As nuclear war clouds loomed, and concerns over Donald Trump’s emotional stability mounted, members and supporters of Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) met to discuss and adopt our new Perspectives thesis, Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation): Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s Perspectives for 2018. This 30,000-word document provides our analysis of and response to: Trumpism and leftist accommodation to it; the Resistance; left-populist economics; “post-truth” politics; white nationalism; and individual responsibility for the collective development of Marxist-Humanism. The membership of MHI adopted these Perspectives on December 10, 2017.
To read and download the several parts of the Perspectives thesis, click on the “pdf” icons below.
Editors’ Note, May 24, 2008:
Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation) is now available as an 88-page bound pamphlet for only $5.
Click here to order the pamphlet.
We encourage everyone to share these Perspectives widely and to discuss them with colleagues, friends, family–and with us. Beating back and transcending the latest wave of reaction requires wide and deep discussion among everyone fighting to protect existing freedoms and to continue the struggle until we achieve full freedom for all human beings. If you share these aims, please seriously consider joining MHI and working with us in the critical battles ahead.
RESISTING TRUMPIST REACTION (AND LEFT ACCOMMODATION):
MARXIST-HUMANIST INITIATIVE’S PERSPECTIVES FOR 2018
TRUMPISM IN POWER, AIDED BY THE SOFT-ON-TRUMP LEFT, THREATENS LIFE AND LIBERTY
- What Trump Has Already Accomplished
- “F––ing Moron,” “Heading Towards World War III”
- Blatantly Racist, Deliberate Neglect of Puerto Rico
- The Republican Party Will Not Stop Trump
- Trump’s Threat to Liberal Democracy
- Varieties of “Leftist” Accommodation to Trumpism, and the Marxist-Humanist Alternative
THE RESISTANCE: A PERMANENT STATE OF REVOLT AGAINST TRUMPISM
- Leading Edge of the Resistance Also Challenges the Democratic Party
- Saving Health Care
- The Struggle Against Racism and White Supremacy
- Women’s Movements in the Forefront
- New and Old Organizations Flourish
- New Developments
ECONOMIC MYTHOLOGY OF LEFT-POPULIST ALTERNATIVES TO NEOLIBERALISM
- The Mythology of the Populist Left
- Neoliberalism as a Political Project
- Ford’s $5 Day
- Ideal Deal
- Off-shoring as the Big Job Killer
- Social Democracy is Left Politics
- Political Implications
- Fighting for Concessions vs. Claiming to Solve Capital’s Contradictions
- Voting vs. Supporting
- Fighting Neoliberalism vs. Fighting Capitalism––including Proto- and Neo-Fascism
- Economic Populism is Not the Only Form of Left Politics
- Ideas are Important
COMBATTING “POST-TRUTH POLITICS,” IN PRACTICE AND IN THEORY
- The Vital Importance of the Fight for Truth and Reason
- Dialectical Reason as Counterweight to Post-Truth Epistemology
- Marxist-Humanist Philosophy and Organization vs. Unmediated “Knowledge”
- Transcending the Limitations of Enlightenment Rationality and Capitalism
COMBATTING WHITE NATIONALISM: LESSONS FROM MARX
- Trumpism: A Pre-Existing Condition
- The Anti-Neoliberal “Left” Narrative
- Middle-Class Income Stagnation?
- Why Votes of Non-College Whites Flipped to Trump
- Trumpism is Wallace-ism Redux
- Lessons from Marx
- Taking the “Independent Movement of the Workers” Seriously—and Literally
- Marx on Irish Independence
- Accelerating the “catastrophe of official England”
- English workers’ “own social emancipation”
- Irish immigration and xenophobia
- Freeing English workers from the “leading-strings” of the ruling classes
- The Impact of the US Civil War on Emancipatory Working-Class Self-Activity
- Grounds of Marx’s anti-slavery activity
INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE COLLECTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF MARXIST-HUMANISM
- Selected Tasks of Marxist-Humanist Initiative in the Coming Year
[Editor’s note, Feb. 9, 2018. A sentence in the original version of this article, about how to obtain the whole Perspectives thesis as a single document, has been removed. MHI will soon publish a printed and bound version of these Perspectives.]
This is an excellent introduction to one aspect of Marxist-Humanism for 2018 – the democratic and collective development of ideas is something sorely lacking on the Left, who are very used to listening out for the received wisdom of the next Big Guru. It is the only this way which contains the seeds of the democratic reorganisation of society; if we cannot trust ordinary people in the process of developing the ideas in the here and now needed for a post-capitalist society, then who can we trust – “experts”? Only people who are experts at the conditions of their own lives will be able to make the collective leap towards the future.
See Seth Weiss’ new reply to an attack on Part IV of these Perspectives,
I’m only just now studying “MHI-Perspectives for 2018,” but I want to thank you again for your August 2016 editorial on “The Extraordinary Dangers of Trump and Trumpism.” It’s anchored my thinking about the meaning and significance of “Trump” ever since and I promote it to everyone I talk to.
From the “Perspectives”:
“We are proud that we bought into none of this. MHI warned against “The Extraordinary Dangers
of Trump and Trumpism” before the election, in our August 2016 editorial. We were mocked
and denounced for that editorial and for our statements that followed. Yet nearly everything we warned about has already come to pass.”
This podcast talk by Brian Klass (author of ‘The Despot’s Apprentice’ who has researched authoritarian regimes around the world) is very interesting on Trump and creeping authoritarianism (i.e. the erosion of democratic norms and increasing authoritarianism taking root – where ways of acting that would previously have been unacceptable have become normalised: 1) doublethink – politicisation of truth; 2) constant attacks on the press; etc… http://www.lse.ac.uk/website-archive/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=3974
Klass’s analysis of Trump’s authoritarianism provides material that supports the MHI analysis.
When it comes to what to do about Trump he shows little faith in the Resistance – in fact he doesn’t even mention the Resistance to Trump – he looks to a reformed Democratic Party (perhaps in part because his previous job was as a political advisor).
I can’t help but agree, point for point, with “Resisting Trumpist Reaction (And Left Accommodation): Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s Perspectives for 2018,” including Part VI, “Individual Responsibility for the Collective Development of Marxist-Humanism.”
I had already studied the precursor to Part V, “Combatting White Nationalism: Lessons from Marx,” when it first appeared in With Sober Senses. It both confirmed and sharpened up my own line of thought, which began from two premises: that one key to Trump and Trumpism was his cartoon leadership of the cartoon “Birther movement”; and that the presidential election of 2016 could not be explained without using the term “white” and therefore racializing it, with the aim of conferring political legitimacy on the mystification or ideology of white nationalism; which, from the standpoint of American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard, would be not only a preexisting condition, as the “Perspectives” brilliantly demonstrates, but the essential clue to the understanding of American history itself.
Or in other words, when I read “Part V,” scales fell from my eyes. To which I should add, I took a cold shower. It’s the cold shower I’d like to write about.
Part II explains that in order to resist Trump and Trumpism effectively, which is what everyone on the left purports to be about, what is needed is “a permanent state of revolt against Trumpism.” This is the immediate, practical, theoretical, and philosophical need of the immediate moment we’re in, which no “unmediated ‘knowledge’” (see Part V) could ever hope to grasp, let alone meet (considering that “absolute knowledge” is no less than “history, philosophically comprehended”—the conclusion of Hegel’s Phenomenology). One might even propose to begin the philosophical study of Marxist-Humanism with Hegel’s critique of the “Third Position of Thought with Respect to Objectivity” (see Part IV, pp. 30-32). For “Philosophy 101,” a truthful grasp of the objective situation is either possible or it is not. In turn, in order to answer this question, it is crucial to grasp that “The Self-Thinking Idea Does Not Mean You Thinking.”
But now to the cold shower. Inasmuch as the understanding of our immediate or present objective situation, in the outlook of historical materialism, entails the critique (Ideologiekritik) of the “Economic Mythology of Left-Populist Alternatives to Neoliberalism” in the battle of ideas, I’ve become accustomed to saying that no one on the American “left” has any serious answer to the question of what is to be done. From the standpoint of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program and the consequent highway of errors in post-Marx Marxism, Marxist-Humanists should be the first to say this. Activism connects with the “movement from below”—for example, the spontaneous upsurge of high-school activists forming a new social movement through their own self-activity—but “activism for activism’s sake” can have no other result than to truncate the essential turn to theory and philosophy; which in turn can only result in the truncation of self-development from within the movements themselves. Another example would be “Black Lives Matter,” which appears to be off the radar as of March 2018, but which can never be off the radar, any more than working-class movements themselves.
Hence, from the perspective of MHI’s critique of “post-truth politics” (Part IV), a celebrity Marxist like Richard Wolff can gain traction as a mansplaining populist by way of his popular or YouTube appeal, having come to his present position on the basis of the “Occupy” trope of “the 99% and the 1%,” where his target is the neoliberal phase of “actually existing capitalism,” proposing as his solution the democratization of the workplace through worker-owned and managed firms, a variant of “market socialism” that is less and less distinguishable from the views of Bernie Sanders and eventually a merely liberal capitalist like Robert Reich, who wants to “save capitalism from itself.” The point is that the democratization of the workplace is a lovely fantasy coming out as the one-size-fits-all non-answer to the question of what is to be done. It is fantastic because the welfare states and social democracies of the halcyon days are not about to be resurrected on the basis of the ruling-class interests that warranted these forms of state-capitalism in the first place.
As Andrew Kliman and others explain, the rate of profit had not been restored, prior to the Great Recession, from its collapse in the mid-nineteen-seventies. (See The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession, 2012.) As a result, for every recession and crisis since then, recovery has been debt-financed. The shortcut is to say that bubbles burst. Since the Great Recession, it remains that the only apparent alternatives within the regime of globalized capital are either stimulus or austerity. If the crisis itself were only a crisis of under-consumption (bringing many and various explanatory currents under the broad umbrella of the Monthly Review explanation), “Marx” and “Keynes” are nearly indistinguishable, stimulus is a better solution than austerity, and socially necessary labor-time will still be the measure of the magnitude of value (since the social relation of the working class to capital can only remain as it is, if worker-owned and managed firms are still required to yield some minimum rate of return on initial investment, operate within global markets, and buy, produce, sell, and circulate goods and services necessarily subsumed under the commodity-form; or in other words, if “the general formula for capital” is still the general form). That is, in short, the law of value will still prevail, instead of the directly social labor Marx took to be the hallmark of a new, post-capitalist form of social organization. Society will remain capitalist, and the ruling class, with its class monopoly on the means of production, still subject to the laws of motion of capitalist production and circulation, will still “stride out in front…intent on business,” while the working class remains “timid and holds back…” (Volume One, Ch. 6, Fowkes translation, p. 280).
The cold shower begins as a cautionary tale: “One can vote against Trumpism, even if that means voting for a centrist, without being in support of centrism” (Part III, p. 23).
The “Perspectives” as a whole explain why a “critical defense of liberal democracy” (Part I, p. 8) is necessary in this objective moment and why “play-acting at revolution” is not only for dummies but an insult to the revolutionary idea. Not only is it comical, it is a mere placeholder for having no idea of what is really to be done.
On the other hand, there was the wildcat strike of West Virginia schoolteachers, which must be deeply resonant for students of Dunayevskaya.
Among other things, “abstract revolutionism” (much like what Alain Badiou calls “speculative leftism” in Being and Event) is based on a degenerate understanding of terms and relations: revolution, reform, and reaction. Revolution and reform are opposites, but they are relative opposites; the absolute opposite of revolution is reaction. With these distinctions properly sorted out, we can easily recognize that Trumpism is not “conservatism” (although it comes close to the “paleoconservatism” of Patrick Buchanan, who, like Trump, lavishes praise on Putin’s “strong-man” rule in Russia, while Buchanan himself was a mere echo effect of George Wallace, the preexisting condition). The issue is not brand-name preferences as between conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats. Let’s by all means go ahead and heap scorn on “Republican ideas,” but Trumpism, which is white nationalism, is reactionary, not conservative; it has little to do with heirloom ideas incoherently mixing and matching “family values” with libertarian or Austrian or Randian ideas about the vaunted virtues of the “system of free enterprise.”
With Sober Senses featured the right idea last May in “Trump, Le Pen, Neoliberalism: Mea Culpa from a Far-Left Sanders Supporter.” No one needs to say mea culpa for voting for Hillary Clinton, when the need of the hour was a collective repudiation of Trump and Trumpism by the only available means; the means by which effectively to “join the resistance” at the crucial juncture that has come and gone.
I don’t want to call it merely a personal hobby, but I have been following the story about matters Russian, which may appear to confer a blessing on the A-List at MSNBC. Here’s how ironic this is, for readers of Gramsci, Paulo Freire, Critical Theory, Chomksy & Herman, Neil Postman, and Robert McChesney: Glenn Greenwald now appears on FOX News.
Right, no one wants a “new Cold War.” But who on the left wants to rise to the defense of Vladimir Putin?
Searching the Archives, I can’t find the source, but I believe Raya Dunayevskaya used the term, “revolutionary patience,” which would follow from her theoretical and philosophical development of Marx’s idea of the “revolution in permanence.”
For me, it remains a beacon when Marx introduces a voice to the figure of the worker in Capital in the chapter on “The Working Day,” just after he characterizes capital as “dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks” (Fowkes, p. 342): he writes,“Suddenly, however, there arises the voice of the worker, which had previously been stifled in the sound and fury of the production process…” (pp. 342-43). In this moment, the worker is making a merely reformist, not yet a revolutionary demand, in the struggle for a “normal working day.” Still, the philosopher who discovered a new continent of thought and revolution, throws the weight of his support behind this struggle. Likewise, he takes up the Union cause in the American Civil War (at the epicenter of American history), even though it began as a constitutional crisis and was not, at first, a second American revolution.
In a time of reaction, for would-be “revolutionaries,” and in a time when the left has no serious answer to the question of what will take the place of capitalist society, an answer that working people can take seriously and have confidence in—for the vast majority in the name of the vast majority—we are not truly in a revolutionary situation, which has a subjective as well as an objective condition; a condition that meets the proletarian subject where she actually and in point of fact lives. If it is true that Trump’s base can never be more than 30% (a figure already astonishingly high), this means that most people are opposed to Trump. In a time of reaction, our aim must be to defeat the reactionaries, which must come first in thought before it can show up in successful strategy and tactics. Here we might say, “by any means necessary,” where the sensible thing to do now was not necessarily the sensible thing to do a decade ago, and which will not necessarily be the sensible thing to do a decade from now.
This might mean that you’ll be mistaken for a “liberal” by your “Marxist” (and “faux-revolutionary”?) friends, but so what? Especially if you can explain why it is that you’re right, as the “Perspectives for 2018” do so well. For thought that is genuinely situated in a revolutionary horizon, now is the time for revolutionary patience, no matter how emotionally gratifying talking large might be.
Finally, this view does not in the least imply any kind of catering or pandering to the “white working class,” of whom lefties like to say, “Poor dears! They lack a college education!” But having read the “Perspectives,” there’s really no need to make this point.
In their new book, How Democracies Die, two Harvard political scientists, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, corroborate an important aspect of Part V of our Perspectives.
We argued that
In an interview on their publisher’s website, Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt say much the same thing:
Not surprisingly, Levitsky and Ziblatt’s idea of how to fight this—they want to balance the popular will with the “smoke-filled rooms” of party insiders—has nothing in common with MHI’s perspectives. But revolutionaries should nonetheless give serious consideration to their analysis of the conditions that led to Trump’s victory.
New postings in WSS continue the discussion on some of the points in Part I of these “Perspectives.” Please see these 3 articles:
“Trump + Bolton = Even More Danger to Life and Liberty” at https://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/u-s-news/trump-bolton-even-more-danger-to-life-and-liberty.html
“The Real Views and Aims of the Putin-gate ‘Skeptics'” at https://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/resistance-to-trumpism-2/the-real-views-and-aims-of-the-putin-gate-skeptics.html
“Authoritarianism Links Trump to Dictators and Part of ‘the Left'” at https://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/u-s-news/authoritarianism-links-trump-to-dictators-and-part-of-the-left.html
We see and hear on a daily basis about the damage Trump is doing. And part of the process of trying to get rid of him is the continual drawing out the logical conclusions of Trump’s political operations as they unfold. We cannot assume that the logic and impulse behind Trump’s policies are self-evident, and this is where Part 1 of this Perspectives document makes an invaluable contribution.
Without such critical analysis, Trump’s policies become normalised and the daily assault on our communities and livelihoods give way to political change that will not be easy to unpick.
• Trump’s new tax laws aren’t something we can just reverse. Giving power to one specific section of society has consequences that make it much harder to subsequently redirect towards more welfare minded policies. Once capitalists have gained beneficial tax laws, they have greater power to hold on to those benefits.
• The same goes for Trump’s reorganisation of the Executive branch. Appointing his cronies in key positions has lasting impact. Rights are much easier to lose than to win, because the minority, who have more to gain by restricting your rights, have more power within the political process.
• The same goes for immigration policies and racist practices. Cutting off Puerto Rico by refusing to address the devastating natural disaster that happened there has lasting effects. Not only have communities been destroyed, infrastructure degraded, sanitation and disease management completely smashed, but accepting the treatment of one section of society as if it is alien has profound consequences for how we understand ourselves as a society. If one section can be treated like this, so too can others and the quiet acceptance of such practices spreads racist and elitists ideas and degrades what it is to be human.
And these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. As MHI has outlined in several of its articles, the more the Resistance and the Mueller investigation pose a threat to Trump, the more Trump will use his position to suppress those he feels threatened by. We have already been given fair warning of the lengths Trump will go to in destroying civil liberties to protect himself, but once destroyed, these freedoms are not easily regained.
The Republicans are unwilling to stop him, and the Democrats are either unwilling or unable to. The Mueller investigation, as important as it is, is highly unlikely to stop him either, as long as the Republicans control Congress. But the thoughts and action of ordinary people are much more powerful than all that. We’ve seen it with the Resistance and with the developing grassroots gun control lobby. This Perspectives document is a vital contribution to the work of Resisting Trump.
Part I of MHI’s 2018 Perspectives discusses the dangers of Trump in power, aided by the soft-on-him left. This brief discussion adds to Part I by making a wider connection with the capitalist mode of production, i.e., the production of value for the ultimate goal of profit.
I do not dispute that Trump is extraordinarily dangerous. MHI reported on the dangers ahead of other commentators, and he has indeed achieved much of what he said he would do during his election campaign. The reason why he is he so dangerous emerges when one takes his personality traits into consideration, which were laid out in a “Huffpost” blog on December 17, 2017. Putting it mildly, Trump is not fit for office, with even his former staff calling him a ‘f— moron’. However, it is doubtful whether impeachment in relation to his connection with the Russian government will be successful. Personally, I think it is more likely that he will serve his term in office and get voted out at the next presidential elections—that is, if he does not find a way before then to remain in office for life.
But one must also recognise that capitalism is an economic system that has conflicts and contradictions ‘built in’, which in the past have led to numerous economic crises and two world wars. I therefore argue that the current global situation, as discussed in Part I of MHI’s Perspectives, is just another instance of a crisis. These are caused by capitalism’s relentless and insatiable pursuit of profit, which is accompanied by a fundamental problem, as follows. Each investment for profit is pitted against every other investment. One’s own investment is often less productive than that of competitors, who are therefore able to offer more competitive prices. One will have to match these prices in the world market. Lower prices for less-productive investments then returns a lower-than-expected profit, which creates strong pressures for corporations to drive down wages. Workers are then faced with a ‘choice’: either accept lower-paid jobs, or lose their jobs if the corporations relocate to low-wage countries.
When this economic mechanism has played out to a certain extent, the phenomenon of scapegoating individuals or nations appears on the scene. This is a confession that capitalists and their governments no longer control their own system of value production. To address the situation, powerful governments use scapegoating as an excuse to interfere in the affairs of other nations, to ‘protect’ corporations at home from foreign competition. Trump’s ‘America first’ is a recent example along those lines. The history of capitalism has shown that powerful nation-states do not shy away from starting wars in a desperate and brutal attempt to rid themselves of competition.
These trends bring with them historical figures of questionable reputation, to put it mildly. Trump, Erdoğan, Orbán, Farage and Assad are examples in our time. They are personifications of the conflicts and contradictions built into capitalism, which are not, of course, an excuse not to fight Trumpism. This is because fighting Trumpism also fights capitalism’s extreme tendencies. The soft-on-Trump left have not realized this connection and are, therefore, partly responsible for Trump taking office and his politics.
To paraphrase Sto:lo poet and Indigenous sovereigntist and feminist Lee Maracle: it is not interesting to hear about settlers who are only around to be an ally, it is interesting to hear about settlers who are here because they are fighting for their own freedom. “Here” refers to the movement for uninhibited national sovereignty (I say uninhibited because Indigenous people are still sovereign, although in the words of Audra Simpson, this sovereignty is “embedded” within colonial domination) of Indigenous peoples in North America. I take this to mean two things: it is not enough to be an ally, settlers must fight for our own freedom; that settlers fight for freedom is a fight against colonialism. In the second aspect one hears echoes of Cesaire and Fanon speaking of how colonialism has dehumanized Europeans. In the first aspect one hears echoes of Karl Marx, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Marxist-Humanist Initiatives 2018 Perspectives.
Section 5 of the Perspectives, Combatting White Nationalism: Lessons from Marx may not be about relating to Indigenous sovereignty struggles, but it’s resurrection of Marx’s approach to Irish and Black independence provides an orientation towards national sovereignty and liberation that goes beyond common “toothless” humanitarianism of NGOs, liberal-progressives, and even the socialist left in Canada without displacing the Subject of these struggles onto the so-called “white working class.” In Western Canada, the dominant way for settlers to relate to Indigenous sovereignty movements is as “allies” whose role is to show up as “bodies” to support Indigenous people. Although a form of acknowledging Indigenous people as the protagonist of decolonial movements, this form of relating to national sovereignty is an abdication of settler responsibility to develop a theory and practice of working class and diasporic anti-colonialism. After leaving the blockade, the ally is free from their settler guilt while Indigenous people continue to languish and the settler working class continues to exist as an imperial force.
It is worth noting that the Palestinian movement, especially its youth, is an example of a sharply different approach. It sees decolonial struggle in North American and in the Middle-East as twin struggles that can learn and benefit each other. But this is not the point I’d like to make here. The point I’d like to make is that Marx’s as-a-means-to-total-emancipation approach is the necessary replacement to “liberal ally politics.”
In Canada, and likely every colonial country, there is race supremacism within the working class between white workers/racialized workers, Canadian-born workers/migrant workers, and between white migrants/racialized migrants; there is also race supremacism coming from the working class white, racialized, migrant, or Canadian born and directed at Indigenouos people, especially if they are living in urban centers and are recipients of social assistance. This supremacism usually takes the form of associating Indigenous people directly with crime and poverty. Due to dispossession from their lands leading to homelessness, drug addiction, over-policing and mass incarceration, and intergenerational trauma, Indigenous people are an extremely visible aspect of Canada’s poor. But this is only one “form of appearance” that race supremacism takes.
The essence of race supremacism is that the relations of production in settler colonial regimes pit the short-term material interests of workers against Indigenous people. For example, workers in the resource extraction and transportation sectors said during the blockades in 2020 that “they are just doing their job” and “need to provide for their families.” This, of course, is true. But it’s not just those obvious sectors where Indigenous people and workers are pitted against each other. In public sector jobs where you are required to clean up public spaces or even in serving jobs where workers are forced by management to be security guards by monitoring the front of businesses, workers “just doing their job” means throwing away the belongings of Indigenous people and scuttling them into darker, more dangerous corners of the streets all the while humiliating them.
This structural antagonism between Indigenous people are workers is complemented by the material and “superstructural” promise of settler colonialism. The promise of land, high wages, business and opportunities and legal and political freedoms has produced a sense of entitlement amongst some of the ranks of the settler working class. The fact this promise is not totally a lie produces an affinity between settlers, tying the settler working class to its own ruling class. The supremacism of settler workers, white and racialized, towards Indigenous people’s functions is similar to how Marx described British and white American workers’ supremacism towards Irish workers and Black people.
Therefore the approach Marx took towards the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood and the North in the Civil War, and that MHI is taking towards Trumpism is helpful for thinking through working class relations to Indigenous sovereignty. To draw on Fanon explicitly, Marx’s method here must be slightly “stretched.” In the UK and United States concerning Irish and Black it was a matter of internal division within the working class that weakened the class as a whole. In settler colonial countries it goes further than this. On top of overcoming the internal divisions based on race supremacism within the class we also have to overcome the external divisions based on race supremacism between the class and Indigenous people. In a word, the working class must see the uninhibited sovereignty of Indigenous nations as “hastening” the possibility for proletarian social revolution.
But, we also must not see sovereignty merely as a means for socialism, but as a means to a higher level of humanity. It is respect for sovereignty as a higher form of humanity than colonial domination alone that can combat the drift towards socialist imperialism, in Canada that form being a socialist seizure of the existing colonial apparatus. Marx’s declaration in the Civil War in France that we can not seize the state ready-made is no more true anywhere else than in settler colonial countries.
The question then is how do we get workers to see that Indigenous sovereignty is in their best interest. Again, Marx’s approach is enlightening. Unlike the “left first” approach of the left accommodationists and even the “white abolitionist” approach of STO, the Marxist approach does not pivot on appeals to white workers’ consciousness because Marx sees that race supremacism is one with colonial domination. Instead Marx’s approach to national liberation pivots on the belief in and active support of the oppressed masses to win their own self-emancipation. The theory of liberation that arises from Marx for our place and time is that the self-emancipation of Indigenous people from settler colonialism will set the ground for the destruction of working class race supremacism towards Indigenous people.
The nuance here is that “active” means serious engagement and involvement both theoretically and practically, not just showing up as a “body.” Just as Marx critiqued the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood’s terrorist activities while supporting the Fenian movement and supported the North while critiquing Lincoln for not conducting the war on revolutionary lines, the settler working class should not uncritically follow any and all dictates of just any Indigenous person. To do so is tokenizing and racist because it depicts Indigenous people as static and monolithic, a long enduring image in the colonial imagination. Furthermore, abdication of responsibility is also a cynical move to innocence because to not take responsibility for our thoughts and actions is to insinuate that we can do no wrong, we just got the wrong directions.
Instead, socialist revolutionaries should be putting a large amount of our energies into pushing working class people to think about Indigenous sovereignty. To abdicate the responsibility to think about national sovereignty purely to Indigenous people as is common in the left is to obscure the fact that the settler colonial system is the form capitalist production has taken in North America and therefore overthrowing settler colonialism is also the prerogative of the working class.
It was the MHI Perspectives, particularly section 5 on Combating White Nationalism that sharpened my thinking around these issues and ultimately brought me to the conclusion that to end race supremacism within the working class and in regards to Indigenous people in Canada, Canada must be de-confederated. The central national-political task of Canadian Marxists then is to fight for de-confederation of the colonial regime and the replacement of the colonial form of governance with both the multiple, traditional governance systems of the Indigenous population and voluntary associations of free labor that emerge from the class in the revolutionary battles of anti-colonial struggle.