Modern capitalism-imperialism can be broadly characterized by the development of neocolonialism. This is a more covert form of imperialism, where colonizing countries transfer value out of the colonies without taking overt political control, instead installing governments who bend to their interests and exercising power and authority through institutions like the IMF and World Bank instead of through direct colonial rule or occupation (to be clear, these forms of imperialism still exist, however neocolonialism has become the dominant expression of imperialist power). Instead of the (neo)colonies producing the raw materials while manufacturing and industry stayed in the imperialist metropoles, neocolonialism is characterized by the spread of industry and wage labor worldwide (and global labor arbitrage), the deindustrialization of the capitalist centers, the proletarianization of the (neo)colonies. While this sounds like a strengthening of capitalism, in reality it shows its decay- neocolonialism was a survival tactic, a reaction to a period of weakness when, in the general period from 1945~1980, the masses of de jure colonies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rose up and gained (at the very least) nominal independence from their colonizers.
To prevent the complete collapse of capitalism, the bourgeoisie of oppressor nations worked to maintain its hold over the colonies in a less explicit way. It bought off the political elite, coordinated military coups and “investment plans”, used loans and “aid”, aligning the governments and comprador bourgeoisie with the interests of imperialism. To maintain its economic dependency of the colonies, capital moved its labor out of the metropoles. The cheap labor of a semi-colonial or semi-feudal nation drove the massive wave of labor arbitrage that is characteristic of the neoliberal period. This shift required both the crushing of both radical proletarian movements in the 60s and 70s, and the destruction of unions, welfare programs, and workers rights. This also had the effect of producing cheaper goods for the populations of imperialist countries and changing workplaces and proletarian communities, reshaping the proletariat and class makeup of these countries.
In this world, the majority of the proletariat, of the labor-doing class, are women and children of oppressed nations. Those who are colonized twice. First by capitalist-imperialism, then by heteropatriarchy. This is not a particularly new development (women and children were historically forced into the most degrading, dangerous, and underpaying industrial jobs- something forgotten in the male chauvinism of today’s left). Capitalism of the neocolonial era has raised up a new proletariat- the women and children of the Global South. Contrary to the white-centered and male-centered socialism of the past, we must recognize that the proletariat is not contained to a single gender or national formation. It is an international class whose liberation requires the liberation of nations from imperialism and colonialism and of women, trans people, and gay people from patriarchy.
At the same time, the parasitism of neocolonialism has constructed a wide stratum of what can be called a “Worker Elite”, who are mostly male, middle-class, Euro-American workers- and now that this settler nation of Euro-Americans is in crisis (with global labor arbitrage and global migration posing a threat to its existence above colonized nations), we find a rise of fascism and reaction as white men see the end of their privilege as a form of oppression. The white supremacist ideas which are rampant among large sections of the working class in imperialist nations, cannot be so easily summed up as ‘false consciousness’, not as some ideology they were tricked into thinking by the bourgeoisie. White supremacy and patriarchy were formed in the development of colonialism and imperialism, the divide between colonizer and colonized, the growth of a settler middle class. With this middle class in crisis, it reverts to the most openly pro-imperialist, misogynistic, and reactionary forms of political expression. Fascism is then not a problem of racism or sexism alone, not of a vague “totalitarianism”, but of petit-bourgeois crisis.
Meanwhile, also within the imperialist countries, the ghettos and barrios and rezes, populated by the internal colonies of Euro-America, are kept as a geographic area where a colonial labor force can be interned, over-worked, starved of resources, and killed. The police forces keep the colonized in check, stifling their justified and sometimes even revolutionary violence, by oppressing them with the brutal violence of the colonizer. But what makes this especially different from the colonial era? From 1950s segregation? From slavery? Its disguised. Its hidden. The colonial labor done by the oppressed nations is done behind the walls and fences of a prison, in the de facto (but not de jure) segregation of the cities, by the migrant workers from the Third World who do work for depressed wages. There’s no barbed-wire fences, no signs saying “No Blacks, No Mexicans”, the neocolonial era has transformed our oppression so that it is hidden geographically, with no clear distinction between metropolis and colony, but the exploitative colonial relationship remains.
It’s also hidden politically. A good chunk of the politicians in these cities and states where colonial oppression and poverty are laid bare (mostly in the South) are New Afrikans, Chicanos, they’re “one of us.” In some cases these Black and Brown mayors and governors are the ones ordering the attacks on these communities by the neocolonial state! But the neoliberal and neocolonial ruling classes view this as progress, as “post-racialism.” Capitalists actually want Black and Brown capitalism because it aids neocolonialism. This is a paradox of capitalism which allows it to function. A contradiction.
The transformation of settler nation women into a neocolonial class, into the labor aristocracy (but still oppressed by white men) is also viewed as progress. Euro-American women now climb the ranks of the bourgeois state, and go on to push forward the imperialist program- bombing countries, killing their leaders, overthrowing their governments, funding reactionary proxies… all for the interests of the neocolonial ruling class. And liberal feminists call this progress. They patronize Third World women in this understanding of the state as a neutral body where all are equal under “post-racialism” and “post-sexism”. Meanwhile women in the global South face the most acute oppressions of capitalism, of white supremacy, of sexism, of homophobia and transphobia. Nationally oppressed women within the heavily policed borders of the metropoles face this double, or triple, oppression too. And a lot of the time, it’s the men of “their own” nation acting in the most chauvinistic and toxic ways, reproducing colonial patriarchy.
Neocolonialism develops the contradictions of capitalism to its absurd limits. The world we live in almost seems fictional. But it’s all too real.
The Revolutionary Road Forward
So where do we go from here?
As communists we should recognize that capitalism never solves its contradictions. It just moves them around. It moves crises around. It moves classes around. It moves nations around. It moves gender around. The anarchy of production and the anarchy of the market aren’t the only things out of control of the individual capitalists: Race and nationality are. Gender and sexuality are. Capital itself is. These things are fluid and can all change with a change in capitalism’s direction. The most radical change for capitalism however, as history has shown, is the proletarian revolution. Nation and Gender are most subject to change when they wield a rifle, and that change is the most progressive and revolutionary when that rifle is under the control of the proletariat.
As Communists, and especially as Maoists, we emphasize that class stand. Putting class politics as the guide of our movement. A huge rallying point and lesson of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China was to keep proletarian politics in command. It is also no surprise that the CCP’s abandoning of this key point rushed in capitalist restoration.
Right now, the working class in the US is heavily divided due to real systems of oppression that grew out of class which impact the development of class society and capitalism. But some Communists (even some Maoists) in the US, instead of looking at how these “non-class” systems of oppression have impacted and been impacted by the development of capitalism and neocolonialism, write off any focus on racism and sexism as “identity politics.” While identity politics should be opposed for its lack of connecting white supremacy and patriarchy to capitalism and imperialism (that is, its idealism), the communist movement should avoid so-called “anti-idpol” which places an overemphasis on the white, male, often middle class workers and dismisses discussions of racism and sexism as “false consciousness” or as simple “tricks” of the ruling class.
The prevailing strategy to combat globalization and neocolonialism within the imperialist centers has been a movementism based on disunity, decentralization. The disparate movements that challenge these systems of oppression are meant to collide into one ‘Arab Spring’-esque event that would dismantle capitalism entirely. But if we’ve learned anything from the Arab Spring, its that the proletariat must take strategic and political leadership, and not allow dis-unity to run the movement into the ground. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the ideology of revolution which has been adopted by many revolutionaries in neocolonial nations as the old style Marxism-Leninism ossifies, solves this strategic weakness and offers a path into combatting all systems of oppression.
In imperialist countries, and especially in the US, Maoists must demystify the idea that the working class is primarily white, cisgender, heterosexual, and male. We must demystify the idea that imperialist nations hold the primary form of proletarian labor. We also must demystify that waged labor is the only form of controlled labor, and fight for the unwaged labor that women perform daily which forms a basis of society. And in this demystification we have to build a real, active, political line and movement. A movement not just for socialism, but for national liberation and feminism.
But not just any nationalism or feminism will do. Without a guiding proletarian line, our national liberation and women’s liberation struggles will fall back into the hands of the bourgeoisie, to be manipulated for their profit and their interests. Through revolutionary nationalism we can combat the chauvinism and culturalism that craves an independent Black or Brown capitalism and push national liberation to its revolutionary height- communism! And through proletarian feminism, we can address the problems of patriarchy and cisheterosexism that plagued the socialist movements and national liberation movements of yesterday, and go far further down the socialist road than they did.
Yesterday we had nothing, and today we have the historical experiences of last century, rich in lessons for today and tomorrow.
As Communists, we must look at the contradictions at play in a political situation. That way, we can form a praxis that accurately advances the class struggle. Through the subjective advancement of a militant proletarian movement, we can build red power. Through Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we can reject both identity politics and workerism (or “anti-idpol”) that leads towards either reformism or chauvinism, and instead center our political line on the most oppressed and most proletarianized sections by understanding the dynamics of neo-colonialism. We, as a mass movement, led by a militant, organized, anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal, proletarian party, can lead the world out of the nightmare of capitalism.
This is where a concrete analysis of the concrete situation leads- to concrete action.
Neocolonialism and capitalism are temporary. Through the advancement of proletarian politics, the organization of Maoists and revolutionaries into a coherent and driven movement, we can bring an end to neocolonialism, transforming the social relations it constructs around class, race, nation, and gender under the guidance of the proletarian dictatorship. As Butch Lee and Red Rover said in Night-Vision, the struggle against the neocolonial empire has only just begun. The single spark has been ignited. Its our job to make sure it becomes a prairie fire.
Some Further Reading:
- Night-Vision: Illuminating War & Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain by Butch Lee and Red Rover
- The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
- Patriarchy and Accumulation on the World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor by Maria Mies
- Exodus and Reconstruction: Working Class Women at the Heart of Globalization by Bromma
- Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings of Amilcar Cabral
- Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth by James Yaki Sayles
- Imperialism in the 21st Century by John Smith
[EDIT 10/25: This post is essentially my reflections on reading Butch Lee and Red Rover’s Night-Vision: Illuminating War & Class on the Neocolonial Terrain for the second time through the lens of Maoism. I’ve made some edits to improve the clarity of some of the arguments and fix some of the more clumsily written sentences.]