From Leftypedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

T-54 tanks. This model was used by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War.

The word tankie is a pejorative or self-descriptive term which can have several meanings. First used within sections of the Cold War left to decry support for Soviet interventions in Warsaw Pact countries, the term was later resurrected by internet leftists and broadened in scope to include historical revisionists[a] concerned with any socialist state. Because of their opposition to liberal historical narratives and longtime association with the Soviet Union, Marxist–Leninists were often labelled tankies; the persistent use of the term in this sense has given rise to neutral or even positive connotations, and modern leftists may use the two interchangeably.

Starting in the 2010s (or possibly earlier), left-adjacent liberals such as progressives and radlibs, either by deliberate innovation or as the result of a misconception (e.g., that only a tankie could hold such positions), began to use the term against critics of Western narratives concerning the Syrian Civil War, North Korea, and the 2014 Ukraine conflict, among other topics. This usage is unequivocally negative and has achieved widespread currency online, even among centrists and rightists. The term is now a favorite of establishment media figures (including "blue-checks"), who have in recent years taken to several mainstream outlets to criticize specific ideas or figures which they believe are part of a rising tide of tankie influence. The use of the word almost always implies support for authoritarianism.

As the other senses of the word tankie are fairly straightforward, this article will deal primarily with the term as liberals use it today.


Cold War

Tanks played a prominent and highly publicized role in the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956. The term tankie is said to originate from this invasion.[citation needed]

Internet age

/leftypol/ users use "tankie" neutrally to refer to MLs to this day.

Use by liberals

It is unclear whether the liberal appropriation of tankie occurred before 2013–14. Google Trends[1] indicates rising interest during 2013-14 (coinciding with US intervention in Syria and, later, Russian involvement in Ukraine), a bump in 2017 (possibly related to the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis), a peak in 2020 (of unclear significance), and sharp jump in February 2022 (Russian invasion of Ukraine).


Who can be a tankie?

There are several ways to get a liberal to call you a tankie. As Western tensions with China and Russia have increased, the term is now prominent enough to be referenced in online outlets like The Intercept[2] and New York Magazine,[3] and these mainstream sources alone contain several different examples of tankiehood. Tankies can include individuals who contradict Western narratives on the war in Ukraine,[2][3] Chinese actions in Xinjiang[3][4] and Hong Kong,[3][4] support for Hamas,[5] or even Holocaust denial.[5] Even a mild statement such as the one made by the DSA upon the Russian invasion merits an entire article about "tankies".[3] Twitter users, of course, are far more creative with the term.


In order for someone to be a tankie, a perceived authoritarian group or person must be involved. The use of individual persons said to be authoritarian is especially common, presumably because strong feelings toward an individual, especially a face, are effective tools: if Vladimir Putin is the new Hitler,[6][7][8] then any association with this new Hitler is a sign of untrustworthiness. Hence figures from Bashar al-Assad[2] and Kim Jong-Un to Daniel Ortega[2] are far more prominent in anti-tankie rhetoric than Syria, North Korea, or Nicaragua.

It must be emphasized that being a tankie does not directly necessitate being a communist. Communists who hold mainstream Western foreign policy positions are exempt, whereas anti-establishment liberals, such as Glenn Greenwald,[9] Max Blumenthal[9] and Michael Tracey,[9] are not.


The old "tankie" was someone who did not sufficiently condemn certain Soviet actions, whereas the modern "tankie" is someone who believes or argues certain things which are held to be false; in other words, while the original use of "tankie" was a moral charge that indicated a difference of opinion, interpretation, or perhaps strategy, its modern application represents a fundamental dispute over the veracity of basic facts and sources, especially concerning the historical record. This difference seems to indicate that Western propaganda has shifted its focus away from moral and ideological disagreements (battling "for the soul of mankind") in favor of an attempt to monopolize facts and even truth itself, a change which is reflected in many other cultural spheres. Hence the term now belongs in the same ideological category as disinformation, authoritarianism, and foreign propaganda. As Western liberalism continues to lose its ideological vitality, liberal institutions are increasingly forced to become more authoritarian in order to fill the gap; what once was a biting attack that outflanked the left on its own principles now becomes a hollow label designed to prevent the contamination of liberalism with facts.

See also

  • Commie, another colloquial term used by anti-communists
  • Radlib, and "opposite" of a tankie in many ways
  • BreadTube, a group of nominally leftist voices opposed to "tankies"

External links

Some of these links are appended for the purpose of critical research and not necessarily out of approval.


  1. "Historical revisionism" can refer to the overturning of myths and distortions with new evidence or interpretations and is not to be confused with Marxist revisionism.