Tag Archives: tankies

Eight Theses on the “Revolutionary Left”

1. While they are habitually conflated by the corporate media, that there is a difference between leftists and liberals is obvious: in fact, the former regard the latter as weak allies at best mortal enemies at worst, never to be trusted in either case.

2. Furthermore, basic intellectual honesty requires recognizing that leftists are generally right: liberals do indeed have plenty to answer for, Adolph Reed’s classic essay on the subject providing a litany for those who need to be acquainted with the relevant data.

3. That said, the recognition that liberals are fully deserving of contempt needs to be immediately followed by the equally obvious fact that over the years, it has not been exclusively liberals who have been undermining left objectives. Self described “radical” or “revolutionary” leftists have done their part to drive the left into the ditch we are inhabiting and to advance the prospects of the right.


4. Those of sufficient age will remember grotesque human rights abuses by totalitarian states routinely ignored or explained away by self-described left revolutionaries. Now categorized by the useful term “tankies” (a reference to the hardware deployed in military repression of satellite regimes), their denial of the obvious or their pretzel logic used to defend the indefensible would inflict profound damage to the credibility of the left-damage from which it has yet to fully recover from.

5. While their numbers have been substantially diminished since, the tankies’ descendents, indeed, the tankies themselves, continue to solidier on, albeit figuratively rather than literally within certain outposts of the left. One organization where they have managed to obtain a foothold has been as a dissident faction of the Democratic Socialists of America. In this “entryist” capacity they have promoted their now well worn, traditional “unwillingness (to be) participants in sham bourgeoise ‘democracy”. Applying this to the recent election, they declared themselves “under no obligation” to defeat Trump, thereby joining several other constituencies (including Clintonite neoliberals) in clearing the way for the rightwing nightmare we are living in.

6. Their decision to abstain from participation was, they claimed, based on a principled objection to “collaborating with capitalist politicians.” But this principle was somewhat flexible, to put it charitably. That’s because, not so long before, many of them were collaborating with neoliberal Democrats in helping to undermine the candidacy of the declared socialist, Bernie Sanders. Smears manufactured by the Democratic Party leadership in its successful effort to beat back a challenge to its hegemony would be routinely forwarded by left revolutionaries. These included Sanders supposed “problems with black voters”, the “casual racism” and even white supremacist tendencies of his Berniebro or “Sandernista” supporters. That these emanated from both the far left and neoliberal Clintonite center was indicative of a shared recognition that a viable left insurgency constituted a threat to the organizational existence of both.

7. That 4-6 are not just history but fully relevant to the present is apparent in the revolutionary left’s transferring its opposition from the “imperialist” Bernie Sanders to “people like Bernie Sanders”, namely those who were inspired by his campaign and are continuing to advance its agenda. One these is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whose remarkable campaign has become locus of an massive organizing effort uniting behind her many formerly warring factions of the left.

Most conspicuously, among those endorsing are the iconic liberal organizations Move On and the Howard Dean successor organization Democracy for America. These have been the target of much derision from the left, the mere mention of which a guarantee of snickers at the Left Forum, Socialism and Historical Materialism conferences and from the alphabet soup of self-proclaimed revolutionary left organizations.

8. And these same organizations are on the sidelines, doing nothing to advance the candidacy of Ocasio and other left candidacies which, as neoliberal elites are fully aware, consitute the first viable  threat to four decades of neoliberal hegemony. It is rational elements of the left allied with the liberal center who are now working to advance the movement. Revolutionaries, their fantasies notwithstanding, are functioning, at best, as a minor, but perhaps not insignificant obstacle.

Can someone remind me why I am supposed to regard them as left “allies” and liberals as the enemy?