03-11-2021: Speaking at the Valdai International Discussion Club at Sochi in late October, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the woke ideology sweeping Western countries, and warned about the consequences. Conflating a number of issues, Putin erroneously compared the actions of today’s woke absurdities with the momentous upheaval brought about in Russia in 1917 through the October Revolution, which led to the construction of the world’s first workers state – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Pioneered at the time by the Bolsheviks, a former faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), the October Revolution changed the course of world history in favour of working and oppressed people. It broke the chains of both feudalism and capitalism and drove forward world history. Despite employing the rhetoric of progressive values, the woke “left” of today are foot soldiers of the very oppression they falsely claim to be combatting.
Wokeism is reactionary, not progressive
During the fraudulent Covid-19 “pandemic”, the Western ruling classes enacted immense political repression against working people. The objective of lockdowns during 2020 and 2021 was not “public health”, but an attempt to restart the faltering economic system of private production for private profit. It was at this time that woke ideology most clearly demonstrated its reactionary underpinnings. Through organisations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), Antifa and the lockdown left, woke functionaries aided and assisted the very imperialist ruling classes they feign to condemn by helping to enforce lockdowns alongside ultra-conservative Trade Union officials. It is hardly an exaggeration to state that the woke left joined with corporate politicians politically and ideologically, and enlisted as physical auxiliaries to the security forces of the capitalist state. The fact that they themselves believed their actions to be “left-wing” is immaterial to what occurred in reality.
President Putin is, however, correct to condemn the woke left for claiming to fight against racism, while in practice aggravating and perpetuating what are superficial “racial” physical characteristics. In his speech at Sochi, he acknowledged the fight against racism is a lofty goal, but in the hands of woke activists it becomes “cancel culture”, and can therefore drive people apart – whereas true fighters for civil rights in earlier times were fighting to eliminate such differences. By using a hyper-focus on race, the woke left in fact reconstruct the very barriers that genuine civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s fought so hard to bring down. Whether they were aware of it or not, during 2020 the woke left were being manipulated largely by the forces of the “deep state”, who in the USA were not at all “fighting racism”, but rather doing everything possible to ensure that then President Donald Trump did not win a second term in office. It is a matter of record that to achieve this, the woke left engaged in rioting, looting and burning across the USA for six months.
Needless to say, burning, looting and rioting in the name of “anti-racism” cannot be part of efforts to break down the racism that historically had been an unfortunate part of the founding of the US, and other colonial settler states such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In fact, any “anti-racism” which in practice reinforces the pillars of liberal capitalism (via the Democrats in the US, the Labour Parties in Australia, the UK, New Zealand etc), strongly buttresses the very imperialism which produced colonial racism in the first place. This is most evident in the fact that the woke left do not at all oppose the imperialist wars of the US Empire. In fact, they strongly backed Washington’s wars of regime change against Libya and Syria, and remain as silent as a church door mouse on the Pentagon’s New Cold War against the People’s Republic of China (PRC). To be “anti-racist” in any way, militant opposition to every facet of imperialism is a base prerequisite – yet wokeism is consistently relied upon to justify and/or apologise for Wall Street’s gears of war.
President Putin displays a stunning level of misunderstanding when he equates the actions of the woke “left” today with the Marxism which animated the Bolsheviks in the years leading up the October Revolution in 1917. At Sochi he declared that the Bolsheviks in their time were “absolutely intolerant of other opinions, different from their own”, and drew a parallel with today’s woke “left” who use intimidation and the threat of violence to disbar classical authors such as Shakespeare from the curriculum of modern universities. Yet a simple glance at the history of the Bolsheviks will reveal that as Marxists they did not at all discount, let alone attempt to “cancel”, any element of bourgeois culture which was historically progressive. In fact, when there was a suggestion that a supposedly proletarian culture could be created as a result of the 1917 revolution, VI Lenin, the unchallenged leader of Bolsheviks at the time, took swift measures to block such ideas. In 1920, Lenin drafted a resolution for the Central Committee which stated in no uncertain terms that Marxism had won its place as the ideology of the working class because it does not reject the most valuable achievements of the previous bourgeois epoch, nor indeed the previous 2000 years of class society. As such, a proletarian or socialist culture could only be constructed by studying and then expanding on the works of the classical scholars of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In stark contrast to today’s BLM/Antifa/lockdown woke left, the Bolsheviks in their time never stood for a cancel culture.
President Putin is doubly off-target to compare the trail-blazing advances for women and the family implemented by the Bolsheviks post 1917 to the nihilistic identity politics of today’s woke left. In 1918, the Bolsheviks suspended the old Tsarist laws, under which homosexuals (or “sodomites”) could be arrested and sent to prison camps for years. By 1922, the first Soviet criminal code was adopted which deliberately excluded “sodomy”. Notably, after the Bolsheviks had been decisively defeated by the rising bureaucracy headed by Stalin, this caste recriminalised homosexuality in the Soviet Union from 1933. Arguably, the Stalinist reversal of early Bolshevik policy on sexualities led to the partially anti-homosexual attitudes in Russia today under President Putin. Yet the overturn of centuries of feudal oppression of homosexuals in Russia via October 1917 is a world away from the forcible in-your-face LGBTIQ advocacy of the woke left in the 21st century.
President Putin indulges in wild mischaracterisation when he claimed in Sochi that the Bolsheviks where not just about nationalising property, but about nationalising women. How this is even possible – by socialists or capitalists – is anyone’s guess. In fact, the Bolsheviks were among the first spearheads of equality for men and women. In Tsarist Russia, women were seen as little more than men’s slaves, who in fact had the legal right to beat their wives. Little more than 1 in 10 women were literate, and oppressive family relations were bound up with the church. Under this situation, women were solely responsible for the care of those within the household. The victory of the October Revolution turned all this upside down. The Bolsheviks immediately abolished all laws that disadvantaged women vis-à-vis men. The Church and state were separated, marriage became a process of civil registration. Property laws were changed to allow women to own property, which undermined the family as an economic unit of capitalist society. Free access to abortion services was introduced as a right for women. Children were regarded as equal, whether born in or out of wedlock. In short, the Bolsheviks did NOT “nationalise” women. Instead, they implemented the first steps towards their liberation.
Identity cannot be forced
Putin also made some partially correct observations that transgender identities should not in any way be forced upon children, without the knowledge of their parents or guardians. It is evident that young children should not be overtly pushed towards identifying with an opposite or a different gender, regardless of the views of their families. Of course, there is no reference here to any supposed connection between the Bolsheviks of the early 20th Century and the woke left of today. Transgender issues at that time existed but did not become widely known in society until a century later. The notion that Marxism backs undue pressure towards identifying as another gender, let alone undertaking medical treatment or surgery in line with this, is inane. In a class divided society, real progress is active struggle for the abolition of the basic element of capitalist oppression – the exploitation of working people through the appropriation of surplus value. While non-binary or opposite gender identities should not be the basis for any discrimination, transgender identity politics is not progressive. Marxism seeks to eliminate gender oppression through the working-class struggle for liberation from capitalist wage slavery and the division of the world into vastly unequal states.
This is precisely what is out of bounds for today’s woke left. It should be noted that BLM and Antifa have all but disappeared from the political scene in 2021, almost to the minute from the time of the coup which installed Democratic party hack Joe Biden into the White House. Former President Trump, despite some of his conservative political views, was so popular that months of rioting being blamed on his administration was not enough to turn millions of American workers away. Now with Biden in charge, BLM, Antifa and the lockdown woke left have little of substance to say, or to offer. This is because liberalism has reached an end point, given that capitalism in 2021 has no space for economic reforms. The woke “left” (who cannot seriously be described as left given their fealty to the prevailing system) therefore focus exclusively on moral identity issues such as race, gender, sexuality etc., because as liberals they have no fundamental disagreement with the capitalist socio-economic formation. They are not for socialism of any sort, and nor do they oppose imperialism.
Mr Putin castigates Marx and Engels, the Bolsheviks, and even the USSR for “dogma” and dangerous fanaticism, yet he himself is a product of just that. Despite the distortions of Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration from 1924, the USSR provided each of its citizens with healthcare, housing and education entirely free from cost. Putin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), grew up in state provided housing, and graduated from Leningrad State University with a law degree in 1975. He began a career in intelligence with the KGB and was mainly stationed in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany, or DDR) until 1990. That is to say, whatever form of socialism which existed in the USSR until 1991, few aside from Mr Putin benefited so handsomely from it. He was born, raised, educated and trained entirely at the expense of the state which he now derides as a terrible page in his country’s history. What is more, it was a state which despite subsequent events, was established via a revolution which would not have succeeded were it not for the uprising of millions of Russians against feudal absolutism, led by a workers’ party with substantial knowledge of Marxism.
Further, nor can Mr Putin entirely distance himself from the wokeism he seeks to scold. The woke left were the most vociferous advocates of scientifically unjustifiable lockdowns and facemasks in response to “Covid”, and Putin as head of the Russian government did implement a nationwide lockdown at the start of 2020 which economically crippled the country. In August 2020, Putin announced that Russia had approved the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, which subsequently was named Sputnik V. Granted, the Sputnik V did not use the deadly mRNA technology, such as the West’s Pfizer and Moderna Covid injections, and was rather a so-called vector vaccine. Nonetheless, Mr Putin unapologetically led the worldwide charge for the “worse than useless” vaccines which were a deadly ruse for Big Pharma to plunder the treasuries of many states worldwide. Arguably, both the woke left and Mr Putin were well aware of the “need” to save capitalism internationally through the devastation of forced lockdowns, facemasks and vaccines. To this end, the woke left and Mr Putin are not at all adversaries – they are political blood brothers.
Despite the need to defend Russia against NATO and other components of Anglo/US imperialism, neither Mr Putin nor the Russian government can be political allies in the struggle for socialism. The same goes for the woke left, who committed the most egregious class betrayal in history by strongly defending imperialism as it imposed horrific political repression in the form of lockdown fascism. What is required are genuine vanguard parties, which seek to emulate the world historic victory secured by the Bolsheviks over capitalism in October 1917. The central leadership of V.l.Lenin and L.D. Trotsky was crucial in injecting the Marxist program with flesh and blood, which fired the first shot in the battle to liberate workers from wage slavery and the yoke of capital once and for all.
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