To understand what one's tasks are in the revolution, one needs to understand their conditions. Because what we need to do as members of the proletarian revolution stems not from what we might individually judge to be the best course of action, but from what the circumstances demand of us. A way to recognize what they demand of us is to ask: what exactly will be the catalyst for the revolutionary confrontation where I am? In the case of the United States, my research shows that the catalyst will be the intensifying conflict between settler-colonialism and the continent's colonized nations.
This doesn't mean the other contradictions within the country don't exist, or that only colonized peoples and their interests will factor into the revolution. Proletarian revolution involves proletarians of all colors. But it does mean the colonial contradiction will be what starts off the process with which the other contradictions are addressed. This is because the human rights crisis that it's causing is so severe, and so sure to become even more costly for the communities it impacts, that it's what will produce the inciting stages of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist state in this country.
In Guerrilla Warfare, Che Guevara described how this process began in the case of Cuba:
At the outset there is a more or less homogeneous group, with some arms, that devotes itself almost exclusively to hiding in the wildest and most inaccessible places, making little contact with the peasants. It strikes a fortunate blow and its fame grows. A few peasants, dispossessed of their land or engaged in a struggle to conserve it and young idealists of other classes join the nucleus; it acquires greater audacity and starts to operate in inhabited places, making more contact with the people of the zone; it repeats attacks, always fleeing after making them; suddenly it engages in combat with some column or other and destroys its vanguard. Men continue to join it; it has increased in number, but its organization remains exactly the same; its caution diminishes, and it ventures into more populous zones.
In the United States, the contradiction that provokes these first participants in the revolt won't necessarily be dispossession of land, and if it is, it will have a more specific nature--namely the fight by the indigenous peoples to take back their long-dispossessed territory. The confrontations to rectify this contradiction will occur in tandem with the confrontations to rectify the contradiction most likely to provoke such a revolt here in the next few decades: the violence of the militarized police state and the mass incarceration system against colonized Africans, and against other colonized peoples. It's these kinds of issues that will galvanize the first parts of the U.S. equivalent to what Che described, because they're the issues that pertain to the most oppressed groups among the U.S. proletariat: the proletarians from the nations that have had to be colonized for the U.S. to come into existence.
Since the George Floyd protests became the catalyst which set off unprecedented social unrest, which had been building up throughout the pandemic-era economic collapse, I've realized that the colonized nations will be the vanguard in the U.S. proletariat's fight for liberation. This became even more apparent to me when I read a 2021 article from anthropologist Temitope Oriola, who predicted that the black community will eventually rise up in arms against the ever-deadlier police state:
Any anti-police insurgency in the U.S. will likely start as an urban-based guerrilla-style movement. Attacks may be carried out on sites and symbols of law enforcement. Small arms and improvised explosive devices will likely be weapons of choice, which are relatively easy to acquire and build, respectively. The U.S. has the highest number of civilian firearms in the world with 120.5 guns per 100 persons or more than 393 million guns. Critical infrastructure and government buildings may be targeted after business hours. The various groups will initially seek to avoid civilian casualties, and this may help to garner a level of support among the socially marginal from various backgrounds. The public would be concerned but relatively secure in understanding that only the police are being targeted. Escalation may ensue through copycat attacks. The U.S. government will seem to have a handle on the insurgency at first but will gradually come to recognize that this is different.
It will be different because it will be the blowback from the intensifying human rights abuses that settler-colonialism has been carrying out. After Jim Crow ended, the settler state simply replaced it with a new Jim Crow in the form of mass incarceration. This led to the infamous statistic about how the U.S. has 25 percent of the world's prisoners despite being 5 percent of the global population. A percentage that's slightly dropped throughout the last decade, but that's come with a big qualifier: the prison-industrial complex has been shifting incarcerated people from physical prisons to at-home prisons in the form of house arrest, and has found other ways to keep people in a highly monitored and coerced state. Ankle bracelets, community supervision, stigmas that stop "offenders" from getting jobs, and other punishments make for an endless cycle of persecution. The prison system itself is just one part of a larger network of imprisonment, impacting the lives of millions of people who've supposedly been "freed."
"Once we have wrapped our minds around the 'whole pie' of mass incarceration, we should zoom out and note that people who are incarcerated are only a fraction of those impacted by the criminal justice system," writes Prison Policy. "There are another 840,000 people on parole and a staggering 3.6 million people on probation. Many millions more have completed their sentences but are still living with a criminal record, a stigmatizing label that comes with collateral consequences such as barriers to employment and housing." It's this factor, where the state has worked to keep over one one-hundredth of the country's population in a cycle of enforced poverty, ostracization, and aggressive police surveillance, that has convinced Oriola that mass incarceration will bring upon a revolt from those most disenfranchised.
As Oriola assesses, armed insurgencies against oppressor states are made possible by those with nothing to lose. And those millions of disproportionately black people who live their lives within an engineered hell, where scarcity, humiliation, and harassment get perpetually inflicted upon them by law enforcement, fit this criteria. The same applies to the Chicano and ethnically local indigenous people within the system, who naturally get disenfranchised by law enforcement at higher rates than whites. These are the facets of the lumpenproletariat whom U.S. Marxists will ultimately need to unite with, because they're the ones who have the greatest capacity for initiating the process towards overthinking the capitalist state. This doesn't mean we should collaborate with the leaderships of the gangs that have roped many of them in--gangs are fundamentally bourgeois entities--but it does mean we should organize among the communities of these disenfranchised individuals.
The demographics we need on our side the most are not the white middle class, which some U.S. communists have fallen into the trap of leaning onto, but the colonized nations. These nations include many people who could easily end up fighting on the right side during the moment of revolutionary crisis, despite some among them acting on behalf of the gangs or the other counterrevolutionary factions that will seek to influence them. The situation we'll have to navigate during the point of confrontation will be complex. But it will also be the moment when we can start to build workers' democracy, so long as we navigate it correctly.
The more the state deprives poor people of color of their dignity, worsens the police-facilitated military occupation of their communities, and commits brazen acts of public racial violence that get recorded for posterity, the more the tensions build. When the colonial contradiction comes to a head, and the oppressed nations rise up, the settler state won't address the human rights crisis. It will worsen it by by waging desperate war against the oppressed nations. Which will only galvanize support for the liberation effort. By treating the colonized like garbage, the settler state has begun its own undoing.