By Rainer Shea – Apr 18, 2021
Imperialism is ferocious. For as long as imperialism exists, and its supporting bourgeois and fascist tendencies haven’t been eliminated from history, its agents will constantly look for ways to undo progress towards liberation from its grasp. This means that while fighting against imperialism and the power structures which keep it in place, we can’t afford to play our cards wrong. Not while the imperialist powers and the bourgeoisie still control most of the world’s geopolitical influence, state apparatuses, and productive forces. And the dictatorship of the proletariat — which is to say proletarian democracy — is our best hope for defeating these reactionary forces.
Examining the most successful example of an anticapitalist project that isn’t a DOTP
The victims of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism haven’t struggled for their liberation according to a monolithic set of revolutionary theories, and there are revolutionaries who’ve succeeded to a certain extent that aren’t Marxist-Leninists. As the Zapatistas have written about the ideological nature of their seizure of land from the capitalist Mexican government: “The EZLN and its larger populist body the FZLN are NOT Anarchist. Nor do we intend to be, nor should we be. In order for us to make concrete change in our social and political struggles, we cannot limit ourselves by adhering to a singular ideology. Our political and military body encompasses a wide range of belief systems from a wide range of cultures that cannot be defined under a narrow ideological microscope. There are anarchists in our midst, just as there are Catholics and Communists and followers of Santeria. We are Indians in the countryside and workers in the city.” (For context, in this statement they’re responding to a polemic from a white anarchist who accused them of not acting in line with anarchist ideals.)
The Zapatistas deserve credit for this success at biting off territory from the imperialists. But the principally white anarchist ideologues who seek to use the Zapatistas as a rhetorical tool for discrediting Marxism-Leninism are helping to sabotage the wider anti-imperialist struggle, to give the imperialists an opening for carrying out further global counterrevolution.
This is because despite being the best current working example of an anti-capitalist system which isn’t based around Marxism-Leninism, the system of the Zapatistas can for now only exist within a very limited range. In the same statement, the Zapatistas acknowledge this limitation of their system, stating: “We may be ‘fundamentally reformist’ and may be working for ‘nothing concrete that could not be provided for by capitalism’ but rest assured that food, land, democracy, justice and peace are terribly precious when you don’t have them…Precious enough to work for with whatever tools we have before us, be it negotiations with the State or networking within popular culture.”
If the most successful anticapitalist movement which isn’t building a dictatorship of the proletariat admits that such severe constraints exist upon its potential for gaining power, anarchism — which as the Zapatistas themselves state doesn’t even constitute the system they’ve built — has utterly failed to prove itself to be a viable route towards taking power from imperialism. Anarchism can’t lay claim to carrying out the achievements of the EZLN, which as the EZLN admits are still constrained to a situation where they have to negotiate with the settler-colonial Mexican state indefinitely.
Given these facts, anarchism has utterly failed to sustainably seize territory from the imperialists and the bourgeoisie, and the most that the EZLN’s ideologically untethered anti-capitalism can so far achieve is the highly compromised situation that they describe. (Though the Zapatistas have been gaining control over many new pockets of land in recent years.) Casting aside Marxism-Leninism, and assuming that anarchism or the ideology of the Zapatistas represent an adequate replacement for it, is folly.
The system that’s proven itself capable of taking entire continents away from imperial control, of depriving the bourgeoisie of state power on a scale vastly larger than even the most effective non-Marxist anticapitalist movement, is the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Zapatistas, for all their achievements, have so far managed to only gain control over much of the Mexican state of Chiapas, an area roughly the size of Southern California. The possibility of an anticapitalist system that isn’t Marxist-Leninist taking control over an entire country remains only a theoretical one. But the dictatorship of the proletariat has long fulfilled this goal.
The DOTP’s unparalleled success at shrinking capitalism & imperialism’s reach
This is because the dictatorship of the proletariat, and its guiding ideology of Marxism-Leninism, bases its approach towards anti-colonial and class liberation around an all-important question: how to wrest as much territory and productive forces from imperialism and the bourgeoisie as possible?
In the cases of proletariat dictatorships like China, the answer to this question has been to first seize as much territory as feasible away from the imperialists and the bourgeoisie, then build up the productive forces enough for the imperialists to not be able to economically strangulate the liberated country with sanctions. By building up their industrial strength via Deng Xiaoping Theory, which calls for China’s dictatorship of the proletariat to utilize markets to make itself rich, China has lifted all of its people out of extreme poverty while making it impossible for Washington’s economic warfare to economically crush them. This represents an unprecedented gain for Marxism-Leninism, one which partly makes up for the losses that the movement underwent when the USSR was defeated; if the imperialists now can’t crush China like they did the USSR, Marxism-Leninism has become stronger than ever.
Plus, Russia may be down, but it’s not out. Three-fourths of Russia’s people still think that the Soviet era was the greatest time in their country’s history, making for a good culture for Marxism-Leninism to take back power when the contradictions of Russian capitalism inevitably grow too great for the masses to tolerate. The fall of the Soviet bloc represented only a temporary retreat for Marxism-Leninism, one which occurred only because the USSR’s leadership strayed from the path of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
As Kim Jong Il assessed about the post-Stalin leaders of the USSR, “they neglected class education and abandoned the class struggle. After assuming state power, Khrushchev weakened the function of the dictatorship of the state as a weapon of the class struggle. As a result, socialism could not be defended in the Soviet Union.” Since today’s remaining socialist states China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and the DPRK have avoided the same type of ideological corrosion, the mistakes that led to the Soviet bloc’s demise can absolutely be avoided by present and future Marxist-Leninist governments.
While not all peoples are taking the Marxist route towards national liberation, Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat have already been established as the predominant routes towards freeing the oppressed and the exploited. With the victories of Marxism-Leninism in Vietnam and Laos during the 1970s, the temporary fall of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet bloc represented a shift of Marxism-Leninism’s principal activity towards the more southern parts of Eurasia. And this growth for the movement within that region is becoming increasingly apparent, with India’s growing class tensions revealing mass support for communism among people like the country’s striking farmers. India will likely be one of the next countries to become a workers democracy, and it will likely be followed by other countries that are suffering under neo-colonialism such as Haiti, Chile, and Colombia.
Then, amid capitalism and imperialism’s thorough decay, the core imperialist countries will undergo the same types of socialist revolutions. This bright future for the class and anti-colonial liberation movements is before us, so long as we can stop the forces of counterrevolution from sabotaging the Marxist-Leninist movement.
Demonization of Marxism-Leninism serves only to strengthen the capitalist reaction
Any anarchists (or even Maoists) reading this might by now have the urge to object to my praise for the existing socialist states, to call me a revisionist, an apologist for “totalitarianism,” or whatever other insult that gets provoked by pointing out the importance of supporting today’s socialist projects. And the fact that so much of the left within the imperialist countries doesn’t recognize the importance of this kind of international revolutionary solidarity, and instead seeks to vilify existing socialist states and those who support them, shows the prevalence of the counterrevolutionary thinking that our pro-imperialist ideological hegemony has produced.
I’m far from the first one to worry about the damage that the vilification of socialist projects causes. While writing about the factions of the U.S. left, Michael Parenti has assessed that in addition to the social democrats, there’s also
…a more ideologically oriented component of the left composed mostly of Trotskyists, anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, “libertarian socialists” and others who will not figure in this discussion given their small numbers and intense sectarian immersion. What they all have in common is an obsessional anti-communism, a dedication to fighting imaginary hordes of “Stalinists” whom they see everywhere, and with denouncing existing communist nations and parties. In this they resemble many centrists, social democrats, and liberals….It wasn’t the leftists or rightists who waged a war against Yugoslavia, with its repeated bombings of civilian populations and its military assistance to ex-Nazi Croatian and Muslim Bosnian separatists. It was that paragon of centrism Bill Clinton and all the centrists and moderate liberals who stood shoulder to shoulder with him and with NATO and the CIA (along with a gaggle of those anarchists and Trotskists I mentioned earlier who convinced themselves that the destruction of the Yugoslavian social democracy was a blow against Stalinist communism).
So many more examples can be found of these anti-communist sectarian leftists reinforcing the narratives used by imperialism to undermine socialism, or the global anti-imperialist movement in general. As Dash The Internet Marxist explains in an excellent and comprehensive essay, the leading intellectual of the “libertarian” left Noam Chomsky has tried to discredit Marxism by equating it to an “organized religion,” dishonestly smeared Lenin as a right-wing dictator, opposed nearly all the socialist revolutions of the 20th century for their “authoritarian” nature, and started vilifying Maduro during these recent years when Washington’s coup efforts against Venezuela have intensified, to the consequence that “When Morales needed the support the most from the libertarian left, it overwhelmingly failed to materialize (Chomsky’s attacks on Maduro resulted in many of those libertarian leftists distancing themselves or even abandoning what was left of the Chavez-movement).”
At the same time that these “libertarian” leftists have vilified virtually every successful anti-imperialist movement in history, they’ve glorified Rojava as a shining example of the kind of revolution that the “authoritarian” socialists have failed to attain. As Dash explains, this fact exposes the hypocrisy of these “libertarians”:
We have to take a special aside for one of Chomsky’s worst pet projects, insufferable and increasingly irredeemable, the horrible Shtriga of Bookchinist thought that is Rojava… Rojava has become the overprotected, overchampioned, mollycoddled darling of the libertarian left for the past decade. This unbridled love affair has left them utterly blind (intentionally or not) to the vast array of atrocities and crimes of the Rojavans, and their ongoing participation and cooperation with the fucking evil galactic empire that is the United States. Should America have ever gotten it’s war with Iran, we would have expected to see the Rojavans used as cannon fodder for the Iranian cannons. And in “upholding their democracy,” the Rojavans have engaged in: ethnic cleansing, brutal repression, looting, cultural erasure and more, mostly targeted at Assyrians, Arabs, and Armenians. Many of the Rojavan war crimes have gotten to the point where they begin to look considerably worse than the crimes for which we were supposed to hate and abandon Bashir al-Assad in the first place!
These are the forces of reaction and imperialist destabilization that are supported by the “libertarian” left’s most obnoxious progenitors. They’re reflective of NATO’s past operations to bomb and carve up Yugoslavia for neoliberal plunder in the name of fighting “Stalinism,” and they’re reflective of NATO’s planned operations to Balkanize and terrorize China by manufacturing an Islamic jihadist proxy warfare state called “East Turkestan” within Xinjiang. It’s no surprise that today’s leftwing anti-communists have joined in on the CIA’s campaign to manufacture consent for the latter project, propagating discredited claims about the Communist Party of China committing a “genocide” against the Uyghurs.
What I’ve learned from looking at the arguments of people like Chomsky is that we shouldn’t be shocked at the “libertarian” left’s disinterest in a materialist analysis, because their arguments are based not in facts but in emotions. Using smears against communist movements and parties as justification, they appeal to an emotionally charged desire for “freedom,” to a fear that the “authoritarian” communists will take away your hopes for a happy life by bringing you a job, a reliable social support system, a vote in a truly democratic order, and safety from imperialist destabilization.
These underminers of communism have no shortage of talking points, as Chomsky shows. But in the end, if you listen to them, they’re going to lead you into the same places that they’ve led people in the past: towards an ideological undermining of proletarian revolution with the consequence of bourgeois rule being fortified, towards imperialist destabilization that leaves nations destroyed and vulnerable to brutal exploitation, and towards the establishment of “libertarian socialist” states that in reality function as proxy instruments for imperialist brutality. Avoid these nightmares by working towards the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Featured image: The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, where the last bastion of socialism in Europe was destroyed