Trigger Warning: Discussions/Mentions of rape, violent racism, antisemitism, and genocide denial.
“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph.”– Thomas Sankara
I should be writing about anything else. I should be writing about the continued armament and unhinged behavior of American neo-fascists. I should be writing about the necessity of combating the incoming imperialist attempt to pacify class struggle. I should be writing about theory. I should. But then, it comes to my attention that yet again one of the largest left-wing organizations in the country is sheltering a rapist. There is no polite way to say this: This is a call to smash the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL).
Now because I’m an anarcho-syndicalist, it should be noted that this is not a sectarian thing. By and large I have nothing a priori against working with Marxist-Leninist groups, though admittedly it’s slim pickings of them here in the United States. Nonetheless, as a show of good faith I really should mention that I greatly admire the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, I admire their efforts to organize in prisons, and Kevin Rashid Johnson is a political prisoner who must be freed! I also have multiple Marxist-Leninists in my recommended reading section, including Mao Zedong, Huey P. Newton, and Kwame Nkrumah. With that disclosed, let’s begin.
PART 1 – MARCYISM AND ELEMENTS OF REACTION THEREIN
The PSL is a splinter group of a splinter group. It originates as an offshoot of the Workers World Party (WWP) itself an offshoot of the Socialist Workers Party1 (SWP). Both the PSL and WWP subscribe to a particular interpretation of Marxism-Leninism retroactively dubbed by the internet as “Marcyism”, named for Sam Marcy. Sam Marcy was the factional leader within the SWP that split from the party, namely over the party’s refusal to support Mao Zedong or the Soviet invasion of Hungary2. Marcy split off and took his faction with him, forming the WWP. If one were to pin down Marcyism, it can be defined with the following elements:
- A ruthless defense, or even outright dismissal of the reality, of imperial actions taken by Marxist-Leninist states.
- The insistence of necessity of the more heinous activities of these states as a measure against Western imperialism.
- An overall dogmatic view that anything which stands in opposition to Western imperialism or Zionism needs to be ruthlessly defended, regardless of the context in which it exists. (This includes, for example, apologetics for racist, anti-communist butchers like Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein, and even outright genocide denial).
In much simpler terms, we might call these people tankies (see my previous work on the matter so as to differentiate between these people and Marxists/Marxist-Leninists/Marxist-Leninist-Maoists). The structure of these Marcyite parties will be discussed more in part two, but for now we should mention that in keeping with this worldview, Marcyites use a strict hierarchy within the party, which leaves absolutely no room for dissent or inquiry. Predictably, this hierarchy-for-hierarchy’s-sake structure has lead to particularly foul opportunistic behavior. Now before we enter into the more disturbing and outwardly right-wing sections of the party’s behavior, here’s screencaps of a leaked email from the PSL discussing dues that read disturbingly like a telemarketer script3.
(Personal note: I’m an IWW member, our maximum dues barely exceed this minimum number quoted, and those dues are only an option to the highest earning members of the union).
The PSL’s co-founder Brian Becker has collaborated with and platformed outright reactionaries multiple times. Because of the sheer volume of these instances, I’m going to link to Ravings of A Radical Vagabond’s An Investigation into Red-Brown Alliances: Third Positionism, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and the Western Left and implore you to use the search feature in your browser to go to the section of Sputnik Radio, which Becker co-hosts with a former CIA operative. If you’d like a brief rundown, it’s a massive thing of people who spout 9/11 conspiracies, white nationalism, antisemitism, LaRouche movement fuckery, Holocaust denial and other greatest hits of foaming at the mouth InfoWars watchers, as well National Bolshevism (my article on that particular strange neo-fascism). So clearly it’s leadership has absolutely no problem with “Third Position” collaborators. Again, we will go into the structural issues of the PSL and how they aid patriarchy in that organization, but for now it truly should be no shock that this party is full of misogyny, given it’s co-founder is very clearly fond of people who read shit like The Turner Diaries.
PART 2 – PATRIARCHY AND THE CADRE STRUCTURE OF THE PSL
At time of writing, the PSL has covered up for multiple instances of sexual assault, not once, not twice, not thrice, not even four times, nor five, but as of the most recent report, at least six times4, and that’s just to the best of my knowledge. It’s very likely the numbers are much higher, given that it’s very difficult for victims to speak out. Each time the party has ruthlessly and viciously attacked those who spoke out regarding their experiences within the PSL. What, we must ask, allows such violent male chauvinism to exist within the ranks of a self-proclaimed “communist” organization?
The PSL requires all applicant members to have gone through a long period of political education. Now there is in and of itself nothing wrong with this, the Black Panther Party had a similar requirement. However the PSL also employs a cadre model, meaning that not just any member of the proletariat is permitted membership. The party chooses it’s members, rather than vice-versa. Now in a time of revolutionary activity there might be some justice in this idea, but the American left – including Marxist-Leninists – is horribly mismanaged and unorganized. It is not from the parties or the unions or the councils that revolutionary activity has been flowing, it has mostly been spontaneous activity from proletarian and lumpenproletarian elements that police stations have been set ablaze, city blocks occupied, and the state & capital fought. But I digress.
This deeply hierarchical structure means that when those in power harm, it is that much harder to remove them. The PSL’s structure necessarily defends the most toxic behavior of those within, those vetted by the party and accepted by it, against even those who are also within and vetted by the party. The men of the party, who have already been affected by patriarchal structure, and who based on the evidence have done nothing to unlearn it, are protected. The structures of social oppression are thus by default protected within setups like the PSL’s. The party will only accept new members on it’s own terms, educated by it’s ideas alone, and prohibits, restricts, and punishes dissent, even when justified. In it’s activities with Third Position-types and other such reactionaries, as well as it’s ideological trend of pseudohistory & wishy-washy “internationalism”, we find even greater reason why a rape culture has been born in it’s ranks.
PART 3 – CAN THE PSL BE SALVAGED?
Of course now we must take care. After all, Marxist-Leninist parties in the United States are few and far between, and the PSL is easily the largest. Although I obviously do not practice Marxism-Leninism, again, I do not wish for this to be sectarian. We must look at the PSL, and apply the classic Maoist analysis “One divides into two”. Despite the earlier information, the PSL has been active at anti-imperialist protests, and is home to genuinely dedicated communists. Does it’s destruction then mirror throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
The allegations of violence go back as early as 2010 (the party was founded in 2004), and in each instance, it has been either perpetrated, covered up, or coddled, by those in positions of power within the party. There is then an average of at least 1 instance of sexual assault per year since the party’s foundation5 – again, likely higher given what we know of the difficulty of coming forward with these things. For such a frequency to even be thinkable, it would have to follow that there is a structure within the party to deny these allegations, no matter what. Here we see the telltale signs of Marcyite behavior pop-up: Deny, deny, deny empiricism and solidarity be damned. We may point out – correctly – that the PSL has been active in feminist causes and demonstrations. But this rings hollow. The Democratic Party shows up to these same causes, and their most recent President-Elect is a vile lecher. Outward appearances mean nothing in the face of actual behavior.
In a party molded by it’s leaders (who are, as we have seen, unscrupulous and difficult to unseat), who’s every lever of control rests not with the proletariat but with would-be philosopher kings, who is beholden to not even it’s electorate or rank-and-file, it is unthinkable to fight back against the elements of reaction within the party. Any attempt to reform the party or salvage it requires a ruthless and uncompromising struggle against it first. For the PSL to emerge as a vanguard party of any usable kind, it must first be smashed. As Mao said: “Bombard the headquarters!”. Make no mistake. The PSL is a reactionary, chauvinistic organization, and it must be smashed. Individual members of it’s rank-and-file may of course, exit the organization, in fact this is encouraged as it seems that those who aren’t violent misogynists are doing good work. To the rest: Know your Marx, and understand that history is not forgiving to the oppressor.
1 – No relation to the UK based organization of the same name that also shelters rapists.
2 – The SWP was a Trotskyist organization at the time. The reason for Marcy’s staunch switch from Trotskyism to Marxism-Leninism remains unknown.
3 – Of course like any organization the PSL has dues for members, this in-and-of-itself is not the issue. The issue is that the number is tremendously high and the wording around it makes it sound like a damned cult.
4 – The sixth instance was a woman who was stalked by PSL members on her Tinder account, doxxed, and then harassed off Twitter after bringing her experiences to light.
5 – We can find this number given that the individual allegations mention multiple instances, and sometimes multiple women. Again, the actual number is probably quite higher.