“This war is not a war between Russians and Ukrainians,” says the Texan Russell Bentley in a documentary interview about why he came to help fight for the Russian side after 2014’s fascist U.S. coup in Ukraine. “It’s not a Ukrainian civil war, it’s really a war between good and evil. It’s a war between genuine Nazis, and normal people.”
To explain how he came to this anti-imperialist analysis, Bentley describes how he came to Marxism, which his pro-Donbass views are merely an extension of. “I grew up in the 60s, I was born in 1960, so it was still the time of the Vietnam war. I was always a voracious reader, and I started reading books by Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, guys like that. And really, they were a real inspiration. They gave me the understanding that there were more perspectives than just the dominant paradigm of USA Number One.”
In reaction to one video of Bentley standing in front of Russian tanks, the most vocal actors within the information war surrounding the conflict attacked him as a traitor. That’s the only response anti-imperialists will ever get from those invested in defending imperialism. But these actors represent a marginal facet of our society. The vast majority of people in this country are apathetic towards foreign affairs, because unlike the petty bourgeois opportunists who’ve taken the job of shilling for the empire, their material interests are not in the continuation of imperialism. Their interests are in the prospect of workers revolution, which is the only thing that can end their misery under a cruel austerity capitalism.
For this reason, should this quiet majority be presented with the opportunity to absorb anti-imperialist ideas and participate in the anti-imperialist movement, they won’t react with vitriol like the opportunists do. Many of them will react with warmth and enthusiasm. We know this because that’s how the proletarians of past socialist revolutions, including in imperial Russia, have received the calls from the communists to resist imperialism. And as our class conflict intensifies, we get closer to the point where a parallel consciousness shift happens in America.
That’s why communists must not compromise our anti-imperialist stances and practice out of fear of displeasing the imperialist-invested minority. This minority projects an illusion of its being too powerful to defy. Pro-imperialist ideology, and the impulse to appease it, rely on the concealment of the reality of class exploitation. The destruction of the proletariat’s livelihoods by our ruling class, and the imperialist violence that this destruction has been intertwined with, aren’t taken into consideration by the discourse that bourgeois politics cultivates. All this discourse focuses on are the perpetual psyops that the empire directs at its target countries. On lies designed to manufacture outrage at designated enemies, and consent for militaristic adventurism.
The intensification of class contradictions, in which two-thirds of people are now living paycheck to paycheck as our institutions take away their means for survival, has been provoking more workers into action. We’re seeing an increase in strikes and union membership, and in France there’s again an explosion of revolt. But this class uprising won’t succeed unless communists, those who seek to lead the overthrow of the bourgeois state, sufficiently fight against pro-imperialist ideology. As in the core, this ideology has the power to corrupt and defuse the workers movement.
When it comes to our rising social movements, the goal of imperialism’s narrative managers is to inject their ideological poison into the organizing spaces. Especially the radical organizing spaces, because creating a pro-imperialist “radicalism” is the perfect way to sabotage revolution. If the movement wreckers can keep the dominant concept of radical politics something that’s linked to imperialism, this politics won’t become a serious threat to the imperial state. It will be a tool of the state.
The most reliable ideological tool for advancing this goal is anarchism. Anarchism, especially in its Americanized form, acts foremost as a left opposition force towards Marxism-Leninism. The FBI has been sending in movement infiltrators to pose as anarchists since the Civil Rights era because this is a set of ideas that’s ideal for wrecking the class struggle. Central to anarchist theory is an attempt to discredit Marxist theory, especially the parts of it where Engels clarified the importance of authority within revolutions. What this translates to, and what the FBI nurtures among anarchists, is a systematic effort to attack the forces which most substantially challenge bourgeois power.
Within left spaces during the era of the new cold war, it’s the anarchists who tend to most aggressively slander China. Their argument, based on a rejection of the fundamentals of Leninist analysis on imperialism, is that the PRC represents an imperialist threat. They apply the same twisted analysis to Russia. This leads to activities among anarchists like promoting the Uyghur genocide psyop, or joining Nazi militias in Ukraine to fight “Russian imperialism.”
These wrecker types of anarchists pose such a threat to the class struggle because when they’re allowed to insert themselves into organizing spaces, they can take the movement in an imperialism-compatible direction. They can also gain opportunities to carry out intimidation tactics against communists, and persuade others to condone or participate in these tactics by arguing that communists are “red fascists.” There are countless other left tendencies that the state is using to wage counterinsurgency against the workers struggle. The other main strain among them is the Maoists, whose ideas are also historically utilized by COINTELPRO. Maoists can also share the anarchist tendencies of characterizing Washington’s challengers as imperialist, and of perpetrating adventurist violence upon their sectarian targets. These elements seek to undermine Marxism-Leninism from a left angle, portraying it as an ideology that opposes the proletariat’s interests and seeks to impose “state capitalism.”
The fact that these radical liberals use the same rhetoric that’s employed by those who oppose communism from the right—the social democrats, the reactionaries, the fascists, the Democratic Party neoliberals—exposes how lacking in credibility they are. All of these elements, in their own ways, attack communism by promoting the idea that socialist countries are not genuinely on the side of the workers, but are oligarchic, undemocratic, and imperialistic. If they were to admit the proletarian and democratic character of these states, they would have to solely rely on the factually accurate critiques of existing socialism. And since Marxists ourselves make these critiques, they wouldn’t so easily be able to discredit Marxism, as it’s apparent that Marxists are capable of addressing our own errors.
In the last year, as Russia has waged a new anti-fascist war, these anti-communist actors have opened up an additional front in their narrative war: to obscure the reality that Russia, as it presently exists, has an anti-imperialist role in world affairs. The goal of pro-imperialist ideology is not necessarily to vilify communism, but to vilify any global actor which threatens U.S. hegemony. And because modern Russia is a bourgeois state, the pro-imperialist infiltrators within our spaces have an especially high potential to persuade leftists or Marxists to oppose Russia.
This problem can be addressed through ideological training, namely on the topic of primary vs secondary contradictions. A trained Marxist recognizes that the primary contradiction is U.S. hegemony, and that in this context Russia should be supported for weakening Washington’s influence. (As well as for rescuing the Donbass from fascist Kiev’s ethnic cleansing threat.) But these facts are not readily apparent to the leftists not yet sufficiently developed in Marxism, and they must be brought to the people’s attention.
To make these and other anti-imperialist ideas the defining ways in which the workers movement engages with the question of foreign affairs, in our practice we must act according to this maxim: there is no way imperialist narratives can coexist with an effective working class movement. These narratives are the biggest enemy our cause faces during this stage. When we’ve driven them out of all the relevant strains of socialist politics, as well as become sufficiently trained in the physical development of our cadres, we’ll be equipped to overcome both the “soft” and “hard” aspects of the state’s counterinsurgency. There can be allowed no room for opportunism within the class struggle. The class struggle’s success depends on the complete political and ideological defeat of those who seek to maintain neo-colonial extraction and imperialist warfare.
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