Today we are living in a new chapter of Western civilization: the age of neoliberalism. In these days, most probably don’t know the meaning of this phrase. Neoliberalism is a product of historical development that can be summarized as a new stage in the development of imperialism. The monopoly over empire formerly held by Western European countries has been taken over by the United States, NATO, and Israel. This new form of imperialism is distinctly crafted out of the Western, liberal democratic mold, as contrasted with the imperialism of old powers like Prussia. With new developments in imperialism come new developments in anti-imperialist movements. The challenge of recognizing new coordinates and circumstances is also by and large a test for many so-called “anti-imperialist” movements. In this spirit, this article seeks to analyze the current conditions of the Western left, by which is meant those on the European and North American continents.
To have a historical approach to looking at the left and understanding its situation vis-a-vis anti-imperialism, we should take a look into how it emerged after World War II. The fascist crusade against Bolshevism failed. However, the United States, the bastion of empire, continued this Western offensive. Once allies in the defeat of the fascist powers, now the liberal West laid its sights on the socialist powers of the East. With the Soviet Union having pushed the fascist beast back to Berlin, now NATO and Israel would be the pincers in this global crusade against alternatives to Western imperialism.
One of the most elementary Marxist lines is international proletarian revolution. According to this notion, the only real nation which the worker possesses is the international proletariat. However, the only successful socialist revolution happened in the very place where Marxist theoreticians least predicted: semi-feudal Russia. This would be a game changer, as in response to this situation new tactics had to be developed and theoretical understandings refined, because at all costs, the revolution had to be maintained. This would facilitate a socialism to be constructed on the economic and cultural circumstances of the people, not upon the idealisms of the theorists of permanent revolution. Stalin’s policy of socialism in one state would reflect this, and in many places where Marxist-leninist revolutions have taken place a healthy dose of proletarian nationalism was completely necessary and even natural.
Left-socialists, anarchists, and old party Mensheviks, with all the ignorance and spite at their disposal, would deride this development as a betrayal of revolution. This is a very important factor to realize, as there is always a faction of revolutionary movements in history that is guided by idealism and utopian visions, rather than taking into account the actual material and cultural conditions of people. These utopians and opportunists have always been a part of revolutionary movements, unfortunately.
Like the Roman Empire suffocating smaller and weaker tribal lands, the United States would wage a global campaign of conquest against all who dared to not bow to the reign of finance capital. Whether it is funding dictators or creating vassal states meant to exploit the land and people, there is no question that the formation of NATO would facilitate the new empire. In the diction of your typical United States Senator, the slogan “freedom and democracy” is synonymous with “destruction and conquest.” The recent histories of Korea, Serbia, Venezuela, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, and others attest to this.
However, in the minds of millions of workers, socialism was a more viable alternative. Marx’s work which posited that a better, more just world is possible would appeal to millions of disenfranchised workers. The earliest socialists in the United States can actually trace their roots to Marx’s 19th century.
However, since the 1960s, Western leftist and socialist movements in the West have been subverted and co-opted by the liberal establishment. Enter Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School. Marcuse worked for the CIA under the Office of Strategic Services, and sought to destroy the true revolutionary line of real socialist forces by inculcating his own strange brew of postmodernism. Now this is what “Marxist” anti-Marxism looks like, i.e., the new left.
An essential element of the left is having a clear cut definition of what fascism looks like. Early Bolsheviks had already given a materialist explanation of what fascism meant, which is essentially a bourgeois dictatorship. However, due to the revisionism of the new left thinkers, and because of critiques of authoritarianism by thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, a new definition of fascism based on vague abstractions took root. This definition would include and also deride any form of effective authority as “inherently fascist,” and would serve as the crux by which the Western left would deride the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, Cuba, etc. In a word, it contributed to a confusion of friends and enemies fostered by a liberal framework.
The attempted insurrection of the May 68 movement is something that should be looked into, as the ‘68ers were broadly aligned with what I have defined as the Western left. Outwardly socialist and taking a stand against capitalism and american imperialism, and blending that with Marcuse and the Frankfurt School, the ‘68ers had an extremely toxic brew of socialism and post-modernism, and were not interested in building a socialist order. These were essentially idealistic students in revolt, and in some cases they were serving the interests of Western imperialism directly.
Coming more into the future, the modern anti-fascist actions, or ANTIFA movements almost seem like the greatest examples of the regression of the left wing into liberalism. They are focused on breaking down their own nations, and creating further chaos. This direction can be attributed to nothing less than petty-bourgeois angst and immaturity, and a lack of understanding of dialectical materialist thought. Not to mention the noticeably “fascistic” actions of these “anti-fascist” groups. This will inevitably only increase the power projection of the capitalist police state, and provoke further divisions in the American proletariat. ANTIFA and those commonly referred to as the “alt-left” in the West today, are largely responsible for the so-called “alt-right.” Pink-haired petty bourgeois anti-fascists attacking normal patriotic citizens is how you create slobs like Matthew Heimbach.
In essence, what Marcuse and the Frankfurt School should be held responsible for is the marrying of revolutionary socialist philosophy with liberalism, creating an abomination of vast proportions. This phenomena cannot be put into the same category as revisionism, for its implications to the mass regression of the left are far greater and more apparent. Socialism was supposed to be the solution to liberalism. Today, most Western “socialists” have been pushed onto the liberal side of the fence, either by proxy of anti-Leninist, idealistic opportunism, or because they seek to subvert any attempt to bring order out of the chaos of capitalism. Today, the mixture of liberal (sub-)identity politics has distorted and caricatured what was intended by Marx, Engels, and Lenin to be a materialist philosophy capable of changing the world order, amending the contradictions of current economic and cultural conditions, and creating a socialist order with greater opportunities for the resolution of contradictions which are inflated under capitalism. The Western left has been a victim of this project, and has therefore been seen as an enemy on account of its absorption of liberal principles which have undermined truly socialist positions on anti-imperialism, cultural questions, and the basic question of friends vs. enemies.
It is clear that in many cases today the Western left comes out hating actually existing socialism or popular projects. For example, Western leftists can be heard denouncing Bashar Al-Assad and Ba’athism as being “authoritarian”, “homophobic”, or even “fascist”, completely failing to take into account the common sensibilities and values of the Syrian people, the significance of Syrian sovereignty, and the fact that Ba’athism is socialism with Arab characteristics. While they denounce actual socialist states, they have no qualms in supporting proxy-imperialist “white helmets” and the faux-freedom fighters of the “Free Syrian Army”, who are far more antithetical to their Western (liberal-)left values. Noam Chomsky, for instance, has croaked out that “the Assad regime was a moral disgrace!”
There is a fine line between this attitude and being of the opinion that countries under the material and cultural conditions like Russia could possibly be “imperialist.” That’s right – they call a country which lives off of its own oil and natural gas resources and is standing up to US imperialism not only for itself, but for others, an imperialist country! Imperialism means seizing the assets of another nation and oppressing them – how could Russia, a country actively fighting against Islamist terrorists in Syria and working to maintain a sovereign state, possibly be imperialist?
These notions are not only false, they are lazy and based on a depreciated liberal discourse. The Western leftist rants that Iran is “authoritarian”, “imperialist”, or even “fascist” are based on the same postmodern drivel, as it is abundantly clear that Iran is a country throwing off the chains of oppression within the international system. There is literally no possibility of talking of other countries having “imperialist” status besides the one that has tried to rule all – the United States.
If the Western left is to achieve anything in the direction of anti-imperialism and striving for socialism, it must take into account the factors that have dragged it further away from such. At the same time, critics of the “left” should not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but instead contribute to the process of forging common ground against liberalism and Atlanticism. Without rectification and without sober analyses of the liberalism that has infected much of the political spectrum, “left” and “right” will continue to attack each other instead of the enemy, and thereby strengthen liberalism’s projection of power. The case of the Western left is a vivid example of what happens when liberalism infects people’s movements.