In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, workers don’t have to deal with petty tyrant managers who rewrite the schedules to avoid helping the staff, or with owners who commit wage theft, or with anything else that they don’t decide happens. North Korean workers operate within the Taean workplace system, which puts them in charge via orders the Workers Party gives to management. The tragedy of America’s workers is that when they think of north Korea, the Taean system is never where their minds go, unless they’re already studied in Marxism and anti-imperialism. They’re conditioned by their media to associate the DPRK with a campfire scary story image of what communism is, because the Korean war is still happening and the demonization of the country has been getting built upon for decades. The socialist republic’s deeply democratic nature is kept a secret, making our corporate-run “democracy” appear to be the best example of electoral governance.
The workers in America are living in the center of an empire that’s decaying, its decline having begun several generations ago with its defeats in Korea and the Indochina wars. This empire is holding on by endlessly intensifying its exploitation of the proletariat in both the neo-colonies and the core, unable to fulfill its goals of destabilizing Eurasia and reversing the transition to multipolarity. The gears of the war machine continue turning to enrich the weapons executives, and to try to achieve Washington’s fruitless geopolitical goals in Ukraine. The working class is getting caught within these gears. The conflict is accelerating an inflation crisis, which has driven almost two-thirds of the country into living paycheck to paycheck.
Among the youngest adults, there’s a certainty that their economic prospects will be even worse than that of the last generation. Their long-term housing prospects are largely living with their parents or living with friends, no possibility existing of owning homes of their own. Out of this has come a massive rise in anxiety and depression, where the default impulse is to have no hope. There’s a crisis of apathy among Generation Z, one that the pandemic only made more acute. As the ruling class successfully crushes the latest worker uprising, there’s no recourse for the proletariat in immediate reach. Our system has cultivated a popular demobilization, breaking so much of the youth and making it far too hard to get them into the streets. In this environment, the fascists have a great opening for sweeping through society with terroristic violence, and enforcing a paradigm of brutal suppression.
I’ve had people tell me that my writings have shown them the “light at the end of the tunnel,” illustrating how the possibility for revolutionary change exists amid our seemingly bleak situation. And even after recognizing these realities about our conditions, I stand by this analysis. Because the counterrevolutionary war that our ruling class is waging represents a debt that has to be paid. The deeper the imperial center is driven into decline, the more possibility there is for a scenario of social upheaval. The question is whether those trained in Marxism can guide this upheaval in the direction needed for it to bring about revolution.
The demobilization of the youth means that a vacuum has appeared in our social reality. There are millions of people who were born with nothing to lose. If they have no hope for a successful life under this system, why should they care if they would have to make sacrifices as part of participating in an uprising? If they find themselves under siege from the government as a consequence of challenging capital, that means they’ll have defied their circumstances and asserted their agency. The key to making their struggle matter is if it’s informed by concrete knowledge on how revolutions work.
Those with the clearest material interest in revolution will continue to fight, that’s guaranteed. If the youths from the more recently impoverished demographics won’t mobilize, the impoverished communities of color will, as their people have been getting subjected to increasingly severe disenfranchisement and state violence for generations. But it would be a fatal mistake for revolutionaries to act like the spontaneous revolts from these places will defeat the state on their own accord. Without the guidance of Marxist-Leninist theory, any uprising will be influenced by the set of ideas which the existing power structure has made the default, and the liberation effort will undermine itself.
To ensure that popular outrage gets directed in a way informed by this knowledge, communists need to make our movement mainstream again. We need to restore the relevance that Marxism had during the Panthers era, when those most disenfranchised communities were being given revolutionary power by a serious communist party. Half a century later, the contradictions which these communities have become in many ways more severe. The U.S. empire has imposed a new Jim Crow upon its internal colonies in the form of mass incarceration. Neoliberalism has deepened the economic disenfranchisement of these communities. The white supremacist police have become more militarized, as well as Israelified, amid the inward turn of U.S. imperialism. There’s a greater opportunity than ever to rally for the destruction of the U.S. empire, as the social base for decolonial revolution is even stronger than during the height of the Panthers. The only reason the state doesn’t yet feel threatened enough to fully crack down is because a vanguard hasn’t yet emerged. Which has become more possible with Biden’s full discrediting of the Democratic Party.
I’m not part of the internal colonies, so my ability to build a revolutionary presence within these communities is limited. National liberation struggle is to be guided by the oppressed nations themselves. What I can do is proliferate the information that all who call themselves socialists need in order to be effective contributors to the class struggle, which is intertwined with the decolonial struggle. This information is the facts which debunk imperialism’s psyops, both against existing communist projects and against the broader category of countries currently challenging imperialism; the military theory that was laid down by figures like Che and Mao, and that modern revolutionaries can learn from so long as we recognize which parts of it are applicable to our circumstances; and the insights on movement-building from successful organizers like Lenin, who brought me to my analysis that spontaneous revolts won’t go anywhere without theoretical guidance.
The more gains we make in building our movement, the more the state will be inclined to not restrain its repression. A point is coming when popular outrage can no longer be sufficiently co-opted by the Democrats or sabotaged by COINTELPRO tactics, and the ruling class decides imposing brutal martial law is the best option. That stage will be the greatest challenge for our movement, but it will only have come about because we’ve already shown ourselves to be a serious threat to the state. There is a path to beating the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and it doesn’t depend on militarily subduing it (though military analysis and training are crucial for any given cadre to engage in). The dictatorship will predominantly be defeated because the proletarian movement will have gotten the people on our side.
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