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Book Review: BreadTube Serves Imperialism

N.C. Cai

Jul 16, 2021

Originally published on Midwest Marx

Breadtube: an amalgamation of Youtube channels who speak on communism, anarchism, progressivism, and leftwing politics. Sadly, Breadtube is the first place that most people go to when learning about leftism. Breadtube likes to champion themselves as the experts on all things related to Leftism. They claim to be the speakers of truth, along with being a helpful hand for confused young people stuck in the alt-right pipeline. However, like The Young Turks this is sadly not the case. Breadtube is controlled opposition, an anti-capitalism approved by the capitalists. Caleb Maupin’s book Breadtube Serves Imperialism is a brilliant rebuttal against many of the talking points made by Breadtubers. The book exposes the wider trend of Synthetic Leftism which is what many Breadtubers subscribe to. It also clarifies to the reader in clear and simple terms what capitalism, fascism, socialism, and imperialism are, and the way forward. All in all it’s a highly recommended book, and should be read by people who are interested in getting into Marxism. Especially, if they want to avoid the ideological cesspool of Breadtube.

The introduction describes the deep divide amongst the ruling class. On one side of the ruling class there exists Wall Street, Exxon Mobil/the supermajors, and Silicon Valley, the part of the ruling class that tends to be more socially liberal. They follow the line created by the Council of Foreign Relations and believe that America should strategically undermine AES and anti-imperialists countries. The other side of the ruling class is composed of lower level capitalists, contains figures such as Betsy DeVos, Mike Lindell (My Pillow), fracking corporations, and military contractors who prefer a more libertarian deregulated economic model and a more outright hawkish foreign policy. The upper level of the ruling class (the former) prefers clandestine operations, proxies, propaganda campaigns, and most insidiously turning leftists against each other and funding certain leftists to create a controlled opposition. The lower level of the ruling class (the latter) typically prefers more direct conflicts and outright invasions. However, this is not to say that the tactics listed are mutually exclusive to each side of the ruling class, after all as Reagan said “We are all friends after six o’clock”. The capitalists nonetheless share the same interests of preventing the proletariat from rising up or effectively challenging their power.

An interesting point that Maupin makes in the introduction is how Breadtube resembles the counter gangs that the British set up in Kenya to fight against the Land and Freedom Army. These counter gangs supposedly hated the British but also hated the Land and Freedom Army. The counter gangs were crucial in helping the British defeat the Mau Mau uprising. Like the counter gangs, Breadtube is used by the upper level of the ruling class to fight against the right wing elements of the lower level ruling class and to also purge true anti-liberal, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist voices from the left. It then no wonder that Breadtube loves to participate in cancel culture, label everyone who is truly anti-imperialist a tankie, genocide denier, dictator supporter, or even more disgustinly a Nazi.

Maupin additionally brings up the social democrats in comparison to Breadtube. The social democrats in the early 20th actively worked to discredit the Soviet Union, and today Breadtube actively works to discredit actually existing socialist countries along with dismissing historical socialist countries as “state capitalist.” However, unlike Breadtube the social democrats did not believe in degrowth, many social democrats were and still are active in the labor movement, and working to improve living standards among the working class. While many social democrats today don’t accept Marxist analysis many in the past did. This is in stark contrast to Breadtube and the Synthetic Left which promotes degrowth and deindustrialization. Breadtube sees growth as a danger to the environment. It also for the most part rejects Marxist analysis or in some cases quotes Marxist theorists out of context. The majority of Breadtubers reject central planning and advocate for a type of “socialism” where worker cooperatives replace traditional firms. Never mind the fact that worker cooperatives can fit into a capitalist economy. Also unlike the soc dems in the early 20th century who didn’t support illegal or violent activities, many Breadtubers have been recorded to have supported illegal and violent street activities. Never mind that the capitalist class always uses riots and street violence as an excuse to restrict civil liberties and make it more difficult for true socialists and communists to organize. Breadtube’s goal in essence is to warp the definitions of anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism to make it something that is non threatening to the bourgeoisie while also defeating true communists and right wingers promoted by lower level capitalists.

In Chapter 1, Maupin lists the top Breadtube creators and their backgrounds. Interestingly enough many of these Breadtubers have ties to or have been given the stamp of approval by bourgeois institutions. Contrapoints for example has been written about with glowing remarks by the New York Times and the New Yorker. Steve Hassan, while not a Breadtuber, has no doubt influenced the rhetoric of many Breadtubers and mainstream liberal news networks. Yet, despite being held in high regard Hassan was involved with the Cult Awareness Network which kidnapped people who were suspected to be in cults, the victims were deprived of privacy and the ability to sleep. Yet, despite his involvement with an organization like CAN, Hassan has yet to be arrested or called out for his behavior, rather he is allowed on networks like CNN and MSNBC. He has also been the mentor of Caleb Cain. Caleb Cain was raised by a conservative family who later adopted socially progressive viewpoints. Later, during a low point in his life he went down the alt-right pipeline. He was later brought out of the alt-right pipeline with the help of his girlfriend and started watching Destiny videos. But what’s notable about Cain is that much of his “political beliefs” only went so far as his Youtube recommendations, only “considering” attending Charlottesville. However, he has made it very clear that he is interested in greater censorship on social media, censorship that harms people on the left the most, and more intriguingly Caleb has collaborated with both Contrapoints and Destiny, and has also been featured on MSM like CNN and MSNBC. It’s rather interesting that a group of people online who proclaim themselves to be bastions of revolutionary thought and activity are rarely connected or involved with any Marxist or in certain cases anarchist group. Vaush for example who claims to be an anarchist has no connection to any anarchist group and neither does Thought Slime.

Additionally, many notable Breadtube figures have been endorsed by bourgeois institutions, such is the case of Contrapoints. Breadtube was also overwhelmingly in favor of voting for Biden, with many figures like Vaush, Contrapoints, and Thought Slime preaching to their audiences about how Biden was “harm reduction.” Another thing that’s also rather ironic about Breadtube is their endorsement of US foreign policy with many of them slandering historical and modern AES nations as “red fascist” or dismissing them as “state capitalist” yet claiming to be the true anti-capitalists and anti-imperialists. The truth is abundantly clear Breadtube is a counter gang and loyal to the liberal bourgeoisie, while it’s ridiculous to say that they are directly taking orders from Washington, they still do the bidding of imperialists even if they are aware of it or not.

Many of Breadtube’s most notable figures call themselves anarchists, these figures include Vaush, NonCompete, and Thought Slime. Breadtube takes its name from Peter Kropotkin’s Conquest of Bread, Kropotkin rejected Marxist analysis and had an unrealistic belief that every human being had good intentions and thus would be able to operate in a system without coercion. This is in stark contrast to Marxist views on human nature, which sees man as being shaped by their environment and more broadly the economic system, human nature is fluid, not inherently good or evil. Breadtube also rejects Marxist for the most part, with many Breadtubers denying the labor theory of value (Vaush, Socialism Done Left, RE-EDUCATION, and Destiny) basic Marxist definitions of capitalism, socialism, fascism, and imperialism. For the most part when asked about their ideal societies it would be a society where worker cooperatives replaced traditional businesses.They reject central planning or in certain cases don’t seem to know what it is *cough* Thought Slime *cough*. Vaush described his ideal society as such “Everything remains the same but replaced with worker cooperatives.” Worker Cooperatives are of course much better than traditional firms, but that doesn’t mean they are socialist. They keep production for profit, they don’t abolish the commodity form, in this world housing for example would still be built to be sold not to be lived in as would food.

A worker cooperative has the same incentive as a traditional firm to fire more workers or replace them with robots because each worker at the firm would get a larger share of the profits. Also turning Boeing and Raytheon into worker cooperatives won’t stop the military industrial complex, rather it would encourage the workers who work there to want it even more because they would be getting a more direct share of the profits. Breadtube also seems to have a bad habit of not reading their theory and history. This is evidenced by Vaush’s need for a theory compiler. Breadtube seems to vastly misunderstand Marx’s political views claiming that he was not a “statist.” Vaush, for example, points to a quote out of context in Marx’s Civil War in France “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready state machinery, and wield it for their own purposes.'' However, put into context this quote does not mean that states are unneeded but what a post capitalist society must do. In essence this quote is saying the exact opposite of what Vaush means, yes the workers can’t use the ready state machinery to create socialism, they have to create a new state apparatus. Breadtube has shown us that their knowledge on Marxism is extremely limited or nonexistent, with many of them distorting much of what Marx originally meant. Yet we shouldn’t be surprised at this because Breadtube has shown to us that they don’t care about revolution or moving towards socialism where production for profit is abolished. Instead they’d rather keep everything the same but have worker cooperatives. They are in essence anti-capitalists loyal to the super capitalists and we shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t actually want to abolish capitalism.

Aside from vastly misunderstanding major works of theory, Breadtube also has an awful habit of smearing anyone who disagrees with them, including people who are truly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist, as a nazi or adjacent to them. This was seen recently with the debate between Vaush and Jackson Hinkle where Vaush accused Hinkle to be in the same camp as Holocaust deniers because he questioned the State Department narrative about Syria. It’s also worth mentioning that much of Vaush’s sources for the debate came from Wikipedia and Bellingcat, along with misreading the leaked OPCW files. Additionally, while claiming to be anti-fascist and virtue signalling to be against the Holocaust, Vaush made incredibly anti-semetic remarks towards Aarond Mate, who’s father Gabor Mate was a holocaust survivor. Vaush isn’t the only person to horribly abuse the nazi lable. Natalie Wynn, otherwise known as Contrapoints published a video detailing how to detect nazis and alt-righters, many of these indicators included doing common hand gestures like the okay sign, patriotism, or even disavowing and claiming that one is not a fascist themselves.

This horrible misuse of the label of fascist or nazi isn’t harmless it actively helps to delegitimize voices who are critical of US foreign policy, and if anything helps fascists. It makes the left look delusional and further alienates it from the working class, which is supposedly the people they wish to appeal to. This very liberal use of the word fascist also insinuates something even more insidious that normal everyday working class Americans are fascist because they might be patriotic, are Christians or religious, hold culturally moderate or conservative views, don’t wish to see their family members die for oil, and want stability and to just feed their families, or even want to have families in the first place. This is in essence the message of Breadtube, the American working class is evil and prone to reactionary ideologies while bourgeois academic socialists championing wokeness and an unrecognizable interpretation of Marxism will be the ones who will save us.

There is also the pervasive notion of degrowth, which is peddled and embraced by many breadtubers, most notably Thought Slime. The idea of degrowth is not a new one and has been around for hundreds of years starting with Malthus. Malthus proposed that because birth rates and consumption rates are greater than production of resources the earth would suffer from overpopulation and face some sort of apocalyptic crisis. What Malthus failed to realize is that innovation and ingenuity are unlimited, humans have been able to advance and innovate productive forces to further accommodate more people. There is currently more than enough food and shelter for everyone. The planet has eight billion people but can feed ten billion people.

In the US we have three million vacant units but half a million homeless people if not more. The reason why we have so many people in poverty is not because of a lack of resources but because the allocation of those resources is determined by profit not by use. A worker cooperative society promoted by Breadtube wouldn’t change this. People are being overexploited and can’t buy back the goods that they used their labor to make. This isn’t due to overpopulation or overconsumption, but because in order to live people must sell their labor to a capitalist. Overpopulation and Malthusianism have also been championed by eugenists like Margaret Sanger and genocidal regimes like the British Empire who starved millions of people in India because the people on the subcontinent “had too many children.” Overpopulation and degrowth is a complete and utter lie promoted by the capitalist class and would make the lives of working people worse.

Much of Breadtube is very pessimistic, it criticizes capitalism without actually offering any feasible solutions, and dismisses any real life socialist experiments. Socialists must not only criticize capitalism but also offer workers a path out of poverty and exploitation. Socialism has to be constructive and progressive. Communism is not a society where everyone is equally poor but a society where there is so much material abundance that class hierarchies, states, and money no longer need to exist. Communism cannot be achieved through pessimism, degrowth, McCarthyite smears of calling everyone you dislike a Nazi, and most importantly a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is. The transition to communism will be difficult but anything offered by counter revolutionaries will be worse. Even during harsh sanctions and constant sabotage the Soviet Union and other socialist republics gave workers a better life than what became before, often feudalism or subjugation under imperialist powers, and what came after, austerity and privatization leading often leading to the rise of a corrupt oligarch class and a falling standard of living continuing to the present.

The Center for Political Innovation founded by Caleb Maupin offers a four point plan to rescue the country. The first point is a mass mobilization of workers to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including the building of high speed rail and a revamping of the university system. A five year economic plan would also be overseen by the brightest minds of the country. The second and third point is the nationalization of natural resources and banking. The lending of money will no longer be done for profit but will be overseen by the local community and country over all. A national bank will be established to replace the financial sector. Credit will be given out if it aligns with the economic plan to secure long term developmental growth. Interest will also be paid back into the public budget. Finally, there will be an economic bill of rights. The four point plan is intended to move the US towards a rationally planned socialist economy free from the anarchy of production. American workers need of government of action to fight for working families!

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