Author’s Note: This interview was conducted with the objective in mind of exploring the ideological development of our comrades and identifying what lines of questioning lead to what answers and how to help one another in the development of our ever-evolving understanding of Marxism-Leninism.
Q: How were you first introduced to Marxism? What was your ideological trajectory?
A. I would say that after being part of my first political work, Students for Bernie (SFB), in 2020, I was introduced to DSA. Although I knew they held events, I hadn’t attended any during SFB ’20. When Bernie dropped out, I, along with others from the campaign, started questioning, “What do we do now?” Joining the YDSA at FIU seemed like the logical next step, even though it was inactive at that time. We revived it and tried to answer questions like “what is DSA, socialism, or democratic socialism?” Initially, I didn’t differentiate democratic socialism. Funny enough, another introduction to Marxism I had was Hasan Piker, who openly discussed Marxism on his streams.
As for my ideological trajectory, prior to 2020, I was apolitical and uninterested. The Bernie campaign from 2019 to 2020 transformed me into a radical liberal. Afterward, I considered myself more of a “Bernie-crat” or progressive, lacking a clear understanding of socialism and Marxism. So while I was in DSA, I didn’t align with any specific tendency. Through my DSA involvement, I was exposed to various tendencies – Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Anarchism – through the people I met. Due to the total absence of political education in DSA, I couldn’t make sense of any one tendency to then subscribe to it. Instead, I saw whose actions and ideas resonated with me the most in practice and results.
I took part in political education sessions but didn’t organize them. Through connections, I eventually encountered a non-DSA Marxism-Leninism Fundamentals study group, leading me to actively engage directly with Marxist-Leninist texts. Up until then I had so many questions and no answers. One pressing question was “What is to be done?” Understanding the problems with the system was easier, but I lacked clarity on the specific actions required to bring about real, meaningful change. The study group clarified this question for me. I was amazed by the straightforward answers in the readings, feeling a sense of deprivation from not having read them earlier. My lack of awareness about my own questions was revealed through the study group, which helped me understand my role in the larger context. This process assisted in determining the most effective means of organizing – a term frequently used in my time at DSA, but usually amounting to just busywork. The study group provided a substantive, qualitative approach to understanding the questions of socialist revolution.
Q: Would you say that Marxism is needed today? A common refrain from detractors is that Marxist thought is now outdated, and some go so far as to say it is completely irrelevant due to the experience of socialism in the 20th century. How do you respond?
A. Marxism remains relevant in every aspect. Building on my previous response, people seek answers, and Marxism not only offers perspectives for isolated circumstances but also presents a scientific method to analyze the world, thereby addressing pressing questions. My own education emphasized the scientific method, and applying a scientific way of understanding social life made Marxism an invaluable method to understand and explain politics, current events, social issues, and more.
Q: How would you define Marxism-Leninism?
A. I would define Marxism-Leninism as the scientific application of Marxism to the social world, shaping our worldview. The Marxist-Leninist tendency is distinct due to its complete lack of idealism, distinguishing it from other tendencies that fall into idealism and opportunism – those lack the capacity to generate a genuine revolutionary movement. Marxism-Leninism offers the solution – the roadmap – to establishing socialism.
Q. In your view and experience, how does Marxism-Leninism differ from or contrast with other Marxist tendencies or ideologies – particularly anarchism, Trotskyism, and Maoism?
A. Marxism-Leninism delves into the core issues through a scientific lens. Anarchism appears naive, unrealistic, and unserious. For instance, distributing goods within society requires centralized planning mechanisms rather than a commune-style, ultimately chaotic approach. In my exploration of Trotskyist tactics, their strategies never lead to constructing a revolutionary movement; they often meander without resolution – getting lost in so many weeds. Similarly, Maoism introduces methods unrelated to Marxist-Leninist texts, and often de-emphasizes the working class’s revolutionary role. It never appeared to me as relevant to our circumstances or situation.
Q: A divisive issue revolves around the question of the communist party – how, when, and who should form it. As a Marxist-Leninist, what is your perspective on the origin and role of the communist party?
A. I believe the origin lies with those who possess access and the ability to study in general, but Marxism in particular. This includes petit bourgeois individuals and the upper layers of the working class. This is where the party tends to originate from, where the earliest elements develop and come together to form an organization.
The role of the party, then, is to organize the proletariat by identifying and nurturing the most advanced members, especially within their workplaces. The most advanced workers being those who have the potential to lead and also question the world around them but may not have not had the luxury or luck of time to be introduced to Marxism-Leninism. The goal is to organize and develop these advanced elements into steadfast communists within the party.
The ultimate goal is to overthrow capitalism, abolish private property and end all exploitation under class society. Achieving this entails building socialism-communism, and only a revolutionary working class party can do this.
Q. The socialist and communist movement in the United States houses many tendencies, parties, formations, and groupings – what do you see as the major dividing lines between all these strands?
A. The question of who is or is not working class seems to be divisive. Misconceptions and idealistic notions cloud the issue. Whether the working class comprises poor white or poor black individuals often becomes tangled in demographics and arbitrary definitions that aren’t based in a material analysis of class position. Who do we even organize into a party (if that) is the central question here, in my view. Petty issues such as reactionary socialist tendencies – anti-LGBT and racist elements still divide the left.
Again, the question of the party is incredibly divisive – who should start it, how do we structure this, what kind of hierarchies, and what composition of people do we have at different levels of the hierarchy, are there any limits on social economic composition within the leading positions of the “party”.
Additionally, disputes arise regarding existing socialist countries: the criteria for defining a country as socialist, and whether poverty alleviation or other social programs are socialist or not. The issue of whether China qualifies as socialist is particularly contentious. These dividing lines stem from core questions like the dictatorship of the proletariat – as in, how would that look in practice?
Q. Presently, in the US, what are – in your view – the immediate tasks revolutionary communists must undertake?
A. The most pressing task is establishing the party to organize the proletariat. There should be no side stepping this issue, history shows very clearly that this is what needs to be done immediately. Look at the Bolsheviks, how their party started and how their movement developed – this has provided invaluable reference for communists today to analyze and apply. In the pursuit of smaller wins, many self-described socialists lose the forest for the trees. This can range from engaging in mutual aid, pushing for reform, defending our democratic rights, or any other tactic disconnected from the broader vision is – this leaves us fighting on the backfoot. Instead of being reactive and combating the latest bourgeois crackdowns, we have to be proactive in forming a coherent strategy for a long-term vision and putting it to action. For instance, in the fight against FL legislature decisions, relying on the justice system within the same capitalist system that created these laws will not get the job done. Only a revolutionary working class party can take on this task of strategizing, organizing, and leading the fight for revolutionary change. It has to be built immediately.