Statement on the Lynching of George Floyd and the Minneapolis Uprising

Struggle for a New World strongly condemns the brutal and inhumane police murder of George Floyd, committed by Officer Derek Chauvin, with the aid of other officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, on May 25, 2020. This on-camera murder of an Afro-American man, already handcuffed and on the ground, is only the latest in a long line of legal lynchings. We salute the ongoing popular resistance and community self-defense actions being carried out by the Afro-American people of Minneapolis and their allies. On May 26, thousands defied the restrictions of the coronavirus to peacefully protest George Floyd’s murder, only for the MPD to attempt to viciously repress them. These heroic protesters resisted the attacks of the police. This protest and resistance has continued now into the following days, and will not stop until police murders stop. While the bourgeois media engages in “both-sides” rhetoric and condemns “violent riots” and “looting” in the same breath as they cry crocodile tears over George Floyd, we recognize the legitimacy of resisting, in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary” the attacks and repression of white-supremacist US imperialism, in this instance represented by the MPD.

Let us be clear: it is right to rebel. It is right for the people to storm a police station, as just happened on the night of the 28th. The police are an occupying army who must be kicked out of every Black community, every working class community, every community of the oppressed and exploited. It is right to storm the Targets and ever other store, to seize the capitalist institutions that suck the money out of us and give nothing but starvation wages (with wage theft) in return. Which side are on? Are you on the side of the people, or the pigs? There is no middle path.

This is the latest in a long-running series of lynchings. Four years ago, a MPD police officer murdered Philando Castile, an Afro-American man who was doing everything we’re told to do during an encounter with the police, after pulling him over. A similar though somewhat calmer series of protests occurred then. And before that was Keith Lamont Scott and Charlotte. And before that was Freddie Gray and Baltimore. And before that was Michael Brown and Ferguson. These are just some of the most high-profile police murders of the past few years. And before them there were countless legal lynchings, carried out by the official arms of the white-supremacist US imperialist state. These were the counterparts of the extralegal lynchings carried out by the state’s unofficial arms, the KKK and other fascist paramilitaries. Truly, cops and Klan go hand in hand. Those who wear blue shirts with badges and those who wear white robes with hoods are united in maintaining US imperialism’s control over the oppressed peoples who constitute its internal colonies. Most fundamentally, they are united in maintaining imperialist control over the chief US colony, Afro-America.

Every since its beginning, the American project has been based on Black labor. Beginning in 1619, Africans were stolen and forced to work to build up what now is the US empire, and in this historical process the Afro-American nation was created. This nation remains at the heart of US imperialism, the basis of its proletariat, and its national struggle the most consistently revolutionary struggle within the borders of the US state. Again and again, it has been demonstrated that Afro-America is the Achilles’ Heel of US imperialism. This is why they will do everything in their power to repress Minneapolis, everything in their power to repress future uprisings, and why the police will keep murdering Afro-Americans in the streets. These murders aren’t random, they are terror tactics to keep Afro-America in its chains. But we know that they won’t succeed in stopping the struggle. Consider Palestine: the Palestinian nation has been brutally repressed since the beginnings of Zionist settler-colonialism, and they currently live in one of the most repressive conditions in the world, but they still resist. Just as Palestine will be free, so to will Afro-America. No matter how many police departments go to Israel to train in the latest imperialist brutality, they will not succeed in stopping the struggle. Black Power will come. Afro-America will be free.

To the freedom fighters in Minneapolis, we say that we are with you, and that we will do all we can to aid your struggle. To our readers, we say study the history of Black resistance, get informed and in touch with the Black liberation struggle in your area, and if you can do nothing else, please donate to the official GoFundMe for George Floyd’s family and to the bail fund for those arrested in Minneapolis. There is a countrywide day of protest scheduled for May 30th. If you can, please participate. If nothing is organized in your community, organize it. Your local police department is as guilty as Minneapolis’. Stand up, fight back. Say George Floyd’s name. Say the names of them all. We mourn George Floyd’s death, and we swear we will someday avenge his murder and all those murdered by US imperialism.

Statement for International Workers’ Day 2020

Struggle for a New World sends revolutionary greetings to the working and oppressed peoples of the world on May 1st, 2020, the first International Workers’ Day of this decade.

We observe the holiday of the working class in unique conditions. For many of us, particularly in the US but also across the world, we will spend today inside our homes due to COVID-19. The big rallies and marches that have traditionally marked this day are on hold, as we all try to weather the pandemic and capitalism’s COVID crisis. Yet, today is still “the day we raise our voices loudest in our struggle against capitalism, imperialism, and fascism, and for socialism, peace, and democracy.” The class war has not been put on hold by the pandemic, but exacerbated by it.

With this in mind, we greet our comrades in every corner of the world: this year and decade have been rung in by US imperialism’s threat of imperialist war against Iran, and the burning fires which sweep across our society’s southern hemisphere twin: Australia. These are but two fitting reminders of capitalism’s threat of world-destroying war and climate crisis. And now we face this pandemic, which has impacted every corner of the world, a fitting reminder of our interconnectedness.

The Assaults of Capital

What has this meant for conditions in the US? The unbridled pursuit of profit over all else has meant that the situation here has been atrociously mishandled. There were no steps taken to prepare the general population, while those with advance knowledge lined their own pockets at our expense.

When necessary social distancing and lockdown measures were implemented, it was done without any consideration for providing for the people. How are we to even consider the paltry $1200 in TrumpBucks, when we are still expected to pay our rent, bills, and all other expenses just as regularly? And how can we pay our rent if we’ve been fired or furloughed?

Unemployment is spiking, state unemployment systems can’t keep up, and our creditors pound on our doors. Even for those of us who still have a job, the “heroic” “essential workers”, we are forced to work in unsafe conditions for paychecks that were insufficient even before, and now only make an insult out of our rhetorical “hero” status.

Even the most threatened and precarious social positions in the “best” of times have been faced with yet new indignities: the homeless are being forced to sleep in parking lots, and the imprisoned have been left to fend for themselves in the perfect conditions for the spread of disease. Afro-Americans, always especially singled out for racist harassment even among oppressed minorities, are punished for wearing face coverings which are necessary to go outside in most areas! Such is the reality of COVID-19 for the workers and oppressed.

The petty bourgeoisie is barely having a better time. Since a capitalist economy, and particularly a post-industrial service economy, is not structured to be able to withstand a temporary shutdown, what few existing public health measures that exist are being pilloried by right-wing forces in the name of “reopening the economy.” This rhetoric is supported mainly by small business owners, who lack the margins to support themselves on their own and who are not receiving necessary aid. The GOP are exposing the lie of their concern for “small business”, and indeed of a capitalism which gives a chance to “entrepreneurs”: in any crisis, the state finds its role to be the economic protection and defence of the major corporations who are the real masters of society. Every economic crisis sweeps away smaller capital in favor of big capital, hastening the trend of capitalism towards monopolization.

Resistance

In the wake of Sanders’s surrender to the Biden campaign, across the United States political radicals and working class youth in particular have rapidly distanced themselves from electoralist rhetoric and activity. Of course, legalistic and reformist actions and gains ebb and flow in the course of our struggle, and it is no surprise to revolutionary socialists that there can be no smooth reformist course to liberation, and illusions of such a course can only serve to smother radical demands to death.

However, it is equally dangerous to replace a blind reformism with a postured radicalism. Since the outbreak of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and today in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, we have all seen as many reformist projects falter and fall as we have seen cynics stand on the sidelines and sagely predict the failure of everything. The first and foremost question facing us all in these times are what trends already exist which cannot so easily be co-opted and destroyed? What are the actually existing organizations of the workers and oppressed?

Earlier this year, across the border (imposed by inter-colonizer wars) in Canada, there have been renewed actions of Indigenous resistance to the colonizer state. These protests were directed at corporate lust for Indigenous land, water, and other resources, as if the genocide and occupation which was necessary for the creation of the US and Canada did not provide the colonizer ruling classes with enough control of Indigenous lives and environment. As the Indigenous strugglers, from spontaneous local committees to fully organized groups such as Red Nation, do not recognize the colonial border, we hail not only these “Canadian resistances” but the potential they show for wider and deeper cross-continent Indigenous resistance to environment degradation, economic exploitation, and continuing colonial oppression and genocide.

Just as the hunger of capital for Indigenous resources has provoked resistance from Indigenous peoples, among the most oppressed victims of this system, we call to the strugglers of the main oppressor settler nationality in the United States: Sanders did not make the Sanders campaign possible. The growing reemergence of class consciousness even here in the belly of the capitalist-imperialist beast made the Sanders campaign possible. Sanders’s surrender may be intensely demoralizing for those who donated to or took part in it, but it will not be the end.

Last year witnessed a new wave of workers’ strikes in the US, in spite of the relative political cowardice of US unions and accordant predictions that unions were an “outdated” mode of struggle by some left radicals. With deepening economic crisis at the top of the system and resultant rising unemployment and underemployment at the bottom, we are hopeful for continuing efforts to organise labor as labor, for a good old-fashioned strike. Like the struggles of the oppressed peoples, we imagine that the depth of the crisis itself will provoke this.

However, it is not enough to make predictions and watch developments from afar. Our history teaches us that subjective action is the decisive factor in every crisis. With this in mind, let us continue and intensify our call for a material and ideological struggle for the revolution and socialism. Pandemic or no pandemic, we must and will continue the struggle to “bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old” – a world in which “the international working class shall be the human race.” We invite all revolutionary and socialist minded people interested in this struggle to get in touch with us on a comradely and critical basis, so that we may unite in struggle and struggle in unity.

Long Live International Workers’ Day!

Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World – Unite!

COVID-19 and Capitalism

2EB417B5-1AAA-4F61-B7C7-CA4322AEEF85Right now, the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the US and UK are more rapid than in any other country, despite a clear head start in China, Iran, and Italy.

This is due to the flagrant mismanagement by the Trump and Johnson governments, each of them tied to the most extreme of “market freedom” economic ideologies, which as we can see in practice, means more profits at the cost of human needs.

In the US, a discussion of “reopening the economy”— as though for millions of workers forced to continue their jobs without basic protections it was “closed” in the first place— began soon after shutdowns were ordered. The idea that vulnerable people should be happy to die for the stock market was even presented in mainstream media. In the UK, the government proposed a strategy of “herd immunity” from the outset, before backtracking and instituting a lockdown.

This hyper-focus on profit at all costs and scientifically questionable “herd immunity” strategy are related. We share the analysis that “herd immunity” policies are a form of “epidemiological neoliberalism:”

“Much like the unconditional belief in the free market, herd immunity relies on the assumption that an epidemic is best overcome by leaving it unregulated. But just like neoliberalism, it results in violence against the weak and the poor: elderly and disabled people, homeless people, refugees and people with severe health conditions – many of whom are likely to also have a lower socio-economic status because of the correlation between poverty and illness. These are the people, who are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 – especially if the healthcare system is overwhelmed and doctors have to perform triage”

It is perfectly possible to tackle an epidemic more effectively even within capitalism, as diverse East Asian countries that experienced another type of coronavirus, SARS have demonstrated. Countries which have already earned praise for this vary from formerly socialist China to its Cold War rival government in Taiwan, from Hong Kong and Macau to Singapore and Japan. But the apparently most effective control of the spread of the virus in East Asia of course appears to be Korea, as the DPRK (alongside Cuba) is the most resistant to marketization of any of the old socialist bloc countries.

Ultimately, the COVID-19 outbreak reveals to us the extreme extent to which, in our society in particular, profits are put before human needs. But ultimately, as the environmental crisis and the crisis of capital will result in ever more frantic attempts to safeguard profits, only overcoming the profit motive entirely and replacing it with a global planned economy based on human need can suffice.

Socialists in the US must be at the forefront of calling for reforms under the watchword of “people, not profits” in the short term. But we must not think that we live in times were piecemeal reforms can save all but a narrow section of us: the scale of the aforementioned systemic crises combined with new outbreaks of epidemics in the midst of refugee crisis and climate change will expose the poorest and most vulnerable around the world to more severe health risks, to new wars and oppressive biopolitics.

Time is running out to save our species which is careening towards the edge of catastrophe driven by the cult of profits. Our call for “people, not profits”, cannot just be for a solution to a healthcare crisis at home, or fracking, or any other individual symptoms of the capitalist-imperialist world system. All of these causes must be taken up with an eye to the totality of the inhuman system, and we must unite with others to build political organisations capable of leading the charge for toiling humanity to liberate ourselves, before it is too late.

Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite.

Feminism and Nationalism

by Muhsin Yorulmaz

In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the remaining “socialist states” have been those which came into being through the explicit form of a national liberation struggle: Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, China, and Korea, all are united by the fact that a (at the time) Marxist-Leninist party led a popular front to victory against the forces of imperialism and fascism, and continue to stand as the de facto engineers of “socialist statehood”. Because of this, many people, particularly young people without any particular theoretical training, over-identify with national liberation as the defining feature of Marxism-Leninism.

From the other side, there are those, particularly left communists and Trotskyites, who accuse our entire ideology of being nothing more than a series of nationalist commitments. If one defends the national rights of the Kurdish people, one has fallen victim to “Kurdish nationalism”. In the United States, those who continue to uphold Afro-American liberation are accused of being nothing more than “Black nationalists”. The most troubling form of this comes, not from armchair critics of “nationalism” who would never say anything that could be accused of some sort of “nationalism”, but from members of the aforementioned first group, who imagine their perspective to be broadly “anti-imperialist”, but in fact use their own, unacknowledged, uninvestigated, uncriticized nationalism to attack the basic demands for rights by other nations.

In other words, the crux of our problem, as I have stated before, is how to distinguish between being a “nationalist” for oppressed peoples and simply defending oppressed nationalities.

This distinction is important, as the nationalist places at the centre of their world a nation, ignoring its internal contradictions, an error we must be very careful not to fall into. Although I am often accused of ignoring, for example, class contradictions among nations whose bourgeoisies are not hegemonic within a given state, I do consider this quite frequently, it’s simply that, in many contexts, a more powerful nation’s bourgeoisie has forced some sections of certain nation’s bourgeoisies into a progressive historical position, however temporarily.

So, given that I have spoken about this before, and noting the title at the top, the reader may wonder: what does this have to do with feminism?

Well, to begin with, feminism is a far more powerful ideology for women than nationalism is, given the extreme machismo of nationalist ideology in general: nationalism tends to laud great men at the centre of its historical imaginary. As a bourgeois modernist ideology, nationalism tends to identify with the normative form of the nation-state, which in turn places great importance on the patriarchal family: symbolically, in “ruling families” (in the US, one can think of the President and the “First Lady” and their ideological role), and practically, in terms of how society is organized (with families as an economic unit, the household, the division of labor predicated on the market, etc.).

In capitalist society, women are generally taught to think about nations and their interrelations in terms that have been taught to them by nationalist ideologues, but they do not tend to dominate as nationalist ideologues. Men may be subject to the same ideological indoctrination as women, but they tend to identify more readily with the violent defense of “the nation”, and subordinate women as a collective national “honor” to be (sexually and physically) defended from men of other nationalities.

Most brands of feminist one encounters, however, will be quick to criticize nationalist ideology for many of these same reasons as communists might. They tend to employ a rhetoric which alienates precisely those men who are still the most indoctrinated with nationalist ideology, and yet are able to more quickly cut through nationalist ideology with women, because they ask a question so many women don’t realize they were dying to be asked: isn’t this whole society run “for men”?

A great number of Marxist-Leninists I know, including many women, often explicitly state that their approach to feminism is akin to their approach to the nationalism of oppressed nationalities: “we are not feminists, but we support women’s rights,” or “we are not feminists, but we support women’s liberation.” In fact, I personally first learned these formulas from women comrades and not from men. Many of these women make a point of proving their point in material practice by being among the fiercest strugglers for their own rights, and do so working with “bourgeois feminists”. Thus, I do not claim that there is something anti-woman about these formulas, in the abstract.

However, I claim that there is a difference in how denials of “feminism” and denials of “nationalism” are employed in practice. I claim this is the case even when the Marxist-Leninist in question is both a man and a member of an oppressor nation, and thus, theoretically, should have an equal “stake” (or lack thereof) in both questions. Why might this be?

First of all, speaking on behalf of Marxist-Leninist men, I believe we are harsher on feminists than nationalists. I think as men we have a tendency to be less conscious of chauvinistic language employed against women than chauvinistic language employed against oppressed nations. I think we are quicker to call any manifestation of women’s struggle for liberation “bourgeois feminism” than we are to call manifestations of the struggle against national oppression “bourgeois nationalism”. I think we are more conscious of the need to recruit proportionately or (even better) disproportionately many oppressed nationals to our organizations than we are to recruit women at even the most modest rates.

Worst of all, of course, when women are recruited in an appropriate number to an organization, all too often it is because some are being groomed for sex by abusive, charismatic men cadres. Relatedly, we are quicker to form national sections of a party in a multi-national state than women’s sections, even though strong women’s sections are crucial to keeping abusive men cadres in line, whereas, as I have said, I think even without oppressed nationalities sections many organizations trend more towards a reflexive opposition to direct abuse of oppressed nationalities.

This is all quite ironic, because, objectively, feminism is less dangerous to the subjectivity we are trying to build from the masses than nationalism. One can easily imagine a currently oppressed nation will be liberated from the national oppression, will gain their national rights, etc., but the struggle will end there and this new national state might have very weak dynamics of social struggle, as happened with so many countries around the world. Some nation’s proletariats, consequently, become deradicalized by the release of pressure brought about by the end of a particularly violent national oppression, and although they remain exploited and oppressed in many ways unrelated to their specific national belonging, accept the propaganda of their “own” triumphant bourgeoisie, which seeks class peace so it may dominate its “own” market.

At the risk of redirecting to the piece I published too often, I wrote about this in some detail and it was published on this website.

However, there has never been a bourgeois matriarchal state. There has never been a country whose women’s conscious subjectivity as women could be “satisfied” with a “woman-state”, because the “woman-state” is seemingly impossible under capitalism. Part of the reason for this lies in how feminism understands itself, which is indeed, not a “woman-dominated” equivalent to patriarchy (just as socialists do not imagine “the dictatorship of the proletariat” equivalent to the bourgeois state, save for “who’s in charge”), but to overcome what the patriarchy has defined gender as and create a total equality. The idea itself is quite anti-capitalist in potential, and positions most feminists firmly within “the radical left”, because capitalism itself does not allow for any kind of real equality, but only diverse layers of inequality and exploitation maintained through the force of the state itself.

The only sort of “feminists” who can imagine “their own” state are the Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Tansu Çiller brand of “feminists” who make absolutely no demands of the patriarchy save for token (and, as we have seen in Turkey since the end of the Çiller era, extremely temporary) representation of women at “the commanding heights” of symbolic state power. Just as I caution Marxist-Leninists from seeing in the most internally despised brands of “anarchist” a representative form, I would caution men from seeing in this brand of “feminism” the feminism of actually existing feminists, who number in their thousands at least in every country, and are fully capable of articulating a theoretical defense of their positions which we ought to approach much as we approach the national liberation movement.

To me, it seems obvious that just as we position ourselves on the front lines of national liberation in spite of this meaning we find ourselves allied with revolutionary nationalists, we must be unafraid to position ourselves in contexts where radical feminists dominate, and be able to recruit from within those milieus and build our own structures which strengthen and draw strength from them.

To this, some may ask, if we are “too hard on feminists”, and need to not keep them “at arm’s length” (and this is indeed my claim), why not simply follow the lead of various communist groups who proudly proclaim their organizations to be “feminist” (noting of course that many of these groups are quite insincere about both feminism and communism in practice)? As I said, precisely for the same reasons I gave for not referring to ourselves as “nationalists” of oppressed nations: There is a meaningful distinction between supporting “kinds of liberation [that we advocate as revolutionary socialists]” and centralizing the identity of a particular site of oppression as if it actually expressed the universal ideology we uphold.

We should not claim to be “against” feminists, but this label, like “nationalist” should be reserved for general currents in which our organizations can take part, can work with, can run parallel to. One can claim that “the Kurdish movement” in Turkey is “nationalist”, and we, as supporters of national liberation, should not attack them on these grounds, but it is a meaningful distinction between us: for us, Kurdistan is a particular site of the universal struggle, and not our self-definition and the limitation of our vision.

But again, it is of the utmost importance to note that because radical feminists do not in general advocate for “the woman-state”. In fact, it would make a great deal of sense to advocate a sort of “matriarchal” ideology for a future society, as a means of beating back the ideological holdover of our current patriarchal existence. But the struggle of women is generally articulated in international terms, and thanks to the universalizing power of hegemonic capitalism, it seems far more universal than any particular “left-nationalist” ideology.

When US communists (rightly) seek ties with Kurdish or Palestinian student groups or civil society organizations, they are generally overcoming to a certain extent a national division between peoples, and are accordingly doing subjective work to build an international and internationalist consciousness. But is this any less true when it comes to communists reaching out to and working with groups of women struggling “as feminists”? On the contrary, for the reasons stated, it is only more true of the radical feminists.

As it says in the Manifesto:

In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.

We must struggle in all the particular sites which reveal the totality of capitalist society’s underlying contradictions. In the final instance, we are not for the oppressed and the exploited because of the particular form of their identity, but in the first instance, they experience their oppression and exploitation through the lens of manifold identities. This mediation is where the vanguard proves itself first.

On the “Deal of the Century” and the Oslo Accords

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On Tuesday, January 28th, the United States announced its latest “peace plan” for the Palestinian people in a characteristic display of arrogant imperialist hubris. Like all such “peace plans” put forth by the US, the plan offered no meaningful concessions from the Israeli side. Yet the Trump administration, in typical shady salesman style, has pushed it as “the Deal of the Century”, even having the chutzpah to mock and insult the entire Palestinian people prior to their even having a chance to reject this latest non-solution.

All of this in spite of the fact that the entire conflict is the result of the Zionist state being built via settler-colonial violence against the Indigenous Palestinian population, and in spite of the fact that an apartheid state of affairs persists on their land to this day. The Palestinian people are expected to jump with joy every time the head imperialist power “offers” them “peace” in the form of total surrender to Zionist colonization, and of course are vilified for any resistance, including non-violent resistance which they are not obligated to restrain themselves to.

In response to being offered nothing again, this time without a single Palestinian representative even to serve as a fig leaf for US imperialism’s persistent support for Zionist colonization, the Palestinian Authority has reportedly overturned the 1995 Oslo Accords which serve as the legal basis for the fraudulent “peace process” which has continued ever since.

The Palestinian people have long seen that the Zionist state has no interest in accepting even the most modest peaceful and legalistic compromise which would allow the Palestinian people to live in peace and dignity alongside those that colonized them. All attempts at achieving any sort of decolonization of any part of Palestine through peaceful negotiations have proven fruitless time and again.

The Palestinian left has long affirmed these facts, and if the authorities who supposedly represent the Palestinian people have at last been forced to agree, this vindicates the left’s criticisms of the Palestinian Authority. The cancellation of the Oslo Accords would represent a bare minimum of popular representation, and the first step for the Palestinians to articulate on the world stage a vision for their place in the 21st century beyond being residents of a Bantustan.

Any remaining “peace camp” which exists in Israeli society with any real and sincere commitment to peace will certainly acknowledge this. Even if the entire Israeli Jewish population should long for peace with all of their hearts, scream for it at the top of their lungs, even face down the police demanding it at personal risk, it is a long-established fact that the Zionist authorities refuse any peace save for the peaceful surrender of any Arabs who dare resist their ongoing illegal and oppressive occupation of Palestine.

When the Israeli politician Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated for his role in the Oslo Accords, the killer himself identified a conspiracy behind him the Zionist state was “afraid” to pursue those responsible. It later came that the Israeli intelligence services had a direct hand in encouraging the assassination (see Dan and Eisenberg’s “Crimes d’État: l’assassinat de Rabin, les attentats”).

In a country such as the US, where a significant portion of the population is still led to believe that Israel offers peace to the Palestinian people who reject it for no reason, it is the bare minimum duty for those interested in peace in the Middle East region to ceaselessly undermine this propaganda line with the truth of the matter: the Israeli state has never wanted or accepted the idea of real peace negotiations with the Palestinians under any circumstances. All Palestinian resistance has been resistance to a campaign which seeks to deny them their most basic rights. The fact that US imperialism arrogantly thinks it can force such an unworkable apartheid “solution” as Trump’s laughably named “Peace to Prosperity” plan is a testament to the widespread ignorance about the Palestinian struggle which persists.

All revolutionary, democratic, and pro-peace forces in the US must unconditionally condemn the Zionist project for what it is: a settler-colonial project born, like the US itself, from genocidal violence by a foreign population against the Indigenous. We must call out Israeli apartheid by name, and defend the Palestinian right to resist this apartheid just as the peoples of Azania did in the 20th century. We must work with Palestinians here and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their occupied homeland in order to expose the lies of Zionist propaganda and make possible the self-liberation of the Palestinian people, from the river to the sea.

Where Does the Revolutionary Party Stand on the State?

supremesoviet

by Muhsin Yorulmaz

In writing this piece, I’m acutely aware of my own identity as a Marxist, which starts with the assumption that to be a Marxist is to be one of the most ruthless theoretical and practical critics of “the state”, and to conceive of “the state” as an enemy which can only be defeated by revolution. In fact, in the United States, which is the focus of the website on which I’m publishing, a great number of purported “Marxists” insist that they desire no such revolutionary overturn at all. Many even mock anarchists for using just such words as the ones I chose above.

This reality, to the sincere Marxist, is evidence of the widespread nature of “revisionism” of the essential claims of Marxism, by which Marxism is distanced from revolution and transformed into a “proper” statist ideology, like social democracy.

But confusing matters when we make this claim, is the fact that since the lifetime of Marx itself, anarchist opponents took issue with Marx’s analysis of the historical emergence and likely future of the state as entity. When Marxism in practice led to the formation of new state entities and these entities could convincingly be accused of repression, ultimately even of the interests they claimed to represent (namely, a revolution which would liberate humanity from exploitation and oppression), the anarchists felt themselves vindicated that our ideology effectively produces the same results as the status quo and is accordingly not worth considering as a revolutionary alternative.

This reality, of the historical and contemporary debate between anarchists and Marxists on “the state” in the abstract and the Soviet Union (at least in its early history) in the concrete, is evidence that Marxists are indeed demarcated from anarchists on theoretical grounds that include our conception of the state.

This piece will take up this contradiction and attempt an explanation of how our sincere difference with the anarchists was transformed into a lack of difference with social democracy. The point of this, of course, is not merely to weep about a past revolution, but to rearm ourselves and reaffirm our commitment to new revolutions which will, we hope, succeed in remaking the world sufficiently to pass beyond the state. I will rearticulate the basic Marxist understanding of revolution and the state (drawing heavily on Lenin’s “the State and Revolution”), and in this context, critique our 20th century history’s approach to both: it is my claim that there are concrete limitations when state and revolution have to continue in parallel, limitations that the party was ill-prepared for, and the inevitable result was the retreat of the Soviet Union’s revolutionary commitments, and the failure even of the “anti-revisionist” trend in Albania and China.

 

Class, Revolutions, and History

To Marx, the state was not a unique force of violence unto itself. It was the outcome and part of the objectified form of class struggle, a process which extended back to the beginnings of divisions of labor and property. The fact that the state’s own actions dictate part of the direction of class struggle is not unimportant, because the ruling classes are not a series of automatons, even if the profit motive often nearly reduces them to such.

But many anarchists would agree that to imagine a “stateless” society dictated by profits and capitalism is to imagine exploitative and oppressive social relations in control, which would itself mean the (re)construction of something we might reasonably call the state. For this reason, almost the entire anarchist movement rightly mocks “anarcho-capitalism”, and a growing number of anarchists likewise regard mutualism, with its claims to “egalitarian markets”, with suspicion. The variety of anarchists with whom most of us will find ourselves in debate, discourse, and indeed, practical politics, will be those who identify with “anarcho-syndicalism”, “anarcho-communism”, or “libertarian socialism”: they are profoundly anti-capitalist and anti-market in their ideology.

In general, such anarchists generally do not consider that the difference between them and us Marxists lies in their understanding of the relationship of capital to the state. While one might encounter the odd anarchist who says that there is capital (which is a social “ill”) and the state (which is a separate social “ill”), almost all would agree that it is the demands of capital under capitalism which dictate the terms of the state’s oppression of the majority of humanity.

The division, as anarchists are only too happy to offer, is that anarchists believe that the idea of a “proletarian state”, a “socialist state”, a “lower stage of communism” where the state persists, will only serve to recreate capital and capitalism, despite pretensions to the contrary. In fact, we should note, history somewhat vindicates this position: it is an observed fact that actually existing socialism did give way to capital re-seizing power through the state and reimposing itself.

And indeed, the “anti-revisionist” will counter, the problem is not with the observation, but in its negation: how do anarchists propose to build a truly stateless society in an immediate sense, while also restructuring productive relations so as to pass beyond capitalism? As Chairman Mao said when responding to the query “Don’t you want to abolish state power?”:

“Yes, we do, but not right now; we cannot do it yet. Why? Because imperialism still exists, because domestic reaction still exists, because classes still exist in our country.”

The operative word in this quote is “cannot”. We are not “pro-state”, such that we “want” a world of states, with their repression and coercion etc., and thereby force them into the world. This position, which Mao is articulating, is similar to that articulated by Lenin in “the State and Revolution”, (itself drawing heavily on Engels). What Mao is trying to articulate, in the above quote, Mao is articulating a very orthodox Marxist position, that Marxism seeks the overthrow of the state, which is a class formation (just as we currently experience it under capitalism). Mao defends the idea of an ongoing revolutionary repression of class enemies of this revolution until the revolution triumphs in the country and across the world, at which point it will be possible for the state to be “abolished”. The “socialist state” is a transitionary form, which as Mao acknowledges elsewhere explicitly (see Li 2008, p.59), and implicitly in practice through the Cultural Revolution, is problematic because the transition can be reversed.

If, the day after the revolution, we were to not consider a “state-like” means of collectivizing self-defense, planning the economy, repressing reaction and enforcing liberating progress, it would simply mean willfully disorganizing our response to inevitable counter-revolution. Anarchists actually tend to accept that some means of overt violence would be necessary after overthrowing the bourgeois state, they simply claim that theirs would be a more generalized series of militias and councils, and not a “real” state. Of course, the very fact of “organizing” these would be perceived as “state-like” to their enemies and the outside world. In other words, the idea that organized violence in defense of the revolution would not constitute a “state” is actually very close to Engels’s claim that proletarian revolution “abolishes also the state as state”, leaving a “state” that should “wither away” by itself.

This argument, about the precise “amount” of state which is “too much state” is, to my mind, overly formulaic, and at any rate flattens the actual means by which force and coercion were used in actually existing socialism: “the socialist state” could repress reactionaries, and then, upon the apparent “interests” of the state changing, turn around and repress the masses of people, and revolutionaries upholding the line of the liberation of all poor and oppressed.

It is beneath the anarchists if they would respond to both forms of “violence” with liberal hand-wringing, and indeed most anarcho-syndicalists would not: they know as well as we do that there are justified forms of forceful intervention and reeducation, and our common work against fascism is a testament to this that any Marxist or anarchist who has left their armchair for sufficient time can call to mind.

The most crucial thing to grasp is that the state itself is a result of the class struggle, and so making it “stronger” to enforce revolutionary law can “backfire” if counter-revolution sets in. Making it “weaker” or “less state-like” or however else one wishes to approach the problem, strengthens the hand of counter-revolution to overturn this new order and return to the old, even if they have to rebuild the state machinery themselves. So the strength of the state, how “state-like” a “state-like” form of organization is, cannot rescue us from this problem: Anarchist or communist, none of us can deny that revolutions can be reversed. How does this happen?

 

Lenin’s “State and Revolution”: is the bourgeois state abolished?

Lenin summarizes the basic Marxist understanding of the state very clearly in his famous “State and Revolution”, namely that the state “is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.”

The more clever anarchists will not only agree, they will counter that this is precisely their argument against “the proletarian state”: we can say that the proletariat is in power, but the very fact of the state shows that the “abolished” bourgeois state is not entirely “gone”, because the state itself is evidence of a class society in some sense. Actually, if more anarchists had actually read Lenin’s “the State and Revolution” (which, to be fair, most of our “Leninists” also refuse to read), they would know that none other than their supposed enemy Lenin says much the same. I will quote at length from Chapter 5 of “the State and Revolution”:

Marx not only most scrupulously takes account of the inevitable inequality of men, but he also takes into account the fact that the mere conversion of the means of production into the common property of the whole society (commonly called “socialism”) does not remove the defects of distribution and the inequality of “bourgeois laws” which continues to prevail so long as products are divided “according to the amount of labor performed”. Continuing, Marx says:

“But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged, after prolonged birth pangs, from capitalist society. Law can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.”

And so, in the first phase of communist society (usually called socialism) “bourgeois law” is not abolished in its entirety, but only in part, only in proportion to the economic revolution so far attained, i.e., only in respect of the means of production. “Bourgeois law” recognizes them as the private property of individuals. Socialism converts them into common property. To that extent–and to that extent alone–“bourgeois law” disappears.

However, it persists as far as its other part is concerned; it persists in the capacity of regulator (determining factor) in the distribution of products and the allotment of labor among the members of society. The socialist principle, “He who does not work shall not eat”, is already realized; the other socialist principle, “An equal amount of products for an equal amount of labor”, is also already realized. But this is not yet communism, and it does not yet abolish “bourgeois law”, which gives unequal individuals, in return for unequal (really unequal) amounts of labor, equal amounts of products.

This is a “defect”, says Marx, but it is unavoidable in the first phase of communism; for if we are not to indulge in utopianism, we must not think that having overthrown capitalism people will at once learn to work for society without any rules of law. Besides, the abolition of capitalism does not immediately create the economic prerequisites for such a change.

Now, there are no other rules than those of “bourgeois law”. To this extent, therefore, there still remains the need for a state, which, while safeguarding the common ownership of the means of production, would safeguard equality in labor and in the distribution of products.

The state withers away insofar as there are no longer any capitalists, any classes, and, consequently, no class can be suppressed.

But the state has not yet completely withered away, since the still remains the safeguarding of “bourgeois law”, which sanctifies actual inequality. For the state to wither away completely, complete communism is necessary.

In other words, the bourgeois state is “abolished”, and yet it doesn’t immediately become as nothingness: it continues to exist in partial, retreating only so far as we push it, ultimately and potentially “withering” form in or at best beneath the form of the proletarian state.

It is worth noting at this juncture that the overuse of the references to “abolition” in Marxist texts in English is something of a poor translation of the concept of “Aufhebung”, the process of “sublation” via the negation of the negation. In German, “aufheben” is to take up, remove, and/or store away something. It expresses, for Hegel and his immediate successors, the complicated process of one thing negating the other, and thus, even in possibly “replacing” it, being shaped by its interaction and process of becoming through its dialectical opposite.

Thus, when the socialist revolution negates the bourgeois state, it also takes what it has negated into itself, in preserving the state form, which is “necessary” for reasons of material Realpolitik but necessarily still contradictory because the logic of bourgeois law and order has created it. The process of transformation and change necessary to overcome the class struggle in its totality, to undergo the total social transformation to which Lenin refers, is a much longer process, requiring the society itself to change (as Lenin emphasizes in great detail in Chapter 5, as quoted above and discussed in more detail in the source text).

Lenin is quite clear that

there remains for a time not only bourgeois law, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie! […] But in fact, remnants of the old, surviving in the new, confront us in life at every step, both in nature and in society. And Marx did not arbitrarily insert a scrap of “bourgeois” law into communism, but indicated what is economically and politically inevitable in a society emerging out of the womb of capitalism.

We know that the “inevitable” “defect” of bourgeois statehood or something like it surviving under and through the dictatorship of the proletariat can be used to “excuse” “market socialism”. This text is not a fig leaf for economic similarity between socialism and capitalism (which is another subject of great importance), but rather a thorough criticism and discussion of the practical possibilities of revolutionary statecraft. Lenin’s writings (including the above much-quoted “State and Revolution” to some extent) are filled with attacks on those who attempt to reduce socialism and Marxism to mere state-centric reforms on capitalism, and the basic Marxist understanding of economics stands against the idea of “market socialism”.

The argument being made here is not one against seeing a difference between the pre- and post-revolutionary orders, but rather a warning that the revolution contains within itself the possibility of its own failure. It is a most revolutionary and self-critical text, nothing in common with those who wave their hands at all criticisms of anything deemed “actually existing socialism” by stating that “socialism isn’t full communism” (as if this means it need not demonstrate a difference with capitalism!). Indeed, and this will figure into the remainder of my argument, the lack of grasping of the role of the state and the danger it represents allowed for easier counter-revolution in those states with the most meaningful economic claims to being actually existing socialism.

The fact that socialism must be defined by economic criteria and not merely by the approach to the state is one that is dealt with in criminally little detail in this piece, which chooses to focus on this question of the state for reasons of current discourse and historical analysis. None the less, the interested reader is directed to pedagogically sound introductory texts such as Bertell Ollman’s treatise “Marx’s Vision of Communism”, and, one should hope, for a more thoroughly economic understanding, Marx’s “Capital”, particularly the first volume.

But leaving these crucial questions aside for another time, let us assume that communist parties in power were familiar with the economic tasks (broad and specific) at hand and were armed with sufficient theoretical knowledge of economics to “fill in the blanks” of practice. If we really understand the state as a reflection of class struggle, and really consider, as Lenin did, that the party is itself a “vanguard” of this struggle, we ought to have something to say about how these “proletarian states” descended to the level of bourgeois statehood and accepted capitalist restoration: was it not the ruling party of the Soviet Union which voted to dissolve itself? Where did this process begin?

 

The 1924 Soviet Constitution in Context

The objective context for the Russian Revolution’s eventual reversal is to be found in the imperialist world system: following Russia’s exit from the inter-imperialist First World War, the recuperated Soviet forces attempted to spread the revolution westward, with the defeat in Poland being the first signal that, world revolutionary aspirations or not, the Soviet Union would be constrained by the power which capital as a global economic force had amassed, and had to, on some level, accept the system of states that existed in the world. Relatively “normal” international relations gradually set in and eventually the nascent Soviet republics formally declared a union, culminating in the Soviet Constitution of 1924. To some left communists, this was the beginning of the end of “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”, and the beginning of surrender to stagnation and statist status quoism.

Note, in defense of the left communists from the usual misrepresentation of their positions by amateur “Marxist-Leninists” on the internet, that the left communists absolutely upheld the idea of an organized system constructed on the dictatorial power of and representing the proletariat, and generally they defend the revolutionary credentials of the October Revolution at least until the early 1920s. Their position was not at all that Lenin was too “dictatorial”, but rather that the Soviet system was unable to sustain its own revolution.

The 1924 constitution is condemned by some left communists not because it is a constitution, but because the historical context in which the constitution was written made it a constitution of acceptance of the retreat that the material conditions imposed on the Soviet Union. It was the legal manifestation of the revolution’s “retreat”, which many left communists would claim this was “inevitable” given these conditions, and their criticism is of the party and theory of the Marxist-Leninists, and not of a state which they would claim anyway was the outcome of these factors.

I note the left communist position, although I disagree with it because I consider socialist construction was ongoing for several decades, but it is important to understand that we need some criterion for determining if a revolutionary process has reversed and has given birth to its own counter-revolution. And the state itself is where we find the ultimate proof: does the state, whose very existence is the result of a certain stage of class struggle, reflect the political power of the proletariat, struggling to overcome the material contradictions which make any “state” (as we understand the word) necessary?

If our only criterion for an ongoing revolutionary process and socialist construction is that a red-colored flag is still flying and a party with the word “communist” in its name is still in power, we could conceivably imagine a party, in power thanks to a much-beloved heritage, maintaining its formal identity as “communist” and keeping the word “socialism” in the constitution but completely accepting the capitalist world-system in its domestic and foreign policies, which of course, has no value to us at all. If our criteria for socialist revolution cannot necessarily exclude and overcome capitalism, we have a valueless theory of revolution indeed.

By contrast, the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists tend to emphasize the formal declaration of the end of the dictatorship of the proletariat during the Khrushchev era. Khrushchev did not posit that this was because the state was withering away, but that the Soviet Union had somehow maintained its statehood and also transcended class struggle (!), and now represented a government of all classes: in other words, the same reformist social democratic claim torn apart by Lenin in the very first section of “the State and Revolution”, and also accepted by defenders of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (who are themselves at best social democrats anyway, their pretensions aside). Lenin and the left communists absolutely agree this is a flagrant revision of the revolutionary essence of Marxism.

And surely this formal ideal change resulted in some essential material changes to the economic and political system, which again, are worth rehashing in a more specifically economic piece, which is important given the ongoing relevance of a line of demarcation between the anti-revisionist trend and the scourge of the useless revisionist “communist parties” around the world who defend Eurocommunism and Dengism and every other sort of social democracy dressed up as Marxism, all the while abandoning the revolutionary economic and political tasks of Marxism both before and after the revolution.

But here I wish to deflect attacks on the 1924 constitution by the left communists by turning to a more controversial assertion within my own, anti-revisionist milieu: the constitution which enabled Khrushchevite revisionism, which represented a weakness in the party and state approach already in place, was the Stalin-era 1936 constitution.

 

What is the relationship between party and state? – the 1936 constitution

I do not wish the section that follows to be understood purely in terms of my claiming that the early Stalin era (up until 1936) was “good” and then thereafter revisionism set in and the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik Party became “bad”. On the contrary, the reason for my interest in the 1936 constitution began with my frustration at an overly simplistic account of revisionism as having been made possible by the death of Comrade Stalin: it would not be much less of a “great man theory” to ascribe to the single moment of the 1936 constitution the entire directional change, the entire reemergence of capitalist productive relations, all retreats from revolutionary tasks, and all abandonment of the Marxist method, than it would be to ascribe all these same errors, flaws, or trends to the moment of Comrade Stalin’s death, or the moment of the “Secret Speech”, etc.

The era of the 1936 constitution was also the era where Gramsci and Dimitrov’s lines were vindicated in the anti-fascist struggle. The era of the 1936 constitution was the era of the victory of the Chinese and Albanian parties in their own struggles which would serve as the brightest hopes for a continued revolutionary practice for decades, against the undermining efforts by the Soviet Union (although the Chinese party’s ultimate direction served to undermine anti-imperialism and anti-fascism even more than the Soviet party). And of course, in economic terms, I continue to uphold the claim that socialist construction was continuously brought to higher heights during the late Stalin era.

So why am I criticizing the 1936 constitution? Because of what it implies for the Soviet Union as state and the Bolshevik Party as party, whose difference was obscured by this document. Unlike its predecessor, it reconstituted political power in a single “Supreme Soviet” which began to resemble the parliament of any other state while, at the same time, the constitution’s enshrining of the party blurred the line between party and state, creating the now infamous party-state. This, I claim, was the theoretical-political blueprint for the state of inertia which plagued Soviet-backed states which were constructed, and lies at the root of why so many of the state remnants of 20th century socialism seem so difficult to rescue today.

I have already restated the idea that “the socialist state” is, by virtue of being a state, already and always a potential site for the reemergence of capitalism, since capitalism defends itself by means of the state, and since states are themselves the manifestation of the dominance of a given class in the course of ongoing class struggle. The 1936 constitution did not introduce any of these problems, nor can it be blamed for exacerbating them: the dynamics which would render the Soviet Union more state than socialist, more stagnant than revolutionary, even if they became more apparent in the 1950s, were already in motion before 1936.

If we understand that the state is going to exist, we certainly cannot stand aloof from it and regard it as irrelevant. But on the other hand, if we understand that people make revolution, that it is the party’s task to lead the people, we should not mix up statecraft with the role of the party. And the 1936 constitution confuses these, not only by the new inclusion of the party as part of the constitution of the state, but further by declaring that the party “representing the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state“.

 

The party, the state, and the masses

The Supreme Soviet as institution is often raised as the “central” problem here by Trotskyites, so as to lay all the blame at Comrade Stalin’s feet, rather than the process which led to the Supreme Soviet. Remember that left communists would identify in the Congress of Soviets as they actually existed before the 1936 constitution a similar trend, the material and ideological basis for the 1936 constitution and the Supreme Soviet. The horizons of revolutionary imagination represented in the party had been pulling back, and the Supreme Soviet was only a qualitative turning point in this process. The party had already begun and would continue to identify itself more and more with the state as such.

Let me be clear that mine is not the usual liberal complaints about multi-party democracy: I consider that the dictatorship of the proletariat must be a revolutionary stage, a ruthless stage when it comes to exercising authority over and repressing the forces of reaction. As Chairman Mao put it:

All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.

But the party stands at the vanguard of consciousness building for the organized proletariat struggling to seize power. The special role of vanguard is necessarily reserved for a minority because, if a general consciousness were achieved of the totality of class struggle, the need for a vanguard would disappear (because, quite simply, the need for organization as we know it would “wither away”). The party’s task of which they must be acutely conscious is, at every stage of the revolution, to identify the contradictions among the masses which will hinder or aid in raising their consciousness to push the revolution forward.

The state, by contrast, does not represent a minority of conscious militants, professional revolutionaries, nor even the “unconscious” proletariat: the state is the material border of the class struggle at a given moment. To be conscious of this border is to be aware of the need to cross it, and the party’s task is to be the most conscious actor. Even to the extent that a socialist state, a proletarian state, is “progressive”, it is so only in so far as it holds down reaction and counter-revolution, defending the progress that the popular masses have already achieved in the class struggle.

Even the most perfect and ideal proletarian state is the compromise which history and material reality have imposed on the oppressed masses, who are actually struggling to liberate themselves from the state, quoting Lenin again:

Only now can we fully appreciate the correctness of Engels’ remarks mercilessly ridiculing the absurdity of combining the words “freedom” and “state”. So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.

The party, by contrast, while it seeks to unite the proletariat and drive them forward, even in so far as it seeks to build structures, including whatever compromise state the advanced section of the working classes create in the process of revolution, does not exist because of this state. Rather it exists, separately from but in a similar way to the state, because the class struggle is ongoing.

The party seeks to bring the proletarian state into and indeed out of existence. The party cannot tie its fate up with the state: the state is necessarily a step behind the proletariat, as the state has been constituted based on a particular stage of revolutionary development. If the revolution continues to march forward, each particular stage must be overcome, so for a party to be revolutionary is for a party to question the state which it has itself had such a strong hand in building. The party is therefore meant to be a step ahead of the proletariat at large, seeing the contradictions in this stage of development which serve as the basis for potential further forward march by the revolution and the proletariat which leads the revolution.

There must be a mediation between the party and the state, they cannot be immediately understood as equivalent, because there is a dialectical tension between them, just as exists between the state and masses, or the party and the masses. The party’s own role in leading the revolution is entirely conditional on its identification with the masses in general and the advanced section of the proletariat in particular, and not with the state.

Why is there so little criticism among Marxist-Leninists of the merging of party and state even before the open revisionist reversals of the mid-20th century? Surely the fear of admitting that Comrade Stalin adopted a mistaken approach which played a role in a loss of revolutionary momentum cannot alone explain this: there are many Marxist-Leninists willing to criticize the adoption of Bukharin’s “Third Period” thesis. Perhaps Freire was right that many people simply wish to turn the revolution into their own “personal” revolution, where they are head of a state more than the masses are in power; perhaps Lenin and Marx’s exhortations to seize state power were read as a magic formula, and like a cargo cult, certain “Marxists” cling to the idea of the “socialist state” even when it is nowhere to be found; perhaps others think questions like these are too pedestrian to commit to writing in the form of a polemic, and that surely everyone understands Lenin without our having to release another article which quotes “the State and Revolution”.

Whatever the reason, I consider it supremely unhelpful to explaining the idea of and even working towards the reality of proletarian revolution that we do not discuss more how the party ultimately became co-equivalent with the state. Because the two have different roles, one of them still trapped in the old society, the other beckoning the masses towards the new society, it is possible (and as we have seen from the actual history, the general trend)  that the progressive party, so enamored with the tasks of statecraft and the idea that it is in “control” of this state, begins to not merely accept as conjecturally necessary, but essentially identify with the state form.

The state is a remnant of the old society and a form which can only exist because the all-too-reversible revolutionary process is still underway. An identification with it, in moments of economic, political, and social crisis–which are all too likely given the enormous power of the forces of local reaction and international capital, imperialism, and fascism–can transform not only the state, but those who identify with it, into tools of reaction and restoration.

The proletarian state may be different in how we conceive of it and how it operates than the bourgeois state, but it is still a state, and as Lenin emphasized, it is still “economically and politically inevitable” that it still contain within itself “the bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie”. There would actually be no cause for abandoning hope at such junctures, if a ruthlessly critical party existed able to take a step back from the work of which it is so proud, through its revolutionary engagement with the experiences, needs, and contradictions of the revolutionary masses, rally itself to resume the work of changing the world.

Consider the New Economic Policy, which was put in place in the very years of the retreat leading up to the 1924 constitution, only for the party under Stalin to successfully reverse this policy and resume a revolutionary course through the five-year plans. I am not suggesting that no problems existed between 1930 and 1936, or that the Soviet Union became a “counter-revolutionary” structure in 1936. Simply that we see that a retreat, acknowledged by Lenin and Stalin, could be reversed during a certain period: this was because even though the state had entered a known inertia, the party still had the “fight” left in it to take on its own state.

Tragically, after the 1936 constitution, the party which years before had such a dynamic relationship with the state and masses, became increasingly “dizzy with success”. The bureaucratization which set in, like the New Economic Policy and the 1924 constitution before it, was very likely inevitable on a state level: they reflected the reality of class struggle at that point. Admitting this and combating it, imagining the continuation of class struggle and its being raised to still higher heights, however, was entirely within the realm of possibility for the party. There is good reason why Comrade Stalin identified “[t]he communist bureaucrat” as “the most dangerous type of bureaucrat”:

Why? Because he masks his bureaucracy with the title of Party member.

I hope the attentive reader sees the connection between this trend and the importance of actively separating the party from the state in our minds.

 

Conclusion: the 1936 Constitution and anti-revisionism

The anti-revisionist trend posits a certain praxis which is a direct response to the end result of the above trend. In China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and in Albania, the Cultural and Ideological Revolution, both served as proof of a will to revitalize the revolutionary struggle against regression within socialism itself. This will, and this practice, had, in my view, a common heritage which made their successes the height of post-Stalin Marxism-Leninism, and their failure a testament to the limitations of party-states modeled (to a great extent) on the 1936 constitution of the Soviet Union.

I do not wish to further lengthen this already long theoretical piece by digging up sources and quotes about the Albanian and the Chinese experiences, which anyway, cannot be denied to have both ultimately failed. I wish rather to state that, while obviously both experiences made a protracted and correct attack against the inertia of state bureaucracy which had seeped into the party, they were both undermined by an understanding of party and state which was already largely fused, inevitably for reasons of ideological heritage (both states were built after and in the image of the 1936 Soviet constitution) and material reality (the division of the socialist camp and the surrender to capitalism-imperialism brought about by various factors including the party-state structure).

Mao did not have an independent party structure to organize against the state: he was forced, by the sort of party he inherited from the Soviet direction of travel, to treat the party and the state as one and the same as an enemy, the “headquarters” to be “bombarded”. When he was forced into retreat, he had no structure to retreat to but the party-which-was-the-state. Whatever our criticisms of Mao in the 1970s, the best case scenario would have been silence, as there was no time in the short years leading up to his death to “rally the troops” when all the organized structures were unified against the “excesses” of the Cultural Revolution. Had the party been a vanguard organ which saw its destiny as separate from that of the state, perhaps things could have been otherwise. But the two had become too intertwined even before the Cultural Revolution, as was also the case in Albania, which too ultimately fell to economic encirclement.

At crucial junctures like the Cultural Revolution, the revolutionary party must not only be willing to break with business as usual: it should be a wake-up call to the party, of the dynamic contradictions among and power which springs from the revolutionary masses. But since the mid-20th century trend was towards party-states, it is a testament to the will of those elements of the party around Mao Zedong and Enver Hoxha that they were able to challenge the direction of the socialist states in general, towards counter-revolution.

When it comes to articulating an anti-revisionism which can explain the failings of both China and Albania, we must also be able to explain their common source. The heritage of the Soviet Union must be subjected, like everything else existing, to a ruthless criticism. This is not an attempt to discard this heritage, or distance ourselves from it. On the contrary, we can only be so remorseless and cruel in our criticisms among our comrades, because we must understand we are actually delivering a self-criticism in appropriating this heritage.

The basis of our analysis must be the weaponry of the Marxist logical method and the Leninist vanguard party which made revolutions like the October Revolution possible, and I must emphasize lest there has been any confusion that we are so concerned with these revolutions because we appropriate and identify with them. However, I hope it is crystal clear to all readers that the state does not figure into our weapons as conscious communists. Rather, it is one of our battlegrounds.

 

Recommended reading:
–Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Programme”
–Lenin’s “the State and Revolution”

 

Hands Off Iran! US Imperialism Out Of Iraq!

We condemn the U.S. assassination of General Qasem Soleimani and PMU commander Abu Mehdi al Muhendis in Baghdad. The targeting of senior military officials in this way is a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a brazen act of war against Iran. As the United States approaches an election year, Trump is using this act of aggression to consolidate his support— just as Bill Clinton bombed Iraq during his impeachment, and George Bush launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after losing the popular vote in the 2000 election.

We cannot understand this escalation without understanding how the people of both Iraq and Iran have suffered violence, repression, and economic deprivation for decades because of U.S. attacks and intervention. From overthrowing an elected Iranian government and installing a monarchy in order to maintain Western economic interests in the country and arming Saddam Hussein and defending his atrocities throughout the Iran-Iraq war, to the years of devastating sanctions imposed on both countries, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, U.S. actions have already lead to the deaths and suffering of millions. A new war in both countries would devastate the lives of millions more, at a time when people are still rebuilding from the aftermath of previous conflicts, and while popular movements in both countries face repression for making demands of their own governments.

Within the United States, war with Iran will lead to greater surveillance and criminalization of already-targeted Muslim and immigrant communities, just as previous wars in the region have. Police in large American cities including Los Angeles and Boston have already issued threats, asking people to report supposed ‘suspicious activity.’

It is our responsibility to stand with the working and oppressed people of Iraq and Iran, oppose any attempts to start a new war, and support an end to U.S. military involvement in the region.