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Issue #1932      September 14, 2020

Follow the uprising, the Trotskyist said

Socialist Alternative (SAlt), in their paper Red Flag, published an article with the title “Communists must support uprisings everywhere.” In it, they say the 90s and 00s were an easier time for supporting uprisings as the US “seemed to have achieved permanent global hegemony.” However, they say two “recent international uprisings” have, for some people, complicated solidarity efforts: the Arab Spring and the “unending series of international rebellions that began in 2019.”

This dogmatic call is at odds with Marxism. There is no place in Marxism for holding principles in absolute terms. Marxism is a science based on dialectics that resolves contradictions through an analysis of material conditions; thus, demanding that every revolt must be supported is antithetical to the Marxist method. Let us examine how this is so.

Warping Marxism-Leninism

The people in question, says the author, are largely Marxist-Leninists, stating that: “[they don’t] have a political outlook that extends beyond advocating for, and defending, the US’ main rivals – hoping to achieve a ‘multipolar world’ by strengthening capitalist states that are competing with the most powerful empire.” They state that our wariness towards uprisings is merely “conspiracy-mongering.” Instead of stating it plainly, the author is disguising our support of the theory of “Socialism in One Country” (which is not simply support of a “multipolar world”) and the pragmatism that this theory entails.

What is “Socialism in One Country?” J V Stalin noted prior to the success of the October Revolution, the understanding in Marxist thought was that a revolution in one country was “considered impossible” as it would require the majority of the working-class of advanced nations to achieve victory. That changed after 1917:

“Now we must proceed from the possibility of such a victory, for the uneven and spasmodic character of the development of the various capitalist countries under the conditions of imperialism, the development within imperialism of catastrophic contradictions leading to inevitable wars, the growth of the revolutionary movement in all countries of the world-all this leads, not only to the possibility, but also to the necessity of the victory of the proletariat in individual countries.”

Therefore because capitalism does not develop equally among nations, it is therefore not only possible (as the Russian Revolution showed) but necessary that “the victory of the proletariat” arise unevenly also. This does not discount the international character of revolution, as Trotskyists like to claim, it only contextualises it within the material conditions:

“[T]he development and support of the revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution which has been victorious in one country must regard itself not as a self-sufficient entity, but as an aid, as a means for hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.”

While calling Marxist-Leninists conspiracy theorists for challenging the legitimacy of certain uprisings, the author is quick to acknowledge the existence of “Western intelligence and its military apparatus” overthrowing governments, name checking Venezuela and Bolivia in the process as examples.

Thus, they claim, it is “easy […] to distinguish a genuine popular uprising from a right-wing plot.” They say “the cops and security apparatus carried out the groundwork of the Bolivian coup” and additionally “the cops in Belarus are the strongest bulwark of support for the reactionary government.” But what of Venezuela? There, the cops are defending the revolution against the bourgeois reactionaries. This is an example they conveniently left out because it does not fit the narrative.

A false equivalence

This lack of analysis, whether by omission or ignorance, of the material conditions is what leads to perhaps the most insulting part of this article. After establishing that Marxist-Leninist anti-imperialism is confined purely to rejecting US hegemony, they pose the question: “would a modern ‘anti-imperialist’ have supported the Russian revolution?” This is how they liken the situation:

“A new government, led by the well-known socialist Kerensky, had been installed by a workers’ revolution only a few months earlier. Other socialists, from parties that had recently been forced to operate underground, had taken up ministerial positions. The government had the strong backing of workers’ soviets, revolutionary bodies built from the bottom up by working-class activists. On civil liberties, it was well known that Russia was the ‘freest country in the world’ since its revolution in February. The new government had promised sweeping reforms on a range of questions, including a new constitution. This all compares pretty favourably to politically stagnant and repressive market economies like China, Syria or contemporary Russia.

“And Kerensky’s Russia was menaced by internal and external oppositions in the most extreme form: monarchist generals were openly planning coups, and the Kaiser’s Germany had been attempting to invade for three years of open warfare.

“Into this volatile situation comes Lenin – with the assistance of German imperialism, which arranged his travel from exile into Russia. Did he, displaying the principles of a modern ‘anti-imperialist,’ call for critical support for the new Russian government in its military struggle against German invasion? No: he and his Bolshevik Party called for workers to intensify their strikes, demonstrations and political attacks on the government, to build up to a second revolution in which workers would seize power–and defeat world imperialism by overthrowing capitalism.”

There is a lot to digest in the above, but let us remain on task: Why would Lenin support the provisional government? Kerensky’s government supported the imperialist war which Lenin from the start qualified as having the “character of a bourgeois, imperialist and dynastic war.” What’s more is that the war was deeply unpopular and the Bolshevik’s slogan of “Peace, Land, and Bread” resonated with the working-class and peasantry. It was a socialist party presenting a genuine (dare I make the pun?) socialist alternative to Kerensky’s faux-socialism. One can clearly examine the platform of the Bolsheviks in contrast to that of the provisional government and conclude that the differences were stark.

The most sinister aspect of this description is the attempt to give Lenin the veneer of being an agent of German imperialism (a lie that has existed for decades, as recently as a New York Times article “Was Lenin a German Agent?”). Dressing Lenin in such a way is crucial for their argument here and we examine why below.

Hong Kong: an analysis

In HK, an “uprising” has broken out. The impetus was an extradition bill that would allow for extradition request for heinous crimes such as rape and murder, which came about after a HK man murdered his pregnant girlfriend. Many were worried that the bill would be used to extradite political dissents despite the bill lacking that language. As a result, a riot has broken out over HK “sovereignty.” Is this movement a popular, socialist (or at least, progressive) force?

It definitely appears that the movement is “popular” – but is it really? The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) claim hundreds of thousands of protestors in attendance at rallies, the police estimates temper those numbers significantly (so have independent media outlets). However, one petition supporting the national security laws received nearly 100,000 signatures from HK citizens in a single day. Furthermore, pro-Beijing rallies were held that have had not dissimilar numbers. HK’s largest trade union federation, Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, also backed the legislation. Suffice to say, that at the very least, those rioters are met by supporters in equal measure.

Next we must ask, what is the character of this movement? The author has qualified the recent uprisings as having “a sense of authentic, internationalist anti-imperialism.” Do the dozens, upon dozens, of photos over the entire course of these riots showing hundreds of protestors waving British Hong Kong flags and “Trump 2020” banners sound anti-imperialist? Does receiving funds from the AFL-CIO’s solidarity centre, who receive funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (an organisation funding the “right-wing plot” in Venezuela) sound anti-imperialist? Does wanting to establish a “free and fair competition in our market economy” as the Democratic Party of HK promotes (and who supports the riots) sound anti-imperialist?

Additionally, to qualify the HK riots as internationalist is even more of a joke. The HK rioters have largely been mum on the police brutality in the US because they’ve drawn support from US President Donald Trump. While Joshua Wong (a figurehead of the riots) has tweeted his support for BLM what is it worth when he has been cultivating close ties with Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton who have been demanding a crackdown on the BLM riots? Even more grotesque is HK billionaire Jimmy Lai, another revered figure of the movement (who has provided financial support), thanking Avi Yemini (a far-right Zionist) for his support in a video where Yemini said comparing the HK riots to those in America is “bloody disgraceful.” So much for solidarity.

And it is here that we return to the sinister characterisation of Lenin. Show me a photo of Lenin posing with the Kaiser, or writings encouraging German imperialism, or anything as incriminatory as the promotion of neoliberalism by Wong and leaders of the HK riots and I’ll eat my CPA membership card. SAlt needs to tease the possibility of Lenin being a conspirator because it permits the possibility that characters like Wong are legitimate regardless of where their funding or support comes from. It displays nothing but utter contempt for Lenin’s legacy.

In every possible, conceivable measure the HK riots are nothing but a promotion of bourgeois liberalism and socialists should be well-versed in where that leads. By comparison, in the seventy years since its founding the People’s Republic of China has achieved the following: High School enrolments have gone from 1.1 per cent to 88.8 per cent; There are 56.7 times the amount of public libraries; the average life expectancy has risen from 35 to 77; The urban population employment has gone from 15.33 mil to 434.19 mil. These stats are virtually endless but highlight the achievements of Marxism-Leninism in action; it is a state with the interests of the working-class at its centre. Destabilising the PRC only serves those who wish to rip its resources away from the hands of the Chinese people into the hands of the capitalist class, and largely foreign interests.

Wong and Lai do not speak of a dictatorship of a proletariat, and nor do their supporters. Thus, SAlt, play into the hands of the bourgeoisie, promote their propaganda, and romanticise “revolution” to every starry-eyed university student who takes their first steps onto a university campus.

Questions to consider

If all uprisings are equal, it leaves one to wonder: was the Kronstadt rebellion an uprising or a “right-wing coup” (since these are the only options they present in their article), and do they support it?

Where does the author sit on the Soviet-Afghan War? Does the author have a high opinion of the CIA-backed Mujahideen, the present-day offshoots of which include the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? Does the author support their uprisings?

This line of questioning can go on forever and it only places Trotskyists like the author into extremely precarious positions. One cannot, as the author suggests, clearly delineate support based on where the police presence is (none of these uprisings were furnished with the support of the police/state), it requires a serious analysis of the class-character of the powers in play. It sometimes means offering critical support, and not playing puritan, ultra-leftist politics, especially when the lives of millions depend on it.

Next article – No recognition for Chilean fascists

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