With the geopolitical escalations of the last year or so, a crisis within the left has been exposed. This is its crisis of impotence. Because “the left,” as we know it, is not capable of winning power for the working class, and isn’t interested in gaining that capability. There is an alternative to this ineffectual element, this has been shown by all of history’s successful proletarian revolutions. That alternative is Marxism-Leninism, the scientific model through which we can analyze our conditions and take the ruling class out of power.
The obstacles to making the class struggle come to be led by that scientific set of ideas have been made apparent not just by the way the left has responded to the Ukraine proxy war, but by how it’s responded to every other aspect of our capitalist crisis. Some of these failures to correctly navigate our conditions are as follows:
—A misunderstanding of, or outright disregard for, what “progress” means from the Marxist perspective. When Marxists talk about a historical development as being progressive, they don’t mean it in the sense that the left has traditionally defined “progressive,” that being as a victory for social justice, egalitarianism, and environmentalism. There’s obviously a role for these things within Marxism, as I’ll cover, but the analytical framework that Marxists use is different from this. The one we use considers something as progressive when it acts to advance history’s development. The most basic example of this type of analysis is when Marx and Engels recognized capitalism to be something that society needs to transition away from, while also recognizing how it was necessary for society to transition into capitalism to get out of feudalism. This was because capitalism made possible the super-abundance which created the right environment for socialism to emerge. Marxists are able to reconcile these two types of truths, those being that historical forces can have contradictions and that these forces can simultaneously have a beneficial role in the story of how communism comes to be.
—A willingness, at crucial moments, to oppose developments that advance historical progress purely because these developments are facilitated by forces which have contradictions. Someone who’s operating under the left analytical framework, rather than the Marxist one, doesn’t want to reconcile these types of complexities. Things can either be all “good” or all “bad,” an attitude whose potential for making somebody vulnerable to demagoguery is obvious. This is apparent in how leftists, even if they recognize U.S. imperialism to be bad, have as a whole not been willing to recognize that Russia’s Operation Z is a positive historical development. Because the modern Russian state is bourgeois, the only attitude they’ve been willing to have towards its action in Ukraine is that it’s a reactionary one, however many reasons there are to doubt this idea. That Russia’s decision to intervene has accelerated the decline of U.S. hegemony, that it’s made possible a furthering of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, that Z was undertaken with the urging of Russia’s communists in opposition to Putin’s initial desire for appeasing NATO, and even that it’s destroyed the military of a modern Nazi state are all disregarded within this perspective. Russia can only be seen as the villain, or as “one of the villains.”
—An ideological incentive to accept the ideas that imperialism’s narrative managers put forth. This incentive comes from how when a leftist is trying to argue that any real or perceived contradictions in something gives that thing a reactionary role in history, they can only defend their stance by acting like what the imperialists say about its propaganda targets is true. In the case of the Russia-Ukraine question, imperialism-compatible leftists find such a use in the idea that Russia is a fascist state, in the idea that Russia’s mercenaries are a cohesive organization which is led by Nazi commanders, and in the idea that Russia is guilty of the war crimes the imperialists accuse it of. There’s also the idea that Russia is itself an imperialist power, but that one goes too far for everyone who argues from this stance to adhere to. The important thing is that Russia is viewed as a reactionary force in its conflict with U.S. hegemony, regardless of the reality that U.S. hegemony is the globe’s primary contradiction. Marxists see the primary contradiction as the most important thing to combat, but the left has a fundamentally different view of how to operate.
(When I talk about Marxism and leftism as different things, remember that Lenin himself described left-wing communism as “an infantile disorder,” so making this distinction is appropriate. Including while talking about communists who hold left-wing tendencies, as I will throughout this essay.)
These ways the left has acted in response to the Ukraine proxy war are only one example of how the left has failed to adopt a dialectical analysis, and thereby made itself unable to be offensive towards the ruling class. There’s also the case of when the left accepted the narrative about Uyghur persecution in Xinjiang, or when it accepted the one about Assad committing chemical attacks, or when some of its prominent representatives went along with the stories that justified Washington’s coup operations in Venezuela and Bolivia. Not everyone who identifies as a leftist has done these things. But the fact that leftists haven’t been able to unify against imperialism’s psyops shows the nature of our crisis: those who’ve long been able to appear to represent the struggles against systemic injustice don’t want to reject the same ideas that keep the system in place.
They claim to be in solidarity with the marginalized and exploited, but whatever statements they make to this effect are ultimately ineffectual, because they oppose the essential step for combating systemic injustice: establishing a workers state. Even if they wouldn’t deny wanting this if pressed, their model of practice makes them unable to help bring us closer towards such an outcome. The effect they ultimately have is one of strengthening the Democratic Party.
And they’ve been able to gain much influence over the communist movement, whether by appropriating communism’s labels and iconography, or by convincing genuine communists that they’re trustworthy. This problem of Democratic Party infiltrators within the communist movement, and of actors with an anti-Marxist perspectice claiming to be Marxists, goes deeper than the primarily online Vote Blue “communist” fronts, like CPUSA’s pro-Democrat elements. CPUSA isn’t truly relevant anymore, and is at present having the imperialism-compatible leftists within its ranks migrate towards rising opportunist groups like Socialist Alternative. The equivalent is happening with the DSA, which is experiencing its own crisis. These factional dramas are nothing more than rearrangements of the tools that the three-letter agencies use in their operations to sabotage the class struggle.
There will always be imperialism-compatible leftists as long as the three-letter agencies exist. The class struggle’s success depends not on winning over all of these leftists towards Marxism, as there are plenty among them who are decisively invested in maintaining imperialism and will never change their minds. It depends on defeating the system that keeps the imperialism-compatible left, and every other symptom of capitalist rule, in existence. The path we must take to gain this victory by definition can’t be one which is influenced by the advice these actors give us. To succeed, we can’t let ourselves be persuaded by their advice about how to view our task, and about how to operate.
This does not mean rejecting the concepts of social justice, protecting the environment, or combating settler-colonial land relations, like the right opportunists claim we need to do. These reactionary kinds of opportunists, represented in part by the modern loyalists to the LaRouchite cult, gain support by speaking to real problems with the left. They make their case both by pointing out what I’ve illustrated—that being how the left is ineffectual, not reliable on dialectical analysis or anti-imperialism, and in need of an alternative—and by emphasizing how all of the left’s causes have been co-opted by bourgeois interests. They point to how “environmentalism” as we typically know it truly means an agenda to profit from our ecological and climatic crises through “green” technologies, which don’t truly solve the problem. And to how “decolonial theory” and “land back,” as one initially encounters these things, are put forth by bourgeois “leftist” academics and corporate-funded “progressive” NGOs.
About these things, the LaRouchites are correct. What they get wrong, and do so deliberately for the sake of their own opportunist project, is the question of what relationship Marxists should have to these causes. They say Marxists should abandon all attempts to combat modern indigenous land exploitation, environmental destruction, or the particular types of systemic cruelty that racial minorities, women, and the LGBT community are subjected to. Their argument is that the people, or what they portray as “the people,” will become alienated from anyone who as much as brings up these things, and therefore we need to exclusively focus on class politics (or what the right opportunists define as class politics). Adopting such a strategy would be foolish. It would disregard the statement from Engels that human beings will inevitably doom themselves if they destroy nature, the statement from Lenin that we need to educationally lift up the people, and the theory from Marxists like Frantz Fanon who’ve found a dialectical way to combat the colonial contradiction.
These actors who try to present this crude alternative to the modern left have also been losing their relevance, and are at this point only worth talking about for the sake of what I’m trying to do in this essay: contrast different ideas to find a synthesis. A synthesis that serious Marxists can use to build an alternative to the imperialism-compatible left, one that can actually bring victory to the proletariat. To find this synthesis, I’ve needed to realize two things. One, it’s possible to find a version of anti-colonial theory, as applied to our conditions in modern America, that’s based not in liberalism but in Marxism. Two, just because someone hasn’t yet been mentored by the kinds of indigenous Marxists who brought me to the previous conclusion, doesn’t mean they’re a LaRouchite or adjacent to the LaRouchites.
This last year’s implosion of LaRouchism, manifested in the movement’s infighting, lack of sustainable organizational presence, and reliance on a volatile leadership that consists of streamers, has helped me get beyond this LaRouche derangement syndrome. What’s also caused this shift in me away from a reactive mentality, and towards one that makes me capable of trusting and learning from Marxists who didn’t have the same ideological origins as me, is realizing that the ideas which brought me to my stance can easily be twisted towards ends which harm the revolution.
These risks those ideas pose go beyond when they distort somebody’s perception in this way, and cause them to classify valuable Marxist organizations like the PCUSA as “LaRouchite” for petty sectarian reasons. More fundamentally, these ideas can lead someone to discard the Marxist view of history, and embrace the view that’s held by the leftists who don’t seriously respect Marxism-Leninism.
When someone automatically sees something as reactionary if it has contradictions, they’re going to be susceptible to the psyops that appear to confirm the Russian state’s fascist character, or other ideas the imperialists want the left to accept. The project by the academic Gerald Horne to portray 1776 as a reactionary development is one example of when this undialectical framework gets applied. The confirmation bias that was in effect during Horne’s research process, where he consistently misrepresented key accounts of the American revolution to argue that it was about preserving slavery, has uncanny similarities to how many of the leftists who accept Horne’s claims hold distorted views on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Since the degree to which a given person holds these ideas is a spectrum, they might not share every pro-NATO idea about the war, but they do share enough of these ideas that they’re not willing to see Z as historically progressive. If they’re willing to break from the idea held by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Ho, and Mao that 1776 was progressive, they’re of course willing to argue against the idea that Z is progressive.
This type of thinking impacts somebody’s practice by making it feel to them that combating imperialism’s psyops is not worthwhile. Such an apathetic attitude towards their anti-imperialist duties as a Marxist comes both from the obvious way believing in NATO psyops impede one’s ability to fight them—namely by convincing them they aren’t psyops in the first place—and from a deeper bias against the idea of emphasizing anti-imperialism.
When someone has a distorted view where LaRouchism has much more power than it actually does, where the Ukraine war is an inter-fascist conflict, and where entire Marxist organizations can be discarded due to differences that could otherwise be manageable, they naturally also have a tendency to underestimate how important fighting imperialism is. Because U.S. hegemony is the primary contradiction, effectively countering it requires recognizing this reality about it, and then acting like one knows this. Getting absorbed in distractions makes this serious type of practice harder, as it creates an imbalance between what one’s priorities are and what the conditions call for.
To become an effective Marxist, I’ve had to come to a synthesis in my thinking and my practice. I’ve had to find an analytical framework that allows for complexities, that lets me recognize certain things as correct while avoiding the mistakes which I can still make. For instance, I’ve long been aware that my cadre needs to physically develop to the point of having the capacities of an army, but I’ve had to learn that I can’t speed up this process simply by stating again and again that this needs to happen. That way of operating made those around me feel unduly pressured, since there are practical realities to how much work they can do. And people aren’t usually persuaded by direct calls to action unless they’ve already absorbed the ideas which made you passionate about wanting those things done. I needed to learn that being right isn’t enough.
The same is true about the ideas driving the ultra-left individuals who this essay primarily criticizes. They’re correct that the United States is a settler-colonial state, as land relations haven’t fundamentally changed since an imperial power committed genocide against indigenous people and stole almost all of their territory. What they’re incorrect about, at least as long as they stay in their present stage of development, is that their being right about this issue makes them not need to further examine their stances. To be a serious Marxist, you must always be willing to improve should you see evidence that you’re wrong. And when somebody with ultra-left tendencies neglects this need for rigor, the end outcome is for them to commit the same error the right opportunists do: view the people of the United States as fundamentally reactionary.
Whereas the right opportunists use this idea as an excuse to discount the role that social and environmental justice have in communism, the left opportunists use it as an excuse to discount anti-imperialism’s role. The difference is that they try to exploit different sides of our political divide.
The more the left’s crisis unfolds, the more those who now identify with the left will reveal their true allegiances. Some will show themselves to be committed to opposing anti-imperialist practice and class struggle, others will show themselves to have integrity when they see the shameful character of those they’ve put their trust in. The Syria psyop, which was the dividing barrier in this conflict for a while, exposed many on the left as opportunists and showed many principled individuals where to go. The Ukraine psyop is speeding up this process where everyone gets forced to pick sides. Not everyone who holds left opportunist ideas needs to promote the Ukraine psyop, not even Horne promotes it. The true difference between the left opportunist stance, and the serious Marxist stance, is one of priorities and practice.
Someone who’s absorbed Horne’s distorted version of historical materialism is not so much going to be inclined to make combating imperial narrative control a major part of their practice. And the version of “Marxism” they put forth will be one that ultimately accommodates the Democratic Party, whether intentionally or not. It will cultivate the belief that liberals are the only ones worth trying to appeal to, which inevitably leads a party to compromise its Marxism by tailing the Democrats. The true way to win the people is by appealing to the people in a broad sense. Not by distancing oneself from crucial anti-imperialist actions like Z out of fear of fear of alienating liberals, who largely will never even be willing to come to a principled version of Marxism. These obstinate types of liberals will only ever accept a “Marxism” that’s not actually Marxism, but a truncated iteration of it.
The demographic we truly should prioritize appealing to is one that doesn’t get proportionally represented in these discourses, since it’s been cut off from having a voice. That demographic is the working class. To win the workers over to Marxism, we must come to another type of synthesis, one which I thankfully adopted prior to making any serious mistakes in trying to reach the workers. This synthesis, which I’ve gleaned from asking a fellow Marxist who’s already part of the workforce, is one I would summarize as: “never stop fighting for the class struggle, but make sure to meet the workers where they’re at.” When talking with one’s coworkers, it would be a mistake to start bringing up Marxism or anti-imperialism, both for your job security and because it’s not okay to bombard a captive audience with things they have no present incentive to care about. You instead need to bring up work. To relate with them on how the bosses are cheating the workers, evading responsibility, and otherwise showing themselves unworthy of being in charge. From there, you’ll need to be able to pick up on the little signs that may show somebody is compatible with Marxism.
If they are compatible, you’ve gained a member of the movement who’s infinitely more trustworthy than many of the players in our left spaces. Because whereas those players are in it to benefit from an opportunist project, and therefore aren’t interested in bringing change, a worker who’s come to Marxism because they’re a worker has every reason to do the right thing.
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