It is rare that American politics ever affords the communists a moment to laugh. Most often, when a bourgeois faction suffers a humiliating defeat, it regrettably occurs at the hands of another bourgeois faction, so rudely drowning out our quiet, spiteful chortling with the fanfare of yet another petty-bourgeois victory, one that the winning faction’s liberals will view as enduring, and one at which we will sigh and wait for its inevitable fall to a different iteration of liberalism. But the liberal-nationalists’ pathetic excuse for an insurrection at the Capitol combined with the liberal-democrats’ similarly inept excuse for a response left every player within this intra-petty bourgeois squabble without a semblance of victory, leaving none of that infernal fanfare around to drown out our uproarious laughter. Though we gain little from this impressive spectacle, we, unlike our bourgeois friends within the state apparatus, suffered no loss, and I see no better time than when the liberal-nationalists and the liberal-democrats sit aside to lick their wounds to discuss what happened (or more accurately, didn’t happen), why its results do not concern us so much as does the state of affairs it represents, and, the time honored question our comrade Vladimir Lenin once so simply and memorably posed, what is to be done?
I cannot in good conscience proceed without enumerating a disclaimer: I am personally and individually quite relieved that the liberal-nationalists failed to accomplish their goal of keeping their representative president, however impossible this outcome may have been. This essay in no way means to diminish the fear, satisfaction, or relief someone may feel as a result of this event and its outcome. Being myself a transgender Jew, I did not in fact enjoy seeing the Nazi slogans and symbology used by the rioters. I do not suggest that a communist cannot have a personal moral inclination towards liberal-democracy over liberal-nationalism. However, I do suggest that these morals are objectively nothing more than ideology, disseminated by the bourgeois state apparatus, to which I am not immune. Though I would not object to a moral castigation against the particular vileness of January 6th’s bourgeois band of boogaloo boys, such tirades have no place in scientific analysis, which is what I aim to accomplish today.
I also would be remiss to go further without extending my utmost gratitude towards the Black Lives Matter movement that took the United States by storm in the wake of the police state’s vicious and bloodthirsty murder of George Floyd. Though not explicitly socialist, BLM is undeniably proletarian in character, and represented a serious threat to bourgeois state power at its peak. I posit that, were it not for their anti-racist, anti-policing praxis, many more so-called American leftists would be cheering for the police’s “response” to the situation, than are today. BLM has permanently linked white supremacy to policing, and policing to the bourgeois state in the minds of the American public. This cultural hegemony now bears the sweetest of fruit. Where the events of September 11th, 2001 rallied America’s collective population to the side of the bourgeois state, those of January 6th, 2021 left them dazed, confused, and looking for answers. It falls to us to provide them.
The answer to our first question, “what happened?” (yes, I know), can be summarized in a word: nothing. Its alternative form, “what didn’t happen?” can be answered in a similar word: anything. Yes, I’m aware that four petty bourgeois reactionaries and a police officer (that is to say five petty bourgeois reactionaries) died (some hilariously!). Yes, I’m aware that this quarrel posed a threat to the lives of elected officials. And yes, I’m aware that white supremacist symbols tend to induce fear in many groups (that ominous flag above the Capitol building certainly terrified me). We are not examining the observable effects of this spectacular clash today, but rather its material consequences. Did this event change the course of history in any way? Well, since, as our comrade Louis Althusser declared, class struggle is the motor of history, and this struggle occurred WITHIN the petty bourgeoisie, no, it certainly did not. Arguably, it had little to no effect even within its own realm, but we are unconcerned of this. A section of the liberal bourgeoisie, puppeteering and puppeteered by liberal ideology, struck against another section of the liberal bourgeoisie, puppeteering and puppeteered by the same liberal ideology. Yes, even their own unique ideologies are indistinct from one another. The insurrectionist faction presents as primarily liberal-nationalist, yet justifies its struggle with liberal-democracy! Their entire “rationale” (don’t laugh!) for planning their little adventure centered around a bizarre notion that the bourgeois election on November 3rd, 2020 was somehow rigged in favor of the challenger, and their chants clamoring for democracy did drown out their outright white supremacism. No, it does not matter whether or not they are lying! They cry out for democracy, therefore disseminating democratic ideology along with white supremacism. Conversely, the repressive faction presents as defenders of the Capitol, a gaudy, wretched idol to the god of liberal democracy if one existed. And yet, those involved in the physical struggle of defending democracy against the insurrectionists were the Police, an explicitly and undeniably white supremacist institution. And it does not matter what THEY believe deep down either! They, like the rioters, disseminate a coagulated, caustic, and confounding witch’s brew of the liberal principles of democracy and white supremacism. These two gangs of hooligans, each more wretchedly bourgeois than the other, cannot be considered distinct from one another even by the ideology they disseminate, let ALONE by their effects on history. That is not to say we must treat all bourgeois ideology as a single amorphous blob in practice. Of course we must modify our hegemony to directly target the weaknesses of the particular iteration of liberalism being at that moment disseminated most primarily; amorphous blobs do change shape at times. But before we split hairs over our specific political program, we must dispel the notion that any kind of liberalism is “better” than another, as all are fundamentally indistinguishable. As such, the only thing we witnessed at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021 was what can only be described as a sentient, semi-mobile blob of viscous slime. Mouthless, formless, and aimless, it can do nothing but collapse in on itself, rendered horrified and insane by the contradiction of its own existence.
Please allow me a tangent before I make my final thesis. I would assure you of its brevity, but why don’t you read it and decide that for yourself?
Because of bourgeois ideology’s nature as an amorphous blob of various pieces, one thing must tie them together, the one point of unity that can group together as a united whole even the bitterest of enemies: hatred of the other one. This is a paradox; how is that which unites these pieces also the reason they fight each other? To prove this I’ll ask you to imagine a pair of competing amateur wrestlers. It is a fair match, and both participants desire to win and for their opponent to lose. Yet as they wrestle, they become what seems like a single mass of flesh. They are united by their struggle, even if earnestly and honestly waging said struggle to defeat their respective opponent, with whom they congeal into not wrestlers, but a single wrestling. Though sections of the bourgeoisie can claim with complete earnestness that they strive to defeat another section, the simple truth is that a bourgeois faction fighting other bourgeois factions permanently creates an entity characterized by their fighting. We are not instrumentalists; we do not reduce class contradictions to a cabal of elites orchestrating their conflicts in a room! Members of the bourgeoisie absolutely have the capacity to genuinely loathe one another, but the effect of their loathing amounts to their absorption into the intra-bourgeois quarrel. Only inter-class struggle, struggle between classes, drives forward change in the real relations which govern society, making it the motor of history. The bourgeoisie’s internal struggles occur between those citizens with the same relations to production, meaning that the outcome will reproduce the same production relations. This reveals that the bourgeoisie’s internal struggles have no independent finality; they cannot reach an END because they do not move TOWARDS one. New wrestlers will show up to challenge a reigning, aging champion, and because no conflict occurs beyond the wrestler class, wrestling will continue forever. The only circumstances, therefore, around which the bourgeoisie ceases its infighting are as a last resort against the threat of a proletarian victory. We have seen glimpses of this, notably after our dear social-democratic comrade Friedrich Ebert deployed reactionary militias, the freikorps, to execute that dangerous Bolshevik Rosa Luxemburg in 1919, or the industrialists’ similar use of the Ku Klux Klan to break strikes and intimidate Black Americans interested in communism. In regards to the latter, I have every confidence that should an American proletarian movement come into its own, we will see similar collusion between capitalists and groups of the Proud Boys’ ilk (or perhaps not, given our perfectly functional extant white supremacist paramilitary force). It is worth mentioning another circumstance in which a country’s bourgeoisie unites: an imperialist world war…. against another country’s bourgeoisie. However all this represents is a new way of sectioning off the conflict, wherein the competing factions fight not based on their particular brand of bourgeois ideology, but based on competing nationalisms (oh wait, those are also brands of bourgeois ideology). To extend our wrestling metaphor, perhaps our opponents enjoy a bit of theatrics despite their long term desire to defeat the other. Maybe they engineer a twist in which foreign wrestlers enter the ring and tag team them, forcing them to put aside their differences to the surprise and raucous cheering of the audience. This does not pose a threat to wrestling. No, the only circumstances which prompt these bourgeois wrestlers to actually unite are existential threats, say, a non wrestler entering the stadium and shooting both wrestlers with a machine gun. The only class able to provide an analogously existential threat to bourgeois existence happens to be our good friend the organized proletariat. Once they have defeated those threats, however (as they have done unsuccessfully thus far), they return to their squabbles. The Freikorps enabled the rise of the Nazi party, which banned, jailed, and killed the Social-Democrats not decades after their tentative alliance against Luxemburg’s Spartacists. The United States’ haute bourgeoisie, after seeing the threat of the workers’ movement stabilize, did not intervene on behalf of their reliable KKK once the government finally decided they were more trouble than they were worth. They will temporarily cease their kicking and screaming when and only when a threat to BOTH of them rears its head, and will return to their nonsense upon defeating it. It would seem then that the only thing that can end bourgeois infighting is an end of the bourgeoisie as an entity. If ending bourgeois infighting = ending the bourgeoisie, perform a little basic algebra, and you have in front of you the equation: bourgeois infighting = the bourgeoisie as an entity, proving tautologically that the one thing that describes the bourgeoisie as a whole is bourgeois infighting. As long as that odious class exists, it will mindlessly and endlessly fight itself. We should concern ourselves with the state of their pointless battles when it impacts how we must approach particular situations. But on the whole, we must not pretend that any pseudopod of that worthless amoeba makes our victory easier. As Friedrich Engels said, “On the eve of the revolution all the forces of reaction will be against us under the banner of ‘pure democracy.’” It is useless to say that any faction of the bourgeoisie, be they social-liberal, democratic-liberal, or nationalist-liberal, will bend to proletarian will more easily than will another, because on the day of the final drama in the streets and in the fields, we will be fighting all three. There is no avoiding that.
What does this mean for our little insurrection? Well, bourgeois squabbles have no consequence, and surely this falls into that category. But it is less that it has no consequence at all so much as it has no new consequences. We can observe that individual bourgeois spats represent no direct turning points, because they do not. However, bourgeois spatting as a whole has a constant effect: the dissemination of ideology into the working class, unable to see past the next traumatizing day. The American proletariat does not offer even the feeblest of resistances to the ideology the bourgeoisie beams directly into his brain, nor should we expect as such! This isn’t to suggest that proletarians are stupid animals, but that they largely haven’t the time, resources, or inclination to give the ideology a second thought. Far-right militants are storming the Capitol? Jesus, sure glad that Biden guy is setting things back to normal (an abject and believable lie), a waitress might think on the drive to her second shift that day. I heard one night on FOX something about Democrats stealing the election? Hm, sure am glad someone’s doing something about that, (equally dishonest, and equally believable) a janitor might mutter, rendered mostly apathetic about the whole thing by an order to clean up a new mess. Then, they’ll both go home, drink a few drinks, perhaps feed their opiate addiction, and have boring sex with their significant others. What do they care? They’ll take in the few pieces of information they have the time to synthesize, and then do their civic duty and vote every 4 years based on those, unless they forget, which to most people is actually nothing to get bent out of shape about. Spectacles such as that at the Capitol have no material effect but a substantial explosion of indistinct liberalism. Who can say whether the working masses seeing a given spectacle would turn towards a particular iteration of bourgeois ideology? They will simply cling to whatever belief grants their poor souls a glimmer of hope! Hope that things might return to a better normal, or hope that an awful normal might change for the better. Hope to which liberalism promises everything, and hope to which liberalism will deliver the only thing it can: nothing, except, that is, for more liberalism. And the working class remains trapped in a labyrinth from which there exists no carved out escape. Every new political party ushers in an economic crash, every young, idealistic politician seems to carry with him tidings of unemployment, every mass reform movement unaware of the inflation crisis creeping up from behind it. And the cruelest thing? These tragedies have no perpetrator whatsoever, leaving the poor, innocent workers shouting in the dark at themselves, each other, or at best, a vague image of a corrupt official or businessman. They feed their formless rage to whatever new iteration promises to shake things up, only for them to unsurprisingly fail in their heroic quest to vanquish the contradictions within capital without vanquishing capital itself. Bourgeois ideology fails. Its failure brings the fiery, embittered rage out of those struggling the most. They latch onto a new ideology promising something, be it stability, change, freedom, or even a preservation of their racial status. The proletariat, traumatized by his own materiality, seeks out a new fantasy, a new imaginary friend through which he can feel like a rights-bearing, dignity deserving human-being once again! And then this friend will try to help. He may last a day. He may last 20 years. But he will not solve capitalism, because capitalism cannot be solved by the bourgeoisie. They will continue to squabble and the workers will continue to die, two realities which we can see spiral out of control when capitalism lay on the brink of failure. What the heightened impressiveness and frequency of the bourgeois spectacles, like Which leaves us the burning, century-old question: What is to be done?
Sadly, it would appear that the only means we have of ending this childish schoolyard fight is to take away the toy over which the bourgeois students bite and scratch: state power. When we, the timid proletarian nursery maid, contemplate trying this, we may balk at the prospect of subduing the rabid mass of paste-eaters, now united against us over their common goal: keeping the toy from us; at least that way ONE of them will get it. And after that, they’ll go back to their biting and scratching, intermittently attempting to convince our weary mind of the other children’s excessive roughness. Our instinct is to take one of them at face value and soothe the throbbing in our collective skull by taking a side, and deciding little Jimmy deserves a turn more than little Billy does for no particular reason at all. But we must resist that instinct. We must take the crumbs and scraps the hideous bourgeoisie throws in our face and throw them right back. Those of us with the means and drive to reject bourgeois ideology must forge ahead first; we cannot expect the most oppressed and unprivileged among us to put their basic necessities and safety at risk without doing the same ourselves! We must forge a communist party, an expression of proletarian state power, as well as a network of communist ideological apparatuses, each a dynamo of proletarian ideology. We shall share with all our oppressed comrades both the ideological drive to crush the bourgeois slime under foot through the latter, and the means to do so in the former. We will build both, and we will do so invariantly.
The Black Panther Party, the most powerful revolutionary vanguard in the history of the United States, fell to both ideological contamination and physical repression. There is no trick, no secret ingredient, no one attribute that formidable organization lacked which would have rocketed it to victory. There is only consistent discipline, and stringent invariance. And we must possess those qualities uncompromisingly enough to face down the might of the strongest country the world has ever seen. Are you ready? I will answer for you. If you number among the oppressed, then yes. You are ready. With an obligatory call to action tying this rather morbid piece together, I shall leave you with these words, now approaching two centuries in age, but always and forever our first and only principle: workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!
P.S., Since I am in a gracious mood, I will offer our bourgeois friends on both sides of the proverbial aisle a few equally apt words as well: we only need to be lucky once. You need to be lucky every time.