I wish I was young now. If you are, you might not realize how lucky you are. The 70s were a big time in the United States, but a brief time. They gave way to Reaganism, and an absolute desert for popular struggle. The New Communist Movement collapsed: The small army of FBI plants within it had a field day making use of the Sino-Soviet split to pit one faction against another until, like the Cats of Kilkenny, there was nothing left of either one. Glasnost, Perestroika, and at last the frank, genocidal restoration of capitalism in the USSR took the moral wind out of the sails of the left, not to mention the financial backing that a few factions still enjoyed. A Wise And Celebrated Academic went as far as to declare “The End of History”, by which he meant the final triumph of capitalist democracy.
Popular struggle ebbed to a historical low point. What was left of the left had little choice but to involve itself in progressive electoral politics, or simply to make peace with being utterly isolated and alone, weirdos at the edge of public consciousness. (I think, by the way, that the latter choice proved the more poisonous.)
Even when outbreaks of struggle took place, such as with the Rodney King rebellion, they were spontaneous and disorganized, easily captured by the worst opportunist elements — helped along as always by the state.
The capitalists thought they had saved themselves by destroying the USSR. But Marx was right all along when he said that capitalism would create its own gravediggers. If they destroyed one set, it was only so much help, since all along they, themselves, were busily building the next ones. Oppression creates resistance, even still today.
Occupy Wall Street was a revelation to me. It was organizationally and ideologically a circus, a disaster. I am sure it was the most fun the army of rodents the FBI still keeps on its payroll had had in may years, since the anarchist-ish principles of the movement allowed them absolutely free play. But it was also a huge, nationwide outbreak of counter-hegemonic struggle, at a level we had not seen for decades.
And then came 2015, and Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street looked piddling. And it hasn't stopped: The George Floyd Rebellion, the Bernie Sanders campaigns and the subsequent disillusion, the Chicago Teachers Union, Amazon Labor Union, and so on.
It's a great time to be a leftist. As Mao once said, “There is great disorder under heaven. The situation is excellent.”
Even better: The uptick in popular struggle has been accompanied by the beginnings of the building of real revolutionary organizations, organically tied to these struggles and in some cases playing leading roles in them.
My greatest joy in life is having been part of building some of these efforts, and I will continue to do so as long as I'm able. But good God I wish I was twenty again.
So what is the Anti-Woke Left to do with this?
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
No one coming to the left through the actual popular struggles that are taking place winds up in the Anti-Woke Left. It's internet based. It reaches people the same way Q Anon or any of the other rightwing nonsense does, by an endless string of vapid Youtube videos, twitter feeds, and like that.
If you only know the left through Twitter, then you probably know the views of Twitter rad libs. Some of them are very easy to make fun of. And if you know the left only online, and you haven't thought carefully about it, you might well have carelessly got it into your head that a few loud rad libs on Twitter speak for the Chicago Teachers Union, for the Amazon Labor Union, or for the numerous Black Lives Matter groups around the country.
Of course, you don't EXPLICITLY think that, only you probably haven't troubled to think about what the differences may be between the “left” as you know it on Twitter, and the actual left, now leading popular struggles in the US. It may not have occurred to you that if you want to know the views of THAT left, you will have to look into it yourself.
If you do look into it, you'll find THAT left, the real left, is a lot harder to dismiss than the Twitter rad libs. But you'll also find it has nothing at all to do with the Anti-Woke Left.
The Anti-Woke Left denounces Black Lives Matter, or at best is indifferent to it. The real labor struggles taking place in the US today are often — not always, but often — led by black people, and even white labor leaders consistently speak in favor of Black Lives Matter.
The Anti-Woke Left has adopted the right's vile fear-mongering about transgender people, a fear-mongering the right has reveled in since Hitler days. The actual popular movement today insists on the rights of transgender people to affirming health care, to job protections, and to protection from violence and the hate mongering that creates it.
The Anti-Woke Left is focused on the nuclear family. The actual left, the left that is leading popular struggles, is very well aware that plenty of people continue to live in perfectly conventional nuclear families, that there is no attack on your right to do so, but that many other working people, for numerous reasons, do not. And the actual left is in solidarity with working people, including those who are not living in conventional nuclear families, whether we are talking about single parents or lesbian and gay relationships.
Why are these, and not the Anti-Woke bullshit, the views of the actual leftists organizing on the ground in the US? Why shouldn't they be, since they are in reality the views of the left almost everywhere. After all, an important element of the revitalization of the US left is a renewing of its international links. And since the US is partly and increasingly a Latin American country, links with Latin America are particularly key.
For example, Engels in his book Origin of the Family made the very serious mistake of declaring homosexuality to be a result of decadence, a line which Marxists followed for many years after. But as I am writing this, Cuba is preparing a new family code which will put lesbian and gay couples on the same footing as their straight counterparts. Meanwhile, others will remember when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro used a crude but very common anti-gay slur in a speech, and when called on it, responded by apologizing and speaking out in solidarity with the gay community.
If these are the examples set by our Latin American comrades, why should we be different? Considering how much more advanced their struggles are, why shouldn't we, in fact, view them as our mentors?
In our views on race, we communists have never had much to apologize for. Marx and Engels were anti-racists, and the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggle not only was a motor for the Russian Revolution but was also a major work carried out by the Soviet state. Vladimir Putin — himself one of the destroyers of Soviet socialism — reminded everyone of that when he blamed Lenin for the “creation” of the Ukraine. Of course, no one who has read Stalin's book on nations thinks Lenin created or could create the Ukrainian nation, but Soviet nationality policy under Lenin, Stalin, and their successors (Brezhnev seems to have been Ukrainian) certainly respected and officialized the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian culture, and Ukrainian autonomy.
Today we see that in Latin America, where the new Bolivian state is called “The Plurinational Republic of Bolivia”, reflecting its decolonizing outlook. It has even adopted a second flag, the Wiphala, based on indigenous culture. The United States is every bit as much a product of colonialism and genocide as Bolivia. Why should we, the left in the US, be afraid to follow our Bolivian comrades down this path?
But all of these people, in all of these struggles, when they know it and when they don't know it, are ultimately following the path laid out by Lenin. And why shouldn't we follow Lenin? If we really mean to tear down the world and build a better one, a world without oppression or poverty, who should we look to more than Lenin?
If you've followed only the Anti-Woke Left, you might not realize all of this is following Lenin. Many people on the Anti-Woke Left profess to ADMIRE Lenin, but that is a very different thing from STUDYING Lenin, isn't it? Almost none of them have done that. If they had read so much as What Is To Be Done, they would have found:
The Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.
“Democratic demands” is a concept entirely alien to our Anti-Woke Left, isn't it? Because Lenin doesn't mean simply the right to vote, or the right to put out a newspaper, but the basic idea of human equality before the law, a basic premise of liberalism that liberalism never delivers. According to Lenin, though, these demands are indispensable to revolutionary victory:
The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms... We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations, etc.
So, that is the actual left. Whether it is Woke, in the Twitter sense, I don't pay enough attention to Twitter to know. But it is militantly anti-racist, militantly anti-colonial, and militantly in defense of women and of gender and sexual minorities, like the rest of the left, worldwide. It is the left of Lenin, Nicolas Maduro, Raúl Castro, and Evo Morales.
And if that is the context of the actual left, the real left, what is the context of the Anti-Woke Left? Where does it fit in, or who does it fit in with?
Trash, trash, trash.
Take, for example, the play journalist turned would be cult leader Caleb Maupin. The truth is he is a long-standing fan of a Russian man called Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin, for Maupin, is “an important Russian intellectual.” Important enough for Maupin to mention him repeatedly, and travel to Russia for a conference he held and share a podium with him.
Though today Dugin bills himself as a “traditionalist”, in the past he was a founder of a party called the “National Bolsheviks”. Were they fascists? You can find their flag quickly enough on any search engine. It was a Nazi flag, a red field with a white circle, only they have replaced the Nazi swastika at the center with a hammer and sickle.
But if Dugin is a fascist, is he at least important to understanding modern Russian politics? Honestly, no. The West loves Dugin, because they find him a useful club with which to bash Russia. For example, articles comparing Dugin to the last Tsar's advisor Rasputin are not at all uncommon. In fact, however, despite his supposed role as the man behind the Russian throne, Dugin lost his professorship at Moscow University in 2014 over comments calling for genocide against Ukrainians. Today, he works for Tsargrad TV, a supposed television network owned by a Russian millionaire. The network, however, no longer broadcasts on TV.
Dugin, in short, is of interest only to two groups of people: American critics of Russia, who want to falsely make him out to be an important influence on Russian society; and Caleb Maupin, who wants to do the same.
Or, let us take Jimmy Dore, the YouTube personality and anti-woke “leftist”. Dore has embraced the Boogaloo boys, a neo-Nazi militia. But his latest point is to declare his support for Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez Suarez, who has previously expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler.
In Latin America today the right and the left are easier and easier to identify. The left is the Pink Tide: Hugo Chavez and Nicholas Maduro; Evo Morales and Luis Arce; Christina Fernandez and Alberto Fernandez. In Colombia, the left, the Pink Tide, is represented by the candidate who WON the election, Gustavo Petro. Rodolfo Hernandez Suarez, the Hitler admirer, is the candidate of the right, of the Yankees, the sell outs, and the death squads. And of the Anti-Woke Left.
So, if you are a leftist outside the United States looking in, or a leftist in the US but so far only connected to politics through social media, this is a guidepost to you. Choose which left you want to be part of: The left of the growing people's movement, of Lenin and Fidel; or the “left” of the death squads and the Hitler admirers.