Sunday, October 17, 2021

What will anti-colonial socialist revolution look like?

To find what an anti-colonial socialist revolution will look like on the continent the colonists have named “North America,” one first has to ask what it means for a Marxist-Leninist to support Land Back. It means that they support the right of the hundreds of occupied indigenous First Nations, as well as the other oppressed nationalities in U.S. borders like the Africans and the Chicanos, to self-determination. They can’t get self-determination until all of the land illegitimately held by the settler-colonial states gets returned to the jurisdiction of the First Nations, after which these nations can negotiate with the other oppressed nations towards dividing up the land according to how they best believe this can rectify colonialism’s crimes.

National self-determination won’t be possible until after all the land is given back because for as long as the tribes aren’t the ones in control of this land, they’ll continue to be subject to the whims of authorities that only exist due to illegal annexation. It’s this lack of full jurisdiction within the vast majority of the First Nations territories that’s holding back the development towards socialism on this continent, because socialism can’t develop for as long as the colonial contradiction remains unaddressed. When the U.S. capitalist state is overthrown, like the tsarist monarchy was overthrown preceding Russia’s socialist revolution, the oppressed nations here will have to overcome a comparable contradiction to the one that the countries occupied by the Russian empire faced. And like was the case in Russia, a cohesive and harmonious workers democracy can’t be built here until that contradiction gets sorted out.

The way the Soviets addressed the colonial contradiction was simple: by giving every single one of the nations that had been occupied by the empire a democratic choice of whether or not to join the socialist sovereign that the Soviets were building. Like was the case for the nations within China’s borders following the socialist revolution there, these nations answered the Bolsheviks’ offer for joining a new proletarian democracy with a resounding “Yes!” And given the extent to which neoliberal capitalism has pummeled the masses within U.S. borders, most of all the masses of the oppressed nations, there’s no doubt that these nations will overwhelmingly answer the same to an offer of joining in building socialism.

In Theses on the National Question, written in 1913, Lenin articulated this principle of backing self-determination that would prove within a decade to be so successful at harmoniously creating the system the Bolsheviks wanted:

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. This article in the Social-Democratic programme is absolutely essential to the Social-Democrats of Russia for the sake of the basic principles of democracy in general; also because there are, within the frontiers of Russia and, what is more, in her frontier areas, a number of nations with sharply distinctive economic, social and other conditions; furthermore, these nations (like all the nations of Russia except the Great Russians) are unbelievably oppressed by the tsarist monarchy

When revolutionaries here abolish the United States government—our equivalent of the tsarist monarchy—and fully return jurisdiction over to the First Nations, we’ll be faced with the same dilemma the Bolsheviks faced: to what extent should communists step back from involving themselves with a given nation, especially if that nation is becoming a hub for counterrevolution? Lenin clarified the solution to this in 1903’s The National Question in Our Programme:

In our draft Party programme we have advanced the demand for a republic with a democratic constitution that would guarantee, among other things, “recognition of the right to self-determination for all nations forming part of the state.” Many did not find this demand in our programme sufficiently clear, and in issue No. 33, in speaking about the Manifesto of the Armenian Social-Democrats, we explained the meaning of this point in the following way. The Social-Democrats will always combat every attempt to influence national self-determination from without by violence or by any injustice. However, our unreserved recognition of the struggle for freedom of self-determination does not in any way commit us to supporting every demand for national self-determination. As the party of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic Party considers it to be its positive and principal task to further the self-determination of the proletariat in each nationality rather than that of peoples or nations. We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state.

What does this principle—unity of the proletariat as the foremost principle—mean for communists on this continent? It doesn’t mean trying to build a “patriotic socialism” or a “socialism with American characteristics,” because this would harm proletarian unity by going against the right to self-determination of this continent’s colonized proletarians. It will also not mean standing idly by while the imperialists and the bourgeoisie use “self-determination” as an excuse to foment counterrevolution. In Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Taiwan, the imperialists are seeking the Balkanization of the People’s Republic of China by claiming that these places have a “right” to separate from the authority of the Communist Party. But the Communist Party doesn’t heed these absurd arguments. 

This is what Lenin meant when he said communists can’t obey every demand for self-determination; for as long as the imperialists and the bourgeoisie are around, they’ll be looking for territorial footholds to dismember socialist states under the guise of “national sovereignty” or “human rights.” It’s unsurprising that Lenin named the social democrats as arbiters of these types of phony “self-determination” arguments, since social democrats continue to be the ones who promote these arguments from a “left-wing” position. 

Given this information, for a Marxist-Leninist to support Land Back while remaining true to Marxism-Leninism, they must advocate for a solution more substantial than simply giving the land back. Getting all the stolen land back into the control of the tribes is merely the first step towards socialist revolution. The next steps—which will require years of diligent mass work, propaganda, and organization-building before the United States is even abolished—are the construction and defense of workers democracy. We’ll be dealing with the same kinds of fabricated atrocity stories, and demands for the nations living under socialism to be “liberated,” that the Chinese communists are dealing with now. And we’ll need to keep our revolution from being dismembered, like how it was dismembered in Yugoslavia, Germany, Russia, Yemen, and other places during the 20th century.

This preservation of the revolution’s victories will require a clear and consistent line. This line being: the colonial occupation must end through the full returning of the stolen land and the dismantling of the U.S., Canada, and all other settler-colonial countries. The colonized nations must have the opportunity to become part of a socialist project, which can only be made possible by movement-building. And those who seek to bring any nations out of the socialist project by promoting deceptive “human rights,” “pro-democracy,” and “self-determination” narratives must be prevented from realizing their goal. This is what true self-determination means; giving oppressed nations the opportunity to join in on socialist development, which will in turn free them from neo-colonial control by making them economically independent.


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