A critique of MAGA Communism
On partisans, cultural wars, and the vanguard of the people
In my last commentary, “The insights of MAGA Communism,” I tried to explain the key concepts of MAGA Communism, as expressed by Haz Al-Din and Infrared in “The Rise of MAGA Communism.” I maintained that Al-Din’s central concepts have significance for a possible and necessary ideological reconceptualization and realignment in the United States. In today’s commentary, I address those aspects of Al-Din’s formulation that, in my view, are in need of further reflection.
The partisan as a worldwide historical subject of the 20th and 21st centuries
I would like to begin with the concept of the partisan. In Al-Din’s formulation, the partisan seeks the taking of political power. The partisan goes down to the people and develops an understanding that is rooted in concrete organic concepts of the people and is in harmony with their sentiments, and that affirms eternal principles of social justice. The partisan occupies counterhegemonic space, displacing formally defined ideologies that are disconnected from actual political struggle. The partisan stands in conflict with the ruling class as well as the ideologies that wittingly or unwittingly give legitimacy to the established order.
The MAGA Movement, Al-Din maintains, is the one and only political space of partisanship in the USA today. The Movement is the host of numerous counterhegemonic partisan ideologies that attempt or purport to explain the concrete issues that disturb the MAGA faithful: control of the political-economic system of the nation and the world by globalist elites; loss of factory jobs; erosion of the standard of living; preferential treatment for individuals of some racial/ethnic groups, but not others, violating the norm of equality of opportunity for all; gender and sexuality ideologies that violate religious values and teachings; and uncontrolled immigration lacking effective regulation. In this situation, Al-Din maintains, communist partisans must go to the people in the MAGA Movement and offer them a scientifically and historically informed explanation of their situation and of the possibilities for liberty and emancipation.
I would like to suggest that we view as partisans the leaders of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements of the world during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This means that we recognize them as leaders of movements that took political power in their nations; and that we ought not criticize them on the basis of ideological distinctions that we have learned as Marxist-Leninists, social democrats, liberals, or conservatives. When such ideological frames shape our thinking, we often fail to see the significance of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements of the world.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the peoples in the colonial and neocolonial situation experienced deprivations and powerlessness. Peasants were without land, or with insufficient land and paying oppressive taxes. Students experienced irrelevant education and confronted limited employment prospects. Workers earned superexploitative wages insufficient to maintain even a minimal standard of living. Foreigners dominated political, economic, and social institutions. The people possessed a desire to return to the precolonial past or to send the foreigners away and pursue autonomous development. They were disposed to spontaneous rebellion.
In this context, partisan leaders emerged, describing the causes of the situation, and announcing a new way. From Mao to Ho, Fidel, Nasser, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Gadhafi, Allende, Chávez, Daniel, and Evo, they sought and attained political power in their nations. They ignored the Cold War ideological division between liberal and social democracy in the West and communism in the East. In formulating an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist understanding of the emancipatory possibilities, they freely appropriated from Western socialist, social democratic, and liberal democratic ideas. They grasped that there could be no going back; it was necessary to leave behind traditional political and economic conceptions and structures in developing a new world of post-colonial modern nation-states. They formulated the rationale for their right to sovereignty and development on the basis of the principles and values that the colonizers themselves had proclaimed. At the same time, they sought to preserve to the fullest extent possible the traditional spirituality, religiosity, languages, and cultures of the people.
The partisans successfully mobilized the people in support of a project of national liberation and social emancipation. They adopted a variety of tactics, including mass demonstrations, sabotage, armed struggle, and in some cases, electoral politics. They have altered the structures of the world-system, forcing a transition from colonialism to neocolonialism and the beginning of a transition to a post-colonial world order. However, the power that they have attained has been merely partial, and they have not been able to fully implement their goal of socioeconomic emancipation, not even in China and Cuba, the most advanced of them. They continue the struggle.
In Africa they called it African socialism, a form of socialism different from the socialisms of Europe, a modern socialism rooted in African traditions. In Latin America, they reformulated Marxism-Leninism to serve an anti-imperialist movement by the people, constraining the influence of the estate bourgeoisie and foreign interests. In the Islamic world, traditional religious structures survived the European domination, empowering the people with an alternative worldview that proclaimed the revealed mission of humanity to construct a just world, thus providing the foundation for the theory and practice of Islamic socialism.
These diverse revolutionary theories and practices should not be viewed as revisionist for their non-compliance with certain Marxist-Leninist formulations. It would be better to view the process through the lens of partisanship, in which we see the leaders of the people’s revolutions of the world as partisans who have led their peoples in the taking of political power and in defending the sovereignty of their nations. Their conceptualizations were shaped by practical necessity and by the material and spiritual needs of their peoples, proclaiming fundamental eternal principles that ought to guide all of humanity, such as the rights of all nations to true sovereignty, of all peoples to self-determination, and of all persons to health care, education, housing, and nutrition. They have modern, rather than post-modern, epistemological assumptions; in their view, it is wrong that their children do not have enough begins to eat, and everyone knows that it is wrong.
In their first wave, they reached their highpoint of world influence in 1974, when the General Assembly of the United Nation adopted a declaration of a New International Economic Order, which proclaimed the right of all nations to sovereignty, self-determination, non-interference in their internal affairs, and control of their natural resources and their economies. They were eclipsed by the worldwide implementation of the neoliberal project and by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist bloc. But they experienced renewal in the late 1990s on the foundation of the peoples’ rejection of neoliberalism, delegitimated by its nefarious consequences. Their hopes and aspirations are expressed today in the declarations of the Non-Aligned Movement, which now is constituted by 120 member states representing three-quarters of humanity. They are today stronger than ever, cooperating with China and Russia in the construction of a pluripolar world.
The emergence of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist partisan revolutionaries in all the colonized regions during the twentieth century suggests the need to reformulate our understanding of the development of the science of Marxism-Leninism. As is known, Marxism essentially is excluded from the universities of the West, except in a superficial and marginal form. So, the science of Marxism-Leninism develops in revolutionary practice, on the basis of revolutionary experience. But this experience goes beyond Marx, Lenin, and Mao. It includes all the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist partisans of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, whose teachings can be viewed as constituting insights that are central to the development of Marxism-Leninism as a science. And their teachings constitute an important part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of humanity.
What do we learn from the teachings of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist partisans? The answer to this question has various dimensions, to which I now turn.
We ought to appeal to the people, and not to workers
In the West, there is a century long tradition of middle-class socialists and social democrats betraying the working class. But in the colonial situation, there has been a different experience. In Africa, the working class was small, so the concept of a proletarian revolutionary vanguard didn’t quite fit. The great majority of the people were peasants, and the middle class was primarily a European educated elite, whose purpose in the colonial situation was to represent the interests of the colonial power to the colonized. But for significant numbers of the African educated elite, their European education didn’t quite take, because they too were subjected to economic exclusion and humiliating treatment, their education notwithstanding. So they formulated a program of independence and increasingly turned to the masses of peasants in the rural countryside and a lumpenproletariat in urban marginalized neighborhoods to support the independence project. As they engaged in political agitation, they were declared outlaws by the colonial order, and they often depended on the protection and support of the people in the rural villages, thus deepening the unity of revolutionary consciousness that tied middle class leaders and the peasantry.
In Latin America, the people consisted of a “race” that had been forged as a mixture of European settlers, indigenous peoples, and Africans brought to the region as slaves, a single people speaking a European language and adopting European religions, although with syncretic indigenous elements. United by a single Latin American identity, the peoples forged anti-imperialist revolutions, which were directed against the national bourgeoisie and against foreign imperialist interests. In this revolution, many persons of the middle class cast their lot with elite interests; but the majority supported the revolution, and the middle class contributed many leaders and martyrs to the revolution. It could be said that in Latin America, the middle class was the most important actor in both the revolution and the counterrevolution.
Thus, in Africa and Latin America, people’s revolutions came to political power through the significant participation of the middle class in the leadership of the revolutionary project. Some came to be recognized as heroes and martyrs, today memorialized in the revolutionary consciousness of the people.
In short, the revolutions in Africa, Latin America, and Asia were not revolutions forged by a proletarian vanguard. They were revolutions by the people, with all social sectors actively participating in the leadership of the revolutions and in the mass support that enabled the triumph of the revolution.
As for the United States, we have entered a new situation that is characterized by the increasing precariousness of the middle class. This new situation was caused by the turn of the U.S. power elite to neoliberalism, which constituted an abandonment of the nation and the people. In this situation, the majority of the middle class in the United States do not have an economic interest in casting their lot with the elite, and in this regard, their situation is analogous to the middle class in Africa and Latin America during the twentieth century. Experiencing in recent decades an erosion in standing of living and employment opportunities, the middle class would benefit from a communist revolution that would seek to improve the productivity of the nation’s economy.
I must confess that I cringe when I hear an otherwise excellent discourse ruined by appealing to the workers and the working class. It is as though a person with insecure white-collar employment, lamenting that the nation is not what it once was, is not invited to join the revolution to make America great again.
I am not suggesting that the appeal be converted into an appeal to professionals, office workers, and tech engineers, ignoring the workers, as is sometimes found in reformist social democracy. I am saying that we need to call for the united support of all our people from all sectors, except for the elite. What the Occupy movement, in its brief and disorganized moment, called the 99%.
So communists, in recognition of current American conditions, ought to convoke a revolution of, by, and for the people. Although Marx called on the workers of the world to unite, today’s conditions are different. In the entire world, formerly colonized peoples are developing truly sovereign nation-states and a pluripolar world-system. And in the USA, conditions include the precariousness of all sectors of the people. American Communists ought to call today for the unity of the people against the elite.
The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution declares, “We the People of the United States….” American communists today ought to be clear to ourselves and to all: we belong to the American revolutionary tradition. We understand communism as the fullest expression of the promise of democracy expressed at the founding of the American Republic, and it is precisely for this reason that it has been so vilified by the elite, who have orchestrated a decades-long anti-communist ideological campaign. And we identify with our people, especially patriotic Americans, regardless of class, race, color, ethnicity, or creed.
It is true, as Al-Din points out in “On the 'Patsoc' Split,” that the class structure of the United States has evolved to include a new managerial and professional class that is politically tied to the capitalist class and enjoys privileged benefits. But there is a host of persons in middle class professions and occupations for whom such privileges are minimal or nonexistent and who are working in conditions of underemployment and employment insecurity, who everyday endure affronts to their dignity. To implicitly exclude them from the revolution for the fulfillment of the promise of the American Revolution is to send them yet another insult.
To be sure, we don’t like the discourse of leftists, who have demonstrated that they don’t care about the nation and that they have disdain for the people, and most leftists indeed are middle class. But most middle-class people are not leftists; we ought to stand with them against the elite, as with all our people, and call them to a revolution of the people, explaining how such a people’s revolution is in their interests.
The need to formulate positions on the cultural issues
We learn from the Third World partisan revolutionaries that the revolution must be in tune with the rhythms of the people. In this vein, Thomas Fazi points out, in “What is MAGA Communism?”, that the “so-called culture-war issues—from abortion to race—have become part and parcel of contemporary politics, and can’t be wished away in the name of working-class unity.” Therefore, MAGA Communism must formulate positions on these issues.
I am in agreement, and I think that MAGA Communists ought to formulate positions that are consistent with the conservative values of many of the MAGA faithful, values that in no sense are inconsistent with the principles of Marxism-Leninism. It is a question of communists meeting the people on the terrain of their values and respecting the values of the people.
My own revolutionary consciousness was formed by black nationalism in the early 1970s, and for this reason, I have viewed with much interest and with despondency the recent emergence of the woke anti-racism ideology, and I have written several commentaries on the theme. I support the position of black conservatives that the woke anti-racist ideology is “race hustling” that has the intention of promoting the particular interests of black professionals and the black middle class, and which is dysfunctional for black community development. I have maintained that the anti-racism ideology is ahistorical and anti-empirical, in that it ignores significant and important gains in race relations since 1965; and it distorts current data to exaggerate existing racial inequalities. My commentaries on this theme can be found in the USA section of the Thematic Index.
On the question of race, MAGA communists ought to take a position in favor of equality of opportunity for all, seeking to alleviate de facto unequal education through community development in marginal communities, regardless of racial/ethnic composition of the community; and opposing preferential treatment for certain supposedly oppressed peoples in university admissions and employment. They should advocate deepening and expanding the negotiations with the indigenous nations that have been ongoing since the 1970s; with the press paying little attention to this phenomenon and the progress that has been made, focusing instead on dramatic cases in which agreement has been difficult to reach. MAGA communists, of course, support universal health care, education, nutrition, and housing for all, regardless of race.
With respect to gender, the Christian feminist Abigail Favale describes how post-modern intellectual tendencies were brought to the United States by feminist scholars at elite universities who had studied French existentialism and post-modernism. And she describes how post-modern intellectual tendencies entered the women’s movement in the 1990s, resulting ultimately in a disconnection of gender from biological sex and creating confusion and division concerning who is a woman and who is not. She maintains that the notion that one can claim an identity different from biological sex is a post-modern notion that is inconsistent with nature, philosophical and religious traditions, science, and common sense. She suggests the need to return to the concept of equal legal, social, and economic rights for women, a conceptualization that drove the significant gains for women in all spheres of society from 1848 to the 1980s. (See “The Anti-Marxist Left: The US Left today is postmodern, not Marxist,” August 30, 2022; and “A Common-Sense Theory of Gender: A critical analysis of third- and fourth-wave feminism,” September 2, 2022). If MAGA Communism were to draw upon such sources to formulate a common-sense position with respect to gender and sexuality, it would have the support of the majority of the people on these questions, and at the same time, distance itself from leftism.
With respect to abortion, MAGA Communism ought to call for respect for the constitutional balance of powers and for the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe versus Wade and returning the decision to the legislatures in the states, which is where it belongs, inasmuch as the Constitution makes no mention of abortion. And MAGA Communists ought to call upon the citizens in the various states to search for moderate laws regulating abortion, such as allowing abortion in the first twelve weeks of gestation, but including significant investment in programs designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to provide practical alternatives to abortion for pregnant woman; seeking to cultivate a culture of respect for life, but not imposing it by law, which has significant negative consequences. See “Reproductive rights in Cuba: An example for the divided USA?” October 7, 2022.
On guerrilla information war tactics
Al-Din writes on the information war. “Information has become the most important battlespace of modern warfare. Having been rooted out of its position in both armed combat and civil society, the partisan revolutionary has retreated into information warfare. Information warfare is the final form of modern war.”
He advocates a strategy of guerrilla information war. “In the age of information warfare, the modern state is infiltrated from within. Its very ability to inform, that is, take form and reality within the consciousness of the people, can be directly hijacked with irregular hit-and-run, swarm, etc. tactics by partisan info-warriors.” He writes of the “the transformation of civil society into a site of guerrilla warfare.”
I confess to not being well-versed in the tactics of guerrilla information war. However, I am not persuaded that a guerilla information war strategy is wise. If we do not have the support of the majority of the people, such tactics can have a boomerang effect, uncovered and exposed to discredit us in the eyes of the people. It would be better to depend on honest presentation, solid evidence, and reasoned discourse, which is our most powerful weapon, because we have the truth and the sacred on our side.
I should note in this regard that the Cuban Revolutionary Government has announced a “battle of ideas,” which it conducts with reasoned discourse and not guerrilla information tactics, even as it celebrates its own revolutionary triumph in 1959 through guerrilla war. Indeed, it condemns the guerrilla information tactics conducted against Cuba by the U.S.-directed counterrevolution.
What precisely should be done with concentrated industry?
In Cuba, the government has real incentive to explain things to the people. Reflecting this, the Minister of the Economy, Alejandro Gil, regularly appears on an evening news talk program where he explains the economic facts of life to the people. He regularly points out that one could increase workers’ salaries and benefits through government borrowing, but unless the borrowing is connected to a solid and realistic plan to grow the economy, it will result in inflation, so nothing would be gained. The only way to raise the standard of living of the people is to increase the productivity of the economy, and so the state has formulated a comprehensive long-term plan to increase the productivity of the national economy.
In the Cuban state’s long-term plan, there is an expansion of space foe private enterprises, not an ill-defined space in which they do want they want, but a space that is designed to attain specific objectives of the state’s plan. In the case of Cuban private enterprises, licenses are being granted that are designed to improve the availability of items in the national retail market, through new creative strategies of small-scale producers as well as more-efficient private retail services. In the case of foreign companies, agreements are made in certain industries that are important in the national economy, like tourism. In the 1990s, Cuba developed an approach to foreign capital that is now understood and accepted in the international tourist industry with respect to Cuba, namely, agreements that are mutually beneficial to Cuba and the foreign companies, which is made possible by the unique characteristics of Cuban tourism plus a commitment by the Cuban government to protect its resources and its national economy.
But it is a tricky business, Gil observes. It is a question of giving private actors space, so that they will have incentive to do what you want them to do, without their using that space as a springboard for taking over. You’ve got to regulate and extract from the surplus value attained by the companies, while still leaving them with the incentive to do what you have in mind.
In China, the evolution of socialism with Chinese characteristics through three stages can be interpreted as a continuous process of maturation with respect to the complex issues concerning the relation between the state and the economy. In general terms, the three politically mature and long-lasting Marxist-Leninist states (Cuba, Vietnam, and Cuba) have arrived to the general formulation that the state directs a national economy that includes both private and public property, operating under state direction and regulation in accordance with a long-term comprehensive plan.
There are lessons here for MAGA Communists, above all that they are on-target in advocating an attention to developing the productivity of the national economy. But perhaps this should not be presented as reindustrialization, but as restoring the productivity of the American economy, because it might well include investment and development in new industries.
Al-Din writes that communists seek “the overthrow of the monopolists, the bankers, big pharma, big agriculture, big tech, and others.” But what are the specifics of the overthrow of the monopolies? I would suspect different strategies are needed with respect to the different industries. This needs to be thought out well, and explained to the people with an authority rooted in real knowledge.
Does MAGA Communism have the resources and the political will to form a commission that could put forth specific economic proposals that respond to the frustrations of our people and that address the economic question from the vantage point of the short-term needs of the people and the long-term development of the national economy?
I invite MAGA Communists as well as the MAGA faithful to subscribe to my column, either as a free subscriber, which would give you full access to all commentaries; or as a paid subscriber ($5 per month or $40 per year), which would allow you to post Reply comments. I would welcome sustained conversation with MAGA Communists and the MAGA faithful concerning the future of our nation; and concerning the ongoing development of the partisan revolutions of the world, which in the previous era of American greatness, looked upon our nation with respect and affection. I believe that, through a turn to anti-imperialism and MAGA Communism, the prestige of our nation in the world can be restored.
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