Those who understand the volatile nature of the anarchy of production; and how this volatility brings more destruction the further along capitalism is in its decay; know that a disruption is coming to our economy which will be larger than the one from 2008. The acceleration in our living standards decline that’s been occurring throughout the last three years, produced by pandemic mismanagement and by a war-exacerbated inflation crisis, has already brought a big disruption to the conditions of the workers. But these events haven’t come from a collapse within the financial system itself, which is the development that we could anticipate prior to Covid or to Ukraine.
Our financial order, made more concentrated and dangerous than ever by the Wall Street bailouts, still has yet to reach the point of unprecedented disarray that was foreshadowed at the end of The Big Short; the film only needed to point out that the structural practices which produced the last collapse are still defining the system, and we could understand that 2008 won’t be the worst crisis we’ll see in our lifetime.
Such an awareness that the economic crises of the 21st century exponentially increase in their severity; and that this destructive process is unavoidable as long as capitalism continues; is shared among anyone who has as much as a proto-class consciousness. Everyone knows our living standards crisis is destined to accelerate, that fact in itself isn’t helpful to talk about. What can truly advance the class struggle; what can provide workers with the tools to successfully combat our ruling institutions; is an analysis of the obstacles the system has created towards our victory. We need to study which types of weapons the ruling class is using against the workers movement, and how we can preemptively counter the next maneuvers of our class enemies.
The primary weapon of the ruling class is fascism; or, in our situation, particularly a liberal kind of fascism. A fascism that primarily gains support for its anti-revolutionary actions through appealing not to backwards sentiments, but to “progressive” ones. In 21st century America, a majority of the people are not able to be brought into the paranoid obsessions of the reactionary culture war, whose leaders get their sense of credibility by posturing as brave voices of dissent. Even though a majority of Americans at present aren’t socially progressive in a consistent way, the Democratic Party and the “leftists” who tail it are able to hold a dominant cultural power; a power they get by claiming to be the only ones who disadvantaged groups, such as trans people, can rely upon for protection. The “left” side of the culture war can weaponize highly influential discourse management tools, namely social media, against anyone who challenges their pro-imperialist politics.
I talk about these culture war tools of the “left” in an essay about economic crises not because I seek to discredit the socially progressive positions; I share these positions, and I condemn the anti-trans campaign that the reactionaries are waging. I talk about the left-wing side of the culture war because as much as its representatives claim to be allies for progress, it’s the “left” that’s been the primary hindrance towards our gaining leverage in the class war since 2008.
The post-2008 depression has represented a great opportunity for building new working class systems of power, like how the USA’s communists were able to do during the Great Depression. Except an equivalent of those 20th century communist institutions doesn’t exist today, so the only “radical” outlets disillusioned young workers have been able to find are ones which reinforce the Democratic Party’s dominance. As a consequence, left politics during the social media era (which emerged at the same time as the 2008 crisis) has been defined by a disconnect between the nature of the online discourses, and the conditions of the real world.
At the same time that anarchists and Democrat tailists have built niche, highly vocal online communities dedicated to attacking Marxists and anti-imperialists, our ruling class has been assailing working people with the most cruel policies of the neoliberal era. Today’s “radical” politics are designed to absorb individuals who’ve started to become class conscious into a toxic, insular environment; an environment where they become incentivized not to advance the class struggle, but to target those who are truly committed to this struggle. All the while, exploitation gets ever more severe, and ever more are driven to the economy’s margins.
The problem isn’t that what we call the “left” has simply failed to stop the right; such a view minimizes the true extent that the Democrats, and those adjacent to them, have betrayed the class struggle. The vile reality is that the Democratic Party, as well as our major “left” orgs which seek to court Democrat NGOs, have become the primary drivers of U.S. imperialism’s war operations. Which, despite how much liberals try to act like domestic and international issues can be separated, means they’ve been acting as the main obstacles towards the workers struggle.
At this stage in the class war, this is the most important lesson which developing radicals need to internalize: that the default outlets for “socialist” organizing in the modern USA are fundamentally compatible with our liberal cultural hegemony. This is because they invest more time and effort into the culture war, than into the anti-imperialist practices which seriously threaten our ruling institutions. And when they do focus on anti-imperialism, they present anti-imperialism in a truncated way that’s designed to be more palatable to liberals.
You’ll never see these types of groups join the existing socialist countries, and the Global South’s liberation movements, in backing the anti-fascist struggle of the Russian people. And the authentically counter-hegemonic U.S. orgs which do take this position, such as the African People’s Socialist Party (otherwise called Uhuru), are regarded by the compatible left with derision. If a group doesn’t act the way “leftists” are supposed to act, the members of the “left” clique reject them, and seek to portray them as ineffectual for not having institutional backing. In reality, it’s the entities that do have institutional backing which we should be wary of; as under our conditions, the only groups which receive this support are ones compatible with the ruling class ideology. They can only be as “effective” as the centers of power are comfortable with them being.
In a time when liberal fascism is intensifying its efforts to suppress pro-Russian groups like Uhuru, the anti-solidarity mindset towards these groups which prevails within the “left” must be rejected by all who are sincere in wanting to advance the class struggle. These groups are building a force that could become capable of overthrowing the capitalist state, but only if they manage to survive, and to continue developing. All who are committed to combating our ruling institutions have to come together, and make sure we have the alliances, resources, and training to be able to overcome liberal fascism’s attacks.
These attacks don’t only exist in the form of state repression; they also take the form of physical vigilante assaults. Assaults which can come not just from the groups that are furthest to the right, like the neo-Nazis or the Proud Boys, but also from those that are furthest to the “left”; namely the fed-controlled elements within “antifa” that classify communists as “fascists.” In the last couple of years, we’ve seen these kinds of “leftist” anti-communist groups start to cross that boundary into physical antagonism, and the anarchist online communities have overall voiced approval for these anti-revolutionary crimes.
International monopoly capital is willing to utilize any ideology that’s capable of advancing its goals within the class war, regardless of whether that ideology is rightist or “leftist.” And this is what developing radicals need to understand: just because someone claims to be “leftist” or even “communist,” doesn’t mean they can’t be controlled opposition. To be able to trust someone in the class war, you need to look at how they act, and at how our ruling institutions respond to their actions.
If a person or org isn’t being targeted with scandal-mongering, infiltration, or state repression, especially to the extent that orgs like Uhuru have been, they’re not a genuine threat to our liberal cultural hegemony. Which means they’re not a reliable ally in the class war, and will waste your time at best or actively harm you at worst. The more the class war escalates, the greater the cost becomes of choosing the wrong ones to align with. Let our mistakes from this last decade or so teach us how to avoid helping controlled opposition groups at critical junctures in the struggle.
By Rainer Shea
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