The Worker

The imperialism-compatible “left” orgs are finding they can’t monopolize organizing spaces, or manage the discourse

Over fifty years ago, when the American capitalist state was trying to figure out how to respond to the rise of the country’s social movements, one of the U.S. communist movement’s great leaders Gus Hall warned about how the state could gain a winning amount of leverage. He identified the problem of petty-bourgeois radicalism, the ideology of dogmatic opportunism and idealism that’s come to dominate American activist circles. This way of thinking, due to its rejection of building a relationship with a majority of the people, is a useful tool the state can use to render radical movements ineffectual. All the ruling class needed to do was learn to weaponize petty-bourgeois radicalism against the effective elements of the workers movement, and the New Left would become an asset for the capitalist state.

This is what happened after Hall wrote his polemic against petty-bourgeois radicalism. Even though at that point the U.S. government was continuing to try to fight the New Left, the imperialist strategist Zbigniew Brzeziński argued that the correct response to the recent social movements was to use them against Marxism-Leninism and anti-imperialism. And this soon became the standard practice of the intelligence agencies, contributing both to the downfall of the Soviet Union and to the defeat of the USA’s communist movement. 

What the State Department did was use pseudo-radical front groups to take authentic class struggle out of the American left, instilling developing radicals with an attitude of commandism and insularity; they convinced those who consider themselves socialists to think they have nothing to learn from the people, staying within their niche circles and never expanding their outreach to the broader working class. Of course the feds love to propagate this ideology among socialists; it’s the perfect thing to embrace if you want your movement to never gain a chance of succeeding.

It was inevitable that at some point, the groups which represent this mode of practice would come into conflict with the political forces that seek to re-create the successes of the 20th U.S. communist movement. The more advanced the war against the working class has gotten; and the greater the mandate has become to make communism relevant again; the more likely it’s become that we’d see the working class create an alternative means of organizing. A means that’s outside the control of those orgs which operate according to the petty-bourgeois radical idea set, and which therefore can only offer the working class perpetual defeats. 

And consistently with Hall’s description of how petty-bourgeois radicals handle being challenged, these groups would react to this independent movement-building project like it threatens them; because as Hall observed, such authentic manifestations of working class anger are indeed a threat to these insular groups:

Petty-bourgeois radicalism as a concept is now in a serious crisis. Masses have moved to new levels of political consciousness and to higher forms of struggle. Generally, petty-bourgeois radical concepts go into a crisis when working-class concepts of struggle are on the ascendancy…Petty-bourgeois radicalism is a political trend. It is this political trend that is in a crisis. Militant currents, radical trends, the revolutionary process–these are not in a crisis. They are features of the mass upheavals. Marxism-Leninism is not in a crisis. It is the growing, the most consistent revolutionary current. It is not in a crisis because it reflects and is changing reality. It is the revolutionary current.

It’s the anti-NATO, anti-monopoly coalition that’s emerged in response to Biden’s Ukraine proxy war which represents one of those working class concepts of struggle. Its practice of building an antiwar movement beyond the “left” activist niche, and thereby making the labor movement no longer controlled by the Democratic Party, is how we can defeat the project to neutralize socialism which Brzeziński started. 

If constructing alliances with the parts of the anti-NATO movement which leftist circles see as untouchable is what we need to do to liberate the class struggle from dogmatic opportunism, we should be glad to do this; and these other anti-imperialist formations have many correct ideas which we can’t find from the conventional sources of “leftism.” For instance, it’s in orgs like CPI and PCUSA where we can find support for Russia’s anti-fascist military operation among U.S. communists; the rest of the country’s communist movement refuses to back Russia in the conflict.

This is why these pro-Russia, pro-solidarity communist formations also represent the current which is most consistent with Marxism-Leninism. Even though Marxism-Leninism did reach a crisis in the late 20th century due to the historical nihilism which infected the leadership of the Soviet bloc, Marxism-Leninism is now most prominently led by a party whose leaders are both building unprecedented global power for socialism, and have learned from the USSR’s mistakes. 

This party is the one which rules the PRC, and whose interests most directly align with the pro-Russia stance that the communists within the anti-NATO coalition share. Russia’s decision to defy the hegemon in Ukraine has been overall beneficial to socialist China because it’s forced more of the world to choose between Washington and Beijing; and most of the world, chiefly the formerly colonized world, has gotten closer to Beijing. “Acute supply chain decoupling, the crescendo of western hysteria over Beijing’s position on the war in Ukraine, and serious setbacks on Chinese investments in the west all play on the development of BRI 2.0,” Pepe Escobar has observed about this last year’s resurgence in the progress of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. If you want to support China, you need to support Russia too. And only the formations which have broken from the conventional American “left” are able to understand this.

There’s a reason why all the U.S. communist orgs which oppose Russia’s action have also opposed the anti-NATO coalition, whereas all the ones which back Russia have joined the coalition: one side in this ideological conflict wants to maintain the domination of petty-bourgeois radicalism within activist spaces, while the other wants to try something new. Or rather to try a practice which is actually the older one, being based within the successes of 20th century U.S. communism, but which feels new when compared to the tired practice the conventional modern left utilizes. Insularity, pessimism, and dogmatism have been the default leftist mentalities for generations, and those stuck within these mindsets don’t know anything else. 

Many more of these leftists would break from this practice; and embrace the modern version of the effective practice which Hall represented; if they weren’t being influenced by leftist spaces which are collectively hostile towards questioning the left’s conventions. A big reason why more socialists haven’t come to the pro-Russia, pro-coalition stance by now is that they’re constantly exposed to propaganda designed to make the anti-NATO coalition’s members look like fascists. This is the smear that the petty-bourgeois radicals are using to try to dissuade activists from abandoning them, and joining a project which seriously threatens our ruling institutions.

We won’t be able to get everyone to reject these anti-solidarity narratives, but socialism’s victory doesn’t depend on convincing everyone within the left spaces. It depends on winning the support of the people, which is often as easy as nurturing working class anti-imperialist impulses. The need to defeat NATO is a useful thing we can employ to appeal to the workers; the next step is to educate them further in revolutionary theory, and mobilize them towards overthrowing the state.


By Rainer Shea

The imperialism-compatible “left” orgs are finding they can’t monopolize organizing spaces, or manage the discourse (

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