By Rainer Shea – Jun 26, 2023
The class struggle in this country—which encapsulates not just the labor movement but the Native sovereignty movement, the Black liberation movement, the LGBT movement, etc—is experiencing a crisis of leadership at the time when it needs leadership most. The opportunism of the “left” organizations has put the communities most vulnerable to fascist terror in danger of being unable to defend themselves when our class conflict escalates, and when the reactionaries try to carry out a purge. The big cities, despite having the largest numbers of revolutionary-compatible people, are to remain at risk of such a violent campaign. Or at least they’ll remain at risk for as long as the left opportunist groups are allowed to keep their monopoly over organizing spaces within the urban areas.
The big cities are naturally where the spontaneous revolts are the biggest and most concentrated. Simply due to the size of their populations, the U.S. military has effectively said that it fears having to fight off domestic rebels within America’s megacities. The Pentagon’s strategists know just 1% of a big city’s people would represent massive numbers on the rebellion’s side. Yet if we put our faith in the country’s most prominent “socialist” orgs, this scenario where the people can exploit the U.S. army’s counterinsurgency weaknesses within megacities will never come. Because those in the impoverished majority of the country’s urban centers can’t become part of a seriously threatening rebellion effort until a vanguard has emerged to organize and educate them. And the major orgs that claim to be able to take on such a leadership role are not serious about doing so.
I’m talking about not just the DSA, which any educated Marxist-Leninist knows is blatantly pro-reformist, but about CPUSA, FRSO, PSL, and smaller Democrat tailist orgs like Socialist Party of America. It’s not a coincidence that those first four orgs have been repeatedly referenced by imperialism-compatible leftists as either functioning within a coalition, or capable of becoming a coalition. They’re theoretically compatible in this way because they all share an important trait: willingness to let the sentiments of liberals influence their practice.
Each of them have denounced Russia’s military action against Ukrainian fascism and U.S. hegemony, because even though they claim to oppose imperialism, they’ll never break from the view that defeating U.S. hegemony is secondary to stopping supposed “imperialism” or “aggression” from countries like Russia. This view is motivated, at least in part, by a desire to exclusively appeal to liberals. As liberals are the only element of the people who are ideologically committed to opposing Russia. Who can never be brought to a consistently anti-imperialist position, due to their investment in bourgeois politics.
From this belief that liberals have the most revolutionary potential, so much that all other demographics should effectively not be treated like priorities in our outreach, comes a practice that renders these orgs incapable of leading the people to victory. There’s a reason why a new equivalent of the Black Panther Party, which successfully brought great numbers of people from U.S. imperialism’s internal colonies into a principled communist org, still hasn’t emerged. It’s because the liberal tailist parties could become that new BPP any time they like, yet choose at every opportunity to continue doing what will let them keep favor within the “left” spaces. Spaces which incentivize their members not to do what a serious dialectical analysis would tell them to do, but to do what’s needed for fitting in.
What strategic change would transform these orgs from a coalition of liberal tailists, to a coalition that helps cultivate the vanguard? That change would be to start collaborating with the parts of the anti-NATO movement which aren’t on the “left,” and which are therefore both non-insular and more principled on anti-imperialism. This is what pro-Russian communist orgs like PCUSA have done, and it’s the equivalent of when the Panthers collaborated with white proletarian groups via the Rainbow Coalition. When communists embrace the united front strategy, and refuse to be insular in which types of people they reach out to, they both become able to build a relationship with the people and become free to act more principled. Tailing liberals incentivizes one to act unprincipled.
An org that acts totally unaccountable to the liberal activists (and pseudo-activists) who seek to gatekeep the class struggle, and adopts the mindset that it must appeal to the people as a whole, will feel comfortable with being consistent in its anti-imperialism. As well as in its opposition to the Democratic Party, in its commitment to physically equipping its cadres, and in every other area where one can be tempted to compromise when trying to appease liberals.
The left opportunist orgs would sooner denounce the pro-Russian orgs than join with the united anti-NATO front. And increasingly, that’s what they’re doing. PSL is the one that’s most notably targeted the Rage Against the War Machine coalition, revealing its willingness to participate in the types of sectarian attacks that members of these other orgs habitually direct towards groups like PCUSA. And if they’re willing to hurt the anti-imperialist movement for the sake of opportunism, it’s clear they lack the integrity required to lead the people.
The problem isn’t even necessarily that the established “left” orgs in this country are too moderate, or too ambivalent on geopolitics; I would be glad to work with them if they were to enter into the anti-NATO united front. The Green Party has entered into this front despite the party’s non-Marxist character, and that’s fine, because a united front by definition doesn’t have to be ideologically pure. The biggest problem is that these other left groups have shown they prefer to direct unprincipled criticisms towards pro-Russian communists, and to try to discredit the notion of a united front.
Orgs that do this will never win the people, because they’ve shown they’re not interested in winning the people. That would require them giving up their sectarianism and left opportunism, so that they no longer contribute to the needless divisions which COINTELPRO seeks to perpetuate. Divisions that have kept the workers movement from successfully building a relationship with the people for half a century. These divisions have been so destructive for revolutionary progress both because of the effects they’ve had (keeping different elements of the struggle from collaborating), and because of the liberal mentalities within our organizing spaces that they’ve been symptomatic of.
A “socialist” org that views its task as a competition for who can gain the most donations and email subscribers will only reach so far into the masses, because it will be satisfied as soon as it becomes well-established enough. We’ve seen this with the PSL, which consistently tries to interfere in the affairs of its adjacent groups such as the Peace and Freedom Party. I’ve personally seen the ways in which PSL treats PFP branches as synonymous with its own branches, despite PFP’s constitution not saying anything that indicates this is how it should be run. And I’ve seen the kinds of prescriptions PSL gives those under its domineering control, those being to act apathetic about mass work and to become insular. Under its non-consensual leadership, our branch for a while became relegated to holding screenings, neglecting all work that would have given us the slightest bit of true power.
I know that my former PFP branch’s experience with PSL was not an isolated example, and that these kinds of self-imposed limitations are normal for it, simply from looking at the ways it and other orgs like it act on a national scale. Even when it doesn’t look as bad as it did in my case, they don’t seek to become active agents in history, especially when it comes to leading the anti-NATO movement. They only hold rallies in response to preexisting spontaneous mass activity, like during last year’s abortion protests, and then cease such activities until they again become opportune.
The only reason PSL and its adjacent orgs held this year’s March antiwar rally was because they didn’t want to look bad in comparison to RAWM, which had proven itself to be genuinely counter-hegemonic by receiving concerted attacks from the empire’s narrative managers. PSL did not try to sustain this January’s Tyre Nichols protests, it simply let them run out of energy after collecting as many benefits from them as it could. When it comes to taking risks; to investing energy and resources into projects that could make them into serious targets, and will benefit the class struggle rather than their short-term self-interests; these kinds of orgs don’t show up.
The alternative to the left opportunists that RAWM’s communist flank is building has much progress to make before it can become a vanguard. Orgs like PCUSA will need to expand their union presence, to the point where a significant proportion of the workers in the big cities are involved. This won’t have to mean them growing their membership to the millions. The Bolsheviks were a small org which won power by building enough of a relationship with the existing labor institutions, and training their own members well enough, that they could maneuver towards taking control of the state after the revolution came.
This had necessitated them forming a united front with the other ideological elements which shared their interests, whether in the long-term or momentarily. They couldn’t afford to close themselves off from the reactionary trade unions, or to preemptively alienate the majority of the Russian people by publicly ranting about how reactionary the people were. That they were surrounded by contradictions didn’t compel them to act foolishly, and lash out against anybody who wasn’t presently within their circle. That’s how modern American leftists tend to act.
The Bolsheviks had to be hard-headed, only doing what the conditions mandated them to do. So is not the case for the left opportunists, who build followings within niche circles, denounce the people as a great amorphous bad, and then use the many likes they gain from saying this as evidence that they don’t need to change their thinking. The “popularity” that you can gain from being a left influencer or org is limited to a minority of society. A minority that’s detached from the majority, enough for those within these circles to often have the view that most Americans are labor aristocrats. These are the types of unserious individuals who our “left” orgs are trying to attract, with the intent of leaving their anti-materialist views about the people and about geopolitics unchallenged.
Because Marxists can’t simply generate a new Black Panther Party out of pure will, we’ll have to build what we can with what we have. Building a substantial relationship between Marxists and the unions will no doubt be a big part of this. Because the factor that gives the people the ability to make their spontaneous outrage coherent, that lets them defeat the state rather than carry out riots which go nowhere, will be the construction of a mass organizing presence. One that can mobilize them to fulfill the roles in the state’s overthrow that the people have traditionally taken on, such as mass strikes. Only with such participation from a great number of the people can we, the minority within the cadres, effectively fulfill our own roles in the state’s demise.