The mass unemployment from Covid-19, along with neoliberal capitalism’s horrendous neglect of people’s economic and medical needs, is provoking the biggest resurgence of the U.S. labor movement in a generation. Tenants who can’t afford to pay rent have been organizing mass rent strikes, and workers across the country are successfully protesting. This comes after worker struggles have been intensifying around the world in recent years, and after anti-capitalist protest movements have been sweeping the globe. The backlash to the capitalist world’s extreme inequality is growing.
But as proles in the United States in particular, what exactly is our endgame? What vision do we need to work towards as we go about fighting for our rights? If we really want freedom from the corporations that are destroying our livelihoods, we won’t organize for the benefit of the Democratic Socialists of America, or the Green Party, or the other organizations that don’t seek to establish a workers state. Our energy needs to be focused around building an institutional structure that’s capable of overthrowing the United States government, and replacing it with a system of proletarian democracy which functions within a decolonized land.
This goal is the Pan-American interpretation of the model for revolution that was put forth by Lenin, one of the greatest proletarian liberation heroes of the last century. Leninism calls not just for creating a worker-run democracy, but also for returning sovereignty to the indigenous nations, as reflected by Lenin’s statement: “The article of our programme (on the self-determination of nations) cannot be interpreted to mean anything but political self-determination, i.e., the right to secede and form a separate state.”
If we’re going to carry out a revolution of this nature, we shouldn’t approach our work as if we were merely running electoral campaigns or trying to get legislation passed, as the reformist groups are doing. We’re trying to destroy the authority of the U.S. government, and this will require us to take on militancy and counterinsurgency strategies.
This will entail the members of the movement getting equipped for various types of combat, necessitating activities like arms training, efforts to learn how to fight hand-to-hand, and physical fitness routines. This will entail efforts to educate our fellow poor and working people about revolutionary theory, about and the need for a movement in the vein of Lenin, Mao, Castro, and the other communists who’ve successfully overthrown capitalist governments. This will entail work to build the parties that can carry out our goals; the Party for Socialism and Liberation is the main Marxist-Leninist party at the moment, and I recommend joining it if you’re not involved with another party already.
If we’re disciplined about doing these things, the outbreaks of class anger that we’re seeing right now will evolve into a cohesive movement that can actually defeat the capitalist state. The American left is growing in strength. But its energy is largely being diverted towards “progressive” campaigns that result in the insurgent candidate endorsing the neoliberal candidate, or towards experiments in the historically ineffectual revolutionary model of anarchism. If a political strain is anti-Leninist, it’s opposed to the idea of exploited and colonized people taking control of their own state apparatus, and therefore towards the idea of creating a reliable means for these oppressed populations to empower and defend themselves.
Beyond embracing communism, we need to embrace a scientific approach towards carrying out a revolution, one that lets us recognize how to overcome the obstacles we face. As Lenin wrote, “left-wing communism” is “an infantile disorder,” one that makes people reject pragmatism over idealism. In our current context, overcoming the mentality of left-communism means standing in solidarity with the existing socialist nations of Laos, Vietnam, China, Cuba, and the DPRK rather than siding against them for perceived ideological flaws in their ruling parties. With the latter three countries being under escalating attacks from imperialism, supporting them is as important as opposing settler-colonialism or capitalism. Because capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism are all part of the same structure of oppression.
In other words, the country’s proletarian movement needs to transcend the left and unify around the ideologically separate strain of communism. To fully make this evolution in thinking, one needs to unlearn a lot of colonial chauvinist beliefs, as well as read through the works of revolutionary thinkers like Fanon, Parenti, and Sakai. Doing this work to educate oneself is a crucial part of revolutionary militancy.
From the militancy element comes the counterinsurgency element. When you’re equipped intellectually, physically, and organizationally for the tasks ahead, you’ll be able to adequately do your part in taking down the system. Committing to dialectical materialism-which is the Marxist practice of assessing the present conditions to find out how to go forward-is beneficial not just in guiding you towards the correct political lines, but in helping you make the right decisions at a given moment.
For an example of how to apply dialectical materialism, the best actions to take in the current moment are to participate in the general strikes, bring people into the movement, and build entities like the PSL; now is not the right time to try to start a guerilla war. As the master counterinsurgency leader Mao said: “If we tried to go on the offensive when the masses are not yet awakened, that would be adventurism. If we insisted on leading the masses to do anything against their will, we would certainly fail. If we did not advance when the masses demand advance, that would be Right opportunism.”
Inevitably, though, our conditions will change, and so will our tasks. The collapse of the economy has just begun, with the unemployment wave acting as the trigger for a financial unraveling larger than the one from 2008. Civil unrest is already being anticipated by the centers of power, so it’s very plausible that a protest movement like the gilets jaunes will break out in America after the quarantine period ends. When that movement emerges, we’ll need to seize upon it to further grow the Leninist faction.
As this unrest continues, we’ll get opportunities to actually start seizing territory and resources away from the capitalist class. The general strike is how we take away the economic leverage away from the bosses, at least for a certain amount of time and to the extent that workers can participate; next should come blockading streets and occupying buildings. If we make the street unrest intense and sustained enough, we might even be able to make the political and business class retreat from certain urban areas, as last year’s anti-austerity protests in Ecuador made happen within the country’s capital city.
Beyond these wrecking-type tactics will come the counterinsurgency actions that the movement’s members ought to now be training for. To seize control of the state, we’ll need to permanently occupy centers of government, which could entail storming these centers along with the wealthy enclaves that surround them. If this sounds fantastical, India’s communist militias have made it their strategy to overthrow local governments and occupy chunks of land which were formerly controlled by Modi’s fascist regime. This dynamic of military seizures is how proletarian revolutions have historically worked.
To get to that point, we’ll first need to build the necessary popular support, organizational structure, and physical and educational strength among movement members. If we don’t have these tools, we’ll be crushed. The stresses and hardships we’re experiencing during this crisis must be made into the catalysts for our journey into revolutionary militancy. We only need to look to Lenin’s teachings to start finding out which actions we’ll need to take.
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