The neostalinist revival

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spartakus25's picture
spartakus25
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Jan 7 2020 06:56
The neostalinist revival

I don't know if this is a trend that is unique to my country (Brazil) but I have seeing a strong stalinist movement in the internet that evolves relatively popular youtubers disseminating the old bullshit about the historical '' necessity 'of the forced industrialization with all its causalities and horrors in the Stalinist era. Succinctly that stalinist revival assert nationalism and productivism as the ideological backbone while it takes the nation-state as the only subject capable of making historical changes.

If that movement gets bigger and relevant, this would be a huge retrogression for the radical left; is as if the left had doesn't learn at all about the soviet collapse.

Mike Harman
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Jan 7 2020 08:00

It's not unique to Brazil. The US has PSL and WWP, originally splits from Trotskyism in the '50s, that now attract a tonne of young internet Stalinists

this was written by an ex-PSL member: https://libcom.org/library/where-s-winter-palace-marxist-leninist-trend-...

This thread on a split from the WWP: https://libcom.org/forums/north-america/wwp-splitting-16072018

In the UK it's maybe not so pronounced, but there are young supporters of the CPGB-ML online, and also Red London.

A lot of the online tankie stuff clusters around the Max Blumenthal/Ben Norton grayzone project. They only lightly touch on historical defences of Stalin (although Norton specifically explicitly supports tanks putting down Hungary '56), but they will do things like defend China as 'socialist'.

There's also crossovr from some of this lot / group leadership into third positionism, or at least sharing platforms with them: https://libcom.org/library/investigation-red-brown-alliances-third-posit...

Battlescarred
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Jan 7 2020 12:31

https://itsgoingdown.org/new-zine-always-against-the-tanks/?fbclid=IwAR1...

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Jan 7 2020 13:31

in Berlin and to a certain extent in other German cities, a awful testosterone-fuelled stalinist sect called Jugendwiderstand (Youth Resistance) flourished for a few years, they dissolved in mid-2019, don't know if burn-out or the fear of state repression was the main reason: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_Resistance

R Totale's picture
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Jan 7 2020 22:08

Yeah, sadly "the old man being back again" is definitely not just a Brazilian thing. There's this thread that tried to look at them a bit, there's also a fair bit of discussion in the comments here: http://libcom.org/blog/everything-you-ever-wanted-know-about-tankies-wer...
I think I remember hearing of Jugenwiederstand/RK a little bit after they made themselves particularly obnoxious around Flensburg. In the UK case, I think they've tended to exist less as independent phenomenon and more that they've been able to exist as a tendency within the broad Corbynist milieu, encouraged by stuff like Corbyn writing for the Morning Star, longtime Stalinist Seamus Milne being one of his top advisors, etc... but I think I might be repeating points from the other "tankies" thread here.

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Jan 8 2020 09:23

It is incredibly strange, if you go on twitter and reddit these weirdos are everywhere. Most of them seem to be young, either in their teens or twenties, so there's a hope they'll grow out of it but it is still bizarre. Twitter has never been a great website but recently all you have to do is tweet something like "I don't particularly like Maduro" and a person with an anime avatar and North Korean flag emoji is there to call you racist in your mentions.

To add to the other examples people mention, in Australia there's been a slight growth of young people joining the Communist Party of Australia, which has fed into the split that led to the creation of the Australian Communist Party. Both are Stalinist.

I'm undecided as to whether all this represents some sort of totally new thing, or just a natural development of the already existing Stalinist forces in places like the US (and presumably Brazil). Eg the US has always had a bizarrely popular Maoist scene, but it was picked up on by obscure nerd subcultures like certain SomethingAwful boards which would snowball into stuff like "read Sakai" forced trends and "cool memes for Stalinist teens" type FB pages.

What is definitely new is the general burst of young people radicalised through the internet. They are, at least at first, quite syncretic and will do a sort of pick and mix from the menu of leftist ideologies to come up with something that seems appealing to them. eg if you go to a subreddit like r/anarchy101 (meant as forum to answer questions from beginners to anarchism) you will see lots of questions like "is syndicalism compatible with Bernie Sanders?". The questions get even stranger on the more niche subs where you will find people saying things like "I think Bakunin AND Stalin had valid ideas".

People interested in watching this petri dish develop can look at the r/ChapoTrapHouse or r/MoreTankieChapo subreddits to see what I mean. The first one used to be pretty good, you could have decent discussions. Now it's "we must give absolute unconditional support to Iran, if you disagree, fuck you" type of stuff.

Whilst we shouldn't overestimate the impact of Stalinist teenagers, I do think it's worrying that in left circles (for lack of a better word) anarchism seems to be in third place after social democracy and Stalinism.

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Jan 8 2020 11:43

From my experience "stalinists" just more overplay themselves while their sects are in reality very small and fragile. Most of these groups don't really give its members any experience in organizing or how to build internal democratic structures. Most of the younger people I've seen that have adopted "stalinism" seem pulled in through a mix of the popularization of breadtube and fighting with people on facebook.

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Jan 8 2020 19:55
sherbu-kteer wrote:
I'm undecided as to whether all this represents some sort of totally new thing, or just a natural development of the already existing Stalinist forces in places like the US (and presumably Brazil). Eg the US has always had a bizarrely popular Maoist scene, but it was picked up on by obscure nerd subcultures like certain SomethingAwful boards which would snowball into stuff like "read Sakai" forced trends and "cool memes for Stalinist teens" type FB pages.

Yeah, I guess that for those of us in the UK or Australia to some extent it's a combination of already-existing Stalinist/Maoist forces in the US combined with good old US cultural imperialism/hegemony, and the internet making it much easier for people to pick up on these kinds of US trends? Idk how far similar or different that is in Brazil though.

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Whilst we shouldn't overestimate the impact of Stalinist teenagers, I do think it's worrying that in left circles (for lack of a better word) anarchism seems to be in third place after social democracy and Stalinism.

I don't want to be complacent, or to understate how bad the situation is, but I suppose it is worth taking a long view and bearing in mind that that's where we were for a fair bit of the 20th century, or even in fourth place behind the Trots.

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Aug 20 2020 15:06

William Gillis has his thoughts on this here:

https://twitter.com/rechelon/status/1295131210897752064

I don't agree with his approach generally but he raises some good points. He's right that there seems to be a disconnect between the older generation of Stalinists and the newer crowd who have invented their own social circles out of nothing. You can compare it to Trotskyists, who are basically arranged in the opposite manner -- there are very few people who get radicalised towards Trotskyism via the internet, they usually go to a meeting on their campus or some shit and get recruited, so there's a significant degree of continuity.

The lack of continuity is probably a big reason why so many of the newer Stalinist outfits tend to not get very far, since their fellow members are less likely to be experienced in politics or have the historical knowledge that you get off older members in a movement.

Also, one thing I'm noticing is that a large amount of the angry Stalinists responding to him have anime profile pictures. These people are all "very online" for lack of a better phrase -- it makes me think Stalinism is attracting young social misfits in a similar manner to Neo-Nazis.

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Aug 20 2020 16:14

This is true in all groups, especially in post-2016 US left. DSA having to kick some police unionist of their NPC was probably unheard of before!

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Aug 20 2020 20:56

That thread, along with some of the related ones, is interesting, but I think I'm unconvinced by a lot of it. Like, I think it gets cause and effect the wrong way around to say that people deliberately chose to seek out a dead scene rather than getting involving in an existing one, I think it's more that the internet made it possible for people to learn about these ideas without having that connection to an existing real-life social space.
And even accepting the "seeking out something deliberately obscure to get status" explanation, it's still incomplete - after all, it must be even easier to be The Coolest Bordigist in Town or The Smartest DeLeonist You Know than it is to be the Marxist-Leninist top dog.
I also think that it's good to try and assume sincerity and a certain level of good faith, I don't think it's helpful to just write people off as "shallow, status-driven authoritarian trash", as if people who don't fit that profile will never be attracted to bad ideas.
For instance, when he says "In 2016 an activist group I was in was interviewing people looking to get involved and we found (to my comrades' shock) a number of fervent bloodthirsty tankies. Looking at their social media they were THREE MONTHS into being tankies. I mean literally we're talking about people who had been Bernie Bernie Bernie liberals and then the moment prospects for further standing in that scene fell out with the collapse of his campaign they turned on a dime and got into Stalin did nothing wrong, Castro's a hero, etc."
I'm not sure what that framing adds, why you need to assume their motivations are just about status, rather than "the moment it became clear that the Bernie campaign was not going to be a viable way to advance socialism or win any improvements they decided they needed a new approach." Like, I think it's generally better to try and approach those disagreements in a more generous spirit, although I appreciate that can be very difficult when dealing with people who say the most obnoxiously stupid shit possible all the time.
I did appreciate this image, which I'd not seen before:

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Aug 21 2020 04:40

One thing I'll add is that when this Breadtube thing started (a very loose network of vaguely left of centre youtube bloggers) I joined a pretty big and pretty active discord server attached to it. It was interesting and depressing, about 40 or so active users went from Chomsky fans, to hardline Stalin did nothing wrong its all lies types in about 6 months.

I decided to give up on the place once they all moved beyond Ben Norton and Grayzone and started unironically reading the works of Grover Furr, the bloke who has open connection to the Russian far right and has published books on how the soviet invasion of Poland never happened, and Stalin knew absolutely nothing about any of the bad things that happened while he was in charge.

The odd thing is though that isn't really a direct connection, I can't think of any of the big channels that even remotely lean in those directions, and the few channels I can think of that deal with Soviet denialism seem to have become active after the switch.

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Aug 21 2020 05:32

R Totale:

Being the Coolest Bordigist in Town would actually require some degree of serious study, seeing as his positions are a little out of the mainstream and have a lot of nuances. But, if you've browsed the reddit left communist forums you'll see that there are a number of people who want to become edgy left communists in the superficial way, but they just get slapped down hard by the other left communists. If they were Stalinists, the other Stalinists would just encourage them.

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Aug 21 2020 16:32
sherbu-kteer wrote:
R Totale:

Being the Coolest Bordigist in Town would actually require some degree of serious study, seeing as his positions are a little out of the mainstream and have a lot of nuances. But, if you've browsed the reddit left communist forums you'll see that there are a number of people who want to become edgy left communists in the superficial way, but they just get slapped down hard by the other left communists. If they were Stalinists, the other Stalinists would just encourage them.

Oh yeah, I get that serious study is required if you want to actually understand and practice it and be accepted by other Bordigists or whatever, I was just thinking in terms of Gillis' suggestion that people were just looking for a scene where they could be the biggest fish in a small pond, with no older/more experienced people around to gatekeep, and surely by that criteria it'd be just as possible in most places to set yourself up as the most knowledgeable leftcom around without really knowing much.
This is also making me realise that I don't really know much about how much gatekeeping/infighting goes on in Stalinist scenes - can you really just get away with saying whatever you want? What happens when you say you support something that someone else thinks is a fascist CIA psyop, or you disagree about whether Krushchev was a revisionist or whatever?

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Aug 21 2020 16:42

FWIW the Marxist Humanist Initiative has a few episodes on their podcast on this subject:

https://soundcloud.com/mhi-120639128/the-tankie-craze-ep-9
https://soundcloud.com/mhi-120639128/rfh-ep-13-the-tankie-craze-part-2
https://soundcloud.com/mhi-120639128/rfh-historian-rebuts-grover-furr

Worth a listen

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 22 2020 06:11

i think most of it is down to memes, and the incredibly simplicity of basing their positions on what would annoy an american conservative the most

virtually none of them know anything about history or political theory, what they do know is very heavily cherry picked

once someone from a conservative or liberal notices that america is bad its very easy to just swap what things are good and bad without changing world view at all

Rurkel
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Aug 23 2020 02:35
sherbu-kteer wrote:
R Totale:

Being the Coolest Bordigist in Town would actually require some degree of serious study, seeing as his positions are a little out of the mainstream and have a lot of nuances. But, if you've browsed the reddit left communist forums you'll see that there are a number of people who want to become edgy left communists in the superficial way, but they just get slapped down hard by the other left communists. If they were Stalinists, the other Stalinists would just encourage them.

There was a fair share of edgy leftcoms on Reddit back in the day, eager to deride "tankies, trots, succdems and anarkiddies". I presume they eventually became bored or were driven away?

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Aug 23 2020 09:39
Rurkel wrote:
There was a fair share of edgy leftcoms on Reddit back in the day, eager to deride "tankies, trots, succdems and anarkiddies". I presume they eventually became bored or were driven away?

I don't know whether or not there used to be more of them around but there are still about 100-200 active upvoters/downvoters on r/ultraleft. New posts every week - mostly comedy.

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Aug 23 2020 14:17

I don't know how far back "back in the day" is for you but the r/leftcommunism mods no longer tolerate the edgy kids, if they ever did before. Now the kids are locked in a weird master-servant relationship where they post dumb shit, those mods mock them, then they get embarrassed into silence and adopt the mods' criticisms as if they were their own. Then we wait until another kid posts dumb shit and the cycle continues

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Aug 23 2020 16:22
Rurkel wrote:

There was a fair share of edgy leftcoms on Reddit back in the day, eager to deride "tankies, trots, succdems and anarkiddies". I presume they eventually became bored or were driven away?

I don't really like Reddit much beyond a news wire and free deals thing, so I'm not really down on the community side of things, but I'm guessing they moved to twitter. The strange Bordigist meme posters and "I've spent the weekend reading obscure French sociologist cover to cover so I'm better than you all" types have always been around, but their numbers seem to have shot up recently, and the strange and bizarre twists and turns they take seem to have gotten worse.

wojtek
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Aug 24 2020 23:24

On stalinism among the Asian diaspora in the West:

The Qiao Collective and Left Diasporic Chinese Nationalism

Tankies! with Brian Hioe, New Bloom Magazine

The Korean-American variety seem to be apologists for N.Korea and deny South Korea's ascendency among other Asian countries. East Asian behaviour in SE Asia and Korean patriarchy don't seem important while E/SE Asian women are not permitted agency.

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Aug 25 2020 18:06

Cheers for the recommendation, since I wouldn't have found those on my own, and from a cursory look they look interesting in that they seem to be at least partially based on the experiences of people who've been through that milieu. Will try to give a fuller listen at some point.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
i think most of it is down to memes

Again I find myself thinking of how there was a certain point in the early 2010s when it sort of felt like lots of libertarian communists had decided "the USSR's been dead and buried for 20 years and no-one cares about it any more, so of course there's no problem with us just using 'communist' as a descriptor without modifiers/using hammer and sickle imagery/making gulag jokes or whatever, because there's no way anyone would think we really mean that", for instance with the Mao quote "combat liberalism" being a meme among 2011-era anarcho types. It just feels like there was an almost overnight switch between "of course you can use kitchy soviet Stalin/Mao memes because no-one really believes in Stalinism anymore" and "you should use kitchy soviet Stalin memes because Stalin was good".

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Sep 8 2020 13:16

https://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2020/08/31/independent-left-socialism-...

rather large exchange of comments about the WP Ireland which recently attracted some former WSM members

Mike Harman
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Sep 8 2020 15:14
Reddebrek wrote:
about 40 or so active users went from Chomsky fans, to hardline Stalin did nothing wrong its all lies types in about 6 months.

Chomsky in his career has done a lot of whataboutism. Thinking of his rebuttal to the black book of communism, where he relies on 'what about capitalism' rather than the fact contributors like Nicolas Werth tried to get the book withdrawn, or that it's attributing to 'communism' what was generally the result of capitalist development in the 19th and 20th centuries due to rural displacement etc.

Then you have someone like Michael Parenti (lots of youtube videos of his lectures, member of the committee to defend Slobodan Milosevic) come along and say Chomsky is pro-American because he doesn't actually deny every war crime that ever happened, and it seems easy for people to hop over to that. Combine this with the quite large infrastructure around projects like the Grayzone.