Together with Russia?

A Critique of the Pro-Sino-Russian “Anti-imperialism” Trend in the USA and Western Europe, or Part I of a response to “Position paper from Red Guards Austin, 2016”

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

17 July 2016

The appearance of new political centers for the advocacy and advancement of Marxian revolutionism in the United States is a good thing. It would, however, be unreasonable to suppose that any one of these centers is infallible, no matter how grounded in the “science” of whatever “-ism” it pretends to be. Revolutionary agitators, organizers, and educators should avoid the pitfalls of sectarianism and provincial-particularism-cum-universalism by remaining open to the ideas emitted by a panoply of political centers (which need not necessarily be constituted by sects), moving in this way towards a decolonial transmodern pluriversalism as an authentic universalism. The potential mass organization of futurity operating on a genuine democratic centralism need not conceptualize its constituent political centers as tentacle-like “branches” sprouting from the sectarian center of one metropolitan province, but as disparate centers, autonomous in and of themselves, which link up, like the social individuals who exercise agency in coming together to take part in the formation of a collective, even though they may not have been previously “related” in the mundane sense.

It is in this spirit of critical open-mindedness that I received some of the criticisms of American left-wing activist groups that a Maoist-oriented organization based in Austin, Texas and calling itself the “Red Guards” after the eponymous Red Guards of 1960s China made in their 2016 position paper “Condemned to Win!”. What follows are some of my reflections on what they put forward in that paper, which serves also as a launch pad to further elaborations.

Allegations of bogus “anti-imperialist” posturing

The author(s) of “Condemned to Win!” see as problematic a trend they identify among the formally organized leftist groups in the United States (and beyond) in the form of a vulgar anti-imperialism which they call “alternative-imperialism”. They argue that one “cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.” Others have argued exactly the opposite. For example, that there is at the present moment no such thing as Russian imperialism and that you cannot oppose imperialism without standing in solidarity with certain key policies of the government of the Russian Federation [X, X]. Before we can evaluate both lines of argumentation about how we are to oppose imperialism and come to a sound conclusion as to which one, if any, is correct, we must first consider what imperialism is, what its essential features are today, and how developments in imperial systems over the course of the last one-hundred years which have passed since the “classical” Marxian theorists first described modern imperialism might change our orientation towards it.

A brief overview of “imperialism” and its development

Human societies have been confronted by something we might call “imperialism” (the system of empire) for thousands of years. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries that a number of political theorists (the “classical” Marxians) began to elaborate analyses of a new form of imperialism that was qualitatively different from that of Imperium Romanum or Manden Kurufaba. Whereas in those ancient and medieval empires, outgrowths of the earliest agricultural class societies, the basic schematic elements of imperialism (the amassing of wealth and privilege by members of one class and/or polity to the detriment of others, combined with an expansionist thrust) could be found in practices of conquest, colonization, enslavement, tribute collection, and vassalage, the arrival of modernity signalled the beginning of a long process of progressively layering new features onto the imperial schema, as well as transforming or discarding some of the old.

While the embryonic capitalism of the first modern empires arising around the 15th century CE preserved many of the trappings of the older class system of feudalism, such as the continued predominance of artisanal and handicraft-type manufacturing, their distinctive novelty was in the emergence of a wealthy and powerful merchant class associated to a large extent with the transatlantic triangular trade.

A middle phase of capitalism seemed to be inaugurated when these empires underwent industrial revolutions and holders of capital in the form of “large-scale machine industry” (prefigured by those plantation-capitalists who made factories out of the land and machines out of human beings) became the principal basis for an imperialist power elite. In this middle phase of empire (safeguarding some of its predecessor’s traits as had its predecessor kept some of those of the system preceding it), factories, mills, and industrialization were concentrated more densely in the imperial “core” or “metropolitan” countries, the objective being to plunder resources and raw material from the “savage” peripheries, refine/assemble/upgrade them into more valuable finished products with “civilized” know-how, and sell them back in the colonies at a profit, fulfilling in this way a little bit of the mission civilisatrice through commodification and exports.

But by the “late stage” of capitalism, which we seem to still be stuck in and which had already begun to take shape by the time the classical analysts of modern imperialism produced their theories, new developments in the financial sector signalled another shift; the financier, the rentier, the investor, the banker, the holder of a more abstract and vertically concentratible form of wealth called finance capital began to supersede the robber baron industrialist of yesteryear as the archetypal representative of the power brokering imperialist class.

It is the superior vertical concentratibility of wealth permitted by financialization which allows modern imperialists, in what would seem a paradox to those of olden days, to “[exploit] inequalities in the world economy” by outsourcing industrial capital to poor (“Third World”) semi-peripheral to peripheral countries—dismantling their factories and mills at the heart of “civilization”, setting up shop in places where labor is sold at a fraction of the cost—and importing the manufactured goods to the core (at an immense rate of profit to the core-based financier, of course). And though the (super)exploitation is palpable, these imperialist profiteers claim to be doing a favor to those neocolonial countries by providing them with “more jobs”. The industrial core becomes the rust-belt, and “hard work pays off” becomes more jobs, more poverty.

It is the topsy-turviness of this stage in which “certain of [capitalism’s] fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites” that Vladimir Lenin identified as being at the essence of modern capitalist imperialism. Another important inversion of capitalism’s fundamental characteristics, one identified by Lenin, is the transition from free competition to monopoly; that is, the lessening of competition, the greater concentration of power in lesser numbers of hands. Ironically, apologists for today’s monopoly capitalism defend this system by barking about mythical “free markets” at the mere insinuation that trust-busting state intervention might threaten to undermine their rate of return investment.

The newest imperialist phase

Lenin described imperialism as the transition from “free competition” to “monopoly” in 1916, one-hundred years ago. To what extent has monopolization progressed since then?

Answering the question of whether or not monopoly capitalism has progressed to such an extent that we face before us now a form of imperialism (call it “unipolar imperialism”) in which Empire is axed around a unique central core—a monopole—centered in the United States, perhaps on Wall Street, is paramount to determining whether or not it is anti-imperialist to rally behind the proverbial barricades of pro-Russian and pro-Chinese forces as they make their stand against American Empire. Clearly the United States played a hegemonic role in world affairs throughout much of the last two (maybe even three) centuries and it has continued to play that role throughout this century. It is the dominant great power in the world today in terms of military, economic, political, and perhaps pop-cultural force… the top dog, so to speak. But is it the only great power capable of contesting international hegemony? The only dog in the fight for monopolization?

In “The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital”, University of Oregon sociology professor and Monthly Review magazine editor John Bellamy Foster identifies three key “classical” Marxian analyses of imperialism: Bukharin’s Imperialism and the World Economy (1916); Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913); and Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Foster argues that these analyses “were responses to a period of international instability, marked by the decline of Britain as the hegemonic power in the world economy and the rise of competing nations, particularly Germany and the United States, leading in the ensuing struggles to the First and Second World Wars” [X]. Thus the imperialism which they grappled with was clearly multipolar in nature, emanating from more than one center. Indeed, for Lenin, “an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between several great powers in the striving for hegemony”. Lenin also noted that, despite monopolization being a trend towards severely reduced free competition, monopolies nevertheless “do not eliminate [free competition], but exist above it and alongside it, and thereby give rise to a number of very acute, intense antagonisms, frictions and conflicts” [X].

Foster also suggests that there is now a ubiquitous belief among leftists that “the world has entered a new imperialist phase” which “is widely referred to as neoliberal globalization”. Given that many of the theorists of this 21st century phase of imperialism highlight major differences from the classical Marxian theory of imperialism outlined by thinkers like Lenin, key among these differences being the shift from multipolarity to unipolarity, a new name is needed. If “imperialism” was the stage of capitalism described by Lenin in which inter-great power rivalry and conflict was “an essential feature”, and if today capitalism is essentially different in that it has reached a stage where such rivalry is non-existent, giving way in its stead to a unilateral global assault by fascistic Empire, we must give this stage a name to distinguish it from the fundamentally dissimilar stage described by Lenin and other classical Marxians a hundred years ago.

Theories of “super-imperialist” neoliberal globalization

Some (e.g. Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, William Robinson, and Leslie Sklair) see the latest stage of capitalism (neoliberal globalization) as being led by a deterritorialized and/or transnational state entity one might name simply “Empire”; not centered in any one nation-state but represented by multinational corporations and privately contracted security/mercenary/intelligence firms, much of its wealth is hidden away in offshore accounts, only a fraction of which was revealed by the Panama Papers. Foster further relates that Robinson’s idea that “globalization involves a supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” is said by Ernesto Screpanti, another 21st century imperialism theorist, to be the approach “that today most nearly replicates the outlook of Kautsky’s ultra-imperialism”. (Kautsky, a German Marxist leader and contemporary of Lenin, forewarned at the beginning of the 20th century of a coming imperialist phase in which “the joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital in place of the mutual rivalries of national finance capitals” would take place. Lenin mocked this theory as “notorious” [ibid] and “ultra-nonsense”).

Others (e.g. Michael Hudson, Peter Gowan, Leo Panitch, and Sam Gindin) make the case that neoliberal globalization represents the ascendency of a quasi-“all powerful” American Empire which dispossesses all other empires. In this analysis, Europe and Japan have become wholly-owned subsidiaries of American Empire. These theorists call the current stage of capitalism “super-imperialism”, a term which Lenin also used a synonym for Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism.

What both of the theories of neoliberal globalization described above seem to share is their acceptance of “end of history”-style narratives of the post-Cold War era. While the first emphasizes the beginning of inter-imperialist co-operation—the deterritorialized ultra-imperialist Empire is made possible through capitalists’ class conscious realization that transcending the obsolete form of the nation-state will lift impediments on their ability to accumulate wealth via multinational corporations, the second theory posits the end of inter-imperialist conflict through American Empire’s victory over great power rivals Germany and Japan in two world wars, further cemented in place by the apparent defeat of Communism seen in the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, political revolutions and coups in Eastern Europe, the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and the defeat of Central American national liberation movements. Nevertheless, the theory of deterritorialized transnational Empire, although many elements of it resonate, seems, for now, to fit better on the pages of sci-fi books than in objective analyses of the dynamics of imperialism in the present, for who can deny that the division of the world into nation-states continues to be very real and significant? Whoever denies this has surely never travelled across any international border that is not between the US and Canada or outside of the Schengen Zone. Foster’s essay further points to the fact that although the “reach [of multinational corporations] is global[,] their property and their owners have a clear national base”. It is the second theory of neoliberal globalization, that which posits it as the project of a uniquely American “super-imperialism”, that seems to justify the pro-Russian/Chinese position, and which needs unpacked.




Sino-Russian regroupment against neoliberal globalization?

With the exit of the Soviet Union from the world stage, why are the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation increasingly paired in any informed discussion of 21st century global geopolitics? How was this rapprochement possible after the outright disavowal of Marxian ideals by Russia’s post-Soviet political system (ideals which are still paid lip service by the Chinese leadership), given the legacy of the three decades long Sino-Soviet split, born from the Chinese Communist perception that the Soviet Russian Communists were revisionist traitors to the cause, “bent on seeking Soviet-U.S. co-operation for the domination of the world”?

In parallel to the emergence of a new scheme to implement a US expansionist drive on the global level at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st (in large part dependent upon the discovery/construction of NATO’s new raison d’être: “radical Islamism”, perhaps with Russian containment coming in a close second), notoriously outlined by the think tank “Project for the New American Century”, Sino-Russian rapprochement took shape through the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a political, economic, and military alliance between China, Russia, and several Central Asian states, which is on course to expand and incorporate several other states in the near future, including India and Pakistan as soon as this summer (putting China in the awkward position of being in alliance with a capitalist state’s decades long fight against Maoist rebels), as well as Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia. This realignment of great powers was a sure sign that the predicted era of global unity and long-lasting peace founded on the evolutionary plateau of “liberal free market democracy” heralded by Fukuyama after the disintegration of the Soviet Union was an illusion. Furthermore, the fact that both of these strategic initiatives (the “Project for the New American Century” and the Sino-Russian regroupment) essentially occurred in tandem indicates that, rather than one initiative being purely reactive to the other, the bourgeoisies of each great power were simply following the imperial logic of carrying out the struggle for international hegemony.

Opponents of American “super-imperialism” paint this trend towards regroupment outside the spheres of US-EU-Japanese influence as strictly anti-imperialist. For them, it is a question of nations seeking to liberate themselves from “Dollar Dependency” and “Debt Peonage”. In this perspective, China and Russia are “ex-empires which have taken the political decision to become mutually dependent on each other, […] creating [a] symbiotic relationship.” Brazil and South Africa are posited as potential collaborators with the SCO in a bid to “create a new, dollar-free and independent economy and market” [ibid].

But the ideological basis of this supposed “anti-Empire alliance” has nothing to do with any kind of Marxian class conscious objection to the underlying logic of late stage capitalist development. The “anti-super-imperialists” demonstrate a willingness to overlook the Sino-Russian national bourgeois leadership at the heart of appeals to the possibility of a “dollar-free and independent economy and market” through SCO-led “anti-super-imperialism” as an alternative to neoliberal globalization. The underlying suggestion here is that, with the right balance of power between global bourgeois forces, fairer and freer conditions can be won under capitalism which would put some wind in the sails of the working class movement. These “super-imperialism” analyses posit the national bourgeoisies of Russia and China as classes who unconsciously advance the movement towards socialist revolution.

Even if one does accept the premise that the SCO represents strictly an oppositional bloc to Empire, that is, the theory of “super-imperialism” as the end of inter-imperial rivalry through the arrival of an all-powerful US-led Empire on the world stage, this nevertheless downplays the presence of tension between the United States and its imperial allies and the possibility of rising antagonisms in those relationships. A variety of these antagonisms can be identified: American policymakers have openly discussed plots to “[take] the Saudi out of Arabia”, replacing the House of Saud with “the Hashemite monarchy that now rules Jordan”. Another example would be a leaked phone call that revealed antagonism between the US and EU with regard to the Ukraine conflict, with the Assistant Secretary of State telling the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, “Fuck the EU.”

A modest decline in US imperialism’s ability to enforce policy objectives through brute militarism seems to be evidenced by two key trends. First, there is the fact that another quasi-unilaterally US-implemented “coalition of the willing”-style invasion à la Iraq and Afghanistan seems increasingly unfeasible as it would be incredibly unpopular and likely lead to an undesirable backlash for the US bourgeoisie. Secondly, there are also signs of Europe and Japan emerging as independent imperial militarist centers. Top EU officials have called for the formation an EU military force. German leaders have recently discussed the need to amend their country’s constitution to allow for leeway in military adventures in Iraq [X, X], while Japan has in the last year lifted constitutional restrictions preventing its military from carrying out overseas assaults [X]. The Japanese government is also fostering its own military-academic industrial complex by directing universities to abolish social science and humanities departments and move towards weapons research, including notably weaponized robotics research.

Pro-Sino-Russian revolutionary US defeatism, pan-defeatism, or “neither victory nor defeat”?

For subjects in the heart of American Empire who desire to see the defeat of capitalist neoliberal globalization and the wars and neocolonial occupations that go along with it, it is of paramount importance to determine whether the material dialectic flipside of this equation is the victory of the bourgeois great powers China and Russia.

Important questions must be asked:

  • If revolution is not immediately feasible in the Bible-thumping heartland (much less the liberal-progressive cosmopolitan burgs) of American Empire, will the defeat of the latter at the hands of a Sino-Russian-led alliance facilitate the revolutionary movement in the core?
  • If the ruling capitalists in China and Russia are victorious in facilitating the unhinging of US hegemony, will this accelerate the revolutionary movements in those Eurasian countries?
  • Should socialists in the United States and the European Union hail the Russian social-patriotic defense of the fatherland in Donbass and Lugansk as a historically progressive struggle? And what of the Russian military intervention in Syria, ostensibly on the same side as the US military intervention?

During much of the First World War, Lenin endorsed a policy called “revolutionary defeatism”. Lenin posited revolutionary defeatism as the axiom that “during a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government”. Lenin was careful to explain that this policy of calling for the defeat of the Russian Empire did not imply a desire for “the victory of Germany” as its compliment [ibid]. Instead, it was held that “in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government” [ibid]. Here Lenin presents revolutionary defeatism not as the argument that German victory would be a “less evil” outcome of revolution in Russia throwing a wrench in the country’s war machine than a continued costly struggle for Russian victory and defense of the tsarist fatherland, but that Russian defeat would accelerate the revolutionary movement in Russia, making the defeat-slogan a call to defeat all imperialisms; the transformation of imperialist war into civil war would spread to Germany and “the German victory [would] be short-lived”. It was not a pro-German defeatism, but an anti-imperialist pan-defeatism. If we accept Lenin’s 1915 formulation, that proletarians of “all” imperial core areas must desire the defeat of their own government (implying that in a colonial national liberation war, proletarians do not need to wish for the defeat of their government), the answer to the questions posed above then depends on whether we see modern Russia and China as imperialist in the modern sense, a question which we will return to later.

The idea of “revolutionary defeatism” was not a new one on the Russian political scene when Lenin was writing about it in 1915. A prototype of the call for “revolutionary defeatism” was deployed by Russian revolutionaries a decade earlier, during the inter-imperialist Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In that earlier instance however, Lenin’s explanation of what revolutionary defeatism entailed was quite different from the one he offered during the First World War. While, during the First World War, Lenin tried to distance the notion of revolutionary defeatism from formulations that “[put] the question in the form of a choice between military outcomes on the government plane”, Hal Draper argues in The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism” (1953) that Lenin was in fact guilty of doing exactly this as he deployed a lesser evilist line of argumentation for defeatism that glamorized Japanese imperialism as a progressive force during the Russo-Japanese War. Draper further shows that Soviet (Stalinist) historiography covered up this inconsistency between Lenin’s early pro-enemy nation defeatism and later pan-defeatism out of embarrassment. (Lesser evilist, pro-enemy nation defeatism being considered an error—Lenin and Trotsky split on the question of the defeat-slogan during the First World War with Lenin criticizing Trotsky’s characterization of Russian defeatism as implying a desire for German victory, a difference which the supporters of Stalin were keen to play up in an effort to discredit Trotsky as thoroughly un-Marxist-Leninist). Draper’s book makes the case that Lenin actually abandoned slogans of revolutionary defeatism after returning from exile in Switzerland after the February Revolution (in March 1917) and realizing that it was too “theoretical” and out of touch with the common people of Russia, many of whom were not chauvinistic “social patriots” but had “defensist sentiments” out of an instinctual desire to defend their country from oppression; they “[accepted] the war only as a necessity and not as an excuse for making conquests” [Lenin].

Draper points to the fact that during the 1904-1905 war, “pro-Japanism in the sense of desiring the victory of Japanese imperialism but also in the sense of ‘idealizing’ Japan as a progressive force” was commonly associated with the policy of revolutionary defeatism. He explains that “a ‘desire for defeat’, tended to merge this sentiment into its obvious consequence: a wish for the victory of Japan”. It is in an article written by Lenin in 1905, after the surprise attack on the Russian naval fleet in Manchuria, “The Fall of Port Arthur”, where he exhibits most strongly the pro-enemy nation essence of his formula for revolutionary defeatism at that time. But what was the basis for this Japanophilia?

In “The Fall of Port Arthur”, Lenin writes, “Advancing, progressive Asia has dealt backward and reactionary Europe an irreparable blow.” At that time, the Empire of Japan was undergoing rapid industrialization and modernization, developing free market capitalism following the end of sakoku isolationism. Japan was a constitutional monarchy with a House of Representatives while Russia was a semi-feudal absolutist dictatorship with no constitutional law.

Key to Lenin’s enthusiasm here for the “advancing” and “progressive” character of Japanese imperialism was the notion that Japan was at a higher stage of social development than Russia. Lenin rebuked his contemporaries who argued “that a socialist could only be in favour of a workers’ Japan, a people’s Japan, and not of a bourgeois Japan” because, this, he argued, “is as absurd as blaming a socialist for admitting the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”.

Lenin reiterates this point several times over:

“The proletariat is hostile to every bourgeoisie and to all manifestations of the bourgeois system, but this hostility does not relieve it of the duty of distinguishing between the historically progressive and the reactionary representatives of the bourgeoisie.”


“While struggling against free competition, we cannot, however, forget its progressive character in comparison with the semi-feudal system. While struggling against every war and every bourgeoisie, we must draw a clear line in our agitational work between the progressive bourgeoisie and the feudal autocracy; we must recognise the great revolutionary role of the historic war in which the Russian worker is an involuntary participant.”

If we transpose this formula for revolutionary defeatism by the progressive power which states that, when conflict arises between two bourgeois great powers, the bourgeoisie of the more socially advanced nation plays a revolutionary role in dragging forward the bourgeoisie of the backwards nation, then the 21st century “anti-imperialist” enthusiasm for the “progressiveness” of the national bourgeoisies of China and Russia quickly loses steam, because, in the Leninist schema for stages of economic development, monopoly-finance capitalism is a progressive outgrowth of free competition under industrial capitalism. If, in 1905, capitalist, constitutional Japan was more advanced than semi-feudal, autocratic Russia, then it follows that today the measure of a great power’s progressiveness is the degree to which it has developed socially by transitioning via financialization from the more primitive system of nation-state-based industrial capitalism to the “higher”, more “civilized” system of free transnational trade: neoliberal globalization.

A proponent of this view might argue that the neoliberal austerity measures implemented across the Global North in recent years are progressive in that, in globalizing poverty, cutting the social benefits/privileges found only in the wealthy countries, and dismantling the welfare states whose construction was only possible with Marshall Plan imperialist superprofits, they reduce the inflated living standards of the labor aristocratic imperial core middle class and professionalized workers and their excessive consumerism run amok. By polarizing the rich-poor divide in wealthy countries and rendering the petit bourgeois downwardly mobile (proletarianizing them), as well as trending towards multiculturalism, the revindication of postcolonial centripetal migrations of labor as a path to reparations, and the dissolution of the nation-state system, neoliberal globalization sets the stage for a globalized class struggle, wherein a super-rich global ruling class and a global poor face off in struggle relatively freed up from the hindrances of national division.

While the old school Marxian theorists supposed that it would be the working class socialist movement which would carry out the task of establishing “the future union of peoples in a single world economic system, which is the material basis for the victory of world socialism” [Stalin], neoliberal globalization confronts us with the possibility that this system may be brought about not by proletarian revolution but by bourgeois-globalist revolution. This is what makes neoliberal globalization, as opposed to neoconservative protectionist isolationism, progressive from the scientific perspective.

Proponents of “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” base their argument for the progressiveness of the defeat of American imperialist machinations as a whole or partial result of the strategic initiatives of the Russian bourgeoisie on the denial of Russia being imperialist. For proponents of this position, as we shall examine more closely in sections below, Russia is a non-imperialist capitalist power not because it has advanced to a higher stage of development than US capitalism, but precisely the opposite: because it is at a lower stage; privatization has not progressed as far as in the West (much of its industrial capital is state-owned) and its economy is not as financialized as that of the US. And since it is assumed that Lenin’s conclusion that it is only in imperialist countries that socialists must subscribe to defeatism is a scientific axiom, it is therefore thoroughly un-socialist to desire the defeat of capitalist, underdeveloped Russia. But if we accept the kind of pro-enemy nation defeatism espoused by Lenin during the Russo-Japanese War and its accompanying lesser evilist proposition that scientific socialists must admit “the progressive nature of the free-trade bourgeoisie as compared with the protectionist bourgeoisie”, then one is forced to uphold the American bourgeoisie as progressive as compared with the backwards Russian bourgeoisie. While the American bourgeoisie is leading negotiations for significant new free trade measures such as the TPP and T-TIP, the Russian bourgeoisie and its satellite bourgeoisies in Belarus and Kazakhstan are the most protectionist in the world [X, X]. Other SCO states, including China and India, are also world leaders in protectionism [X].

Take a step back from this economism and, on the cultural plane, the outlook for a “pro-(Sino-)Russian anti-imperialism” is not much better. Although critiques of “pink imperialism” accurately point out the shamelessness of imperial recuperation of the struggle for LGBTQIA+ liberation and the absurdity in the idea that rights for gays will come to Afghanistan via American drone campaigns, reactionary outbursts against “Gayropa” from the Russian state and Orthodox and fundamentalist Christians do not under any circumstances lend themselves to progressiveness. Western “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” lefts seem blissfully unaware, or just don’t care, that their counterparts in the East base a significant part of their case against integration into neoliberal globalization on socially conservative arguments against a culturally decadent West. In Eastern European states town between US/EU and Russian great powers, it is the Soviet nostalgic pro-Russian “socialists” who propose laws to, in their own words, “do everything possible to stop propagation of homosexuality and the destruction of Christian values and the traditional family” [X, X].

Nevertheless, it does seem that, in slowly backing away, at first from the pro-“progressive enemy” and quasi-two-stagist narrative of revolutionary defeatism as the triumph of modern bourgeois-democratic liberal capitalist imperialism over outmoded semi-feudal autocratic capitalist imperialism in the Russo-Japanese War to the pan-defeatist calls for simultaneous revolutions in Germany and Russia (and all state participants in the inter-imperialist conflict) during the First World War, and then away from defeatism tout court after the bourgeois-democratic February Revolution to an appreciation of the “‘conscientious’ revolutionary-defensism” of the Russian masses, Lenin discretely abandoned the defeatist formula because it had become a roadblock to revolution.

So is it this “revolutionary defensist” path which allows us to transcend the binary trap of “victory or defeat” which implicitly excludes the possibility of working class leadership in its formulation of inter-capitalist conflict as a sadistic restaurant of mass slaughter where the only items on the menu are those outcomes offered by bourgeois governments? Only if the addition of a transcendental “third way” was somehow enough to everytime set us free from the trap of binary thinking. Alas, we have merely shifted to another duality: “victory or defeat” or “neither victory or defeat”. What is clear is that revolutionaries must blaze their own trails.

In the words of the cat-dog:

“All categorical options are a trap. There are not only two paths, just as there are not just two colors, two sexes, or two beliefs. The answer is neither here nor there. It is better to make a new path that goes where one wants to go.”

The anti-austerity fightback attempts to apply a kind of revolutionary defensism of social benefits and public services under attack, though its successes seem to be relatively few and far between. But this kind of defensism, if it is not principled, can easily slip into chauvinism, e.g. from defending the right to a job to the “right” to defend against an immigrant competing for a job.

Revolutionaries within US Empire must assess to what extent the masses sincerely accept the “War on Terror” and its next phase which US military policymakers call “The New Thirty Years’ War” as a necessary evil—some kind of just war—and not just a cynical “excuse for making conquests”, before calculating how effective defeatist-sloganeering might be. Certainly the effects of sustained mass hysteria following 11 September 2001 must be considered. Broadcasting Twin Tower collapses on repeat was a powerful trigger for defensive instincts and amplifying perceptions of an oppressive Axis of Evil “hating us for our freedom”, but its effect may be wearing off. If such sincere defensism does still exist on a mass scale, the defeatist slogan may prove counterproductive to anti-imperialist mobilization. On the other hand, if defensism has become largely insincere, with young people joining the US military for its promises of career advancement and the chance to “see the world”, all while basically knowing full well that it is fighting for imperial hegemony and hydrocarbon conquest, then perhaps embracing desire for defeat still has its place. In that case, it is important to articulate who—what social forces—will defeat US militarism and global economic exploitation: Sino-Russian capitalists leading a new economic bloc against Dollar Dependency and Debt Peonage, low-class Westerners leading a struggle against capitalism, a combination of the two? If we opt for the first or the third, we must ask whether socialist struggle in China and Russia to defeat those nations’ bourgeoisies parallel to the low-class Westerners’ struggle undermines the SCO economic project.

Revolutionaries in Russia and China, meanwhile, are advised to determine to what extent NATO’s geostrategic war games and containment policies foster genuine sentiments of oppression among the masses there. In those places it might also be considered to what extent scaremongering about the decadence of Western culture can also be used to project class antagonism between the workers and the national and comprador bourgeoisies within those countries externally. If Russian and Chinese proletarian comrades come to the conclusion that they are indeed at the butt end of a super-imperialism, then they must determine whether antagonism and strife between them and their patriotic national bourgeoisies undermines the struggle against super-imperialism.

But it must also be clarified whether a non-super-imperialist country can still be imperialist in the sense of a lower stage of imperialism; for the Old Bolsheviks certainly did not negate in their scientific analysis that the underdeveloped Russia of 1905 was imperialist, even if it was a semi-feudal imperialism, qualitatively different from the higher stage imperialism of Japan. The Chinese and Russian revolutions, though they failed to bring about a socialist world, did fulfill the development tasks of the “bourgeois-democratic” revolution in their countries (i.e., they are no longer “semi-feudal” to any significant degree; the veneer of “socialism” was used to build monopolies through state ownership of industry).

Thus it is the supposition of “super-imperialism” (again, that is unipolar globalist imperialism—unforetold by the classical Marxians but by Kautsky) as marking a revolutionary new stage of capitalism that begs the question of whether the socialist revolution in countries poorly integrated into the super-imperial globalized system no longer faces before it the “simple” task of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and instauring the socialist stage of development, but must also carry out the task of the bourgeois-globalist revolution before it can move on to the socialist and communist stages. It is this suggestion, that a unique and new historical stage of development has been reached, or is being reached by something we must call bourgeois-globalist revolution, where the revolutionary class is the transnational bourgeoisie who grows class consciousness, attacks and overthrows the reactionary national bourgeoisies and which sheds the old imperialism of its essential feature of inter-great power imperialist rivalry, which justifies the characterization of China and Russia as backwards (non-imperialist) countries. The thesis of neoliberal globalization as unipolar super-imperialism negates the old school Marxian idea that the union of peoples into a single world economic system “can only be voluntary, arising on the basis of mutual confidence and fraternal relations among peoples”. The decolonization wave of the 1960s did indeed “lead to the crisis of world capitalism” [ibid], but capitalism managed to survive this crisis by initiating the bourgeois-globalist revolution of neoliberalism, instauring a neocolonialism which seems immune to the old school national liberation movements.

The confusion of “pro-Sino-Russian anti-imperialism” is in the fact that it is reactionary against the bourgeois-globalist revolution for the wrong reasons. It opposes the globalist half of the revolution but embraces the bourgeois half. This is inherently and doubly un-socialist because the socialist revolution is, if not globalist, not socialist. Socialist revolution in the 21st century must carry out, in addition to the expropriation of the means of production, certain tasks of the bourgeois-globalist revolution associated with “supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of social life under capitalism” (e.g. removal of barriers to free movement of labor [passport privilege], removal of protections which sustain inequality between countries). Socialist revolution cannot and will not be led on by nationalist and protectionist bourgeois forces.

Towards a sharper critique of masquerading “anti-imperialism”

Now let us go back to the allegation of the Red Guards Austin introduced at the beginning of this essay that a trend exists among certain Western leftists to substitute opposition to American imperialism with support for alternative imperialist projects, namely Russian and Chinese.

There are varying degrees to which this trend is realized. In its mild form, opposition to imperialism downplays the imperialist ambitions (if not outright real imperialistic actions) of foreign capitalist polities engaged in self-interested resistance to the ongoing process of US-led neoliberal globalization. In its severe form, opposition to imperialism is essentially reduced to cheerleading what we might call, if not imperialist, petit-imperialist and aspiring-imperialist forces who are engaged in contests for international hegemony not with the aim to abolish exploitation or liberate countries from neocolonial subjugation, but to increase their own competitivity in global markets. No matter the severity, at the heart of this tendency is the substitution of principled revolutionary opposition to all imperialism (not only “super-imperialism”) with opportunistic enthusiasm for the weakening of one country’s imperialism at the hands of powerful capitalists from another, or a powerful coalition of capitalists from multiple others.

Vulgar anti-imperialism (anti-super-imperialism) is akin to championing the plight of mom ’n’ pop shopkeepers displaced by Wal-Mart, calling it anti-capitalism, and accusing any worker who criticizes their small business boss of being a Wal-Mart PR Rep or an ultra-leftist unwittingly undermining solidarity with the enemy against the bigger enemy. Vulgar anti-imperialism is the projection of the petit-bourgeois populism of “Main Street versus Wall Street” or “the super-rich 1% (billionaires) versus the 99% (including ‘middle class’ multi-millionaires)” onto a global scale.

A number of would-be “anti-imperialists” have appeared out of the woodwork in recent months and years to weave twisted defenses of 21st century Great-Russian “social patriotism” [X, X, X, X]. These polemics are no doubt reactionary outbursts to geopolitical developments which point towards the re-emergence of Russia as a great power in inter-capitalist competition following the brief disorientation triggered by Soviet collapse: namely, the Russian Federation’s decisions to annex the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 (first colonized by the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century and home to a strategically located Russian naval base) and to intervene militarily in Syria (also home to a strategically located Russian naval base [X]) in 2015 (still ongoing). These confused would-be opponents of imperialism deny that spacefaring, nuclear warhead-armed, expansionist [X] polities like the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are highly advanced capitalist states, claiming that they have not yet developed monopolistic capitalism.

What happens when you discard the fact of monopoly capitalism’s essential multipolarity: the tragic case of the “hardcore anti-Germans”

An apt comparison might be made between this anti-Americanism cum anti-imperialism and a heterogenous political identity claimed by some radicals leftists in Germany known as Antideutsch (“anti-Germans”). The anti-Germans argue that German national identity has been so tainted by the legacy of the Holocaust and Nazism and that it stands as a barrier to internationalism and the struggle against capitalism. They reject the notion that the left can “rely on the German working-classes”, the vast majority of whom harbor “a deep authoritarian disposition”. One anti-German group calling itself sinistra! explains the tendency as “a radicalization of anti-national theory” whose roots go back to the First World War, when Karl Liebknecht remarked that “the most dangerous enemy is to be found in your own country”.

Where anti-Germans stand out from much of the left is in their self-declared solidarity with the state of Israel and their prioritization of the critique of antisemitism masked in anti-Zionism. But where the tendency really veers away from the vast majority of what we conceptualize as “the left” is in their embrace of Americanism. Like with the “anti-American/pro-Russian anti-imperialists”, this embrace of the “enemy” varies in degree from group to group. It is said that “all anti-Germans […] denounce anti-Americanism” because of the German heritage of Nazi resentment at American and Allied troops (and not the German left) preventing the full realization of the Final Solution which they allege occupies the core of much of Germany’s anti-Americanism.

The embrace of the myth of the “progressive enemy” in its more severe form described by the anti-German sinistra! group is not pretty:

“[S]ome anti-German groups (often referred to as ‘hardcore anti-Germans’, although this term might be quite misleading) made it a point to celebrate every single move in American foreign politics in the past and present. Instead of just giving the US credit for the major role they’ve played in defeating Nazi-Germany in World War 2 and thereby putting an end to the holocaust, these groups are drawing close similarities between WW 2 and the “War on Terror”. By this they are putting the reactionary and anti-Semitic regimes in the so called Islamic world on one level with the Nazis. This is not only a serious minimization of the nazi era and the holocaust, but also a violation of the (radicalized) categorical imperative of Karl Liebknecht, that the main enemy is one’s “own country”. These anti-Germans see themselves on the side of civilization and declare Islam their main target instead of Germany.”

Like the “hardcore anti-Germans”, the “hardcore anti-American imperialist” tendency makes the error of discarding the essential multipolarity of imperialism. Further, Liebknecht wasn’t calling for the defeat of German Empire at the hands of Russian and American imperialisms, but by a revolutionary social movement led by its own working class.

Coupling Liebknecht’s axiom with the acceptance of the unipolarity of imperialism leads to lesser evilist thinking: “If, as an American, my enemy is my ruling class, then it’s good if the Russian ruling class hurts my ruling class. If Russians of the subaltern sort get fed up with their government’s participation in wars in the Ukraine and Syria and form an anti-war movement that leads to decline in Russian influence there, then Ukraine will join NATO and turn away from Russian/SCO protectionist capitalism and Syria will undergo regime change, and that’s what my enemies at home want so that’s bad.” The moment you accept this lesser evilism, you begin to look to the Russian ruling elites as your friends instead of the common people of Russia. Taken to its extreme, this “hardcore” tendency to make saviors out of perceived foreign enemies can lead to even more cringeworthy iterations than “pro-Russian anti-imperialism”. Some would-be leftists in the West apply the same faulty way of thinking to extend “critical support” to ISIS as an enemy of US imperialism [X]. Sometimes this phenomenon even works in reverse, such as when American white supremacists managed to receive official DPRK sponsorship for their self-declared support and solidarity for the besieged North Korean state [X].

The Liebknechtian “enemy at home” theme of anti-Americanism can soon be forgotten when one begins to accept the idea that American imperialism is the only imperialism in the world today. Focus is displaced in the same way that the “hardcore anti-Germans”, in their unthinking embrace of Americanism, forgot that Germany was supposed to be their main enemy. By assimilating the American ruling class point of view, they began to view America’s main enemy du jour, “radical Islam”, as their main enemy. The same process of displacement and forgetting occurs with the “pro-Russian anti-imperialism” variety of anti-Americanism. When one adopts this attitude, one begins to see the cohesion of the “most realistic” social force for the defeat of US imperialist machinations (i.e., Sino-Russian/SCO-led capitalism) as more essential than organizing or mobilizing in one’s own Western community, where the people are too brainwashed, unreliable, holding a deeply reactionary disposition. Whenever one adopts any sort of “pro-enemy” anti-imperialism, there is a real danger that the struggle against the enemy at home is displaced by prioritizing the struggle against “the enemy’s enemies” wherever they are, often leading to cheerleading because those enemies are physically nowhere near the “anti-imperialist” living in the heart of Empire. The pro-Russian Westerner begins to spend more time sharing Russia Today articles, complaining about Pussy Riot psyops, and speculating about the collapse of the dollar as the world reserve currency, than he does organizing and mobilizing to defeat empire at home. And even if he does take this step, it is to organize a pro-Russian micro-sect whose members’ activity are directed to amplifying the cheerleading he would otherwise do individually. He begins to fret as much about Ukrainian enemies as American ones, if not more.

Russian monopoly-finance capital

The majority of the “anti-imperialists” we have been discussing here bank their thesis of (Sino-)Russian non-imperialism on the presence of lower levels of finance capital found in countries like Russia (and China) relative to countries like the United States, France, Britain, and Japan. They argue that finance capital does not dominate the Russian economy in the same way that it does in these other countries, and therefore it is not imperialist.

But here they have abstracted one essential feature of imperialism outlined by Lenin (the importance of finance capital’s role) from the synergetic whole and discarded the equally essential notion that imperialistic monopolization can never totally eliminate competition. Although imperialism’s monopolization and elimination of free competition is not equivalent to the implementation of centralized economic planning, the latter was used to varying degrees to modernize Russian and Chinese imperialisms. Indeed, as we have seen, the supposition of a super-imperialist elimination of all imperialist competition requires adjustments to old school Marxian theory; it requires admittance of a new stage of development unforeseen by most of the classical Marxian scientific social theorists. In other words, supposition that Russia and China’s successful bourgeois-democratic and failed socialist revolutions during the 20th century have not pretty much brought them up to speed with the rest of the imperialist world only makes sense in the case that the rest of the imperial great powers have entered, and are already quite advanced in, a new revolutionary period; namely, the idea that neoliberal globalization is in fact a bourgeois-globalist revolution. On the other hand, the Sino-Russian rapprochement and its expansionist policy to incorporate the South Asian subcontinent into its own almost demi-global economic bloc shows that there are now two great camps vying for hegemony to carry out the bourgeois-globalist revolution according to their own interests. Within each camp there are antagonisms too innumerable to cover here.

The other problem with the “not enough finance capital in Russia and China for them to be true imperialists” argument is that this ignores the vast discrepancy between the levels of finance capital in Russia and China relative to the smaller sovereignties whose territories fall within the Russian and Chinese traditional imperial spheres of influence, which date from the pre-capitalist period.

Before looking at the inequalities between China and Russia and their supposedly “ex-”imperial spheres of influence, it is important to iterate the notion of continuity between semi-feudal, national capitalist, and globalist capitalist imperialisms, including the American and Western European empires. It is certainly no coincidence that pre-capitalist empires have a tendency to become monopoly-finance capital empires. Russia and China are no different in that Russian and Chinese “socialist” dominion over what were once semi-feudal empires evidences both a lack of true socialist commitment to unification of peoples on a voluntary basis as well as continuity between imperialisms. Bourgeois-democratic modernization under the veneer of “socialism” allowed 20th century Russian and Chinese nationalists, many/most of whom likely genuinely thought they were Communists, to save their backwards semi-feudal empires from being transformed into colonies of the more advanced empires by reversing the order of the Western recipe for modernization by implementing nationalization-cum-monopolization before and in parallel to industrialization. (In other words, free competition was ended in order to accelerate development to a level which would increase competitivity vis-a-vis other monopoly capitalisms).

One “anti-imperialist” analyst and apologist for Great-Russian chauvinism identifies a group of countries “very poor in finance capital” among which are categorized Russia and “most of the Eastern European countries”, as if the Russian Federation were on equal finance capital footing with the Republic of Moldova, when in that country 70% of the banking sector is controlled by Russian capitalists. It was in Moldova, said to be the poorest country in Europe, that a scandal dubbed “the theft of the century” unraveled last year in which a sum equivalent to one-eighth of the country’s GDP (about one billion USD) was apparently syphoned off to a pro-Russian politician. To give an idea of the scope of this neocolonialist robbery, this would have been proportionately equivalent to over 262 billion USD “disappearing” from Russian banks and funneled to a foreign country.

“One can only conclude that foreign investment, far from being an outlet for domestically generated surplus, is a most efficient device for transferring surplus generated abroad to the investing country.” – Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy in “Obstacles to Economic Development”

The migrant flow from Moldova to Russia also resembles that seen in other neocolonial-type relationships, such as that between Mexico and the United States. It is said that “foreign remittances constitute 30 percent of [Moldova’s] GDP – ‘and 60 to 65 percent of these remittances come from Russia’”. In recent years, Russia has used denial of entry to Moldovan migrants as a means of economic sanction and intimidation to deter Moldova from opening up to trade with the West [ibid].

The intermediary strength of Russian capitalist imperialism is apparent here. Russian finance capital does not dominate globally to the extent of US capital, but it is clear that it plays a petit-imperialist role in regional markets. To deny this would be to paint the relationship between Russia and countries like Moldova as one in which each party comes to the table as an equal, overlooking the inequalities of this nested financial core and periphery relation existing semi-independently of the global core-periphery schema. Middle countries like Russia and China are not at the vanguard of neoliberal globalization, nor however are their throats under the jackboot of it. They do have some aspects that could be characterized as semi-neocolonial; for example, the exploitation of Chinese workers by American corporations like Apple, which takes more than 98% of the profit for each iPhone assembled in China [Foster], but they are nevertheless capitalist great powers whose ruling bourgeois cliques’ class character is more patriotic nationalist than comprador. The simultaneous appearance of semi-neocolonial aspects does not negate the monopoly type relationship between the banking sectors of countries like Russia and Moldova or perhaps China and North Korea or the imperialist logic behind SCO bids to unseat US hegemony or at the least prevent US encroachment into their spheres of influence. They are simply less developed, poorer great powers, but imperialist nonetheless.

We can already anticipate what the apologists for petit-imperialism will retort to such facts: this imperialism “doesn’t count” because Moldova is a former Soviet republic that had previously been annexed by the Russian Empire after a semi-feudal inter-imperialist (and therefore not really imperialist) war between the Ottoman and Russian Empires; there are a lot of Russian settler-colonizer descendants there; and US/NATO/EU imperialism is bigger and badder; and therefore countries colonized by Russia should keep adhering to Russian capitalism. But this is exactly what makes “alternative-imperialism” an apt name for this position. The authors of “Condemned to Win!” are right to declare, “You cannot be an anti-imperialist and at the same time be a running dog for Russian or Chinese imperialism.”

The binary political thinking of vulgar “anti-imperialism”, an international analogue to domestic lesser evilism in the two-party system

The illusion-sowing and myopic opportunism of Westerners who deploy “‘pro-enemy’ anti-imperialist” analysis of foreign affairs is mirrored in their countries’ domestic politics. It must be understood how and why lesser evilism drives reactionary approaches both abroad and at home.

We can observe the fundamental similarity of these two lesser evilisms by continuing briefly the case study of Moldova introduced above, where, much like in eastern Ukraine, the “Party of Socialists” engages in pro-Russianism, based more on nostalgia for the Soviet era than on any genuine will to build socialism, by using as its slogan, “Together with Russia!”. Together with capitalist Russia, together with undocumented migrant-exploiting Russia. Thus in Eastern European countries Democrats and Republicans find their analogues in pro-Westerner and pro-Russian political camps. The difference between “Together with Russia!” and “Together with Europe!” is as palpable as “I’m with Her!” and “Make America Great Again!”.


“Party of Socialists – Together with Russia!” (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Let us take as another example the case of NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. Certain sections within America’s organized Left moved beyond agitating to arouse opposition to US-led NATO intervention, into the pitiful realm of attempting to arouse admiration for the Libyan Jamahiriya, the “state of masses” and land of universal health-care, vast sums of free money, and direct democracy as a legitimate and “actually-existing” form of socialism. This push to switch and/or pair opposition to US imperialism with support for the Islamist “socialist” ideology concocted by Muammar Gaddafi in The Green Book [X] is mirrored in the attempts of the organized US Left to switch and/or pair opposition to that edifice of the US bourgeoisie’s class dictatorship known as the two-party system with support for the pseudo-anticapitalist Green Party of Jill Stein and Cynthia McKinney, in whose personnage we see perhaps most clearly the rapprochement between Green political movements of the Islamic “socialist” and environmentalist varieties. (Note that voting for an evil third party does not constitute a break with lesser evilism).

Opportunistic adhesion to “actually-existing socialism” abroad (which places the political center “out there” to the detriment of emerging political centers “over here”)—whether it’s in the form of shrieking defensively about the the “state of the of the masses” in Libya, the “socialist state control of industry” in secular Arab national “socialist” Ba’athist Syria (the same state that agreed to systematically torture people on behalf of the CIA “in a gesture of goodwill towards the United States”), or the world’s youngest “Red-Brown” coalition-based “people’s republics” in Donbass and Lugansk—follows the same logic which leads too many left-wing activists in the US to rally behind (without voicing much, if any, criticism) the “actually-existing movement for political revolution” in the US, even though this movement remains firmly opposed to social revolution with weak sauce ideologues like Bernie Sanders, Robert “Saving Capitalism” Reich, and Jill Stein at the helm.

When this part of the US left forces do finally arrive at the call for a bourgeois (Green) break with the two-party system, it’s only after they abandon Wall Street’s left wing and graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party, with great reluctance. Even into July 2016, some “socialist” two-party system critics still had such hyped-up levels of delusion in the “progressiveness” of elements of the Democratic Party that they were still openly discussing the possibility that Bernie Sanders would break from the Democrats to run as a Green Party candidate, even though he announced many times his intention to support Hillary Clinton.

At home and abroad, work with bourgeois forces competing to implement their mildly differing imperialist visions of capitalist globalization, some a little more protectionist, some a little more neoliberal. These are the courses of action, the arguments go, that will “advance the working class movement”; because by tossing another big-contender reformist pro-capitalist party in the electoral mix, you pave the way for a revolutionary mass party of the working class, and by deluding yourself into believing that Bush-Cheney C.I.A. torture infrastructure was partially socialist, you pave the way for the final annihilation of monopoly capitalism. Although it is common for groups advocating these positions to pick one or the other—lesser evilism abroad (pro-Russian but anti-two party system) or lesser evilism at home (pro-Green/Bernie but anti-‘vulgar anti-imperialist’), they really evidence two sides of the same coin.

In truth, people who cannot argue for the defense of Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and so many other countries from the US war machine, or breaking with the two-party system, without sowing illusions in and glamorizing the lacklustre leadership of these causes (Gaddafi, Putin, Stein, Sanders, et al.) show the hollowness and bankruptcy of their own thought.

The theories espoused by United Kingdom-based blogger and “pro-Russian anti-imperialist” Phil Greaves (picked here as an example of the wider trend and political current he represents) illustrates the mistake of reducing anti-imperialism (and therefore imperialism) to mere policy options that great powers can pick and choose in whether or not to implement. This is the same error which Lenin criticized Kautsky for making a century ago, when he lambasted Kautsky’s non-sensical talk of a unipolar imperialism that did not take into account “the competition between several imperialisms”:

“The essence of the matter is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy ‘preferred’ by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which, he alleges, is possible on this very same basis of finance capital.” [X]

According to Greaves, the bourgeois government of the Russian Federation implements certain key “objectively anti-imperialist” [X] policies (which good Western leftists ought to “support” by joining good pro-Russian [“Communist”] organizations in the West) by sending its military to intervene in Syria against ISIS and in Ukraine against the pro-Western government installed after the Maidan movement (both identified as fascist US puppets). This abstracts politics from economics by positing that Russia, an imperialist country (because, as we have seen, it uses monopoly finance capital to exploit countries in its sphere of influence in a neocolonial fashion), can in one place be “objectively imperialist” and in another be “objectively anti-imperialist”. One can only come to the conclusion that the Russian bourgeoisie has implemented a “bad” imperialist policy decision in Moldova, while at the same time implementing a “good” anti-imperialist policy decision in Ukraine and Syria, if one wears the ideological blinkers of an unscientific school of “thought” we might term neo-Stalinism.

Concluding remarks

Going back to the catalyst of this essay, the 2016 position paper of the “Red Guards” of Austin, Texas also resonated with me in their condemnation of the vulgar Third Worldism of the Jason Dumbruhe and LLCO variety, which I criticized some months ago here on my blog. The Red Guards Austin note, as I did, that this Third Worldism originated on Ivy League campuses.

In this essay I have focused on the critique of vulgar anti-imperialism, an area where I found myself to be in agreement with the Red Guards Austin. There are nevertheless some areas where I feel the Red Guards’ positions, which are not unique to their group, should be contested. I will present the bulk of these criticisms in Part II of my response to “Condemned to Win!”. In light of their self-declared willingness to accept criticism, I hope that Part II and the following section will be received by them in a comradely fashion.

It has to be admitted that use of the term of derision “bastard” is problematic and stands in dissonance with Red Guards Austin statement that they “hold that bad gender practice is not acceptable for Maoists and that rectifying this should be given the utmost priority, without delay, excuses, or liberalism.” The term “bastard”, having arisen in English common law as a synonym for “whoreson”: the child of an “illegitimate” sexual liaison, is steeped in misogynist and patriarchal thinking. The Oxford dictionary informs us that the etymology of the insult “bastard” is ultimately Latin, coming from the word bastum which means “packsaddle” and entered the English language via the related Old French expression fils de bast, “son of a mule driver who uses a packsaddle for a pillow and is gone by morning” (compare with modern French fils de pute). Formulations found in “Condemned to Win!” like “arch-revisionist bastard Deng Xiaoping” and “bastards like Krushchev, Brezhnev, and their crews” are no less problematic bad gender practice than if they were to refer to these people as “sons of bitches”.



On “Maoist Rebel News” and the Folly of Ultraleftism-Third Worldism

If you are not already familiar with the Maoist Rebel News brand, then it will suffice to say here that it first began as a Youtube video channel whose scope was to provide current events analysis from an ostensibly Marxist perspective. It is maintained by a Canadian man named Jason Unruhe, who upholds a pseudo-revolutionary political doctrine known as “Third Worldism”, or “Maoism-Third Worldism”. In this critique, offered from an authentically revolutionary left-wing perspective, I will demonstrate why this erroneous political line (which is by no means exclusive to Jason Unruhe’s Maoist Rebel News) is not what it purports to be. It is neither a coherent nor scientific worldview.

Claiming to be Youtube’s “#1 Marxist” for six years running, Unruhe is perhaps more of a public face for “Third Worldism” than anyone else in the Anglosphere. This is especially true since followers of the “Third Worldist” line generally place a high value on anonymity.

The use of campy aliases like “Serve the People” and text-to-voice software in propaganda messages are ubiquitous strategies of “Third Worldist” security culture. Ostensibly these measures are taken to mitigate the risks associated with being identified by the surveillance state, lending credence to their pretensions of being “serious” revolutionists–but it is also likely that in not divulging basic elements of their “real” identities, “Third Worldists” avoid revealing the awkward fact that, like leading proponents of “Third Worldism” Jason Unruhe and “Prairie Fire” (the self-described “Commander” of the Leading Light Communist Organization [LLCO], which Unruhe is a fellow-traveller of, hailing it as “the preeminent Third Worldist organization”), most “Third Worldists” are actually denizens of the so-called “First World”, making them, by their own definition, bourgeois (1).

It follows that this English-speaking “Third Worldism” constitutes a quintessentially Orientalist worldview, wherein the Westerner’s “Third Worldist” gaze constructs the East as Red Bastion of “revolutionary potential”, and in the same time, the Western man positions himself as the expert on that Orient, the one who knows what’s best for “those people” (2). Western, First World men are the Orient’s “leading lights” (read: glorious saviors) due to the fact that the material privilege which their self-acknowledged social parasitism provides them better allows them to study geopolitics, advance the so-called “science” of “Third Worldism”, and produce propaganda than the subaltern “Third World” masses, who, of course, cannot speak truth to power (3, 4).

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s thesis that “the subaltern cannot speak” is illustrated visually when, in a Maoist Rebel News interview with “Prairie Fire”, as we listen to the LLCO’s leader, a native of Denver, Colorado who refers to himself as “Supreme Commander” of the “Global People’s War”, we see his opaque cutout photo superimposed over a blurred image of Bengali people who are alleged LLCO cadre of the organization’s “Bangla Zone” (5). The Third Worlders’ faces have been punched by text, a slogan reading “our sun is rising, our day is coming.” Meanwhile, a translucent red halo peeks out from behind the Supreme Leader’s head, as if to convey the idea that he is their sun. Without Commander Prairie Fire’s scientific wisdom, darkness prevails. The astrological metaphor of science and wisdom as white light, embodied in illuminated white persons, reflects the underlying cosmology of “Third Worldism”, a convoluted reworking of the mission civilisatrice (6). (Cosmology: “theory of the [world or universe] as an ordered [system], and of the general laws which govern it.” [7])


White power in yellow face. The LLCO logo serves the people fiction by displaying the sun as yellow, despite the scientific fact that the sun appears white to the human eye.

(It should be noted that the pretension to be “waging war” is nothing more than bravado, as the so-called “Leading Lights” only claim to be preparing for such a war, noting that, “To romanticize the gun prematurely or to romanticize it to such an extent that it interferes with actually winning is a big focoist, adventurist error.” [8])

The rantings of the “Commander” reflect the LLCO’s conception of “Leading Light” not as a vanguard born from within the revolutionary class, but posited in the framework of an Us-Them dichotomy wherein the “most advanced scientific core” is alien to the proletarian masses the organization purports to be waging “Global People’s War” on behalf of (my emphasis):

Real revolution is led by the most advanced scientific core, Leading Light Communism. There are plenty of cheerleaders who turn themselves into useful idiots in the process. It is good to support the broad anti-imperialist united front against imperialism. However, we should not lie to the proletariat. We must put the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, in their hands. We must understand that both high science and low science are weapons. We must master both. Serve the people truth, not fiction (9).

“Commander Prairie Fire” also claims in the same interview that a popular LLCO adage goes, “It does not matter how much chess strategy you know if you have no board and pieces.”

“Leading Light” Orientalism displays a strange contradiction in presenting itself as an organization whose cadre’s badass outlaw status is the “obvious reason” for which their work is “semi-clandestine”, while at the same time posting propaganda photos of its alleged members in Bangladesh, where actual Maoist guerrillas are known to operate, decked out in LLCO t-shirts, their faces clearly discernible (10). For the LLCOrientalists, the Western masterminds are the chessmasters and these people are the pawns–“useful idiots”–who serve to build the organization’s street cred, or rather, web cred.

In the LLCO’s millenarianism and white savior industrial complex vibes, one hears echoes of Jonestown. Bizarrely, the so-called “Commander Leading Light” has even openly endorsed cultism. This would actually explain a lot about the way the organization presents itself to the public, its “Supreme Commander” even sometimes (with tongue-in-cheek, we can hope) identifying himself as being at the helm of a “gangster cult”:

If your conception of activism is First World bound, I don’t even see why you need an openly communist party. You might need a cult to organize people effectively, but why a *communist* cult? Just build any old cult and direct people into anti-war, anti-militarism, and other progressive activism. It seems like if your conception of activism remains in the First World, flying a communist flag will only hurt your efforts to be effective at aiding Third World struggles in an objective way. I just don’t see the point of the red flag where there is no social base if your conception of activism is traditional stuff (11).


[Our beliefs] may seem otherworldly or “culty,” but this is how we are (12).

Below we see the conflation of science with religion–a phenomenon known as scientism, which I will explore later–and the fetishization of identity politics.

We must all become living examples of revolutionary purity. All should be able to see our revolutionary purity in everything that we do. We must strengthen our revolutionary character, our spiritual selves. We must remold ourselves as pure proletarians, Leading Lights (13).

Because LLCO Ultraleftist-Orientalist-“Third Worldists” view themselves as alien to the world proletariat, they must atone for their original sin as First Worlders by undergoing the alchemical sacrament of remolding through proletarian purification. “Third Worldists” obfuscate materialism and embrace obscurantism to arrive at the conclusion that socio-economic class is determined not by one’s position relative to the modes of production, rather it is the reward of Bildung (14).

In a recent exchange of polemics between the LLCO and a trio of anti-“Third Worldist” Stalinist groups, we see how Canada and U.S.-based “Third Worldist” individuals’ disavowal of their own self-implied bourgeois identity is complemented by projecting First World status onto Third World persons who oppose them. LLCO and Unruhe deride their Stalinist opposition as French Gonzaloists to tie their identity to the First World, despite the fact that the polemic they were responding to was jointly issued by Stalinist groups from France, Belgium, and Bangladesh (15). Obviously if these Orientals are so Occidental in their outlook, it must be because their identity has been corrupted, remolded by “First Worldist” values! Thank Mao for our “Third Worldist” American and Canadian Leading Lights putting those damn “First Worldist” Bengalis back in their place!

Looking beyond the LLCO, which originated in the United States and whose verifiable actions seem to be entirely limited to producing online propaganda, we see that the other organized entity promoting “Third Worldism” is the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM), which, as if by happenstance, is limited in its “on-the-ground” presence to England, Ontario (Canada), and the United States (16).

But what do these “Third Worldists” actually believe?

“Third Worldists” maintain that wealthy countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and France lack sufficient internal class antagonisms to allow for the possibility of revolution. The global capitalist system, they argue, is not merely tolerable for the vast majority of these nations’ populations, who will sooner fight to keep poorer nations impoverished and underdeveloped than join them in the struggle for socialist liberation; it actually better serves their interests than would global redistribution of wealth. In this optic, mass exploitation, which provides the social basis for revolution, only exists in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (17). In other words, “the general population of the First World [is] comprised of the class enemies of the global poor of the Third World (18).” So-called “Third Worldists” decry efforts to escalate the class struggle and engage in activism in wealthy countries as “First Worldism”.

In “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions”, Warren Montag notes that the elevation of “the contradiction between the First World and Third World as opposing blocs to a position of strategic and political dominance, as if the working [class] in the West (…) is structurally allied more closely to its own bourgeoisie than to those forces traditionally regarded as its allies in the nations outside of Europe, North [America] and Japan: workers, rural laborers, landless peasants, etc.” is “hardly a new position: on the contrary, it has a long history in the socialist and communist movements. Lenin flirted with it in his attempts to explain the capitulation of European social democracy in the First World War, Stalin embraced it and its very language derives from the period of the Sino-Soviet split and the consolidation of Maoism as an international current (19).”

One text which is particularly fundamental in anchoring much of “Third Worldist” thought is a pamphlet from 1965 called “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao, who was a prominent Chinese military and political leader and a contemporary of Chairman Mao Zedong. Lin died in 1971 in a “mysterious” plane crash after allegedly plotting to stage a coup d’état against Mao. In the pamphlet, Lin wrote the following, describing “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War” (with my emphasis):

Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called “the cities of the world”, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute “the rural areas of the world”. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. The socialist countries should regard it as their internationalist duty to support the people’s revolutionary struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America (20).

Lin’s distinction between the proletarian revolutionary movement and the people’s revolutionary movement is in line with the Maoist theory that in “backwards”, underdeveloped nations, aspects of capitalism are beneficial, and not harmful, to the “national economy and the people’s livelihood” (21). Workers should unite with a section of their exploiters, the petite bourgeoisie and the national-bourgeoisie, Mao argued, to end the rule of the comprador bourgeoisie (also known as the bureaucrat-bourgeoisie or the monopoly capitalist class), the part of the capitalist class which was tied to foreign interests. Mao thus defined “the people” in the People’s Republic of China as “the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie” (also known as the “bloc of four classes [22]”), admitting from the get-go of Communist Party rule in China (i.e. 1949) that the policy was “to regulate capitalism, not to destroy it (23).”

The leitmotiv was the same in the following particularly doublespeak-esque speech made eight years later. Mao foreshadows “socialism with Chinese characteristics (24)” as he announces his hope, not for the abolition of class-based exploitation or the withering away of the state, but for the transformation of the relationship between the Chinese boss class and workers into a “non-antagonistic”, non-adversarial one (my emphasis):

The national bourgeoisie differs from the imperialists, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists. The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic. But in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic contradiction between the two classes, if properly handled, can be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods. However, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if the national bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours (25).

Continuing from “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Zedong’s Theory of People’s War”, Lin Biao elaborates:

In the struggle against imperialism and its lackeys, it is necessary to rally all anti-imperialist patriotic forces, including the national bourgeoisie and all patriotic personages. All those patriotic personages from among the bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes who join the anti-imperialist struggle play a progressive historical role; they are not tolerated by imperialism but welcomed by the proletariat (26).

Lin’s pamphlet was first published in 1965, right around the height of the biggest decolonization wave, that which occurred during the Cold War. Much of the decolonization of this period followed this confused logic of bosses subordinated to their workers and yet remaining bosses, with national liberation movements envisioned as being the joint project of the workers and ruling class capitalists of each colonized nation. It is now clear, observing the instauration of neocolonialism in virtually all the countries in which such national liberation movements won nominal independence, that this contradictory strategy was unfortunately, though not unforeseeably, doomed to failure.

Lin Biao’s ideas differed however from modern “Third Worldists” in that he did not deny the existence of a proletariat (“significant” or otherwise) in the United States, or that U.S. imperialism adversely affects the general population of the U.S.; in fact, he called for unity between the people of the United States and the so-called Third World (my emphasis):

U.S. imperialism is stronger, but also more vulnerable, than any imperialism of the past. It sets itself against the people of the whole world, including the people of the United States (27).

All people’s suffering from U.S. imperialist aggression, oppression and plunder, unite! Hold aloft the just banner of people’s war and fight for the cause of world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism! Victory will certainly go to the people of the world (28)!

Where modern “Third Worldists” do not deviate from their source material is in their denial of an antagonistic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, promoting instead the viability of collaboration between wage-laborer and industrialist classes in the name of patriotic national interests. They view this collaboration as viable both in the First World, where it is the reason for proletarian revolution’s impossibility, and in the Third World, where it is the reason for people’s revolution’s high potentiality. In other words, in no part of the world do “Third Worldists” envision workers wresting control of the means of production from the exploiting industrialist class. In no part of the world do “Third Worldists” regard socialism as a viable possibility.

In addition to his Youtube channel, Unruhe’s social media presence also includes a blog hosted at

After one of his most recent articles, published on November 30, 2015 and entitled “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism?”, I (Daniel K. Buntovnik, author of the 21st century proletarian novel Raving Radicals Bathed in Blax) had the chance to engage with Unruhe in the comments section of his blog. We wrote back and forth for a full week, exchanging two dozen or so messages. Eventually I made myself stop, as he was seemingly only capable of responding to the citations, historical examples, and questions I provided him with evasion, strawmen arguments, dogmatic statements, and political slander. Considering Unruhe’s lamentations that “no one really wants to honestly debate [‘Third Worldist’] ideas”, and his standing “open challenge” for “anyone who thinks they can [debate him]” to “bring it”, his generally lackluster, short, typo-ridden responses were truly disappointing (29). However, it is my hope that in examining this exchange more closely, and bolstering it with further facts and commentary, some light may be shed on the glaring errors and distortions which plague “Third Worldist” political thought.

Where We Begin: Trotskyism vs. Maoism

In “How is Trotskyism Winning over Maoism? (30)” (the article which triggered our discussion), Unruhe evaluates the strength of a variety of left-wing activist groups in the U.S., arguing that the relative popularity and recent electoral success of Trotskyist activist groups vis-à-vis Maoist ones is just another piece of evidence to add to the mountain of support for the “Third Worldist” thesis that there is no hope for revolution in the belly of the beast.

According to Unruhe’s exercise in confirmation bias, Trotskyists receive more support in the U.S. because they “reject the idea of revolution.” They are not revolutionaries, but reformists due to the fact that “they call for social democratic reforms.” Not only is Trotskyism not revolutionary; it is, Unruhe pompously asserts, “a terrible reactionary, racist ideology, and social imperialist on a theoretical level.”

Unruhe attempts to solder the connection between reformism and Trotskyism by highlighting the success of Kshama Sawant (herself from the so-called “Third World”, where she has spent most of her life) in being twice elected to Seattle City Council on behalf of Socialist Alternative (S.A.), a left-wing activist group in the U.S. which is identified with the Trotskyist tradition.

Sawant’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” now competing for the Democratic Party nomination for U.S. presidential candidate is another piece of evidence put forward by Unruhe to support his argument that Trotskyists “reject the idea of revolution.” He even credits Sawant’s endorsement of Sanders for having “driven a lot of people towards [him],” which is perhaps a bit overgenerous as an evaluation of her real level of influence. It should nevertheless be acknowledged that the dubiousness of the decision of a Marxist socialist to endorse Sanders, a pro-capitalist warmonger, scapegoater of immigrants, and sheepdog for the two-party system is certainly worthy of calling into question. However, the opportunistic positions of prominent members of S.A. cannot be said to represent the totality of Trotskyite-esque thought, anymore than the recently exposed Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought human trafficking and sex slave cult of Aravindan Balakrishnan in London can be said to be representative of the whole of Maoism. Other Trotskyist groups are running their own U.S. presidential candidates (e.g., the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which although it is seldomly keen to use the label, actually emerges from the Trotskyist tradition).

What follows are some annotated and lightly edited excerpts from our discussion. For a full record of the exchange, visit the comments section of the article in question on the Maoist Rebel News blog.

Phase 1: The “Transitional Program” and “Permanent Revolution”

Given the article’s focus on Trotskyism as the object of critique, our discussion begins by touching on the ideas above: the “transitional program”, sometimes known as the “transitional method”, and “permanent revolution”. These are two key concepts associated with the political theory of Leon Trotsky, founder and leader of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

As I read the article, it became apparent to me that Unruhe had no concept of the idea of “transitional program”. The basic idea of the “transitional program” is that radicals, avant-garde thinkers who for whatever reason have a more lucid of understanding of social dynamics, must bridge the gap between present demands and consciousness (e.g. “$15 per hour now!” or “End stop and frisk now!”) and the program for the revolutionary overhaul of civilization (e.g. “Lay utter waste to bourgeois hegemony!” or “Abolish whiteness!”). In other words, radicals must make the realm of possibility collide with that of the realm of phantasy. Ultraleftist-Third Worldists like Unruhe reject the realm of possibility and thus operate only beyond it, in the realm of phantasy, projecting an Orientalist construction onto the Third World and claiming to be revolutionary without actually being there. True radicals must straddle both realms.

I began by pointing out some of the inaccuracies conveyed in the article.

Calling for reforms does not necessarily a reformist make. (…) I think you misrepresent groups like Socialist Alternative’s position. The concept of the transitional program is what they work with. Both revolutionists and reformists call for reforms, with the difference being that the end game for the reformist is to save capitalism and for the revolutionist it is to side with workers struggling to implement popular reforms as a way to build momentum towards more radical change and raise consciousness. For example, if workers are demanding an end to child labor, a revolutionary can, and should, support that demand, while at the same time drawing attention to [the inadequacy of merely reforming capitalism and] the need for more profound system change.

And I was curious to see if Unruhe could back up his bold claim about the despicability of Trotskyite thought:

Can you explain what makes Trotskyism reactionary, racist, and imperialist?

Unruhe said:

First world people refuse to do revolution. And yes, reforms actually harm revolutionary potential. No revolution has been born from gettign concessions. Permanent Revolution alone almost insures imperialism. [Trotsky’s] belief was that the most backward countries had to be forced by the advanced to progress. I’d also show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.

Of course, what Unruhe really meant was, “I’d also let the LLCO show that Trotskyism leads to neo-cons.” As far as the argument about certain individuals abandoning whatever Marxist tendency discrediting the ideas of said tendency goes, we could also look at a number of former Maoist radicals who have since turned to social democracy, neoliberalism, and even naked imperialism. For example:

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy, Maoist activist and journalist who made pro-Naxalite reports from Bangladesh during its war for independence only to later denounce Marxism as ”the opium of the people,” proclaim, “Socialism is dead!”, voice support for the NATO military intervention in the Balkans, and actually play the decisive on-the-ground role in the NATO orchestrated overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi by brokering the first meeting between the Benghazi-based National Transition Council and French president Nicolas Sarkozy (31, 32, 33).
  • André Glucksmann, leader of the Nouveaux philosophes, a large group of former Maoists who embraced right-wing politics. Alain Badiou notes in a 2008 interview, “we are now seeing an equally bizarre phenomenon, that of ex-Maoist intellectuals who made a complete about-turn and whom you hear on television railing against any kind of progressive politics (34).”
  • Serge July, former Maoist militant and co-founder of the newspaper Libération, originally a Maoist publication, which now embraces free market liberalism and is bankrolled by a Rothschild (35).

Soon I wrote back:

I must say I disagree with your view on the harmfulness in getting concessions. Would you tell ~5 million Bengali children [to] remain workers because them going to school harms their “revolutionary potential”? [This was a question I would repeat several times, but which he would ignore continually.]

Revolution is ultimately the big concession of the bourgeoisie surrendering its power to the proletariat. But revolution is also like a war in which you must win smaller scale battles to win the war. For example, the expulsion of US imperialism from the RoK [South Korea] and the unification of Korea under socialist leadership would ultimately only be a reform, since if this was done in isolation and US imperialism was not undone elsewhere there would always be the danger of a reintroduction of imperialism into the region and as a system it would continue to exist. [I thought this would be a swell example since Unruhe is a staunch defender of the DPRK.] Another example: the February Revolution, establishment of the Provisional Government, resignation of Prince Lvov, could all be seen as concessions on the part of the Russian nobility made on the path to the Bolshevik Revolution.

I see Permanent Revolution as being less about dragging the Third World to catch up with the First, but actually quite the opposite; it’s about recognizing the possibility of a path of development to socialism that does not mirror that of Western Europe (passing first through a stage of development resembling bourgeois liberal democracy). The idea isn’t that it’s pointless to start developing socialism in one country (this is actually very necessary!), it’s that that country can’t forever, or even for very long at all, be an island of socialism in a globalized capitalist system. Ultimately, the idea of ‘socialism in one country’ logically flows into that of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with capitalist states. ‘Socialism in one country’ can only survive if your revolution does not threaten the global capitalist system, otherwise the bourgeoisie will wage war on you.

The language of that LLCO article [“Who and What are Trotsky-cons?”] actually betrays a rather ethnocentric view; the idea that the ability of “backward” countries to “match” the West’s atomic bomb technology is an indication of [the independence of] their elected path of development suggests a game of catch-up. Socialism, being a higher state of social organization than imperialism, naturally surpasses capitalism. If the measure of [a] country’s advancement and progress is relative to the technology and living standards of Western capitalist societies, is that not a case of imperialism? the West using its military might to define the gold standard of what it means to be “civilized”?

Also, I’m curious, where does the former Second World (e.g., Eastern Europe today) enter into the Third Worldist equation? [Another question which Unruhe would ignore.]

I was actually a bit off base in asking that last question, as my idea of the Three Worlds was that of the Three-World Model, a Western political concept, rather than the Maoist political concept of the Three Worlds Theory (36, 37). Ultraleft-“Third Worldism”-Orientalism actually shares more similarity with the Western political concept than the Maoist one.

The Western “Three-World Model”, having its origins in the Cold War, posits a First World constituted by the Western neoliberal states axed around NATO, a Second World made up of the Soviet Union, its allies and/or Communist Party-led nations, and a Third World comprised by other nations which are not aligned with either the Western or Eastern blocs.

Mao’s Three Worlds Theory, on the other hand, places the USA and the USSR in the First World realm. The Second World is defined as the militarily weaker imperialist nations such as Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, and the Third World were non-imperialist nations (colonized, semicolonized, or neocolonized).

Given the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Western Three-World Model has limited 21st century applicability. In the sense in which the model is employed nowadays, the terms “First World” and “Third World” might better be replaced with “Global North” and “Global South” or “developed world” and “developing” or “underdeveloped world”, because it reflects a binary world structure rather than a ternary one. The Second World has ceased to exist and many apparently use its analogue terms without even realizing that at one point the model incorporated it (38).

Like the evolving meaning of the “Three-World Model”, the “Third Worldist” (or as some would say “Lin Biaoist”) Theory of Three Worlds also differs in a significant way from how it was originally conceived by Mao (39). Whereas Mao’s envisioning of the First World as comprising the two superpowers, measured primarily in terms of their nuclear arsenals, but also in terms of wealth, led to a view of the Cold War as an inter-imperialist conflict, “Third Worldists” and some hackneyed “anti-imperialists” take Lin Biao’s thesis of a unipolar imperialist world structure to suggest that inter-imperialist conflict can no longer exist; there is only one monopoly. Lin Biao casts the Soviet Union of the 1960s not in conflict with the West or U.S. imperialism, but actually “[coming] to [its] rescue just when it is most panic-stricken and helpless” and “working hand in glove” with it. The Theory of Three Worlds has thus been altered from a ternary conception to a strictly binary one by Lin Biao and the “Third Worldists”.

This view leads some on the Left, including Unruhe, to cheerlead 21st century Russian imperialism (or, they allege, merely some beneficial form of capitalism which has been pushed back to a lower stage so that it cannot be considered imperialist), which wraps itself in the iconography of tsardom and–perhaps out of ignorance–white supremacy, in lieu of building genuine anti-imperialist movements (40, 41, 42). This is no different from the quintessentially petit bourgeois “trust-buster” hope for a “more competitive” capitalism.

Phase 2: Reform or Revolution?

Our exchange then veered towards the question of whether concessions granted by the ruling class in response to demands made by those whom they dominate can help lead to proletarian revolution or if revolutionary sentiments and actions are supposed to just pop out of thin air. Throughout our exchange Unruhe basically conveyed the idea that any improvement in living conditions, rights, or social status attained by the working class, women, ethnic or sexual “minorities” under capitalism is bad for “revolutionary potential”. In other words, if the oppressed fight to improve their condition under the system in place, they are actually harming themselves because they are not fighting to immediately instaure a new system.

History is replete with examples demonstrating the dubiousness of Unruhe’s Ultraleftist-“Third Worldist” idea. In our exchange we focused in particular on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and on the U.S. Civil Rights Movement era. But we could look elsewhere, such as at the example of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), to see how reforms often precipitate and accelerate revolutions.

The Haitian Revolution began with enslaved persons demanding abolition of whipping, not slavery

The Code noir, or Black Code, was a set of regulations drafted in 1685, designed to maximize the French profits extracted from their slave colonies. In Saint-Domingue (now known as Haiti), the Code was overhauled and reimposed in 1784. The Code noir granted a number of rights to slaves, including land entitlement: it “legally obliged owners to provide slaves with small plots of land to grow food exclusively for [the slaves’] personal use (43).” Royal ordinances also made it possible for slaves to “legally denounce abuses of a master, overseer, or plantation manager.”

While these reforms were obviously not even remotely adequate (slavery was still in place and in reality the Code noir itself was sparsely enforced), the rights it granted in principle were central to the demands enslaved persons made during the revolution of the following decade.

In The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution, Malick W. Ghachem illustrates the fact that these reforms were granted, not unilaterally out of the kind-heartedness of King Louis XVI, but in response to the uprisings and rebellions which gripped the island colony throughout the years (my emphasis):

These and earlier rulings testify to the powerful obstacles, legal and practical, that remained in the way of slaves who sought to avail themselves of the cover of law in Saint-Domingue. On December 3, 1784, almost exactly a century after Louis XIV promulgated the Code Noir, the monarchy finally took decisive steps to overhaul the edict. A confluence of factors made action possible at this time: the efforts of military officers and administrators in Saint-Domingue to convince officials in the Colonial Bureau of the Naval Ministry of the urgent need for reform of the status quo; predictions of an impending crisis in the colony prompted by isolated reports of small-scale uprisings on the plantations; and a climate of opinion (both colonial and metropolitan that had begun to swing decisively against the most notorious of the planters. The rising influence of antislavery sentiment notwithstanding, it would be too much to say that the demands of abolitionists forced the hands of Louis XVI and the French naval minister, Charles-Eugêne de la Croix de Castries. Rather, the 1784 ordinance represented the culmination of the same prudential anxiety about planter brutality and its potential to incite a slave revolution that had characterized the thinking of administrators and judges in Saint-Domingue for decades (44).

And when the slave revolution did begin to unfold, the slaves did not immediately demand the instauration of a new system. Rather than beginning as a struggle to annihilate the slave system, the Haitian Revolution begins with slaves making reformist demands, such as “freedom for their leaders, additional free days during the week, and abolition of the whip as punishment (45).”

Reformists’ reign was required to secure the triumph of Bolshevik Revolution

In response to my previous statement of disagreement with his view on the harmfulness in getting concessions, Unruhe wrote:

Okay, please show me a revolution that came from concessions.

I reiterated what I had already said since he ignored the bulk of my comment, which already contained the example he was asking for:

Take the example of the Russian Revolution that I already mentioned. After its February phase (which could hardly be considered a revolution in the Marxist sense any more than the coups d’etat in February 2014 in Ukraine or December 1989 in Romania or the kind of ‘revolution’ Bernie Sanders is calling for in November 2016 in the USA), Tsar Nicholas II gave up power to Prince Georgy Lvov, a nobleman who wanted to continue Russian participation in WWI and who even sat in the royal court. The demission of Prince Lvov was then proffered under circumstances resembling the recent resignation of Victor Ponta (lack of support expressed via demonstrations), leading to the ascension of the reformist/unscientific socialist Kerensky who began initiating liberal reforms (such as freeing political prisoners, extending voting rights, and suppression of the death penalty).

Unruhe replied in his most typical fashion, dismissive non sequiturs superficially sprinkled with Marxist jargon-mongering:

You actually think that lead to revolution, and not the war and material conditions themselves? That’s utter nonsense.

So I elaborated:

The “war and material conditions” led to both the February Revolution and the October Revolution. Do you think the workers didn’t learn anything from the events throughout 1917? Did the February Revolution and its reforms make the October Revolution less likely to happen? I would reckon it made it more likely because they saw that the reforms were not enough, but they had also gained confidence, experience, organization, skills, awareness, etc. in fighting for those reforms.

I want to ask you again, would you tell ~5 million children in Bangladesh that they shouldn’t go to school because it would harm “revolutionary potential”?


How do you confuse going to school with concessions?

Me, the Buntovnik:

Reformist demands to institute universal public education and abolish child labor require(d) concessions on the part of capitalists who profit from children working for them instead of getting education. Capitalists have historically been very resistant to laws limiting or abolishing low-wage child labor because it gives them a competitive advantage over firms employing adults, who are also generally more capable of organizing and demanding higher wages.


Actually basic education was instituted because capitalists needed better educated workers, like basic reading and math skills.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Then why do capitalists still employ child laborers? And why were Afro-American children given de jure inferior education until mass protests pressured the US bourgeoisie to concede that “separate but equal” needed reform?


Because of racism. Generally workers needed to be better, but they also excluded Blacks. Which BTW was a bad idea, later they changed it to inflate the labour supply to lower it’s cost.It’s a balance, they want more labour, but they also have to play into racist sentiment to divide.

Me, the Buntovnik:

Obviously it was because of racism. But it also shows that reforms around issues like education, child labor, 8 hour work day, etc. aren’t just unilaterally instituted by the capitalist class after their risk managers calculate the odds of revolutionary overthrow. Rather they are concessions won through bitter class struggle. And even if the capitalists do hope to de-escalate the class struggle and pacify the proletariat in granting them concessions (and they surely do hope this), this de-escalation/pacification is not guaranteed, as the reformist phase of the Russian Revolution shows.

Next Unruhe seems to imply that Kerensky’s reformist provisional government was meeting the people’s basic needs. I wonder why the October Revolution happened then?:

You’re not demonstrating how reforms make people ore revolutionary. FDR pretty much proved the opposite. Western social; democratic Europe proved the opposite. And don’t; compare basic needs with Russia to welfare the state.

Happy to oblige, I provided examples that were decidedly unrelated to the Russian Revolution of 1917 (the New Deal, mai ‘68, the Civil Rights Movement, and the current era of austerity measures):

I’d actually venture to say that history demonstrates the opposite; it’s not so much the reforms that make people revolutionary, but more-so the revolutionaries who trigger the reforms. So reforms are a sign of greater revolutionary potential rather than lesser.

The New Deal occurred at a time when Communists were leading major general strikes in US industrial centers. [For example, the Minneapolis general strike of 1934 (46).]

The point at which Maoism exerted its highest level of influence in Western European social democratic society was perhaps during “mai 68”, after the post-WWII welfare state had increased living standards [in France].

And it’s not a coincidence either that [the] heyday of revolutionists like the Black Panthers [is] correlated to the time significant reforms to American capitalism were enacted.

Contrast these with the last period, when there is less revolutionary organizing and agitation [and the capitalist and neoliberal bureaucratic class is more confident in waging war on the proletariat]. We are seeing the erosion of social protections in Western societies–cuts in “entitlement spending”–and virtually no significant reforms being made.

Unruhe then ignores all the examples I gave and pedals back to the Russian Revolution that I had made no mention of after him telling me not to compare it to Western welfare states:

Then you’d venture wrong. World War 1 was what sparked the prairie fire. The immeseration of the working class brought on by the war, even Lenin acknowledged this.

Okay so let’s go back to Russia, I guess.

Me, the Buntovnik:

“The prairie fire” being the Bolshevik Revolution? I already said that I agreed with you about WWI being the spark. I simply contend that the February Revolution didn’t make the October Revolution any less of a potentiality.

Indeed, in this passage from “Left-Wing Communism[: An Infantile Disorder]”, Lenin acknowledges that experiencing (and becoming disillusioned with) the reformist Kerensky government was a necessary phase without which the Bolsheviks would not have brought about the instauration a Proletarian Dictatorship.

[QUOTE, p.65-66] “(…)the fact that the majority of the workers in Great Britain still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys(…) and that they have not yet had the experience of a government composed of these people, which experience was required in Russia (…)to secure the mass passage of the workers to Communism, undoubtedly shows that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should from within Parliament help the masses of the workers to see the results of a [reformist] government in practice(…). To act otherwise would mean placing difficulties in the way of the revolution ; for revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, and this change is brought about by the political experience of the masses, and never by propaganda alone.” [END QUOTE – Lenin (47)]

Lenin goes on to say that British Communists should work to help the “British Kerenskys” (Hendersons and Snowdens, i.e., petit bourgeois reformist socialists) defeat the conservatives, then show workers that they (the revolutionists) were right about the reformists being bankrupt and the workers overthrow the reformists, same as it happened in Russia in 1917!

We can leave it at that if you don’t want to address my points: why do we see reforms being granted during periods of heightened revolutionary activity and social protections being eroded during periods of generally stagnating class struggle?

After utterly misinterpreting the statement made by Lenin which I cited him, Unruhe senses it’s time to begin phrase-mongering. (If there’s anything that can refute Lenin, surely it’s more Lenin!):

You literally are trying to claim that reforms spur on revolution. This is false. Material conditions do, what you propose is anti-Marxist. No amount of “yea well there was reforms in Russia” means that reforms created it. By this logic Western Europe today would be the most revolutionary place. You;re trying to justify doing reforms instead of revolution when every communist theorist has said otherwise and history has demonstrated otherwise. First World people are refusing to do revolution, and reforms, a bigger slice fo the imperialist pie does not make them anymore revolutionary. Trying to compare feudal Russia to modern day First World countries is nonsense. Lenin’s point was to vote anti-imperialist war. You’re only trying to justify not doing revolutionary struggle.

“The industrial workers cannot accomplish their epoch-making mission. . .if they. . . smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement in their own conditions, which may sometimes be tolerable in the petty-bourgeois sense. This is exactly what happens to the ‘labor aristocracy’ of many advanced countries, who constitute the core of the so-called socialist parties of the Second International; they are actually the bitter enemies and betrayers of socialism, petty-bourgeois chauvinists and agents of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement.”

“To tell the workers in the handful of rich countries where life is easier, thanks to imperialist pillage, that they must be afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment, is counter-revolutionary. It is the reverse that they should be told. The labour aristocracy that is afraid of sacrifices, afraid of ‘too great’ impoverishment during the revolutionary struggle, cannot belong to the Party. Otherwise, the dictatorship is impossible, especially in West-European countries.”

– Lenin

It would be good here to examine a non-dit implicit in Unruhe’s last statement. If people in the First World are “refusing to do revolution”, then it is implied that people in the Third World are engaging in revolution. But when “Maoist-Third Worldists” speak of there being an abundance of revolutions and revolutionary activity in the Third World which stand in testament to that part of the world’s brimming revolutionary potential and the lack thereof in the First World, they are referring primarily to the national liberation struggles that induced the great decolonization wave of the Cold War era. It is a question of so-called “people’s revolutions”, not proletarian revolutions.

The reality is that people’s revolutions are easier to execute than proletarian revolutions. They do not require as high a level of organization or consciousness because the bourgeoisie is not threatened by this kind of revolution, which seeks to “regulate capitalism”, not abolish it. As we have already seen, in Maoist practice, the boss class has been deemed a trusted ally of the workers; there need be no antagonistic contradiction between exploited and exploiter classes. Swallowing this class-struggle-negationist lie guarantees that so-called “people’s revolutions” will always lead to neocolonialism. The progressiveness of the petty bourgeoisie and national-bourgeoisie is a myth; capitalism is a global system and the law of capitalism is to make profits, not serve the people. “Third Worldists” have more in common with Robert Reich and Teddy “The Trust Buster” Roosevelt than with revolutionists; their goal being to break “monopoly capitalism”, not capitalism tout court.

Mao’s theory of “New Democracy” differs from Permanent Revolution in that it envisions socialist revolution as having two stages: one bourgeois-democratic revolution in which the working class seeks to lead the national-bourgeoisie in establishing a “new-democratic state” under the joint dictatorship of the “revolutionary” bourgeoisie, proletariat, and peasants, followed by a second stage revolution at some unspecified future date (48). In this view, the so-called “national-bourgeoisie” (and urban petty bourgeoisie) of a Third World colonized or “semi-colonized” country are revolutionary and the proletariat and peasants of that country should unite with them in the event that they revolt against the “international bourgeoisie”. Permanent Revolution meanwhile repudiates the bourgeoisie’s having a place in society, much less in the state (which is an instrument of class rule) because this inherently contradicts the very notion of socialism and proletarian dictatorship (49). In no way can a capitalist society wherein any section of the bourgeois class exercises control through the state be considered socialist.

In “First vs. Third World Nationalism”, an article published by Unruhe on his Maoist Rebel News blog in late September 2015, he confirms his belief that the Third World bourgeoisie constitutes a revolutionary social force. Here Unruhe argues that capitalism in the Third World can be “altruistic”, that exploiters can be “allies” (50). When Unruhe identifies imperialism as the “primary contradiction”, he ignores the fact that imperialism is capitalism, in a more developed, “higher stage”. Maoism and “Third Worldism” are thus actually forms of primitivism in that they seek to empower a more primitive form of capitalism. You can’t have imperialism without capitalism, but you can have capitalism without imperialism, because capitalism is the base upon which the superstructure of imperialism rests; therefore it is correct to state that the primary, fundamental contradiction in today’s world remains capitalism more-so than imperialism. Admitting this does not negate the existence of imperialism, but shows a deeper, more accurate understanding of what imperialism is.

There is no impetus in the First World for the kind of class collaborationist “people’s revolution” which is proposed by the Maoists because the American bourgeoisie, the French bourgeoisie, or the British bourgeoisie have nothing to gain from posturing as allies of the working class in this way. There is no comprador bourgeoisie in imperialist countries. In a sense, the “Third Worldist” assessment of revolution in the First World as impossible is correct, but only because they are not interested in proletarian revolution to abolish capitalism, rather people’s revolution to regulate it.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

So, since Kerensky continued the war, how do you figure that Lenin was telling the Brits to vote against imperialist war by siding with the “British Kerenskys”? [Another question which Unruhe would decline to answer.]

Lenin was describing the Transitional Programme. Workers don’t just wake up one day and say badda bam let’s do a revolution. You engage their consciousness on the level it’s at and help them find the path.

I’m not trying to justify doing reforms INSTEAD of revolution. I’m saying that reforms happen as a consequence of the class struggle. We are back to a point I made in my first comment: Reformists are those who “smugly restrict themselves to attaining an improvement”; Revolutionists support improvements, but do not restrict themselves to improvements!

Improvement is a little bit subjective. Reform does not necessarily equal “improvement”, such as in living conditions, or comfort, or safety. In the US, segregation in schools has actually increased since de jure racism was reformed away. [Though one would be hard pressed to say that doing away with Jim Crow was not an improvement.] And plenty of emancipated slaves died of impoverishment. Lynching increased following the abolition of [chattel] slavery, a reform [of American capitalism] which Karl Marx praised.

Boycotting buses begot bombardment of military recruiting stations

After being schooled by none other than me, o baro BuNToVNiK, on his ignorance of the methods of revolutionary struggle, Unruhe sensed it was time to retreat back to dogmatically repeating Marxian mantras:

Reforms literally do not help revolution. Material conditions are what drives them, this is basic Marxism here. And the civil rights struggle is a bad example.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Why is [the U.S. civil rights struggle] a bad example?


Because the Civil Rights movement never went into revolution. Reforms DO NOT increase the potential for revolution. All history has shown the opposite for the advanced countries.

Here Unruhe contradicts himself and shows his two-facedness. In a gushy interview published earlier this year with Steve Struggle, a former Black Panther Party activist, Unruhe introduces Steve as “one of the original guys that led revolution in the United States during the civil rights era (…) when there was the most revolutionary potential that the United States ever faced.” Unruhe would do well to revisit the conversation he had with Steve Struggle and listen more attentively this time, because Steve begins by informing him that the Black Panther Party’s roots were in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC or “snick”), a group seeking civil rights reform (51).

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

The Civil Rights Movement never brought about revolution, but it did become more revolutionist as it progressed. The founding of the Black Panther Party, easily the biggest and most influential Maoist organization in US history, in 1966, 2 years after the passage of the reformist Civil Rights Act of 1964, shows this. Struggles for reformist demands like desegregation of public transportation and schools led to increasing levels of violence which led many to question the doctrine of non-violence and develop revolutionary politics.


So the answer is no, it didn’t help revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

Actually, the unrest on the US home front was a key element in demoralizing US troops in Vietnam and altering public perception, ultimately helping secure the victory of the revolutionary forces there. [Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)], which began as a reformist, explicitly anti-communist civil rights group also turned to Maoism at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement [e.g. the Weather Underground].

This map (“Gue[r]rilla War in the United States, 1965-1970”) shows that revolutionary potential was growing:

Growth in the potentiality of revolution does not however guarantee inevitability.


Visit for an interactive version of the “Guerrilla War in the United States, 1965-1970” map.


So no, reforms do not lead to revolution.

Me, o baro Buntovnik:

You are simply repeating ultraleftist dogma without sincerely addressing all the evidence to the contrary.

Your line is essentially no different from that of those who claim that the fact the Soviet project ultimately ended in failure means that socialist revolution can never lead to a stateless, classless society.

Cheers and nice talking with you.


Ultra left dogma? By acknowledging that reforms don’t lead to revolution, they don’t spur on revolution. No, you’re reactionary social democrat. Check out Venezuela now.

Here we get to the childish essence of “ultraleftism”, in the sense Lenin employed it to criticize “Left-Wing Communism”. The ultraleftist finds comfort in assuring himself that his opponent, who advocates global proletarian revolution and building socialism, is more right-wing than himself, who advocates people’s revolution (also known as “bourgeois revolution in red flags” [52]) limited to a certain part of the world where he does not live, to regulate capitalism there.

“Third Worldism” is not scientific; it’s scientism

  • Scientism:
    • 1.) The problematic transposition of theories or methods from the natural (“hard”) sciences onto the terrain of the social (“soft”) sciences, philosophy, or even everyday life (53).
    • 2.) A philosophical position that exalts the methods of the natural sciences above all other modes of human inquiry (54).

A central component of the LLCO’s “Third Worldist” strategy is the attempt to derive authority from proclaiming how scientific their ideology is, even going so far as to say, “In terms of (…) science, we can declare absolute victory over all competitors. (…) All ideological competitors are dead at the level of high science. There is no more real debate (…) Without Leading Light, without genuine science,  [the non-”Third Worldist” Left] have no future. The sooner they see this the better. (…) The global masses have their organization, leadership, vanguard, Leading Light.”

We have seen how they claim that the hopeless futility of attempting to exact social revolutions in the United States of America, Western Europe, and other capitalist metropoles is an objective “fact”, grounded in “science”. They use statistics like per capita GDP to show that these countries’ working classes are a labor aristocracy, allergic to the very thought of revolution.

Of course, the “Third Worldists”, needing to justify their own existence, concede that there are “small pockets of allies spread across all strata of the First World (55).” In other words, there are American billionaires, “bourgeoisified” industrial manufacturing workers, and “unproductive” service sector workers who the glorious Third World masses can considered their allies, Unruhe and “Commander Prairie Fire”, presumably among those super special First World snowflake “anomalies” who are somehow able to see past the great personal benefit imperialism is bringing them and, not only show solidarity with the global poor, but actually become the primary “advanced scientific core” who will arm them with the only theory capable of liberating them, the great high science of the Leading Light Communism, blessed be its name!

The contradiction is obvious, but it must be rendered explicit: if science suffices to explain why we are not currently seeing a great proletarian revolution being carried out in the First World, and why the Third World’s national-bourgeoisie, urban petty bourgeoisie, workers, and peasants represent the only hope for socialism to flower, then how does one explain the anomalies? The messianic Neos who have woken up from the Matrix of “First Worldism” to develop the most advanced high science of social liberation, Leading Light Communism and “Maoism-Third Worldism”?

In Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine, Tzvetan Todorov warns us that the scientistic postulate that society and social phenomena can be fully understood by the methodology and theory of natural sciences “leads to the reduction of the human being to the status of an object”. This view leads believers in scientism to consider human beings as overly “determined by their nature” (56). In the scientism of “Third Worldism”, the nature of the masses of the First World is that of a labor aristocracy. The label of “labor aristocrat” serves to negate the agency of inhabitants of the First World as human subjects. “Third Worldists” privilege social structure as the only explanation for human behavior to justify their own social atomism and disengagement from the societies which surround them, selectively applying vulgar determinism to explain the stupidity of others while simultaneously upholding nondeterminism to explain their own virtue, exceptionalism, and tenuous empathy.

Pure science–construed as rote empiricism–is a fundamentally flawed approach to making social revolution. We all know that the conditions today are different than those of the past. We can learn from past revolutions, while at the same time being mindful of the fact that the degeneration of the Bolshevik Revolution ultimately spat out today’s capitalist Russia and the rest of the former Soviet republics, and that only a special kind of dipshit says that Foxconn and its mass suicides are the result of a successful socialist revolution. But we also have to recognize, given that the socialist transformation of human society has not yet been fully experienced (only glimpsed at in a few episodes), that our empirical data is limited to nonexistent.

This is why we must serve the people fiction. Now, more than ever before, as we live in the present period of protracted disenchantment and disillusion with revolutionary politics following the collapse of Soviet-style “Communism”, working class-generated radical systemic change is perceived to be beyond the frontier of the realm of the possible. This is why we must fog of the boundary between feasible and infeasible, embrace the fantastic. This is the basis for 21st century proletarian literature. This is the basis for myth-science and the music of Sun Ra, who said:

There is a message in all of my music. It’s all about people doin’ somethin’ else other than what they have done. Because what they have done is the possible, and the world the way it is today is the results of the possible that they did. It’s the results of the absolute thing, so now (…) there’s always something else in a universe as big as this (57).

In summary

All of the above goes to show that “Maoism-Third Worldism” is a foolish and ignorant political line, its adherents hypocrites of the highest order. While the critique of “Third Worldism” is by no means exhausted, let us review some key points:

  • The scientistic, clichéd, campy, kitsch cultist approach to public relations of “Third Worldists”, in particular that of the LLCO, will never attract the masses to their version of Communism, only anomalous weirdos.
  • It cannot be denied that in “[elaborating] (…) a basic geographical distinction”, “[distributing] geopolitical awareness into [political] texts”, and demonstrating a “certain will or intention to understand, (…) control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly different (…) world,” “Third Worldism” reproduces Orientalism. Their ideas reflect thus less upon the “reality” of life in the Third World and are more a reflection of their own impotency as would-be leftists in the First World (58).
  • “Maoist-Third Worldists” are not legitimate revolutionists of the proletarian sort. Their goal is not to create a dictatorship of the proletariat. The objective of “Global People’s War” is to knock capitalism back to a pre-imperialist stage by replacing the comprador bourgeoisie with the national-bourgeoisie, keeping the capitalist state intact.
  • “Third Worldists” utterly fail to understand the dynamics of social change. History shows that militating for reforms leads to heightened revolutionary potential. Revolutionaries must struggle in the here and now by demanding concessions which reflect the present situation to bridge the gap between the mass consciousness of today and the radical possibilities of a future socialist society.

Down with the pseudo-science of Primitivist-Orientalist-Third Worldism! Down with patriotic bourgeois collaborators, sheepdogs of neo-colonialism and proto-imperialism! Advance global class struggle! The workers’ struggle knows no border!


All URL’s accessed on December 18, 2015.

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2. Jeanne Willette, “Post-Colonial Theory: Edward Said” (September 6, 2013), Art History Unstuffed,

“For [Edward] Said, ‘Orientalism’ or the Western construction of the ‘imaginary Orient’ was fashioned by Europeans through practices of writing, which had the effect of representing the Other, the East.”

3. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1985),

4. “Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B Leitch, 2194,

“Because subalterns exist, to some extent, outside power, theorists and advocates of political transformation have consistently looked to them as a potential source of change. Marxists speak of and for the proletariat, feminists of and for oppressed women, and anticolonialists of and for third world peoples. In part, Spivak is reacting against the persistent tendency of radical political movements to romanticize the other, especially against the notion that third world peoples must lead the fight against multinational global capitalism. To assign them that role is to repeat colonialism’s basic violence, which views non-Europeans as important only insofar as they follow Western scripts. Furthermore, when most of the power resides in the West, why should the least powerful of those caught up in globalization be responsible for halting its advance? Finally, Spivak points out that the suggestion that all third world peoples stand in the same relation to global capitalism and should respond to it in the same way is “essentialist.”

5. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014),

6. “What Color is the Sun?” Stanford Solar Center,

“It is a common misconception that the Sun is yellow, or orange or even red. However, the Sun is essentially all colors mixed together, which appear to our eyes as white. This is easy to see in pictures taken from space.”

7. “Cosmology.” In Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, 129. London and New York: Routledge, 2002,

8. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015),

9. Ibid.

10. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Leading Lights of the Bangla Zone” (January 20, 2014),

11. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Interview: Origins” (May 26, 2014),

12. Leading Light Communist Organization, “MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire” (April 6, 2015),

13. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Destroy the Crooked Soul of the Wrecker” (April 16, 2015),

14. “Bildung.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia,

Bildung (German for “education” and “formation”) refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation (as related to the German for: creation, image, shape), wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation. This maturation is described as a harmonization of the individual’s mind and heart and in a unification of selfhood and identity within the broader society, as evidenced with the literary tradition of bildungsroman.”

15. Jason Unruhe, “The French Gonzaloists vs. The LLCO” (December 9, 2015), Maoist Rebel News,

16. RAIM, “About”,

17. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015),

18. Leading Light Communist Organization, “School shootings and gun control” (December 17, 2012),

19. Warren Montag, “Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions” (1998),

20. Lin Biao, “The International Significance of Comrade Mao-Tse Tung’s Theory of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965),

21. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949),

22. “Bloc of Four Classes.” In Marxist Internet Archive: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms,

23. Mao Zedong, “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” (June 30, 1949), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume IV,

24. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia,

25. Mao Zedong, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” (February 27, 1957), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume V,

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27. Lin Biao, “Defeat U.S. Imperialism and Its Lackeys by People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965),

28. Lin Biao, “The Khruschov Revisionists are Betrayers of People’s War”, in Long Live the Victory of People’s War! (1965),

29. Jason Unruhe, “Maoist 3rd Worldist Open Challenge” (May 18, 2015), Youtube,

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33. Richard Brody, “Did Bernard-Henri Levy Take NATO to War?” (March 25, 2011), The New Yorker),

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“The Russian imperial flag has often been flown at combat sites in the Donbas and at meetings in Russia to support Novorossiya. In August 2014, the previously adopted flag of Novorossiya, red and blue and inspired by a flag of the Tsarist Navy, was relegated for use as a battle flag to make room for a new state flag, the Russian imperial white-yellow-black tricolor. The secessionist authorities stated that through the adoption of the new flag, used as a symbol of the Russian Empire from 1858 to 1883, they “integrate their own history into the historical course of the Russian state.” Positive memories of Russia’s Tsarist past are getting an unprecedented boost from the Novorossiya mythmaking process.”

41. Alexey Eremenko, “Ukrainian Rebels Channel U.S. Confederates” (June 9, 2014), The Moscow Times,

42. Chriss Zappone, “Are the Ukrainian separatists flying the Confederate flag?” (August 1, 2014), The Sydney Morning Herald,

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48. Mao Zedong, “On New Democracy” (1940), in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume II,

“In this era, any revolution in a colony or semi-colony that is directed against imperialism, i.e., against the international bourgeoisie or international capitalism, no longer comes within the old category of the bourgeois-democratic world revolution, but within the new category. It is no longer part of the old bourgeois, or capitalist, world revolution, but is part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist world revolution. Such revolutionary colonies and semi-colonies can no longer be regarded as allies of the counter revolutionary front of world capitalism; they have become allies of the revolutionary front of world socialism.

Although such a revolution in a colonial and semi-colonial country is still fundamentally bourgeois-democratic in its social character during its first stage or first step, and although its objective mission is to clear the path for the development of capitalism, it is no longer a revolution of the old type led by the bourgeoisie with the aim of establishing a capitalist society and a state under bourgeois dictatorship. It belongs to the new type of revolution led by the proletariat with the aim, in the first stage, of establishing a new-democratic society and a state under the joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes.”

49. Leon Trotsky, “The Proletarian Regime”, in Results and Prospects (1906),

“The very fact of the bourgeoisie being in power drives out of our minimum programme all demands which are incompatible with private property in the means of production. Such demands form the content of a socialist revolution and presuppose a proletarian dictatorship.”

50. Jason Unruhe, “First vs. Third World Nationalism” (September 25, 2015), Maoist Rebel News,

51. Jason Unruhe, “Interview: Steve Struggle of the original Black Panther Party” (April 6, 2015), Youtube,

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54. Martin Ryder, “Scientism” (2013),

55. Leading Light Communist Organization, “Our response to a supporter of the Communist Party of  India (Marxist-Leninist):” (July 29, 2015),

56. Tzvetan Todorov, “Scientisme”, in Nous et les autres: La réflexion française sur la diversité humaine (Paris: Seuil, 1989), 41.

57. “Sun Ra Interview (Helsinki, 1971)”, Youtube, 2:20,

58. Edward W Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 12.