Communists Must Properly Grasp Geopolitics in Order to Win

Rainer SheaThe global class and anti-colonial war is a conflict that the imperialists have been able to rig at every turn. In the era of imperialism, where capital has gotten its tentacles into virtually every corner of the planet, those who seek to supplant capital must at all times carefully anticipate the next maneuvers of the forces of counterrevolution. This is because for as long as imperialism remains dominant, for as long as monopoly capital and finance capital have more leverage than the revolutionaries, the revolutionaries must navigate global markets.

This requires compromises. This requires tact, levelheadedness, and pragmatism. At this stage, to try to bypass these compromises in the name of ideological purity, to rush ahead with notions of immediately abolishing the state, money, nations, or all business, is to condemn the revolutionary struggle. As Michael Parenti wrote, this is what utopian socialist thinkers don’t grasp:

Real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this ‘pure socialism’ view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

“Dengists” are now another one of those supposed villains that get accused of corrupting socialism. At the core of the attacks against Deng Xiaoping’s approach towards building socialism in China—which range from flimsy charges of Chinese imperialism to outright CIA disinformation about Uyghur ethnic cleansing—is the idea that the Dengists have embraced a “revisionist” vision of Marxism. This charge is propagated not just by sectarians within the communist movement, but by the U.S. media at large; the concept that China is an imperialist oligarchy that’s socialist only in name prevails within how pundits frame the country. Whatever real or imagined contradictions exist within China—or within the other socialist countries—get exploited to hammer in this argument. The argument that gets interpreted by much of the U.S. left as a call for geopolitical neutrality, where we should take the stance of “neither Washington nor Beijing.”

The same applies to the questions of whether to defend Assad, or Iran, or Venezuela, or Cuba, or the DPRK, or Russia, or the anti-imperialist government in Belarus. Because the CIA’s narratives about these countries can’t be questioned without provoking accusations of atrocity denial, “authoritarianism,” “campism,” or (within the sectarian leftist facet of this rhetoric) “revisionism,” the default Western leftist stance is to not take sides when it comes to geopolitics. This is the approach advocated for by the Democratic Socialists of America, which has put forth the statement: “Against Campism, for International Working-Class Solidarity.” Numerous other sources within the U.S. left, from Jacobin to Haymarket, have endorsed this sentiment.

There’s something deeply suspect about all of this. Foremost, why does this divisive backlash against “campism” exist at all, and why has it gained such prominence within leftist discourse specifically during the recent years where Washington has launched a full-on hybrid asymmetrical war against China? Why does the rhetoric of this backlash paint things so simplistically, portraying solidarity with besieged anti-imperialist countries not as the nuanced stance that it is but as an uncritical endorsement of everything these countries do? International workers solidarity and anti-imperialist solidarity aren’t mutually exclusive. We can view China as a socialist country while supporting the struggle of China’s workers to overcome the contradictions they continue to face. We can defend Russia from Washington‘s propaganda while supporting the struggle of its proletariat to restore the Soviet Union.

And why do these calls for “nuance” in discussing anti-imperialist countries consistently exaggerate or fabricate the transgressions of these countries, resorting to Western media tropes like the one about Chinese “neo-colonialism” in Africa? Nothing about these arguments comes across as good faith. They all take on the characteristics of concern-trolling, where someone raises an issue of “concern” simply for the sake of raising an issue.

What happens when a communist lets this rhetoric control the narrative? When they accept the flawed arguments about China being imperialist, and about today’s great geopolitical conflict therefore being an inter-imperialist rivalry rather than the class war that it is? What happens is they sabotage their own cause. They can even become pawns in Washington’s cold war machinations, whether in propaganda terms or in more destructive areas. In 2020 the Philippine communist party, a Maoist entity which subscribes to the narrative that Dengists betrayed socialism, began a campaign to use its armed wing for attacking Chinese firms within the country.

Look at how enthusiastic the CIA’s propaganda outlet Radio Free Asia was to report this news, and to emphasize the overlap in interests that Washington has with the Maoists in sabotaging China’s projects:

[The Maoists] target Chinese companies involved in infrastructure projects, including state-backed firms that the United States has blacklisted for their part in Beijing’s militarization in the South China Sea. The communists announced the move six weeks after the Philippine government – their enemy for the past half-century – declared that it would not follow Washington’s lead by cutting ties with firms involved in China’s building of artificial islands and military installations in the disputed waterway. At least one of those 24 firms sanctioned by the U.S. is involved in Philippine infrastructure projects.

These terrorist attacks against China’s firms—firms which serve the national interests of the Philippines by enabling it to usher in a “golden age of infrastructure”—come at the heels of fifty years of guerrilla warfare waged by the Maoists. This war could have ended with the country’s 2016 peace deal, but the Maoists have continued to deprive the country of peace, ironically to the consequence of setting back the victory for proletarian revolution in the Philippines; like the infamous “Gonzaloist” Maoists in Peru, they’ve pursued and continued violence to an excessive degree, one that the material conditions don’t call for. All rationalized by their core belief that existing socialism is the enemy, and that the Maoist splinter ideology (along with its adventurist impulses) must therefore be adhered to at all costs.

It’s no wonder why in addition to anarchism, Maoism is historically one of the ideologies that the FBI’s counterintelligence program has promoted in order to splinter the left, and to attack existing socialism from a “socialist” position.

Maoism, and ultra-leftism generally, have always posed a risk of destabilizing the proletarian movement. In regards to the Naxalites, India’s branch of this Maoist sectarian faction, the Communist Party of India has featured a 1985 article which affirms that this faction is a threat to the global proletarian movement:

[It’s] the time-tested experience of the international communist movement that left – sectarianism and ultra-left adventurism is the observation of right-reformism and revisionism and ends up serving the interests of the ruling classes. Ultra – leftism of any variety of which naxalism is type, contains within itself the seeds of disruption and self-destruction.

It is well known that the naxalite movement disintegrated into myriad groups and factions in the early seventies within five years of its birth. Along with this organizational disintegration, and preceding it, was the ideological disarray and confusion. In this article, the focus is on the ideological deadend these groups have reached, which is the basis for the continuing derailment of the left-adventurist stream. After continuously grappling with the ideologically bankrupt positions taken at the outset, the naxalite groups are nowhere near resolving the problems, which began when they abandoned their Marxist-Leninist moorings. Every theoretical and political issue, which confronts them, leads [to] further ideological confusion and consequent organisational splintering. Despite their decade-long struggle to “reorient and rectify” their positions none of these groups have come anywhere near correcting their dogmatic errors. On the other hand, these groups have further degenerated into anti-left anarchic groups subject to the worst forms of petty-bourgeois deviations.

And these problems still apply to the Naxalites, who are fighting a perpetual decades-long guerrilla war in parallel to the situation of the Philippine Maoists. This is the consequence of failing to properly grasp geopolitics. Because the original Maoists made the mistake in their geopolitical analysis of concluding that the USSR was “social imperialist,” they splintered the global communist movement upon the introduction of the Deng reforms, seeing any deviation from Mao’s approach as a repeat of the Soviet Union’s mistakes (mistakes which they exaggerated in the first place). Now they’re promoting the narrative that China has become imperialist due to its market reforms, and are using this as a rationale for militarily attacking Chinese firms to Washington’s delight.

Without a careful geopolitical analysis, one that allows for building the necessary bonds with socialist countries like China and learning from China’s socioeconomic development, communists will find themselves running in circles of guerrilla struggle, splintering into quarreling factions, and acting as warfare proxies for the imperialists. And should they ever win their endless guerrilla wars, the socialist states they’ll try to build will be constrained by dogma, with these states’ leaders refusing to utilize private business like every existing socialist state has done.