What the Hell Is MAGACommunism?

“MAGA Communism” went viral on social media last month, and its supporters think it’s a serious theory that can reshape American politics. Critics say it’s a dangerous grift. What gives?
​Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

On a bright Saturday afternoon in Warren, Michigan, a Twitch streamer and YouTuber who goes by the name Haz descended on Macomb Community College with mic in hand, ready to grill Trump supporters lining up for a rally. 

His pitch for the Oct. 1 event: A new ideology of prosperity and working-class unity, built on the ashes of America’s liberal democracy.

“It sounds crazy. It’s called ‘MAGA Communism,’ and the ‘communism’ thing means common wealth, common prosperity,” Haz tells one man, in a video he posted to his YouTube channel from the event. “We all come together: the workers striking at the railways, the MAGA industrial working class, the small farmers, we all unite with our power. We kick out the globalists. We kick out George Soros. We kick out Klaus Schwab. We stop that Great Reset agenda in its tracks.” 


“Don’t forget to kick out Biden, either,” the man interjects. 

Absolutely,” Haz says. “Let’s go Brandon!” 

Haz, who runs a YouTube channel called Infrared, is a “Marxist-Leninist” commentator who has earned a reputation for debating other extremely online politicos (and, sometimes, devolving into a screaming mess about it.) The Oct. 1 rally was not Haz’s first time selling a skeptical audience on the notion of #MAGACommunism. In September, a flurry of content around the phrase made it trend on Twitter and touched a viral nerve across the political internet. 

While the mentions online have settled down, Haz is one of a number of self-proclaimed communists who are pushing the notion that anyone who cares about the working class should abandon the liberal “culture war” and ally with America’s largest anti-establishment populist movement—MAGA—ultimately in the name of inciting a populist revolution. 

Promoting “MAGA Communism” alongside Haz has been 23-year-old Jackson Hinkle, a commentator who also has his own show on YouTube. Recently, Hinkle has agitated around the “globalist” threat (a term most commonly used as an antisemitic dog-whistle), championed Putin in the Ukraine war, and made the rounds on right-wing cable news, including  appearances on OANN and Tucker Carlson Tonight


Together, they decry the “vulgarization” of Marxism by Western liberals, traffic in the language of “deep-state” conspiracies, and mock “planet worshippers,” dismissing modern climate change efforts as virtue-signaling “green fascism” backed by corporate entities.

Fundamentally, the beliefs that underpin Hinkle and Infrared aren't all that hard to parse. Haz and Infrared contend that communism can be a force for nationalistic might, and that the amorphous force of “MAGA” represents the largest collective of working people who can fulfill the dream of American prosperity. They marginalize issues they deem as being “liberal” or “identity politics,” whether that’s the fight for trans rights or Indigenous efforts to reclaim land. Once in a while, they end up agreeing with leftists, as with their claims that American imperialism should be rejected. Mostly, leftist critics suggest Haz and Hinkle are just an alt-right spin on “tankie” communism, complete with an embrace of authoritarian MAGA vibes.  

It’s not surprising that the swirl of social conservatism, patriotism and subversive energy that inform “MAGA Communism” have been criticized as a repackaging of fascist ideals of yore. In his seminal text Blackshirts and Reds, the political scientist Michael Parenti describes how fascist movements co-opt the symbols and language of socialism, building a “pseudo-revolution” that appeals to the working class without actually subverting existing power structures (such as a capitalist economy). That’s exactly the concern of observers who say that “MAGA Communism” is just a new grift, built to create viral views by embracing authoritarianism and MAGA.


“It helps that MAGA Communism has little ideological consistency, and can vibe with people who want to be edgy, on the political fringe.”

“Communism and Marxism historically have been conservative. It’s a new era in the West that made it adhere to liberal-leftist values. This is not true Marxism. It’s Marxism funded by George Soros,” Hinkle told OANN host Addison Smith on Sept. 19, evoking the name of the billionaire and target of countless antisemitic conspiracy theories. “They don’t want communists, left-wing populists, right-wing populists, uniting on common issues to fight the deep state.”

The duo don’t have a huge reach online: Hinkle’s YouTube channel has 177,000 subscribers, while Infrared has just over 23,000. And yet, despite very little mainstream coverage, “MAGA Communism” peaked in popularity as a search term last month, according to Google Trends data, and has exploded into a curious commodity on social media and political-theory circles. That included discussion from left-leaning commentators, too, like an incredulous Sam Seder and The Young Turks.


“This is such a word salad that I can’t follow what the hell he’s talking about,” Seder remarked halfway into Hinkle’s OANN interview. 

“We should be careful, because when you think of Nazis and fascists and how they brought people over to their sides,” TYT co-host Ana Kasparian remarked. “They co-opted socialist rhetoric to bring people in, and then their ‘populist’ movement was what? Extermination.” 

From a distance, the rhetoric seems almost impossibly contradictory — like a populist gag ironically draped in theory, or some bizarro “Dark Brandon” meme for tankie nerds. But it also represents the ultimately reactionary and harmful idea that,  if the left can somehow cast aside pesky race and identity issues, it can bind together working-class whites who have been attracted to reactionary projects.

“Obviously, this view doesn’t account for the very real material reasons why people identify with [right-wing] ideas,” Daniel HoSang, a professor at Yale University and an expert on America’s modern right-wing movements, told Motherboard. “But what’s interesting about the ‘MAGA Communism’ phrase is that it doesn’t necessarily mean communism in the literal sense of, say, demanding collective ownership. I think it’s meant to be a kind of cultural invocation—a defense from that which the elites want you to believe. It suggests something about how people’s political moorings are unsettled, and the search to find new bearings.” 


“MAGA Communism” almost seems like the logical next step in “horseshoe theory,” or the hypothesis that the extremes of the political spectrum have overlapping beliefs, such as a broad distrust of major institutions. But Haz and Hinkle go further, downplaying the value of the left-right dichotomy altogether and decrying their critics of being “too stupid” to comprehend it. They criticize Democrats and their “leftist foot soldiers” as reactionaries, and see opportunity in the revolutionary energy of the MAGA masses. 

“There is a political realignment ongoing. There is nothing inherently ‘right-wing’ about MAGA people. Right and left are political terms used to denote a relation to revolutionary change. Today, they are applied to 'progressive’ cultural changes, which are not revolutionary at all and in fact led by ruling-class-funded institutions,” Haz told Motherboard in an email. (Hinkle did not reply to questions sent via email from Motherboard.) 

Can anyone really build a Marxist movement by allying with a demographic that appears to be rife with anti-communist fever? Is a movement that advocates for the repression of "woke academia," ending "open borders," and labels antifascist organizing as "street terrorism" communist at all?  


Haz comes off as deeply sincere when he discusses communist theory and his vision to remold the “MAGA working class,” but this sincerity isn’t shared by everyone who is spreading MAGA Communism. For one, the viral attention has partly come from extremists who believe in accelerationism and promote all manner of fringe movements, hoping to spur the disruption (and ultimately dissolution) of the existing American state. 

“I think a lot of people are just so disillusioned with liberalism, and this is powerful for young people, especially the young far right. In their own way, they’re disgusted with the kind of hybrid coalition between Christian conservatism and free-market economics that make up ‘movement conservatism,’” Brian Hughes, the associate director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University, said in an interview. “Various figures are trying to take advantage of the moment. Skull-mask networks, and accelerationist networks more broadly, have been juicing MAGA Communism because they like to inhabit odd, esoteric subcultures. They’re smaller, and easier to exploit. It helps that MAGA Communism has little ideological consistency, and can vibe with people who want to be edgy, on the political fringe.” 


From a tweet by Hinkle on Sept. 20

It’s possible the humor and tongue-in-cheek irony around MAGA Communism is its biggest draw. This is especially true for Haz, who has made it a habit of going niche-viral for screaming angrily in several online debates with leftists, spiraling into surrealist rants while mocking critics, and writing 10,000-word takedowns of other commentators over Twitter drama. 

On the ground, Haz and Hinkle crib from the far-right entertainment playbook by agitating on livestreams, hoping to capture some essential conflict that proves their intellectual superiority. Last weekend, Haz and Hinkle went to Twitchcon, a major convention for streamers in San Diego, and filmed themselves harassing seemingly random attendees by mocking COVID masking, Ukraine support, and online content moderation. 

It was presumably a performance to “own the libs,” but mostly resulted in perplexed faces staring back at the duo. Much of the same unfolded a few days later on the campus of UCLA, where Haz, Hinkle and “Dark MAGA” streamer Jon Zherka spent hours trying to “debate” passing students. Mostly, they stood around and yelled, including Haz proclaiming that “all liberals are ugly!” while holding a sign that read “FEMINISM IS CANCER.” 

More than anything, the nascent interest around MAGA Communism symbolizes how entertainment and politics intersect in an attention economy fueled by social media hyperbole. There’s nothing new about antagonistic man-on-the-street interviews, stirring up esoteric beef with fellow streamers, or indulging in unhinged behavior for the memes. But being a Marxist-Leninist who loves American nationalism and hates radical leftists sure feels fresh, despite the familiar mechanics. (As Hinkle remarked in a 2021 stream: “I do everything for the clout. You’ve never seen me do something not for the clout. That’s the only way I operate.”) 

Meanwhile, Haz is trumpeting his Oct. 1 foray into a Trump rally as a major win for this movement, crowing at the “haters” who told him he would likely get punched. But it’s also evident that Haz served up the most palatable version of “MAGA Communism” possible, sticking to a loose script railing against “globalists,” Wall Street, Big Tech, and the Green New Deal. The people in his video mostly nod along to his leading questions, interjecting to make boilerplate remarks like “things have got to change” and “Ukraine is a money grab.” 

“It would be great if everyone could get together and get on the same page,” one man tells him. 

That’s far easier said than done, especially given how the MAGA movement grew out of online virality, preening politicians, and bad-faith misinformation, all rigged to churn the full-blown grift around the Culture Wars. Nonetheless, it seems like “MAGA Communism” can and will stick around, especially on YouTube—a venue that, despite all its ills, remains a crucial hub for instigating political brawls and generating a fandom for fringe ideas.