BY JOSÉ CARLOS MARULANDA
We’ve all been to communist meetings where one-foot-in-the-grave white people made up the majority in attendance.
They’re stepping up their game, too. Not too long ago, I was invited by young Black activists to a communist meeting only to find the ghost-like feeble militants creeping around in the shadows — pulling the strings, of course.
It has to be admitted that communism in the West needs urgent updating. Not only in terms of its age and racial makeup, but also its outdated ideas about class struggle.
It’s precisely their stubborn adherence to an out-of-date version of communist ideology that keeps younger people and people of color from joining, pushing them towards more liberal tendencies.
The idea of a universal working class continues to dominate communist narratives in the West, sweeping important nuances under the rug. One of the most obvious defects is the question of race and racism. Whenever racism is even mentioned, Western communists are quick to dismiss it as a tactic used by the ruling classes to “divide the workers.”
The racism and chauvinism that is so common within the white working class in the West is misleadingly explained away as “ignorance” and a “lack of class consciousness.” The real material benefits and privileges that are at stake and that lie at the root of white supremacist attitudes in imperialist countries are completely ignored or even denied.
Tied to their basic understanding of race and racism, many First World communists, like liberals, continue to believe that white people, too, can be victims of racism. Their racial-imperialist privilege does not allow them to see that racism today is much more complex than name calling and simple prejudice of one’s skin color.
This inability of understanding race, racism and its imperialist underpinnings also means that non-white people are used by communists, just like all other leftists and liberals in the West do, as token members who rarely assume leadership positions.
The obvious disdain for the Global South and its diaspora in the West is not just limited to patronizing their low-ranking members and newspaper-selling foot soldiers either. Third World socialist leaders like Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Bolivian President Evo Morales, for example, are often even dismissed as mere “populists.” And it’s not just the openly Eurocentric and dogmatic Trotskyists who are guilty of this.
By maintaining this narrow and Eurocentric version of communism, Western communists help to obscure the material privileges that are being granted to the white working class (as well as a portion of diasporic communities) through the global capitalist divide in the distribution of wealth.
By downplaying and sometimes even denying Western economic parasitism, First World communists give the white working class credit for “achievements” which were really gained from stealing huge surplus value from workers in the Third World.
Tony Norfield, a British Marxist economist, demonstrated that the National Health Service, which the British left upholds as a working class achievement, was funded and maintained through Britain’s colonial economy after WWII. This was done by effectively looting their colonies before their independence. This is just one example of how the Western capitalist core has “compromised” with its working classes, giving them social concessions funded by imperialism and guaranteeing peace between them.
Communist groups in the West have claimed that the above analysis of today’s global capitalist structure is “revisionist.” The reality is, however, that there’s nothing more revisionist than denying the existence of a global capitalist divide and the imperialist handouts given to the West’s working classes. Ironically, the concessions given to the working class in the West has helped to water down communism there, detectable in their evermore reformist demands.
The failure to properly address the racial hierarchy and geographic divide that exists within capitalism only helps to discourage people of color in the West from studying Marxism and joining the communist movement.
The accusations by liberal and identity politics activists that Marxism and communism are inescapably Eurocentric is inaccurate. But if this revolutionary science is to capture the minds and spirit of the diasporic masses, then it must be seized from the decrepit hands that wish to hoard and harm it.
ANTICONQUISTA, the African People’s Socialist Party and our comrades at Anti-Imperialism.org are proof that communism is not just for dusty old white people who cling on to its 19th Century form. The diaspora and genuine communists in the West are marching swiftly toward reunification with the Third World to bring about a world-wide communist revolution.