People didn’t get some of the tongue-in-cheek implications of this piece, so I spell it out here.
There has been a temptation to pursue Left Unity with elements that are frankly undeserving of it. It’s probably better to pursue Left Unity on the basis of people who shower and believe in democracy. That means no Stalinists or Maoists for more than one reason. And we shouldn’t play the victim here; we should victimize them. This is America. People believe in democracy here. They’re not going to go for that foreign dictator shit. We libertarian communists and democratic socialists are the big kids on the playground here, we are the apex predators, we don’t have to tolerate Stalinist and Maoist bullshit, let’s kick them the fuck out, we don’t have to deal with them, there’s no reason we should. All we have to do them is call them what they are, expose them for the contradiction of how they claim to be Marxists who favor the abolition of ruling classes while in practice creating new bureaucratic ruling classes, and people will back away slowly.
In fact, why should we just kick them out? We should actually take over their groups. We shouldn’t just rest with chasing them back into their holes. Let’s treat them quite like we treat fascists; let’s deny them even having any holes to run to. Individuals should be aggressively pursued and subjected to confrontations, interventions, cult rescue and deprogramming. Let’s disrupt their every gathering place and Facebook group and no-platform them for the anti-democratic and thus anti-worker forces they genuinely represent. They do, after all, repress strikes when in power. When we’re done there should be no Stalinists or Maoists left. They did, after all, exterminate the entire original Bolshevik Party who made the revolution of 1917. Not knowing the figures off the top of my head, I have to wonder whether the USSR or Third Reich killed more actual Bolsheviks.
You may think this is a counterproductive way to treat other leftists but the mistake is to think of them as leftists in the first place, rather than just as supporters of a different form of reactionary class society based on bureaucracy instead of markets, the definition of bureaucracy being hierarchical control over people and resources, and class ultimately boiling down to politico-economic hierarchy surrounding the means of production. Internal to firms, capitalism actually is based on bureaucracy as well. Remember, socialism isn’t about merely even distribution of resources under any range of democratic or dictatorial decision-making systems, it’s about specifically democratic control of production.
Is this some petty sectarian line? No, actually; this is critical for waging the internal struggles for democracy within our organizations. The fact is, many organizations claim to be anti-Stalinist, but practice a Stalinist monolithic authoritarianism in their party line and internal organization. By taking a hard line against Stalinism and Maoism we can take an even harder line against the ruling cliques of socialist organizations who re-embody Stalinism and Maoism within our organizations while often preaching against them in rhetoric.
Does it matter? Yes, I suppose it does, I suppose that while Stalinists and Maoists on the surface seem to support many of the same immediate reforms as other socialists, in practice their leaderships are by far the most dishonest and power-maneuvering leaderships of the entire movement, saying one thing and doing another, and if the Trotskyists are similar, it is only because they are a less intense iteration of similar tendencies. This leads to constant sabotage and disruption of political work in practice.
Does it matter? Sure, a Stalinist or Maoist group can make temporary humanitarian material gains for people, on a bureaucratic basis, in the same way that the Democratic Party or revisionist Social Democrats can. And in the same way, because those reforms are not based on entrenched self-organized working-class power, they will eventually be eroded by self-interested bureaucracies selling out to capitalist market reform, or straight up self-interested bureaucratic corruption. Anything that is not self-organized working class power is temporary, and our enemy, and Stalinist/Maoist tendencies are not self-organized working class power. They are power cliques of bureaucrats and oligarchies of party insiders. It’s that simple.
And does it matter? Yes, I suppose it does, I suppose the core definition of socialism being about abolishing class society, while these “socialists” in effect do nothing but reproduce a class society, not merely because their “socialism” always seems to backslide into market capitalism, but also because their “socialisms” are bureaucratic class societies unto themselves with subjugated working classes and separate bureaucratic ruling classes, completely annihilating the entire point of Marxism in the first place, and even worse using the rhetoric of Marxism to justify their rule and prejudicing generations of workers against Marxism, making them even more reactionary than usual capitalist or other ruling classes.
It takes total self-delusion to believe that the repressive apparatuses in the USSR, PRC, and other authoritarian socialist states wholesale weren’t used just against capitalist dissidents, but also against the working classes and their expressions of democracy and grievances, and once you admit that, you’ve introduced the only necessary seed of doubt. A class does not repress its own expressions of complaint so violently and cultishly out of self-government in times of harsh necessity, as the orthodox Trotskyists would suggest with the theory of the degenerated workers’ state or bureaucratic caste. No, it’s a bureaucratic ruling class: this type of repression occurs if a class is being held down by another class, and nothing more. And so describes the relationship between the proletariat and the bureaucratic ruling classes of the “red” states of history thus far.
STALINISM AND MAOISM ARE NOT SOCIALISM
THERE CAN BE NO UNITY BETWEEN SOCIALISM AND STALINISM
STALINISM AND MAOISM NOT ONLY BUILD BUREAUCRATIC RULING CLASSES, BUT REPRESSIVE DICTATORSHIPS THAT VIOLENTLY AND DECEPTIVELY REPRESS MARXISM, LABOR MOVEMENTS, AND DEMOCRACY MOVEMENTS
IF YOU BELIEVE IN NO-PLATFORMING FASCISTS ON DEMOCRATIC GROUNDS, YOU MIGHT ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU’RE NOT DOING THE SAME THING TO THE TANKIES WHO HIJACK THE COALITIONS, SECT BUREAUCRATS WHO PURGE, SLANDER, HARASS, AND OSTRACIZE OUR COMRADES, AND BOTH WHOM ENGAGE IN DIALOGUE ONLY IN BAD FAITH TO POSITION THEMSELVES AS DOMINANT WITHIN THE MILIEU
Back to people needing to shower, though. Of course how restrictive do we get with our judgmentalism? One person’s rejection of people who smell so bad we can’t have a meeting (not an exaggeration, this is a thing) might in other contexts turn out to be a yuppie prejudice against the plebs. One person’s rejection of sectarian psychos might turn out to be an authoritarian sect leadership rejection of rightful critics of group leaderships or Democrat sellout tendencies. One person’s disdain for the impracticality of certain anarchists might be an inappropriate respectability politics prejudiced against all rioting. Or actually some people might just really be so awful they need to be excluded, and maybe the expellers were correct. Having both expelled or banned others and been expelled myself, I have to retain a balanced view of it — some people just can’t be included, and in other cases it’s a shortcut against difficulties of inclusion that should be insisted on. It’s a tough call.