Many of you have seen the image by now, a comrade triumphantly holding up the flag of the Soviet Union, once the symbol of hope for millions and millions around the world engaged in bitter struggle against fascism and imperialism, in the middle of Chicago. And the occasion? The shutdown of a trump rally at the hands of various US progressives, including supporters of Bernie Sanders and the militant Afro-American Black Lives Matter movement, whose impressive street actions are rightfully admired by committed progressives in the US regardless of their national background.
Let me emphasise before I continue that I personally look forward to the day when red flags are a common sight at clashes between progressives and reactionaries in the US, as they are in countries from Turkey to India to the Philippines.
But before the red flags come the clashes themselves. It is thanks to a broad front against the fascist Trump, who fancies himself a Hitler but has the organising prowess of a mere Ford, that this comrade was able to so triumphantly unfurl their flag. We Marxist-Leninists use the red flag as our symbol, but it is the power of the workers and the oppressed masses which this flag symbolises. It must not become an empty cypher.
I am not implying that the comrade who unfurled this red flag was engaging in mere empty posturing. Likely they are a genuine struggler. But the many internet Marxists who survive on a diet of anti-revisionist imagery and sarcastic humour might not be so engaged in concrete struggle.
A real revolutionary is at home in a broad front because they understand that by taking part in such commendable mass actions they make themselves a part of the peoples’ struggles, changing that struggle and being changed by it, dialectically. They do not merely use communist imagery to pose themselves as revolutionaries.
It is enough to indicate the reaction of the Trotskyite SWP of the US (not to be confused with the far more successful and more openly Trotskyite SWP of the UK, who are as famous for their rape scandals as they are for their cultish following among tiny pockets of petty bourgeois pseudo-Marxists around the world) to see why it is not the red flag, but the context in which it was raised which is meaningful:
The members of various radical political groups who came to shout Trump down, saying he’s a fascist and carrying signs such as “Shut down white supremacy,” are a danger to the working class. Their arguments go hand-in-hand with bourgeois commentators of all stripes who argue that Trump’s support is based among bigoted Caucasian workers. This is a slander against the working class, something we are able to confirm daily as we campaign — including at the Trump rally.
While we can hardly expect Trotskyites to take a principled stand against the supremacy of the US (North) oppressor nation, these scoundrels (who are rightly condemned even by other Trotskyites for their eclectic theoretical approach and their Zionism) not only deny the fascist character of the Trump Campaign–something agreed upon by everyone from the US ICOR affiliate Revolutionary Organization of Labor to politically moderate celebrities in that country–they even imply that the righteous anger of minorities in the US and their militant response to the Trump Campaign is “reverse racism”!
Thus, when groups like the SWP or others which hold the organic struggles of the revolutionary masses at arms length, they may boast of being the truest revolutionaries all they like:
When it was announced that the rally was cancelled, many of those bent on disruption cheered their victory over free speech, chanting “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,” praising Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Sanders is a bourgeois politician whose goal is to make capitalism work “better,” not to fight to overthrow it.
But their talk of “overthrow” is meaningless. The red flags they own are worth less than the struggles of the masses who, deprived of a theoretical education in the science of Marxism-Leninism, still take their place in the fight against capitalism, imperialism, and fascism. If we really believe, as Lenin did, that the vanguard’s job is to lead the masses’ struggles forward, it is far better to do so without necessarily revealing yourself with your red flag, than to wave the red flag without behaving thus.
The most important thing is not necessarily to unfurl the red flag (though from time to time the conditions emerge when we absolutely should). The most important thing is to live lives that are worthy of having a red flag draped on our coffins at our funerals.