Amerikkka is a beast that can only be defeated by correctly understanding how it operates, by examining what its relationships are to the world both in and outside of its borders. Central to this are the realities that the United States continues to be a settler-colonial state, that the U.S. and its allies are the only modern powers with an imperialist role, and that the bulk of its people have a dual nature of both benefiting from imperialism and themselves being exploited by capitalism. These points seem too rudimentary to mention if one has already absorbed enough revolutionary theory, but they largely aren’t accepted by American leftists, or even by many Americans who consider themselves Marxists. Many of these part-conscious individuals accept one of these realities, but they often at the same time reject the other two. Only those who’ve been properly ideologically trained accept all three at once.
At the root of this deficiency in revolutionary consciousness is that reality about how those in the imperial center benefit from imperialism. Most of the population, including the proletariat, is harmed more by capitalism than it benefits from neo-colonial extraction. And Lenin essentially said so, having assessed that the labor aristocrats and the privileged working class strata within a core imperialist country represent only a minority. But that well-bribed minority still poses a threat to revolutionary education, because the ideas its ranks tend to embrace—namely imperial chauvinism and settler-colonial apologeia in our case—are initially able to become dominant within the discourse on class struggle. As Lenin concluded, the labor aristocracy in an imperialist country is the social base for opportunism, where those with a primary material stake in maintaining imperialist extraction adopt the language of socialism to defend imperialism’s preservation. As Lenin wrote:
The epoch of capitalist imperialism is one of ripe and rotten-ripe capitalism, which is about to collapse, and which is mature enough to make way for socialism. The period between 1789 and 1871 was one of progressive capitalism when the overthrow of feudalism and absolutism, and liberation from the foreign yoke were on history’s agenda. “Defence of the fatherland”, i.e., defence against oppression, was permissible on these grounds, and on these alone. The term would be applicable even now in a war against the imperialist Great Powers, but it would be absurd to apply it to a war between the imperialist Great Powers, a war to decide who gets the biggest piece of the Balkan countries, Asia Minor, etc. It is not surprising, therefore, that the “socialists” who advocate “defence of the fatherland” in the present war shun the Basle Manifesto as a thief shuns the scene of his crime. For the Manifesto proves them to be social-chauvinists, i.e., socialists in words, but chauvinists in deeds, who are helping “their own” bourgeoisie to rob other countries and enslave other nations. That is the very substance of chauvinism—to defend one’s “own” fatherland even when its acts are aimed at enslaving other peoples’ fatherlands.
This dynamic, in which the opportunists are the ones with the resources and ruling class compatibility to get the widest platform, is how we’ve gotten organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA is by far the largest “socialist” group in the country, yet it functions as nothing more than an appendage to the imperialist Democratic Party, its most influential members unwilling to fundamentally challenge imperialism despite claiming to be “anti-war.” Another example of opportunism is the Center for Political Innovation, which consistently challenges imperialist foreign policy actions, but like the DSA reject the ideas of returning full tribal sovereignty or establishing a Republic of New Afrika. In the CPI’s case this rejection of decolonial theory is far more aggressive, as it’s constructed a rhetorical framework for pushing back against the anti-colonial movement. But in both cases chauvinism is the ideological trend at the root of the problem.
In reaction to these conditions, where imperialism and colonialism have largely rendered even the supposed opposition to capitalism unwilling to fully address our contradictions, many are turning towards ultra-leftism. Ultra-leftism is a crude, impulsive response to contradictions not being resolved, which is why right opportunism creates it and why the two tie into each other. The ultra-leftist looks at a contradiction, like the fact that slavery reparations still haven’t been paid or like the fact that Native land continues to mostly remain under colonial occupation, and concludes that the solution is to simply engage in struggle without doing a rigorous material analysis. For an example of the kinds of undialectical conclusions that can come from this: a common idea among ultras is that whites as a whole lack revolutionary potential, often informed by ideas such as there being no white proletariat or even there being no proletariat within the U.S.
When one views their conditions in such an excessively bleak way, where the presence of contradictions within a person or country automatically makes them an enemy of the revolution, it becomes easy to reject serious anti-imperialist struggle. Ultras, most infamously the Sakaists and the Gonzaloists, don’t believe it’s necessary to diligently combat imperialist propaganda, carry out anti-imperialist demonstrations, or build relationships with anti-imperialist governments. This is because they view Russia, China, and Iran as themselves being imperialist, don’t view any of the currently existing socialist countries as genuinely socialist, and don’t view other anti-imperialist countries like Venezuela or Syria as pure enough to deserve being defended. Ultras, stuck in this mindset where they reject internationalism and don’t pursue the common Marxist-Leninist project of cultivating direct ties with anti-imperialist countries, instead believe that they can lean into local community organizing.
Geopolitics is immaterial, their reasoning goes. It’s supposedly detached from the masses within one’s everyday life and practical actions to address people’s needs. Yet by choosing to entirely focus on the local in their party work, they make themselves unable to fight the imperialist order which perpetuates the contradictions in their communities. Whatever critiques one can have of the PSL, the fact that it’s built relationships with numerous anti-imperialist countries makes it more credible than the Maoist parties which view its geopolitical stances as “revisionist.”
When one embraces this reactive way of thinking, even if one calls themselves a Marxist they’ll fall into the same problem as the anarchists: only being able to do some community aid work at best, without any hope of putting one’s grand revolutionary ideas into practice. Even in places like India and the Philippines, where conditions are not like in the imperial center and Maoists can at least begin a guerrilla struggle, that’s where it ends: with an armed effort that continues for generations due to its leadership being dogmatically detached from the people, or that gets defeated as was the case for Peru’s Gonzaloist insurgency. These are efforts that hold back revolution, not even as effective as the struggle of the Zapatistas has been despite the Zapatistas not being Marxists. The Zapatistas have limited their revolution’s territorial range, but they haven’t perpetuated decades of adventurist destruction like the Maoists have. Appropriately, the Philippine Maoists have also decided to attack Chinese firms, setting back the country’s infrastructural development and acting in the geopolitical interests of Washington.
There are other ultra-left ideas that are worth combating, like the notion about gangs necessarily being viable revolutionary entities or the romanticization of cartel leaders as supposed revolutionaries. In all cases, idealism is the guiding force, causing one to reject practical solutions and embrace ahistorically informed paths.
Such flawed ideas don’t arise on their own. They appear in reaction to contradictions not being addressed. Adventurism, for instance, is born from a desire to solve problems when it’s apparent they can’t immediately and fully be solved by nonviolent means. Adventurism is the logical conclusion to the mindset that one only needs to focus on local actions, informed by the reasoning: “we won’t need any help from anti-imperialist countries if we can wage a revolutionary war all by ourselves!”
In practice, any “revolutionary” war that’s started when the masses aren’t yet ready to go on the offensive will not be revolutionary, but a hindrance to revolution. Mao himself stated this. The solution, both when it comes to adopting the correct practices and to adopting the correct analysis, is serious investigation of one’s conditions. Investigation that consists not just of finding the needs of one’s own community, but finding how one’s community relates to capitalism’s global market forces. If you’re in an imperialist country, it’s crucial to recognize the extractive relationship between one’s own society and the neo-colonies, a realization which can enable an internationalist analysis and support for existing socialist countries. That’s where an anti-imperialist consciousness should lead. But too often it instead leads to counterproductive ideas, like that the semi-peripheral countries are themselves imperialist or that all U.S. workers are labor aristocrats. Which creates reactive attempts to overcome these misinterpreted conditions, such as a myopic focus on the local, gang fetishism, or adventurist violence.
These distractions from effective revolutionary action wouldn’t exist if not for the right opportunists, who, when our revolutionary crisis reaches its breaking point, will commit the other big error Mao warned about: refusing to go on the offensive when the masses are ready. It’s because of this cowardly self-interest among the opportunists, their unwillingness to risk the benefits imperialism gives them, that inspires the ultras to aggressively adopt contrarian positions. If the right opportunists claim that no white people are settlers in the modern era, the ultras will claim that there’s not even a white proletariat. If the right opportunists claim that guerrilla warfare will never be necessary, the ultras will claim that it’s already necessary. Both of these sides are anti-Marxist, opposed to scientific socialism. Scientific socialism requires that we properly address contradictions, which entails neither minimizing them as the right opportunists do nor exaggerating them as the ultras do.
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