The National Question and Actually Existing Socialism

As the English-speaking world in general lacks a strong anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist trend, discussions of the Soviet Union and other actually existing socialist states tend to be vulgarised into two main trends, one of uncritical defence and the other of “uncritical criticism”. I presume those actually reading this already understand the dangers of the latter trend: if we assume the Trotskyite position that more or less the entire history of 20th century socialism can be summed up as a counter-revolutionary trend of “Stalinism”, we are left with the assumption that “real revolutionaries”… never actually take part in revolutions. If Marxism cannot actually produce a blueprint (no matter how flawed) for actual revolution*, then it makes more sense to choose (as many leftists do) to abandon Marxism entirely.

The other trend assumes that the revolutions carried out in the Russian Empire, Cuba, China, Albania, etc. were positive, and is problematic for a totally separate reason. It is cultish and unscientific to be unable to provide some sort of explanation for what went wrong. The usual explanation, that the imperialist powers spared no effort to destroy these states, is itself useless: this fact was known from the beginning, and Lenin was firm in opposing such a simplistic outline for international struggle as “know that the imperialists are your enemies”. He would not have advocated a fiercer ideological, political, and cultural struggle AFTER the revolution if the internal problems of the new socialist state were irrelevant, paling in comparison to the question of defence from imperialist powers (a logic which is manifested concretely in the “military first” policy of the DPRK revisionists).

The source of this mistaken approach to struggle is in an undialectical approach to the socialist state as a stage or process in history: proponents of this worldview tend to understand the socialist state as a completely liberated zone, liberated not only from the direct control of imperialist finance capital, but liberated from all internal contradictions inherited from thousands of years of human history:

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
–Karl Marx

One such contradiction, that I am particularly concerned with, is the national question. This is not to downplay the importance of other contradictions (such as those between rural and urban populations, intellectuals and the rest of the society, the different levels of the party, the party and the non-party masses, contradictions of gender, etc.), but simply to emphasise a contradiction which finds itself in the centre of discussion even today, from China to Syria to the United Kingdom.

The source of national contradictions

“Nations” as we know them are a product of capitalist modernity. In pre-capitalist society, most of the features we associate with nationhood today did not have the same character they have now. The movement of “nationalism” and “nation-states” co-occurs with the penetration of capitalism into a region, because the populations in these regions suddenly find that their market had grown, and with it, forms of communication changed and expanded.

To give a concrete example, the Basques had long been differentiated within the Spanish state by their language and culture, but for most Basques up until a certain stage of historical development, these features of their culture had not been under any threat. Indeed, it is frequently observed that the Basques were relatively priveleged within Spain up until a certain point, speaking their own language among themselves and learning Spanish as a trade language which they used very much to their advantage, much as the Dutch relate to the English-speaking world today, with the side fact that they shared nominal fealty to the same monarch as the Spanish-speakers who, quite frankly, they looked down on.

But as capitalism became more and more the dominant mode of production within the Spanish state, mass communication became more and more a feature of everyday life, and an official language ideology took shape that went beyond mere concerns about a “Lingua Franca”. The growing Spanish bourgeoisie began to conceive of its territory as an economic and social unit, to which groups like the Basques posed a problem: the Spanish bourgeoisie began to understand the link between social and economic belonging, and the existence of minority social relations became particularly inefficient. The Basque bourgeoisie likewise grew conscious of this trend, and the Basque nationalist movement began to take shape.

For the proletariats of these societies, they found themselves increasingly hostage to the economic demands of capitalist modernity, which as a more “efficient” form of class society also represented a more efficient form of exploitation. The general trend of human society began to tear them from their villages, cast them into degraded wage labour, and they became increasingly aware of their lack of control of their own lives. Worse still, the Spanish state’s demands (increasingly authoritarian as the 20th century continued) included that they give up their own language, which the Basque bourgeoisie sought to protect (for selfish reasons rather than out of concern for the average Basque worker, obviously). Inside these national formations, class contradictions also grew sharper, and from this we begin to see the emergence of a Basque nationalist “left”, which rather than being concerned with Basque identity for the sake of the maximal exploiting power of the Basque bourgeoisie, was concerned with the Basque people at large, and in solidarity with other peoples facing similar conditions.

Lenin and Stalin’s answer to the national question

The multi-national Russian Empire was no exception to this international trend. Lenin’s Bolshevik party made an effort to form local communist organisations, who worked tactically with various national elements against the Tsarist autocracy. Stalin himself was one of the first leading militants of the Baku Bolsheviks and a personal friend of Mehmet Emin Resulzade, the bourgeois Azerbaijani nationalist who worked with the Bolsheviks not only past the February Revolution, but years after the October Revolution, until he finally came into such sharp conflict with the Bolsheviks that he exiled.

Under Lenin’s leadership, local communist parties were formed for each of the republics, in which local language was emphasised and local culture given a new lease on life, being raised to a higher stage of development by progressive elements living in each of the republics. Small minority groups within these republics were given education in their own languages, many of which were converted into systematic written languages for the first time by the communist leadership.

It was Lenin’s position that one must err on the side of support for the peoples of smaller, poorer. weaker nations against larger, hegemonic nations because, in practice, the larger and more powerful nations have achieved such great privilege in practice. It must here be emphasised that in contrast to today’s revisionists, Lenin and Stalin understood the “nation” as a community of people, with, yes, an associated country. But revisionists have so totally accepted the bourgeois logic of nation-statism that they do not actually consider populations and classes when analysing international relations, but only the nominal leadership of the state. Even where Comrade Stalin warns against the dangers of dealing with minority nationalities in terms of uniting with their reactionary bourgeois elements on the grounds that they are “national”, he emphasises the right to their own language of the masses of such groups that are minorities in a larger geographic unit, and the right of such peoples to even maintain reactionary cultural traditions (though encouraging communists to agitate against these, Stalin was quite firm against the idea of a quasi-colonialist approach of having a larger nation impose its own cultural ideas on minorities by force).

The Stalin era involved, of course, errors on this and other issues. But it is extremely important to emphasise, at least in public and towards Brezhnevite, Titoite, Khrushchevite, Trotskyite, etc. trends that Stalin, compared to almost every other old Bolshevik, was extremely close to Lenin in his commitment to upholding a correct line on the national question within an actually existing socialist society (in addition to the rich legacy of anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism in fighting for national liberation of oppressed people around the world). It was Stalin who emphasised the importance of full national equality within the Soviet Union, including the right to secession, culminating in the particular question of how to deal with the United Nations, wherein the Stalin era produced the conclusion that the various national republics of the Soviet Union had a right to separate UN membership. As a result, despite the heavy toll of the post-Stalin era, the Soviet Union maintained its fundamentally federal character until the bitter end.


Over the course of the history of the Soviet Union, the revisionists embraced more and more old modes of production, domination, etc. which had never really left the society so much as they had been held down momentarily by the initial construction of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Together with this came more and more problems of how to divide the world, or the so-called “socialist world” (although this character was increasingly lost over the course of various internal and external losses), much as this problem presented itself in capitalist society. Thus, despite the association in the English world of the phrase “state capitalism” with Trotskyist trends, I maintain, alongside Hoxha and Mao, that there is some accuracy to the application of this theoretical label to the Soviet Union (as there was in Yugoslavia even earlier). Indeed, we should not balk at the label itself, as Lenin understood it as an appropriate label for the Soviet Union’s transition from its tsar-era economic existence into the post-October era. Lenin understood that capitalism is not “abolished” in one fell swoop, but “withers away”. So long as capitalism was the dominant world system, it was likely that this process of withering might be reversed, as it was under Khrushchev (and indeed, this was Khrushchev’s real economic sin: not establishing something which bore resemblance to capitalism in the Soviet Union, which was inevitable to some extent, but in encouraging more and more division of labour, etc. as some manifestation of “higher” socialism!).

Over the course of the post-Stalin era, this reversal culminated in the conversion of the Soviet Union from within into something very akin to a capitalist society, with its own mass unemployment and a bureaucracy which acted as a neo-capitalist class. The treasonous bureaucracy had no interest in linguistic, cultural, economic, or political equality within the Soviet Union, or in sovereignty of “foreign” nations (consider Brezhnev’s doctrine of “limited sovereignty”), because it had become a new imperialist power.

Mao and Stalin

We must avoid economic detemrinism, however. Capitalism’s ideological hold on most of human society is in fact stronger than any economic “benefits” (which most of us do not experience ourselves at any rate), and at any rate, it has produced contradictions which, while born of and beneficial to class society and the profit motive, have now some degree of autonomy in our social belonging, including but not limited to our understanding of national divisions. It would be too easy to claim that Khrushchev and company became “greedy” and so they reproduced capitalism for short term gains for themselves (this was likely a factor, and it should be emphasised in so far as bourgeois ideologues blame the “greedy” nature of humanity for capitalist restoration, and we should retort that it was not the greed of the majority, but of a privileged minority who should be held down). Rather, features of capitalist modernity have become almost autonomised in our minds to the point they seem natural and may be reproduced due to lack of emphasis on the contradicitons outside of the immediate class implications.

A fine example of this can be found in Mao’s complaints about Stalin’s “mistakes” towards China. While there are doubltess errors into which Stalin fell with regard to China, Mao was known to demand the “return” of (Outer) Mongolia to “China”. Mao had nothing to gain personally in terms of material life by this demand, it followed from a petty bourgeois national pride that many Han Chinese felt. The problem goes further, to Chinese dealings with Vietnam, and minorities within China. Indeed, the question may be asked why China is not divided into multiple republics as the Soviet Union was? Mao also theoretically defended the right of minorities (not their republics, which didn’t exist, since all of China was one “people’s republic”, a dangerous precedent indeed) to secede from the PRC, but the lack of practical steps towards meaningful autonomy in the sphere of politics (as Stalin took) made it easier for Mao’s successors to erode what autonomy did exist.

The lack of any reckoning with this history and the weakness of the “anti-revisionist” answer (socialist Albania) to the Cultural Revolution, the Three Worlds Theory, and all that that entailed has allowed an even worse revisionism than the original Khrushchevite revisionism to flourish under the guise of “real” (“anti-revisionist”!) Marxism-Leninism in imperialist countries in particular. Thus there exists a sort of received knowledge about the 20th century experience that privileges the “theories” on the national question espoused by the Kims, Mao, or Brezhnev over those of Lenin and Stalin (who, whatever their errors, understood nations in terms of populations living in geographies over a historical process, and not pre-determined, “racial” units with near mystical relationships to state and territory), and it becomes almost normal to hear people claim “Tibet is China” without ever having the question of whether Han Chinese and Tibetans are different groups in material fact cross their minds.

Rojava and our struggle

It is one thing to consider all this as an easy explanation for why we have to hear about a “Syrian nation” (that neither the Kurdish people nor the Syrian regime accepts exists) that the Kurds are “dividing” and thus hurting the “socialism” (!!!) in Syria. We all understand that these people don’t care about the right to self-determination, have done no research into the region, or even into the positions of armed Arab communists on the ground.

The few people who read this already accept that Rojava’s struggle is progressive both for the Kurdish people and for its role as a revolutionary base manifesting revolutionary ideals in practice that we can carry forward. But we must not rest on our laurels of having outsmarted a few Three Worlds Theorists on this one news item, likely due to our own connections to Turkey, Kurdistan, or the Turkish or Kurdish peoples.

The point is that this particular case of understanding national dynamics as having a… well… dynamic character has a universal basis with its own particular realisations in various other countries. If the CPGB-ML is wrong that the Welsh are not a nation, it has implications. A Welsh bourgeoisie will not share with an English bourgeoisie, and vice-versa. This implies a space for our intervention now under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie: the Welsh bourgeoisie (and in particular the Welsh petty bourgeoisie) can have some progressive role so long as the English bourgeoisie controls the Welsh market.

Conversely, if bourgeois ideology means inequality among the nations by virtue of the goal of exploitation, the fight against exploitation must assume we would abandon the idea of inequality. The claims of some sort of “natural” Welsh “need” for English are in fact predicated upon English bourgeois domination of Wales. Thus, the claims that Welsh “nationalism” (or Welsh national consciousness and rights, which are in many cases mis-labelled as “nationalism” in spite of the fact that many non-nationalist Welsh naturally support them in spite of other ideological and practical commitments) are a bourgeois distraction miss the point that the current status quo in Wales is itself a natural byproduct of English bourgeois domination of Wales.

Consider then, if these instincts, motives, and processes are still relatively undissected and uninvestigated in British society after its various attempts at federalisation, how much more undissected they were in China and the Russian Empire even among most revolutionaries prior to the revolution. Consider how much less uninvestigated they are in Syria which has never experienced socialist revolution. And if even after having such a world historical revolutionary force as the Bolshevik Party seize power in the Soviet Union, these contradictions were able to reproduce themselves in so many ways that socialism was, in part, destroyed by them, how much can we say those who brush aside these questions in the UK today are planning for victory in any meaningful sense?

The same, of course, applies to the US, Turkey, India, Russia today, etc.

*I leave aside the Trotskyite attempts to claim the October Revolution as the one “pure” revolution, as this is a worthy subject of discussion in its own right.

Lumumba’s campaign an opportunity for the left in the South

The Forge

By Muhsin Yorulmaz

On May 2nd, the people of Jackson, Mississippi will vote in the primaries for the mayoral candidate for their city.

Thanks to the duopoly system – to which people in the US are so accustomed as to often forget it is there – it is already expected that whoever wins the Democratic primary will be elected mayor. The majority Afro-American voter population will almost certainly vote against the Republican party’s candidate, and third party candidates are effectively excluded from discourse in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

One of these candidates, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, stands out because of his unusual background. Lumumba’s father, also named Chokwe Lumumba, could be characterized as a sort of Black nationalist carpetbagger, who moved to Jackson, Mississippi to organize the population around the slogan of “free the land”, a reference to reparations in the form of land understand through a lens…

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Between Westminster and Edinburgh: Whither the Scottish Proletariat?

A declaration on the prospects and limitations of Scottish secession from the UK by Red Century:

Red Century


As the SNP calls for another referendum on Scottish Independence, the entire island of Britain is experiencing a collective flashback to the media circus of the first: Scottish elements excitedly plot a glorious new Scottish future, while Westminster repeats its fevered pleas for “British” unity, a unity built by imperialist collaboration and conquest.

It is an almost emotional position for those of us dedicated to the destruction of the imperialist Westminster State that Scotland should secede. What’s more, there is good theoretical basis for this position: Scotland as an “independent” state would not have the economic power abroad which Westminster has, and which is the basis of the latter’s status as an imperialist power. Like the South of Ireland, an “independent” Scotland would be a type of dependent country, not so dominated by foreign capital as semi-colonial countries such as the North of Ireland, but unable to play a significant…

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Red Century is Born

I am extremely proud to announce the launch of Red Century, a new Marxist-Leninist publication for Britain, which in its own words has chosen today to launch because:

Today is a uniquely important International Working Women’s Day: It is the 100th anniversary of the February Revolution, which began with Russian women striking against the imperialist war the Tsarist state was imposing on the peoples of the Russian Empire. This democratic revolution marked the beginning of the revolutionary process that was to culminate in the October Revolution, the world-shaking moment which still inspires millions around the world today.

Translation problems

I did not realise until I just went to add it to my “Published work” page, but the first piece I wrote about the national question’s relationship to Trump’s victory for ETHA is inconsistent in how it expects the Turkish reader to pronounce Trump’s name (as its spelling implies in Turkish or as it is actually pronounced in most prestige dialects of English).

This inconsistency probably came about during the editing process, in which several people are involved. I only mention it here to reassure monolingual English speakers that they hold no monopoly on being confused about how to pronounce the names of political figures from other countries.

It would be very nice if we could come to some form of agreement about how to pronounce “Iran” and “Iraq”, however.

Money Monster


Like many who have been subjected to a long Turkish Airlines flight recently, I noticed the film “Money Monster” prominently offered among the film choices. The film was apparently not beloved by critics, which astounds me, because I have now watched it several times and continue to find it compelling. If you have not seen it, I strongly recommend doing so.

The film is directed by Jodie Foster and stars George Clooney. Both are Hollywood celebrities who have recently decided they wish to be “socially conscious” in their artistic output. I will return to the contradiction here momentarily, but for now let me just say that compared to some past attempts by Clooney, such as the politically meaningful but practically unwatchable mess that was Syriana, I think this is a massive improvement. Beyond that I enjoy watching it as a film, however, the film raises questions Marxists should be asking, although it naturally cannot provide the necessary answers. It would make a fine viewing for a Marxist group’s film night. Copious spoilers follow:

The Global Financial Crisis and Hollywood

Žižek proclaimed at one point that, particularly in an artistic and rhetorical sense, it was the easiest thing to do to be “anti-capitalist” after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. As a big film fan, I have noticed this in Hollywood films in particular: Many films are now coming out, including films not explicitly about the crisis, where the villain is a capitalist. Žižek’s point, as I understood it (and I’m not entirely certain Žižek always understands his own points), was that we are allowed to cynically hate an individual capitalist portrayed onscreen, but not to concretely organise against capitalism. In some sense, however, the contradiction is also reflected onscreen: Many films portray evil capitalists and corporations, but without a conception that these capitalists are the normative reflection of the system, or, even if they are, that justice is somewhat “automatically” delivered (by a brave journalist exposing them to the benevolent legal system, although the very need for such films is based on the widespread knowledge that the state has protected Wall Street’s pirate-like practices).

It may be that the lack of a connection between cinematic rage against a capitalist archetype and real-world struggle is predicated upon films which were cynically made to act as a pressure release valve for anger against the system. But it may just as well be that due to the class background of the majority of those involved in the production of Hollywood films, they are capable of little more than abstract moralising against a general sensation of wrongdoing “within” a system that by and large treats them well.

Having re-watched “Money Monster” several times, this question of how to portray the contradictions of capitalism and resistance to it onscreen stuck out in my mind. At the beginning of the film, we have the gun-wielding Kyle declaring openly that the CEOs who defraud ordinary people (“the people” in Marxist-Leninist terminology) are the same group that controls the media. This itself is a sort of tacit admission of the limitations of the film as an act of protest, as by the end of the film, we have CEO Walt Camby exposed in the bourgeois media, leading to criminal charges against him and a return to “business as usual” for our pro-market media heroes.

There is wish-fulfillment and reality at play here: It is reality that some CEOs are “punished” (and their punishment may result in less actual suffering than the reality of “normal” life under capitalism for many of us) for the laws they break (not the exploitation that results in constant suffering for millions even when it does not violate bourgeois law)… It is wish-fulfillment that this is a happy ending. Not only because so much “criminality” goes unpunished that these “victories” may ring hollow, but because “business as usual” is not a happy ending for most of us. “Business as usual” under capitalism does not erase the contradictions that result in massive suffering and death for millions, and constant alienation, stress, and depression for even many of the relatively “well-off” among us. The problem is not the individual villain, as much as Hollywood may want to portray it that way: The problem is exploitation, imperialism, alienation, oppression; the problem is the system itself, which the individual capitalist may also “suffer” from (as the “invisible hand” of the profit motive drives them through life without time to cultivate meaningful community or sense of self).

On the other hand, what’s interesting about Money Monster relative to some other films in which Wall Street or a corporation is depicted as the villain is how it does on some level manage to portray struggle of everyday people alongside a few “extraordinary” individuals at the centre of the plot… Of course, there is no “Occupy Wall Street” in the film, but there are the South African miners…

Imperialism and superprofits

Prior to seeing the film, if I were to summarise Hollywood’s “problem” with depicting “anti-capitalism” in cinema is that it portrays it entirely as a moralistic question of exposing capitalism, rather than a material question of mobilising against capitalism.

This film falls into this genre of “anti-capitalism” in general. However, there is a very important counter-posing of two proletariats in the film: It does not show the proletariat in New York as having any sense of organisation (on the contrary, “civilians” on the street are portrayed asininely cheering on either Kyle, the “suicide bomber”, or Lee Gates’s clownish television persona), but it does show quite direct proletarian struggle in another context: The South African miners’ strike, portrayed without an ounce of cynicism or question if the miners are anything but heroes, is a welcome political high point near the film’s cinematic climax.

The moment of cynicism comes from the villainous CEO Walt Camby, who declares that he is unfairly maligned, as if it were not him turning a profit by exploiting the weak, someone else would. This is in fact true and should not be ignored as an empty excuse by an antagonistic character. This is the nature of capitalism and it cannot be avoided. What’s interesting is how it is tied into international politics (per the Leninist understanding of imperialism): Camby does not protest that in his place just another CEO would have exploited South African miners, but that the US’s imperialist competition (“the Chinese” and “the Russians”) would. In effect, this is the inversion of Kyle’s call early in the film to blame the wealthy at the top of our local society (in Kyle’s case, the US) rather than the spectre of foreigners represented by “the Muslims” and “the Chinese”. “The main enemy is at home”. The conflict between different imperialist bourgeoisies is a false conflict, to be navigated between. The jingoistic rhetoric of one’s “own” bourgeoisie is to be opposed despite the accusations of “treason” (or “tankyism”, as is the fashionable cover for patriotism in English-speaking imperialist countries).

It is also noteworthy that the subject of Kyle was chosen in spite of the lack of portrayal of struggle on the part of US citizens in the film: He is not only the citizen of an imperialist country, but a member of the oppressor nation (the “Yankee” nation). As such, he represents a proletariat which has been disproportionately “bought off” by US imperialism. He is not our expected revolutionary subject given a relative amount of privilege compared to many of the victims of US imperialism, and the film even alludes to this matter through the aforementioned speech by Camby in which he accuses this “labour aristocratic” subject of, in effect, getting out of line by objecting to imperialist practices now that he is suffering.

But they do begin to object now, although the film does not show this so much as tell this (through Kyle’s angry rants). They do begin to object now, and that is why we had a Sanders, though he was weak and though he lost. They do begin to object now, and that is why there is increasingly a Hollywood genre of “anti-Wall Street” films. Though the cynical Camby may not like it, and though we must not exaggerate it, there is hope in the oppressor nations as well, unfortunately because the reality of capitalism is beginning to hit them directly: Where FDR’s “new deal” promised a “labour aristocratic” life complete with home ownership, the younger the oppressor nation proletariat gets in the US, the more their struggle begins to mirror that of the Afro-American proletariat, who in turn are closer to the “foreign” victims of US imperialism and its superexploitation.

It was the superprofits generated by the actions of characters like Camby which created the apathy depicted in an exaggerated fashion among the US proletariats at large, and the oppressor nation proletariat in particular. It was the extraction of those superprofits which makes the buying off of oppressed nation proletariats in places like South Africa so much more difficult, and keeps their explicit labour struggles so much more in the centre of politics in that country than in countries like the US, which are home to powerful labour aristocracy.

There is a dawning realisation in the scene where Camby tries to defend himself to Kyle. Kyle is shocked when he can’t name what is specifically illegal about Camby’s practices, but he quickly realises it doesn’t matter what the law is: “Doesn’t make it right”. The problem is not that capitalism can infringe upon bourgeois law, but that it is simply not fair. It is a new realisation, perhaps, for much of the oppressor nation proletariat in the United States and the United Kingdom just how unfair capitalism is, but it is not a case of “too little, too late”. Were this not a Hollywood film, it ought to have ended on Kyle’s sacrifice for this truth, the closest to a deep philosophical breakthrough for its target audience, rather than emotional recovery for the prophets of finance portrayed by Clooney and Roberts, absolved of their sins by helping expose one specific legal infringement in an overall unethical system.

Violence and death

On the other hand, there is something instructive in Kyle’s death being swept aside so easily: When Kyle dies, the television viewers who had been on the edge of their seats resume their normal activities. They walk away. The flashy display of guns and bombs may have grabbed momentary attention, but without a foundation of broad struggle beneath it, it was just so much spectacle. The centre of the spectacle dies, and the television production team plots its next spectacle, unmoved by the hard questions about capitalism that were raised. The viewership at large have to return to their own lives, their own struggles, their own sacrifices.

Midway through the film, Lee Gates attempts to question the rationality of Kyle’s use of violence. Waving a gun around, threatening him with a bomb, these are supposedly out of touch with Kyle’s concerns about getting by. But merely getting by is an act of tremendous resilience in the face of huge psychological violence by a completely unfeeling system. The urge to respond with violence, to use any means to make oneself heard, is quite relateable to those of us who have really considered the monumental cruelty of the system we inhabit. For Kyle, years of alienation and exhaustion have culminated in the realisation that he won’t be able to take care of the child he created, and he wants to scream in the face of the society that won’t even let him have his such victories, to fire on it like the enemy it treats him as. Kyle is attacked for being “irrational”, but what he is is the face of victimhood without an apparent outlet. Without unity in struggle, and struggle in unity, we will all of us commit a kind of irrational suicide, even if not with a gun, but just by quietly going into the night as life grinds us down more and more.

Conversely, physical death does not have to truly “kill” us. When revolutionaries in Turkey say that a martyr “lives in our struggle”, we are suggesting that this immortality is the sublation of their life into the collective consciousness, even though they have of course literally passed on. Exemplary comrades live on in the ways they touched those around them, even if they die a violent death at a very young age. This is all the more reason not to fetishise death and violence, of course. Dying like DHKP-C cadres do, in senseless attacks, is a shame on those who give the orders. Kyle’s character dies for something that could have been exposed a thousand other ways and changed thousands of people. There are many who don’t die who help the world and those around them far more than Kyle did simply by yelling the truth for a brief moment with a gun in the air.

But if the film had gone on to show what I expect was to be Gates’s future, how meaningful a life would it have been? Would he have returned to making uncritical predictions about market fluctuations? Would he have died old and wealthy, but having not pushed humanity one inch closer to a truly liberated common future? Did Gates’s actions matter any more than Kyle’s did, in the grand scheme of things?

Whether we die old and in bed, or young and in a hail of bullets, we must make sure that the time up to and including that moment is spent fighting against the death beyond the physical death, bringing people together to fight for the life beyond the physical life. Meaning in life is not to be found in the spectacle Gates or Kyle found, but in building a meaningful place in society, and in helping that society fight for its very future.


To the few people who follow my humble blog, I just wanted to let people know that I’m still alive, and in fact still writing. Lately I’ve been getting more offers to write for a broader audience in different contexts, and so I have been working on writing that doesn’t go on this blog; I’ve also received some valuable criticisms from trusted comrades which may cause me to change the way I go about writing and organising somewhat. I’ve added a section for pieces I’ve written for publications, which should grow as time goes on. I’ll be deleting some of my more unnecessary pieces from this blog, and leave up those piece which I feel have a general value.

In struggle,