The website SystemicCapital.com recently conducted and posted this interview:
SystemicCapital.com (SC): What is the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM)?
Nikolai Brown (NB): RAIM is a Maoist (Third Worldist) cadre organization centered in occupied North America.
We are not a ‘party’ directly organizing for the seizure of power. Nor are we a ‘mass organization’ anyone can join.
RAIM exists for a few purposes. Our ‘primary task’ is promoting and developing opposition to First Worldism within nominally revolutionary movements. Another organizational task is building public opinion in support of a broad united front against imperialism, national liberation of oppressed nations, and revolutionary people’s wars. We also regularly oppose reactionary, pro-imperialist ideologies both inside and outside of the so-called ‘left.’
RAIM is ‘semi-clandestine’ and our work is done through a growing series of projects. Anti-Imperialism.com is probably the longest-running and best-known of our projects, but many others are carried out locally or without public association with RAIM. These projects are cadre-initiated and driven. Though projects often involve the coordination of many RAIM members, no single project represents the totality of our work. The closest exception to this is Seize the Time magazine, which is RAIM’s official news and theory outlet.
(SC): In Seize the Time, issue #4, you describe an “aloofness” in “typical Marxism” regarding the significance of the divide between rich over-developed countries and poor mal-developed countries. Could you elaborate on your experiences in interactions with these “typically” Marxist organizations? What do you believe is the most significant barrier traditional Marxists have to adopting a third-worldist analytical perspective?
(NB): Excellent question.
I typically describe this “aloofness” of “typical Marxism” as a “First Worldism.” First Worldism, at its base, in a flawed view of political economy whereby the average First World worker is deemed to be exploited. This flawed view of political economy lends itself to a chauvinistic or slavish line regarding the embourgeoisified First World masses. First Worldism implies First World ‘working’ and ‘middle’ classes are entitled under socialism to an even greater proportion of the social product than they currently receive.
This “aloofness” of today’s typical “Marxist” expresses itself in two ways. First is the lack of accurate understanding of imperialist political economy. Second is the denial of the importance of an accurate understanding of imperialist political economy.
In this second expression of aloofness, some, who might privately agree with us on the bare facts regarding the class structure of imperialism, disagree on its importance in the struggle for revolution. They may believe they can largely ignore a historical materialist interpretation of imperialism while nonetheless sufficiently organizing workers First World for revolution. This is mistaken.
Part of this error comes from an undeveloped or dogmatic reading of basic Marxist texts like the Communist Manifesto. Though it is fairly easy to tell Marx and Engels’ description of the 19th century proletariat does not fit the conditions of the working classes in imperialist centers, there is nothing in this basic text to suggest the development of a large class of net-exploiting workers. Marx and Engels state fairly clearly that the whole of society was dissolving into two antagonistic classes: the proletarian and the bourgeoisie. In retrospect, this interpretation turned out to be false. It is up to today’s non-dogmatic, ‘atypical’ Marxists, i.e. Third Worldists, to offer coherent explanations of significant structural developments.
Most of my experience with First Worldist Marxist organizations is as a Third Worldist organizer myself. This experience has been varied.
There is a common misconception that Third Worldists in the First World are against working with First Worldists. From our perspective, not only is the false but it would be tactically impossible (due to the hegemony of First Worldism).
Often we are able to find tactical unity with First Worldists, especially on the level of local projects and coalitions. This, of course, is done in the interest of promoting a more internationalist line. I can remember times in which myself and a prominent member of Workers World Party, which generally upholds both the broad united front against imperialism and the need for the seizure of state power, jointly struggled against liberalism and white chauvinism within the context of local protest organizing.
Other times we have come into confrontation with First Worldist Marxists. For example, myself and other Third Worldists in Denver recently ‘crashed’ a public meeting of the International Socialist Organization. Our goal was to challenge them on its support for the so-called Syrian ‘revolution.’ By the end of the meeting, we had done a great deal to locally discredit the position of the ISO organizers on this issue.
Generally RAIM supports unity of various forces, but only in principled ways and only to the end of revolution.
The biggest thing blocking more ‘Marxist’ support for Third Worldism is simply the latter’s newness as a distinct trend of political activism.
Prior to about five years ago, ‘Third Worldist’ was a term used by First Worldists and liberals to disparage their more internationalist opponents. Only very recently has the term taken on positive significance.
As the Third Worldist trend continues to build and expand demonstrable praxes in both First and Third World countries, I believe Third Worldism will see a tidal wave of popular and intellectual support. However, this will not be accomplished without serious Third Worldist work and our willingness to strategically struggle against First Worldism and imperialism. Mao has a great saying about this: “Dare to struggle! Dare to win!”
(SC): Let’s be specific to the United States for a minute. We have a weak left grounded in an incomplete, First Worldist theory. We have a labor aristocracy in decline. We have a poorly educated, religious, reactionary population. We are at the heart of the empire with a massive military industrial complex. We have worsening environmental and economiccrises. Aren’t we headed for an authoritarian fascistic government, our own Golden Dawn?
(NB): That’s a good question and I do not have a single solid answer..
What is fascism? Was it fascism when the U.S. exterminated millions of people during its first century of existence? Was it fascist when it rounded up the remaining survivors into ‘residential schools?’ Is it fascism today when the U.S. and NATO wage relentless drone campaigns, launch ground invasions, and fund proxy ‘rebel’ movements against regional adversaries, all the meanwhile with the quiet acquiescent support of ‘its’ constituent populations in the First World? Is it fascism when experimental medicines are routinely tested in the Third World?
Fascism has always been an ambiguous term, often used to describe the ‘most terroristic form of the rule of the bourgeoisie.’ Fascism is a fairly regular feature of the capitalist system, and aspects of the U.S. and wider imperialist system have been fascistic for quite some time.
But to address the question specifically. The danger in the U.S. lies in a movement to return to a bygone ‘golden’ era of national supremacy and prestige. As some visible aspects of national oppression give way under neo-colonialism, and as the unchallenged dominance of the unity between First World labor and capital unhinged through neo-liberalism and challenges from the national bourgeoisie and ascendant countries, there is a tendency of many people in the First World, especially those benefiting from national oppression, to organize for the reassertion of past supremacy and unity. This is the basic ideological elements behind the reactionary populism of white supremacist and Tea Party-type groups. Ironically enough, many liberals share a similar fantasy about how the U.S. was previously better and more democratic.
There is another tendency, perhaps best described by Samir Amin, toward the development of a world-system which could be described as ‘neo-tributary.’ Under this system, which we see some aspects of today, the world’s people are exploited by virtue of armed blackmail. One long-term tendency (which can only be checked through class struggle) is toward ‘global apartheid,’ ‘legalized’ exploitation, and the increasing militarization of existing political institutions.
Probably the most interesting thing about all of this is the ecological questions.
You mention an impending ecological crises. There are certain ecological limits which we will inevitably hit so long as we live in a system predicated on unlimited growth (such as capitalism does in via its drive for surplus value). It is hard to say how a massive shift in the Earth’s ability to metabolize toxins or changing climate patterns will affect class structures.
That said, we should not assume everything ‘green’ is progressive. Very reactionary class interests are frequently dressed-up with ecologically-orientated rhetoric. Even the German Nazi Party has its own ‘green’-wing.
(SC): Do you think the existential crisis of environmental degradation could spur the first world proletariat to revolution? How does the need to dramatically reduce the First World standard of living, in terms of material resource and energy consumption, affect the revolutionary strategy?
(NB): Again, I am not even sure if the classically-defined First World ‘proletariat’ is an appropriate term.
Generally speaking, the poorest and most oppressed sections of the First World are oppressed nations, migrants and immigrant communities, lumpen elements, and single women with children. Obviously, these groups are somewhat diverse and far removed from each other. Likewise, even these groups might not fall into the proletariat-proper, i.e, as in part of a class of exploited value-producers. Any analysis which includes notions of a First World ‘proletariat’ needs factor in the actualities of these groups.
According to the theoretical framework we operate from, the vast majority of First World workers are petty-bourgeois insofar as they are divorced from the production of value and receive income above full labor-value. First World workers, in short, are net-exploiters of value produced by mostly Third World workers.
This has been a tough pill to swallow for many Marxists. The common assumption held by these Marxists is that only the ‘proletariat’ can be an agent of revolution. Because Third Worldism states there is effectively no First World proletariat, this is taken to mean that revolutionary struggle is entirely out of the question in the First World.
Of course, this is interpretation by First Worldist Marxists about the implications of Third Worldism is entirely dogmatic. Any revolution which has succeeded has done so through a multi-class coalition led by a vanguard organization. The Chinese Revolution, for example, was carried out with via broad ‘united front’ and ‘new democratic’ revolutionary coalitions which included a range of classes.
The point I’m getting at is this: just because the vast majority of workers in the First World are net-exploiters, it does not mean we should rule out the possibility of progressive sections of it joining wider revolutionary struggles. We must clear-headed about the issue of global class structure in order to properly frame such a discussion of revolutionary class alliances.
The issue of environmentalism is a perfect example of how to tackle this question. Whereas the proletariat has an immediate, collective interesting in the restructuring of economic life to the end of controlling the value it produces, a wider array of classed have an interest in preserving a suitable natural environment for human health. Therein lies a basis of unity between First World-centered embourgeoisfied workers and the Third World-centered proletariat. The surest bet to forestall the compounding ecological problems associated with capitalism is through people’s wars, a broad united front against imperialism, global new-democratic and socialist revolutions, and communism.
The message we should be bringing to First World workers is not, ‘you deserve even more stuff.’ It is, ‘Greenpeace won’t stop your great-grandchildren from being born into a toxic dump; supporting people’s wars will.’ In our propaganda work in the First World, we need to connect the long-term interests of First Worlders with the immediate struggles of the proletarian masses.
(SC): Recently, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) put out a statement in which it said the United States’ economy “is based on wars. It is still able to survive only by selling weapons, war-related technology, war planes, UAVs and war related material. It would collapse as soon as wars stop.” What do you think about this?
(NB): It is an interesting observation by our Indian comrades, one which captures a significant structural development in the world-economy.
In some respects, this militarization of economics marks something of a shift from a US-dominated capitalist-imperialist to a US-dominated neo-tributary one. Typically, under capitalist-imperialism, a given economy is based on exploitation. Even imperialist countries must maintain, often through violence, populations of exploited workers. (These, of course, were mainly to be found in their colonies and neo-colonies.) What the US wants to do is to enshrine and codify existing class structures through increasing violence. This is what the neo-liberal ‘end of history’ amounts to: the expropriation of wealth not simply through the ownership of capital, but the ownership of accumulated weaponry. The US imperialists and its co-partners are pursuing a fascistic policy of exacting tribute based on their monopoly on the effective means of violence.
Of course, it is unlikely that a system increasingly based on tribute will collapse or rescind of its own accord. However, this fascistic policy of the ‘old’ imperialists will alienate wider sections of people around the world (in addition to the contradiction it is creating with Russian and Chinese monopoly capital). This is why class struggles, i.e people’s wars, a broad united front against imperialism, global new-democratic and socialist revolutions, and communism, are of increasing importance. Above all, a spirit of internationalism must be promoted in order to challenge US-led imperialism on all fronts.
(SC) Finally, how can people get involved with RAIM.
(NB) Like I mentioned, RAIM is not a mass organization that anyone can join. Of course, anyone can support RAIM and its program. However, we maintain a distinction between RAIM members and RAIM supporters.
One of the requirements of RAIM membership is consistent engagement in political work. Therefore, the best way for people to get involved in RAIM is to begin engaging in political work in support of RAIM’s program and the Third Worldist movement. After a period of time, we will approach those who demonstrate consistent positive contributions about the possibility of joining RAIM. People can also email RAIM about joining, but they must still demonstrate the requisite ability to engage in consistent work;, or they can join through an existing cell. Also, new members go through an additional vetting to ensure authenticity.
I want to add a caveat here. RAIM exists for the purpose of promoting a Third Worldist analysis of political economy alongside internationalist struggles against imperialism. From our perspective, it is more important that people engage in this purpose rather than ‘get involved with RAIM.’ We are more about supporting the developing the broader Third Worldist movement than proclaiming our own special place within it.
(SC) Well that about wraps it up. Anything else you want to add.
(NB) Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on these important issues along with some of the things RAIM is doing. And, of course: death to imperialism; long live the victories of people’s wars!
This is a good overview of RAIM”s theory and practice. The interview specifies the work and role of RAIM members and supporters.
Anyone asking for definitions of Third Worldism-First Worldism-and anti-imperialism should be guided toward this interview, Last, but not least is the way to work with progrssive forces in the first world. People who recognize the fact of benefitting from super exploitation can and do struggle against it. Disspelling false notions of first world workers being exploited is part of that struggle.
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