Left sectarian attacks on Rage Against the War Machine enabled the indictments of black communists

Image from Tampa Bay Times

When Marxists Speak Out wrote their recent May Day statement The Escalation of the World War Danger and the Need for a New Communist International, they were prompted to respond to a bit of drama. Not drama that they or the others in their principled anti-imperialist tendency were at all responsible for, but drama that had been entirely started by those they were having to critique:

We do not want war, but nor are we pacifists. We must break with the politics of pacifism and Russophobia. The organizers and leaders of the March 18th protests in the USA for example tried to isolate and censure the organizations that support a Russian victory over imperialism in the war and instead aimed to pressure the imperialist Democratic Party that is waging the war. Such politics only cowers in the face of public opinion and serves imperialist governance. No progress will be made appealing to either of the vicious imperialist Republican or Democrat wings of the US ruling class.

To the credit of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the organization behind the March 18th event, it’s since co-sponsored the legal defense fund for the black communists who’ve been indicted. The point Marxists Speak out make is that when members of the antiwar movement attack others in the struggle in the ways that these organizers did, it has a completely counterproductive effect. The correct practice for a Marxist is to be principled in their criticism, and even then, there’s a responsibility to investigate what one aims to criticize and rescind that criticism should the facts prove one wrong. By being sectarian against Rage Against the War Machine—the coalition of largely pro-Russia organizations that the statement refers to—these actors on the left who view the movement through a lens of competition have helped the state’s aims. What the state wants is the narrative precedents required for carrying out these indictments, and all the future repression that’s been made possible by these actions.

The Department of Justice couldn’t have done this without there still being a lack of an anti-imperialist movement that’s strong enough to challenge its activities. These indictments were carried out in reaction to how much strength the movement has gained compared to a few years ago, but the movement still has to attain more influence to be able to politically challenge the DOJ. Unlike the CIA, which operates with a scary level of undemocratic impunity, the DOJ can only function as long as there’s enough popular will to support its activities, or at least enough of an absence of organized opposition. By targeting RAWM with unprincipled criticisms, then refusing to properly investigate what RAWM’s nature and purpose truly are, the sectarian elements in our movement have helped let the DOJ feel comfortable enough to carry out this attack against freedom of speech and assembly.

More impactful has been the absence of solidarity with the indictment’s targets from the left’s most prominent figures and organizations, such as Sanders, AOC, the “Squad,” and the DSA. It’s ironic that despite how much the supporters of these kinds of reformists claim that pro-Russian orgs like PCUSA and CPI should be treated as untouchable, those two orgs are some of the only ones that have actually come out with solidarity statements for the indictment’s targets. The members of these two orgs have even shown solidarity with the Black Hammer leader who’s been caught up in the charges, simply because they’re principled in their opposition towards political repression. If somebody is acting like Black Hammer’s own contradictions—however strange and even disgusting they’ve been—vindicate the actions of the feds or represent the primary issue in this particular situation, they’re not being principled. The left’s opportunists would say that PCUSA and CPI are simply supporting the indictment’s targets out of opportunism. But if these pro-Russian orgs are the ones that should be distrusted so intensely, why have the anti-Russian orgs been so silent on the DOJ’s actions? What’s more opportunistic than refusing to challenge the DOJ out of expediency?

The reason why there’s such a lack of principle within the left, and within the parts of the communist movement that view “the left” as the only element of the people worth trying to reach, is that in the imperial center there’s an incentive for leftists not to prioritize winning. Most of what we in America call the left isn’t actually concerned about victory, or else the class struggle would by now at the least be in a vastly more advanced stage. What it’s primarily concerned with is engaging in “movementism,” where actors build political projects as an end in itself. Or with building platforms within the “left” discourse spaces, wherein one can only maximize one’s popularity by adhering to a set of approved ideas. Trying to fit into such an insular and toxic environment is not conducive to a serious type of Marxist analysis. At best, it allows for selectively using quotes from Marxist theorists to support one’s assertions, while ignoring the parts of this theory which vindicate stances that challenge the circle’s beliefs.

During the era of the resistance to the Ukraine proxy war, one of these pieces of theory that conventionally respectable left spaces reject is Lenin’s conclusion about finding the “real masses.” Lenin provided a proper perspective for what relatively small societal elements these insular spaces represent, saying the parts of the labor movement which ally with imperialism are the “privileged minority” of well-bribed workers. There’s a quiet majority of the workers who are compatible with the anti-imperialist stance, we only don’t hear about them because they lack access to any bourgeois platforms. Those among them who are already involved in the anti-imperialist movement represent the most advanced element of the workers, the ones we should prioritize reaching at this stage as opposed to those who reject anti-imperialism from a “left” angle. 

Just because somebody is on the left of the political spectrum, or purports to be the most “radical,” doesn’t mean they’re compatible with revolutionary politics. Given the insidious influence the Democratic Party has over the left, and how easy it is for the “ultra” lefts to aggressively side against anti-imperialist stances out of misplaced righteousness, these types can be among the most dangerous. We need to build connections with those who are most compatible with the pro-Russia, pro-China, and otherwise revolutionary orientations. Not with the “left” actors who will betray the class struggle as soon as they find a contradiction in one of the countries that’s fighting U.S. hegemony.

Which is where we must take example from another lesson of Lenin’s: be willing to work with those who aren’t communists when we have the organizational strength to act as equals to them, and when allying with them is overall beneficial to the struggle. The key part is when we have the sufficient institutional strength. Because if we were to work with our opponents on social and economic issues while lacking organization, we would simply be tailing the right. That’s not what the communists who joined the Rage Against the War Machine coalition earlier this spring have been doing. They had the institutional support of the CPI, of the American Student Union, or of the PCUSA. The latter of which built the coalition’s left flank by organizing a RAWM rally in the Bay Area, making communists the dominant organizational force within the coalition on my side of the country. They proved they have the credibility as movement-builders to be able to collaborate with forces like the Libertarians, without adopting Libertarianism’s right-wing ideas as a consequence.

When I’ve told this story about the PCUSA’s role in RAWM, even skeptics of RAWM have at least taken it into consideration in their thinking about how to organize. But that’s only the skeptics who are serious Marxists. The ones who aren’t serious, but rather leftists or “Marxists” who lack a real desire to win, have reacted to it by saying that PCUSA’s helping the coalition is simply another reason to oppose RAWM. This is because these types, being opportunist sectarians, have embraced the lies about the party that got propagated last year. The lies from the wreckers who hacked into the PCUSA’s site, and replaced its content with a doc consisting of allegations that have been entirely disproven. These opportunists are still willing to promote those smears because smears are the only way they have hope for discrediting the project that anti-imperialists are carrying out.

This is the project to overcome the obstacle we can’t ignore, which is U.S. hegemony. Which isn’t to say that revolution in the core can’t necessarily happen without first ending U.S. hegemony, rather that the psyops which perpetuate American dominance are at this stage the primary factors holding back the escalation of class struggle. As long as we accommodate these psyops within radical circles, the Democratic Party will maintain de facto dominance over liberation movements, and communism won’t be able to become mainstream again except in its truncated “Vote Blue” form. We’re making progress at changing the power balance within these spaces. The ongoing existence and strengthening of RAWM’s coalition is a hopeful development. As is the fact that the less serious, culture war-focused figures who used RAWM as a profile-boosting opportunity haven’t joined this coalition. Those who will lead the effort to combat imperialism’s psyops, and in turn propell the class struggle to victory even if they’re not communists, are those who’ve realized that U.S. imperialism is the globe’s primary contradiction. And that no true progress will be made until we’ve sufficiently fought against it.


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