Internationalism for the 21st Century

Date: 28 August 2022

Author: Michael C.

Tags: N. America, Internationalism

Communism, and the work of Communists, rests on the foundations established by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Part of this foundation now re-capturing the attention of the radicalizing masses, is internationalism

Oxford English Dictionary:




"the internationalism of popular music"

In his Principles of Communism (1847), Engels writes that “[b]y creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth… into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others… It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range.” This is the basis of Communist internationalism: that, by virtue of the internationalization (globalization) of economic relations drawing the working and oppressed peoples of the world together, so too the great revolution that will propel humanity from Capitalism to Communism will, necessarily, be international in character. 

Exactly seven decades later, a new element would come to the fore with the publication of V. I. Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, in which Lenin lays out the socioeconomic realities of imperialism as they had developed out of the internationalization noted by Marx and Engels in what they described as the “civilized” countries of America, England, France, and so on. Lenin’s analysis was informed by the outbreak of the first World War in 1914, which essentially ended the Second International because they were not equipped to answer the question of applying Marxism to the unfolding situation; in many countries, Marxists fell to what Lenin described as social-chauvinism — “socialism in words, chauvinism in deeds… the utter betrayal of socialism, complete desertion to the side of the bourgeoisie.

Two points here become important to highlight. The first, that just as Marx and Engels correctly formulated the international character of revolution — in essence, that market globalization was the primary contradiction facing the world, or particularly Europe at that time — so too Lenin and Stalin correctly formulated imperialism as the primary contradiction of their time, and national liberation — anti-imperialism — as a key for furthering the revolution. The second, that anti-imperialism, a favorite buzzword of many contemporary social-chauvinists, may be understood not as a standalone principle applying to anything the west dislikes, but rather specifically as the expression of internationalism; that anti-imperialism is to internationalism what solidarity is to class consciousness, as well as an extension thereof. This necessarily means internationalism, anti-imperialism, and rejection of social-chauvinism, being key components of Marxism-Leninism. 

Stalin, Mao, and other revolutionary leaders and thinkers throughout the 20th and 21st century have continued this line of analysis, including most notably contributions dispelling notions of eurocentrism and class reductionism some deviated towards from earlier so-called “orthodox” interpretations of Marxism. The emphasis on developments in the imperialized nations is crucial for the struggle today, and the position of western imperialist hegemony as the primary contradiction facing the world. The Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc could only advance so far while in a state of all-but-open conflict with the imperialist powers, and languished under a prolonged, multi-generational siege. The ongoing developments of China, Vietnam, and Laos present an alternative model, whereby revolutionary forces have been able to maintain their liberated status without facing the same outright siege conditions — which rely heavily on anti-imperialist solidarity, and a principled, but pragmatic, application of Marxist principles to real-world material conditions. The survival of liberated northern Korea, and Cuba, in spite of the siege conditions which they have faced for decades, much like the Soviet Union, comes down almost entirely to the resolve of the people of those places and the anti-imperialist solidarity they have received. 

For Communists operating in the imperial core today, it thus becomes abundantly clear that our purpose is to raise up the working and oppressed peoples trapped here with class consciousness and solidarity, as well as at all times linking the domestic struggle for freedom and liberation with internationalism and anti-imperialism. Communists are faced with the following situation: that until imperialist oppression is broken, the international revolutionary movement cannot reasonably progress to the next stage of development; simultaneously, imperialist oppression can only be broken by way of domestic revolutionary action, which necessarily requires international revolutionary support. This is the nature of the primary contradiction, and the primary source for this contradiction in the world today is the United States. 

Anti-Imperialism, and Marxism-Leninism, are not trifling matters of fashion or fancy; one is not merely anti-imperialist because they call themselves such, nor are they Marxist-Leninist simply because they wish it to be true. To be an anti-imperialist is to be, whether knowingly or not, a Marxist-Leninist; to be a Marxist-Leninist necessarily means to reject social-chauvinism, and not only embrace, but actively ally with, and support, the liberation of all oppressed peoples and nations. In other terms, this means praxis; practical work with material impact towards furthering real-world goals. Communists active in the United States today have no shortage of potential avenues for struggle; from mass-organizations, such as the Marxist-Leninist Reading Hub and Claudia Jones School for Political Education which focus on educating the masses, and Friends of Swazi Freedom which focuses on raising up the democratic revolution against the Mswati autocracy, to overtly political formations such as the Communist Party, Freedom Road, and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, to union organizing and salting efforts, to IFCO/Pastors for Peace organizing friendshipment caravans against the imperialist embargo of Cuba, to local mutual aid initiatives, and so on. There is no shortage of work needing to be done and more hands are always needed. The Communist, Marxist-Leninist, anti-imperialist of today steps up to the tasks at hand and places themself firmly in the struggle wherever they may be needed.

In a previous article regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States — a crime against humanity which the ruling class would politely like the rest of us to forget about — the author shared a common slogan: an attack against one of us is an attack against all. There is a second part to that slogan: none of us are free until all of us are. Reactionary nationalisms and social-chauvinism have never been, and will never be, conducive to the work of building socialism. Socialism in one country, more than a lowly matter of niche theoretical interest, is geopolitical reality. Not only in one country, but five. As Chairman Mao said, we must support whatever the enemy opposes, and oppose whatever the enemy supports. We as Communists must stand in unapologetic solidarity with the imperialized and liberated peoples of the world while also opposing the reactionary nationalisms of the oppressors and their running dogs. Many self-declared anti-imperialists have shown themselves incapable of grasping this difference, and in the process have fallen into the error of social-chauvinism; such was the bane of the Second International. Rather than merely repeating the same errors and failed lines of the previous century, it is time for the Communist movement to once again press ahead, and once again usher in a new stage of socialist development towards global revolution and the inevitable triumph of Communism.