Trump, the CIA, and the “Hacking” Controversy: Some Points of Orientation
Updated January 6, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A major political storm has erupted over alleged CIA findings that Russia not only hacked computers of the Democratic and Republican parties’ national committees, but actually worked to favor the election of Donald Trump through selective leaks mainly targeting Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Trump tweeted and his spokespeople ridiculed the allegations as groundless. They pointed to CIA fabrications before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that the Iraqis had “weapons of mass destruction” (no such weapons were ever found). They said the charges were a ruse designed to delegitimize Trump’s election. At the same time, some prominent Republican senators and former high intelligence officials in Republican ranks publicly broke with Trump, calling for further investigation and hearings. Others, including senior Democrats aligned with Clinton’s campaign, are supporting a call for the CIA findings to be made available to electors that comprise the Electoral College so they can assess the scope of this alleged Russian interference and its connections with the Trump campaign, and determine if “Trump is fit to serve as President,” posing questions of legitimacy of the electoral outcome.
What is going on? And what interests lie behind this?
On one level, we can’t definitively determine the truth of these specific charges. It is true that damaging e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign were leaked; it is true that imperialist powers wage fierce cyber-warfare (invasion of each other’s computer networks for intelligence) against each other; but beyond that no real proof has been produced and some of the key players—most notably, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who released many of the e-mails from the Democratic National Committee—have disputed these allegations.
On the other hand, there are a few things that CAN be said.
First, U.S. presidents usually spend a big part of their time on coming to office learning about perceived threats to imperialist interests from the CIA; it is unprecedented for an incoming president to launch an attack ON the CIA. On the other hand, intelligence agencies usually “fit themselves” to serve the way the incoming president views U.S. strategic (that is, imperialist) interests. So Trump’s attacks on the CIA are highly unusual, to put it mildly. Further: the political parties of incoming presidents usually close ranks around that president; yet today high-ranking Republicans like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are coming into conflict with Trump over whether to hold hearings on these allegations, or simply put them to rest.
These open arguments point to even sharper conflicts underneath. Up to now, both Democrats and Republicans have mainly taken a hard line against Russian attempts to assert its imperialist interests in different spheres such as in Syria and Ukraine, even while working with them at times. McCain and others in advocating for the hearings has repeatedly called out Putin, the Russian leader, as a “butcher” and a “thug.” As of posting, Trump seems to be tending in a different direction, including choosing as advisors people with ties to the Putin regime, for example Trump's nomination of Rex Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Tillerson is reportedly against sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Russia following its annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser in waiting, has also had ties with Russia.
Some of these differences are linked to different approaches and responses to a host of difficult and intractable contradictions faced by the U.S. ruling class—both internationally and within the U.S. itself. Much of the conflict right now within the capitalist-imperialist class centers on how to approach and deal with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, including reactionary movements rooted in this ideology, like ISIS, mainly centered in Iraq and Syria, or the Taliban in Afghanistan. Trump seems to favor a different and closer alignment with Russia in dealing with these movements, even while they are engaged in intense rivalry for domination in these regions.
Bob Avakian has made the following point on this phenomenon:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade [increasingly globalized western imperialism] on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:28
This clash between the two outmodeds—with the U.S. playing the most aggressive and murderous role by far—has been a disaster for the people of the world, with the dynamic further intensifying in the aftermath of the Arab Spring1. The war the U.S. launched in 2003 against Iraq not only caused unspeakable carnage, it developed into a significant setback for U.S. imperial interests. Neither Bush nor Obama fundamentally succeeded in solidifying U.S. domination over the Middle East. In some respects their grip was actually shaken and certain strategic weaknesses of the U.S. military were revealed and even exacerbated. This was a major point of attack by Trump against both Obama and, it should be noted, George W. Bush as well.
To be clear: both sides of this dispute are fighting FOR U.S. domination of the region (as part of dominating the globe) and both are willing to shed however much blood of the people of this region that proves necessary for that domination. But within that reactionary unity, there is a great deal of struggle and there are possible splits within the imperialist camp, precisely because they have run into difficulties in pursuing those interests. This is manifest sharply in approaches to the civil war in Syria and the situation in Iraq, and Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Second, it is very significant that this finds itself touching on questions of the legitimacy of this election. But this is knotty. For masses of people, Trump’s illegitimacy focuses on his extremely reactionary stance toward the people here and all over the world and, most of all, the fascist program he aims to impose and is already putting into place, even before reaching office. This program will be nothing short of catastrophic for the people and because of that Trump must be prevented, by massive political struggle involving millions, from consolidating his rule. It is also illegitimate because Trump’s ascendancy to President-elect, despite losing the popular vote, is based on the Electoral College, which is a product and legacy of slavery and white supremacy and its continued manifestations. (See, "The Electoral College—A Legacy of Slavery and Living Expression of Oppression—Cannot Be Used to Legitimize This Team of Fascists.")
At the same time, for sections of the imperialists who oppose Trump, their concerns focus on both significant differences over what strategy will best advance the interests of the U.S. Empire and whether Trump is “fit to be commander-in-chief”—that is, does he have the right experience and “temperament” to cold-bloodedly carry out what is required of whoever assumes the top imperialist office? This has mainly flared in the international arena. At the same time many ruling class figures, concentrated in the Democratic Party do have differences with Trump around how he will rule “at home” as well; these differences are not insignificant but they do not override the unity between ruling class politicians as to the need to carry out that rule OVER the people. This is why, in the main, top Democrats like Obama have been arguing to give Trump a chance and work with him, while hoping to “influence” him. The conflict over the CIA assessment is part of that struggle to “influence” Trump by other ruling class factions.
Third, faced with this situation, it will be very important that people NOT get caught up in pinning their hopes on one or another representative or section of the imperialists. If the imperialists are allowed to set the terms of the struggle and determine its parameters, and masses of people allow their activity to be confined to being marshaled by one or another camp of imperialists to fight around what THEY deem to be significant, that struggle will only and can only end up in continued imperialist domination.
Here we’ll draw on “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy… And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer”; though written nearly 20 years ago, the principle below applies very much to the situation we face now. Bill Clinton, then the president, faced an attack by Christian fascist Republican politicians who formed the spearpoint of an entire offensive of what was called at the time “the politics of poverty, punishment and patriarchy,” an attack most fundamentally directed against masses of people, but which also involved conflicts among different sections of the imperialists and which took the form of a move to impeach Clinton. Even as things have changed, some of the same questions, and some of the same forces, are in the field today.
Here’s what BA wrote:
It is extremely important to step back from the immediate situation and the terms in which things are presented to us, and ask: How did we get to the situation where the choices, the framework and limits we are supposed to accept are marked at one end by outright fascists and at the other end by someone [this refers to Bill Clinton] who, as even a mainstream columnist describes him, is the most conservative Democratic President since Truman, who heads a Democratic administration that has served as an aggressive and effective instrument in a many-sided reactionary offensive against the basic masses and broader sections of people? Where will we be, before long, and what will the future look like, if people, especially those who see the need to oppose this reactionary offensive, nevertheless are convinced to confine their political objectives and activity within the logic and dynamic that has led us to the present situation? And, most importantly, how do we get out of this situation? The answer is that it must and can only be done by mobilizing broad ranks of people, uniting people from many different strata and walks of life, to build determined resistance to this whole reactionary program and to transform the whole terms of political contention and struggle, the whole "political terrain"—resistance that is not limited to and does not rely on the very political structures, institutions and processes that are the means through which this reactionary offensive is being carried out and given "legitimacy."
With that kind of “determined resistance to the whole reactionary program” from below, struggles between different ruling class forces can assume heightened significance. The proposal now being circulated for a month of massive resistance to prevent the consolidation of fascism urgently presents a picture of such resistance, and argues for it and its possible effects:
Imagine if people, in the tens of millions, filled the streets, powerfully declaring that this regime is illegitimate and demanding that it not be allowed to rule! The whole political landscape would be dramatically transformed, every faction within the established power structure would be forced to respond—and all this could well lead to a situation in which this fascist regime is actually prevented from ruling. This is not some idle dream but something which could be made a reality if all those who hate what is represented by this fascist regime translate their outrage into firm determination and massive mobilization to create the conditions which make this possible.
This could be done—such a thing is necessary and possible precisely because Trump is NOT normal; he represents the imposition of a fascist form of capitalist dictatorship, and millions are rightly revolted by this—by what he has declared as his intentions and what he has already done even before assuming office. But not by lining up behind a program and leadership that locates any possible illegitimacy of Trump in his failure to “stand up” consistently enough for imperialist interests against other imperialist powers.
The final point is this: revolutionaries need, in waging this struggle, to compellingly put forward the way out of this madness altogether. Through www.revcom.us and spoken agitation people need to learn about the blueprint for an entirely different society in which the politics of society are not dominated by imperialist forces struggling over how best to dominate the masses, but in which the masses of people are led to wage struggle to transform the world to do away with exploitation and oppression, and, yes, led to carry out vigorous struggle over how to do that; that blueprint exists in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, written by Bob Avakian and adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party. More, revolutionaries, in waging this struggle to stop the Trump/Pence regime, should bring forward the strategy that could actually defeat these imperialists and the leadership we have to do that: BA—an entirely different kind of leader with an orientation toward liberating and unleashing masses, and a method and approach that can enable them to ever more consciously transform the world and themselves—and the vanguard he leads.
1. Beginning in December of 2010 and lasting for 10 months, the “Arab Spring” was a powerful series of uprisings that rocked the nations of the Middle East and North Africa. By the end of February 2012, tyrants had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen with major uprisings in 14 different countries. [back]
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.