Above: members of the African People’s Socialist Party on the stage of an event held by Caleb Maupin’s Center for Political Innovation
The effects that Washington’s Ukraine proxy war has had on the global class struggle aren’t going away simply because the conflict is now bringing fatigue to the American people, and the empire has to start abandoning its puppet regime on Kiev. This is a development whose impacts on both the global capitalist order, and the worldwide socialist movement, are permanent. The backfiring of Biden’s geopolitical gamble has accelerated the decline of U.S. hegemony, while irreversibly worsening capitalism’s crises. And even if the imperialists had won their latest economic and military battles with Russia, we still would have seen the Ukraine-related events that have recently reshaped the world’s communist forces. Those events being the decision by most communists to side with Russia; and the decision by the imperialist-aligned minority among them to forsake solidarity with Russia’s anti-fascist struggle.
All the socialist parties around the world that are intensely involved in the fight against U.S. hegemony have come to back Russia, and their support has gotten more solid as time has gone on. The leaders of the DPRK, the PRC, socialist-led Nicaragia, and as of this year Cuba have felt compelled to make statements affirming their alignment with Russia in the conflict. Within the Global South movements that aren’t influenced by Washington’s soft power network, support for Russia is seen as the default stance; from an American perspective, it may feel incredible that the participants in the recent anti-colonial revolutions of Africa’s Sehal region have been flying Russian flags. But on their side within the system of global exploitation and imperialist violence, it’s simply logical to align oneself with NATO’s biggest sources of opposition.
Whatever “leftist” or “Marxist” forces throughout the Global South that disavow Russia (or oppose Russian partners like China) are ones which are based within petty-bourgeois radicalism; that seek to replicate the opportunistic model of the left within the exploiting countries, where unserious “socialist” groups can find support from a niche of students, intelligentsia members, and now social media circles. It’s these places that are often associated with purity-fetishizing, dogmatic currents of leftism, like Trotskyism and Maoism. And with the trend towards military leaders taking power so they can defy the liberal global order, such academic projects for normalizing American-style leftism across the Global South are failing.
In the exploiting countries, though, the unserious elements that lead socialists towards the anti-Russian stance continue to dominate. Which has created a conflict between them, and the minority of socialists in America and Europe who share the Global South’s predominant view of the new cold war.
In Europe, the divide is often based on country, since historically Soviet-aligned places like Serbia are where the support for Russia is overwhelmingly found; and in these countries, the number of people who are hoping for Russia to win is in the millions. In the USA, though, support for Russia is more marginal, if only because the country’s traditional Marxist movement got replaced by the anti-materialist “New Left” decades ago. America’s pro-Russian communists are in a situation where they have to try to rebuild the old labor movement; that doesn’t mean they aren’t threats to the system, though.
The imperialism-compatible left is vulnerable to losing its dominance to something more appealing; this is because it represents an innately ineffective type of practice, whereas the pro-Russian orgs are offering something with genuine hope. And the compatible left has already handicapped itself in terms of its ability to gain popular support, desiring solely to appeal to a “left” niche as opposed to the broader working class. So the anti-Russian leftists are having to try to keep their opponents marginalized, hoping that through scandal-mongering, they can prevent the pro-Russian groups from building a relationship with the people.
This scandal-mongering is centered around portraying all who challenge conventional “leftism” as agents of the far right. The sensationalist hoaxes that have been constructed to attack the Party of Communists USA, as well as CPI, are instrumental parts of this; because if the left’s gatekeepers can make these two significant pro-Russian orgs appear bad to the average person, then they can create a divide between the main parts of our popular movements, and the pro-Russian elements of the communist movement.
This narrative manipulation tactic has succeeded at keeping most leftists alienated from most of the anti-NATO movement, but it hasn’t been able to convince the organizers who are seriously invested in anti-imperialism. The African People’s Socialist Party has allied with CPI, even though the party doesn’t share CPI’s patriotic socialist stance; and there are many other people and groups which share APSP’s non-sectarian attitude.
In fact, if we were to bring a majority of the people into the anti-imperialist movement, almost none of them would be compelled by the anti-solidarity arguments of the compatible left; the compatible left is designed to fill a particular role, that being the gatekeeper of a niche space. And serious Marxists are capable of building a movement far beyond that space, making the compatible left a tiny political force in comparison. It’s because of this need to connect with a majority of the people that so many non-patriotic socialists have decided to join with patriotic socialists, and with other anti-imperialists to the right of them, in an anti-NATO coalition. That this coalition is where we can find the most conscious elements of the workers (as in the workers who’ve come to the anti-imperialist stance) means unity with this coalition’s members is paramount; and APSP understands this.
The compatible left seeks to perpetuate a divide between orgs like CPI and APSP not just through spurious arguments which “prove” formations like CPI to secretly be far-right; but by getting Marxists to forget Lenin’s lesson about coalition-building. Even if any of the groups within the Rage Against the War Machine coalition can truly be considered “reactionary” (and note that “reactionary” means when someone opposes the most important parts of historical progression, which none of these orgs are are doing due to their acting against NATO), Lenin still concluded that revolutionaries should work in reactionary spaces when this objectively progresses the class struggle. Wrote Lenin:
This ridiculous “theory” that Communists should not work in reactionary trade unions reveals with the utmost clarity the frivolous attitude of the “Left” Communists towards the question of influencing the “masses”, and their misuse of clamour about the “masses”. If you want to help the “masses” and win the sympathy and support of the “masses”, you should not fear difficulties, or pinpricks, chicanery, insults and persecution from the “leaders” (who, being opportunists and social-chauvinists, are in most cases directly or indirectly connected with the bourgeoisie and the police), but must absolutely work wherever the masses are to be found. You must be capable of any sacrifice, of overcoming the greatest obstacles, in order to carry on agitation and propaganda systematically, perseveringly, persistently and patiently in those institutions, societies and associations—even the most reactionary—in which proletarian or semi-proletarian masses are to be found. The trade unions and the workers’ co-operatives (the latter sometimes, at least) are the very organisations in which the masses are to be found.
If the Bolsheviks were able to work in spaces with actors like that, all pro-Russian Marxists in today’s USA should be able to unite with the other kinds of pro-Russian Marxists; as well as with the libertarians or other non-left actors who’ve come to mainly prioritize anti-imperialist organizing. Most of the people I’m talking about don’t even match Lenin’s description of the opportunists and social-chauvinists within the reactionary trade unions, because antiwar spaces tend to be more progressive than unions.
The members of the RAWM organizing coalition, who I personally know, have in fact needed to forsake an opportunist path to be able to get where they are now. Their goal is not to profit from what they’re doing, but foremost to damage NATO; even if this badly impacts their careers, harms their reputation, or brings state retaliation upon them. And where opportunistic or social-chauvinist actors do attach themselves to anti-imperialist spaces, remember again that Lenin said we shouldn’t let such contradictions keep us from reaching the people. The people are who we’re here to build a relationship with, and they should be the thing we care about; not whether we’re passing a purity test created by bad faith critics.
The essence of the reasoning these critics use to try to discredit the anti-NATO coalition is the idea that we shouldn’t act like U.S. hegemony is the primary global contradiction. That we can expect to defeat the American capitalist state, while wilfully making ourselves insufficiently equipped to fight against the global power structure which does the most to keep this state strong. And this necessity of doing all we can to combat NATO isn’t just about our inherent responsibility as residents of the imperial center to help end our government’s global crimes; it’s also about how keeping pro-imperialist ideas normalized within organizing spaces is the way the Democratic Party maintains its monopoly over these spaces. Uniting the pro-Russian forces is instrumental towards workers victory; don’t be convinced against this by opportunistic actors who don’t truly care about our cause.
By Rainer Shea
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