Clash of the Anti-Imperialist Right-of-Self-Determination Leninists

It’s hard to keep track, isn’t it? There are the Leninists who first and foremost are “anti-imperialist Leninists,” the AI Leninists who are vehement, equivocal, strident, tepid in support of the actions of Vladimir Putin, a man who thinks that Lenin was the worst thing that ever happened to Russia.

Then there are the Leninists who first and foremost are “right to self-determination Leninists.” The RSD Leninists are just as vehement, equivocal strident, tepid in support of the actions of Volodymyr Zelensky, who may or may not be related to Isaak Zelensky, an “old” Bolshevik who participated in the October Revolution and later served on the commission arranging Lenin’s funeral. In 1937, Isaak not Volodymyr was accused, tried, and convicted by the state for being a Tsarist agent since 1911 and sabotaging supplies of butter and eggs. He was executed in 1938. His real crime, besides being born Jewish, was that of being insufficiently hostile to Zinoviev, who committed the crime of being born Jewish and Ukrainian, and Kamenev who committed the crime of being closely associated with the Jewish Ukrainian, Zinoviev.

Surely that cannot be true? Surely such great struggles in the drama of revolution and counterrevolution cannot revolve around such trivialities, such petty resentment? How can that be?

Maybe because history might be a play acted by fools for the enjoyment of cynics? Or is that a play acted by cynics for the enjoyment of fools? I guess it depends on where you locate yourself on the spectrum of fools and cynics…and which way the rifle is pointed.

Better to believe that the ultimate decisions of who lives and who dies reflect great historical forces acting through the prism of individual personalities. Sure thing. Otherwise, what’s left of historical materialism?

Better to believe that history doesn’t give a rat’s ass who you are, than to believe it’s out to get you. Better to believe that history’s out to get you than to believe it’s randomly vicious. Better to believe it’s randomly vicious than to believe that in the long run, its arc bends toward slaughter.

Back to that play featuring the revolving door of mirrors filled with images of fools and cynics. “Author! Author!”

The AI Leninists insist that despite the capitalist mode of production in place in Russia, the particulars of the Russian capitalist mode of production, namely that it is less developed than the US/EU capitalist mode of production, make the Russian mode of capitalism preferable to that other mode; make the battle of the Russian capitalists ipso facto even if unwittingly “anti-imperialist,” “progressive,” “anti-fascist” and worthy of endorsement by…all anti-imperialist, progressive, anti-fascist people.

The careful observer will note that “class” has completely disappeared from the qualification.

The RSD Leninists hold that despite the capitalist mode of production in Ukraine, the struggle is not a struggle between a Ukrainian bourgeoisie and the Russian bourgeoisie for control, expansion, accumulation, reproduction of all those elements necessary to sustain the mode of production, but a noble battle for the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future free of Russian dominance. As if it is even possible for a “people” to determine any future without confronting the requirements, the needs, the class relations that must be imposed, enforced, and/or overthrown and replaced; as if the determination of any future is not contingent upon the determinants of accumulation.

You don’t have to abandon hope to join in with either the AI or the RSD Leninists, but you do have to abandon your Marx.

Now it’s painfully clear to all but the most inattentive of observers that neither the AI nor the RSD Leninists can project a strategy to attack capitalism as the globally dominant mode of production, where its existence as that dominant mode is preserved in, through, and by the apparent dis-integration.

Those “divisions” of capitalism- divisions of labor, divisions of more and less advanced, divisions between developed and developing, divisions into bigger and smaller- make products into values and allocates that values among the capitalists; that make the whole, even if the whole is a wreck, a failure.

Big or small, advanced or not, developed or developing, capital reproduces itself through dispossession, through iterations of loss, through the disavowal of the real conditions of labor from the relations of class, through wrecking.

The AI Leninists are the experts at their own type of disavowal. Everything that threatens the mythology of anti-imperialism didn’t happen, or is “false flag,” or is just collateral damage, unfortunately. So the Ukrainian government is fascist, most of the Ukrainian people west of the Donbass are fascists, civilian airliners weren’t targeted, hospitals and schools aren’t being targeted, just like the Israelis don’t target hospitals and schools, and if an airliner was then and hospitals and schools are now hit, the hits are perpetrated by Ukrainian military units, or maybe by accident, but we’re not sure. The primary task is to oppose the fascists of Ukraine and their US/EU/NATO allies.

In this drama, the US/EU/NATO/Ukraine represent the axis powers of military fascism, and Russia, although no longer the “socialist state” of Stalin, now represents the “liberal democrats” of a popular front and must be defended in the great anti-fascist alliance. The AI Leninists wind up right where they’ve always been, subordinating class to class collaboration.

For their part, the RSD Leninists are always eager to fight and re-lose the last war. Among their proposals is one for assembling and transporting “new” Abraham Lincoln brigades to Ukraine to fight for…whom? how? When such a brigade arrives in Ukraine, under what command will it fight? How will the brigades be provisioned and re-provisioned? Obviously, by the tactical and logistical commands of the Ukrainian military.

In fact any “independent” brigade will necessarily be subordinate to Ukrainian military command as it will be dependent for resupply by that command. Subordination to military command necessarily includes subordination to the political command of Ukrainian capitalism. We’ve gone from “self-determination” to… class-collaboration, to the brand new same old.

You might think that after the experience in China 1927-29, Spain 1936-39, Vietnam 1937 and again in 1945, Chile 1970-1973, we might have had our fill of subordinating the workers, and a workers’ program for social revolution, to the rule of the bourgeoisie. We might have, but the AI-ers and RSD-ers have not. No matter where we start, or where we sit on this anti-imperialist-right-of self-determination merry-go-round, we end up in the same place, the nowhereville of class collaboration.

Surely it’s more than possible, it’s necessary to advocate the dismantling of empire, to welcome that dismantling as part and parcel of the program and strategy for a proletarian revolution without subordinating that program to the democratic aspirations, national and/or “anti-fascist” of an obsolete bourgeoisie. Failure to distinguish that program from that bourgeoisie takes us right back to a stagist theory of revolution, where the opportunity for and reality of class struggle now and in the future is sacrificed to an archaic ideology.


March 28, 2022

2 thoughts on “Clash of the Anti-Imperialist Right-of-Self-Determination Leninists”

  1. Excellent – “Failure to distinguish that program from that bourgeoisie takes us right back to a stagist theory of revolution, where the opportunity for and reality of class struggle now and in the future is sacrificed”. The last words needed on this subject.

    1. Thank you. It really does amaze me, that after all the discussion during the early years of the 3rd Intl with the experience of October impossible to ignore; and after China 1927, the relation of “self-determination” to stage-ism was never identified.

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