Commie Dad: Marxism, Identity Politics, and Worker’s Power

Commie Dad, a popular personality on communist Twitter, recently wrote a piece entitled Marxism, Identity Politics, and Worker’s Power, in which he set out to rebut the charges, common as Marxism reemerges as a recognised intellectual trend in the English-speaking world, that Marxism fails to account for anything except class. This is admirable and important work, and, for reasons aforementioned, part of a growing genre by Marxists of varying stripes to defend Marks Baba from charges of “brocialism”.

It should go without saying that I more or less endorse the contents of the piece. Indeed, taken as a “universal” there is relatively little to criticise, but what little there is to criticise is much more important given its positioning within the particular context of the US left, which has been robbed of a sturdy theoretical backbone for some time.

Let us begin then with a point of agreement and then launch into where I think the piece could stand to improve. Dad Commie writes that “Proponents of identity politics often see the working class as exclusively white and male, but this is far from the case.” Having spoken to a great many progressives in the US, I can say that this is indeed the preoccupation. In the shadow of the Trump victory, there is a pressure which even I feel to discuss US politics in a dichotomy between understanding “the working class” that voted for Trump, and “identity politics”, practically implying that Black America is more elite than white America in class terms! Scarcely any visitor to the United States can hold this illusion for even a moment, but the rhetoric at present is indeed such among those born here that one would think the toilers of the United States were mostly white men.

But as I said, it is obvious they are not. During a conversation with another Turkish friend doing her PhD here recently, the subject of my revolutionary politics came up. She is a self-described bourgeois and not predisposed to sympathy for revolutionaries, although we are nonetheless very close, and the circumstances back in the memleket have a strong unifying effect. She was saying, only partially ironically, that circumstances in the US are rapidly beginning to resemble those in Turkey, and that I had better “make a revolution somewhere fast”, lest we remain caught between multiple countries rapidly descending towards the “state of nature”. I responded that I remained hopeful for Turkey for various reasons, but that “there’s no reason to have any hope for the US”. She responded that any communist revolution in the US would have to rely entirely on Black people, as “there aren’t any white workers anyway”.

My friend was obviously not speaking in a literal sense, but there is some truth behind this. No matter how the rhetoric among US citizens might be, it is a fairly obvious fact that the deeper one descends into the proletarian masses in the US, the blacker the faces one sees are. Naturally, we should ask ourselves why this is. The easy answer, which is not entirely untrue, is that the bourgeoisie in the United States has been effective in “dividing” the workers. But as Dad Commie himself responds: “Marxists would not be arguing that workers must be united if we did not think there was anything dividing them in the first place.”

But what is this division? Is it merely one of “race”? Certainly this is the term to which Commie Dad returns again and again in discussing the most salient contradiction of US society, that between “Black and White America”, dating back to slavery. But as slavery ended decades ago, why is this gap, both in social treatment and in economic class, still so real? Are people in the US simply that racist? Readers want to say “yes”, instinctively, but this does not really account for the really massive amounts of integration which do exist among many groups which were historically second-tier toilers in the United States, such as the Chinese. Further, in many countries in the Americas one finds historical racial-caste systems similar to the one in the US, by which the further up the social ladder one climbs the whiter the faces one sees are. But in countries like Mexico or Brazil, the sharp division between black and white has at least been blurred with a large “mixed” middle section of the society, a phenomenon which is conspicuously absent in the US (see my forthcoming thoughts on my time in Atlanta).

The real explanation for this sharp division, and what links “Black America” to other oppressed peoples, mostly “of colour”, in the United States, is their relationship to US imperialism. What seems missing in Commie Dad’s piece, which correctly understands the proletariat as divided into many identities which are themselves part of the proletarian struggle and not opposed to it, is mention of nation.

Now to be fair, Commie Dad does mention national liberation as one of the reasons we find Lenin to be an exemplary figure of 20th century history. Commie Dad does not explicitly deny the existence of nations in the US, and indeed mentions in passing the Black Liberation Movement (although as is perhaps the norm in the US, mentions the BPP to the exclusion of the BLA). But it is important we not merely allow for the existence of nations, but put national questions at the centre of our practice, particularly in an imperialist country like the United States.

So when Commie Dad goes on to say that racist ideology helps reinforce divisions between two groups, I don’t disagree. But the fact that Afro-Americans and Yankees are able to be so effectively divided does lead one to believe the problem is more than “skin deep”. As he himself mentions, there is a long history starting from the slave trade that accounts for the divisions. But the point is that over the course of this history, the divisions became real not only in terms of their material basis in privileges or relationship to the means of production, but also in terms of territory, language, levels of bourgeois exploitation (i.e., the existence of a separate black bourgeoisie), in short, the political, cultural, historical, and economic building blocks of a nation. It is not merely that racism is ideologically strong, but that in the US context, the racialised division is strong enough to have actually passed over from quantity into quality and become something else entirely: national oppression, wherein more or less the entire Afro-American nation, including much of the Afro-American bourgeoisie, is oppressed and exploited by the imperialist Yankee bourgeoisie.

I wish to state again that I liked and agreed with Commie Dad’s piece, and I presume he won’t even disagree with much of what I say here. This is the most comradely of criticisms, intended to bring into sharper focus a central issue to US politics specifically because, as he put it: “Marxism must [fight all] oppressions on their own terms.”

Recommended reading: the works of Harry Haywood, “Settlers” by J. Sakai, “Free The Afro-American Nation” by the Afro-American Liberation League and the Amilcar Cabral/Paul Robeson Collective (M-L), 1982, and if you can read Turkish or have a friend who can translate for you: Trump’un seçim zaferi-1: Siyah Amerika ve Cumhuriyetçiler, by me.

Also, for those of you willing to write to Boxholder, 607 Boylston St., Lower Level Box 464, Boston, MA, 02116 to order a book, “Toward Victorious Afro-American National Liberation”, by Ray O. Light

Dialectics

I had originally intended to write a post entitled “the Dialectics of Gender”, which is indeed an important topic. I am, however, not necessarily the most qualified to write on it.

In general, I had intended to write about feminism and transgender issues because of certain otherwise positive trends taking what I found to be a problematic stance on these matters.

The act of writing the first piece I wrote, about feminism and nationalism, ended up being part of the quantitative buildup to a certain qualitative change in some organisational work I had been involved in, and the desired discussions are now taking place. It is my hope that this qualitative change will result in a greater quantity of theoretical output by a greater quantity of people, several of whom are more qualified than me to write on issues of gender.

The point, however, is that going forward, due to the objective conditions and the growth in the level of organisation of political subjects with which I am involved, my theoretical interventions are taking place increasingly off of this blog, which will become more personal (for now I am thinking pieces like “Missing Istanbul”, or perhaps film reviews, maybe later things which are technically theoretical-political but of interest to me and less so to publications that will take me). I will also be posting here as things I write for various publications are published, or when things of importance are published by groups I am interested in or intervening in.

For anyone stumbling across this by Google, I do encourage you to get in touch with me over anything I’ve said or done or posted of interest. The contradictions are sharpening, the dynamics are in motion, it’s time for us to struggle more in unity and unite more in struggle.

–Muhsin

Feminism and Nationalism

womensliberation

For years I and those with Kaypakkaya-ish views on the Kurdish national question have been accused of “Kurdish nationalism”, mostly by people who are unaware of their own unacknowledged Turkish or Arab nationalism sublated into their purportedly humanitarian, socialist, or otherwise “progressive” ideology. The answer to this, not only from us, but from many Kurds who are not Marxist-Leninists, is that they are not nationalists, but supporters of Kurdish national rights, of Kurdish national liberation as a meaningful struggle, etc.

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.

What does this have to do with feminism?

Marxist-Leninists I know often likewise state that they are “not feminists, but support women’s rights”, or “not feminists, but support women’s liberation”. I must state that I first learned these formulas from women comrades, some of whom are quite fierce on women’s issues and work with bourgeois feminists on all manner of important issues. Thus, I do not claim that there is something anti-woman about these formulas.

However, I claim that there is a difference in how denials of “feminism” and denials of “nationalism” are employed in practice, even when a Marxist-Leninist who is both a man and a member of the oppressor nation is talking. The difference takes two forms, one is subjective, and the other objective.

Firstly, speaking on behalf of men Marxist-Leninists, 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 organisations than we are to recruit women.

Worst of all, of course, when women are recruited in an appropriate number to an organisation, 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, as they too are products of the patriarchal social order which has been with humans since the formation of class society.

This is all quite ironic, because, objectively, feminism is less dangerous 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 deradicalised 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.

However, there has never been a bourgeois matriarchal state. The “woman-state” is an impossibility under capitalism, and indeed, feminists in general do not seek it, but seek an impossible total equality (impossible because capitalism is founded on inequality and exploitation). Therefore, it would seem obvious that just as we position ourselves on the frontlines of national liberation in spite of this meaning we find ourselves allied with bourgeois nationalists, we must be unafraid to position ourselves in contexts where bourgeois feminists hold sway, and be able to recruit from within those millieus.

If we are “too hard on feminists”, and need to not keep them “at arm’s length”, as I claim we do, why not simply follow the lead of various “Marxist” groups who proudly proclaim their organisations to be “feminist” (although often these declarations are quite hollow, as these groups have no meaningful contribution to progress on women’s liberation for women outside the movement to see, whether quantitative or qualitative, whether on bourgeois evolutionary or proletarian revolutionary terms)? 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 centralising the identity of a particular site of oppression [in a narcissistic way that might deserve to be scornfully called “identity politics”].

We should not claim to be “against” feminists, but this label, like “nationalist” should be reserved for general currents in which our organisations can take part. 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 and them that for us, Kurdistan is a particularity, while national liberation is a universal, part of our conception of our stage of history, etc. etc.

Likewise, women’s rights movements, even of oppressor nations in imperialist countries can and should be worked with in some contexts, and in the case where the general trend is “bourgeois” and “oppressive” (as with the sort of “feminism” that lauds Theresa May), one can still build a counter-hegemony that will include some university “feminists”. We need to be able to operate within their struggle, both to advance women’s rights on principle in the particular social context, and pragmatically to articulate our views and intervene in that context on behalf of our understanding of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism as a basis for struggling for human liberation as a concept. This is as true when women are struggling “as feminists” as when Palestinians are struggling “as Palestinians”, and in all the areas where the totality of capitalist society’s underlying contradictions rise to the surface in myriad ways: In the final instance, we are not for the oppressed and the exploited because of the specific form of their identity, but in the first instance, they experience their oppression and exploitation through the lens of manifold identities.

What felt odd to me about writing this rant is, thankfully, I see a trend of establishing stronger women’s sections, of pushing women more and more into leadership by “positive discrimination”, of “decent” men remaining less silent in the face of abuses of women comrades by men comrades. While writing, I had a premonition of young Marxist-Leninists reading it, and saying “so what? we knew all this”, or even interpreting me as trying to prove my “pro-woman” credentials while finding a more insidious way to call feminism “bourgeois” (this is not my position and I think it would be a bad faith reading to understand what I wrote that way, even if one is not a convinced communist).

And yet, both in Turkey and in the UK, and I suspect in the US although I have not born witness to it as concretely, there is a trend of Marxists pushing a “feminist” line, neither in the traditional “right deviationist” sense of simply becoming indistinguishable from bourgeois feminists, nor as a mere cover for agitation and propaganda among women, but rather as a means of defending other positions which do much to reinforce the stereotype of the conservative Brezhnevite “Communist Party” with a condescending tone towards minority groups who dare to fall out of step with the ideological majority identity in “proletarian” costume.

Yes, apparently Marxists are dedicating considerable time to articulating the claim that there is a “problem” with trans people, that they are some “obstacle” to everyone else’s (!) liberation. Therefore, as I had intended to do ever since the publication of the above-linked Morning Star piece, I will be writing a rant on my observations of the dialectics of gender in capitalist society. If nothing else seems more pressing, that will be my next blog post.

Until next time…

1917-2017, ROL Newsletter #100

ROL

Comrades may find the 100th ROL Newsletter here (I am hosting it myself as a PDF here, however, there appears to be an ROL blog now), the publication of the only ICOR affiliate from a majority English-speaking country (unless one counts South Africa).

As part of ICOR’s year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, and in recognising the threat of inter-imperialist war mirroring those on which the February Revolution was built, the ROL will be issuing October-themed newsletters all this year. The contents of this first newsletter are as follows:

The World-Historic Achievements and Historical Significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution, by Ray Light

-Fidel: You Are the People, by Tito Meza

-Let’s Stand with the Standing Rock Sioux! Indigenous Protesters Get Police State Repression while Reactionary White Settlers Get State “Understanding” in the U.S. Countryside, by Pearl Haines

-ICOR Resolution on U.S. Presidential Election

-“U.S. Democracy” Exposed Again, by Ray Light

-The Ghoulish Legacy of Barack Obama, by Cindy Sheehan

 

Syria (and a bit on religion)

I am a “Sunni”.

I am a “Sunni” in as much as my family is more “Sunni” than “Alevi”. I am a Sunni in that on Mevlid a few days ago, I went to a Sunni mosque and offered prayers, out of habit. I don’t actually feel more of a sense of a connection with the divine in the mosque than I might in an Alevi religious ritual, but I am more used to the rituals connected with Sunnism than Alevism.

The state is “Sunni”.

The state is “Sunni” in a very different respect to the one in which I am “Sunni”: the state considers that Alevis are perverts, in that they supposedly pervert our “shared” faith, endorsed and enforced by the state (Alevis are never allowed to decide if they want to “share” a faith with us, but the state imposes this “brotherhood” on them), and often it is implied that they are sexual deviants, although I can say that in my experience, Alevi men are far more sober and respectful of women in a sexual sense than Sunni men are.

The state protects Sunnis who call for the extermination of Alevis in Turkey from any consequences. If Alevis were to dare to respond directly to this provocation, they would be threatened with another Sivas, and again, the perpetrators would walk free.

In fact, right now, due to the situation in Syria, pro-AKP public figures are calling for more massacres of Alevis simply because of the “Alevi”ness of the Syrian state (proven by the Alevi origins of the Assad family). Sunnis in Turkey are told that it is normal to want to kill all Alevis because “they” kill “us” in Syria.

This is why Alevi neighbourhoods long ago learnt that they should protect themselves, with guns if necessary.

Alevis do not “like” Assad. Or, to be more precise, “Alevis” do not “like” Assad any more than “secular” “Sunnis” do. But as soon as one fails to identify with rapist, throat-cutting jihadist gangs, one becomes an “Assadist” in the English-speaking world. Why? Because those gangs want to overthrow the Assad regime for “democracy”… which will be called “democratic” only because the killers who head the new regime will be friendlier to Turkey, the GCC, and NATO. There is no evidence that they will be “progressive” in any way (and their actions imply they will be more reactionary than the Assad regime), and there is evidence that they are already less “democratic” according to the standards of those around me who cry for “democracy” in Syria than the regime (Assad held elections, for whatever that’s worth, while the FSA leadership is selected and not elected, and by foreigners and not Syrians).

Just as “the fight for democracy in Syria” is utterly fabricated, but still pushed by “leftists” in the UK and US who are desperate to avoid the label “tankie” (by making their views acceptable to the Foreign Office and the US State Department), so too is the Syrian state’s “secularism” often exaggerated by its defenders. Like most Arab regimes (including those far worse than the Syrian regime but which, for some reason, nobody is crying for their immediate overthrow, by anyone, consequences be damned), it is actually quite patriarchal and conservative in many ways. But this is not an “Alevi” conservatism: Sunni clerics are constantly to be seen with Assad, who does not appear to practise his Alevi faith in any way. This “Alevi oppression” is decried by those in Turkey who are campaigning to free common rapists, while they continue to deny the recognition of Alevism as having equal freedoms to Sunnism in Turkey, and who, lest we forget, wish to tip the balance of forces in Syria such that Rojava can be crushed, the base it provides for revolutionaries destroyed, and the hopes of the Kurdish people for liberation once again smashed.

If “Stalinists” like me are at a loss to prove that we are not “Assadists”, it matters very little. This is but the particular manifestation of their universal attack on us as “tankies”, a term which is meaningless on both sides of the Atlantic where it is used by the worst sort of people. Those who wish to smear us in this fashion have already chosen to side with the CIA against everyone, and while we Marxist-Leninists certainly do not side with just anyone against the CIA, we can’t hope to be loved and understood by those who have a generalised faith in the good will of “western democracy”, performed merely to separate themselves from a spectre of Kremlinism that barely exists in the real world (outside of the CPGB-ML perhaps).

What does matter to me is proving the innocence of the Alevis. Not only have many heroic Alevis (including Alevi Arabs, and in Syria) fought for real revolutionary values far beyond the petty pragmatism we must often accept in everyday politics, but I’m sorry to say that even their reactionary leadership is “better” than ours. If Assad is the “evil Alevi”, he is a much less “evil Alevi” than his Sunni neighbours are “evil Sunnis”, and it takes only the smallest amount of empathy to see this.

US and UK readers will at this point protest that they have nothing against “Alevis”. Well I am sorry to tell you that in the region, those who call for the downfall of the Assad regime today (perhaps it was different years ago before the proxy war began in earnest) very specifically have a problem with Alevis. In Turkey, the Venn diagram between between those who want to kill Alevis for being “infidels” and those who were out protesting the regime’s victory in Aleppo is indistinguishable from a circle. Of those Syrians who remain in Syria and outside of Kurdish-held territory, the Venn diagram of those who oppose al-Qaeda rule and those who have distanced themselves from “the Syrian Revolution” (for now at least) is similarly very close to a circle.

This does not make us “tankie” “Assadists” to say, it makes us realists. Indeed, I do not support “Assad”, although he is the “lesser evil”, but many prophets of “lesser evilism” in far less dangerous conditions ought to (and yet they are the very ones gambling with the lives of Syrians by calling for US-backed regime change in Syria, to the advantage of the greater evil!)

There are those who would say that the Zionists have their own “realism”, predicated on a similar logic, that we would thus be “forced” to accept. Again, I do not actually advocate “supporting” either side in Syria, nor do I support all Palestinian political camps simply because they are Palestinian (as is implied by the comparison). But even so, I must say that the facts of international monitors and the theory of Marxism-Leninism both stand at odds with this comparison: Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas, as much as I dislike them, are not accused of the sort of mass crimes “the Syrian rebels” are accused of, although Israel’s crimes and the Syrian regime’s crimes are quite similar. As for theory, we hold that an occupying power where a national question is concerned must be separated out. “Both sides” of the propaganda war assure everyone that there is but one “Syrian people” (part of “the Arab people” according to the regime, which is another reminder that neither side understands the Kurdistani reality), and so what we have are two “bad” leaderships, one of which is clearly the one which all readers would prefer to live under if they were absolutely forced to choose (and Syrians are, which is how Assad is winning, not because he is truly beloved).

But the crux of this pro-“Syrian Revolution” argument is that we are “Islamophobic” or “Sunniphobic”. That those of us who fail to cheer on al-Qaeda impose “western” ideas on people who, we are told, would prefer to live that way.

This cultural relativism masks in most cases a deep ignorance: I know religious Sunnis. I have comrades who are religious Sunnis. I have family who are religious Sunnis. I fast on Ramadan with religious Sunnis, and have for years, even after losing most of my own belief. And while I am very critical of many things “true believers” believe, I can assure the reader, they do not wish for al-Qaeda. Most of them, even those who turn a blind eye to the state’s campaign of hatemongering against Alevis in Turkey, have their stomachs turn at the sight of al-Qaeda supporters. Al-Qaeda and groups like it prey on the most easily manipulated elements of the society, and (flush with GCC and occasionally NATO funds), they wreak terror against whatever targets present themselves, which often includes religious Sunnis (hence why, again, Assad is winning the war in spite of the fact that he is not beloved, and that is not and has never been my or almost anyone’s argument).

But is it not the regime’s fault the war started? Naturally: The narrative that I’m pushing, which has long been accused of being “Assadist” (whether it appears soberly in Jacobin or in satire form on Worker’s Spatula) is that the regime creates conditions which are easily manipulated by imperialism, and its momentary victory will not prevent more barbarism. “Socialism or barbarism”, as Rosa said.

But just as the regime is “barbarism” and not “socialism” (no matter how it and the revisionists define it), putting jihadists in charge is likewise “barbarism” (a worse kind), and not “socialism”. It is not socialism, nor is it a positive step forward for socialists, nor can it be a tactical gambit that can improve our position. The reality of the jihadist gangs foreign-backed takeover of large parts of Syria, like the Trump victory, is an unavoidable warning sign that we must, right now, today, organise.

Syrian progressives who do feel disillusioned by both sides of this ugly and senseless civil war understand now, one hopes, why for decades in the diaspora, our neighbourhoods were abuzz with revolutionary activity while theirs were apathetic and apolitical. They thought we were wasting our time, perhaps, but the result was a series of strong networks for revolutionaries who are able to intervene, sometimes openly, sometimes more secretly, in day-to-day politics, to outmanoeuvre the dangerous forces of fascism that are coming, like it or not.

I am very hopeful for Turkey and Kurdistan, while I can only hope for hope in Arab Syria. But to all the Syrians out there, hoping, we are here for you, and we do want to help, not by offering you a saviour (as the GCC/NATO axis tries to do with its plots against the regime and as the Russia/Iran axis tries to do with its support for the regime), but by working with you to lead the people and the forces of progress to power, across the whole region.

Only then can we have real secularism, real women’s rights, real democracy, and real socialism.

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.

Trump Elected CEO of the US, Part 2

I got very tired of writing and rewriting this piece with an eye to explaining the differences and similarities between Trump and Clinton, more or less addressing an audience of US citizens I know. There is no point to this. This is a Marxist-Leninist blog. There is a picture of Stalin at the top of my page. More or less anyone who can tolerate reading what I write here already assumes that the Democratic Party at large and Hillary Clinton in particular are strong proponents of US imperialism, and therefore the enemy. They understand that Trump being a fascist and head of a rapidly strengthening fascist movement does not make the US a fascist state yet (and if it did, the Democratic Party clearly “accepts” this fascism, as did the social democrats of Germany in their day, hence why Clinton was never a “popular front against fascism” candidate). Clinton is dead, Clinton-style politics is dead, and none of the Yankee worker aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie who are mourning it are reading this here.

On the other hand, however, we must be clear that the exposure of Hillary Clinton-style politics does not mean the end of the Democratic Party. Indeed, it is likely enough that the Democrats will embrace something akin to the social democrat Bernie Sanders to redeem themselves and be embraced as saviours. This is expected, as Bernie Sanders-style politics is the logical next step for the US at large. We must not, like the Trotskyites, simply “jump ahead” to a level of struggle for which the masses are not prepared. But neither can we patronisingly fall back on the assumption that the masses are not progressing. While there is much to criticise in Bernie Sanders, the fact that he is the point of reference for so many protesters shows that they are open to rather rapid development of their ideas about resistance: Sanders is popular while blaming the Democratic Party for its failure to mobilise the appropriate class politics against Trumpite fascism, and while encouraging the ongoing protests against it, just as he emphasised that even if he had won the presidency himself, progressive policies depended on mass mobilisation, for which he himself could only act as a cypher of sorts. This is extremely good and not to be looked down upon, even if his explicit desire is to institute a very normative social democratic order, his method involves (particularly by US standards) quite radical rethinking of the relationship of the masses to the state.

The shortcoming of all this, of course, is that Trump, and not Sanders, found himself as the cypher for opposition to the US’s imperialist foreign policy. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric on this point, like all other points, is empty. It is not tanks, but capital, which he worships, which creates imperialism. But it remains an important critique of Sanders that his foreign policy is effectively pro-imperialist. For this point, I am afraid all that can be said is to continually reemphaise to Sanders supporters that it is Sanders and Clinton and Obama who destroyed Libya, and who assist Saudi Arabia in destroying Yemen, and who have allowed Israel to continue to occupy Palestine. Given that, as I said, it is not the tanks which make imperialism but the capital which Trump stands for, the US’s foreign policy under Trump cannot be benevolent. Perhaps the (rightful) animosity towards Trump and all he represents will allow for a rearticulation of an anti-imperialist stance in the United States.

But the more general point, about class politics “internal” to the US being the answer to Trumpite fascism, while a decent “universal”, must be understood through various local particularities. Of course, “right deviationist” that I am [accused of being by EMEP and TÖPG comrades in Turkey], I refer to the national question.

countymap

The national question and Trump

One of the most repeated truisms about Trump’s victory is that “white supremacy” is responsible. Many respond to this by claiming that, since many non-whites voted for Trump (more than voted for non-fascist Republican candidates like Mitt Romney), this cannot be the case. Both are making a category error entirely expected in the US context of assuming the central issue to be “race”.

What is “race”? It is a pseudo-scientific concept which posits the division of humanity into discrete biological types, usually determined by phenotype and “confirmed” by “ancestry”, and frequently posited as an explanation for sociological phenomena.

Race is not real. Now, “real” social divisions (that is, divisions based on socialisation) are certainly reified and interpreted through physiological traits. But this is akin to saying that “race” and “racism” are what lies beneath the treatment of the Catholic Irish in the British Isles, simply because many English thought and continue to think that there are important physical and genetic differences between themselves and the Irish, although it is perfectly obvious to everyone that the British Isles is a mad genetic mixture in all corners.

When Marxist-Leninists in the United States refer to Afro-Americans, they refer to a cultural group (the nation, in fact) who have their own history and culture going back centuries which must be accounted for, just as is the case with, say, the Québécois in Canada. This group is mostly “black”, and “black” people in the United States are so stigmatised in “white” society that they mostly end up identifying with and becoming socialised in this culture (just as recent European immigrants are quickly socialised into mainstream “Yankee” national culture). This is why we must emphasise that the division is simply one of skin colour and “stereotypes”. There is a cultural division which is as real as that between the English and the Irish, which happens to have been reified most saliently through “racial” identification. However, the implications for class politics are similar: The Yankee bourgeoisie wishes to hold down the Afro-American bourgeoisie and directly exploit Afro-American labour, thus maximising profits for the dominant nation bourgeoisie.

Thus, when we find Afro-Americans voting for Trump, we can understand that they identify not with “white supremacy” but with the “Great American” ideology, and thus resemble members of any oppressed national group who identify with the oppressor nation because they (falsely) believe their subservience will be rewarded. The same may be said for “Asians” (a very diverse “group”), who “shocked” post-modernist race-theorists at my school by not running in fear of Trump’s “white supremacy”: Trump’s ideology is Yankee supremacy, which has white undertones, but is, at the end of the day, a nationalist ideology which has to remake its “genetic” composition constantly, and can therefore appeal to many assimilated bourgeois “Asians”… or even non-assimilated bourgeois “Asians” if their own nationalism corresponds with elements of the Trumpite worldview. All of this was ignored by post-modernists around me, who assumed the eternal radical-ness of simply looking “non-white” in the United States, and assured me that all non-whites who voted for Trump have sold out their “real” culture (which is voting for Clinton?), have internalised racism (or perhaps they benefit from anti-“black” racism themselves?), or some other hand-waving gesture to avoid the reality of bourgeois “non-whites” who have right wing views based on their class and national interests.

In any event, it is necessary to break down all “minority” politics (including those of Afro-Americans) in terms of their class interests when doing analysis: Are there sharp contradictions between the bourgeoisie of the minority group in question and the Yankee bourgeoisie? Is the trend towards more or less contradiction as the crisis deepens? What is the strength of the proletariat of the minority in question? Do their numbers and territory make them a nation, or a mere national minority within the United States?

This is all very well and good, but what of the white majority vote? After all, a spike in minority votes for Republicans or not, it matters that many white workers did turn out for Trump, and we cannot mobilise purely on oppressed nations and minority nationalities (although in the US, it must be said that this is not done nearly enough on the radical left). While it is not the case (and has never truly been the case and will, as history moves forward, likely become less the case) that the oppressor “Yankee” nation is “pure white”, the majority of “white” English-speakers in North America do belong to this national formation. Do they too support Trump “naturally” for being white?

Yes and no. Like bourgeois “Asians”, bourgeois whites everywhere ought to be expected, as a general rule, to support reactionary and imperialist nationalism as an ideology against a revolutionary internationalism and national liberation movements. They would have done this covertly through Clinton and many will do it overtly through Trump. However, bourgeois whites (including landowners and urban bourgeois) in areas with a large presence of an oppressed nation will be more quick to fall in line behind fascism as demographic trends dictate that suppression of minorities be scaled back if the niceties of bourgeois democracy are to be preserved. That is to say, one should not be surprised that the Apartheid South Africa-like environment of urban Atlanta pushes the urban bourgeoisie towards Trump (who overtly antagonises Black Lives Matter) while their Manhattan equivalent, not immediately “threatened” by a local oppressed nation, was comfortable voting for Clinton (who simply ignores Black Lives Matter). This trend of course applies in Texas and portions of the southwest where Chicanos and Native American nations and nationalities make the local white bourgeoisie “uneasy”, and indeed it is not surprising that landowning whites living in all areas near the various Native American nationalities consistently vote as right-wing as possible, fearing that any move towards a conciliatory tone will open a space for the articulation of grievances by these groups, who are the victims of a Yankee genocide and who rightly demand the restoration of their rights, including their land.

A very different picture emerges in Appalachia and the so-called “Rust Belt”. In Appalachia, it is the local and culturally distinct white population which is consistently left behind, finding itself almost as impoverished as Black America is. Accordingly, the US ICOR affiliate ROL has theorised the existence of an oppressed Appalachian nation. This national formation behaves very much like the multi-nationality region of the Eastern Black Sea in Turkey, or the North of England (which may be a separate nation from the South of England), where their apparent “closeness” to the oppressor nation allowed them to be easily swayed to the right after progressive movements which were once particularly successful in these regions collapsed. Like the Black Sea, it is our hope that in the North of England or Appalachia a new progressive movement can work to expose and replace the fascist trends which run rampant in these areas, held up as they are only by empty demagoguery and obfuscationism, and not by the concrete interests of the majority.

As for the “Rust Belt”, it has now been said almost too many times that there are many urban workers in the region that voted for Obama before turning to Trump in 2016. Living in the heartland of Yankeedom, where national contradictions are much less than in the southern regions of the country, or even slightly west in the Dakotas, this is perhaps the “purest” white proletariat. Since the 2008 crisis, the benefits they were meant to reap from the exploitation of these other groups are being pulled back, and they desperately crave change. This is why they were inspired by Obama, and indeed why many of them were inspired by Sanders. Having been robbed of inspiration “from the left”, they have nowhere to turn but Trump.

So, what is to be done?

Everywhere, Trump and the fascist ideology which seeps into the mainstream through him must be vigorously opposed in the streets. If this flashy but premature turn to fascism is not stamped out quickly, the US as a whole runs the risk of rapidly descending into the mire into which US imperialism has plunged so many other countries over the course of the Cold War and beyond.

Everywhere, workers and students must draw closer together and learn from each other. Every form of extra-parliamentary resistance put forth by the masses should be embraced and supported.

Everywhere, it must be emphasised that whatever our criticisms of Sanders, it was his unique (for the US context) “left” populism which was the correct response for the current conditions in which fascists are thriving, not an appeal to the status quo which is what angers the people and delivers them into fascism’s waiting embrace.

Progressives from areas where Trumpite fascism is already very unpopular should seriously consider relocating to the colonised heartlands of oppressed nations and nationalities to concretely aid those oppressed nations and nationalities in their struggle against colonialism. We must support the national resistance of the Sioux people exemplified at Standing Rock, we must push forward the struggle of the Navajo, we must work together with Chicanos against the ICE Raids.

We absolutely must defend the resistance of Black America against police violence and work towards the strengthening of communal institutions for Afro-Americans, in the Black Belt South in particular. This means first and foremost working to reengage the disenfranchised Afro-American population with day to day politics. If Afro-Americans were not so weak and demoralised in their own homeland, thanks to years of neo-Jim Crow politics (which could very well get worse under Trump), there could be many more Chokwe Lumumbas preaching and actually leading in community control for this oppressed national minority in the US.

When dealing with “white” proletarians in such regions, we must emphasise their common interests with the minority “poor”, and how they are robbed by the Trumps of the world, who are the real ones taking their jobs away, when the resources exist to feed, clothe, house, educate, and employ everyone. If a new progressive movement in Appalachia can be forged, now is the time, especially when Trump fails to deliver to this impoverished region the change they so desperately need.

Among proletarians in general, the falsehood of Trump’s promises may soon be exposed: The renewal for ordinary people cannot be accomplished through the methods Trump and the Republicans are prepared to employ, so they will be reduced to empty demagoguery and scapegoating. However, these are the methods which have been tacitly accept for years under Obama, who himself has deported more people from the United States than Bush. The system may not be 100% behind Trump, but it has nothing against continuing the slide that led to him and will one day lead far past him. The broadest possible front against this slide is necessary: We must find a way to draw together the proletariat and the oppressed together with political trends which have been weakly struggling in parliamentary politics (inside or outside of the Democratic Party, in either case suppressed by the capital forces which stand behind it). This is no time for sectarianism: We must work with anyone who understands that the people, and not the system, is the means by which the fascist slide will be stopped.