Modern Socialism: Applying Anti-Capitalist Theory Realistically to the Modern United States

The Shawarma Bolshevik
20 min readApr 13, 2021

F. Anton Drozdov

Socialist ideology is a sentient being, forever changing and molding as necessary to the age in which it is applied. As such, the notion that its general, unaltered application as a remedy to the capitalist disease in the context of the United States in the 21st century is simply unrealistic, and shall inevitably lead to its failure in the event of a serious worker insurgency against the state. In this essay, I aim to detail the essential facets of a realistic application of socialist theory in the specific context of the modern-day United States.


· The Subclasses Within the Proletariat

· Qualifying the Socialist Position in the 21st Century

· The Pitfalls of the American Left

· The Romanticization of the Revolution

· The Current State of the Established Hegemonic Fabric of Capitalist Society

· The Farce of Bourgeois Democracy

· Squashing Classist Rhetoric Regarding the Southern United States

· The Necessity of Authoritarianism

· The Manifestation of Revolution

· Conclusion

The Subclasses Within the Proletariat

The Proletariat as an Entire Entity

Upon first analysis, it is essential to approach critique of class struggle through the lens of the proletariat as an entire entity, void of subclasses. Of course, this must be stripped away later through more thorough technical observations, in order to define revolutionary potential within the American proletariat. The proletariat as an entire entity shall refer to the working class that possesses little to no control over capital, and thus encompasses not only the lumpenproletariat and revolutionary proletariat, but the petty bourgeoisie as well. Identifying distinct lines between the capitalist class and the subservient classes is the first step to the identification of revolutionary potential within the state’s masses.

The Petty Bourgeoisie

The most stationary of the working class, the petty bourgeoisie not only stands alone as a subsection of the proletariat, but also experiences its own overlap with the lumpenproletariat, which is a direct result of the minor ownership of capital. The petty bourgeoisie is labeled as such due to its mirroring of the bourgeoisie, of the capitalist class.

Rather than reside as the oversight of mass production, ultimately privatizing the means of production to their control, the petty bourgeoisie controls what could be observed simply as a scaled down production process, ultimately utilizing the capitalist mode of production at a smaller application. Regardless, the petty bourgeoisie must be observed as nothing more than class traitors, being nothing more than a few thousand dollars ahead of their starving brothers and sisters.

The Lumpenproletariat

A great portion of the proletariat of the United States, the lumpenproletariat refers to the working class that lacks the revolutionary spirit and vigor, as well as class consciousness necessary to incite a meaningful working-class insurrection against the capitalist state.

The lumpenproletariat is uninterested in participation in radical or revolutionary action, whether through electoral politics or direct action. The lumpenproletariat is not necessarily an obstacle to revolution, but could rather be considered an apathetic portion of society, driven to hopelessness by criminalization or social stigmatization and shame.

The Revolutionary Proletariat

Enter the most class-conscious proletarians with the greatest potential for radicalization. The revolutionary proletariat carries with it the affinity to stir anger, to radicalize those in proximity. It understands the dialectical connection between the capitalist mode of production and the deterioration of its material conditions. Regardless of whether or not it has versed itself on the theories of Marx or others, the revolutionary proletariat understands the root cause of its woes, that the capitalist class enforces its mode of production through the state and terror of the police force, domestically, and the military, overseas.

As such, the revolutionary proletariat has the potential to either establish vanguards through which the lumpenproletariat may become radicalized, or it may simply incite insurrection through the belief that there will be widespread class consciousness. Whichever comes first depends on the current conditions of the United States, and may vary through regions. Thus, there is a real possibility for the balkanization of such a large land mass, though this may come into question further.

Qualifying the Socialist Position in the 21st Century

There is no doubt that if the American left is to normalize its position against capitalism, there would need to be a great effort placed on the explicative qualification of such a position, as a means to ground the argument. This does not mean anti-capitalists should cite history of the French utopians, but rather that they should implicate such facets of socialist thought to finetune their persuasive techniques, to remind capitalist sympathizers that the position is rooted in a materialistic observation of the world.

Marx himself made the effort to qualify his Hegelian analytical position, which was later coined dialectical materialism, a proposal based on the material interactions of the world, rather than Hegel’s dialectical idealism, which was based on the interactions of ideas in the context of debate or discussion. As such, approaching radicalization through a dialectical approach shall prove more effective; taking away the categorizations that dictate capitalist thought shall inevitably allow for necessary connections to be made regarding the “coexistence” of mass wealth as well as widespread poverty. The inevitable mistake of categorical thinking is to not make such claims, despite the necessity of it.

Such a method of thought is propagated by a mass-media machine, which acts as the cultural institutions which push the narrative for the establishment of the dysfunctional norms of capitalism, as Gramsci might’ve observed and predicted. The media intentionally pushes an agenda which is riddled with anti-dialectic thought. Everything is categorized, and the result is a population that thinks likewise. Destroy this way of thinking, for it is time to push violently against the narrative.

The Pitfalls of the American Left

It should come as no surprise that socialism in the global South is different from the socialism of the global East. In the context of the United States, there currently lies a slurry of differing leftist ideologies and/or parties. Thus, viscously dissecting each major one is essential to understanding the potential of the impossible task of “leftist unity”.

The specific shortcomings of the left in the United States are related perhaps to the specific context under which the ideologies are operated, and shall be observed further.

Democratic Socialism

Perhaps mildly insulting in its titular nature, democratic socialism is the ideology most affiliated with the DSA organization (Democratic Socialists of America). The major concern with such an organization is the already growing concern with regards to treatment of members, as well as the crushing of unionization efforts. Such an entity is powerful for perhaps enacting an effort of change, normalizing terms like “socialism”. However, relying on them as a force for leftist organization is simply unrealistic. “Democratic Socialism” is itself a patronizing term, and seems to reject the very nature of socialist ideology, ignoring its very nature. Socialism is a transitional state between the collapse of Capitalism and the establishment of Communism. It is specifically recognizable by its aim to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat or, in layman terms, build a state operated by the working class. Socialism has been the most common mechanism to achieve a communist society utilized in the 20th century. By its very nature, it aims to dissolve the class hierarchy, and as such the use of terms like “democratic” preceding an already inherently democratic system simply misleads, though perhaps not intentionally, those who find themselves curious of such an ideology.

Social Democracy

Social Democracy is quite simple to describe, though it can hardly be considered a facet of leftist ideology. A more realistic denotation would be “welfare capitalism”, in which the capitalist economy is maintained, and further safety nets are established. The true pitfall of such an ideology is found through historical precedence. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s enactment of the New Deal to “save the economy” from the capitalist disaster that pushed the United States into the Great Depression, was effective for a brief period of time, and can be considered an act of Social Democracy. Despite such seemingly radical efforts, the capitalist structure that was upheld continued to move along, and eventually lead the United States to a point in which the wealth disparities outweigh the ones of France and Russian prior to their revolutions. Social Democracy has proven to be a failure, and must not be considered a leftist ideology, particularly due to its refusal to dismantle the class hierarchies of the capitalist system.


There are in fact devoted socialists within the United States, despite its long effort to discredit such an ideology through the use of violent McCarthyite tactics to draw negative connotations to it. The socialists can be considered comprehensive and well-read in the subjects of Marxist-Leninism and perhaps Luxemburgism, among other Marxist ideologies. In the manner of class-conscious development, they may adhere to the specific application of vanguardism, advocating for the establishment of organizations to encourage the proletariat to rise to an elevated state of class consciousness, in the pursuit of a stronger, unified working class that may lead a legitimized insurgency against the state. The socialists are split between state socialists and libertarian socialists. The libertarian socialist ideology, it should be noted, is a fallacy and perhaps unrealistic, as it rejects Marxist ideals of socialism, re-painting the image of a dictatorship of the proletariat, authority, into the lack thereof. The state socialist ideology aims to co-opt the existing capitalist state following an insurrection as a means to defend the revolution. The socialists can be considered of a leftist ideology, for no other reason than the simple definition of the anti-capitalist philosophies, in which the abolition and dismantling of capitalism is paramount to the end goal.


The anarchist faction of the communist ideology concerns itself with the decentralized revolution, absent of the influence of the vanguard. Regardless of the debate between socialism and anarcho-communism, the philosophy is a leftist one, as it aims to dismantle the capitalist mode of production. Thus, it shall be observed as an effective tool to oppose the state, and a necessary ally to the anti-capitalist effort.


The everlasting challenge in the American is the pursuit of leftist unity. After all, a unified working class is the capitalist’s greatest enemy. However, to what end must unity be considered? There are often speculations that this aim is simply unrealistic, and to this end I find myself in agreement. The notion that there will be a complete unification against the state is idealistic, at best.

A more attainable end might be the defense of a post-capitalist society through either an anarchist army or a vanguard which, in order to save time and space, shall not be discussed with regards to which method is superior in effect. Regardless, seeking a measure to establish a communist society must require some protective entity, as there will forever be the capitalist interests seeking to enact a counterinsurgency.

It seems that the American left refuses to properly enact change lest they achieve leftist unity. This may lead to its inevitable downfall. There must be the internalized understanding that regardless of the specific ideology, support for anti-capitalists must come before all else. This may mean that the anarchist must stand in support of a Marxist-Leninist revolution, or that the Marxist-Leninist must stand in support of the decentralized revolution. One shall take precedent, and risking the effectiveness of it through meaningless bickering along the way can only act to weaken the effort. Thus, the abolition of the capitalist mode of production must stand at the center of the movement.

The Romanticization of the Revolution

The media culture within the United States, among other capitalist states, has intentionally engrained within the minds of the population a rather specific vision of revolution: one driven by the bullet or the sword, one with executions and blood rushing down the street. While there lies no established guarantee of such a scenario not taking place, it must also be understood that the Hollywood portrayal of insurgencies is nothing short of pure effect and purposeful galore.

Such a media practice inevitably results in a population which, having relied on media for a prolonged period of time, has manifested a single image of revolution, which mirrors the portrayals in film and/or literature. The image of revolution is one that is almost beautiful, orchestrated and precise, erotic even. Reality often tells a different story: uprisings are marked by periods of unrest, often unpredictable crime and increased violence. The grounding in reality of necessary revolutionary action must precede any efforts of insurgency, lest we risk a dangerous failure.

Revolution is not a single event. It requires months, perhaps years, of organization on the local level, through many avenues. Vladimir Lenin famously advocated for the establishment of a Russian newspaper, in which Marxists and anti-capitalists might publish articles and other texts. This in itself can be considered a method of organization, through the publicization of academia and knowledge. One of the necessary efforts of the American left must be to establish a realistic revolutionary narrative. The reality is that there are two options in which a state like the United States could select from. There is either the vigilant organization of the left, forming labor organizations which are then weaponized against the government in the form of a general strike. The other is the less desirable option: civil war. There is no doubt that historically capitalist states have gone through either route, and capitalistic nations like the US have reached a point in which an isolated labor movement seems unlikely.

The Current State of the Established Hegemonic Fabric of Capitalist Society

Oftentimes the question that is most often pondered upon is how and why the American proletariat continues to accept the material conditions which have been forced upon them in a brutal individualist capitalist society. There is no doubt that it is a phenomenon to behold: such a furthered capitalist society that sees limited unrest from the masses is certainly impressive by the standards expected of someone like Marx.

Enter the media. If there is one thing the United States has perfected unlike any other capitalist state, it’s the power of the cultural institutions that reside within, manufacturing the narrative by which the proletariat is drugged, under the impression that the woes they face are direct results of bipartisan, fictitious rivalries within the political structure.

The media in the United States can be broken into three factions. The mainstream news media, the movie media, and the fabricated “independent” media. To better understand each, let us examine them individually.

The Mainstream News Media

Perhaps the most blatant of culturally influential medias, the mainstream news media serves a very specific purpose in the United States. Such a purpose is not lost on even the individuals who participate in the capitalist mode of production with no qualms, no grievances. The power of such media has even driven those aware of its influence to simply reject the notion that it should be changed.

The mainstream news media is predominantly responsible for the manufacturing of consent, a term coined by linguist Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing consent refers to the system in which the media acts as a spokesperson for military industrial complex, pushing a tailored narrative by which consent of the masses is manufactured. Such practices are no doubt disastrous, as seen in the results of the manufacturing of consent with regards to the illegal war in Iraq. The media drove the masses to support a decision that was ultimately unjustified, all as a means to drive oil profiteering in the Middle East.

The mainstream news media engages in what could be called fruitless partisan scapegoating, in which supposedly “left-leaning” media outlets engage in games of blame, pitting the woes of society on a heartless Republican Party. Simultaneously, the right-leaning outlets engage in a reciprocated activity. The result is a proletariat facing consistently worsening material conditions whilst being convinced that their desperation is at the hand of a political party.

The Film Media

There is no doubt that the Western film apparatus is as powerful as that of the Nazi regime, fabricating subtle propaganda that is imbedded beneath bright lights and exciting storylines.

Often the populations most convinced of their immunity to the propaganda are the most susceptible to it. A simple fact of hubris is no doubt at play, and becomes evident through the media enjoyed by these populations. The intentional creation of storylines to favor the imperialist regimes, through personal tales of “bravery”, are fed with ease to those who accept those storylines with open arms.

In the same way film and art media was weaponized as a means to prop the Nazi regime, so too does the United States apparatus utilize these factions of society to sway the masses. All anti-capitalist media is written in meaningless metaphor, as if all left-wing revolutionary conceptions are too damning for a society that yearns for change, regardless of whether or not it may manifest such a realization.

The film and arts media within the capitalist structure may not overtly apply propaganda to lull the masses, but it may also act as a distraction, a means to draw attention of the proletariat from their deteriorating conditions, over to meaningless dialogue or debate over infantile topics of discussion. Regardless of the immediate actions, never must the proletariat be distracted from the realities that surround them, for this is the ideal end result for the capitalist class.

“Independent” Media

As the capitalist class relies on the structure of an illusion of freedom to keep the angry masses at bay, there becomes a necessity for the addition of a seemingly teeming sea of freedom of thought. Here enters the faction of “independent” media. The freedom of the working class has long been dissipated, and the freedom of thought along with it. Individual thought has become a manifestation of the narrative implanted by the cultural institutions.

The independent media is no different. These institutions operate similarly to a speakeasy, an image on the front with backroom operations. Regardless of the thoughts on this media, journalism is a dangerous occupation, as its true roots aim to draw attention to the realities of what occurs behind closed doors, a punishable crime under capitalist regimes. True journalists are imprisoned, exiled, even murdered for their work in uncovering inconvenient truths.

How can one trust the independent media, when half of it receives funding from major news media conglomerates? How can one trust it if the reality of punishable crimes for true journalism have been exposed? There is a rightful distrust of these seemingly independent operations, which remain first and foremost lacking in true revolutionary thought, which stands as an essential facet of the current state of the bourgeois dictatorship of capital.

The Farce of Bourgeois Democracy

Historical precedence seemingly tells us that bourgeois societies employ the use the force, the “iron fist”, to beat the exploited proletariat into submission. An observation of reality tells us different. Regardless of whether or not force is utilized, there must always lie the illusion of freedom, as a means to maintain the façade of the “status quo”, the structure of hegemonic society. As such, all dictatorships of the bourgeoisie possess within them farces of democracy.

Take the United States for example. On a four-year cycle of illusion, the masses partake in elections to select who shall next uphold the identical systems of oppression, who to rule over the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It has become completely unfathomable for a proletarian to attempt to enter the world of bourgeois electoral politics. The process itself has been privatized, exclusive to individuals with control of capital. In fact, to say it has become privatized within the United States simply undercuts the reality that the foundational rot of the state was reliant on the sole participation of capitalists in the farce of democracy.

The capitalist state requires the citizens participate, or at least feel the need to participate, in this theatrical production of “democracy” as a means to continuously maintain a sedated state, under which the proletariat is convinced that they have been granted the power to elect leaders for their representation. There must come with a powerful anti-capitalist movement in the United States the push for the initiative of the dictatorship over the ruling class.

The illusion of party politics is maintained through the seemingly conflicted nature of said parties. Democrats and Republicans feign spars over policy and ideology, purely to fabricate the necessary image of diversity of thought and representation. The façade is properly positioned, and the participants of the electoral process are drugged, believing they are truly dictating their fates through the ballot. Historical precedence provides a true insight into the development of bourgeois democracy. As the populist right maintains its positions steadfast, the bourgeois liberals engage in theatrical opposition, in verbality and nothing more. The simple act of false opposition is the opiate of the petty bourgeois liberals, who insist the party stands opposed to the vigilant right. The reality, of course, shows us that the liberal initiative is to crush leftwing populism, for fear that the working class shall finally inherit the power of the state and reverse the dictatorial roles, now towering over the bourgeoisie. The result is a strong rightwing populist movement eventually seizing power, oppressing the liberal and anti-capitalist factions of society. Demagoguery becomes paramount, a tool of the fascists to throw the blame of a tormented working class away from the bourgeoisie, and onto ethnic, racial and/or religious groups.

The inevitable deterioration of the capitalist state, in the absence of meaningful revolution, is into a fascist stronghold. Such a pursuit is impossible without the cudgel of the bourgeois liberal parties. As such, the very existence of democratic capitalists is in itself a greater threat to elaborate leftist insurrections than the existence of the rightwing populists. There can be no sufficient rise of anti-capitalist political prowess so long as the bourgeois democrats hold electoral control over the political process. In this context it is necessary that the American left enact narratives of vicious anti-bourgeois liberal rhetoric, once again as counterhegemonic initiatives. So long as there is maintained a dictatorship of capital, under the oversight of the capitalist class, there can be no representation and majority rule of the proletariat.

Squashing Classist Rhetoric With Regards to the Southern United States

At the core of bourgeois liberalism is the necessary continued effort to implant the seeds of internal class disunity and conflict. After all, a solid and unified proletariat is the greatest threat the hegemony and stability of the capitalist regime. While the republicanism of the United States employs the use of demagoguery and racism, the democratic agenda follows a fine-tuned effort to create an environment through which the petty bourgeois engage in class ridicule of the lower proletariat.

It then becomes the task, as necessitated by solidarity and class consciousness, that the anti-capitalist proletariat stand vigilantly against all classist rhetoric perpetuated by not only the petty bourgeois democrats, but even the lower proletariat. Opposing such weapons of narrative allows for a pushback of public opinion, shifting the scale of thought in the essential direction of a unified proletariat.

In the case of the United States, there is a particular campaign of violent classist rhetoric directed towards the southern proletariat, with bastardizations of terms like redneck, which have become slurs to insinuate uneducated, intolerant right-wing followers. Engaging in counterhegemony must include the seizure of control over such terminology, with a focused push on a return to the original meaning of the term. The reality is that the most revolutionary proletariat of the United States resides in the southern regions, and continued media efforts have intentionally driven a point of view that most working-class people of the region are simply crazed, anti-government psychopaths with assault rifles. The media narrative efforts are certainly successful, in part due to the welcoming helping hand of the bourgeois democrats, who have aided the push of verbal campaigns aimed to shame the lower proletariat. The petty bourgeois have been more than happy to comply to such gross tactics.

The Necessity of Authoritarianism

What then divides the left from within, particularly in the industrialized United States? The sources of conflict are found in the everlasting debate between the path of revolution, authoritarian or anarchist.

Revolution itself can be considered an authoritarian movement, as it requires a form of seizure of power through violent means, whether in the effort of building a worker state or to destroy the state, from the bourgeoisie. Thus, can we not expect the proletariat to manufacture a means of defense and bourgeois suppression?

A post-revolutionary period can be considered a wartime phase, under which the masses must continue to coalesce to establish either a worker state or decentralized system of communes. Thus, the natural conclusion is to consider the necessities of a form of control, to ultimately crush counter-revolutionary efforts. An uncomfortable truth may be found in establishing a baseline understanding that authority remains the most competent form of protection from anti-revolution. The dissipation of the state shall ultimately allow any remaining bourgeois institutions to organize against the proletariat.

Capitalism is simply a transitional period, under which the state apparatus is strengthened for the eventual takeover and control by the proletariat, following insurrection, as a means of defense of the revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat must mobilize to abolish the class antagonisms and contradictions of the preceding capitalist state. Only then may the state wither away.

The state merely serves as a hammer to strengthen the political economy it oversees. Thus, while the capitalist state strengthens the dysfunctions and misery of the proletariat, the socialist state may strengthen the laborial rights and control of the proletariat, through various means (Soviet democracies, worker councils etc.).

Utilizing historical materialism, any capitalist societal contradictions that linger past the withering of the state, whether they be class antagonisms, wage slavery, markets, imperialism, or the institution of capital, shall threaten any socialist entity. Thus, there requires the authority of the proletariat to move to abolish such conceptions before truly progressing towards the end stage of humanity: communism.

The Manifestation of Revolution

Now that we have qualified the socialist positions, and delved into the leftist structures within the United States, we must then consider how a revolution within the state may look, and for this it may be best to consider a few options, namely the balkanization of the state, nationwide labor strikes, or the devolution into a period of civil war.


The United States, being a large land mass, faces the plausible outcome of balkanization, under which the state may dissolve into hostile substates, due to inaction and organization of the left. Improper structure of labor poses the danger of such chaotic dissolve, in which an ununified proletariat becomes internally violent, in consistent conflict as a ramification of such shortcomings.

Balkanization, as undesirable as it may seem, positions itself as an unfortunate possibility that remains more than likely to occur, as the internal and intentional organizations of infiltration, like those of COINTELPRO, have kept the proletariat divided to unsettling degrees, and thus the divide could very well carry through a period of revolution.

Union-Led Strikes

In the Anarcho-Syndicalist nature, a potential manifestation of revolution comes in the form of labor strikes through increased union participation and membership. The truest obstacle to such a revolution would be the continued punishment of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie through termination of labor as a result of attempted unionization of the workplace.

Apart from this, the ethical question of union leadership must be considered. Material reality often shows the ease with which union leadership may be corrupted, simply as being a part of a position of power. This, however, is seen in the long run as a miniscule strife, which may be resolved in a post-revolution setting through a scaled down model of a dictatorship of the proletariat, applied on the scale of union reform.

Violent Revolution and the Establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Alongside balkanization, the most likely and necessary scenario of revolution is that of violent overthrow of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, in line with Marxist thought. The reality of the current United States is the state has effectively procured a method of hegemonic normalization of the dysfunctions of capitalism, and as such the process of counter hegemonizing the status quo is perhaps a fruitless endeavor.

The current trajectory of the capitalist state reveals a worrisome trend of inaction from the proletariat, which is reflective of the normalization of abnormalities. The status quo becomes “comfortable” despite the absence of material comfort. Such a contradiction is certainly a feat of evil, and with that in mind the use of vanguards becomes necessary.

A portion of the proletariat may co-opt organized anti-capitalist parties or groups, as a means to establish powerful vanguards through which the proletariat may become heavily involved in anti-fascist, anti-capitalist action. Similar to the Bolshevik Revolution, we may see a powerful seizure of power through violent pushback by the vanguard and proletariat close behind. Quick dismissal of any seemingly bourgeois organizations (CPUSA, DSA, PSL) means the dismissal of all potential venues of organization of the proletariat.


Leninism is the application of Marxist ideals in the age of imperialism, of global capitalist domination and hegemony. The world remains in this era of imperialism, and thus we must never dismiss the necessity of a worker vanguard. The American left carries with it the daunting task of dismantling the bloodthirsty empire from within.

However, simply being in the center of world destabilization must not insinuate the lack of need for a state transitional entity. Defense of the revolution is a must, and the empire shall not concede without a fight. Thus, meaningless and misdirected anger is of no use to us. We must organize, we must agitate, we must educate.

Rather than angering for the sake of angering, we must organize the anger through the education of all comrades, agitating the masses to the stirs of revolution. It the becomes the vanguard’s duty to defend the proletariat, to provide them a viable means to enact proletarian revolution, regardless of petty ideological differences.

The capitalist will rely on all avenues of discouragement. He will tell the proletariat that revolution is meaningless and dangerous, that it risks the loss of comfortable lives. To this I say “Yes, it is dangerous, for it poses a great risk to YOUR life, your comfort. We have no comfort; we toil everyday with the hopes of leading better lives, lives we deserve. Lives that you keep from us, the creators of your riches!”

The capitalist may say that the proletariat must fear his neighbor, that the source of his misery is the black man, the gay man, the atheist. To this I say “the proletariat is one entity, powerful when one, weak when fractured”. The source of misery is not your comrade, but the oppressor above, he who holds the power of the state with an iron grip.

To the capitalist I say:

“The haunting spectre never dies.”

To the laborers I say:

“Workers of the World, UNITE!”