Art by Fox Green of Space Commune
The story of the Ukraine proxy war’s failure is the same one as those of the catalyzing events within the falls of all past empires: a hegemon does something reckless to try to regain its waning influence, then ends up ensuring its own defeat.
Coming of multipolarity represents hope for the class struggle
This is not because Russia has militarily defeated Ukraine, an outcome that Washington anticipated from the start. It’s because the imperialists haven’t fulfilled their foremost goal behind the proxy war, which was to destabilize Russia so that China could then be subdued in the new great-power competition. Because Washington’s sanctions have failed by this crucial metric, the PRC will be able to keep building a global economic network that incrementally renders neo-colonialism untenable.
The proxy war has failed so badly that it’s not only proven unable to reverse the construction of this network, but sped up the process, with the sanctions creating more of an incentive for Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Eurasia’s other pivotal geopolitical players to solidify their economic ties to China. If not for pressure from principled anti-imperialists like Russia’s communists, Putin wouldn’t have carried out the military operation that made this possible, as he prefers cooperation with the Americans and once even wanted Russia to join NATO. The direction of history has compelled him to embrace an anti-imperialist policy, and he and his successors at this point won’t realistically abandon that policy.
These facts are the essence of what communists in the imperial center should be focusing on at the moment when it comes to global affairs. They tell us something indispensable about our conditions, which is that the imperial extractive arrangement that provides the material basis for U.S. capitalism is falling apart. It’s falling apart because Russia is militarily defeating U.S. hegemony while China is economically defeating it, with the former victory making the latter one easier and vice versa. Because U.S. hegemony is the globe’s primary contradiction, and Russia and China aren’t imperialist powers, our correct practice is to educate Americans about the progressive impacts that these shifts in the global power balance are bringing. The lifting of the peripheral countries out from enforced underdevelopment; the weakening of U.S. capital; the radicalization of the U.S. working class that imperialism’s recent failures are making possible; these must form the basis for our analysis.
The goal of the imperialism-compatible left is to obscure this progressive nature of these developments, so that we don’t see the rise of a genuinely revolutionary politics that’s capable of winning victory for the workers. The way the actors within this anti-revolutionary element are going about with their wrecking mission centers around social media, which has become their primary narrative weapon. Accordingly, the rhetoric they use to try to sabotage revolution only truly fits within social media, and the particular type of polarization that it creates.
When I’ve made the kinds of geopolitical analyses that I just summarized, the things I’ve seen imperialism-compatible leftists do to try to discredit them include some notable rhetorical patterns.
The fabrication and maintenance of a pro-imperialist smear narrative
First, when I cite the UN weapons inspector turned anti-imperialist commentator Scott Ritter to support my points (which feels unavoidable since the things he says are so sound), they repeat the FBI’s narrative that Ritter is a predator. This smear is akin to the lies that Russiagate liberals directed towards Julian Assange to try to discredit WikiLeaks’ exposing of U.S. imperialism and the Democratic Party. And like in that case, the target is innocent. As Ritter has posted in response to the use of this narrative by NATO propagandist Elliot Higgins:
What Higgins won’t speak of is the fact that I have consistently maintained my innocence, and pled such at trial knowing I was facing up to 40 years imprisonment, and after being offered a deal which would have resulted in no time served. Innocent men don’t plead guilty. The trial was highly politicized, with the judge disallowing exculpatory evidence (a forensic analysis of my computer hard drive that showed zero criminal activity), while admitting illegally unsealed files which were cherry picked by the prosecution to manufacture their case. I was found guilty at trial. While imprisoned, I was told that I would not be paroled unless I admitted guilt. This I refused to do. After making my case to the prison authorities, I was paroled despite never having pled guilty. (Innocent men don’t plead guilty.)...For those who can accept this, I look forward to our continued constructive engagement on this and other platforms. For those who cannot, exit stage right—your presence is not wanted or needed. As for Mr. Higgins, I’ll let history judge which among us has behaved honorably.
Ritter is being targeted in this way because he’s an authority who’s providing a strong case for the view on geopolitics that serious Marxists put forth. Those carrying out these attacks include not just NAFO, but plenty who call themslves leftists or “Marxists,” because sectarian leftists have an overlapping interest with NAFO in portraying him as a bad actor. They attack him and those adjacent to him not because their central goal is to wage informational warfare against Russia, as the feds involved in NAFO are, but because they depend on imperialism maintaining its narrative control for their own project to survive. This project is left opportunism, where they get to wield power within a community whose insularity has been furthered by the invention of social media. To keep this status of theirs, they must fight the threats to it, which are Marxists who prioritize anti-imperialism and class struggle.
This year, the primary way the imperialism-compatible left has attacked Marxists like us is by claiming we’re wrong for supporting Rage Against the War Machine. RAWM’s big event from last month, and the permanent organizational coalition that’s since emerged from it, represent a force that can bring great escalation to the class conflict. This is because the guiding idea behind RAWM—which is that we must do whatever it takes to defeat U.S. imperialism—can under no circumstances be incorporated into the opportunist project that these types of leftists are invested in. The imperialism-compatible leftists claim they oppose RAWM because its coalition aspect includes Libertarians and others not on the left, but if these leftists were so opposed to making tactical alliances with right-wingers, they wouldn’t be placing themselves on the same side within this ideological conflict that Ukrainian Nazis are on. Many of them don’t even recognize the moral mandate that Russia had in Ukraine, which was to use demilitarization as a means for neutralizing the threat to the Donbass from Ukraine’s ruling fascists. Their foremost priority is not to fight fascism, imperialism, or capitalism, but to fight against those who threaten the personal status they’ve gained as an outcome of their appeasing imperialism.
To maintain a monopoly over organizing spaces and the left social media sphere, they have to successfully defend a particular set of ideas: that Russia and China are imperialist, that Russia was wrong for intervening in Ukraine, and that U.S. hegemony isn’t an important contradiction (this goes along with their notion that class shouldn’t be the central focus). So they attack those who’ve embraced RAWM, even more than NAFO does. Whereas for NAFO, RAWM is only another target, for the imperialism-compatible left, we’re the target. We’re the element that poses the most urgent threat to the viability of their superficial brand of “leftism.” When these types repeat the narrative about Ritter being guilty to attack us for citing or associating with him, this is the cynical motive that’s driving their actions. The same applies to when they use the smears against the PCUSA, such as that it’s a “patsoc” org, to discredit the RAWM coalition which the PCUSA is part of.
Streamer drama, 4Chan ops, & manufactured polarization
With there being these adjacent priorities among the feds and the left opportunists, the latter have naturally taken advantage of the ways the former manipulate online narratives. Which is where the bizarre and convoluted story of patriotic socialism comes in.
I don’t expect to ever be won over by the argument that displaying the U.S. flag is an important part of practice for Marxist-Leninists in the imperial center. This flag and its fifty stars (symbolizing the fifty states on indigenous territory) represent a colonial project whose extractive relationship to the First Nations is ongoing. Yet at this stage in my development, I won’t cut off another Marxist-Leninist simply for displaying the flag, because this proxy war has taught me that many of those who display it are also the most eager to participate in the narrative war against NATO. That alone tells me it would be a mistake to continue the practice I used to have of automatically viewing anybody who hasn’t yet gotten the indigenous Marxist mentorship that I got as a reactionary. There’s more nuance to it than that, and recognizing this nuance is essential for building the coalition we need to narratively defeat U.S. imperialism. Which is a pivotal part both of sabotaging the U.S. empire’s operations to exact violence, and of bringing America’s proletariat the anti-imperialist education it needs to become revolutionary.
Why did I for a time have this paranoid attitude towards many individuals who would otherwise be my allies? Because I was viewing this movement through a highly polarizing lens, a lens which COINTELPRO has sought to get those in our movement to adopt. It’s the lens the imperialism-compatible left is using when it flippantly attacks anti-imperialists as “patsocs.”
The reason why there’s so much division in our movement, division that those opposed to revolution are now exploiting, is because the fairly moderate perspective of the Marxists who are open to patriotism in the same way as Parenti has been hijacked. Hijacked by right opportunists, the inverse category to the pro-imperialist leftists I’m primarily decrying. As Stalin answered when asked whether the left deviationists or the right deviationists are worse: “They are both worse!” In the last couple of years, these types of actors have proven this with an outrageous series of propaganda campaigns. Campaigns that, if they haven’t been funded by three-letter agencies, certainly have things in common with movement-wrecking psyops. They’ve taken Parenti’s basic proletarian patriotism argument to an absurd extreme, portraying anyone who doesn’t embrace their strange Fox News/communist amalgamation as a fake communist. They’re the ones responsible for popularizing the “patsoc” label, which the left opportunists are now taking advantage of by weaponizing it against all principled anti-imperialists.
When I say “patsocs,” I’m not referring to the Parenti-informed types, but to this latest cult within our movement. Because the patsocs have relied on the sex pest Caleb Maupin, the characteristically erratic streamer Infrared (also known as Haz), and the non-committal “communist” Jackson Hinkle, in the last year their movement has lost its fragile relevance. Maupin’s organization the CPI has been disbanded following his scandal, then replaced with a smaller org that’s not led by him; Infrared’s numbers have gone down; and Hinkle has migrated out of communist circles entirely. During the later stages in its decay during late last year, the ways in which it had been seized upon by actual 4Chan trolls became more apparent. When Ye went on his series of Hitlerite rants, the fascist infiltrators within Infrared’s fanbase started making bizarre posts in support of Ye, provoking infighting. This potentially made one of Infrared’s showrunners more comfortable with then posting a blatantly antisemitic meme term that was directly borrowed from Nazi chan boards.
I’ve told this ridiculous story because its associations with 4Chan trolling ops show how the rhetoric the imperialism-compatible left uses to smear serious Marxists relies on the same polarization that the 4Chan trolls manufacture. As the Marxist commentator Hot Labor observed this week about the dishonest ways the legacy of the patsocs is being exploited:
Me: “Hey maybe a billionaire funded NGO isn’t real activism”
Radlibs: “Haz! Maupin! You’re a national socialist!!!”
The New Left COINTELPRO libs aren’t sending their best
None of this has anything to do with Haz yet these radlibs will namedrop @InfraHaz as a way to escape providing any real analysis. They simply mention his name and hope that the other person shrivels in embarrassment. Unfortunately for them this doesn’t work with real Marxists, ones who aren’t defined by random niche online communities. Also remember these are the same people who think podcasting is activism.
Hot Labor has also commented: “‘PatSocs’ and the discourse surrounding this phenomenon [are] fed shit…the phenomenon only exists in extremely online communities.” This doesn’t mean the patsoc cult isn’t capable of assimilating individuals who could otherwise be good movement members. I’ve seen this kind of tragedy happen. Yet the online left’s new derangement syndrome over a tendency that lacks any actual organizational power is ironically what’s keeping the patsocs alive in any capacity. The argument the patsocs used is that because the left has failed the class struggle, the only way to win is by embracing their crude iteration of “socialism.” The way to counter this argument is by building an alternative to the imperialism-compatible left that’s actually effective.
The synthesis we need to bring Marxism to victory in the post-Ukraine era
The hope I’ve been able to find amid all of these absurd narrative attacks against our cause is that there’s a growing amount of Marxists who have the right idea. Who share the pro-Operation Z stance of anti-imperialist parties like the Korean Workers Party, without embracing reactionary politics or getting dissuaded from their stance by sectarian polarization. A good way of finding who’s in this trustworthy category was by putting out a polemic against Gerald Horne, and seeing who agreed with my assessment that Horne seeks to discredit historical materialism. Because historical materialism is the reason why Marxists support Z, those who defended me over the Horne polemic have for the most part stuck with me since then. That’s apart from some who’ve been upset over my support for RAWM, but I can’t be an effective actor without upsetting many, so I’m comfortable with this.
Within this solid circle of political collaborators, I’ve been able to find Marxists who have the dialectical analysis that’s needed for bringing the workers to victory. This is the analysis that’s articulated within Carlos Garrido’s The Purity Fetish and the Crisis of Western Marxism, which I consider an ideological successor to Parenti’s arguments about how western Marxists disregard dialectics. In an essay that’s adjacent to this book, Garrido observes:
Western Marxists, although claiming to be the ones who rekindle the spirit of Hegel into Marxism, are the least bit dialectical when it comes to analysis of the concrete world. They are unable to understand, as Hegel did, the necessary role apparent ‘failures’ play as a moment in the unfolding of truth. For Hegel, that which is seen as ‘false’ is part of “the process of distinguishing in general” and constitutes an “essential moment” of Truth. 16 The bud (one of Hegel’s favorite examples which consistently reappears in his work) is not proven ‘false’ when the blossom arises. Instead, Hegel notes, each sustains a “mutual necessity” as “moments of an organic unity”. 17 Socialism is not ‘betrayed’ when it, encountering the external and internal pressures of imperialism and a national bourgeois class, is forced to take more so-called ‘authoritarian’ positions to protect the revolution. Socialism is not ‘betrayed’ or transformed into ‘state capitalism’ (in the derogatory, non-Leninist sense) when faced with a backwards economy it takes the risk of tarrying with its opposite and engages a process of opening up to foreign capital to develop its productive forces.
The conclusion Garrido comes to is that “Dialectical logic must be brought beyond the textbook and used as the interpretive framework with which we analyze the world in general, and the construction of socialism in specific. Only then will Western Marxism gain the possibility of being something more than a ‘radical’ niche of Western academia, focused only on aesthetics and other trivialities where purity can be sustained without risk of desecration.” Under our present conditions, where the latest imperial backfiring has accelerated the decline in the proletariat’s living standards, we can apply this lesson by making anti-imperialism a central priority.
The way to be truly offensive towards the ruling class is by striking at the ideas and policies of theirs which are most important at the moment for maintaining the system. The purity fetish of western Marxists makes them imperialism-compatible because it renders them unwilling to back projects like Z, projects that actually deal damage towards U.S. hegemony. This fetish also impacts their attitudes towards how to operate in terms of domestic organizing, shown by their rejecting RAWM for its inclusion of Libertarians. The new iteration of CPI, which is also part of RAWM, is another thing that I’ve had to realize is okay to work with. This is because Maupin’s diminished relevance within the org has allowed for it to reinvent itself, and no longer be a vehicle for promoting obnoxious patsoc rhetoric. This is a sign that our movement is growing more unified and more serious.
Class conflict is escalating, the inflation crisis and the Fed’s deliberate drive to expand unemployment have made this inevitable. The question is whether communists can direct the growing worker uprisings in a direction that leads them to victory. The way to give them this power is by taking away the influence of the imperialism-compatible left, which blocks the workers from gaining effective outlets for revolt.
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