If we want the anti-imperialist movement to survive the war that liberalism is waging against dissent, we need to reject a certain idea which liberalism has been propagating; an idea which got introduced partly with the goal of rendering us defenseless when the big crackdown comes. This is the idea that liberals, and the radical liberals who dominate left activist spaces, are the most conscious parts of the masses; are the ones which those who seek to resist fascism should prioritize appealing to. This perception comes with an additional, reinforcing notion: that everyone sympathetic to the anti-imperialist cause who isn’t on the left is necessarily a fascist.
It’s this framework of understanding, where we’re told to discard tens of millions of people who are compatible with the anti-NATO movement so we can appeal to ultra-lefts who don’t care about that cause, which leads too many U.S. anti-imperialists towards harming their own interests. I once went down this path when I encountered PSL circles in my initial attempts at organizing. And for those I knew who’ve stayed loyal to these circles, there have been disastrous consequences; they’ve adopted a prejudicial hostility towards all groups and people that are trying to build an anti-NATO coalition beyond the spaces the Democratic Party controls. The more political actors we can get to avoid this insular path, and bring into such a coalition, the better a place we’ll be in to survive the state’s coming attempt at purging anti-imperialists.
To understand why the threat of such a purge is so urgent, we need to analyze the extent to which our capitalist crises have advanced, and how the state is incentivized to react to these crises. Exploring these things also lets me better explain why I’ve embraced a coalition-oriented strategy for building the anti-imperialist movement.
The cruel reality of the conditions that monopoly finance capital has cultivated
Capitalism in today’s USA is so destructive, and is causing suffering at such a rapidly accelerating rate, that it’s been forcing ever more individuals on both the left and the right to become alienated from the political center. This isn’t just about the fentanyl crisis that the pharmaceutical companies have manufactured; or about the Fed-engineered rise in inflation that’s making housing precarious for a growing amount of people; or about the ongoing mismanagement of a pandemic; or about the other ways our capitalist dictatorship is destroying our society via domestic policies. The larger context behind these evils is the empire that American capitalist power depends upon, and whose ongoing existence is having ever-more dire consequences.
We’ve been growing more and more at risk of a third world war prior to when John Pilger warned of the coming attempt to provoke conflict with China in 2016; or to when Obama’s team installed an aggressively anti-Russian government in Ukraine in 2014. The events that would produce today’s insane situation; where the imperial powers are giving fascist Kiev more and more of the tools it needs to start an apocalyptic conflict; began when the empire started militarizing Africa in 2007.
This project to counter China—which the war against Russia is ultimately a part of—was started in reaction to the strengthening of the world’s anti-imperialist forces throughout that decade; a process which got accelerated by Bush’s War on Terror. The new cold war has been a response to the collapse which the Washington-led order has been experiencing. And that the new great-power competition began around the time of the USA’s internal economic breakdown in 2008 was no coincidence. Economic crises have been getting more extreme for the same reason our ruling class has been seeking to escalate its wars: the system is in decline.
During this new stage of American capitalism; where the crisis of overproduction is less and less able to be compensated for by exporting capital into new markets; the only option of our ruling elites is to keep sacrificing the people’s wellbeing so that war can be invested in ever more. It’s a worse kind of economic injustice than Reaganism was, because Reaganism was in an earlier stage of the war against the working class. During the depression that’s continued to be present for the workers ever since 2008, it’s been impossible to argue that any poverty increases which come after the implementation of neoliberal policies can be blamed on the affected communities. The ideology of the ruling class has been discredited in the popular consciousness, and this has now been true for a decade and a half.
How can liberalism continue to tell the story that it’s the most humane and just possible system, when the reality of our conditions under liberalism is so opposite to this story? By arguing that the degrowing of our economy is actually a good thing; that reducing the economic output of the population is supposedly how to save the planet. This is the idea that gets implicitly put forth every time someone makes an “overpopulation” argument, or asserts that growth necessarily comes at the cost of destroying our human habitat. This Malthusian reasoning is, in the long term, the only narrative which the dominant wing of capital (that being finance capital) can put forth to sell their program of living standards reduction.
We’re seeing evidence of this in how economic degrowth, and its logical conclusion of population degrowth, are coming to be featured more prominently and explicitly within finance capital’s political circles; Biden’s Bureau of Land Management leadership pick argued for correcting “overpopulation” in her master’s thesis, indicating that eco-fascism is getting more normalized at the highest levels of government. And even though Kamala Harris’ statement that we need to “reduce population” was a mistake of speech, with Harris having meant to say “reduce pollution,” it was a mistake of the same nature as Bush’s saying “brutal invasion of Iraq” when he meant to say “Ukraine.”
The thing that finance capital’s designated leaders intend to do, and are already doing, is carry out an ever-expanding policy of social murder, where people living in poverty die simply because of how much poverty physically harms a person. This is so that the economy can be made small enough for capitalism’s destructive impacts not to render the planet uninhabitable.
The reality which most damningly exposes “degrowth” as a Mathusian scam, and the Democratic Party as a fascist force in liberal form, is that the same U.S. military machine the Democrats seek to continue expanding is the world’s largest source of institutional pollution. No matter how many sacrifices we make in our living standards for degrowth’s supposed cause of saving the planet, the climate crisis will be just as severe so long as the liberal order continues. We’re being driven into a worse and worse economic situation by the policies of the liberals, and in the case of our inflation crisis, war is a liberal policy that’s directly harming our living conditions. As the liberals increasingly tell us that this poverty is needed for the future of the planet, they nurture a war machine which is destabilizing the climate more than any other single entity.
The people are seeing how the leaders which are supposed to be the “adults in the room” are doing nothing else than sacrificing our needs for the benefit of elites. This has been causing a populist mass reaction; a reaction that’s started with Bonapartism, but could end in workers revolution.
Industrial capital’s response to these conditions: rally support for a revival of small capital
The reason why I’ve concluded that Marxists expanding our outreach to libertarians or conservatives with anti-imperialist leanings isn’t just an acceptable practice, but a necessary one, is because I’ve found there’s a tangible difference between fascists and plenty of right-leaning Americans. If every libertarian or conservative were a fascist, I wouldn’t be able to find numerous people in my Marxist circles who used to lean right prior to coming to Marxism. We wouldn’t be seeing the Libertarian Party become willing to work with communists on organizing against NATO. We wouldn’t see class-conscious anti-imperialist commentators, like Consortiumnews contributor Phil Rockstroh, conclude that being on the “left” doesn’t necessarily preclude being open to socialist ideas:
On a personal basis, liberals with whom I used to clash when I was a resident of Manhattan, almost to a person, were completely removed from and, worse, utterly incurious, about the lives of the working class. When traveling around my native South, for example, when visiting my wife’s family in the rural South Carolina Low Country, I found the people there far more receptive to a socialist critique of the capitalist order than that of liberals. Why? Unlike upscale liberals, the working class, on a day-by-day basis, endure perpetual humiliation under depraved capitalism. Why do liberals refuse to acknowledge class-based deprivation as a defining factor in the angst and animus of the laboring class?…there is a howling, class chasm between the cultural criteria that separates affluent liberals from the struggling laboring class. How could sneaky Vladi and his fake news-wielding squads of internet Cossacks be responsible for the neoliberal economy, comprised of low wage, no benefits, no future mcjobs, that plague the working life of the latter? Thus the Russiagate storyline holds little resonance for downscale working people.
Because these kinds of workers don’t even make up an especially big amount of the MAGA base; many of the workers who’ve leaned right in the past are now Marxists; and libertarians are also increasingly willing to join a coalition against NATO; the ultra-left dogma that only liberals are worth building a relationship with isn’t defensible from a strategic perspective. If Marxists stay isolated to the “left,” the Bonapartists will continue to succeed at building a movement to revive industrial capital. Because if the communist movement remains isolated and ineffectual, reactionary politics are the only logical thing that can emerge within the ideological power vacuum which capitalism’s decline creates.
Bonapartists like Trump have been taking advantage of this absence of a relevant communist movement not by turning economically struggling workers racist (that’s a mythologized narrative which comes from the idea that working people are a “basket of deplorables”), but rather by rallying their petty-bourgeois core social base towards advancing their reactionary goals. Petty capitalists make up the primary fighting force of the Bonapartists, the class backgrounds of the January 6th rioters showed this. The weakness of the communist movement has empowered them not because communists could likely win these petty capitalists over to Marxism; but because a strong communist movement would be able to build an effective counter-force towards these reactionary forces.
If Marxists were to stop classifying any part of the working class which tries to operate beyond the left niche as “reactionary,” they would be able to build a workers movement strong enough to challenge capital. Because small capital’s insurgency against big capital has been occurring without such a proletarian force to be able to challenge it, it’s been able to get in place to cause great harm; harm that could become more pronounced than ever with the 2024 election.
Using the Bonapartist MAGA rhetoric of “fighting the deep state,” the Heritage Foundation has presented a plan for the Republican Party that would involve unprecedented discriminatory policies towards modern Bonapartism’s chosen social scapegoats: trans people. The Foundation’s “Project 2025” would classify as pornographic all media material that includes trans folks, and by extension classify all trans folks who go in the same vicinity of children as sex offenders. It would make trans parents who decide to have children into criminals, a standard that could easily be extended to gay parents when the repressive campaign’s targets inevitably get expanded.
This is where the reactionary right aims to take the culture war; what it claims we need to do to solve our economic problems, which it blames on “culture” rather than on capitalism. That’s how the Bonapartist politicians intend to further our neoliberal policies, while claiming to represent a “solution.” As the Republicans carry out Project 2025’s program to further dismantle environmental protections; and pursue other capitalist attempts at re-industrialization which will inevitably get undermined by the economic war against China; their main rhetorical tactic will be attacking a group of people who they’ve made into villains. The Bonapartists are pointing to the dire effects of finance capital’s liberal social social engineering projects, and shifting the blame from capitalism onto trans people.
Project 2025’s social policies are so heinous that the vast majority of the people are sure to oppose it; and that’s what makes it so useful for finance capital’s designs to carry out its own purge, a purge of anti-imperialists. Even after all the chilling things I just described about what the Republicans are now, Trump isn’t even the main danger. He doesn’t represent the most powerful side of capital; the side with so much leverage that it will doubtless carry out its repressive campaign, regardless of which party wins next year.
Finance capital’s next scheme: suppress the anti-imperialist movement by making it look synonymous with the extreme right
Project 2025 isn’t a false flag; not everything is planned, our ruling class scrambles to keep up with new developments more than you might think. Things can get especially unpredictable amid a rivalry within the ruling class itself, where the two sides are constantly introducing schemes to try to foil each other. But if finance capital responds to the Project by trying to weaponize it against anti-imperialists, the Project could soon fulfill the same role that a false flag would.
It provides a perfect pretext for the Democratic Party to carry out an assault upon the anti-imperialist movement that will be absolutely staggering in its proportions, yet could still be successfully sold due to how much of a reason there is to fear the GOP. All finance capital needs to do is make it look like the anti-imperialists are tools of the right, and much of the country will accept the persecution of innocent people under the guise of “fighting fascism.” This is the consequence of the rise in polarization that capitalism’s crises have been bringing: a right-wing which has become unhinged to such a menacing degree that this can terrify many decent people into ignoring their better judgment, and doing things which help the Democratic Party.
The obvious way the Democrats will take advantage of this situation is by trying to pressure such well-intentioned people into voting for them. Which is actually a relatively easy thing for Marxists to counter; any class-conscious person who’s thinking about voting blue has already absorbed the same systemic knowledge which causes us to refuse to help the Democrats. They simply need to attain the fortitude to resist the social pressure from liberal circles, which can be easy. The narrative that poses the greatest threat to the anti-imperialist cause is the one which seeks to conflate anti-imperialism with reactionary politics.
The first part of this narrative is the psyop designed to make it look like the pro-Russian Black communist org Uhuru has facilitated Russian interference, an assertion we’re are already seeing the liberal narrative managers promote to an extent. (Alternatively, they call Uhuru a “cult.”) Such rationales for persecuting Uhuru and other anti-imperialist formations can’t come to be accepted by those outside the niche “Stand with Ukraine” online circles, though. Psyops of this kind aren’t on their own sufficient for selling repression, and that’s why they so far haven’t been too heavily promoted. Those outside the liberal anti-Russian cult don’t care enough about Russia for it to be strategically smart to broadcast: “COMMUNISTS CAUGHT COLLUDING WITH RUSSIA” across all the legacy media outlets.
But what if the narrative managers add something more into their psyop against the anti-imperialist movement? Something designed to convince the public that every antiwar org which the Democratic Party doesn’t covertly control is a front for the Republicans? Then finance capital’s desired repression campaign could actually be marketable. At the present stage, directly attacking Uhuru and the other principled anti-imperialist organizations would backfire, as it would get these orgs universal name recognition. The anti-NATO cause, and its ideas, are more popular among Americans than it may appear; a majority of the country’s people now oppose sending more aid to Ukraine, showing many are at least subconsciously looking for a way to help the antiwar movement. Attacking the targeted groups entirely on the basis of their opposition to NATO would gain them millions of new followers.
If the state wants to fully suppress the anti-imperialist movement, the media is going to have to make this look justified to a majority of the people, not just to the liberals. And the way to do this is by concealing the anti-imperialist nature of the targeted peoples and groups; by portraying them as being not part of the “real,” more palatable antiwar movement, represented by groups like PSL. Whereas PSL will be allowed to remain legal, at least for a time, the orgs that have broken from PSL’s practice of liberal tailism are going to be illegalized as soon as the liberals get justification for doing so.
When these targets get subjected to the same things Uhuru has, the media will primarily try to vilify them not for their anti-NATO stance, but for their supposed role as tools within a fascist plot to co-opt the antiwar movement. Imperialism-compatible media outlets which operate within leftist circles, such as Truthout, have already been promoting this narrative; to see how outlets like the New York Times will depict the state’s next targets, imagine this part from a recent Truthout article being featured in the Times with slightly different wording:
Arun Gupta, a journalist who attended the rally, said the event ended up being different than it was branded. “It was not an antiwar rally because it was pretty clear that it was generally a pro-Russian bent,” Gupta told Truthout. For those at the rally claiming the banner of the left, the greatest evil is the U.S. war machine. Some argued that supporting U.S. adversaries, even if they are far right authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin, is strategically important to defeat the leading imperialist state. The far right participants claimed U.S. and European Union hegemony exports multiculturalism, liberalism and “wokeness,” thus painting over ethnic, racial, and cultural differences and foiling countries like Russia, who they say are upholding “traditional values” like homophobia, transphobia and patriarchal dominance.
These are the narrative manipulation tactics which the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and the other finance capital-aligned outlets are going to employ should they ever have to defend mass raids against anti-imperialists. Platforming the narrow-minded view that a liberal reporter has of these groups, and acting like this reporter is objectively correct; presenting the pro-Russian stance held by socialist states and by global anti-colonial movements, and acting like there’s no way this stance could be worth taking seriously; implying that taking this stance necessarily aids fascists (the article’s theme is the far-right “seeking to exploit a fracture on the left over the war in Ukraine”).
The article’s author also deliberately doesn’t investigate the true nature of the groups that actually organized the event, acting like the bigotry of the far-righters who imposed themselves onto the event is compatible with the spaces these organizers cultivate. I’m part of the Rage Against the War Machine coalition’s group chat, and I can report such sentiments aren’t allowed to be normalized; if these reporters were truly interested in reporting on it, they would inquire about it to its members.
As soon as the biggest NATO-aligned media outlets have a reason to go after the anti-imperialist orgs and individuals, they’ll promote this same notion about how being consistent on opposing NATO inevitably empowers reactionary politics. And they could go even further than Truthout has; they could spread spurious rumors about anti-imperialist commentators and organizers secretly being tools for white supremacists, or for transphobic politicians.
This is the narrative that we’re already seeing get put forth by the Democratic Party’s infiltrators within Marxist social media spaces, and by their functional allies the ultra-lefts. A useful strategy for opportunists within these spaces is to spread paranoid ideas about LaRouchites and Strasserites being behind every person or group which doesn’t conform to the insular model of today’s conventional American “left.” These liberal-aligned “Marxists” seize upon any rumor, regardless of its veracity, in order to discredit those who seek to drive the anti-imperialist cause forward. The spaces where such activities take place are a testing location for the gargantuan attack against our cause that’s coming.
Such “red-brown alliance” smears would absolutely be directed towards us from the major media, and from the “progressive” Democrats, if we were to gain a far larger platform than we presently have; and MSNBC did attack us in such a way this year after the Rage Against the War Machine rally. Finance capital won’t wait for us to get enough influence to be able to sustain RAWM’s level of exposure, though; it wants to destroy the domestic anti-imperialist movement preemptively. The last thing finance capital needs amid a collapse of the American-led order, and an intensifying rivalry within the ruling class, is the emergence of a successful anti-imperialist and pro-worker movement.
Ideally, finance capital hopes to get victory over both industrial capital and the workers movement in one big maneuver; and if it can’t defeat industrial capital, it at least hopes to use the fight against industrial capital as an excuse for attacking the socialist and anti-imperialist cause.
This is what the liberal censors have been doing for years. After Trump won, big tech intensified its censorship of antiwar and class conscious media outlets; after January 6th, these tech platforms heavily censored Palestinians. With the 2024 election, and the threats it will bring of right-wing violence or extreme anti-trans policies, the liberals will have an opportunity to inflict unprecedented harm upon those who oppose NATO. Finance capital and its agents have already been raiding and indicting anti-imperialists, shuttering their websites, and slandering them as neo-Nazis to a vast audience with the hope of getting them murdered; the next step is to do these things to everyone involved in the struggle. And the way to justify this purge is by falsely linking the targets to fascism.
Then, when the liberals have destroyed this supposed fascist front, they’ll be able to better advance their own fascist policies: furthering austerity under an “environmental” guise, while continuing to turn the country into a big military base. The destruction of our living standards will keep accelerating. The workers will be kept too isolated from each other, and from any authentic sources of dissent, to assert their material interests. The tens of millions of people who are being forced to the economy’s margins will be ignored by the managers of our mainstream discourse, since according to the core ideology of modern liberalism, it would be better if they didn’t exist anyway.
Those of us who’ve absorbed the knowledge about how to fight the system will be dead, imprisoned, or intimidated into ending our political projects so that we can simply try to survive our grim economic environment. The narrative managers will be able to present the economy as much better than it actually is, while blaming Washington’s rivals for everything, without getting challenged on these deceptions. As the elites continue isolating themselves from the rest of the world, the workers and those on the margins will increasingly experience the perils of the climate crisis.
This future doesn’t need to happen. When we choose to reject the psyops of finance capital, we make that outcome less likely. What I experienced in the PSL circles was finance capital’s narrative agents exploiting the insular dynamic which can emerge within activism spaces; the dynamic where those involved in these circles come to lack self-awareness, and view any worker who deviates from their niche orthodoxy as a fascist. To stay within this mindset is to doom oneself; to fight against one’s own material interests as a worker. The working class movement in the imperial center must be based within a consistent anti-imperialist practice in order to succeed. And it can only survive the state’s retaliation by building a broad anti-imperialist network.
Through the collective efforts of those within this network, we can bring a majority of the people to an anti-imperialist consciousness, thereby winning the loyalty of the workers. In that scenario, however much finance capital’s media and politicians try to marginalize these workers and vilify them as “fascists,” we’ll still be in a place to overthrow the state. As any repressive measures the state implements at that stage will further incite the people, and further escalate our class conflict.
By Rainer Shea
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