A High-Stakes Debate:
Trump vs. the “Deep State”? Or Ruling Class Battle Over Trump’s Fascist Takeover?

March 27, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


One single unifying mission: Drive out the Trump/Pence regime

Since taking power, the Trump/Pence regime has unleashed a near daily “blitzkrieg” of extremely reactionary measures aimed at rapidly consolidating their fascist rule, and radically reshaping the U.S. government and society and threatening the world in horrendous ways.

In response, Trump’s critics and opponents within the government and the ruling class, mainly grouped around the Democrats, have responded with a stream of charges, investigations, and press exposés, often driven by anonymous leaks of classified information. These have thwarted some of Trump’s moves (for example, forcing the resignation of Mike Flynn, Trump’s pick as White House national security adviser). Ongoing FBI and congressional investigations of possible Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible collusion by the Trump team have, one Republican congressman said, put a cloud over the new administration. The New York Times reported on March 16 an “unprecedented” level of leaks and “open institutional conflict.”

The Trump cabal has struck back, in part by condemning these leaks, investigations, and critical news coverage as attempts by an unelected “deep state” to thwart the will of the people who legitimately elected Trump president. This concept, mainly associated with radical critics of U.S. actions around the world, generally holds that a “deep state” exists within government made up of career bureaucrats working in secret in powerful institutions like the CIA, the NSA, the State Department, and the military, wielding power unchecked by elected officials.

The High-Stakes Debate Over the “Deep State”

Many others who oppose Trump, from different vantage points and with different objectives, have weighed in on the “deep state” debate—does one exist? What does or doesn’t it have to do with stopping Trump? Right now there are contending camps among liberals and progressives which are profoundly wrong and deeply paralyzing at a moment when millions need to act decisively against the unprecedented danger the Trump/Pence regime represents for humanity and the planet.

Some liberals see the cascade of leaks and high-level opposition to Trump not as a “deep state,” but as the traditional and legitimate institutional checks of democracy that will render Trump an insignificant “blip” in U.S. history.

Others are rooting for the CIA, Pentagon, and other wings of the so-called “deep state” as the best hope to stop Trump. “Talking Points Memo” founder and blogger Josh Marshall writes: “Let’s hope there’s a deep state, and if there is that they have their shit together.” The staggering toll of the war crimes committed by these institutions all over the world in the interests of U.S. capitalism-imperialism is apparently beneath notice to people like Marshall.

Still others condemn the leaking of secret, unverified claims and charges by “deep state” intelligence agencies, which they see as an equal or even greater danger to humanity and threat to “democracy” than Trump/Pence. For instance, journalist Glenn Greenwald has tweeted: “Trump presidency is dangerous. CIA/Deep State abuse of spy powers to subvert elected Govt is dangerous.”

There Is No “Deep State,” But There Is a Dictatorship of the Capitalist Ruling Class

The very real phenomena of secret intelligence gathering, political assaults or propaganda campaigns driven by high-level leaks repeated by the media, and deeply entrenched reactionary interests do not prove the existence of a “deep state” that covertly dominates the elected parts of the state. These and the many other towering crimes committed by the U.S. government are the acts of a dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist ruling class, which encompasses all branches of the state and the government—elected and unelected. The aim and purpose of this state is to advance the interests of the bourgeois class and maintain and ensure the functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system from which this state has sprung and on which it rests.

Elections and the mechanisms of democracy do not change the dictatorial essence of this state. As the revolutionary communist leader Bob Avakian has succinctly put it, “The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”

It is the state, pure and simple, which has carried out every crime from the genocidal wars to exterminate Native Americans, to the expansion and defense of slavery and the ongoing oppression of Black people, to the wars whose toll in just the past 30 years of “peace” reaches into the millions and millions. Mystifying this distorts what these conflicts actually represent.

Not Deep State vs. Trump, But Ruling Class Battle Over the Form of Bourgeois Dictatorship

This capitalist-imperialist dictatorship can take different forms:

Liberal bourgeois democracy, such as that represented by Clinton and Obama, and fascism, such as that represented by the Trump/Pence regime, are different forms of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, that is, of the capitalist-imperialist class, exercising its rule and enforcing its system....

At the same time, fascism is an even more grotesque and openly murderous form of this same system, representing horrors for humanity and the planet, beyond what this system already inflicts every moment. This relationship of being qualitatively different, even while sharing a common essence, is considered “a unity of opposites.”

(“Some Points on Strategic Orientation for the Next Period,” from the Central Committee, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA )

The intense battle taking place at the highest levels of the U.S. government and political establishment today is not between elected populist and entrenched interests in Washington, DC—or Trump and a “deep state.” What’s taking place today is an intense battle between different factions of the bourgeois ruling class over what FORM their dictatorship should take, and how to best cohere and rule U.S. society and advance the interests of U.S. imperialism in the face of enormous challenges. This battle has been sparked by the Trump/Pence takeover of the key levers of state power and its efforts to quickly and drastically reshape the cohering norms of U.S. society and remake the existing oppressive capitalist-imperialist state into an open, terrorist, fascist dictatorship.


Also entering into this battle are real differences between sections of the ruling class over how (not if) the U.S. should pursue its imperialist interests worldwide; what kinds of ideological “glue” can hold together a society in a deep and multifaceted economic, political, and social crisis; the degree to which even the pretense of democratic rights (which are always narrow and truncated in the first place under capitalism and often violated) should be discarded; and not least, how disputes among these factions should be settled.

The regime aims to greatly centralize power in the hands of the fascist core around Trump in the White House, attacking, cutting down, even gutting other institutional centers of power, as well as going after other opponents. They see this as an intense fight which they must more or less quickly win. “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. “Every day—every day, it is going to be a fight.” These are extreme transformations and it’s not surprising that there is a great deal of turmoil and sharp struggle within the ruling establishment.

The New York Times reports, “Mr. Trump, apparently seeking to cut the intelligence community, State Department, and other agencies out of the policy-making process almost entirely, may have triggered a conflict whose escalation we are seeing in the rising number of leaks.... Mr. Trump’s moves to consolidate power away from those agencies under his own authority also has them struggling to keep what they see as their crucial role in governance.”

This is the context for the Trump fascists targeting the so-called “deep state.” When asked about the “deep state,” Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer talked of people “burrowed into government” from the Obama administration who want to continue “that agenda.” Trump supporter and former house speaker Newt Gingrich said, “There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president.” Sean Hannity of Fox News said there are “deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy ... hell-bent on destroying President Trump.”

These are not calls for ending the murderous crimes of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, or other branches of government, much less disbanding those pillars of the capitalist-imperialist dictatorship. They are calls for waging war against the bourgeois liberal state and the current norms of governing, and radically restructuring them along fascist lines. Pointing not to this or that official or department but to a “deep state” shows how deep, far-reaching, and radical the transformations Trump’s fascist program entails.

As the statement, “Some Points on Strategic Orientation for the Next Period,” from the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (which is crucial to study in its entirety), sums up in regard to the Trump/Pence fascist regime:

Where the judiciary and intelligence agencies have posed obstacles to their program or not done their exact bidding, this regime has attacked them as well, asserting the unchallengeable supremacy of the executive branch in opposition to “the system of checks and balances” between the different branches of the government, which is a fundamental principal of the U.S. Constitution, and even within the executive branch, asserting the unquestionable domination of the hard core fascists at the very top, even in relation to other bourgeois forces within the state....

Imposing this fascist program on society requires going after and replacing the norms and institutions of bourgeois democracy, especially those that pose obstacles to them like the press, the judiciary, and other sections of the ruling class.

The Urgency of Grasping the Fascist Danger—and Acting Accordingly

The current turmoil and divisions within the U.S. ruling class reflect the fact that the Trump/Pence regime has not yet been able to fully consolidate fascism, and there remains a limited window for millions to act to drive this regime from power through massive political struggle and resistance.

But people will not act with the courage, clarity, and urgency needed to actually force the removal of this regime if they continue to assume the system’s checks and balances will soon neuter Trump, hope for salvation from an imaginary “deep state” (or ruling class institutions dripping in blood), or fail to grasp the escalation of horrors the  Trump/Pence regime will bring to people around the world, above and beyond even past U.S. crimes. 

For the sake of all humanity – and its future – people must shed these illusions and act with the determination needed to stop the Trump/Pence regime.   


 (For more on the dynamic between conflicts within the ruling class and mass political struggle, see “What’s Behind the Russia-Trump Furor…And Where Do the People’s Interests Lie?”)


Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.