I firmly believe that the philosophy of my ancestors lines up quite tidily with the philosophy of communism. I make no apology for my principles.
— Lee Maracle
Socialism is for the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.
— Fred Hampton
This position paper of the Third General Assembly formally adopts revolutionary socialism and liberation as the primary political ideology of The Red Nation. While incomplete, the purpose of this proposal is to articulate the basic principles of revolutionary socialism and Marxism and its connection to Indigenous socialism and communism. By adopting this proposal, we commit ourselves to the study and practice of revolutionary socialism (also known as scientific socialism) by aligning ourselves with the long traditions of resistance that predate Marxism itself. Nonetheless, Marxism has become the weapon of the poor and colonized throughout the world and largely outside of Europe, a weapon we now take up as our own. Marxism is the five-fingered fist—the hand of the worker, the peasant, the colonized—and our traditions of resistance are the power behind that fist.
Marxism is a tool for making revolution, first and foremost. But it is a useless tool unless wielded properly by the oppressed. Our traditions of Indigenous resistance wield Marxism, not to uphold European traditions, but to emancipate ourselves from the colonizers by destroying that which destroys us, and building and rebuilding our nations according to our traditions and cultures so that our human and nonhuman relations and thus all people may live. And we cannot merely destroy capitalism, without the foresight and knowledge of replacing it with a more humane and just system without rulers and without colonizers. That system is called socialism, which seeks to destroy the class system and the ruling classes, redistribute land and wealth to its proper owners, and restore dignity to the humble people of the earth. Put simply, socialism is people power. Socialism puts people before profits. Socialism aligns with Indigenous traditions of relationality as we seek to be good relatives to other humans and other-than-humans. Socialism is the natural state of humanity, to live and work towards peace and justice.
Communism is the greatest expression of love for the people and our nonhuman relatives. And it is the only solution for a planet on the brink of destruction at the hands of the ruling bourgeoisie and their backwards ideologies and institutions.
1. U.S. imperialism is the number one enemy of the planet.
Our socialism is rooted in Indigenous resistance, African slave rebellions, and European labor history. It is also rooted in the nations of the Tri-Continental—of Asia, Africa, and the Americas—that aligned themselves against the primary enemy of the planet: U.S. imperialism. Indigenous peoples were the first victims of European imperialism and invasion. The U.S. inherited that mantle and has exported the settler colonial project to the rest of the globe by plundering and killing other darker nations. We are internationalists.
As Indigenous nations, who are in the United States but not entirely of it, we align ourselves with the Third World. We seek to end the oppressive relations between European nations and the Third World. This means opposing U.S. imperialism at all turns, denouncing all U.S. imperialist wars, and aligning ourselves with the poorer nations of the world in the defense of their sovereignty and self-determination. The U.S. must get out of everywhere, including Turtle Island!
Global climate change is also not a Third World problem—it’s a first world problem. Nations like the United States consume and produce the most carbon. This concentration of wealth and consumption derives from the histories of African slavery, Indigenous genocide, and European settler colonialism. Thus, the struggle against the multinational oil and gas corporations is an anti-imperialist struggle in which Indigenous nations are leading the fight. But we also recognize that our socialism, our freedom and emancipation, can never come at the expense of our Third World comrades and relatives.
Marx and Engels developed their theories of change and history from the vantage point of the laboring European proletariat. Industrial capitalism, however, didn’t begin solely in the English factory. The hands that picked the cotton that was weaved in English textile mills were African–stolen from their homelands and enslaved by European masters. The land where the cotton grew had to be cleared of Indigenous people and Indigenous title to make way for the plantation economy, the main driving force behind the expansion of modern capitalism. Thus, the expansion of African slavery fueled the dispossession of Indigenous peoples.
U.S. settler colonialism was thoroughly a racial project of genocide and Indigenous elimination, which is an enduring structure that changes over time. After all, even the so-called Five Civilized Tribes who had adopted the plantation economy and African slave system from their European counterparts were themselves dispossessed and extirpated from their lands. And both freed Africans and Indigenous people fought as soldiers and scouts for the U.S. settler wars of extermination against western Indigenous nations and overseas campaigns of conquest. Despite their military service in the U.S. imperialist army, their stations within settler society have always been subordinate to white Europeans. They faced Jim Crow segregation, police violence, mass incarceration, and the continued settler occupation of Indigenous lands. We reject settler colonialism and U.S. imperialism as the means of emancipation for the working class and for colonized people.
Our communist and anti-imperialist principles to which we ascribe are as follows:
- End the unequal relations between European and colonized nations.
- End the violent competition between the nations of exploiters and colonizers.
- End the plunder of the earth for profit.
2. Marxism is not European. Socialism is Indigenous.
Marxism is founded on the expropriated knowledges of non-capitalist Indigenous societies. Although Marx himself was wrong about many things, Marxism, as a science, has a built-in self-correcting mechanism that has helped revolutionaries throughout the world build off the political theory Marx first formulated. If this were untrue, there would be no Russian Revolution, no African Revolution and decolonization movement, no Vietnamese liberation, no Bolivarian Revolution, no Cuban Revolution, no Chinese Revolution, etc. Each adopted Marxism and applied it to its specific and unique circumstances by building off the long struggles against exploitation and European imperialism.
Even for Indigenous peoples in the Americas, the concepts and theories of decolonization explicitly derive from Marxist revolutionary movements. It’s dishonest for us to not recognize this history. It’s not because of Marx or European thinkers that these revolutions were successful. It’s because Marxism is the science of revolution for the poor masses, the colonized, and the wretched of the earth. Fundamentally, Marxism is the science of how to get free. It is the study of class struggle.
If capitalism upholds the systems of racism, settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy, and imperialism, then we cannot use capitalism to undo these systems. It’s not enough to just be anti-capitalist. Like our ancestors we must be forward-thinking by drawing from and amplifying our non-capitalist social relations as Indigenous peoples, not to make Indigenous traditions relevant to Marxism or socialism but to make socialism and Marxism relevant to our struggle as Indigenous peoples.
You cannot fight fire with fire. You cannot fight capitalism with Indigenous capitalism. You cannot fight nationalism with hyper-nationalism. You can only fight fire with water. And the solution to all these ills—and it is what capitalists and colonists hate the most—is socialism. If capitalism is burning the planet, then socialism is the water to douse the flame. Water is life. We all need water to live, but we don’t need capitalism.
And for us to fight colonialism, we must ensure that our nations can live. But our nationalism cannot mirror the bourgeois settler nationalism of colonial states, which is premised on exclusion and white supremacy. We adopt a revolutionary Indigenous nationalism that aligns with the most oppressed and marginalized first, within and outside our own communities. And we recognize that by organizing production—for our food, medicines, resources, etc.—according to need and not profit is the only possible path forward according to our traditions.
The philosophy of communism neatly lines up with the philosophy of our Indigenous ancestors. Friedrich Engels admitted as much when in the 1888 English edition of the Communist Manifesto he added a footnote to the famous line: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” He clarified, “That is, all written history,” making note specifically of Lewis Henry Morgan’s study of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which was a communistic, classless, and democratic society before European invasion. Moreover, it was the relative gender equality of Indigenous societies that inspired the suffragettes–white women seeking parity with white men. The study of Indigenous societies, the inherent equality and freedom they engendered among producers and the common ownership of property and social institutions, also inspired European workers to demand eight-hour workdays and the abolition of child labor. And, in the final analysis, despite their own limited understandings, Marx and Engels, the founders of the modern communist movement, had developed theories of emancipation largely from the expropriated knowledges of Indigenous and communal people, whose examples they relied on to prove that capitalism is neither inevitable nor natural. But, in fact, communism is both natural and inevitable.
This is not to suggest Indigenous societies were utopias–no society is perfect. It is, however, important to understand that Indigenous peoples have been knocked off the path of their natural social development to live in balance and correct relations. We are not trying to recreate the past so much as steer Indigenous nations back on their communal developmental path that has been destroyed or seriously distorted by capitalist social relations.
3. The United States is not a “nation of immigrants” but a nation of colonizers.
Whereas contemporary racial identity politics attempts to mask or obscure class antagonisms, a class struggle that doesn’t overturn white supremacy and settler colonialism frees no one. We are not seeking parity with colonizers or further integration into a colonial system. We’re seeking to end settler and white supremacy entirely over Black, Indigenous, and colonized people. We aim to end the colonial system entirely.
Why? The United States, as a nation of European colonizers, had no feudal or communal past. Unlike other nations in history who transitioned from feudalism to capitalism, the United States was the first nation born entirely as a capitalist state. It was constructed from the ground up according to the nightmare vision of European slave owners and Indian killers–the nation’s founding bourgeois ideologies. The United States began as an oppressor nation, as a colonizer of oppressed people, and its function remains so. It not only has a capitalist ruling class, but all strata and classes of white Europeans among its ranks are encouraged to become preoccupied with the aims of the ruling class through petty racial privileges and private property ownership, the guiding stars of white settler nationalism. We reject those national and settler aspirations and ask our comrades in struggle to reject them as well.
The current U.S. colonial state is not only an instrument of racial and class rule, it is also an instrument of imperialist plunder and the oppressor of nations. It thus obscures its own internal divisions of colonizer and colonized. The United States fabricates national myths by calling itself a “nation of immigrants” to hide its unnaturalness and crimes. Immigrants come to a land to integrate within the existing legal, social, and political orders. The first European settlers came to colonize, to destroy and replace existing Indigenous legal, social, and political orders. The United States is, therefore, more accurately described as a “nation of colonizers.” Immigrants don’t come in chains; you can’t immigrate to a land you already belong to; and refugees fleeing imperialist violence are not immigrants.
We recognize that the colonial state keeps in place irreconcilable class antagonisms, between rich and poor, between settler and Native. The state is first and foremost police and military violence. Its legitimacy is maintained by force. It’s primary function is enforcing capitalist social relations. The veneer of “representative democracy” is only possible because the ruling classes have crushed and will continue to crush any alternative to capitalism by mobilizing the police and military.
In this sense, Indigenous people are the first “Red Scare.” Because we held land in common and represented an alternative to the settler state (whether it be by taking in escaped slaves or mounting armed resistance), we had to be annihilated. Today, because we adopt revolutionary socialism as our struggle and vision for a free society, we are the second coming of the “Red Scare.” But we are not exclusive in our struggles for freedom. We align ourselves with all colonized and oppressed people of the world. Only imperial borders and nation-states that are not of our own making divide our common humanity. Therefore, our struggle transcends the state, but we are not naive enough to turn away from the state as a site of struggle.
We understand that state power is nearly impossible to achieve, since Indigenous peoples are a minority. Yet, in alliance with other colonized and oppressed peoples, we can take state power, not to become the new rulers of a capitalist society, but to use the mechanisms of the state to wage our rightful struggle against our class enemies—the rich. A socialist state uses the power and democracy of the masses to undo the privileges and wealth of the ruling classes and the colonial elite, even among our own people. A socialist state seeks to destroy itself because it is built in the shell of the old. But it has to be wielded by the oppressed in the service of the oppressed to achieve freedom and the abolition of the state itself, because, whether we like it or not, the state is the primary organizer of society. And through a decolonized socialist state, we will reorganize society to redistribute wealth and land by taking it back from those who stole it from us in the first place.
We recognize the fallacy that capitalists and settlers will simply give up their wealth and privilege if we win their hearts and minds. Their wealth and privilege were earned by force and it is kept in place by violence. Any challenge to that authority, whether it’s democratic or “non-violent,” will always be met with violence. Even the fallacy of democracy is upheld by force. A capitalist government, even if it is “democratic,” will always serve the interests of the ruling classes no matter how much we reform it. As revolutionaries, our focus is not to organize and appeal to the oppressors for our rights. Our role is to organize the oppressed to build authentic democracy from the ground up. And we cannot wait for someone else to save us. Only we can save ourselves.
Marxism and socialism take up the position of the poor. That is why they are derided and hounded by the rich and powerful, because they work in the interests of the colonized and oppressed. We advocate for socialist revolution as the only means of achieving decolonization.
4. Indigenous liberation is the tip of the spear.
Class is fundamentally about power. The class system was imported to our lands and it upholds racism, sexism, homophobia, and settler colonialism. Indigenous nations are not immune to this system, and, in fact, have internalized it as their own. Indigenous nations face a double class oppression—first as Native people colonized by a foreign power and second as poor people. Only revolutionary socialism that seeks decolonization and the abolition of the class system can emancipate us from the ills plaguing our nations.
Only through creating a revolutionary organization can we hope to facilitate decolonization on the path towards socialism. No revolution in history ever came about spontaneously. The conditions of a rebellion (war, slavery, starvation) may have been spontaneous, but the successful defeat of the oppressors always required determined and effective organization of a disciplined and highly-trained revolutionary cadre. This is the difference between rebellion and revolution. Rebellion is a temporary protest that seeks the recognition of those in power to change their minds. Revolution seeks to build power from below and doesn’t require the recognition of the rulers—but seeks to entirely replace them with people power and the organized masses. Rebellion is a nascent phase that can lead to revolution. But it is not guaranteed. Revolutionaries, however, guide rebellion to revolution. To do so requires a lifetime commitment, building the revolutionary organization which is the vehicle of democracy and struggle, and the unwavering belief that things can and will change.
The Red Nation is a multinational organization, representing many different Indigenous nations. Yet we recognize a common oppression, a common experience, among Native people. We are oppressed because of our Indigenousness. Therefore, as our name suggests, we are seeking to unify as a nation in this hemisphere and beyond. But our nation is one in which many nations fit. We do not privilege one Indigenous experience over the other (for example, Lakota or Diné, urban or Rez, Anglo or Spanish, etc.). But our diversity and our plurality is our strength, not our weakness. We should actively seek to create and build alliances with non-Indigenous people and struggles but our primary struggle is dedicated to building our organization and unifying our people and nations. Only a revolutionary organization, dedicated to the principles of socialism, equality, democracy, freedom, and Indigenous liberation, is capable of doing that work. But we must submit to a collective will for liberation by abandoning bourgeois individualism and narrow nationalism.
We recognize that we cannot simply make use of the ready-made machinery of the capitalist state, and that we must work towards the abolition of the police, prison, and related systems of capitalist and colonial violence. We fight for the reorganization of the economic system according to socialist principles and the democratic control over the means of production and distribution of goods, while also not reproducing unequal colonial relations. We support the growth of workers’ unions and seek to revolutionize unions towards decolonization and socialism. We reject the notion that capitalism can be administered or reformed towards more humane ends. We do, however, support policies and office-holders (even our own members if elected) that work against the interests of colonialism, capitalism, and the ruling classes, while maintaining socialist revolution as the only solution.
We encourage our membership to develop revolutionary socialism within their own nations so long as it is dedicated to the liberation of all relations. We also recognize that our traditions have been distorted as tools for oppression. If a tradition becomes a shackle, it must be broken. And while our specific nations and the lands in which we inhabit take priority for our political, cultural, and spiritual development, it should never come at the expense of others or exclude people or beings removed by force or displaced from their homelands. Therefore, the struggle of The Red Nation may take on national Indigenous characteristics depending on region and geography, but it is fundamentally dedicated to national liberation for all Indigenous peoples, which is contingent upon the liberation of everyone and the planet.