The term #tanky is a colloquial and derogatory label used to describe some vertical factions within the left, particularly those who defend authoritarian socialist states and their historical actions.

Origins of the Term

The term “tanky” originated within the British left-wing circles, initially used to describe those who supported the Soviet Union’s intervention in Hungary in 1956. This intervention involved the use of tanks to suppress an anti-government uprising, hence the term “tanky.”

Evolution of the Term

Over time, the term “tanky” has broadened, and its meaning has become more nebulous. It is often used to describe people who:

  1. Support Historical and Current Socialist States: This includes those who have a positive view of the #USSR, Cuba, Vietnam, and other socialist nations, seeing value in their experiences and lessons.
  2. Defend or Clarify Misconceptions: Some “tankies” are seen as defending the actions of socialist states or providing nuanced explanations for their controversial actions. This can be interpreted as running defence for perceived inexcusable acts.
  3. Marxist-Leninist and Adjacent Ideologies: The term is also used more broadly to label those who support Marxist-Leninist principles like the dictatorship of the proletariat, democratic centralism, and economic planning.
  4. Dismissive Label by Opponents: It is often used by liberals and others to dismiss and ostracize those who are further left without engaging in their arguments. This usage is prevalent among those who adopt radical liberal stances without theoretical engagement.
  5. Caricature: Finally, it is used to create a straw man of a person who uncritically supports everything a socialist nation does, a figure that rarely exists in reality.

Contemporary Usage

In today’s messy discourse, “tanky” is used online to label and dismiss leftists without an understanding of the ideological nuances involved. It is employed by those who want to avoid engaging in debates about socialist theory and history. The term carry connotations of anti-Americanism, as those labelled as “tankies” criticize U.S. foreign policy and support anti-imperialist movements.


The use of the term “tanky” reflects a superficial engagement with leftist theory and history. It is an attempt to infantilize or discredit #Marxist analysis and reduce complex historical events and theoretical discussions to simplistic binaries. The term is about shutting down dialogue, rather than fostering an understanding of socialist movements and their legacies.


The term “tanky” has become a catch-all phrase with a variety of meanings, used to discredit and marginalize the more dogmatic factions of the left. Understanding its origins and the context of its use can help in evaluating when and why it is employed in online “debates” and public discourse.

“don’t be a prat” comes to mind.