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Why the Student Intifada must Outpace the Social Fascism Running Behind It

university of california strikers
UAW members creatively tie political repression on University of California campuses to unfair labor practices, but an undercurrent of exploiter-country economic demands remains

On May 13th, UAW Local 4811 voted to authorize a statewide stand-up strike across University of California campuses. Though representing largely class enemy strata, the United Auto Workers union (UAW) has, in the past few years, been an innovator in strike tactics. “Stand-up strikes,” as they are called, differ from traditional strikes by having local branches be called to the picket by a central coordinator, as opposed to having all members strike at once. This tactic reduces burnout among the strikers by introducing “shift work” into the nature of the picket, and psychologically attaches rank-and-file members more closely to movement developments with anticipation of not knowing until the day of whether it is their turn to strike.

The public response of the university administration has been traditionally liberal. Unable to argue on the morale grounds of the genocide and their active support of it, administrators displace the discussion to either the process of dissent (whether it’s “through the right channels”) or how the dissent affects the lives of settlers. After failure to challenge the legal grounds of the strike, the UC office of the President moved to pearl-clutching,

“UAW’s goals of ‘maximize chaos and confusion’ have come to fruition, creating substantial and irreparable impacts on campuses and impacting our students at a crucial time of their education.”

As of the writing of this article, all universities in the state of Palestine have been destroyed in the genocide.

The UAW represents 5,000 workers at UC Irvine, 8,000 at UC San Diego, and 3,000 at UC Santa Barbara, totaling 31,500 members for all six of the universities affected by the strikes. According to an interview conducted May 31st by The Orange County Register, “UAW Local 4811 is asking the UC schools to give amnesty to all academic employees and students who faced arrest or disciplinary actions for protesting at campuses. The union also wants the students to have guarantees of freedom of speech and political expression on campus and is asking for researchers to be able to opt out of funding sources tied to the Israeli Defense Force.”

Like much university faculty outrage across the country following the student intifada of the past few months, faculty demands have been animated by, and primarily center protecting students and staff from criminal charges, less so the criminal slaughter of civilians by the zionist entity. Even if driven by a racist instinct that the well-being of their peers are of more value than the faceless masses of the Third World, this is an interesting case study in how labor-aristocratic elements may be leveraged as an auxiliary for genuinely progressive ends.

This case study, and the many parallels of it across Turtle Island, reinforces the need for approaching international solidarity work in the imperial core with united front tactics. Were all actors on these campuses concentrated into a single organization or coalition, outrage over the arrests of students and faculty would have quickly gobbled up all the air in the discussion surrounding Palestine. Though not intentionally designed, the separation of student activists and union organizations has contributed to the success of the student intifada. As has the organic separation between faculty and students, though sometimes muddled by unionized students in the UAW. This separation has permitted, but not guaranteed, the more principled students to take initiative in fighting their local foot-soldiers of ethnic cleansing. Many have taken the opportunity to occupy key locations, destroy property facilitating genocide, or symbolically renaming liberated buildings on their campus to Martyrs slain in the liberation struggle.

So long as the student radicals keep ahead of the social fascists keen to rally around them, they can keep efforts centered on Palestine and fix these tertiary elements into a supporting role behind their initiatives, lest they be dragged down into drivel like the UAW’s campaign to hijack the movement into unionizing arms manufactures, as we reported last issue. This is only possible if the students maintain organizational independence from the forces which risk slowing them down. While united front tactics don’t guarantee success – it’s up to the students to center the right lines and pick the correct strategies to see their goals fulfilled, without it they will be tackled at the starting line. As the next school semester approaches on the horizon, we wish the student radicals the best of luck in their race against backward elements.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The “social-fascism” thesis was applied by Bolsheviks to Western Europe’s social-democracy of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Behind this thesis was MIM’s understanding of social-democracy as not always based in a politically foggy sector of the proletariat but usually in the super-profit bribed petty-bourgeoisie known as the “labor aristocracy” –at least in the imperialist countries, especially those long-established imperialist countries with colonies or neo-colonies. The “social-fascist” term applied to social-democrats who appeared socialist on the outside while serving fascism in content. MIM applies this term to all those today who appeal to the economic nationalism of the imperialist country labor aristocracy. Those calling for closing the borders, import restrictions etc. and calling themselves “socialist” or even “communist”–these are the social-fascists today.(2)

Notes: 1. read MIM Theory 14: United Front for more theory on how to unite various class interests
2. MC5, 5 March 2001, Book Review: Dimitrov & Stalin 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives

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[Polemics] [Palestine] [Principal Contradiction] [National Liberation]
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A Polemic against Settler "Maoism"

Outline: Introduction

This polemic focuses on writings and ideas from Revolutionary Marxist Students (RMS) and Maoist Communist Union (MCU). RMS is a student group focused primarily on education and organizing around college campuses and MCU is a pre-party organization with more varied activities. Each derive from a shared settler “Maoist” ideological tradition in the United States concentrated on trade unionism and influenced by Trotskyism. This paper focuses on their misunderstandings of settler-colonialism, the national question in the United States and the labor aristocracy. Let it be noted that ideological strengths in their literature are largely omitted from discussion of these central issues.

Theses

  1. RMS/MCU ignores the national question in the US and misunderstands settler-colonialism. This contributes to a pardoning of white settler workers and acting as though their economic demands will not directly reinforce imperialism and colonization.
  2. RMS/MCU presents no explicit class analysis identifying and demarcating the revolutionary from counterrevolutionary forces in society.
  3. RMS/MCU distort Marx, Engels and Lenin’s understanding of the labor aristocracy to mean a small privileged upper strata of workers in any country, rather than the majority of labor having been bourgeoisified within the imperial core.

Palestine and Settler Colonialism

The RMS Statement on the Genocide in Palestine is a useful starting point for investigating the errors of this political tendency.(1) There is much worthy of praise including rebuttal of some imperialist propaganda and recognition of, considering Palestine, a “need to keep up with future development and critically assess the forces at play. Our primary role in the United States is to understand and oppose our own state’s involvement in this genocide.”

However, given the importance of opposition to settler colonialism within the Maoist theoretical lineage, RMS’s adherence to Trotskyist interpretations of settler labor is unorthodox. In contrast to Mao and Stalin, Trotsky believed that a socialist government in only one country would be doomed to failure unless it found rapid new socialist allies across the world: unless it was accompanied by a global “permanent revolution.” As Trotsky says himself, “Without direct state support from the European proletariat, the working class of Russia will not be able to maintain itself in power and to transform its temporary rule into a lasting socialist dictatorship. This we cannot doubt for an instant.”(2)

This was not a view restricted to the specific context of Russia, however. In the basic postulates beginning Trotsky’s The Permanent Revolution, written in 1931, he writes that:

“Socialist construction is conceivable only on the foundation of the class struggle, on a national and international scale. This struggle, under the conditions of an overwhelming predominance of capitalist relationships on the world arena, must inevitably lead to explosions, that is, internally to civil wars and externally to revolutionary wars. Therein lies the permanent character of the socialist revolution as such, regardless of whether it is a backward country that is involved, which only yesterday accomplished its democratic revolution, or an old capitalist country which already has behind it a long epoch of democracy and parliamentarism.”

The above-outlined sketch of the development of the world revolution eliminates the question of countries that are ‘mature’ or ‘immature’ for socialism in the spirit of that pedantic, lifeless classification given by the present programme of the Comintern. Insofar as capitalism has created a world market, a world division of labour and world productive forces, it has also prepared world economy as a whole for socialist transformation.

Different countries will go through this process at different tempos. Backward countries may, under certain conditions, arrive at the dictatorship of the proletariat sooner than advanced countries, but they will come later than the latter to socialism. A backward colonial or semi-colonial country, the proletariat of which is insufficiently prepared to unite the peasantry and take power, is thereby incapable of bringing the democratic revolution to its conclusion. Contrariwise, in a country where the proletariat has power in its hands as the result of the democratic revolution, the subsequent fate of the dictatorship and socialism depends in the last analysis not only and not so much upon the national productive forces as upon the development of the international socialist revolution.”(3) [Bold ours]

This Trotskyist conception that workers from the most advanced capitalist nations must revolt to assist revolutionary struggles in backwards, feudal and colonized nations is manifested in RMS’s theory on Palestine. Like their theoretical forerunner, RMS incorrectly identifies the friends and enemies of the international proletariat, but without the excuse that the labor aristocracy was embryonic in Trotsky’s time.

RMS claims to evaluate the “Hamas October 7th attack” – more accurately, a counter-attack orchestrated by the resistance Joint Operations Room groups(4) – in relationship to the supposedly more “diverse strategy” within the Vietnamese, Chinese and Algerian revolutionary wars. They claim Hamas is wrong to support a two-state solution, without acknowledging that Hamas only supports the policy as a temporary strategic measure.(5) RMS prioritizes “Israeli” citizens through their critique of a two-state solution, claiming that “Only through the implementation of one secular and democratic state for both Israelis and Palestinians in place of the religious-fascist state currently ruling over the region can this brutal apartheid come to an end.” RMS misunderstands the inherently settler, counterrevolutionary designation of “Israeli” which must be abolished alongside the zionist entity in order for Palestine to be free.

Instead of abolishing the settler class role, RMS claims that “in order to wage any sort of successful national liberation struggle in Palestine, a significant section of the working Israeli masses would have to turn against the apartheid state and link up with the Palestinians” and that “Historical precedent proves the need for such an alliance of both the colonized and colonizer working classes in ending Apartheid, as seen in the South African example.” Here the term “working class” obfuscates settler-colonialism by equating the class interests of settler and colonized populations, ostensibly because they each receive wages, ignoring their wages’ dramatically different quantities and the fact that one group faces national oppression and the other constitutes an oppressor nation. RMS also cites the numeric majority of “Israelis” within Palestine to justify the need for an alliance between the two groups.

Their singular case study with regards to settler workers cooperating with colonized workers within a successful revolutionary movement is a multi-national trade union struggle against apartheid in South Africa.(6) As RMS writes, “historical precedent proves need for an alliance of the colonized and the colonizer working classes in ending apartheid. In South Africa, while less than 10% of the population was white, an alliance with the working class of said population was not only possible but necessary for the ending of the apartheid regime.”

While the above source which RMS references argues the significance of the South African Congress of Trade Unions, it omits the representation of various nations in the formation or the involvement of white settler labor. Moreover, despite apartheid being “defeated” national oppression amd segregation endures in South Africa alongside the revisionism of the African National Congress.

RMS criticizes the Palestinian resistance militarily through reference to Algeria, China and Vietnam, while the class compositions of these nations’ struggles against colonialism and imperialism are not considered. While no two cases are perfectly analogous, successful liberation movements against colonialism and imperialism have been won not through drawing from the sympathy of the oppressor nation “workers” but through organizing the indigenous masses. Although no socialist states remain today from 20th century revolutionary movements, victories against imperialism in a multitude of socialist African, Latin American and Asian governments during the late 20th century were achieved by the (mostly) guerrilla warfare of the colonized populations, often fighting in direct contradiction to enemy settler-labor formations. The Chinese revolution, which Maoists uphold as the most significant advance towards socialism, didn’t concern itself with the characteristic mineutia of the enemy class; they opposed the Japanese occupiers – labor and all. What is particularly alarming about RMS’s analysis of international settler situations is the transativity of the analysis on occupied Turtle Island where settler labor has directly led in colonization and genocide, especially in the United States.(7)

In every revolutionary struggle, there are those who commit class suicide and join the side of the oppressed despite their origins as exploiters. Hence, a rejection of an “alliance” between the settler workers and the oppressed nation workers must not serve as a mechanical rejection of individual revolutionaries’ ability to transcend their class origin. As a class however, settlers have never rejected their class except when forced to migrate out of a colony by the revolting oppressed.(8) With respect to colonized nations, settlers everywhere form a reactionary, exploiting class.

Fundamentally, RMS misunderstands the class role of settler labor as parasitic and antagonistic to the liberation of their country’s colonized peoples. Settler labor is understood as the labor and political organizations representing the class interests of the settlers as workers – more wages, better work conditions, expansion of settler lands, and access to resources. Class interests and the demands they beget represent the improvement of the well being or wealth of the respective strata. This is especially true within capitalism where the potential of class mobility is present. No strata is without class demands, and no labor formation is capable of completely shedding the class demands of its composite strata as the purpose of forming labor and political advocacy organizations within capitalism is improving the lot of a given group, usually through struggle with employers or the state. It is possible for segments of a strata to reject their class demands but that is not what RMS is advocating for in the case of settler labor.

What makes settler labor organizations reactionary is that the settler class material interest is the dispossession of an indigenous population, by which the settler class is afforded free land, cheap resources, access to improved citizenship benefits as dividend from the immense plunder of the settler bourgeoisie and the cheap labor of the colonized who are relegated to reservations, often little more than concentration camps. Settler labor organizations will seek to advocate for greater dividends of the whole stolen wealth of the nation for the respective spheres of workers for which they advocate. Conflicts between the settler bourgeoisie and settler petty-bourgeoisie, including all settlers who receive wages, do not arise because the state can increase the levers of indigenous dispossession and genocide, creating settler class positions for sections of the former-proletariat whenever the possibility of class struggle presents itself.

This plays out in “Israel” as there are no trade unions, much less nonprofits or “leftist” activist organizations struggling against the zionist entity as a colonial project. Israel mandates that every settler, except the ultra-orthodox, serve in the Israeli Occupation Forces, learning to kill and hate Palestinians. Remaining are isolated instances of military defectors and other peaceful protesters being brutalized over even milquetoast objections to the scale or extent of the occupation or specific massacres, such as those occurring in Gaza currently. Settler labor as a class, and indeed the entire settler population of “Israel” has yet to demonstrate revolutionary potential and it is unfortunate that RMS excludes any criticism of this settler “left” from their piece despite calling for the Palestinians to unify with them.

Imperialism and the National Question

The trade union movement in the US has historically concentrated significantly on the labor aristocracy, which to quote Zak Cope:

“is that section of the working class which benefits materially from imperialism and the attendant superexploitation of oppressed-nation workers. The super-wages received by the labour aristocracy allow for its accrual of savings and investment in property and business and thereby “middle-class” status, even if its earnings are, in fact, spent on luxury personal consumption. Persons who may be compelled to work for a living but consume profits in excess of the value of labour either through some form of property ownership or through having established a political stake in (neo) colonialist society, may be bourgeois without hiring and exploiting labour-power” (9)

Cope applies the concept globally to argue that within the OECD working class – 38 European nations, Mexico (a more complicated case in The Dawnland Group’s opinion), Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Japan – there is no legal exploitation. Rather, Cope argues the first world working class is recipient of super-wages comprised of wages for their labor in addition to wages from the super-exploitation of the third world which provides them with cheap commodities and shares of imperialist profits. In particular, Cope notes the exploitative role of the first world working class, writing that “where workers seek to retain whatever bourgeois status their occupational income and conditions of work afford them through alliance with imperialist political forces, they can be said to actively exploit the proletariat.” (10)

Cope calculates the value of super-exploitation through two methods, namely international productivity equivalence, and international wage differentials, assuming an international equalized wage rate. Using these two methods Cope finds a combined value transfer from the non-OECD to OECD countries of $4.9 trillion in the year 2008 alone.(11) While a renewed study of imperialist value transfer is necessary for US communists today, that is beyond the scope of this polemic. It should suffice to observe that wages in gross disproportion to the productivity of first and third world workers indicate an exploitative dynamic benefiting one group at the expense of the other. There may be challenges cultivating revolutionary empathy and culture in the imperial core if working conditions and wages here cannot be viewed in a global context and value transfer is not appreciated.

As recognized by Lenin, Marx and Engels, the global proletariat has nothing to lose but their chains. This is a category of workers afforded zero or next-to-zero wealth through imperialism. Formations such as MCU and RMS refuse this definition because it would broaden the petty-bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy to include most of the industrial workers who they consider the “revolutionary proletariat” and dramatically reduce their organizing base within the imperial core.

The most acute struggles in the United States today are national rather than based on class. The internal nations in the US show the greatest sites of exploitation, oppression and direct, violent conflict with the capitalist class. These are the indigenous protesting at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, movement against the murderous national oppression carried out through police and prisons, resistance and labor organizing from migrants forced from their home countries by imperialism, and rebellion among the literal colonies retained by the US empire today in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These instances of struggle go beyond wishing for middle-class living standards. Not only have they demonstrated increased levels of militancy against the state, but the roots of these conflicts are irreparable antagonisms against the structure of capitalism and imperialism which necessarily go beyond economic demands and have not been placated through the dividend of super-profits.

Maoist Communist Union (MCU) writing about politics in the United States focuses on trade unionism and overlooks national questions. Despite the manifold contradictions between nations on Turtle Island, within their theory journals, Notes from a Conversation Among Comrades on the George Floyd Protests: Lessons for Ourselves and Beyond discusses the oppression of Black people but does not lay out a conception of their struggle for national liberation or their nationhood.(12) No other articles discuss national or even “racial” (a popular but unscientific concept) oppression on Turtle Island, and their extensive writing about Maoist formations from the Global South and trade unionism in the US reveals that they view the US as simply another country that can carry out revolution domestically by replicating Maoist strategies from the third world. They are mistaken: different conditions warrant different strategies.

MCU’s Some General Theses on Communist Work in the Trade Unions exemplifies this view.(13) Ignoring national oppression, the article instead finds that “in order to have a socialist revolution in this country we must first develop a strong Communist (Maoist) Party capable of leading a powerful trade union movement and of freeing that movement from the domination of reactionary leadership.”

The chronology is important. If communists must first develop this “Maoist” trade unionist movement, it means any organizing around the national – or racial, according to language used by MCU – questions and colonization are peripheral or secondary to this central cause. It suggests communists might first unite the trade union movement and later, if at all, use this militant union formation to liberate oppressed groups within the country rather than working with these groups as mutually constitutive of a revolutionary struggle, much less prioritizing struggles of oppressed nations. In reality, organizing a bulwark of settler labor will negatively impact national liberation movements.

Instead of oppressed nations, MCU sees trade union aristocrats as the US’s revolutionary masses. The core reference to the “labor aristocracy” in Some General Theses is when the authors claim that “the most secure and consistent base of the reactionary union leaders is the labor aristocracy which is only a small subsection of the working class, and in our day is not equivalent to the trade union membership as a whole.” Having sidestepped an investigation of the various relationships to the means of production, they claim that the “vast majority” of US trade union membership is not a “reactionary base.” MCU overlooks an investigation of total worker compensation including public and private benefits, the means by which the labor aristocracy is maintained within imperial core countries. Luxurious positions at the apex of global commodity exchange and artificially high wages give labor aristocrats wealth above the means of subsistence on which the proletariat must endure, and doled out above the value created through their labor. Without an investigation of international class relations, wages, wealth and labor productivity it is impossible to determine where the proletariat ends and where the labor aristocracy begins and ends, much less between the proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie. It is thus impossible to determine who the revolutionary masses are.

MCU claims that “A Communist Party must necessarily equip itself with the most advanced revolutionary science, based upon a summation of the whole of the proletariat’s revolutionary experience up to the moment in question.” Despite this, MCU presents no historical summation of “communist” work in US trade unions for the past 80 years that could support their conclusion of the necessity or even possibility of building a “Maoist” trade union movement in the US today. In tandem with a thorough class analysis, a historical account of why an ideology finds certain groups revolutionary or counterrevolutionary must be established. If the US trade unions have not taken up any anti-imperialist politics since before the New Deal era despite consistent unsuccessful communist infiltration, what has been the source of these failures?

In their more recent MCU and the Working Class Movement summarizing the tendency’s recent organizing initiatives, the aforementioned mistakes are repeated, particularly a failure to analyze US classes, their only attempt at defining the proletariat being “the only class that has an interest in communism as a class.” This is not a definition. MCU does not scientifically demarcate the proletariat from the non-proletariat. Their interesting commentary about the significance of creating a “specifically proletarian line” around which all other classes must be drawn is inapplicable to any context without an accompanying class analysis.

Because of the labor aristocracy thesis, workers who benefit from super-exploitation of the third world are not exploited, they are exploiters. This entails that the economic interests of the vast majority of imperial core workers are counterrevolutionary. Trade unions, tenant organizing and other locally “progressive” economic campaigns threaten to bolster standards of living and strengthen citizens’ relationship with imperialism. More specifically, the labor aristocracy thesis suggests there is no antagonism between first world capitalists and their citizen labor aristocrats to begin with, the two instead being allied in consuming value from the Global South.

(Mis)Identifying the Labor Aristocracy and the Proletariat

To examine historical Marxist origins of the term “labor aristocracy” as distinct from the proletariat, Marx, Engels and Lenin should be studied. As written in the Maoist Internationalist Movement’s Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997:

According to Marx, the portion of society that is parasitic increases over time: “At the dawn of civilization the productiveness acquired by labour is small, but so too are the wants which develop with and by the means of satisfying them. Further, at that early period, the portion of society that lives on the labour of others is infinitely small compared with the mass of direct producers. Along with the progress in the productiveness of labour, that small portion of society increases both absolutely and relatively.”

Despite the focus given to the labor aristocracy by Lenin, Marx and Engels were the first to speak of the labor aristocracy of the colonial countries. Even in Capital, Vol. 1, Marx speaks of “how industrial revulsions affect even the best-paid, the aristocracy, of the working-class.”

Engels in particular is famous for some quotes on England. Here we only point to the quotes from Engels that Lenin also cited favorably in his book Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. As we shall see, Lenin’s approval and careful attention to the quotes from Engels on the labor aristocracy are very important in his own thinking.

One of the clearest quotes from Engels as early as 1858 cited by Lenin is: “The English proletariat is becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy, and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world, this is, of course, to a certain extent justifiable.” We should also point out that from Lenin’s point of view it was a matter of concern that this had been going on for over 50 years already. Just before expressing this concern, Lenin says, “Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” Writing to the same Kautsky who later betrayed everything, Engels said, “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy? Well exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, and the workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.” Spineless Mensheviks internationally regret this blanket statement by Engels. The more dangerous revisionists of Marxism are only too gutless to say Engels was wrong while contradicting him at every chance. The spineless flatterers of the oppressor nation working class fear the reaction of the oppressor nation workers to being told they are parasites. Likewise, these spineless social-chauvinists evade the task before the international proletariat – a historical stage of cleansing the oppressor nation workers of parasitism. This task cannot be wished away with clever tactics of niceness.” (15)

Referring back to Some Theses on our Work in the Trade Unions, MCU writes that “with the development of capitalist imperialism, Lenin considered it was no longer possible to bribe such a large section of the working class: ‘It was possible in those days to bribe and corrupt the working class of one country for decades. This is now improbable, if not impossible. But on the other hand, every imperialist ‘Great’ Power can and does bribe smaller strata (than in England in 1848–68) of the ‘labour aristocracy.’” Lenin’s claim flowed from the reality that in 1916, imperialist world war had broken out and large segments of British and German workers were re-proletarianized. However, the era of inter-imperialist world war has since been profoundly interrupted by over seventy years of peace in the core imperialist countries throughout which the labor aristocracy to which Lenin referred has grown. Lenin’s writing in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, published in 1917 the year after Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, should be given authority.

While MCU are correct to recognize the socialist NGO’s, revisionist parties and capitalist rulers of most trade unions as class enemies, these do not comprise the labor aristocracy, which instead is the wide majority of bourgeoisified workers compensated with super-wages through imperialism.

MCU writing of their conception of the labor aristocracy says that “In the US, the ruling class has been able to bribe a minority subsection of the working class for a long period of time. The height of this bribery was likely reached during the New Deal era, but especially since the mid 1970s more and more of the labor aristocracy has seen its privileges severely eroded. We need to do much more investigation however to determine more exactly how the labor aristocracy in this country has changed over time, how large it ever truly got and how large it is today.”

MCU seems to assume that decreasing wages relative to GDP since the 1970s has meant the decrease of the US labor aristocracy, but GPD does not reflect global class relations nor wage differentials between nations: “Through this negative account balance (though not only it), the US working class is able to consume products which its labour has not paid for. Global neoliberal restructuring has thus maintained the privileged position of the core-nation working class relative to the Third World proletariat, albeit on terms less favourable to the former’s independent political expression than during the long boom of the 1950s and 1960s.” (16) The persistence of the labor aristocracy despite neoliberal reform can be measured through the significant increase of homeownership,(17) vehicle ownership,(18) higher education(19) and real weekly wages(20) throughout the country since 1960. Based upon these statistics, MCU is incorrect to claim that the height of bribery was during the New Deal era.

Clearly, MCU is using a different definition of the labor aristocracy than Marx, Engels and Lenin because theirs is not based on bribery, unequal exchange or surplus exploitation within the domestic “working class” but entirely restricted to political roles among the petty-bourgeoisie which exist regardless of the compensation of imperial core workers in general.

Conclusion: Impact of Faulty Class Analysis on Mass Work

A closer look at MCU and the Working Class Movement which summarizes the formation’s recent work demonstrates the effects of their ideological commitment to the settler labor aristocracy through their focus on the US “industrial proletariat.”

Discussing some problems they had faced while organizing tenants, MCU claims they were unable to “find and unite with the resolute fighters among the working-class, raise consciousness amongst them specifically and wider masses more broadly, and thereby…build up revolutionary organization” due to “major ideological difficulties in developing significant numbers of tenants into communists or even clarifying the larger nature of the struggle beyond the immediate fight against gentrification.”

They conceived of their task as creating a “united front of all the class forces – workers, lumpen, petty-bourgeois – affected by gentrification.” The following section bears quoting at length:

“In a confused attempt to make the central focus of this united front still be the working-class, we specifically concentrated first on the homeless, and then when we realized that was going nowhere we shifted to tenants in public/subsidized housing – respectively perhaps the most and second-most pauperized and lumpenized sections of the working-class – despite the fact that we had studied and criticized the Black Panther Party’s lumpen-line. We justified this by downplaying the degree of lumpenization among these segments of the population and arguing, correctly, that many of these tenants were still working-class. What we did not consider was which segments and sections of the working-class are most favorable to organize amongst.”

They discuss this line of work saying that

“Naturally, our efforts among the homeless and tenants bore little fruit. We basically failed to make strong and lasting links with the working-class, develop Communists from amongst the masses we were in contact with, build sustained mass-organization, or sustain any struggles involving substantial numbers of people.”

All of this led MCU to conclude a need to “proletarianize” their ranks – through taking up industrial jobs, partly in an attempt to challenge internal petty-bourgeois class tendencies and partly to make more connections with “advanced workers.” (Recall Trotsky) Finally, they list an outpouring of petty-bourgeois students into industrial jobs as “incredibly promising” because they could numerically bolster a communist party.

MCU quotes Lenin’s 1897 Task of the Russian Social Democrats to show how it is necessary for US communists today to focus primarily on the US “industrial proletariat.” MCU claims Lenin

“clearly puts forward that it was specifically the industrial proletariat working in the urban factories that was the most advanced, the ‘most receptive to [Communist] ideas, most intellectually and politically developed.’ Lenin arrived at this conclusion because, following in the footsteps of the rest of the European industrial workers throughout the last several decades, the Russian factory workers had proven themselves in practice to be the leading section of the class during the waves of strikes in the 1880s and 1890s in Russia.”

MCU fails to discuss the difference in working conditions, wages, and wealth between US factory workers and those of semi-feudal Russia. Despite significantly basing their theory on Lenin they have failed to consider the key ways workers in 21st century imperial core countries differ from 20th century peripheral feudal workers; they fail to adequately study imperialism. MCU’s first theory journal includes an article titled Lenin’s Five Point Definition of the Economic Aspects of Capitalist Imperialism and its Relevance Today, during which the term labor aristocracy is never mentioned.(21)

Although it is later downplayed, MCU’s obsession with industrial workers is perhaps best explained by this quote:

“Without a firm foundation among the industrial proletariat, and without winning over the majority of the organized workers to a revolutionary line, it will be impossible for the Party to direct a general political strike across key workplaces and industries during a revolutionary crisis. The general political strike is a key tool by which can we paralyze the ability of the capitalist class to move goods, troops, and military equipment. Alongside splitting the repressive forces, paralyzing the bourgeoisie’s ability to run the economy is essential for a successful revolution during such a crisis. Doing this in key military industries – especially if, as is likely, the crisis arises amid a significant war – undermines the bourgeoisie’s ability to deploy repressive force to crush the revolution.”

According to this picture of revolution, industrial workers formed the “leading section of the working class” during recent strike waves because they have struck in the greatest numbers, to the greatest impact on the national economy. Whereas US industrial workers overwhelmingly only struck for a greater share of imperialist plunder in the last century – such as when the recent “historic” UAW strike in winning mere wage increases for the union and none else(22) – industrial strikes in feudal Russia were far more frequently communist. Still, MCU’s strategy is an essentially mechanical application of insurrectionist revolution, derived from feudal Russia, to the US context.

The US is not an underdeveloped feudal country with only nascent capitalism. It is the leading core imperialist country and has been for over seventy years. It is the wealthiest nation in human history, and has risen wide swaths of the population into allegiance with imperialism and, at times, fascism based upon the material benefits of empire. Revolution will be carried out by a minority-of-a-minority in the country, not by a strike sweeping all sectors of the working class. Our situation cannot be compared to that of the Bolsheviks.

Most charitably, MCU’s summation of tenant work can be read as the belief that their chronology was incorrect: first organizing a communist trade union movement will make work among tenants, lumpen and oppressed nations far easier. Yet, this is still a narrow application of Bolshevik tactics to 21st century US contexts. There are many reasons MCU’s tenant and homeless mass work may have failed: ideological incoherence, focus on labor aristocratic tenants, ignorance of the primary contradiction of national oppression facing the masses, lack of a prior conception of eventual revolutionary civil war around which to mobilize, petty-bourgeois sensibilities among cadre, or even simple human error. It is unreasonable to expect MCU to discuss these factors when they are preoccupied with a nonexistent industrial proletariat, imposing models from incomparable historical contexts.

MCU’s errors in mass-work and their shift towards “key industry” organizing may seem like a simple error of studying one revolutionary circumstance too much at the expense of others, as failing to apply Marxism to the US context. While partly true, the better explanation is a combination of opportunism – increasing numbers at the expense of revolutionary vision – and a failure to prioritize class analysis. Focusing on certain industries is important, but it fundamentally cannot tell you about class within various industries, and it cannot replace determining who the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces in society are; “who are our friends, and who are our enemies?” to quote Mao himself.

Focus on workers in specific industries is a strategic decision likely to be prefigured by an ideological line. MCU has established a line prioritizing Labor Aristocratic workers that necessarily rejects the importance of national contradictions to the revolutionary objectives on Turtle Island, and in doing so promotes imperialism. RMS falls close behind in promoting an impossible allegiance of the colonized nations with the settler working class. Each organization takes part in a prominent tendency of US “Maoist” organizations to follow Trotskyism despite its contradictions with Maoism.

These are deeply troublesome trends. To organize the labor aristocracy, to promote imperialism and Trotskyism is to do the enemy’s work. The global proletariat is the only force which can make revolution, and they are held back by settlers and labor aristocrats alike. The longer communists on occupied Turtle Island fail to embrace these positions, the further away a Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

Notes:
(1) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227044053/https://marxiststudents.wordpress.com/statements/
(2) Zinoviev, Gregory Bolshevism or Trotskyism. 1925
(3) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227044746/https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/tpr/pr10.htm
(4) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227044944/https://unity-struggle-unity.org/resistance-news-network-media-guide/
(5) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227045151/https://irp.fas.org/world/para/docs/hamas-2017.pdf
(6) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227045539/https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/congress-south-african-trade-unions-cosatu
(7) Sakai, J. “Settlers: The mythology of the White proletariat from mayflower to modern.”(2014). Kersplebedeb.
(8) See Haiti, Vietnam, China, Korea, and even South Africa, where millions of emigrating whites has driven many to re-settle in Israel
(9) Cope, Zac “Divided World Divided Class” Kersplebedeb 2012, pg. 9
(10) Ibid. pg. 175
(11) Ibid. pg. 200
(12) https://web.archive.org/web/20240227050314/https://maoistcommunistunion.com/red-pages/issue-3/notes-from-a-conversation-among-comrades-on-the-george-floyd-protests-lessons-for-ourselves-and-beyond/
(13) https://mcuusa.files.wordpress.com/2023/10/mcu-theses-on-trade-union-work-2.pdf
(14) https://mcuusa.files.wordpress.com/2023/12/mcu_and_the_working_class_movement-2.pdf
(15) https://archive.org/details/ImperialismAndItsClassStructureIn1997_254/mode/2up
(16) Cope, Zak “Divided World Divided Class” Kersplebedeb 2012, pg. 9
(17) https://web.archive.org/web/20240228014852/https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/RHORUSQ156N
(18) https://web.archive.org/web/20240228015215/https://transportgeography.org/contents/chapter8/urban-transport-challenges/household-vehicles-united-states/
(19) https://web.archive.org/web/20240228015942/https://www.statista.com/statistics/184260/educational-attainment-in-the-us/
(20) https://web.archive.org/web/20240228015618/https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LES1252881600Q
(21) https://web.archive.org/web/20240228020932/https://maoistcommunistunion.com/red-pages/issue-3/lenins-five-point-definition-of-the-economic-aspects-of-capitalist-imperialism-and-its-relevance-today/
(22) https://www.businessinsider.com/uaw-strike-contract-raises-pay-details-ford-gm-stellantis-2023-10?op=1&r=US&IR=T

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