Everything you ever wanted to know about tankies, but were afraid to ask

Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin

One of the stranger developments of the past five years has been the resurrection of the word tankie. It's time for an explainer.

What does tankie mean?

On October 27th 1956, Peter Fryer, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and correspondent for its paper the Weekly Worker, arrived in Hungary. This was four days into an uprising of workers calling for worker controlled socialism. Factories had been taken over nationally by workers councils, in a demonstration of workers self-organisation that was unprecedented at the time, and the first strike on its scale in an Eastern-bloc country. On the 4th of November, Russian T54 tanks rolled into Budapest to suppress the uprising. Street fighting continued until the 10th November, although the workers councils held out for two months.

Fryer returned to the UK horrified by the Soviet repression he had seen, but his attempt to write about it for the Daily Worker was suppressed - the editors were sticking to the official USSR line that the entire uprising was a fascist counter-revolutionary plot and refused to publish anything contradicting that narrative. When Fryer wrote up his experiences anyway, he was expelled from the CPGB. Hungary 1956 split Communist parties across the world; many who had supported the USSR up until this point became disillusioned and split or left individually, while those who stayed loyal to the USSR earned the epithet 'tankies'.

After 1956, the USSR was to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968, then Afghanistan in 1979.

Are all Tankies Marxist-Leninists?

While the original 'tankie' epithet grew out of the split in the Communist Party of Great Britain, the geo-political 'anti-imperialist' support for the USSR and any state aligned against the USA has also been popular with some Trotskyist groups.

In the 1980s it was revealed that the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party (famous for the involvement of actress Vanessa Redgrave) had been receiving funding from Libyan intelligence services and passing details of Iraqi dissidents in the UK to Saddam Hussein.

In the USA, the Workers World Party and Party for Socialism and Liberation both originated in a split from the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party under Sam Marcy. Marcy split from the SWP over the position it took on Hungary '56, although somewhat bizarrely, also accused those who supported the uprising of being Stalinists. Both parties describe themselves as Marxist-Leninist now, and no longer cite Trotsky, but their origination was in the Trotskyist theory of the USSR as a 'deformed workers state.

So support for crushing of workers movements is shared by both some Marxist-Leninists and some Trotskyists, one explanation for this is that the actual politics of Stalin and Trotsky were not very different.

Are all Marxist-Leninists tankies?

The significance of Hungary was not only the uprising itself, but that it occurred in an Eastern Bloc country which was claiming to be socialist. This caused an existential crisis for any communist that still considered the USSR to be a workers' state. Along with Khrushchev's speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1956, exposing and denouncing many of the actions of Stalin.

It was at the same time that Mao began to gradually distance China from the USSR. Maoism had already become a distinct current but without any formal break, which was precipitated by Khruschev's speech and the international reaction to it. Both China and the USSR claimed to be the vanguard of Marxist-Leninism from this point onwards (from here sprang a million accusations of 'revisionism'). This was mostly due to the national interests of the two countries, and internal contradictions in China but was expressed politically as a split with Khrushchev.

The split between China and the USSR, between Maoism and Stalinism, had repercussions elsewhere, such as the multiple splits in the Communist Party of India in the mid-1960s, most often associated with the the Naxalite rebellion, or when the two countries supported opposite sides in Angola's civil war in the 1970s.

Tanks rolled into Tiananmen square in 1989, and those who supported the Chinese government against workers and students have sometimes been labelled 'tankies' too.

This means that 'Marxist Leninist' in the 1960s could include those still aligned with the USSR, those who had been aligned with the USSR but had split after 1956, those influenced by Maoism (Marxism-Leninism-Maoism was coined later in the '90s) and even more confusingly, some Trotskyists would occasionally call themselves Marxist-Leninist too (because they were Leninist Marxists!).

Are all Leninist Marxists Marxist-Leninists?

There have been other historical currents that were influenced by Lenin, including Trotskyism, the Italian branch of Left Communism, and the Operaismo (workerist) tradition in 1960s and 1970s Italy, as well as major figures like CLR James (early on a Trotskyist and leading Pan-Africanist, later moving towards a council communist position). There are huge differences between these currents, as wide as the differences between 'anarchists' and 'marxists'. In terms of a relationship to Lenin we can identity some questions which most of these currents and others have had to answer:

- whether Lenin's work contains unique insights relative to other Marxists at the time
- whether Lenin was correct that Russia would have to pass through a capitalist stage prior to communism and that the task of the Bolshevik party was to raise the forces of production prior to a transition to communism.
- whether the conditions of Russia in 1917 apply to the US in 1960, or to anywhere in the world in 2018.
- whether the USSR was still revolutionary after 1921, 1927, 1956, or 1981.

The answers to these questions led Marxists like CLR James to abandon 'Leninism' almost entirely, whilst still retaining an admiration of Lenin the thinker and historical figure.

Were the Black Panthers tankies?

Some Black Panthers, such as Fred Hampton, described themselves as Marxist-Leninist, but were more influenced by the writings of Lenin and Mao (and the context of Vietnamese resistance to US invasion and African liberation struggles) than the internal or foreign policy of the the USSR. Huey Newton in 1970 introduced the idea of Revolutionary Intercommunalism, a clarification of his ideas which firmly rejected 'socialism in one country'.

In 1966 we called our Party a Black Nationalist Party. We called ourselves Black Nationalists because we thought that nationhood was the answer. Shortly after that we decided that what was really needed was revolutionary nationalism, that is, nationalism plus socialism. After analyzing conditions a little more, we found that it was impractical and even contradictory. Therefore, we went to a higher level of consciousness. We saw that in order to be free we had to crush the ruling circle and therefore we had to unite with the peoples of the world. So we called ourselves Internationalists. We sought solidarity with the peoples of the world. We sought solidarity with what we thought were the nations of the world. But then what happened? We found that because everything is in a constant state of transformation, because of the development of technology, because of the development of the mass media, because of the fire power of the imperialist, and because of the fact that the United States is no longer a nation but an empire, nations could not exist, for they did not have the criteria for nationhood. Their self‐ determination, economic determination, and cultural determination has been transformed by the imperialists and the ruling circle. They were no longer nations. We found that in order to be Internationalists we had to be also Nationalists, or at least acknowledge nationhood. Internationalism, if I understand the word, means the interrelationship among a group of nations. But since no nation exists, and since the United States is in fact an empire, it is impossible for us to be Internationalists.

These transformations and phenomena require us to call ourselves “intercommunalists” because nations have been transformed into communities of the world.
[...]
I don’t see how we can talk about socialism when the problem is world distribution. I think this is what Marx meant when he talked about the non‐state.

Former Black Panthers such as Russell Maroon Shoatz and Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, both of whom have spent years in prison for their association with the BPP, have broken with Marxist-Leninism after seeing how the Leninist structure of the Black Panther Party made it vulnerable to the FBI's COINTELPRO programme, and by examining the trajectory of Leninist revolutions.

So the BPP wasn't a monolithic entity politically, and the individual politics of its members as well as the orientation of the party itself changed over time. Rather than claiming it was any one thing, we can read what Black Panther Party members actually wrote in their own right.

And the League of Revolutionary Black Workers?

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, based in Detroit, described themselves as Marxist-Leninist, but they had close relationships with associates of CLR James such as Martin Glaberman, Grace Boggs, and James Boggs who had broken with Leninism more than a decade earlier, while also being influenced by Fanon and others. Once again the politics are a bit more complex than the labels.


CLR James, Grace Lee Boggs, Raya Dunyevskaya in the 1940s

What about anti-imperialism?

Anti-imperialism means different things to different people. Fundamentally, to be against imperialism should mean support for working class struggles against colonialism, and opposition to capitalist war. Unfortunately 'anti-imperialism' has often morphed into simply taking the side of the USSR in geo-political conflicts, and post-1990, unconditional support to the ruling class in any country aligned against the US.

Lenin in 1914 wrote in The Right of Nations to Self-Determination that communists should support the right of nations to secede, but not the specifics of any particular national struggle. This is because Lenin saw nationalist movements as essential to the development of capitalism over feudalism, as a step on the way towards communism:

Throughout the world, the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements. For the complete victory of commodity production, the bourgeoisie must capture the home market, and there must be politically united territories whose population speak a single language, with all obstacles to the development of that language and to its consolidation in literature eliminated.

Even within this stagist framework, Lenin still ultimately stated that the class struggle should take absolute precedence over the nationalist movement:

The bourgeoisie always places its national demands in the forefront, and does so in categorical fashion. With the proletariat, however, these demands are subordinated to the interests of the class struggle. [...] the important thing for the proletariat is to ensure the development of its class. For the bourgeoisie it is important to hamper this development by pushing the aims of its “own” nation before those of the proletariat. That is why the proletariat confines itself, so to speak, to the negative demand for recognition of the right to self-determination, without giving guarantees to any nation, and without undertaking to give anything at the expense of another nation.

Additionally, while American imperialism in 1916 was not at the level it is now, he also rejected the hypocrisy of simply playing off one imperialism against another, in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

Let us suppose that a Japanese condemns the annexation of the Philippines by the Americans. The question is: will many believe that he does so because he has a horror of annexations as such, and not because he himself has a desire to annex the Philippines? And shall we not be constrained to admit that the “fight” the Japanese is waging against annexations can be regarded as being sincere and politically honest only if he fights against the annexation of Korea by Japan, and urges freedom for Korea to secede from Japan?

In War and Revolution Lenin wrote:

Nothing but a workers’ revolution in several countries can defeat this war. The war is not a game, it is an appalling thing taking toll of millions of lives, and it is not to be ended easily.

Lenin therefore saw anti-imperialist struggle as being in the realm of bourgeios national revolutions (something to 'critically support' but subordinated to the class struggle), dismissing inter-imperialist conflicts with the slogan "Turn the imperialist war into civil war".

Didn't the USSR support African national liberation?

Sometimes, but only when it supported the USSR's own geopolitical interests. CLR James described his conversation with George Padmore, who had joined the Communist Party and moved to the USSR in 1929, before leaving in 1934 due to the purges and a change in orientation:

But one day, sometime in late 1934 or 1935 there was a knock at my door and I went do the door and there was George Padmore. [...] He said, “I’ve left those people you know.” And that was the biggest shock I received since I had gone to Brazil three years before. “I have left those people” meant he had left the Communist Party. And he was the biggest black man in Moscow, dealing with black people and the colonial revolution. So I said, “What happened?” And he told me. He said, “They are changing the line and now they tell me that in future we are going to be soft and not attack strongly the democratic imperialists which are Britain, France and the United States. That the main attack is to be directed upon the Fascist imperialists, Italy, Germany and Japan. And George, we would like you to do this in the propaganda that you are doing and in the articles that you are writing and the paper you are publishing, to follow that line.” And George said, “That is impossible. Germany and Japan have no colonies in Africa. How am I to say the democratic imperialists, such as the United States is the most race ridden territory in the western world. So I am to say that Britain and France who have the colonies in Africa and the United States, can be democratic imperialists and be soft to them but be strong against Japan, Italy and Germany. That is impossible. What do you think of that?”

Isn't criticising the USSR anti-communist?

There is a tendency by everyone from conservatives, to liberals, to social democrats to criticise the 'crimes of communism' and ignore the actions of capitalist countries. This is complete shite and we reject it completely.

While there were famines and bread riots in the USSR in the 1930s, British policy caused the Bengal famine killing 3 million people in 1943.

While the USSR and China have imprisoned political dissidents, including many communists and anarchists, the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with some political prisoners held in solitary confinement for decades and 1,000 extra-judicial killings by police per year.

While Lenin deported dissident Bolsheviks like Miasnikov and presided over the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion, social democrats in Germany oversaw the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht in collaboration with the fascist Freikorps.

While the USSR had 'gulags', Britain put hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and Malayans into concentration camps in the 1950s, and there were forced-labour camps in the UK itself in the 1930s under Labour.

While the US healthcare system leaves people without medical care and destitute, Cuba despite economic sanctions has socialised healthcare and trains healthcare workers for other countries.

Liberal myopia sees a horseshoe where liberal democracy is 'reasonable' and fascism and communism are two poles of 'authoritarianism'. A libertarian communist critique asserts that communism is impossible within the framework of the nation state, and that all states, whether fascist, liberal democratic or socialist will suppress workers self-organisation in the interest of capital.

What about Syria, Iran, North Korea?

A central line of communist and anarchist thought and praxis has been internationalism, and an opposition to war in all its forms. This caused the split in the Second International in 1914 when German Social Democrats voted for war credits. However putting this into practice has turns out to be a lot more complicated.

With the war in Syria, opposition to US intervention, shared by all communists (though not necessarily social democrats), has been marred by support from some organisations for the Syrian government and Bashar Assad and Russia despite the of bombing civilians, on the basis that areas such as Eastern Ghouta are held by Islamist militias and that the 400,000 civilians trapped there are being used as 'human shields'.


The CPGB-ML

This is further complicated by Rojava, supported by both some Marxist Leninists and some anarchists, due to the Marxist-Leninist orientation of the PKK, the Libertarian Municipalist ideas recently adopted by the PKK's leader Ocalan, the TEV-DEM system of administrative councils, and the right to national self-determination of the Kurds. On the other hand, both some Marxist Leninists and some anarchist and anti-state Marxists have been fiercely critical of Rojava, due to collaboration militarily with the US against ISIS (and most recently with Assad against Turkey). On libcom.org we've continued to allow publishing of texts both critical and supportive of Rojava, and regularly get attacked for being NATO shills for both, whether it's the US against Assad or Turkey against Rojava.

With Iran, despite the religious nature of the regime and the fact that all communist parties are banned, when strikes and street protests broke out at the end of December 2017, there was an immediate reluctance to recognise the grassroots nature of the actions, due to the possibility that the US might use the protests as an excuse for 'regime change'. Some commentators went as far as to suggest the protests had been almost immediately hijacked by the CIA, Mossad, or Saudi Arabia.

The cases of Iran and Assad show that in these discussions, the internal contradictions of a country can be completely ignored, with the central question always being "is the country aligned against the US or not?" - on the one hand celebrating Assad's attacks against Islamists, on the other celebrating Iran's religious state against the Haft-Tappeh sugar workers or leftist students.

Our position is that regardless of the actions of the Iranian or Syrian state, we completely oppose foreign intervention, whether US, Russia, or Turkey, on the base that foreign intervention always makes things worse. But to oppose intervention does not require a denial of the internal contradictions of those states or the reality of working class resistance to them.

The same applies to North Korea - we reject under any circumstances US intervention in North Korea, hawks in the US talking about a nuclear weapons programme gloss over the US bombing Japan twice in 1945, let alone the use of depleted uranium shells against civilian areas in Iraq. But to reject sanctions and intervention can rely on a principled anti-militarism and internationalism, solidarity with the North Korean working class, not with Kim Jong Un personally. As we would support the Gwangju uprising in South Korea in 1980, we would support workers struggle in North Korea too.

But Communist parties are very successful in India/Japan?


Communist Party India - Marxist
While the CPI-M likes to hold huge rallies with hammer and sickle flags, it's policies are social democratic. It runs for elections, and where it wins pursues pro-business policies. In Kerala the new communist administration under Pinarayi Vijayan stressed partnership between management and trade unions and promised investment to stimulate industry, including 'Silicon Valley-like hubs'. Not quite seizing the means of production, then.

The Japanese Communist Party, with several members in the Japanese parliament (Diet) abandoned Leninism 25 years ago, deciding to pursue a purely electoral road to socialism, and has recently attempted to work with centrist liberal MPs.

They might be popular Communist Parties, but they aren't... communist.. at all.

What about American Marxist Leninists, are they social democrats too?

The Marcyite Party for Socialism and Liberation's program also sounds suspiciously social democrat if you actually read it, for example:

It will be a right of every person in the United States to have a job with guaranteed union representation and full social benefits provided by the socialist government, including a pension, health care, workers’ compensation, paid parental and family leave for up to two years, paid sick and disability leave, a minimum of one month’s paid vacation, and at least 12 paid holidays.

Isn't this... Sweden?

Working conditions will aim to enhance the humanity and dignity of all workers. The working week will be 30 hours.

That's ten hours less than Bernie's offering, but not quite the abolition of wage labour.

However the PSL is just one party, and you will also see Marxist Leninists oppose electoral activity, working on prisoner solidarity etc. The important thing is to actually read what people say they want, and observe what they do, not just listen to what they say about themselves or check whether there's a hammer and sickle or a rose printed next to the promise of full employment - these aren't the things that decide whether someone is communist or not.

Liberals just call anyone they don't like a tankie!

This is often true. There has been regular red-baiting of mild social democrat Jeremy Corbyn, recently accusing him of being a spy for East Germany in the '80s. The right wing of the Democrats at one point was calling any Bernie Sanders supporter a Russian-influenced alt-leftist. William Gillis of the Center for a Stateless Society recently said of us 'Remember when libcom was about as tankie and class-reductionist as you would ever encounter in the radical left, and we all viewed them as evil suspicious bastards because they wouldn't all outright id as anarchists? ' presumably due to our hosting and promotion of anti-state and post-Leninist Marxists.

Therefore if someone is using 'tankie', they may be objecting to a specific leftist ideology that prioritisies geopolitics over class struggle, or they might just be punching left. When liberals have a go at 'communism' they often mean the Soviet Union (and let's be honest sometimes it's tempting to tell people they'll be first in the gulags after the revolution when they do this, especially if it's fucking Jordan Peterson).

Should I work with Marxist-Leninists?

If you're organising at work or around housing issues, the people you work with are not going to all have the same politics at you, and your opinions on the July 1918 uprising of Left Socialist Revolutionaries after their expulsion from the Bolshevik government are not relevant to that situation. Yes, really, no-one gives a shit. You're relating to each other as workers in that situation, not as representatives of a political niche, at least we hope not.

Anarchists and Marxist-Leninists have also worked together as members of anti-fascist collectives in the US and elsewhere, and this is really a choice for people to make locally.

Things you should bear in mind when organising are -

However co-operation with individuals is very different from a left-unity project, coalitions of organisations etc. The questions to consider when a group is organised in for example an anti-war protest is are they going to try to divert a protest into an ineffectual rally, or co-operate with the police if protesters try to step outside strict limits of activity. Similarly with workplace organising, do co-workers have links with the union hierarchy or management? Approaches to this differ from organisation to organisation and is not strictly linked to ideology.

If there are real political and organisational disagreements, it's better to be open about them than gloss over them, and retain some independence.

Posted By

Mike Harman
Mar 8 2018 21:45

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Mike Harman
Mar 19 2018 22:50

Just re-posted https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-... written by two people who consider themselves in the Marxist-Leninist tradition which coves in a fair bit of detail the Marcyite groups WWP and PSL.

I think it's useful for understanding both the groups themselves and the dynamics of post-2011 ML-ism, and it's also trying to point people in that orbit towards a broader set of political influences and a different approach to political education and organisation - although it's sort-of arguing for a more open Marxist-Leninism than a break with it, depending on where you set the boundaries for that sort of thing.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Mar 20 2018 06:13

The OP says:

Quote:
You're relating to each other as workers in that situation, not as representatives of a political niche, at least we hope not.
Anarchists and Marxist-Leninists have also worked together as members of anti-fascist collectives in the US and elsewhere, and this is really a choice for people to make locally.

Given that their politics is authoritarian, vile and against any independent struggle (as shown by almost every post here) why would anybody want to work with them? How could people "retain some independence" when working with them? Such a "choice" seems self-destructive. If "You're relating to each other as workers in that situation, not as representatives of a political niche" then one could also relate to working class nazis "as workers in that situation, not as representatives of a political niche".

R Totale
Mar 20 2018 08:00

Just to clarify, do you think it's possible to relate to liberal workers as workers? Religious ones? Brexit voters? Remain voters?

Nymphalis Antiopa
Mar 20 2018 10:18

Just to clarify, do you think it's possible to relate to nazi workers as workers? You know perfectly well that those in political parties, particularly ones which have such a crudely vile ideology, are very different from people who hold liberal, religious or Brexit/Remain opinions (though some of these might certainly be vile as well).

R Totale
Mar 20 2018 11:14

I note that you removed "Remain voters" from my list - you might view support for the brutality of Fortress Europe's borders as being some kind of a nice, fluffy lesser evil, but I certainly don't. Anyway, the issue about having a nazi coworker is that they would presumably pose a more-or-less direct threat to ethnic minority/LGBTQ/etc coworkers, whereas I don't think a Stalinist coworker is likely to actually gulag anyone. But, for the record, while I think relating to nazis as coworkers is a non-issue 99.9% of the time, and likely to be impossible in most cases, I would flag up the Lucasville uprising as being an important point of reference for how these issues can be practically overcome. I'd also refer you to a text by Kevin Rashid Johnson I added to the library recently called something like "Political Struggle in the Teeth of Prison Reaction", which again deals with a situation where he had no choice but to do pretty much that.
For that matter, I think Rashid himself is a relevant figure to consider here - he is definitely a real actual Marxist-Leninist, with all that implies; he's also a fairly prominent figure in US prison organising, and as a result of an article he wrote on the Florida prison strike movement earlier this year, he was thrown into a cell with no heating and a window that wouldn't close in the middle of January. In that situation, do you think the best reaction is to relate to him as a fellow rebel worker being victimised by the bosses/state, or to view him as a Stalin-in-waiting and look forward to when the guards get around to arranging an accident for him?

I hate cops and UKBA/Border Force/whatever the filth are called nowadays, but I don't view every person who believes in the continued existence of the cops and borders as being directly equivalent a copper or UKBA agent; I hate the Cheka, KGB, Stasi and so on, but I don't think everyone who believes those things were historically necessary is exactly the same as a KGB agent themselves.

R Totale
Mar 20 2018 11:15

Double post, nvm.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Mar 20 2018 11:33

I didn't see the Remain voters reference first time (must have read the post too quickly), but as you can see, on the edit I've added it.

If you're going to talk about the Lucas uprising, when nazis joined the uprising - it's hardly an equivalent for situations outside of US prisons. In US prisons, you are pretty much forced to join one gang or another, divided on racial grounds. Whites who do not join the nazis have to go to black or Latino gangs for protection,with all the obvious risks. If the black or Latino gang refuses you, you lay yourself open to horrific brutality from the nazis, since they will automatically hear of what most of them would consider “betraying your race”. Making equivalents like this is just a "clever" debating tactic designed to avoid the point of what I was saying. And solidarity with a prisoner who "was thrown into a cell with no heating and a window that wouldn't close in the middle of January" is not the same as working closely with someone who has a role in a Marxist-Leninist party. I support everyone against the prson system - including very obnoxious people - but that certainly doesn't mean I would work with them.

Mike Harman
Mar 20 2018 12:48
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
You know perfectly well that those in political parties, particularly ones which have such a crudely vile ideology, are very different from people who hold liberal, religious or Brexit/Remain opinions

I would guess that the vast majority of people who identify as some kind of Marxist-Leninist are not actually members of parties. I don't think someone thinking that Castro did really well sorting out socialised healthcare and urban gardening in the face of US sanctions is going to be harder to organise with than someone who wishes that Owen Smith had won the Labour Party leadership, or that the main legacy of colonialism in India is the railways and a competent civil service, or that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Russia is responsible for the election of Trump or the Brexit referendum, or that immigrants are responsible for housing shortages and low wages. (I've worked with at least one or two people who believed 9/11 was an inside job).

I just re-posted https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-... which goes into a lot more detail on the particular Marcyite trot-tankie formulation that's gained recent ground in the US. It's written from the perspective of someone who came out of that milieu, still considers themselves Marxist-Leninists, but is arguing for a more open approach and the ditching of the party form.

To some extent Viewpoint mag is related to this as well, in terms of political references they'll cite workers inquiry and operaismo, but also Althusser and the New Communist Movement.

Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
Making equivalents like this is just a "clever" debating tactic designed to avoid the point of what I was saying.

Interesting you say that since you immediately made the equivalence between an individual Marxist-Leninist you might happen to work with and a member of a Nazi group you might happen to work with.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Mar 20 2018 13:31

It should be obvious I was talking about those in M-L political parties .

Everyone makes equivalences to a certain extent - it depends on context. So yes - there is partly an equivalence between Stalinists and Nazis. In Poland before Germany invaded Russia, the swastika and the hammer and sickle flew side by side. Historically, I'd say that Leninism has been a far more insidious force against independent class struggle than nazism, so I'd say that there's no equivalence on that score. But that doesn't make me feel more inclined to work with nazis.

The point is, you seem to have drawn no line at all, which is no surprise - or if you have, you've left it so vague ("this is really a choice for people to make locally.") as to be evasive - it avoids the issue. And giving the example of a 9/11 conspiracy theorist is irrelevant. In a riot or an occupation or a strike or whatever, it's inevitable you will find yourself alongside loads of racists, mysogenists, homophobes, etc. etc. But that is not the same as "working with" them, which implies something involving discussion, strategy, maybe something written - and to work with those in political parties (or indeed avowed racists, mysogenists, homophobes, etc.) is like working with your future executioners. Which is literally what Trots did in Vietnam at the end of WWII - do you just want to repeat blatant historical errors?

Why mention an irrelevance liek Viewpoint? The fact that Viewpoint rag makes positive references to Tronti, Althusser, and the New Communist Movement is indicative of the mess that far lefty intellectuals get themseves into, which never considers the practical implications of their tolerance. But then there's no point in debating with apologists for Leftism like you and I already see that it was a waste of time to have stuck my oar in here.

Adios

R Totale
Mar 20 2018 13:33
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
If you're going to talk about the Lucas uprising, when nazis joined the uprising - it's hardly an equivalent for situations outside of US prisons. In US prisons, you are pretty much forced to join one gang or another, divided on racial grounds. Whites who do not join the nazis have to go to black or Latino gangs for protection,with all the obvious risks. If the black or Latino gang refuses you, you lay yourself open to horrific brutality from the nazis, since they will automatically hear of what most of them would consider “betraying your race”. Making equivalents like this is just a "clever" debating tactic designed to avoid the point of what I was saying. And solidarity with a prisoner who "was thrown into a cell with no heating and a window that wouldn't close in the middle of January" is not the same as working closely with someone who has a role in a Marxist-Leninist party. I support everyone against the prson system - including very obnoxious people - but that certainly doesn't mean I would work with them.

If you want to know how I relate to the open, ideological neo-nazis I work with, the answer's pretty simple: I don't, because there aren't any in my workplace, or my previous workplace, or the one before that, etc. I thought that'd be a fairly useless answer to give, hence why I tried to give the best real-life example I could think of of an environment where dealing with nazis would be more of an issue.
Outside of US prisons, I think the chances of running into either a Stalinist or a nazi in your immediate workplace would be getting on for 0; one of the key differences, however, is that if you get involved in something like a rank-and-file network within your union, or a local grouping bringing together militant workers across different industries, or you find yourself needing to go to a trades council meeting for whatever reason, then you're fairly likely to run into a Leninist, because they tend to be very overrepresented in those environments, which I don't think is the case with nazis. IMO, how people navigate that should depend on a whole host of situation-specific variables, it's not as simple as just "Stalin bad" - even though, to be clear, I do definitely think Stalin bad.
Similarly, in the case of Rashid, he's someone who is simultaneously a prisoner being victimised by the administration, someone who holds a role in a Marxist-Leninist party, and, if I remember correctly, an active member of the IWW. No matter how much we may disagree with his views on Russian, Chinese or indeed Spanish history, I don't think that those are the only relevant factors in deciding what our attitudes should be there.

Lucky Black Cat
Mar 26 2018 06:40

LMAO, this vid pairs great with the article.

The article, being informative and serious, is like a wholesome meal, and then this video, which is shit-post style entertainment, is like the dessert.

It's amusing, but also disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn_J3RB6W4o

Khawaga
Mar 27 2018 18:30
LBC wrote:
It's amusing, but also disturbing.

Yuuup. I didn't know that online Tankies were that psycho.

Lucky Black Cat
Mar 29 2018 03:58
Khawaga wrote:
LBC wrote:
It's amusing, but also disturbing.

Yuuup. I didn't know that online Tankies were that psycho.

I showed it to a friend and watching it the second time, it became less amusing and more disturbing. I guess (hope) they cherry picked the worst of the worst.

Lucky Black Cat
Apr 10 2018 09:33

Showed this article to a friend and we read it together and just have to give props to Mike Harman for making us LOL

Quote:
When liberals have a go at 'communism' they often mean the Soviet Union (and let's be honest sometimes it's tempting to tell people they'll be first in the gulags after the revolution when they do this, especially if it's fucking Jordan Peterson).

Plus a few other funny lines. (Good info, too, of course!)

R Totale
Sep 12 2018 10:50

Revisiting this in the light of a recent story about Goldsmiths - not gonna link to the scum press here, but you can google "goldsmiths gulag" easily enough if you don't know what I'm on about. On one hand, there'll be tabloid horror stories about lefty students for as long as crap tabloid newspapers and lefty students exist; on the other, people mounting an apparently serious, pofaced defence of the gulag does seem like a genuine shift from previous stories that mostly revolve around I'll advised jokey hyperbole or whatever.
Still, I guess it's interesting that there's now apparently something that the Morning Star and woke intersectionalist students can agree on.

Mike Harman
Sep 12 2018 12:31
R Totale wrote:
..on the other, people mounting an apparently serious, pofaced defence of the gulag does seem like a genuine shift from previous stories that mostly revolve around I'll advised jokey hyperbole or whatever.
Still, I guess it's interesting that there's now apparently something that the Morning Star and woke intersectionalist students can agree on.

I saw the twitter thread before it was deleted, but haven't read any of the media articles on it yet. It was as far as I can tell completely unironic - they were talking about gulags being compassionate non-violent rehabilitation and having book clubs etc.

The other trend I've seen more of in the past year or so is unironic Dengism (i.e. that China is still 'Socialist' because capitalism is controlled by the CCP).

Here's someone who apparently has a real day job for China Daily: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2017-10/27/content_33769002.htm / https://twitter.com/isgoodrum

The other person with an actual platform to spread this bullshit is Ajit Singh - this is from Telesur:
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/China-A-Revolutionary-Present-... but he's also had exactly one article published in Monthly Review.

And came across someone who claims to be an Aylesbury Young Labour officer also doing unironic Dengism. Wasn't convinced this was a real person, but apparently so: https://www.varsity.co.uk/news/13642

It's all.. not very good.

Lucky Black Cat
Sep 12 2018 16:37
Mike Harman wrote:
I saw the twitter thread before it was deleted, but haven't read any of the media articles on it yet. It was as far as I can tell completely unironic - they were talking about gulags being compassionate non-violent rehabilitation and having book clubs etc.

Now that must have been the strangest Capital reading group ever.

Noah Fence
Sep 12 2018 18:53

Ajit Singh wrote

Quote:
China is still a revolutionary, socialist state, and a friend to all those struggling against capitalism and imperialism around the world.

Amazingly, this isn’t even the most ridiculous thing said in the article! This is some high quality stuff.

Mike Harman
Sep 12 2018 19:40
Noah Fence wrote:
Ajit Singh wrote

Quote:
China is still a revolutionary, socialist state, and a friend to all those struggling against capitalism and imperialism around the world.

Amazingly, this isn’t even the most ridiculous thing said in the article! This is some high quality stuff.

Yeah the weirdist thing is seeing Dengist and Marcyites arguing against online Maoists, with the Maoists arguing that China is capitalist against them.

There are also (on twitter, but not exclusively so), fascists who will pose as MLs and make similar arguments. I can't tell to what extent this is 'trolling' vs. actual third-positionism/multi-polarism, which is part of the point I guess.

Lucky Black Cat
Sep 12 2018 20:24

We live in heckin weird times.

888
Jun 30 2019 19:44

Is it worth physically breaking up the tankie organizations before they get too strong? After all they'll do much worse to us as soon as they get the chance.

R Totale
Jun 30 2019 20:11

Idk how serious the above is, but I think actual tank groups seem to do a fair job of doing that to themselves and each other, what's weird about the current lot is the amount of non-affiliated leninists. Also just to mention this article shows up as a citation/link in this interview with HK anarchists: http://libcom.org/news/hong-kong-anarchists-resistance-extradition-bill-...

Lucky Black Cat
Jul 5 2019 01:14
888 wrote:
Is it worth physically breaking up the tankie organizations before they get too strong? After all they'll do much worse to us as soon as they get the chance.

I think the best way to ensure that tankie organizations don't get power is to focus our energy on proving the benefits of self-organization, direct action, collective decision making, and other aspects of our political praxis. This will attract people to libertarian-communist politics. Combined with this should be popular education efforts about the dangers of tankie politics.

Forcefully trying to destroy another anti-capitalist organization that at least seems to be or claims to be fighting for the working class could make us, and by extension our politics, look really bad to workers and make the tankies seem more sympathetic. Thus backfiring.

If they were getting big and strong enough to pose a threat we might have to reconsider, but even then, initiating a direct confrontation would come with its own set of risks and negative outcomes, and we'd have to judge whether the costs outweighed the benefits.

All this is a long way off, though, as right now tankies, like anarchists, are extremely weak. So we should really focus on how to make advances against capital in the class struggle.

Mike Harman
Jul 5 2019 08:02

It also ignores how much the Stalinist organisations are imploding by themselves and how much turnover there is. https://theleftwind.wordpress.com/ is a project by people who left the WWP/PSL orbit. There have also been tonnes of individual and group resignations from the WWP and PSL over mishandling of sexual assault allegations and similar. Some of them will just drift out of political activity (or into another sect), some like the left wind people will re-examine their politics.

If people are serious about combating the increase in Stalinism, you need to look at what the conditions are that are contributing to it becoming popular again. For me, the organisations are considerably less of an issue (except to their own members who get rinsed for dues and activity, there's an e-mail going around where their annual membership fundraising drives are asking for hundreds of dollars from each member on top of dues) than the 'celebrity tankies' like Norton and Blumenthal, who have significant full time state-funded platforms to push faux anti-imperialism.

Documenting stuff like their links with third positionists, or the fact that despite a lot of rhetoric their actual stated politics are significantly right of the 1983 Labour manifesto: https://libcom.org/library/investigation-red-brown-alliances-third-posit... and https://libcom.org/library/why-did-workers-world-party-attend-conference... does a lot more to undermine them than turning up to a Hands Off Syria demo to start shit.

LeninistGirl
Jul 5 2019 08:08

Focusing on small sects as a primary contradiction or a grand looming danger is just another way of turning into a sect. What has been achieved by gonzaloites in Austin trying to break up the PSL? Some anarchists seem to be trying their hardest to argue for the next LaRouche-style "clean up".

Jim
Jul 5 2019 08:22
888 wrote:
Is it worth physically breaking up the tankie organizations before they get too strong? After all they'll do much worse to us as soon as they get the chance.

Why let a Barcelona May Days happen again? At some point it'll need doing.

Ed
Jul 5 2019 09:19
Jim wrote:
Why let a Barcelona May Days happen again? At some point it'll need doing.

What a daft comment. This is the logic of keeping your room tidy not building working-class power.

Jim
Jul 5 2019 10:13

If history has taught us anything it's that in a revolutionary situation Leninists will brutally murder anybody who wants to create a genuine communism, be that workers, sailors or anarchists. Kronstadt and Barcelona are the two most notable examples but there are countless others. Now I'm not saying we need to be organising squads against Leninists or applying the tactics of anti-fascism towards them now. But there have been mutterings on the London anarchist scene of Tankie gang looking for confrontations with 'radlibs' for a while, this kind of thing will happen.

Mike Harman
Jul 5 2019 11:36
Jim wrote:
If history has taught us anything it's that in a revolutionary situation Leninists will brutally murder anybody who wants to create a genuine communism, be that workers, sailors or anarchists.

'Leninists' includes the Vietnamese Trots like Ngo Van Xuyet who Ho Chi Minh wiped out in 1945.

It also includes the EPRP in Ethiopia who were massacred by Mengistu https://libcom.org/library/ethiopias-red-terror / https://libcom.org/library/democracia-exposes-socialism-social-imperiali...

Someone like Joe Jacobs who defied the CP leadership for Cable Street.

And rank and file members of groups like the Black Panther Party like Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin or Russell Maroon Shoatz.

Or Murray Bookchin for most of the 1930s, CLR James until the late '40s.

All of these were operating in conditions of heightened class struggle compared to where we are now.

radicalgraffiti
Jul 5 2019 12:04
Jim wrote:
888 wrote:
Is it worth physically breaking up the tankie organizations before they get too strong? After all they'll do much worse to us as soon as they get the chance.

Why let a Barcelona May Days happen again? At some point it'll need doing.

the barcelona may days happened in situation where the communist party was getting support from the ussr, there is no equivalent for current leninist organisations