This is a contentious subject. Please keep the discussion respectful. I think this will get more traction, here, but I’ll cross-post it to !Communism, too.

Workers who sell their labour power for a wage are part of the working class, right? They are wage-workers because they work for a wage. Are they wage-labourers?

“They’re proletariat,” I hear some of you shout.

“Not in the imperial core! Those are labour aristocrats,” others reply.

So what are the workers in the imperial core? Are they irredeemable labour aristocrats, the inseparable managers and professionals of the ruling class? Or are they proletarian, the salt of the earth just trying to get by?

It’s an important distinction, even if the workers in any country are not a homogenous bloc. The answer determines whether workers in the global north are natural allies or enemies of the oppressed in the global south.

The problem is as follows.

There is no doubt that people in the global north are, in general, more privileged than people in the global south. In many cases, the difference in privilege is vast, even among the wage-workers. This is not to discount the suffering of oppressed people in the global north. This is not to brush away the privilege of national bourgeois in the global south.

For some workers in the global north, privilege amounts to basic access to water, energy, food, education, healthcare, and shelter, streetlights, paved highways, etc. As much as austerity has eroded access to these basics, they are still the reality for the majority of people in the north even, to my knowledge, in the US.

Are these privileges enough to move someone from the ranks of the proletariat and into the labour aristocracy or the petit-bourgeois?

I’m going to discuss some sources and leave some quotes in comments, below. This may look a bit spammy, but I’m hoping it will help us to work through the several arguments, that make up the whole. The sources:

  • Settlers by J Sakai
  • Corona, Climate, and Chronic Emergency by Andreas Malm
  • The Wealth of Nations by Zac Cope
  • ‘Decolonization is Not a Metaphor’ by Eve Tuck and K Wayne Yang.

I have my own views on all this, but I have tried to phrase the points and the questions in a ’neutral’ way because I want us to discuss the issues and see if we can work out where and why we conflict and how to move forwards with our thinking (neutral to Marxists, at least). I am not trying to state my position by stating the questions below, so please do not attack me for the assumptions in the questions. By all means attack the assumptions and the questions.

To be honest I am pretty put off that they discredit some of the biggest strides in decolonization, and I think it stems from a lack of class analysis. Why do they see exploitation of the land for the good of all as settler colonialism?

From what I have garnered so far, settler colonialism is based on hierarchy of “national classes” (for lack of a better word). Nations have a class of proles and bourgeoisie, when in a settler colonial state the bourgeoisie give a their proletarian cultural group a priority and kickbacks for settling hence the bourgeois position. So the settler proles and oppressed proles hold contradicting positions, as long as the settler proles hold a bourgeois position.

We have seen settlers and indigenous nations work together to overthrow colonialism, in the USSR, China, Cuba and even with bourgeois democratic states in LatAm. Why is this? I believe it is because the class of settlers have been proletarianized enough to align with the oppressed and synthesize into a new state. Russians, Han Chinese, and Spaniards under the boot of Imperialsm had proletarian positions, and thus could synthesize with any oppressed nationalities With DOTPs specifically we see the first blow to settler colonialism, the elimination of the bourgeoisie as an oppressing class and thus the need for nations in the first place has started crumbling.

Sadly Tuck and Yang’s Liberalism holds them back from a class analysis, but their own class interests allow them to address settler colonialism. At the moment, they ARE right in saying that the most progressive way to decolonize the US is putting land back in Indigenous hands (proletarian hands). This is because as long as US Imperialism exists (as it does now) the Euro Americans hold a bourgeois and counter revolutionary position. (keep in mind this is not an exact science, and anglos are being proletarianized more and more each day. Hell I am a white settler and I am living barely on paycheck to paycheck).

What happens is the Indigenous revolutionary kernel is much more developed compared to the Settler revolutionary kernel. Thus the indigenous people hold a vanguard position, as any indigenous population has always had across history. Only when settler’s kernel is developed enough can it synthesize with the oppressed nations into a DOTP. And you can see indigenous leaders for decolonization even without a class analysis advocate for this synthesis. The more settlers work together with the oppressed nations, the less it will be solely indigenous but until that happens it holds an indigenous character (if that makes sense)

Is it accurate to refer to the indigenous populations of settler colonies as proletarian? Do they work in factories to reproduce their society or do they work in factories to reproduce someone else’s society?

Can the indigenous trust the settler proletariat? Is it possible to build solidarity while there is oppression? Tuck and Yang talk about the interests of the indigenous being different than the interests of the settler proletariat. That’s not to say that the settler proletariat is inherently bourgeois-aligned, but rather that the satisfaction of the indigenous interests necessarily destroys, through synthesis, the way of life of the settler, which generates reaction.

The question isn’t one of idealism but rather one of the dialectic. It challenges us to consider whether the idea of international worker solidarity in the context of settler colonialism is actually an idealist position.

honestly I’d look to the South and how they’ve handled this issue and do the same rather than reinventing the wheel. All of America is a settler colonial society. All of it. The North likes to think It’s special in this but they aren’t. We should look at what the South has done in coming to a resolution and providing special representation. When the time comes where we have a government willing to have a resolution we should open a panel involving all of America and come to a settlement that reconciles us all to each other.

I don’t think landback is a uniquely northern thing. However, you’re right that the north doesn’t look to the south for answers. If we did, we’d see the mestizo movement, the plurinational movement, and the continuing problems of indigenous self determination. We would also see that those movements don’t exist in the north, and that developing them artificially would be nearly impossible, as they were partially born from the distinct material conditions of Spanish colonialism in significantly different natural ecosystems and in their relationship with North American colonial foreign policy.

In fact, it is likely that if landback in the north takes hold, the lessons learned will influence indigenous peoples in the South and potentially change the dynamic.


I don’t have much to add other than I think the enemies of colonization (or the proponents of decolonization, however you want to look at it) are going to need to look at Bolivia and Nicaragua as prime examples of how it can be done. Reading Álvaro García Linera’s work, former Vice President of Bolivia (and principled Marxist-Leninist), has been inspiring in reinforcing the possibility and plausibility of decolonization in even the imperial core, for me. As we can look to AES states for inspiration for how socialist construction can be done, we absolutely should also be looking at states with a policy of decolonization and the indigenous autonomy they’ve fought for and earned for inspiration.

China is also often homogenized as being totally “Chinese”, with “Chinese” often denoting some level of Han hegemony when used in Western discourse - completely obfuscating the supreme level of ethnic diversity of China and the policies for indigenous autonomy being pursued by the CPC and the activists and officials within its autonomous zones. China can offer an extremely illuminating example of how autonomy can be achieved in a diverse nation, if activists in the west allow it to.

I don’t disagree. I just think the material conditions in North America are fundamentally different. Giving indigenous people autonomy is going to run face first into military uses of land to defend the settler nation, non-indigenous agrarian uses of the land to feed the settler nation, and the reality of the pioneer and frontier mentalities that continue to have serious repurcussions on North American society. The systemic injustices, the eugenics programs, and many other issues will be points of contradiction that will require concessions from the settler proletariat that will generate significant reaction. I think unlike the smaller nations in the South, the US has a serious complex of reaction around it’s role in indigenous oppression that generates a serious risk of patriotic socialism finding purchase and driving the nation continually towards fascism. It’s not clear this can be resolved through plurinationalism, but its possible. It will take on significantly different characteristics to meet the challenges of the unique conditions in the north.

China offers a lot of great solutions, but what you don’t see is the British maintaining their settler existence and sovereignty in Hong Kong, nor in India. We also see the Europeans leave most of their colonies in Africa. It’s unclear to me why it’s such a difficult thing to imagine a complete dissolution of the settler states in the Western hemisphere

Everybody here believes in the dissolution of the capitalist state. The question is what is to be done afterwards. The things you’re talking about are tied to the capitalist state. I don’t think there’s room to talk about reformations outside of the revolutionary process, because these reforms are impossible outside of a greater revolution.

Obviously giving everything back to the American Indians is unrealistic. It’s never going to happen. There’s no point of making that your final thesis.

There should, however, be special attentions paid to the tribes. They should be given special representation in their local and federated governments.

As far as breaking Western Settler-Colonialism ideologically and politically, the new government should reject its special affinity for Europe and emphasize cultural and civilizational ties to America. We need to unify the North to the South as much as possible while severing our unnatural relationship with Europe. Then there will no longer be a “West”. There will be America and there will be Europe.

Edit: I don’t think that the South is much smaller than the North. I think there are also many similarities among the indigenous South. They have their unique culture separate from the settler governments that rule them. Their lands are exploited for industrial farming, lumber, and mineral extraction. They are militarily and politically repressed.

The major difference between the North and the South in this is that the Southern indigenous are more numerous and more capable of exerting their own political will. That has to do with them being pushed into the jungles rather than the desert.

As far as patriotic socialism driving the US towards fascism. I think the US is already a fascist nation. You’re giving the patriotic socialists too much credit. Their wishy-washy position is incapable of providing a meaningful critique. As socialism becomes more popular its going to attract a lot of revisionists. That’s the way of it. If you’re worried about fascism, the liberals are who you should be more afraid of. I don’t have it in me to be worried about a couple of 18 year old gym rats with no theoretical grasp of socialism dismantling the eternal science.

I think we might be just talking past each other at this point:

Obviously giving everything back to the American Indians is unrealistic

I’m really not sure how you’ve come to this conclusion. I don’t see any reason why it’s unrealistic for the indigenous to have sovereignty over all of Turtle Island and all European colonies. Start with Hawaii, Alaska, the Arctic circle, a foot hold in the Pacific Northwest, and the North Atlantic. Transfer sovereignty to a body entirely composed of indigenous tribes. Let them figure out how they want to govern it. Establish a program of transference over time, slowly ceding territory back to the indigenous peoples and creating the pathway for European counter-migration. It’s only unrealistic because of reactionaries, not because it can’t actually be done.

As far as breaking Western Settler-Colonialism ideologically and politically, the new government should reject its special affinity for Europe and emphasize cultural and civilizational ties to America.

Amerigo Vespucci has no place here. Decolonization must be thorough and complete, including linguistically. European settlers cannot even understand what they’ve destroyed, how are they to be expected to emphasize cultural and civilization ties to the oppressed people of Turtle Island. No, breaking Western settler-colonialism requires nothing less than ceding sovereign power over the continent, come what may. If your theories about proletarian solidarity hold, then the indigenous tribes will create a path for sustainable inclusion of those proletarians that will help them develop society. They get to decide because they know better what they need. European settlers will react, but reaction must be managed, not avoided at the cost of maintaining contradictions.

The major difference between the North and the South in this is that the Southern indigenous are more numerous and more capable of exerting their own political will. That has to do with them being pushed into the jungles rather than the desert.

That’s a critical historical difference, but I wouldn’t say it’s the major difference. I think the major differences are the massive underdevelopment, the precarious retention of many of the indigenous habitats due to that underdevelopment, and the prevalence of Mestizo peoples - the US has none of these, Canada has some indigenous habitats still but not the other 2. Attempting to transplant Southern solutions into the USA is going to fail primarily due to the lack of Mestizo. The solutions might be valid organizational structures, but there will be no movement to sustain them, so the only solution would be for the noble white proletariat to find it in their hearts to adopt solutions from the South and impose them for the benefit of the indigenous people of the North.

The way I said that sounds bad, right? What’s the solution to that? Give the indigenous sovereignty and follow their leadership.

As far as patriotic socialism driving the US towards fascism. I think the US is already a fascist nation.

It is either proto-fascist or its neo-fascist, but it’s not yet Euro-fascist. If its neo-fascist, which I suspect it is, I don’t believe it is fully developed neo-fascism, that is to say I think it’s most likely proto-neo-fascist. Which means there’s room for it to develop fascism significantly further.

You’re giving the patriotic socialists too much credit. Their wishy-washy position is incapable of providing a meaningful critique.

No, you misunderstand me. My conjecture is that if we manage to get a socialist movement rolling the North America, it will be co-opted by the Pat Socs and directed towards the development of fascism, either into the Euro-fascism we know or to a developed neo-fascism. Not that we should fear the Pat Socs will do it first, but that Patriotic Socialism is the most likely path for a socialist movement to follow in North America due to the existence of fascist structures for managing and directing upheaval.

If you’re worried about fascism, the liberals are who you should be more afraid of.

I am, right up until they start losing to the socialists, and then I’m going to be afraid of the socialist movement being co-opted into a fascist one.

I don’t have it in me to be worried about a couple of 18 year old gym rats with no theoretical grasp of socialism dismantling the eternal science.

Me neither.

Could Zimbabwe or South Africa be used as rough models for ceding power? I don’t know enough about either region, so this could be a terrible idea. But with Zimbabwe, especially, I remember hearing stories about white people leaving en masse because they felt ‘oppressed’ after independence.

It’s interesting that Anglo-European powers thought they could claim that colonialism was ‘over’ when they ‘closed’ their colonial offices, but refused to leave their settler states. Just noting this as it’s not obvious from the everyday language of ‘post’-colonialism, but it becomes stark when the issue is considered in more depth.

Is there another significant factor with regard to North/South differences? Namely, that Spain was kicked out of the South, whereas Britain (and other Europeans) stayed in the North (albeit under ‘new’ states). And, following this, the US, especially, is now the world’s dominant imperial power. While Spain was one of the most powerful empires at one time, it did not move the seat of that power to any of its colonies.

Give the indigenous sovereignty and follow their leadership.

Yes exactly. And there are plenty of ways to aid in entrenching Indigenous leadership and sovereignty. Comrades need to get to know the local Tribes and what problems they face. Sometimes they are quite specific to Indigenous circumstances that settlers may be unaware of, others might be entirely universal.

There are oftentimes material struggles like access to water or resources, legal struggles like ICWA etc, political struggles like local governments or oligarchs encroaching on sovereignty, land back movements.

I also encourage comrades to consider learning Indigenous languages if possible and participate in “revitalization” efforts.

My advice is to do so with humility, respect, sensitivity, and be eager to learn things you didn’t know you needed to know. Be willing to be uncomfortable and don’t think your marxism makes you special but also do give your perspective when it is relevant.

What do you mean by way of life of the settler? Living standards or some bullshit idea of “American Values”?

I mean, yeah they are still proletarian, that would be like saying the global south isn’t proletariat because they produce many good exploited by the core. I certainly don’t see too many bourgeois indigenous peoples. I guess it’s more there’s “national class” that holds class character, like core and periphery, where in a settler colonial context the oppressed nations are an internalized periphery.

I think it’s important to point out that while Indigenous peoples having children is an act of resistance against the settler state, settlers having children isn’t inherently an act of repression against Indigenous populations. As at the very basis the settlers are still exploited, even though under imperialism they gain a privileged position of labour aristocracy. Once imperialism is defeated, then the majority of settlers will have their interests align more and more with Indigenous peoples, as the contradictions boil inwards.

Maybe I’m missing something, could you extrapolate more by what you mean interests?

I understand and agree with the reluctance to accept something as vague as ‘values’ or a ‘way of life’ might determine material reality. Marxists appear to argue for the opposite when they insist that material factors, not ideas or idealism, is determinative. The question is whether values or a way of life is material or ideal.

The issue concerns the metaphor of base and superstructure (the base determines the superstructure). The opposite can happen, too: Law can affect the political economy, for example.

Althusser may be helpful for thinking about ‘American values’. In ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, he considers the ‘reproduction of the relations of production’:

There are ‘(repressive) State apparatus[es]’ (SAs)., ultimately backed by physical violence: ‘the Government, the Administration, the Army, the Police, the Courts, the Prisons, etc.’ And there are ‘Ideological State Apparatuses’ (ISAs):

  • the religious ISA (the system of the different churches),
  • the educational ISA (the system of the different public and private ‘schools’),
  • the family ISA,
  • the legal ISA,
  • the political ISA (the political system, including the different parties),
  • the trade-union ISA,
  • the communications ISA (press, radio and television, etc.),
  • the cultural ISA (literature, the arts, sports, etc.).

The metaphor of base-superstructure suggests that, being part of the superstructure, ISAs and (repressive) SAs (which both may promote and rely on ‘American values’) have little effect on the economic base. But both kinds, ISAs and SAs, contribute to reproducing relations of production (the existing base).

Althusser gives an interim summary and thinks through the implications:

  1. All [SAs] function both by repression and by ideology, with the difference that the (Repressive) [SAs] functions massively and predominantly by repression, whereas the Ideological State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by ideology.
  2. Whereas the (Repressive) [SAs] constitutes an organized whole whose different parts are centralized beneath a commanding unity, that of the politics of class struggle applied by the political representatives of the ruling classes in possession of State power, the Ideological State Apparatuses are multiple, distinct, ‘relatively autonomous’ and capable of providing an objective field to contradictions which express … the effects of the clashes between the capitalist class struggle and the proletarian class struggle ….
  3. Whereas the unity of the (Repressive) [SAs] is secured by its unified and centralized organization under the leadership of the representatives of the classes in power executing the politics of the class struggle of the classes in power, the unity of the different Ideological State Apparatuses is secured, usually in contradictory forms, by the ruling ideology, the ideology of the ruling class.

The role of the repressive [SA] … consists … in securing by force (physical or otherwise) the political conditions of the reproduction of relations of production which are in the last resort relations of exploitation. Not only does the [SA] contribute generously to its own reproduction (the capitalist State contains political dynasties, military dynasties, etc.), but also and above all, the [SA] secures by repression (from the most brutal physical force, via mere administrative commands and interdictions, to open and tacit censorship) the political conditions for the action of the [ISAs].

… [I]t is the latter which largely secure the reproduction specifically of the relations of production, behind a ‘shield’ provided by the repressive [SA]. It is here that the role of the ruling ideology is heavily concentrated, the ideology of the ruling class, which holds State power. … [T]he ruling ideology that ensures a (sometimes teeth-gritting) ‘harmony’ between the repressive [SA] and the [ISAs], and between the different State Ideological Apparatuses.

He presents some historical, then writes:

I believe that the Ideological State Apparatus which has been installed in the dominant position in mature capitalist social formations as a result of a violent political and ideological class struggle against the old dominant Ideological State Apparatus, is the educational ideological apparatus.


… behind the scenes of its political [ISA], which occupies the front of the stage, what the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e. as its dominant [ISA], is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant [ISA], the Church. One might even add: the School-Family couple has replaced the Church-Family couple.

Why is the educational apparatus in fact the dominant [ISA] in capitalist social formations, and how does it function? …

  1. All [ISAs] … contribute to the same result: the reproduction of the relations of production, i.e. of capitalist relations of exploitation.
  1. Each of them contributes towards this single result in the way proper to it. The political apparatus by subjecting individuals to the political State ideology, the ‘indirect’ (parliamentary) or ‘direct’ (plebiscitary or fascist) ‘democratic’ ideology. The communications apparatus by cramming every ‘citizen’ with daily doses of nationalism, chauvinism, liberalism, moralism, etc, by means of the press, the radio and television. The same goes for the cultural apparatus (the role of sport in chauvinism is of the first importance), etc. The religious apparatus by recalling in sermons and the other great ceremonies of Birth, Marriage and Death, that man is only ashes, unless he loves his neighbour to the extent of turning the other cheek to whoever strikes first. The family apparatus …but there is no need to go on.
  1. Nevertheless, … one [ISA] certainly has the dominant role … the School.

It takes children from every class at infant-school age, and then for years, the years in which the child is most ‘vulnerable’, squeezed between the Family State Apparatus and the Educational State Apparatus, it drums into them, whether it uses new or old methods, a certain amount of ‘know-how’ wrapped in the ruling ideology (French, arithmetic, natural history, the sciences, literature) or simply the ruling ideology in its pure state (ethics, civic instruction, philosophy). Somewhere around the age of sixteen, a huge mass of children are ejected ‘into production’: these are the workers or small peasants. Another portion of scholastically adapted youth carries on: and, for better or worse, it goes somewhat further, until it falls by the wayside and fills the posts of small and middle technicians, white-collar workers, small and middle executives, petty bourgeois of all kinds. A last portion reaches the summit, either to fall into intellectual semi-employment, or to provide, as well as the ‘intellectuals of the collective labourer’, the agents of exploitation (capitalists, managers), the agents of repression (soldiers, policemen, politicians, administrators, etc.) and the professional ideologists (priests of all sorts, most of whom are convinced ‘laymen’).

Each mass ejected en route is practically provided with the ideology which suits the role it has to fulfil in class society: the role of the exploited (with a ‘highly-developed’ ‘professional’, ‘ethical’, ‘civic’, ‘national’ and a-political consciousness); the role of the agent of exploitation (ability to give the workers orders and speak to them: ‘human relations’), of the agent of repression (ability to give orders and enforce obedience ‘without discussion’, or ability to manipulate the demagogy of a political leader’s rhetoric), or of the professional ideologist (ability to treat consciousnesses with the respect, i.e. with the contempt, blackmail, and demagogy they deserve, adapted to the accents of Morality, of Virtue, of ‘Transcendence’, of the Nation, of France’s World Role, etc.).

Of course, many of these contrasting Virtues (modesty, resignation, submissiveness on the one hand, cynicism, contempt, arrogance, confidence, self-importance, even smooth talk and cunning on the other) are also taught in the Family, in the Church, in the Army, in Good Books, in films and even in the football stadium. But no other [ISA] has the obligatory (and not least, free) audience of the totality of the children in the capitalist social formation, eight hours a day for five or six days out of seven.

Messages taught by ISAs in settler states, such as American values, prop-up the settler state’s oppression against the indigenous people. The ideological function of such ISAs materially reproduce the settler state.

I’m unsure if this relates to @freagle’s point about ‘way of life’, but the discussion reminded me of Althusser, whose article seems applicable, here. Is this useful / relevant?

What do you mean by way of life of the settler? Living standards or some bullshit idea of “American Values”?

Bullshit or not American “values” made America what it is. The reflection of the ideology manifests as armies, guarded borders, racist policies that actually harm people, redlining, etc. Artificial divisions between people aren’t just illusory. They are made real through actual physical violence.

For example: the early stages of the Northwest Indian War were fought by militias and white insurgents who settled west of the Proclamation Line of 1763 technically illegally. It wasn’t until these groups failed that Washington raised an army himself to finish the job. And this army was still using the manpower of settler proles.

Obviously, the bourgoisie did fully intend to design the system around their interests in land speculation. The immediate result of the Northwest Indian War was Washington being granted access to 20000 acres deeded to him in Ohio. But it was the colonists already living there ahead of legal tracts being established that create impetus for and foment the war path.

We can see a similar situation in the West Bank. Suburbs of Israeli colonists are illegally cropping up all over, and they’re filled with the worst people who think they deserve to live there, and will aim to do so no matter how much Palestinians try to reject them to enforce treaties. In their minds, they are victims, because they don’t see their posession of Palestinian land as violence.

At minimum, the indigenous peoples of the Western hemisphere have a different material understanding of the world that they have not had a chance to develop fully. Doing so would necessarily require challenging the Eurocentric material understanding of the world. Doing this would be difficult, potentially impossible without a period of time wherein the indigenous analysis of the world is given a degree of primacy. Requiring that the indigenous adopt the understanding of the universe of the European order, which explicitly includes a history of excluding indigenous thought, is problematic.

Then we’ll have to contend with the reality of trauma. Trauma research is showing how trauma is embodied and heritable. Resolving that trauma in the indigenous population will likely require, at minimum, reparations and at some level national self direction. National self direction of indigenous people will be assuredly run counter to settler interests.

Even without considering trauma, social necessity includes cultural components, not merely commodities. The development of those socially necessary cultural components will require allocations of resources at minimum, but will likely also require dismantling some of the material components if settler cultural and social reproduction.

Conflicts will arise in some manner, and the settler proletariat must comes to terms with that conflict by deferring to the indigenous population to avoid recreating contradictions inherent in oppression. But this requires the settler proletariat to accept the indigenous position even when it harms the settler economically. This will be very difficult without a framework of decolonization.

Good points. We’re going to discuss a book on this in the NEBulae reading group thread this Weds. Maybe The Red Deal has some answers for us.

This is a very good way of explaining things.

Thanks, Ive thought about this pretty much since the patsoc purge, I believe I worded it poorly and left many things out, but it’s a jist of what I understand. Mixes of the National Question and Inter-communalism in there.

My only concern with decolonization is how it’s implemented: The knowledge of the native Americans must be raised if they are to play a vanguard role. Potential possessed and potential realized are not the same thing. Logistics and all that.

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