvey wrote last year:
The socialist governments of the Third World plus China have developed popular democracy, with structures that are alternatives to those of representative democracy. Laws and policies are decided by deputies of the people, and not by politicians dependent on the support of corporate and wealthy interests…In accordance with [Cuba’s] revolutionary socialist tradition of popular democracy, they are forging a remarkable constitutional assembly of the people. As the process unfolds, it is clear that the new constitution preserves Cuban traditions of direct democracy and popular democracy.
The only reason this process of popular democracy hasn’t so far resulted in a withering away of the state within these countries is that until capitalist reaction is defeated worldwide, the state will be necessary to preserve the existence of proletarian-run societies. These states will need to win the geopolitical fight before they can fulfill the end goal of Marxism. When capitalist powers like the U.S. can no longer threaten socialist countries with invasions or nuclear strikes, or cut off their resources with economic sanctions, or attack them with imperialist propaganda, the state apparatus that socialism currently uses to defend itself will become a thing of the past.
Anarchism discounts this need for socialists to win the geopolitical struggle. It claims that a series of stateless communes will reliably be able to hold out against aggression from capitalist police and military forces. It implicitly claims that a global military and economic force like the U.S. could be overcome by such a collection of communes. Yet the socialist state of China is now on the path to economically and militarily surpassing the U.S. From a geopolitical perspective, which is the perspective that’s crucial in order to formulate a serious plan for global socialist revolution, China’s Marxist-Leninist route is the route to take.
Social democracy falsely claims that the bourgeois state can be used to bring about socialism
Lenin also says that the social democrats (or the opportunists, as he referred to them) have the position of “We must not even think of destroying the old state machine; how can we do without ministries and officials?” This is what separates social democrats like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from Marxists; they want to take over the capitalist state instead of following the Marxist-Leninist path of destroying the capitalist state, replacing it with a proletarian-run state, and then letting the state wither away.
For this reason, they claim that “socialism” can be achieved through electoral democracy within a capitalist state. But any honest analysis shows both that the form of government they want to create is not socialism, and that they in fact seek to perpetuate the imperialist aggressions which stand in the way of worldwide socialist revolution. Sanders has helped Washington wage war against Yugoslavia’s socialist former government, helped carry out sanctions against the DPRK, advocated for regime change in Venezuela, and endorsed an agenda of U.S. economic nationalism in opposition to China. Ocasio-Cortez has voted for a pro-NATO bill, declined to condemn the Venezuela regime change campaign, and met with Bolivian coup organizers.
Similar instances of support for imperialism pervade the rest of the social democrat camp, because this camp’s goal is not to bring about socialism but to fortify capitalism-with their support for imperialism being a symptom of this. The ideal model that politicians like Sanders strive for is Scandinavia, where neoliberalism has been rising in recent decades and where corporations reap the benefits of Western imperialism. Their goal is neither workers’ democracy nor an end to the exploitation of the Third World; it’s to placate the proletariat within the First World by expanding social benefits under capitalism.
They don’t even pretend to want to advance Marxism; Ocasio-Cortez has outright mocked the idea of reading communist theory. Instead they use vapid terms like “democratic socialism” to make their brand of imperialism sound appealing to the young people who are gaining interest in socialism. In describing the “socialist” politicians and publications that held the same agenda in Lenin’s time, Lenin lamented that “All these gentry, who play a tremendous, very often predominant role in the parliamentary work and the press of their parties, repudiate outright the dictatorship of the proletariat and pursue a policy of undisguised opportunism. In the eyes of these gentry, the ‘dictatorship’ of the proletariat ‘contradicts’ democracy!’”
They portray the dictatorship of the proletariat as anti-democratic because they think that the capitalist class should continue to have sway over the government. Now we see the essential nature of Sanders’ assertions that the DPRK is “totalitarian,” and that Hugo Chavez is a “dead communist dictator.” These deceptive claims, which are reinforced by our society’s pervasive imperialist propaganda against socialist countries, get many people to remain on the side of the social democrats’ fraudulent iteration of socialism.
Marxism-Leninism provides a coherent plan for winning liberation
By now I’m sure you’ve come to know about Marxism-Leninism’s basic goal of smashing the capitalist state, replacing it with a proletarian-run state, and having the state fade away. What needs more explaining is what exactly we should do to overthrow the capitalist state given the current material conditions of the United States.
In addition to doing things like joining the Industrial Workers World union, becoming part of communist parties like the PSL, and voting for Gloria La Riva and Leonard Peltier this November, we need to follow in the path that past Marxist-Leninist revolutions have taken in order to successfully overthrow the existing state. This path involves not just building up the institutions for revolution, but making these institutions prepared to fight back against state violence.
“State repression will only get worse,” the communist YouTuber Hakim saidthis week. “The people not only should, but need, to fight back. Do not let fascism take hold, the U.S. is only a step away. Arm yourselves. Establish armed wings of revolutionary organizations. Start coordinating armed actions across the country with as many organizations as you can. Remember, never terrorist activity-only military and state targets. Establish Red bases around the country, and begin building dual power. People’s war is the solution.”
The anarchists may agree with the idea of arming the masses and overthrowing the state, but what they want to replace the state with is a series of communes that can’t effectively wage the ongoing war with the capitalist class. And the organizing model that the anarchists want to use to overthrow the state isn’t reliable either; Marxist-Leninist parties function under democratic centralism, which creates the discipline needed for a group to work as the army that Hakim describes.
The social democrats would never support the establishment of a people’s army, because they’re on the side of the capitalist state-and therefore ultimately on the side of the capitalist armed forces being used to repress us. They support gun control for this reason. Like was the case during the leadup to fascism in Germany, the social democrats will take the side of the reactionary forces which seek to wipe out the communists.
If we follow these directives-democratic centralism, armed organizing, pursuit of overthrow as reflected by what Lenin wrote in The State and Revolution-we’ll harness today’s social discontent as best we can.
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