As Imperialism’s Spoils Dry Up, the Imperial Center & its “Left” Further Embrace Fantasy
The core imperialist countries are being confronted with the reality that when you build an entire civilization off of theft from other civilizations, your society can’t sustain itself. It goes straight from its rise, made possible by parasitic extraction and the destruction of numerous cultures, to collapse, where the global structure it depends on falls apart and the core descends into chaos. The main reason the U.S. became the most powerful empire in history was because of World War II, which wiped out tens of millions of lives and in the process created a power vacuum where Washington had no capitalist competitors. Then China, Korea, and Vietnam beat back the empire’s counterrevolutionary aggressions, starting off a spiral of decline which has only been accelerating.
A self-defeating society
To compensate for the economic damage from the great humiliation which the Vietnamese dealt to Washington, and from the fraying of Washington’s postwar oil extraction arrangement, the empire adopted neoliberalism. This was sold as the way to revive the imperial center’s prosperity after its inhabitants began to sense that their extractive benefits were drying up. But it was a way to engineer the collapse of society, destroying healthcare, infrastructure, utilities social welfare, workers rights, corporate regulations, and other facets of a functioning state, while maintaining the illusion that there’s such a thing as democracy under capitalism. The people of the core suffered, their living standards plummeting as many of their jobs were relocated to the neo-colonies, while the neo-colonies suffered even more.
The global poverty reductions that liberal “optimists” like Steven Pinker talk about have come not from some hidden success within the neoliberal plundering of the world’s working class. They’ve come primarily from China, which has carried out the largest anti-poverty operation in history, and increasingly from Vietnam as well. These socialist states, along with the three other ones (as well as socialist-led countries like Venezuela and Bolivia), are who’ve been making true civilizational progress. The capitalist world has been regressing, allowing inequality to reach astronomical levels, imposing further austerity onto the peoples of both the exploited and exploiting countries, and finding itself outpaced by the socialist world as a consequence.
As China and Vietnam have demonstrated their development prowess, the smaller socialist states have shown us social progress that Americans can only dream of. At the same time that the U.S. is threatening to take away what few rights it has for women and LGBT people, Cuba just passed a law which recognizes a family not on the criteria of blood relation, but merely on whether its members take on the contributing roles of a family. Marxism-Leninism is leading the world by example on how to respect people’s rights. The imperial center sticks out as a shame upon the world, eliciting disgust and horror for its cruel abortion policies, militarized police brutality against Black people, mass shootings by men who’ve been brought up in imperialism’s violent social conditioning, and inhumane detention centers for the southern Indigenous peoples it’s forced to flee through imperialist coups.
The United States, and the other decaying colonial powers, are societies which make themselves ever more sick. They’ve built their entire economic foundations on the exploitation of the formerly colonized world, and now that the imperialist spoils are drying up due to U.S. hegemonic decline and the shrinking rate of profit, they’re descending deeper into denial. Those with a major stake in maintaining imperialism will never take responsibility for the incalculable evils that they’ve benefited from. They’ll more fanatically believe their own propaganda, and blame the rest of the world for not supporting their desperate efforts towards more war.
We see this in how intensely the DPRK gets demonized by the imperialists and their ideological servants. The DPRK has shown an example of a society which can build up its living standards through its people’s own labor, rather than through exploiting colonies. As punishment, it’s portrayed as one of the world’s most evil regimes, even though it’s in every sense opposed to the tyrannical ideology of the empire which threatens it. The DPRK, China, Cuba, and ultimately Vietnam and Laos when they become more powerful, must be demonized. With the imperial center’s decay on display for the world to see, and the socialist countries progressing at astonishing rates, socialism’ superiority can never be acknowledged. Fantasies about spectacular communist evils must be pumped out constantly, soothing an empire that’s sold out its industrial capabilities and descending into failed state status.
Now that Washington has brought Ukraine into an unwinnable war by carrying out a fascist anti-Russian coup, and fomenting neo-Nazi terrorism so Russia can be provoked, the imperialists and their lackeys are doubling down on these hubristic fantasies.
We’re seeing imperial center columnists denouncing the Global South as immoral for supporting Russia, expecting the masses who imperialism has enslaved and slaughtered to embrace Washington’s absurd propaganda. A material analysis, which exploited peoples are inclined to embrace, says that Russia is not a rising imperialist power but a semi-peripheral country. One which has been beating back Washington’s proxies in Syria and Ukraine. But the empire’s propagandists will never take their perspective seriously, because according to the imperialist ideology, these are the people who should be bending to our will.
The benefactors of imperialism, including those on the “left,” refuse to take direction from colonized and exploited peoples. Not when these peoples liberate themselves and build civilizations which far outpace those of the decaying capitalist regimes. Not when these peoples voice support for Russia’s defending the world from Washington’s destruction. This is because whatever project for change that the imperial center’s “left” envisions inevitably includes the ongoing exploitation of the Global South.
“Socialists” who do the CIA’s work
The Democratic Socialists of America, the country’s largest “socialist” organization by far, has only gotten so big because the oligarchy has allowed it to. In every sense, right down to its founding, it’s a manifestation of the “compatible left” that the empire has manufactured. As The Internationalist has written about the DSA’s founders:
This tradition has often, and accurately, been described as “State Department socialism.” Those unfamiliar with the left may think the term is a polemical excess or empty epithet. Not at all. In fact, intimate ties to the Department of State are only the beginning of the intertwining of the official social democrats with the agencies of U.S. imperialism….In the 1950s, SP leader Norman Thomas headed the U.S. affiliate of one of the most notorious CIA fronts of all time: the Congress for Cultural Freedom. He also campaigned in support of the genocidal U.S. war on Korea waged by Democrat Harry Truman. Michael Harrington joined Thomas’ youth group in 1952 and the SP in 1960. In 1961, Thomas brain-truster and Harrington mentor Max Shachtman supported Democrat Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs invasion….In 1967, major media revelations led to a flood of details on how “Norman Thomas, the personification of social democracy in the United States,” had long “maintained ready access to top officials within the CIA,” among them not only his “trusted friend, Allen Dulles,” but also Cord Meyer of the “International Operations Division, the department handling the distribution of covert funding to front groups.”
Central to this social democratic alliance with the CIA was a campaign to exclude communists from organizing, and to attack “apologists for the Viet Cong.” Judging by the conduct of the DSA and the rest of the U.S. “democratic socialist” coalition since then, this alliance has only deepened. DSA, Jacobin, and Haymarket have funded platforms for regime change operatives, who’ve promoted Washington’s recent coup attempts throughout Latin America. The “Socialist International” has endorsed the coup effort of the U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó, and has repeated the Trump White House’s lies about Venezuela’s Chavistas perpetrating electoral fraud. Social democrat pundits such as David Pakman have promoted apologia for the violent 2019 U.S. coup in Bolivia, using the typical dishonest rhetoric about “nuance.” This rhetoric is predicated upon uncritical acceptance of every narrative Washington directs towards its targeted leaders, not on any serious analysis.
Naturally, this has extended to the Ukraine coup, which these propagandists portray as having been a democratic revolution against a “Putin puppet”—which is to say a leader who didn’t comply with Washington’s agenda for immediate hybrid warfare escalations against Russia. The historical context, both recent and long-term, is totally ignored by this narrative, which depends on a chauvinistic view of Russia as an innately bad actor that must be subdued by the West. The compatible left hasn’t considered that Ukraine’s regime, in direct collaboration with the neo-Nazi militias the CIA backs, has been committing ethnic cleansing against the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbass. That Kiev has carried out collective punishment against the Donbass peoples in retaliation for fighting for their self-determination, shelling Donbass urban areas indiscriminately and forcing its people to put together mass graves for the casualty victims. That Russia was a victim of a Nazi invasion just a few generations ago, perpetrated by the numerous U.S. capitalists who provided industry for Hitler’s war machine. Russia’s seeking to prevent history from repeating itself is what’s seen as the outrage, as a crime on par with the Holocaust.
Of course social democracy supports these narratives, as social democracy is a tool of the same CIA that’s behind the Ukrainian Nazis. And social democracy’s stance on Ukraine does not come from naïveté, but from an ideological overlap with Nazism. As Jay Tharappel has written, the “anti-Stalinist” crusade, which is now being revived to absurdly analogise the right opportunist Putin with Stalin, is based in racism. Tharappel assesses that this racism is directed both against Russians, and against all other peoples who seek to determine their fates free from the grip of colonial domination:
Racism is not just a tool of capital to divide labour (which is the dominant definition of the term among first–world Left); it is also an ideological weapon employed primarily by empires to shape how their citizens think about other nations in accordance with their geopolitical strategy. To understand what this means, just watch the late Edward Said talk about Orientalism, or ‘Reel Bad Arabs’, a documentary based on a book by the late Lebanese American writer Jack Shaheen, both of which argue that the negative portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood is motivated by geopolitical interests. To uncritically assume therefore that Anti-Stalinism is unrelated to the anti-Soviet/Russian foreign policy of the United States and its allies over the past century is simply naïve. Two years ago, the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution tabled by Russia, condemning Nazism.
That same year a documentary came out called ‘Apocalypse’ claiming that because Joseph Stalin was Georgian, “his mindset is closer to that of a Middle Eastern despot”, which is a curious accusation to make at a time when Russia stands accused of supporting a “Middle Eastern despot” in Syria by both the Western corporate media and Anti-Stalinists alike. To justify empire building, colonising cultures produce racism of two kinds, one which justifies conquest on the grounds of naked national self-interest, and another which justifies conquest by claiming to ‘civilise’ conquered nations and ‘save’ them from ‘despots’, and ‘evil dictators’ (a saviour complex). Anti-Stalinism is comparable with the latter kind in the sense that it encourages its followers to believe they’re on the side of The People™
The arrogance of this mindset, where the imperial center left assumes it knows what’s right for the victims of colonial genocide and imperialist aggression, carries into how these leftists treat the masses in their own country. When leftists and leftism-adjacent communists view the world through the lens of the imperialists, dismissing every socialist project as a corrupt oligarchy and demonizing anti-imperialist actions at every turn, they detach themselves from the global working class. And by extension, from the working class in the core. Without internationalism, class solidarity becomes impossible, and one remains isolated to their political cult. Amid growing class and decolonial struggle, the U.S. empire seeks to cultivate this kind of hubris among those who otherwise could attain revolutionary consciousness.
Turning destabilization schemes inward
As Ukraine’s fascist regime copes with its military humiliation at the hands of Russia, and faces the loss of many of its territories to the forces of national liberation, it can only find comfort in the prospect of turning its brutality inwards. Zelensky has said Ukraine will become like a “big Israel” in the coming years, with an expanded role in daily life for the Ukrainian National Guard that’s infamous for its atrocities. This wounded colonial proxy state, with an economy that’s been virtually cut in half by the conflict it’s instigated, is a tool that the imperialists merely see as a means to an end. Washington’s goal is to weaken Russia enough that the country can be balkanized and colonized, making China vulnerable and letting Washington destabilize broader Eurasia.
This route towards winning on the “grand chessboard,” within which Eurasia is seen as the pivotal zone, is pure fantasy. The ruple has recovered from the sanctions, and the sanctions have ironically made the dollar far less likely to survive. The U.S. bloc will suffer from this war far more than Russia, and will end up bringing to itself the destabilization it so desperately wishes upon the anti-imperialist bloc.
Like fascist Ukraine, the imperialist powers and their decaying Global South neo-colonial regimes can only stay alive by inflicting violence upon their own people. They must intensify their primitive accumulation, which in Brazil’s case means a genocidal frontier capitalism and in the USA’s case means effectively reviving slavery. The U.S. prison-industrial complex, with its modern slave system, is a product of a settler state in decline. It’s a replacement for Jim Crow, designed to keep the U.S. empire’s internal colony the Africans from attaining self-determination or reparations. And it naturally depends on the poverty and violence which neoliberalism’s engineered societal collapse has produced.
This internal measure to preserve capital, like all of imperialism’s external aggressions, is ultimately what will destroy the empire. The mass disenfranchisement of the U.S. carceral system’s victims, compounded by an ever-deadlier settler police state that’s received weapons from late-stage imperialist wars, are combining to drive the internal colonies to a breaking point. The unprecedented unrest the U.S. has recently seen in response to racialized police violence will continue to get worse as the settler state tightens its bloody grip. It’s likely that during our generation, the colonized peoples in this country will rise up for their state sovereignty from oppression, like the Donbass peoples have risen up for theirs. The colonized will then assume their role as the vanguard of the revolution on this continent, supported by the progressive elements of the white proletariat and lumpenproletariat.
The settler state anticipates this revolt, and is doing all it can to preemptively destabilize society so that revolutionary efforts get frustrated. To internally apply the destructive tools that the empire has used against revolutions in Yugoslavia, Russia, and other places. Its failed attempts to destabilize Xinjiang, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, and other chessboard pieces indicate how hopeless imperialism’s situation is. Its coups in Latin America also keep failing, and its attempt to destroy Ethiopia’s anti-imperialist state remains unsuccessful. Its capital has no choice but to contract, making internal revolt all the more likely. When this decolonial struggle arises, it will be the confrontation that decides the fate of the hemisphere. That decides whether the U.S. empire survives to continue wreaking havoc, or gets supplanted by a post-colonial federation of nations.
To avoid its extinction, the state is flooding its people with propaganda, made legal by the 2013 lifting of a law prohibiting psychological operations against U.S. citizens. It’s doing everything possible to convince us that the socialist world’s gains are overshadowed by fictions of “authoritarian” communist oppression, and that Washington is fighting a righteous war against Russian “imperialism.” This is how the empire cultivates today’s compatible left, which includes not just social democrats, but anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and smaller communist splinter factions like the “patriotic socialists.” Our cultural hegemony conditions partially radicalized individuals to block their full revolutionary consciousness, either through embracing pro-war narratives, seeing China as the world’s great rising imperialist power, or fixating on a vacuous glorification of the settler state’s flag and founding history. The “patriotic socialist” camp with the latter ideas ironically gets its geopolitical analysis correct, while believing that the settler question isn’t real and therefore doesn’t need to be addressed.
The possibilities for movement-wrecking are endless, because the amount of ahistorical ideas is endless. Therefore, Marxist-Leninists don’t need to try to win over every individual, as inevitably we’ll encounter individuals who are obstinate in embracing these ideas. Trying to appease every reactionary faction that we encounter is simply right opportunism, and against the principle that communists abhor to conceal their ideas. What we need to focus on are which parts of the masses to invest the most energy into, and which ideological factions to be wary of.
Ideological struggle means identifying incorrect ideas
What both the right opportunists and the ultra-leftists do is ignore these questions, and fixate on the elements of the masses which they’ve placed excessive importance on. The “patriotic socialists,” by claiming that an analysis of settlerism and a plan to return full tribal jurisdiction would alienate the workers, actually detach themselves from the workers by assuming they lack adequate intellectual capacity. As Lenin wrote in What is to be Done:
Our very first and most pressing duty is to help to train working-class revolutionaries who will be on the same level in regard to Party activity as the revolutionaries from amongst the intellectuals (we emphasise the words “in regard to Party activity”, for, although necessary, it is neither so easy nor so pressingly necessary to bring the workers up to the level of intellectuals in other respects). Attention, therefore, must be devoted principally to raising the workers to the level of revolutionaries; it is not at all our task to descend to the level of the “working masses” as the Economists wish to do, or to the level of the “average worker” as Svoboda desires to do (and by this ascends to the second grade of Economist “pedagogics”). I am far from denying the necessity for popular literature for the workers, and especially popular (of course, not vulgar) literature for the especially backward workers. But what annoys me is this constant confusion of pedagogics with questions of politics and organisation. You, gentlemen, who are so much concerned about the “average worker”, as a matter of fact, rather insult the workers by your desire to talk down to them when discussing working-class politics and working-class organisation.
Such an elitist attitude, where the masses are seen as simpletons that we must protect from their own foolishness, is diametrically opposed to proletarian revolution. The mass line says that we must not tell a U.S. flag-waver they’re right for displaying the symbol, but that we must open up a dialogue on the historical context of settler-colonialism. It’s in the interests of the settler population to abolish the settler state, and the arguments that it’s not in their interests depend on anti-communism. Under workers’ democracy, the living standards of every proletarian, regardless of their color, will be vastly improved compared to how they are now. The settler ideology, which “patriotic socialism” depends on, lies to the white workers, telling them that a socialist post-colonial federation would subjugate them. In reality, it would take away the meager relative benefits that imperialism and settler-colonialism grant to them, and give them unprecedented new benefits.
What colonial chauvinism does is encourage suspicion towards the colonized nations, assuming that if they’re in charge of the revolution, they won’t choose socialism. The Black, Indigenous, and Brown masses will never choose capitalism, because it innately goes against their interests. And they’re capable of keeping their own reactionary elements in check, far more than the white left is with theirs. The communists from these nations, and the whites who ally with them, understand that the most important part of winning the masses is providing for their needs. Not appealing to the chauvinistic sentiments that the U.S. empire seeks to keep their minds trapped in. By addressing the contradictions the masses face, we’ll be able to unite the masses behind decolonization, and demonstrate that decolonization is synonymous with building socialism when one lives under a settler state.
Doing so requires learning from the existing socialist projects, which have for the most part come about first through the overthrow of colonial occupiers and then through the construction of socialist workers states. Since our conditions of settler-colonialism in a core imperialist country are unprecedented among proletarian revolutions, we must use these examples to create an unprecedented revolutionary model.
What the state’s destabilization proxies do is obfuscate this reality. They put forth ahistorical ideas, and argue that history supports whichever liberal solutions they advocate for. They then use this undialectical analysis as an excuse to carry out violence against Marxist-Leninists, or at least to suppress them as the social democrats have done. On the flipside of the imperial center leftist idea that violence is never the answer, there’s the idea that violent insurrection must be embraced immediately, and that violence should be resorted to on a whim regardless of party discipline. To the “anti-civilization” anarchists who recently assaulted communist organizers at a public event, or the Maoists who attack activists they don’t like, such wrecker activity is merely fulfilling history’s demands. Whether this serves the people is irrelevant to them, as they’ve committed to an attitude of self-righteousness and reactive aggression. As the Cosmonaut blog has observed about the Maoists who act in this way:
The task of building a better world leaves no time for the narcissism of small differences endlessly dividing our own camp. But who exactly is in our own camp? What happens when a group crosses the line and ends up on the other side of the barricades? An example of a group that has done this is the combination of front groups and collectives associated with the organization Red Guards Austin, or Committee for the Reconstitution of the Communist Party USA. Konstantin Sverdlov argues that groups like the Red Guards have fully crossed the line to the point where they deserve to be treated as if they are class enemies just like fascists. By violently attacking other leftist organizations the Red Guards have joined the camp of the class enemy. We must point our guns at the enemy, not at those who fight at our side, even if they use methods we find ineffective or ideologies we find misguided.
Those supporting the violence of the anti-civ anarchists justify their position by saying the communists displayed Lenin and Stalin, which supposedly represented a declaration of war. This shows just how unserious these kinds of factions are. Ultraviolent ideologies rationalize their reckless aggression by claiming to defend some personal honor, which always takes precedence over the class struggle. It’s how one anarchist group could rationalize joining the Azov Battalion, which only needed to offer them an outlet for exacting violence against the Russians who these leftists dehumanize. Anarchists can function as an armed wing for the imperialists, perpetrating reactionary violence while claiming to fight for revolution.
Stalin said that “Some people believe that Marxism and anarchism are based on the same principles and that disagreements concern only tactics. This is a great mistake. We believe anarchists are enemies of Marxism, accordingly, a real struggle must be waged against real enemies.” Which doesn’t apply in absolute, as Stalin would go on to tactically back anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. But he was correct when he concluded that anarchism is incompatible with scientific socialism, because anarchism seeks not to scientifically analyze our conditions but to prescribe a solution (immediate abolition of the state) regardless of material reality. It’s no wonder why COINTELPRO has been able to weaponize anarchism for its movement-wrecking purposes, putting together publications which have attacked communism from an anarchist angle. Whenever you see this kind of anti-communist “leftism,” you’re looking at enemy propaganda, not at an internal debate among people who share the same goals.
Uniting the masses amid growing lumpenproletarianization
The equivalent can be said about the ultra-leftists who fetishize the lumpenproletariat, like the right opportunists fetishize the supposedly working class whites who voted for Trump. This faction claims that merely because the lumpen are growing as a class amid capitalism’s collapse, the lumpen should be treated as a ready-made revolutionary vanguard, or at least prioritized over the proletariat. This is distinct from the Marxist position on the lumpen, which says that the lumpen must be proletarianized to be compatible with a socialist society. In other words, our priority must be to provide social outlets and jobs which represent an alternative to the gangs. The lumpenprole fetishists, in contrast, claim the gangs are viable avenues for revolution. Such an idea is ahistorical, like the idea that stateless socialism is realistic under the conditions of imperialism.
It’s ahistorical both because gangs have a history of violently resisting attempts to reform them into communist organizations, and because this romanticization of gangs is based in an anti-Marxist view of the lumpen. In accordance with the belief that socialist states aren’t socialist because they haven’t yet reached full equality, imperial center leftists promote the idea that “socialism” means the general lifting up of the dispossessed, rather than the transferring of power to the workers. When you define socialism in this ultra-leftist way, you ignore that it’s the proletariat which possesses the unique potential to deprive the bourgeoisie of economic power. As Lenin wrote, “the proletariat is the only class that is consistently revolutionary, the only class that can unite all the working and exploited people in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, in completely removing it.” Because the lumpen have been pushed out of this position, a revolution which pretends they possess that type of potential is a revolution which will empower the gangs. Not one which will empower the workers. In other words, a bourgeois revolution.
The Chinese revolution didn’t unite the lumpen with the proletariat by putting criminal enterprises in charge. In China today, gangs are systematically suppressed by the state, because their lumpenbourgeois interests are fundamentally opposed to the proletariat’s interests. Instead, Mao proletarianized the lumpen, bringing the many compatible people among them into the revolution and then giving them jobs. If he had fetishized the lumpen, he would have had to abandon the code he laid down for combating liberalism. Because though the lumpen can possess revolutionary potential, they’re also a class that’s especially susceptible to becoming agents for reactionary intrigue, due to their detachment from the means of production. He and his modern successors would have to accomodate the criminal enterprises, treating them not as the tools for counterrevolutionary sabotage that they are, but as some idealized vision of an underclass rebel network. The imperialist propagandists have vilified China’s anti-crime crusade for a reason: many of the gangsters China has apprehended are the same anti-communist “dissidents” that U.S. propaganda glorifies.
When you don’t make your revolution a proletarian revolution, you get something like the self-defeating peasant revolt that Pol Pot led. At best, you get a gang-led revolt like the one in Haiti, which is not a project for workers democracy but merely a seizure of power by a rival bourgeois faction.
To avoid such mistakes, we need to not be lax in party discipline when it comes to the lumpen. Just because someone comes from a dispossessed social status, doesn’t mean they can’t be bought by the FBI to become an infiltrator (the spooks even seek out poorer people to fill that role), or commit errors in actions or ideas. If someone engages in adventurism, considers themselves exempt from criticism, or commits abuses, they should be held accountable, and ejected if they don’t correct their conduct. For this reason, one ex-gang member I’ve encountered has recommended that communist parties never allow active or semi-active gang members to join. Gangsterism is another source of social conditioning which fosters undisciplined violence, encouraging the mentality that any perceived violation of “honor” is grounds for threatening or engaging in violence. We can’t risk such reactionary traits compromising democratic centralism, and leaving us open to needless state repression or alienation from the masses.
Gang ideology has such a similar nature to anarchism because like anarchism, it’s supported by the spooks. The CIA funnels drugs through cartels all across the Americas, making for a U.S. intelligence influence within gangster guerrilla efforts like Haiti’s. To build unity with the lumpen, communists must recognize that such a thing as gang ideology exists, and that it’s not compatible with scientific socialism. Failure to do so leads to ahistorical ideas, like the myth that El Chapo was a man of the people. In reality, he was a lumpenbourgeois warlord who terrorized other colonized people with the assistance of the CIA. Military power and a lumpen identity aren’t alone sufficient for a revolutionary role. What makes someone revolutionary is if they advance the proletariat’s interests.
Engels has a quote on the lumpen that’s similar to Stalin’s quote on anarchists: “The lumpenproletariat, this scum of the decaying elements of all classes, which establishes headquarters in all the big cities, is the worst of all possible allies. It is an absolutely venal, an absolutely brazen crew. If the French workers, in the course of the Revolution, inscribed on the houses: Mort aux voleurs! (Death to the thieves!) and even shot down many, they did it, not out of enthusiasm for property, but because they rightly considered it necessary to hold that band at arm’s length. Every leader of the workers who utilises these gutter-proletarians as guards or supports, proves himself by this action alone a traitor to the movement.” Like has been the case for anarchists, communists actually can make tactical alliances with the lumpen, as Mao showed. But not without the end goal of proletarianizing the lumpen, or without preventing gang ideology and other reactionary lumpen tendencies from sabotaging the revolution.
This knowledge of how to approach the lumpen question is indispensable in the imperial center, because as I mentioned, it’s the millions of lumpen who’ve been disenfranchised by the carceral state which will be the first to fight in the coming revolt. We won’t be able to build an alliance with these fighters if we enable the same gangs which ravage their communities with warfare and drugs, and which assimilate many lumpenproles into fundamentally counterrevolutionary entities.
The ultra-leftist fetishization of gangs and the lumpen comes from the anti-intellectualism which imperial center leftism cultivates. As Red Sails has observed: “Western chauvinists, consciously or unconsciously, struggle with the idea that they should study and humbly take lessons from the imperial periphery. It is much easier for the chauvinist, psychologically, to position oneself as at the very front of a new vanguard.” This attitude abhors learning from the revolutions that the peoples in the imperial periphery have carried out. Even if someone recognizes the achievements of these peoples, that attitude can still prevent them from implementing the revolutionary practices which built those socialist states in the first place. Ho Chi Minh articulated these practices when he wrote:
There are three kinds of enemies: Capitalism and imperialism are very dangerous ones. Backward habits and traditions are also big enemies: they insidiously hinder the progress of the revolution. However, we cannot repress them, but must seek to correct them with caution, perseverance and over a long period of time. The third enemy is individualism, the petty-bourgeois mentality which still lurks in each of us. It is waiting for an opportunity – either failure or success – to rear its head. It is the ally of the two above-mentioned categories. Therefore revolutionary morality consists, in whatever circumstances, in resolutely struggling against all enemies, maintaining one’s vigilance, standing ready to fight, and refusing to submit, to bow one’s head. Only by doing so can we defeat the enemy, and fulfill our revolutionary tasks.
We in the core are especially at risk of succumbing to this petty-bourgeois mentality, because in our country, it’s incentivized by the desire to continue exploiting the peripheral peoples. But we can rise above it. The Black Panthers, the most successful communist party in U.S. history, showed that Americans can be brought towards revolution. They even provided an example of how we can give the lumpen an immediate alternative to gangsterism, building material aid networks which fed the victims of capitalism and colonialism. We can complete their legacy by defeating the U.S. empire.