The murder of Tyre Nichols, combined with the development of the vast law enforcement training program “Cop City,” has catalyzed a new wave of American mass unrest. The people see the evidence that their government is inhumane, and that it’s giving itself the tools to inflict even more violence. They’re mobilizing to revolt, in a repeat of the George Floyd uprising that has the potential to do something unprecedented: actually start off the sequence of events which end with the defeat of our militarized police state, and with the other components of the U.S. empire’s rule.
The present moment’s unprecedented revolutionary potential
The reason for this hope is not that the coming weeks and months of rebellion will successfully pressure the Democratic Party into abolishing the police. The Democrats have shown they’ll never abolish the police, but rather continue to equip them with weapons leftover from our bipartisan forever wars. Yet this obstinate refusal by the state to meet the people’s needs, whether it comes to ending state violence, undoing the neoliberal austerity policies, addressing the climate crisis, or stopping the wars, is itself what will give this latest revolt the potential to change our circumstances.
Because neither party will ever do the right thing, it’s becoming apparent to more and more that overthrowing the state is the only way to get justice. And because of this consciousness shift towards revolutionary politics, made more profound by how the Democrats have been in the White House for two years and won last year’s midterms, the anti-police movement could enter a new stage. A stage where it becomes capable of not being co-opted by the Democrats with their false promises, and going forward as an independent campaign against state violence.
Nichols was able to be murdered, and Cop City was able to be built, because three years ago the Democrats managed to sufficiently absorb the anti-police struggle. This was the end goal in a counterinsurgency strategy against the Floyd uprising that had many tactics, both hard and soft. As the police shot out people’s eyes and imposed weaponized curfews, the Democrats and their associated NGOs worked to demobilize the people through soft power.
They diverted the people’s passions towards futile reformist projects, telling them the murders would stop if they voted blue. They deradicalized the movement, substituting “abolish the police” with the functionally meaningless “defund the police.” The state sent in agent provocateurs to manufacture violent incidents within the demonstrations, then the media portrayed these incidents as representative of the movement while emphasizing the “solidarity” statements from the police. All the while, COINTELPRO stopped the revolutionary organizers from gaining influence within the movement through surveillance, infiltration, harassment of activists, and targeted rumors designed to divide the struggle.
With the revolutionaries unable to establish a substantial presence, the Democrats could carry out the procedures described by Martin Schoots-McAlpine in Anatomy of a counter-insurgency:
At the beginning of the uprising, the Democratic Party machine jumped into motion but was unsure how to act. While top Democrat strategists spoke to media about how the uprising could affect the election (indicating that they were in fact working on a response), there was little in the way of official high-level statement or actions for almost a week. Then on June 2 two fairly major events occurred. First, Biden publicly brought Julian Castro into his campaign; Castro had been a vocal proponent of liberal police reforms during his bid to become the Democratic nominee for president. Second, Pelosi, the multi-millionaire Speaker of the House, asked the Congressional Black Caucus to draft a series of police reforms. On June 8, following a ridiculous display in which Pelosi and other top Democrats took a knee wearing Ghanaian kente cloths, the Justice in Policing Act was revealed. The act is fairly milquetoast—far behind the nebulous demands of the uprising—and includes provisions for more easily prosecuting police in cases of brutality, mandatory body cameras, as well as a ban on chokeholds. The Act does absolutely nothing to abolish or even defund police departments. Nor is the act likely to become law.
To prevent the state from neutralizing this new revolt, we must properly navigate our conditions. This means anticipating that the Democrats will again try those tricks from several years ago, so that we can better discredit them as frauds. This means employing a combination of security within organizing spaces—where we train ourselves to cut ties with those who show the signs of being infiltrators—and ideological struggle against the Democratic Party’s ideas. Because if we both make the jobs of movement wreckers too difficult, and make the Democrats unable to influence the ideas which inform our practice, we’ll be impervious to the soft facet of the counterinsurgency. From there, our main obstacle will be the counterinsurgency’s hard side of state and paramilitary violence, which we can overcome through tactical training.
Those steps of security and militancy training are obviously crucial to engage in and easy enough to understand, but when it comes to that task of rejecting the ideas of Democratic Party infiltrators, more complex educational work is needed. We need to know how to spot the lies that the Democrats use to gain influence over radical spaces. In the age of the Ukraine proxy war, those lies all trace back to the pro-NATO propaganda campaign.
The left-wing allegiance to imperialism that must be fought against
The older propaganda campaign that the state of our present foreign policy discourse can be traced back to, the one which provided the ideological foundations for the Ukraine psyop, is Russiagate. Through several years of conspiratorial rhetoric, founded upon the idea that Trump had colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, the Democrats fully brought the American left into neoconservative ideology. If this sounds like an overgeneralization, think of what kinds of ideas a leftist from the present day needs to overcome in order to develop into a serious Marxist.
After all of the geopolitical propaganda narratives that U.S. imperialism’s psyops used Russiagate to insert into left-leaning politics, American leftists no longer simply have to unlearn the anti-Sovietism which Parenti talked about. Nor America’s longstanding prejudices against the DPRK that communists have long noticed are shared by U.S. leftists. They also have to unlearn the “gas attack” propaganda against Assad; the perception about Putin being the equivalent of a modern czar; the myths about Chinese “imperialism” and “concentration camps.”
So long as leftists hold these beliefs, they can’t be revolutionary actors, but agents for the state’s additional counterinsurgency against the anti-imperialist movement. And so long as the communist movement’s practice is influenced by the idea that liberals are the only ones worth trying to bring into communism, it will be influenced by these Democratic Party agents. Because this kind of thinking inevitably leads to the softening of one’s anti-imperialist stances, in the hope that this will alienate less liberals.
To see why this calculus of “it’s okay to compromise on imperialism if this wins over more liberals” is self-defeating for Marxists, I had to learn just how fundamentally pro-imperialist this country’s modern left has become. Which required me to learn just how extensive imperialism’s lies are. It’s far too easy for even somebody who identifies as a Marxist to absorb the empire’s deceptions, and to repeat pro-imperialist falsehoods which harm their own cause.
The narratives that vilify China, Russia, and smaller geopolitical leverage points like Assad’s Syria have become the default within not just traditionally liberal thought, but broader leftist thought. This is because Russiagate established the myth that the Republican Party has “sold out to Putin,” associating support for Russia’s anti-fascist military action with right-wing politics in the minds of American leftists.
Within this analytical framework, Russia’s war against Ukrainian fascism can’t even be recognized as anti-fascist in character. The profit-based interests of Russia’s ruling class are seen as the primary factor behind why Russia intervened, ignoring the context that Putin had delayed taking action for eight years until Russia’s communists helped pressure him into rescuing the Donbass people. It’s a mentality of paranoia towards Russia. One which elevates Putin and his personal beliefs to the only possible factors driving Russian foreign policy, and which projects Putin as a wannabe imperial conqueror. From this can come the kinds of left pro-imperialist statements that have been made by Slavoj Zizek, as described by Jonathan Cook:
Zizek is horrified by Putin’s conceptual division of the world into those states that are sovereign and those that are colonized. Or as he quotes Putin observing: “Any country, any people, any ethnic group should ensure their sovereignty. Because there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.” The famed philosopher reads this as proof that Russia wants as its colonies: “Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Finland, the Baltic states … and ultimately Europe itself”. But if he weren’t so blinded by NATO ideology, he might read Putin’s words in a quite different way. Isn’t Putin simply restating Washington realpolitik? The U.S., through NATO, is the real sovereign in Europe and is pushing its sovereignty ever closer to Russia’s borders.
When U.S. hegemony isn’t treated as the primary contradiction, when it’s seen as acceptable to neglect geopolitics in one’s practice despite living in the center of imperialism, it’s inevitable that one falters in their task of resisting the empire’s psyops. Due to the partisan nature of today’s left-wing neocon ideas, where the Democrats have become the primary drivers of anti-Russian cold war maneuvers while pro-Russian sentiments are seen as necessarily reactionary, it’s possible even for leftists who’ve rejected the anti-China and anti-DPRK narratives to embrace the anti-Russian narratives. This can happen with the Syria psyops as well, but since Syria stopped being the biggest dividing line on imperialism when the Ukraine war started, neocon leftism now mainly focuses on discrediting anti-imperialists when it comes to Ukraine.
For example, the fanbase of the left pro-imperialist streamer Vaush enjoys ridiculing those who challenge the notion that Wagner is fascist. What they ignore is that “Wagner,” in addition to not even being a cohesive organization but rather a disparate collection of mercenaries, is associated with a different Dmitry Utkin than the neo-Nazi of the same name. That Nazi with the name of Utkin was falsely claimed to be associated with Russian mercenary activities, in a psyop that involved spreading a photograph of his hate symbol-tattooed upper body next to assertions that he’s a member of “Wagner.” Such context is deliberately ignored by the leftists in Vaush’s camp.
These types of leftists are more consistent in their pro-imperialism, also promoting the propaganda myths about existing socialist states. But even Marxists who support existing socialism can come to believe these same psyops which portray Russia as a “fascist state.” Because they can’t distinguish between primary and secondary contradictions, and therefore see Russia as “fascist” simply because it’s a bourgeois government. The Marxist definition of fascism, which recognizes that something is fascist not because it has negative attributes but specifically because it’s the fighting wing of finance capital, shows it to be undialectical to call Russia fascist. By a standard as inclusive as “if a state is at odds with the workers then it’s fascist,” or “if a state has socially retrograde policies then it’s fascist,” every bourgeois state is fascist, including the ones Marxists defend like Iran.
This misinterpretation of modern Russia’s conditions, along with the perception that Operation Z has strengthened imperialism despite its accelerating the transition to multipolarity, are excuses for tailing the Democrats. For taking the “both sides are bad” stance in an anti-fascist conflict, because this stance will placate the types of committed liberals who have no hope for becoming Marxists anyway. It’s a practice that’s dependent on accepting the anti-Marxist analyses and disinformation that imperialism’s propagandists put forth.
Forcing a boundary of demarcation to be drawn between radicals & the Democrats
It feels ridiculous to be referencing a streamer’s fanbase in this analysis of how the anti-police movement can become effective, but the absurd reality of today’s conditions is that the state is capable of frustrating revolutionary organizing by flooding online leftist spaces with geopolitical psyops. These psyops, if embraced by those who consider themselves Marxists, neutralize the people’s outrage by maintaining the Democratic Party’s influence over our movement. Because liberation struggles can therefore continue to be influenced by liberals, they can be demobilized and turned into tools for reformist opportunism.
The way to break this cycle of liberal co-optation is by fighting against NATO in a serious fashion. An effort that’s now being primarily led by Rage Against the War Machine, which we know is worth supporting because it’s getting attacked by radical liberals over its refusal to condemn Russia’s anti-fascist war. During this stage in the failure of Washington’s Ukraine proxy war, these radlibs are the state’s best weapon against the anti-imperialist movement. That the counterinsurgency must now rely on these scandal-mongers and grifters shows how weak the U.S. empire’s narrative defenses have become.
Because Washington is losing the proxy war both militarily, and in terms of its failure to destabilize Russia through sanctions, the Democrats have had to cease their aggressive promotions of the Ukraine psyop. The psyop is losing its power. Events aren’t matching with what the propagandists said would happen, and the reality of Washington’s Ukrainian Nazi ties keeps getting exposed.
The Democrats now have to pivot towards a narrative about their fighting against state violence. Except events will also show this narrative to be based in lies, forcing a rupture between the bourgeois black politics that’s loyal towards the Democratic Party, and the working class black politics that’s always been fated to become the Democratic Party’s enemy. Ajamu Baraka recently articulated the apathy which black workers have come to feel towards the Democrats:
Democrats who historically had been associated with labor and the common man even during the period when it was the party of racist segregation under the apartheid system in the South, is today the party controlled by U.S. based monopoly capital. For workers, this form of bourgeois democracy has no space or structure representing the interests of workers, the poor and structurally oppressed. The working class and poor are slowly beginning to understand that. That is why early evidence suggests that African/Black workers did not participate in numbers that were necessary for the Democrats to have prevailed in some of those key races. The Democrats have nothing to offer, no policies, no hope, and no vision…We cannot allow ourselves to fall prey to the slick propaganda that diverts attention away from the failures of the capitalist system. January 6th and Trump, evil Putin, the calculating Chinese, the exaggerated crime issue, and immigration issue, are all meant to divert us away from the fact that our lives are empty, that we have no time for friends and family, mindless soul crushing work characterizes our existence, if we have it, and the fear and anxiety that comes from a precarious existence saps our spirits and turns our confusion and anger inward.
With the building of a principled anti-imperialist coalition, Leninist ideas can come to fill this political vacuum that the Democrats have created within black politics, and within the broader sphere where class struggle is relevant. The work that Rage Against the War Machine is doing can make communism a mainstream phenomenon again, and end the ability of bad actors to so easily frustrate revolutionary politics.
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here.