A Living Understanding of the Volatility of the Impeachment Battle

from a member of the National Revolution Tour

| revcom.us


Editors’ Note: The following are reflections contributed by a member of the Revolution Tour to feed into a strategizing meeting of a team that was going to Washington, DC, around the Senate impeachment trial of Trump.

They do not by any means reflect the authoritative or “final word” on impeachment, but do reflect important methodological points as well as a lot of information and wrangling that we feel would be of interest to our readers, and provide important overall grounding in how to understand the fight now unfolding at the top of society in this impeachment and the tremendous importance of people acting in this moment from below to demand the removal of the whole regime.

[1] First, some overall points of method and analysis:

*Proceeding from precepts vs. reality. As Bob Avakian has emphasized, drawing from Lenin, “Theory is gray, but green is the tree of life.” By which, he meant that theory is extremely important, but that the point is to apply theory to reality—and reality is constantly changing and filled with contradiction, and therefore always “greener” as it actually unfolds.

*Even while many of the Trump/Pence regime’s crimes against humanity and full fascist program (child separation, shredding environmental protections, assaulting the rights of women and LGBTQ people, unleashing white supremacy, war crimes, and more) were left out of the impeachment hearings in Congress, core elements of fascism were contended in the hearings and are reflected in the two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And even while this whole thing got concentrated around Ukraine and involved imperialist differences vis-à-vis Russia, with the Democrats wrapping themselves in patriotism and setting terms around national security throughout the hearing in Congress, the questions at the heart of these two charges do bear on essential differences between bourgeois democracy and the fascist form of rule—specifically unchecked executive authority, disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, trampling on the integrity of democratic elections and oppositional politics. In this light, it is worth it to review this short answer to the question, “What IS Fascism?” that is frequently posted at revcom.us:

Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”

At the same time—and this can be seen through studying the examples of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini—while it will likely move quickly to enforce certain repressive measures in consolidating its rule, a fascist regime is also likely to implement its program overall through a series of stages and even attempt at different points to reassure the people, or certain groups among the people, that they will escape the horrors—if they quietly go along and do not protest or resist while others are being terrorized and targeted for repression, deportation, “conversion,” prison, or execution.

*Fascism does involve the destruction of Weimar. This references a point made by Bob Avakian, analyzing how Hitler viciously defeated the bourgeois democratic Weimar Republic in Germany as part of imposing his full fascist program. By analogy, Avakian pointed out how the fascists of today are driven to sufficiently defeat and subdue the Democratic Party and the bourgeois democratic norms in this country as well. The fact that Trump targeted the Biden family in this way, has implied Obama is responsible for Iranian terrorism, and said that Hillary Clinton should be in jail and Schiff should be dealt with Guatemalan-style... all this (existential threat for them) is part of the necessity that’s on the Democrats. These threats against the Democrats are not just bad for them, they are also bad for the masses of people; this is part of “trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights” that will also affect very negatively the masses of people if not opposed.

*There’s not one “they.” To quote Bob Avakian, in the original article where he argued this point, “There is no ‘THEY’—no one single, undivided, ‘monolithic’ group that rules society. That’s one thing we really have to understand. There are different ‘They’s’ striving and struggling to be THEY—to be the dominant and determining force within the ruling class, and therefore within society. But there is no one ‘THEY.’” (Read the full piece here.) Nor is there one pathway that bourgeois democratic (or fascist) forces see for dealing with their necessity and pursuing their interests. Classes and social forces are fundamental to understand, but also the role of individuals. And the role of accident.

*Must be rooted in materialism/class analysis. But also dialectics. Understanding the class nature of the Democratic Party, and the pattern of compromise/capitulation having to do with that class nature, doesn’t mean they would never under any circumstances fight back in defense of the cohering norms they believe are essential to the system (and/or in defense of themselves). Or that they would never call people into the streets. Or that their chess moves are always just ways to manipulate the masses of people into going along with their capitulation—which is how things like the Democrats’ decision to add a second article of impeachment (obstruction of Congress) rather than pursuing their subpoenas in court for witnesses Trump was blocking, or Pelosi’s delay in sending the impeachment articles over to the Senate, were initially knee-jerk “analyzed” by some of our people. In fact impeachment has been a real blow to Trump (just this morning he was tweeting about how unfair it is that the “stigma of impeachment” is now attached to his name), and now Trump is facing a trial in the Senate. And the Democrats did call people in a beginning way into the streets the night before impeachment. All of which has lifted people’s spirits and hopes, even as people confront the reality of continued fascist obstruction, sabotage, and control of the Senate.

[2] Second, what’s at play, different variables:

*In terms of the trial: Will there be witnesses? Who? Will new evidence (the new emails, for example) be allowed in? Will the Senate subpoena Trump’s former national security advisor, Bolton? Will Trump block it? Schumer said he plans to force a series of votes on calling witnesses and hearing new evidence, putting Republicans in the position of being seen as suppressing evidence and obstructing. As of this writing, Republican Senator Susan Collins (facing a tough re-election in November) said she’s working with fellow Republicans Romney and Murkowski and is likely to want additional information, including calling witnesses, particularly Bolton. That means if one more Republican senator joins the 47 Dem Senators, they could vote to subpoena Bolton and others. If Bolton does testify, it’s not at all clear which way he would go. His comments about not wanting to be part of Trump’s “drug deal” have not been confirmed.

[Ed: this predated the reportage and revelations of Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, who by all accounts seems to have been extensively involved in these events, and has a lot to offer.]

*At this point there don’t seem to be any Republican senators at all inclined to convict Trump. Will that change during the course of the trial? In a trial, all kinds of things, including unexpected things, can come out... and Republicans could come to see their necessity differently.

*How hard will the Dems actually fight to win? Will some of the more conservative Democratic senators (from swing states or whatever) not want to fight this out? Will the Dems have to compromise in order to keep all the Dems together (because they will need all their votes)?

*Then there is the most important variable: What kinds of struggle will there be from below? Will there be a mass upsurge from below demanding removal/#OutNow? How would that intersect/interpenetrate with the other variables and change the equation? Significance of the Women’s March, and the #OUTNOW contingents and Revolution Club contingents within it, in this whole context. Most of all, we should not resign ourselves to some notion that “whatever will happen will happen.” No! We, and the masses of people, must be determined to influence what will happen—including taking advantage of and making use of developments brought about by people and forces that are opposed to the interests of humanity. This is an incredibly volatile situation and no one can say in advance how it will turn out—or how our actions, and the actions of the people, might impact and influence all of this.

Here, it is important to quote again, the two paragraphs that have been run frequently at revcom.us during the Trump/Pence regime’s rule:

The Democrats, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, etc., are seeking to resolve the crisis with the Trump presidency on the terms of this system, and in the interests of the ruling class of this system, which they represent. We, the masses of people, must go all out, and mobilize ourselves in the millions, to resolve this in our interests, in the interests of humanity, which are fundamentally different from and opposed to those of the ruling class.

This, of course, does not mean that the struggle among the powers that be is irrelevant or unimportant; rather, the way to understand and approach this (and this is a point that must also be repeatedly driven home to people, including through necessary struggle, waged well) is in terms of how it relates to, and what openings it can provide for, “the struggle from below”—for the mobilization of masses of people around the demand that the whole regime must gobecause of its fascist nature and actions and what the stakes are for humanity.

*The fascist social base. Trump is already whipping them up around this, but will he mobilize them? Or at what point would he mobilize them? And how will they self-mobilize, and be encouraged to do so? How could that heighten the contradictions to a whole other level?

*Iran situation. How does that factor in? Still a volatile situation. Could benefit Trump... why would you impeach your commander in chief at a time like this. Or could go the other way... Trump puts national security at risk... lies about “imminent threat”... his impulsiveness/recklessness, his king-like refusal to consult Congress just proves the points they are making with impeachment. The Iran question also linked to strategic differences in the ruling class in regard to the Russia question (which is obviously connected to impeachment since the military aid Trump withheld from Ukraine was to be used to fight against Russia). Non-binding House resolution on presidential war powers passed, but also an upcoming Senate resolution on this (which two Republican Senators have said they will vote for)... how could that intersect?



From the editors: The following was part of the original memo we are publishing above, but we’ve moved it to an addendum because a lot has changed since it was written. We are still including it, however, because there is still relevance to some of the developments wrestled with and because it is a positive example of someone working to apply the methodological points cited in Part 1 of this memo in real-time.

Some thoughts on the process and timeline (this was written before Pelosi sent the articles to the Senate and Chief Justice Roberts and the Senate were sworn in for the Senate trial, but much of this is still pertinent):

*From the December 30 Revcom article:

The next step in the process is for the Democrats to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and for the Senate to then hold a trial of Trump. The Senate is supposed to impartially evaluate the evidence and then vote on whether Trump should be removed from office.

The fascist Republican Party grouped around Trump reacted with fury and arrogance. The Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell openly stated that he would NOT be impartial. McConnell said that he would coordinate the trial with Trump himself—the accused—and that, anyway, since he, McConnell, had already concluded that Trump should NOT be removed, there was no need for further witnesses or other evidence to be added. Whoever heard of such a thing!?! And yet this absurdity is on track to become the “new normal” under the Trump/Pence fascist regime.

Trump himself accused the Democrats of treason, and “making war on democracy.” When hosting a delegation from the Guatemalan government—a government infamous for repression and murder of opponents—Trump went so far as to say that “they knew how to take care of” the kind of opposition he was encountering from congressional Democrats.

The Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi responded by holding back the articles of impeachment until she could be sure of a fair proceeding, and other Democrats are putting forward the demand that Congress be allowed to see new, and possibly more damning, evidence.

*Since the revcom article, there’s been an extended standoff between Pelosi and McConnell. McConnell announced he has the votes in the Senate to set the rules for the trial without Democratic support, and won’t commit yet on rules relating to witnesses/evidence, but has said that they will conduct it like the Clinton impeachment—presentations on both sides and then a vote on witnesses later (although in the Clinton impeachment the witnesses were all deposed, so the evidence was there from the beginning... which McConnell is obstructing). McConnell has argued that Pelosi’s delay shows that Trump wasn’t a clear and present danger as the Dems portrayed it in impeachment. Pelosi has said that her strategy of delay has been successful, that they’ve gathered more evidence (new un-redacted Defense Department emails documenting that the decision to suspend aid to Ukraine came directly from Trump, which according to Schumer justifies calling Mulvaney and others as witnesses), gotten a commitment from Bolton to testify if subpoenaed, and raised public awareness about the importance of a fair trial with witnesses and documentation (citing 70 percent of Americans want witnesses to testify) and exposed Trump and McConnell’s obstruction of all that.

*There does seem to be a difference between McConnell and Trump on impeachment, with McConnell pushing for getting the trial over with quickly, with minimal witnesses/evidence heard. Trump has indicated repeatedly that he more wants to put the Dems on trial. Trump tweeted on January 12 that Schiff lied before Congress and that he and Pelosi should be witnesses. On Laura Ingraham’s show, Trump laid out a whole list of people that should be brought in... the whistleblower, the second whistleblower, the informer, the inspector general, Joe and Hunter Biden.

*For whatever reasons (At an impasse in the struggle with McConnell and losing momentum? Wanting to get it over with and get back to elections? Feeling she accomplished what she was aiming for with the delay? Seeing an opening to strike? Some combination?), Pelosi announced that they would move this week to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Once Pelosi appoints the “managers” (with Schiff and Nadler expected to be among them) to prosecute Trump, the House will vote on that and on transmitting the articles.

*Impeachment is not like a typical trial in that the Senators are the jury, but they also have the power to set the rules for the trial. Chief Justice Roberts presides over the trial, but his role is more constrained than in a usual trial, since a simple majority can overturn his rulings.

*Trump’s basic argument: Read the transcript. The president of Ukraine said I did nothing wrong. I did release the aid, so it wasn’t the quid pro quo (which is maybe contradicted by the new emails).

The following is taken from the talk
Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis
Breaking with Individualism, Parasitism and American Chauvinism
by Bob Avakian

Individualism, BEB and the Illusion of “Painless Progress”

With a Note Added by the Author, Fall 2019

Read more




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