Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Leninism and the U.S. Revolutionary Struggle Against Racism

Anarchism was always anti-imperialist while Marx and Engels supported 19th-century liberal imperialism. Marxist anti-imperialism really begins with Lenin and then Mao, mostly as a means of gaining support for their own regimes in the colonies and former colonies.

By Joel Wendland-Liu

The central cause of the split between the 2nd International and the break-away parties and forces which formed the 3rd International lay only imprecisely on divisions over reform versus revolution. Instead, argues the late communist philosopher Domenico Losurdo, the 2ndInternational’s adherence to a white supremacist imaginary embracing a teleology in which“barbaric” denizens of the colonized world through the progressive mechanisms of capitalist colonialism would experience “uplift” drives Lenin to seek a break. Losurdo brands the conservative side of this world-historical split as adherents of the racial concept of “herrenvolk democracy,” the belief that one’s racial community, in its inherent biological or cultural or civilizational superiority, is alone worthy of the benefits of socialistic equality.1“Herrenvolkdemocracy” serves as the basis of white supremacy in settler-colonial societies such as theU.S., Canada, and Australia, the racial theories of the Nazi regime in the 1930s, and most subsequent neo-Nazi formations. Lenin vigorously resists racist dogma, especially that which seems to infuse and link the2nd International social democratic parties with the imperialist bourgeoisies. He equates the socialist version of this racist creed with bourgeois national chauvinism, sees its consequences in the erasure of revolutionary class struggle, the turn to reformism, and the conservatism ofthe labor aristocracy. He regards it as a primary source of disempowering divisions within the international working class. By the early 1920s, Lenin’s appeals to white U.S. socialists and communists to oppose white supremacy and to address their own, as well as U.S. systemic, racism finally resulted in a transformation in how Marxists fought it.


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