From Online Isolationism to the Class Struggle: Why I Joined the IMT

An ongoing series on membership in the IMT, in which comrades explain what drove them to reject the capitalist system and embrace revolutionary socialism.

Growing up in the industrial suburb of Levittown, Pennsylvania, I was exposed to political ideas ranging from the tepid liberalism of the Democrats to conservative Republicanism. I never aligned myself with either of these ideologies. Even at a young age, I could see that the Democrats had no real answers to the problems facing American society. And as someone who was never religious, I strongly opposed the conservatives for most of my teen years.

Eventually, I came across “BreadTube,” a loose community of YouTube channels focused on “radical” politics and the self-proclaimed “dirtbag left.” At around the same time, I joined my high school’s competitive debate team, to escape the profound loneliness I’d been feeling. Content creators like Philosophy Tube and Big Joel helped me understand complex philosophical ideas such as Hegelianism and Kantianism in a simplified way, while keeping things entertaining and easily digestible. Participating in the online communities around these channels became a substitute for real-life social relationships. Watching BreadTube videos, I learned about planned economies, The Communist Manifesto, The New Jim Crow, and neoliberalism. This became the foundation for my politics, and I proclaimed myself a “democratic socialist.”

Watching “BreadTube” videos and participating in the online communities around these channels became a substitute for real-life social relationships./ Image: Federico Morando, Flickr

I carried these ideas with me to Temple University. My time immersed in online isolation left me with an idealist mindset toward politics. During my university studies, I had to confront the petty-bourgeois ideology that dominates the campuses. I could see that these ideas are not generated by and for the working class. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals recognize some of the symptoms of allowing capitalist gangsters to run amok across the globe, but they are incapable of taking a scientific approach to understanding and overthrowing capitalism.

These academics never explore how capitalism developed through its internal contradictions, because such an approach can only lead to one conclusion: the necessity for socialist revolution. Instead, they confine themselves to vague and often moralistic criticism. Some of these criticisms may be correct, but without offering a clear Marxist analysis and revolutionary way forward, these ideas ultimately serve as a mere consolation for the domination of imperialism and finance capital.

Lenin's portrait
Studying Lenin helped me understand the objective role of the petty-bourgeois academics. / Image: public domain

To understand the poverty of this philosophy, one must recognize the objective role of the petty-bourgeois academics. Lenin sums it up well in Imperialism. Referring to the German economics professor and apologist for German imperialism, Schultze-Gauvernize, Lenin explains:

The task of a bourgeois professor is not to lay bare the entire mechanism, or to expose all the machinations of the bank monopolists, but rather to present them in a favorable light.

The academic “Marxists” and other “radical” professors may be different from the likes of Schultze-Gauvernize in form but not in content. They are ultimately defenders of the status quo, despite adopting radical impostures to better appeal to students like me, who, in turn, have been well prepared for their self-defeating doctrines by our isolation in the toxic atmosphere of the online left.

At this time, I was still ingrained in this internet milieu. I avidly consumed “dirtbag-left” channels such as Hasan Piker and Chapo Trap House. Left-wing politics became an obsession like no other I’d ever experienced. I enthusiastically and mechanically agreed with everything these people had to say, not wishing to think for myself. I felt since I’d been so ignorant in the past, it was best to let the online content creators do my thinking for me.

Eventually, things started changing. Having left behind the stress of my last year of high school, I began to see my conscious separation from real-world politics as an extension of my poor mental health at the time. I realized much of my attraction to the pharisaical atmosphere of the online left stemmed from an unhealthy desire to appear smarter than everybody else. More and more, I found myself worn out by politics. I was looking for fresh air.

Meeting comrades of the International Marxist Tendency on campus came at a perfect time to break through this confusion. I had always had a positive idea of Marxism, but I had never called myself a communist due to its association with Stalinism and various left-wing sects. At the beginning of the fall semester, I attended the first meeting of my university’s IMT student club, Temple Marxists. It was aptly titled, “What is revolutionary Marxism? Why we are communists.” The meeting revealed the difference between the Stalinist caricature of socialism and genuine Marxism, briefly explained dialectical materialism, and highlighted the senile decay of capitalism.

At the beginning of the fall semester, I attended the first meeting of Temple Marxists, aptly titled, “What is revolutionary Marxism? Why we are communists.” / Image: Socialist Revolution

After finishing one year of college, I can say with 100% certainty that modern academic settings have nothing to offer in terms of a real solution to the problems of capitalism. It’s no wonder that so many young people today see so few options. Without exposure to genuine Marxism, they can become isolated like I was within small internet communities. The toxic effects of this isolation cannot be understated. Some young “radicals” are demoralized and driven towards the far right, which itself maintains a significant online presence. Another layer of the online left is drawn down the impotent path of supporting the Democratic Party. In 2008, the Obama campaign ran in-game ads in popular games such as Burnout Paradise. Eight years later, Obama raised awareness for his doomed Affordable Care Act by holding an e-sports tournament.

Recently, we’ve seen a rise in the streaming site Twitch, which provided a new avenue for political advertisement. Piker’s streams covering the last presidential election gained a peak viewership of 230,000. But leftist Twitch-streamers provide no political clarity. When things don’t go as they predicted, they always have a cynical remark to buck themselves up. They gawk at the bourgeois political process for the undignified spectacle it is, but instead of offering a revolutionary socialist program, they bask in the revenue that their streams make. Looking at the $2.75 million Los Angeles mansion that “dirtbag-leftist” Piker bought in August 2021, it’s clear to see his true motives as a political commentator.

In the absence of a clear revolutionary perspective, it is no wonder that many young people in universities are swayed by the alien class ideas taught in the lecture halls. We see this in the wave of “democratic socialists” attempting to work within the capitalist Democratic Party—a policy that online leftists like Chapo Trap House have supported for over half a decade. From Bernie’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden’s lies to the working class, it’s clear that there is no way forward for socialists in the Democratic Party. The liberal “socialists” elected as Democrats have become largely indistinguishable from the pro-capitalist elements they supposedly oppose. At the same time, they find themselves an increasingly insignificant factor within the bureaucratic infighting and culture-war frenzies that dominate bourgeois politics.

My participation in this online left was the starting point of the political journey that brought me to the IMT and the Bolshevik-Leninist convictions I now hold. / Image: Socialist Revolution

Capitalism is over 100 years past its expiration date. The rotten overripeness of bourgeois society is reflected in the rottenness of the online left. But my participation in this online left was the starting point of the political journey that brought me to the IMT and the Bolshevik-Leninist convictions I now hold.

Dialectics teaches us that everything eventually turns into its opposite. Just as the ideas of the utopian socialists gave way to the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels, so will the dead end of online leftism pass into insignificance. In its place will arise a new generation of Bolsheviks who will understand what Lenin meant when he said, “the Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true.” Let the ruling classes tremble!

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