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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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On "Defending", the National Question and Anti-Imperialism

In Swedish, liberal and conservative agents of imperialist hegemony have a word for people who in any way align themselves with Islamic states, bourgeois nationalist states and populist Left governments like Cuba and Venezuela in global issues - "diktatur-kramare". It literally translates to "dictatorship-hugger" or "dictatorship-cuddler", and is used to dismiss anyone who shows sympathy for people living in anything outside the Western bourgeois-parliamentary structure. Curiously, the liberals don't accept that they are "defending" anything, since they aren't arguing from the perspective of the material reality of global neo-liberalism and imperialism, but eternal, immutable ideals of democracy and freedom. The notion of "defending" something, or "supporting" something, is the way global discourse understands the conflicts between nation-states, global political conflicts and ideological clashes. In the left debate between ardent "anti-imperialists" and idealist working class-romanticists, this use of language creates heated debate: are we to "defend" North Korea? Should we "defend" Iran? Assad's Syria? And what's the alternative? Do we "support" U.S intervention? Do we "support" imperial aggression?

The confusion that comes from the terms to "defend" or to "support" is a barrier to providing a correct, material analysis of these non-Communist, revisionist and/or otherwise bourgeois nation-states. This is not just some attack on the idealist first world working-class romantics, this is as much of a problem for the anti-imperialists. While I agree that these working-class romantics are incorrect in their "whatever bad things happen to the state of DPRK is a good thing" bigotry, there's a disturbing tendency on the other side by the various anti-imperialist anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Third-Worldists, Hoxhaists, "Tankies", and other forms of anti-imperialist activists, taking the opposite, un-dialectical position of unconditionally "defending" every nation that the U.S is or is threatening to bomb. North Korea 2013 would've been condemned as "revisionist" by any good Maoist in the 1960's, yet people who proclaim themselves to be "Maoist" like the ridiculous YouTuber MaoistRebelNews2 and his followers go out of their way to prove that the DPRK is a "successful Marxist-Leninist state", even though it has denounced both Marxism-Leninism and Communism in word and action.

What is the purpose of this glorification, as a mirror response to the imperialist condemnation of the DPRK? Is it to follow a materialist line to explain reality? Or is it a way for people who, without having the intellectual ability to step outside of an idealist good vs bad mindset, seek a way to justify their positions? 

Of course, if there is something good about DPRK, and I think there is, we should defend it. The often ridiculed "Juche Idea" makes them a hard country for imperialist forces to get at - it's focus on becoming as self-reliant is both the source of it's infamous isolation as well as it's continued survival as a nation. But with the DPRK, as well as other anti-imperialist but non-socialist nation-states, the glory and harmony in their domestic political sphere is hardly the point. The central point is the right of national self-determination, and of the right to self-determination in general, is impossible under imperialism, and that there are economic classes who profit from the violation of this principle. Granted, we aren't as stupid as to believe that military dictatorships truly represent the general masses politically, but bombs do not care for representative politics. Bombs do not care whether or not you've rigged elections, imprisoned political enemies, starved half your population or publicly executed children. Bombs care about whatever natural resource and cheap manual labor can be extracted from your nation. For national self-determination to be actualized, imperialism needs to end. 

Some say we should support only the workers of the nations facing imperialism, but this would be to misunderstand class conditions in these states. Under imperialism and colonialism, global contradictions take a national character, transcending romanticist and idealist conceptions of class struggle.* If we are to show workers support, we must understand that in their material conditions, the struggle between national bourgeoisie and proletariat is secondary to the struggle between the imperialist and the nation. This is not being "class collaborationist" - achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat means that the proletariat is dictating, not that help from the bourgeoisie is forbidden. And furthermore, we are still stuck in the idealist paradigm of "supporting" and "defending", and loose sight of the real cause - ending global capitalism and imperialism. 

Furthermore, against the notion of perfection, thrown at us by both imperialists and idealist anti-imperialists, that is that siding with dictatorships against imperialism implies a "glorification" of dictatorships, we must make a final note. The the right of national self-determination is the right to realize your own flaws on your own terms, outside the barrel of a gun and outside the hegemony of imperial superpowers. Like all anti-oppression, it is about the right to feel like shit about yourself on YOUR OWN terms, not an idealization of the oppressed subject as perfect and without any flaws except those imposed on them by the oppressor. 

The problem of modern anti-imperialism, where there are really no genuine Marxist-Leninist states left to defend on the basis of ideological agreement, is "how do we defend Them without claiming they are like Us".
If you're a critical thinker, you might transcend the urge to "defend" or "support" and instead, view social and global issues from a class perspective. That can be hard. If, on the other hand, you dabble in petty idealistic glorification, either of Western capitalism or anti-imperialist dictatorship, you already have your answers cut out for you. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

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On the narrative of the "Bougie Bureaucrats".

In the left-wing discourse about the decline of the Soviet Union and other communist states from the 20th century, a certain narrative seems to repeat itself over ideological boundaries. It goes something like this:

The revolution was authentic and represented the working class, until The Bad Man came, removed power from the now oppressed proles from our favored group of good guys and introduced State Capitalism with Evil Bureaucrats.

These are examples (of course, extremely generalized):

For the anarchists, and social democrats the Bad Man was Lenin, who, as Chomsky tells us , used some sort of libertarian socialist rhetoric to lure the backwards masses into supporting his party, used the authentic working class October revolution for his own authoritarian aims, oppressed the proles when they were going to take power away from him (see Kronstadt and Mahkno) and introduced State Capitalism via bureaucracy (The New Economic Program).

Then come the Trotskyists, who claim that the Bad Man was Stalin, who used the banner of Leninism to take power from the Trotskyist Good Guys, oppressed the proles (Mass repressions, purges), introduced a bureaucratic system that removed authentic working class rule, and in the end of the day produces State Capitalism.

And finally, for Dogmatic Anti-Revisionists, Khrushchev was the Bad Man, who removed authentic working class power from the masses by introducing revisionist programs (Peaceful Coexistence), spreading lies against the Stalinist Good Guys and of course, introducing Evil Bureaucratic State Capitalism.

Now, I am not saying that any of these theories are wrong or that none of them have any merit. But,when simplistic narratives like these are constantly reemerging within the same discourse, it is a sign of idealistic thinking. The convenient fact of idealism is that you enter into investigation with all your questions about the subject already answered, which means that you simply need point at any evidence, no matter how decontextualized or contradictory your analysis is going to be in the end. I don't claim to be able to provide a more correct or useful analysis of what went wrong in the U.S.S.R or other communist projects, but if we realize whats wrong with the type of analysis that the Bougie Bureaucrat-Theory of failed revolution provides, then we can find out what really went wrong. The Bougie-Bureaucrat theory of revolutionary socialism is wrong because it values sectarianism and ones own ideological conviction over empirical fact, values Great Persons™ over material analysis, and uses the actual experience of a proletariat under the dictatorship of the proletariat for cheap trash-talk.