Why do Marxist-Leninists support some non-socialist governments?

Many opponents of Marxism-Leninism, the revolutionary science, lampoon MLs for our support for non-socialist governments, such as those of Syria, Iran and Zimbabwe. They try to paint us as ‘red fascists’ who kneejerk support any government opposed to the US. Many comrades new to the left are confused as to why we support these governments, and that can lead to promising young comrades being sucked in by Trotskyites and Anarchists, and taken off the path of truly revolutionary socialism. This is of course, a big problem and a great shame, and so we have written this piece to serve as a resource to explain this complicated issue.

Before we can begin with looking at specific instances, we must first define what it means to be progressive. To be progressive means, in Marxist terms, to be on the right side of history, to support social progress. The scientific philosophy underpinning Marxism-Leninism, namely dialectical materialism, explains how the process of change is the process of the resolving of contradictions. This can be proven universally in nature. For example, in the process of movement of physical objects it is the resultant force which dictates how the object will move, the net sum of opposite forces acting on an object. One can see this in Newton’s Third Law: “Every action has an equal and opposite re-action.”

One of the tactics of pro-capitalist educational institutes is to attempt to separate the natural world from the world of politics and society. They subtly paint the matter so that it looks like natural laws are not applicable to matters of politics. This is a metaphysical, and fundamentally incorrect, way of viewing the world. The actions of humanity are just as natural as any actions carried out by any other combination of forces and reactions, and laws of the natural world are thus completely applicable to the world of politics.

Thus we can see that this law of contradiction has place in the process of social change, and there are two sides of the coin – revolutionary and reactionary, progressive and regressive. So to be a progressive means to be a revolutionary, to be for the cause of moving society forward. Being a progressive does not mean being a socialist, though a true socialist is always a progressive. In certain circumstances non-socialists can be progressive. A prime example of this is that of Maximilien Robespierre in the French Revolution. Robespierre was a capitalist, and supported universal suffrage for men only. Obviously in a modern context, this would be reactionary, however, compared to life under the rule of the feudal lords of France, where suffrage was only for nobles who owned a lot of land, this was very progressive. Robespierre supported Capitalism in its revolution against Feudalism, he supported the higher stage of social development against the lower, and thus was a progressive revolutionary.

Often the slider between ‘progressive’ and ‘regressive’ is thought of in an idealised sense, where no matter the situation someone is either progressive or regressive based on certain fixed policies they hold. This we call the metaphysical perspective, the view of nature as static and unchanging, literally ‘beyond physics’. Of course, this view is nonsense; to hold this view means one believes absolutely everyone prior to (in our case) Marx was a regressive reactionary – in such a situation society would have moved backwards for the 100,000 years of human development before Capital was written – of course this is ludicrous. Whether one is progressive or regressive is entirely a matter of context.

We are living in the era of imperialism, the final stage of capitalism, where capital has reached its most aggressive and global phase, the era where capitalists expand their influence as far as possible and try to dominate the whole world’s markets. In this era, more than any before, capitalists attempt to control other nations and subjugate their people in order to make profit. In such a situation, the national question is of vital importance. Joseph Stalin’s work on the subject, Marxism and the National Question, asserts that socialists must respect the right of nations to self-determine, to decide their own destiny. Indeed, a nation can choose, if the people wish, to move backwards, as long as it is their choice to do so and they are not dominated by other nations.

With this in mind, revolutionary movements against imperialism must be supported even in the instance that they are not explicitly socialist. If a movement or government’s actions are opposed to imperial domination of their country, they are progressive in the specific context. Such revolutions are called national bourgeois revolutions, revolutions of a nation’s native bourgeoisie and people against an imperialist bourgeoisie. Anything that weakens the forces of imperialism ultimately makes socialist revolution easier, and brings the time of it nearer, and thus they are progressive, because they help bring the higher stage of development, Socialism, nearer.

We are under no delusions that people like Bashar al-Assad or Hassan Rouhani are communists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t progressive, they aren’t on the right side of history, and they aren’t working for good by their actions of weakening imperialism. We can, of course, criticise policies of theirs, we don’t believe them to be perfect in any sense of the word, but ultimately they are on the same side as us and ultimately we must either embrace them and support them against imperialism. Either we support them, or we oppose them, and if we oppose them how are we anything but reactionaries, cheerleading for imperialist invasion and destruction of national self-determination.


Book Recommendations

Dialectics of Nature – F. Engels

Click to access EngelsDialectics_of_Nature_part.pdf

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific – F. Engels


On Contradiction – Mao Tse-tung


Marxism and the National Question – J. Stalin


Dialectical and Historical Materialism – J. Stalin