This article was originally published here on The Virginia Worker.
“The workers will not allow themselves to be disunited by sugary speeches about national culture, or “national cultural autonomy”. The workers of all nations together, concertedly, uphold full freedom and complete equality of rights in organizations common to all–and that is the guarantee of genuine culture.”– V. I. Lenin
“The Working Class and the National Question”
Strange things are afoot in self-defined Marxist spaces and organizations, both online and offline. A rising tide of transphobia and other disgraceful, reactionary bile has emerged in American society; rather than engage in a principled struggle against this garbage, a gaggle of young people have been duped into cheering on the far right in the name of “patriotic socialism” or “MAGA communism.”
Patriotic socialism has not emerged in a vacuum. Genuine revolutionary Marxists–that is to say, Leninists–have not been successful in recent decades at forming a party worthy of the name.
The organizational landscape is filled with failing dinosaurs from bygone eras, insular sectarian grouplets, and small, local groups like the Communist League of Richmond. The fact that groups like CLR have not yet merged with similar organizations and drawn the most advanced workers into a party has led to an array of charlatans, cult leaders, grifters, and freaks drawing young people into their orbit.
We empathize with these youths. The COVID pandemic has made historic levels of loneliness far worse in the United States and the failures of capitalism hang over nearly everyone.
The center cannot hold: the lack of principled organizations to channel this exasperation into fruitful action, too many lonely, vulnerable young people instead glue themselves to computer and phone screens, consuming hours upon hours of content by YouTubers and Twitch streamers. Those who lack in-person comrades with whom they are engaged in bona fide class struggles instead seek community on Discord servers.
As we will demonstrate, the ideas that ooze out of these unhealthy spaces are antithetical to Marxism and are absolute poison to the class struggle. The Communist League of Richmond encounters individuals deceived by patriotic socialism and transphobia attempting to join our organization.
This has been an undeniable wake-up call to us. CLR and all other organizations like us must more clearly draw lines of demarcation so prospective members are aware of our positions on critical issues of LGBTQIA+ liberation and proletarian internationalism. We want people “radicalized” by micro-celebrities on the Internet to know that they must be prepared to study and practice real Marxism–they must be ready to learn and challenge their own prejudices before joining an organization like ours.
Additionally, the tumescence of ludicrous, socially conservative dreck signals that communists must be fully committed to struggling alongside our trans coworkers and comrades, ready to shout down demagogues and patiently explain our position to workers.
We write this article as a means to recommit ourselves to LGBTQIA+ liberation and achieve a greater degree of ideological cohesion on these important issues. Given that the views of the patriotic socialists have spread through endless online streams, we do not expect this brief intervention to be a comprehensive analysis of the “patsoc” milieu. That being said, we cannot be the last word on trans politics. Given the wide range of experiences of trans people, it is outside of our scope to cover all aspects of trans politics.
21st Century Tailism–Lessons from the Past
What Lenin called “tailism” is the headwaters from which most of the errors of the patriotic socialists flow. Patriotic socialists and transphobes frequently cower behind their false idea of what “the masses” think. “How”, they ask, “can you hope to win over workers when you embrace trans issues that are alien to the average person? Most real Americans already agree with us!”
This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a Marxist and what it means to exert political leadership. In contrast to ultraleft sectarians who are content to live in their own little bubbles free of political disagreement and in contrast to tailists who adopt the views of the most reactionary workers as their own; revolutionaries seek to lead the masses to correct conclusions and to effective action. A revolutionary is neither a monk sealed in a cloister nor a weathervane, pointing in whichever direction the wind happens to be blowing at the moment.
How should we lead? Lenin famously exhorted the Bolsheviks to “patiently explain” their positions to workers, and we must likewise use political agitation and persuasion to convince workers of a correct position. When Lenin and the Bolsheviks stood firm against World War I in 1914, they were pariahs; but years of patient explanation, skillful outreach, and the unfolding of global events which confirmed the Bolshevik position ultimately paid off.
Similarly, Lenin’s April Theses and the Party’s slogan “all power to the Soviets” were shocking to many workers. However, as the Bolsheviks exposed the counterrevolutionary nature and fecklessness of the Provisional Government, they were able to turn this slogan from the aim of a tiny minority to the goal of the broad masses of workers, soldiers, and peasants.
Views change and people change. Often, the force of circumstances is the greatest catalyst but sometimes determined, principled groups can shepherd this process. If this were not true and the average worker was already a communist–who needed no political education–there would be no need for a party. Like the Bolsheviks, we can see this phenomenon in the United States as well with issues like gay marriage–which quickly went from being a taboo position to a policy supported by the majority of Americans.
When communists not only fail to advance the cause of liberation and stand against democratic struggles, they soil the name of Marxism and ultimately discredit themselves. Consider the example of the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S.A. For decades, the RCP used howlingly specious arguments to justify their anti-LGBTQIA+ positions, only amending their line on gay struggles in the 21st century.
When they finally fixed their line, they did so without a thorough accounting of the harm caused to gay people inside and outside of the organization and without accountability for those responsible for these harmful positions. This matter is not the only reason why the RCP is commonly regarded as a joke, but it certainly contributes to that correct perception. RCP vacillated between ultraleftism and tailing the most egregious viewpoints on the American political spectrum.
Principled communists attempt to avoid tailism in the first place; if they err, they make an adequate summation of where they went wrong so they don’t make the same mistakes in the future. Compare the bad example of the RCP to revolutionary Cuba–Cuba formerly instituted repressive policies towards LGBTQIA+ people and has fully rectified these errors.
Fidel Castro himself apologized for his incorrect policies and positions, cadres in the Communist Party of Cuba and mass organizations exhorted the Cuban people to educate themselves on the importance of LGBTQIA+ liberation,while highlighting the importance of revolutionizing social relations in the path to communism.
These seeds have now blossomed with landslide approval of the new Cuban Family Code. We hope that some of the good faith actors in the patriotic socialist movement similarly dare to walk the path blazed by Cuban comrades and abandon the bigoted, tailist errors that animate so many of the reactionary “socialists.”
American Bourgeois Nationalism
Let us be honest: patriotism is where opportunism, tailism, and pessimism meet. In a cacophony of tears, and sweaty masks of chauvinism, a wild “left-patriot” appears.
Patriotism is easily captured and weaponized by the bourgeois and the tools of their superstructure quickly take over the minds of the masses. The appeal of patriotism is one of “common” sense and the struggle of a communist is one of “good” sense and organizing. What more is there to say other than the fact that it will result in the most backwards elements of the working class and the petit bourgeois being emboldened.
It is not contentious to say that American patriotism is nothing to be proud of. From the earliest days of colonialism, to the counterrevolution of 1776, and the imperialist purveyor of literal fascism during the Cold War (and today, see Ukraine). The United States of America has been a clear example of class collaboration at its finest.
Even if we ignore the historical material; when we understand the duty of an actual workers party is to raise the class consciousness of the masses, we understand that patriotism offers absolutely zero benefit from its deployment in the United States as we know it.
In times of war, this bourgeois chauvinism is quickly weaponized in the form of class collaboration. Specifically, the “war on terror” and its decades of bloodshed, coups, and xenophobia are a clear example of “patriotism” being deployed as a bourgeois tool of an imperialist hegemon. Although, the independent “war in Iraq” and “war in Afghanistan” did not garner true mass support (polls of people wanting to go to war), the “patriotic” snakes and stooges were rendered flaccid at the sloganeering of the war on terror and U.S. patriotism.
Democracy in the United States, daresay the west, is bourgeois democracy–patriotism in the United States is bourgeois patriotism, nationalism in the United States is bourgeois nationalism; unless it is a national liberation struggle based in the nations of the oppressed in this imperialist metropol.
Substitution of class consciousness for “general enthusiasm” is an infantile and clownish strategy. Lifting up patriotism while “patriots” beside and above you are oppressing, in more ways than one, all the peoples of the world and your own working class is a recipe for disaster.
Why juxtapose American the “patriots” of America to the philistines or the black jacobins when the through line of our struggles is so obviously rooted in the principles of communism?
The real struggle is for any workers’ party to sell this naive premise to the international proletarian movements. It leaves any argument against the world’s greatest imperialist force to a “no true American” fallacy. The workers and oppressed people of the world are not willing to offer their lives based on hopes, wishes and the tailist justifications of a chauvinist reactionary grift.
Genuine revolutionary theory, organizing, and practice cannot be substituted with bourgeois nationalism and an appeal to a “national culture.”
Most people are unfamiliar with the concept of a vanguard party–most of the patriotic socialist and “left” transphobe milieu has emerged not from communist organizations and organizing projects, but rather from cults of personality around junior varsity social media celebrities.
A vanguard party seeks to encompass and galvanize the most advanced workers, win over the intermediate workers, and isolate backwards workers who are unwilling to elevate their consciousness. In other words, a vanguard party does not find out what the average worker wants and uncritically adopt that position.
Consisting of the most politically advanced workers, the party listens to and understands the aspirations of less progressive segments of the working class, can explain why the communist position is correct and ultimately in their interest. As a result, class consciousness allows workers to understand why previously-held, backwards views are incorrect and ultimately harmful to the class struggle.
On the issue of trans rights, communists should not seek to throw trans people under the bus–instead, we should seek out stalwart comrades with correct positions on these issues to build organizations that can promote and uphold trans rights.
A workers’ movement that stands against all forms of oppression will ultimately be stronger than one that allows bosses, reactionaries, and demagogues to drive wedges between workers by singling some out to discrimination and abuse.
Those who are too confused or cowardly to implement the Marxist practices of leadership and vanguardism are unworthy to call themselves communists.
Trump Voters and Class Consciousness
First, let’s take a moment to develop an image of the average person who voted for Donald Trump. There is the immediate visceral imagery: a loud, belligerent, usually white male who is generally angry at a world that they perceive to be leaving them behind. They are seen with their expensive trucks, their boats adorned with Trump memorabilia.
They are called backwards, they are dismissed for their patterns of speech, they are often maligned. Maybe you picture the crowds of reasonably wealthy, violent business owners and veterans that congealed to form the capitol riots on January 6th. These are the conventional portrayals of Trump voters across US media, especially amongst liberal and progressive circles. This picture is intentionally superficial; beneath the topsoil of caricature lies a reality which poses a massive challenge to us as Marxists.
The “average” Trump voter does not hold membership in the bourgeois or petits bourgeois classes and strata. According to one study “median income for Trump voters nationally is about $9000 less than the median income for all GOP primary voters.”
Rural districts also have lower median incomes on average and proved to be massively in favor of voting for Donald Trump despite the massive chasm in both wealth and access to private ownership between these voters and Trump himself. The income gap between rural and urban populations is especially pronounced, with a nationwide median income of $59,000 compared to a mere $46,000. These discrepancies between urban and rural apply to a wide variety of health metrics and the CDC portrays a particularly bleak picture, stating that rural citizens have a 50% higher likelihood of dying from unintentional injury, namely car accident and overdose.
It is clear that while there is certainly an embrace between the national bourgeoisie and the reactionary ideology of Donald Trump, large swathes of his voting base are carved out of that deal. These folks are largely working class, that is to say proletariat in nature. The liberal dismissal and persistent suppression of the proletariat serves to elevate and reinforce the reactionary and proto-fascist inclinations that are now at the forefront of dialogue in this segment of the proletariat.
As Marxists, we are tasked with forming a principled solidarity that does not appeal to the reactionary nature that exists within the American proletariat. If one were to engage a rural, Trump +30 district and simply fold Marxist ideology into reactionary language (as seems to be currently politically expedient) particularly focused on race and gender, they would likely be able to swing a few people into agreeing with them.
At best, the Patriotic Socialist would support this off of the highly suspect premise that getting workers to agree with Marxist ideas is worth compromising the values of the most advanced workers. However, as Marxists who are not obsequious to the allure of opportunism and the ease of access provided by the Patriotic Socialist movement, we must diagnose this problem with sober minds. The lovechild of liberal class collaborationism and reactionary ideology in the proletariat is false consciousness.
Liberalism, with its limp plea for universal placation has so thoroughly inhibited the proletariat from achieving class consciousness that a vacuum is created, and as always, is filled with vitriolic reaction that serves to permanently replace class struggle with convoluted bigotry.
There is optimism to be had, however. Class consciousness and organized struggle has been dismissed as a fiction in nations the world over. As Marxists living in the modern day, there exists a multitude of successful Communist experiments that should inform our organization moving forward.
In assessing the class character of the Trump voter, it is clear that patient explanation, rejection of tailism, and a denial of appeal to conservatives are critical guardrails in our objectives to create not only class conscious workers locally or nationally, but internationally.
The Working Class–Marxist Feminism, Coalitions, and Trans Liberation
Engels defines the proletariat as “…that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital…The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.”
In essence that group of working people settled primarily in urban centers in order to find work, who subsisted on selling their labor. With suburbanization, increased connectivity and communication, and the obvious expansion of capitalist oppression in all spheres of life we can now safely include most rural Americans in the fold of the proletariat as well.
Patriotic socialists choose to take a facile understanding and define the proletariat merely as blue collar and factory workers because they most closely resemble the latter half of Engels definition, “the working class of the 19th century.” He is simply saying the working class of now–factory production is no longer as prominent a sector in this country and our present day corporate service industry model didn’t exist in 1847, around the time of Engles’ work.
An additional sophomoric analysis has to do with adding value to raw materials. No one would argue against a mechanic being proletarian because they are typically blue collar and unless they own their own shop, possess all the important characteristics of a proletarian, but what value are they adding to which raw material? Services also produce value in a capitalist economy–services are provided through labor, and employers seek to profit by charging more than the costs of labor and materials. A service is merely a commodity that is consumed immediately, and the workers who produce that commodity are proletarians.
In 2022, we can more comfortably relate our world to the former, more important half of the definition. Under this umbrella, we can comfortably include people like baristas, uber drivers, and software developers. The same can be said for anyone working in the service industry, where people like servers can expect to be paid far below the laughably low federal minimum wage, and rely on the further indignity of meritocracy of the tipping system to feed themselves and their families.
Smiling while they absorb the ire and insecurities of many powerless people within their own class taking every inch of power they are granted by a customer service interaction, intra-class antagonism. They live not just from the sale of their labor but the sale of their mental health while they labor.
They do not draw profit from the surplus value of anyone else’s labor. While these specific conditions do not define class (the relationship to capital is the principle criterion), they demonstrate that service workers often have many conditions in common with other proletarians.
The groups and figures putting forth this narrative of appealing to people like the fascist MAGA crowd, by excluding people who can safely be called our modern proletariat on the basis of identity politics, they ultimately ignore Lenin’s warning to appeal to the most advanced workers because, for some reason, they believe the numbers are greater if you tail the far-right.
Engaging the modern working class will be markedly less difficult. Reports have shown that about one-third of the modern working class is underemployed. These people work jobs which do not require the college education they earned at an astronomical expense to themselves. Many of these people are already on the left and are sympathetic to the socialist cause. Additionally, many of them (duped by liberals though they may be), identify as LGBTQIA+ or at the very least remain sympathetic to their plight.
Again, it is not 1847 when most of Germany’s proletariat would have been cis-het, white men. This is simply not our reality in US cities in 2022. Alienating trans people will not stand among the tens of millions in this country who may be closer to socialist understanding than we even think. Our vanguard party will be comprised of workers.
None of those workers will be the working class of the 19th century. Those people are dead, every one of them. Liberal faux solidarity with queer rights will get us nowhere either. Real world, practical solidarity with queer people and everyone else in our modern working class will. Making communist spaces inclusive and safe only benefits the movement by appealing to, in a word, the working class of the 21st century.
Alyson Escalante’s work informs CLR’s own views on issues of trans liberation. There is no reason to retrace the reasoning of articles in this brief piece, but the following insights are crucial to us: gender is not a static, unchanging phenomenon and patriarchy is not a “natural” or inevitable aspect of human existence; “woman” is a capacious category that includes an array of kinds of people with different experiences and interests; and, lastly, that when we choose to accept women as a larger category, feminist and socialist struggles are strengthened, while the choice of a more anemic definition weakens these struggles.
Escalante makes short work of claims that bioessentialism is equivalent to Marxist materialism, but there is more that can be said about this common error. While conservatives lean into the most idiotic varieties of bioessentialism: “women’s behavior is innate and genetic, men are meant to dominate,” anti-trans feminists have an argument that makes sense to some individuals with an insufficient understanding of Marxism.
Their argument often goes as follows: Gender is not innate and patriarchy is a historically contingent system that developed under certain conditions. Gender and patriarchy origins lie in the appropriation of the reproductive capacity “biological females” [by which they mean people with wombs and XX chromosomes, although the above Escalante articles effectively problematize this].
The specific origins of patriarchy and gender are still a bit murky–Engels attempted to pinpoint it in The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, and Gerda Lerner integrated both the insights of the feminist movement and new data from the fields of anthropology and archaeology to update Engels’ analysis.
However, the anthropological data may continue to add up in such a way that forces us to reconsider the claims of both of the above works. It may well be the case that the appropriation of the reproductive capacity of those with wombs constitutes the origin of gender. However, to state that this is gender in the 21st century is a vulgar pantomime of materialism. It is by no means historical or dialectical.
Consider the following analogies to class–one of the earliest aspects of class society was almost certainly the appropriation of grain. Farmers grew food, which was taken by early states and distributed to warriors, priests, and kings.
Could we then conclude that in any class society the working class–the truly exploited–are only those who produce grain? Of course not. Obviously, food production is still one aspect of class society and many people who produce food are still subject to exploitation but class society has developed and changed over time, as all social systems tend to do. Nowadays janitors, cashiers, kindergarten teachers, and factory workers are all exploited in addition to barley farmers.
Historical and dialectical materialism enjoins us to see social phenomena not as unchanging and static once the die has been cast, but as constantly evolving forces riven with internal contradictions. The origins of class society still have their imprint on modern class society, but anyone can see that the modern world has many dynamics that differ from those of ancient Egypt or Sumeria, for example.
Even if we accept that the origins of gender and patriarchy are in the appropriation of reproduction, a methodology which makes use of historical and dialectical materialism will be extremely skeptical of any narrative that claims that control of reproduction is the only or defining aspect of womanhood.
The current reactionary push against abortion reminds us that control of reproduction is still a crucial dynamic in patriarchal society, but it is also clear that there are so many other factors that women face in a 21st century capitalist society.
It does not follow that because the initial victims of patriarchy were those who could gestate that all people who can gestate are women, or that nobody who cannot gestate is not a woman. Over the course of millennia, it is certainly true that gender has changed, and the challenges and oppressions of those classed as women have changed as well.
The Thin Edge of the Wedge–What Is at Stake?
Escalante, as mentioned above, asserts that women are not a group sharing each and every characteristic, but are instead a coalition–whose diverse base consists of groups who share some characteristics, but may not share other ones. It doesn’t take any special degree of acuity to see why having a bigger coalition united by solidarity is so crucial, especially at this political moment.
Workers and oppressed people are under attack. Both Democrats and Republicans are rattling their sabers for an even bloodier border policy. Life expectancy is dropping in the United States. Union busting has reached a fever pitch even as the cost of living is crushing the living standards of workers. And the Supreme Court has handed a massive win to the violent, patriarchal anti-abortion movement in the form of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
The Marxist movement–the genuine Marxist movement–understands both the danger of the moment, and understands that the Democratic Party and the liberal toolkit are grossly insufficient to fight back against, much less triumph, over these assaults.
Unlike the patriotic socialists, who counterpose the democratic rights of oppressed groups with the interests of workers, Leninists aspire to be “tribunes of the people” who oppose all forms of oppression and exploitation and blaze the path to communism. For us, none of these struggles can be neatly disentangled from the rest.
The fascistic far right is having a field day in using transphobic panics as a wedge to make their sick political views mainstream. Organizations like the Proud Boys and the UK’s Patriotic Alternative–organizations which, like the Azov Battalion, are filled with the sorts of dyed-in-the-wool Nazi filth the patriotic socialists claim to disdain–have taken part in demonstrations to censor library programming and books.
There is a long history of transphobic feminist organizations joining forces with anti-lesbian and anti-abortion freaks, so it should come as no surprise that these “feminists” would fail to join the fight against the far right in sufficient numbers.
These examples also demonstrate the stupid and devious nature of patriotic socialists like Caleb Maupin and his newly revived cult, the Center for Political Innovation. Maupin insisted that he doesn’t hold transphobic or anti-abortion views, but that it would be needlessly divisive to push back against reactionary movements on these issues. However, this excuse is completely wrong.
The far right and fascists have openly announced their agenda–they are anti-worker, anti-socialist, pro-cop, and anti-migrant. If we opportunistically cede “cultural” issues to them, we know they will not stop there. If they come for trans people in the morning, we know they will come for a huge assortment of cis people in the evening.
The so-called MAGA communists–whose only issue with Trump was that he was stabbed in the back by “globalists”–are even worse. In their feckless and fevered imaginations, the MAGA movement is pro-worker. But when’s the last time the MAGA politicians they love walked a picket line, defended working-class migrants from their bosses’ threats of deportation or rejected money from capitalist businesses?
Trump was not some noble naif betrayed by his underlings: he is a diehard capitalist who tried to install the CEO of Hardee’s as his Secretary of Labor. The softer “patriotic socialists” appease the wannabe blackshirt strikebreakers of the far right; the MAGA communists hope to join them, if they can ever log out of Twitch or Discord.
Real communists understand that the class struggle is the motor force of history, but they by no means ignore or antagonize the democratic struggles of oppressed people.
Dialectical Analysis–The Historical Legacy of Leninism
In spite of the claims of the MAGA communists and patriotic socialists to be “Marxist-Leninists,” their politics represent a betrayal of everything Lenin and Leninists stood for and currently stand for. Lenin’s classic work, What is To Be Done? reminds us:
“In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct ‘the economic struggle against the employers and the government.’ It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrats ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”– V. I. Lenin
In championing the struggles of Black and people of color, Marxists are serving as tribunes of the people. In fighting back against the sickening backlash against LGBTQIA+ people, Marxists are serving as tribunes of the people. In exposing and opposing the tide of xenophobia against undocumented people, Marxists are serving as tribunes of the people.
While history contains plenty of examples of Marxists making mistakes and failing to live up to the injunction of “reacting to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression,” it also contains many fine examples of Marxists raising the banner of liberation. For instance, the CPUSA spent its revolutionary era in the 1930s sending its cadres to the Deep South, where they squared off with Bull Connor to advance civil rights for Black people.
The Bolsheviks wasted little time liberalizing divorce laws, legalizing abortion, decriminalizing homosexuality, and attempting to establish a system of creches in the Soviet Union to lessen the load of childcare for working class women. Similarly, Communists in China sent footbinding into the dustbin of history and helped to elevate women from being the property of men to being integral actors in public life. Cuba has continued this praiseworthy tradition into the present day with the recent passage of the new Family Code, quite possibly the most progressive in the world.
While the Bolsheviks stirred the masses to revolution with their slogan, “Peace, Land, and Bread”, the reactionary pseudo-socialists advanced a political vision more in line with the Tsar’s slogan: “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.”
This brings us to one of the most important dividing lines in American politics: liberalism. Communists see liberalism as a hypocritical mask one section of the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie wears so that they may appear as humanity’s liberators rather than its oppressors and exploiters. However, the Trump quislings who proclaim themselves Marxists oppose liberalism in a way that ultimately strengthens liberalism.
Let’s recall one of Lenin’s major criticisms of economism in Tsarist Russia: by only directing workers into the economic struggle, they cede ownership of the political realm to liberals. Every radical can remember how they wretched with disgust when Hillary Clinton intoned on the campaign trail: “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism? Would that end sexism?” To which her crowd replied “No!”
Liberals like Clinton shield the capitalist class by presenting us with a false choice: we can either take on capital, or we can take on the oppression of people of color, women, LGBTQIA+ people, and migrants. MAGA Communists like Haz wholeheartedly agree with this framing!
Patsocs and the other fake communists who have emerged from them ultimately see liberalism as the main target, rather than seeing liberalism as a defense mechanism of our real target: capital. Consequently, they look at what liberals support (or what liberals falsely and hypocritically claim to support) and oafishly take the polar opposite position.
Liberals claim to care about the wellbeing of Black people; MAGA Communists condemn mass movements against police killings of Black people. Liberals claim to embrace LGBTQIA+ liberation; Patsocs weave deranged conspiracy theories about gay and trans people. Liberals declare they will defend abortion rights; fake “Marxists” screech in favor of forced birth. The MAGA Communists take the Clintonite position: you can support reproductive freedom or you can oppose big capital, but you cannot do both.
How did successful Communist movements comport themselves when faced with competition from liberals? Often, they explained to the masses that liberals could not possibly achieve the lofty and pleasant-sounding goals they proclaimed–only a working-class movement pushing for socialism could make these things a reality.
Just look at how the Communist Party of China confronted the issue of women’s liberation. Chinese Nationalists–including those who would join the Guomindang–were extremely worried about China’s abysmal treatment of women.
Throughout most of the country, especially in the vast rural areas, Chinese women were bought and sold, beaten by in-laws and husbands, and were expected to stay out of public affairs. The Nationalists made the liberation of Chinese women a fundamental slogan of their movement and asserted that the Chinese nation could not arise from imperialist domination while its women remained in chains.
Did Mao and his comrades respond to liberals by defending “traditional” Chinese patriarchy? By no means! They instead took the movement for women’s liberation much further than the liberals had intended.
Chinese Communists declared abortion and divorce legal in revolutionary base areas, and guaranteed that divorced women should have adequate land to farm as well as retain custody of the children who were often needed to farm it. While their record is far from perfect, the Communists also welcomed women into the party and mass organizations and encouraged them to stand for election in soviets and speak at public meetings.
Meanwhile, the Nationalists responded to the rising of Chinese workers and peasants by looking to the warlords and organized crime bosses, and other heinous representatives of the old society. The Communists did not defeat the liberals by taking the opposite position on everything– rather, they outflanked them by demonstrating that the liberals would ultimately betray the values they supposedly held dear.
Both the liberals and Communists wanted to improve the status of Chinese women; the Communists demonstrated only they would and could do so. Both the liberals and Communists wanted to end China’s economic and cultural backwardness; the Communists demonstrated only they would and could do so. Both the liberals and Communists claimed they wanted to achieve China’s national liberation; the Communists demonstrated only they would and could do so.
We can see a similar process in the Bolsheviks’ approach to antisemitism. The liberal, bourgeois Cadet Party was one of many organizations appalled by the Tsar’s use of pogromist terror and his mobilization of his proto-fascist butchers, the Black Hundreds. Did the Bolsheviks take an unthinking, reflexive anti-liberal position that because liberals denounced the murder of Jews that Marxists should support it? Of course not!
The Bolsheviks used their Duma fraction and Party press to denounce the pogroms in the sharpest possible terms. They sent infiltrators into Black Hundreds meetings to expose how antisemitism contributes to the misery of workers and peasants–be they Jewish or gentile. They even set up small paramilitaries to physically beat back pogroms. When the Russian Civil War came, the Cadets ultimately showed their true colors by siding with the antisemitic Whites, who murdered in the cruelest ways countless Jews.
The Bolsheviks, in contrast, demonstrated that only a Soviet victory could crush the pogromists once and for all. Realizing their error, most of the left-wing members of the Jewish Bund (which enjoyed chilly relations with the Bolsheviks) joined the Communists in huge numbers, realizing that the Bolsheviks were the only party that could safeguard the Jewish people’s rights and wellbeing.
Patsocs and MAGA Communists dream of a political landscape where workers who care about prejudice and oppression will have no political home except the Democratic Party and its assortment of NGOs–a situation which ultimately serves the interests of liberal capital.
Marxists want to isolate and expose the Democratic Party, but we can only do that by showing the millions of workers who support them that the Democrats are a useless vehicle for ending oppression and that only a socialist movement with a correct program and strategy can solve the many problems these workers rightly identify.
Of course, this outflanking is not only how we should respond to liberals who correctly identify an important issue, but also to conservatives who occasionally raise valid points. For instance, many MAGA Communists hummed with glee when Marjorie Taylor Greene suggested we should abolish the FBI; no communist has any business praising this dimwitted, extreme anti-communist.
Pro-cop reactionaries like Greene merely want to replace the FBI with an organization that gives white supremacists and capitalists even more of a free pass than they currently enjoy and will target workers with even more rapacity than they currently do. Instead, we should point out that we too want to abolish the FBI but only the communist movement can actually get rid of the capitalist state’s repressive apparatuses.
So too with the phony “anti-war” hypocrites whose feet the MAGA Communists are so eager to kiss. We need look no further than Tulsi Gabbard, whose role in the military involves psyops and who has repeatedly voted to expand the US imperialist war machine.
When imperialist war hawks like Gabbard make an occasional squawk against a specific imperialist adventure, we should expose their hypocrisy and demonstrate that imperialism can only be defeated with the demise of capitalism, and only a communist movement that embodies the slogan, “Not one man! Not one penny!” is truly and consistently anti-war and anti-imperialist.
Where We Stand
Our complex identities–no longer petty things related to ethnicity, age, and job title–now more fully represent us as individuals. The specificity with which we define ourselves narrows with every subreddit, fandom, and any one of a thousand other spaces where we find community.
Every piece of ourselves comprises us; to imagine we would allow defining something as fundamental to who we are as gender, to anyone but ourselves, is preposterous. As the resolution of the picture we build of ourselves increases, it becomes increasingly untenable to appeal to something as broad as workers, by exclusion.
The Patriotic Socialists would ask us to allow our trans comrades, only 1% of the world’s population by some calculations, to be steamrolled to promote unity amongst the broader collection of workers: a group of many and various people some of whom may not even know a trans person. To which an internationalist would look at the United States, representing only 5% of the world population, and do simple math as to why one single digit number is more important than another.
The real answer to the above, however, is that focusing on the liberation of the United States by US Americans is an important goal because of the effect it will have on emboldening and strengthening the resolve of workers around the world, not to mention ending US hegemony and imperialism.
We believe a fractal of that same struggle exists in the trans community. The microcosm of addressing trans oppression represents solidarity with all people oppressed under patriarchy and capitalism. By taking up arms with our trans comrades we stand with our rural comrades, and our comrades in the gig economy, and our comrades in the service industry. Standing by the proletariat means standing by all of the proletariat and we will not weaken that simply to appeal to the worst parts of more people.
Transphobic, Patriotic Socialists and their foils in the far-right mean to use trans oppression as the thin-edge of a wedge driving all manner of bigotry into the public discourse. A lack of exposure and general ignorance to the issue at hand makes it easy to do so. This only serves to strengthen our division and therefore the capitalist agenda, full stop.
We mean to address trans oppression as a soil in which we grow resistance to patriarchy and its father, class antagonism. Not because it is easy. Because it is materially right to do so. We encourage our perpetually online comrades to reach out to principled Marxist organizations like CLR in order to test the waters of these online attitudes.
They won’t be tolerated, but we will be happy to explain why. And our analysis will be rooted in the historical bedrock of the multi-faceted struggles perpetrated by the bourgeoisie on all workers throughout the history of Capitalism.
We find beauty and salience that from the gendered Russian to the English usage of the term, “comrade” became genderless. It means partner in the struggle here. Never endeavor to narrow the scope of the word comrade. Just be one!