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Ending Distortions of "Proletarian Patriotism"

Peter Coffin
Peter Coffin
The representation of socialists who have pride in their motherland and the people around them must stop.

Performative Hatred of America
When I was young, I was an “apolitical liberal.” My beliefs mainly were “liberal,” but I was antagonistic to liberals because their affect made them difficult to trust. The chance I ended up giving straight liberals was Barack Obama, and that panned out with a president who ultimately perpetuated everything about the status quo. When one thinks “both” parties are part of the problem, “change” sounds excellent. Later in life, I found Marx and historical/dialectical materialism and realized the reason the “change” Obama was selling (as well as even the “change” Bernie Sanders was selling) was simply a brand. It’s a word. Once one begins asking, “what is the qualitative (NOT quantitative) difference,” one sees that we need a different paradigm.
But one of the things that kept me away from even contemplating that paradigm when I was younger was performative hatred of America. When one sees politics on a spectrum of right to left, one internalizes the idea that “communism” is just “more left.” And it seemed that the further left one went, the more one hated the place they were born and raised. The more one talked about “power to the people,” the less one seemed to like “the people.”
As a person who lives in a place, this turned me off. It does the same for most people.
Nonetheless, I traveled down that rabbit hole because their professed beliefs were more akin to my own. These people claimed to care about equality, ending bigotry, ending poverty! That must be the “good” team, then. I grinned and bared it. After years of my own study and political development, it became clear that this kind of politics would preserve the status quo, regardless of professed beliefs. At most, they wanted more of something and less of something else - quantitative change.
We do not live in a set of problems that can be solved by adding or subtracting. We live in a time where a qualitatively different paradigm is of desperate need. “The Left,” a tradition started by radicals which ultimately worked to organize and affirm the capitalist order in France, is still deeply entrenched in capitalism.
I will allow the rest of my work - the criticism I have put forward - to tell you what direction I would like to go in. I will also not spend time repeating points to you from Lenin’s “Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder,” which I would likely end up parroting points from if I were to begin down that path.
Instead, I want to address this:
Defining Proletarian Patriotism
Despite having defined proletarian patriotism repeatedly, this distortion continues to appear. We continue to have detractors who intend to either avoid ever hearing us out, or intentionally misrepresent what they know we have said. So, I will give a simple definition:
Proletarian patriotism is a loyalty to the people around oneself, a pledge to one’s people - specifically, the working class.
If one is familiar with basic Marxist terminology, this automatically excludes two things: the bourgeoisie and their state. To make the distinction that the character of something one puts forward is proletarian is to assert that it is at odds with the ruling capitalist class and the state that uphold their rule.
To exclude the bourgeoisie and the state is also to explicitly align with the international proletariat, for in imperial-stage capitalism, these entities are the ones exploiting and oppressing everyone beneath them in every country, including their own. The view of the US state a proletarian patriot should have is that of an occupying force; America is occupied by the United States. That puts the American people squarely on the side of the international proletariat.
"NazBols" and Nazis: not Patriotic
Firstly, we are not “NazBols.” This red-brown alliance crap is nonsense. We are not incorporating “right-wing” beliefs into our paradigm. We do not believe that “right-wing” people are born essentially or innately evil; their essence as human beings did not lead them to choose right-wing ideology. We think they are worth talking to about class consciousness and communism (as is everyone). While I think the best people to talk to are those who profess to be “apolitical,” like myself in my younger years and the majority of registered voters (as of January 2022, 46% of registered voters) - people who don’t trust either of the major parties and know they’ve both led us astray.
Nevertheless, I think “right-wing” people are worth speaking to, as many understand the system has failed us and understand how the “left” assists the state in upholding this.
This is, in fact, the big hurdle when speaking with a “leftist,” we often deal with the idea that they “already get it.” Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism is both a diagnosis and a great example of the kind of pessimism we see in the modern “left.” Many understand the need for a new paradigm, but most believe that changing their behavior in the current paradigm will eventually get us to one. It will not, as per Engels’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
The big hurdle when talking with a “right-winger” is explaining that I am nothing like the stereotype of a communist, that the left is not representative of Marx, and that I ultimately do care about them as a person. Is this going to “convert” all of these people to become Good Communists™? I don’t know! But I know that many people are willing to learn how the current structure impedes their interests and what to do about them. We do not meet these people without trying.
Understanding the difference in approach with communist advocacy with both of these groups is to realize that society has not been misled by one overarching ideology - rather a choose-your-own-adventure book of different ideologies with the appearance of the ability to choose one’s reality. Obviously, as with those books, there are pre-determined endpoints. These amalgams of ideological choices, which ultimately least one to a point which benefits (or at least doesn’t threaten) the power structure as it is, are the “state ideology.” I call it “custom reality,” as it functions similarly to how one “customizes” a car using aftermarket parts: these parts were still designed and made in a factory with no input from the person doing the “customizing,” and ultimately, there are a limited number of possible outcomes. My book on this subject is called Custom Reality and You.
Next, it is essential to address the term “patriotic socialism.” I believe that This term and its abbreviation “patsoc" have been propagated to provoke defense of “patriotism” without the specified proletarian character. When one defends “patriotism,” an outside observer (or an opponent) can misinterpret and/or misrepresent it to include the patriotism of the bourgeoisie. We reject their patriotism - the bourgeois assertion that the United States (as a ruling class entity) is a force for good in the world.
This is an excellent time to bring up social chauvinism, a charge levied against proletarian patriots. A social chauvinist supports their country’s bourgeoisie and their state over the international proletariat. A proletarian patriot recognizes the bourgeoisie and their state as the enemy of the people, both the people around them with whom they have direct relationships and those in faraway places.
The term “patriotic socialism” is generally not used in our advocacy. I believe it to be an outside attempt to poison it, a means to try to make our patriotism sound like “national socialism,” which the abbreviation “patsoc” reinforces by sounding like “natsoc.” This is a ridiculous development and reduces “left-wing” people to repeating old conservative propaganda - that the Nazis were a form of socialism on some level and that there are modern socialists that support them. We reject Nazism without hesitation; “national socialism” is ultimately another ideology that supports fascism (capitalism in crisis, clamping down).
Do Nazis exist? Absolutely - and we loudly condemn their beliefs. There are Nazi supporters in the United States, some intentional and some not. The intentional ones march around with swastikas, and the unintentional ones do it with Ukrainian flags. There are neo-Nazis worldwide, with the most prominent example the American media is currently talking about being the ones embedded in the Ukrainian state power structure. Our media is loudly supporting these people because it serves the interests of our bourgeoisie and their state.
Freedom and Self-Determination
When this meme claims that we admire that America was founded on “principles of freedom and self-determination,” we have to acknowledge that these are ultimately sound principles. We also appreciate anyone who wants the world to live according to them. In that respect, the founders of the United States likely believed in those principles. However, various ideologies and social relationships ensured that the country they founded (down to their interpersonal reality) didn’t exist according to them.
The issue here is that the creator of this meme wants to deal exclusively with principles (ideals) and not in the material reality we acknowledge and embrace. The creator also doesn’t want to consider that all principles (really all terminology) have class character. Further, those among the proletariat without class consciousness often repeat or subscribe to bourgeois ideology.
While we ultimately agree with the ideas of “freedom” and “self-determination,” a program built exclusively on ideals is not a program. It is simply a vague outline of a utopia. This is partly why the founding of the United States was flawed. In fact, all historical progress that comes about by the decisions and ideas of people has been flawed - and it always will be.
Addressing “wokeness” from a dialectical materialist perspective would take an entire book (which is why I am writing it; look for Woke Ouroboros: Segregation and Essentialism later this year). The best way to summarize it is that the custom reality presented to someone who knows racism and various bigotries are wrong. The ideology acknowledges those things and redirects advocacy against them into advocacy for the bourgeois order (see my documentary, Representation Matters, RIGHT!?). While we reject wokeness, it is not on the basis of wokeness’s stated ideals. I could repeat the previous three paragraphs right here but would instead like to say, “wokeness isn’t the way there.”
Are we anti-union? Again, unions have class character. We are against unions that advocate for class collaboration and support those advocating for class struggle. We are for concrete, effective methods like labor strikes and disruptions. We are against consumer activism. Not buying a product (such as breakfast cereal; even several million participating in a boycott would have no real effect on a product consumed by more than 283 million people daily) doesn’t change anything. Funding labor strikes directly (either to the union or whoever is organizing the strike) is more meaningful action. We strongly encourage people seeking to show solidarity to participate in strikes on this basis, as it materially affects strikers’ ability to continue striking. Unions that understand and employ class struggle must be supported.
GamerGate isn’t genuinely relevant to this discussion. It is worth a separate discussion as an expression of alienation that bourgeois ideology turned proles against proles. It was an example of ideology converting suspicion of neoliberal “progressivism” into a fight between ideological lines drawn to prevent class consciousness. I won’t be addressing this any further, as I have no strong feelings beyond that. Also, feelings (ideals) are not a sound basis for analysis (as previously mentioned).
Finally, the idea that any of us advocate for free speech “so we can say the n-word” would be better attributed to people like Destiny or Vaush because I am unaware of anyone advocating for proletarian patriotism that has even said the word, much less spends time advocating for it. I made a documentary about the concept of “free speech” that reframes it along class lines. My thesis is that speech isn’t free; it requires currency or capital. Therefore, the capitalist class is the class with the ability to speak (or enable those beneficial to their agenda to speak).
That said, if “leftist” activism is “finding people who say the n-word to call bad,” then I would argue it is useless and more about making its participants feel good for being morally “superior.”
Pride and Seriousness
I have quoted Lenin repeatedly on this matter, but I would like to end with a few quotes from his short essay “On the National Pride of the Great Russians.”
“Is a sense of national pride alien to us, Great-Russian class-conscious proletarians? Certainly not! We love our language and our country, and we are doing our very utmost to raise her toiling masses (i.e., nine-tenths of her population) to the level of a democratic and socialist consciousness. To us it is most painful to see and feel the outrages, the oppression and the humiliation our fair country suffers at the hands of the tsar’s butchers, the nobles and the capitalists. We take pride in the resistance to these outrages put up from our midst, from the Great Russians; in that midst having produced Radishchev, the Decembrists and the revolutionary commoners of the seventies]; in the Great-Russian working class having created, in 1905, a mighty revolutionary party of the masses; and in the Great-Russian peasantry having begun to turn towards democracy and set about overthrowing the clergy and the landed proprietors.”
“We are full of a sense of national pride, and for that very reason we particularly hate our slavish past (when the landed nobility led the peasants into war to stifle the freedom of Hungary, Poland, Persia and China), and our slavish present, when these selfsame landed proprietors, aided by the capitalists, are loading us into a war in order to throttle Poland and the Ukraine, crush the democratic movement in Persia and China, and strengthen the gang of Romanovs, Bobrinskys and Purishkeviches, who are a disgrace to our Great-Russian national dignity. Nobody is to be blamed for being born a slave; but a slave who not only eschews a striving for freedom but justifies and eulogises his slavery (e.g., calls the throttling of Poland and the Ukraine, etc., a “defense of the fatherland” of the Great Russians)—such a slave is a lickspittle and a boor, who arouses a legitimate feeling of indignation, contempt, and loathing.”
The entire essay is relatively short, and, of course, I would recommend reading it (and as much of Lenin’s work as one has time for). Lenin both calls for national pride and condemns the ruling class and their state, just as I have done here. That is what all communists should do. We do not need to say “patriotic socialism” because socialism is patriotic by default - it’s the same reason “democratic socialism” is a ridiculous term. We take a dialectic view of all these things. Everything is connected and in flux; the contradictions created in symbolism are resolvable with material change.
That is what we are about - and we are serious about it.
-Peter Coffin
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Peter Coffin
Peter Coffin @petercoffin

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