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There Is No "They"—But There is a Definite Direction to Things:



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of excerpts on various subjects drawn from conversations and discussions, as well as more formal talks, by Bob Avakian—from the period of the George W. Bush presidency, in which the threat of fascism took a leap... a leap which the Trump/Pence regime took further. It has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. The series, “The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era,” is available online at and in pamphlet form from RCP Publications. This article has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added.

One thing we should understand: 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."

This is not Moon Over Parador—and even there the Dreyfuss character got out of hand. Remember the Richard Dreyfuss movie, Moon Over Parador, where his character was an actor doing a movie in a (fictional) Latin American country, and then he was brought in to imitate the dictator after the dictator had actually died. There were a tiny number of aristocratic families, of the Latin American oligarchy model, and they were running him— directing and controlling him in this role as dictator—and then he got off the leash at a certain point. That, of course, is an unrealistic scenario. After all, it's a movie, it's not real life—and in the real world there is not a single "THEY" sitting there deciding everything. Sometimes, some people, among those who recognize that there are financial interests that exercise a powerful role in society, can be very narrow and economist in their analysis (making a connection, too directly and mechanically, between powerful financial and economic interests, on the one hand, and political decision-making on the other hand). And we have fallen into errors like that at times ourselves. Sometimes it happens that things that are not most beneficial, economically, for the most powerful business interests get done by the government anyway—because, in the judgment of those who are making political decisions, those things are in the best interests of the system they serve (however they conceive of that system and those interests). There is a system that is operating—a system whose fundamental, underlying dynamics set the ultimate framework and terms for political decision-making—but it is not a "one-to-one" thing between business and financial interests, on the one hand, and political decision-making, on the other hand. There is not a single, uniform "business class" deciding all this on the basis of its uniform business interests—there is not a THEY—there are political operatives who operate with relative autonomy. George Soros (whose assets are in the billions) is as big as "They" get, but there are a lot of different "THEYs." Soros put a lot of money into the election—backing Kerry, trying to deny Bush a "mandate" with a second term—yet Soros couldn't prevail.

You have to think in dynamic terms, even with regard to what goes on in the ruling structures and ruling circles. Yes, there is a ruling class. A ruling class is like a solid core—it has a lot of dynamism within it. It's not a monolith, and that's especially true these days. We have to really, in our conception, not fall into thinking in crude terms of some kind of "THEY." Sometimes descriptions like that have a certain usefulness, as a kind of shorthand, but this is like a lot of "shorthands" in science and other things—it can also lead you into the wrong kind of thinking. There's not one "THEY" sitting there doling out power to various people. Yes, I have made the analogy that when you run for office it's like auditioning—auditioning for the ruling class, which holds the ultimate decision-making power—but that is a dynamic thing. It's not literally that you have something like the Fox American Idol panel that sits there, going "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for the different candidates. It's much more dynamic than that. We can describe things metaphorically to help people understand important aspects of reality, but we shouldn't vulgarize it to them—and we shouldn't vulgarize it to ourselves. We should enable people to understand—and we ourselves must understand—the complexity of this.

There is right now a certain dynamic in terms of the politics and the contradictions within the ruling class, and how that relates to the direction of society (and, to a very significant degree, the world) as a whole. This can be changed by what happens internationally—it could be changed by things that aren't under the control of the imperialists. The author (a long-time CIA operative) who wrote the book Imperial Hubris, he argues that it's inevitable that there will be another attack like September 11—and quite possibly an attack with weapons of mass destruction. What do you think that would do to the dynamics inside the U.S?


That brings me to a key point in relation to all this: We are not, we must not be, passive in the face of this whole situation. We must work to bring about a radical change in the political terrain. This current dynamic is not good for us, not good for the revolutionary proletariat, not good for the oppressed people, not good for the masses of people, within the U.S. and throughout the world. And, if it continues on the trajectory it is on, it will get worse—and then, if the same kind of reactionary religious forces who were involved in the September 11 attacks launch another attack on the U.S., and especially if that attack is even more devastating, things will go to a whole other level, will be in a whole different ballpark. And, yes, things like this could lead to a situation where the imperialist rulers of the U.S. suffer a very serious setback as a result of being overextended internationally—but, if that occurs in a situation where the current dynamic has gone ahead on the trajectory it is now on, all this will most likely lead to a far worse situation than exists now. So, again, this emphasizes the great importance of working urgently to mobilize masses of people in political struggle to make leaps in radically transforming the political situation, the political terrain and the political terms, in a more positive direction.

Once Hitler consolidated power, it took a whole world war to bring him down, and then he was not brought down by any internal dynamics and struggle from within German society itself (even though there were assassination attempts against him by people in the German ruling class, after a certain point in World War 2, when things started going badly for Germany). Well, we don't want to be determinist and sit around and wait for something like that—you know what the next world war is going to be like if it comes. Who knows who is going to survive, if anybody does. There is still that question. There is not the Soviet Union anymore, but you can have weapons of mass destruction flying around without the Soviet Union, I'm sorry to say. I'm pointing to something that I think is a real, and very dangerous, dynamic here. But it can change—and, we must recognize, it can change to be even worse than it is now. Left to itself, it almost certainly will change in that way, in one form or another.

And so, we have to get in there and change this. There is a dynamic at play which holds not only very negative and extremely dangerous possibilities but also potentially positive and favorable elements, and we have to seize on this and work on this to transform it into something entirely different. Right now, the positive side—that is, the opposition of various kinds to what is represented by the whole Bush agenda, for short—is just about entirely in the framework of bourgeois democracy. And the interests of the masses of people, in the U.S. and throughout the world, are not going to prevail if things stay in that framework, if the positive side of the polarization is largely left at that and defined by that. There will be many elements of that kind of opposition—resistance that has not yet broken out of the framework of bourgeois democracy, fundamentally—if things are repolarized to a more favorable configuration. And this will be true, in a certain sense, even if things are repolarized all the way to a revolutionary situation. But if things are left as they are now, politically, with the polarization essentially being what is represented by Bush, on one side, and simply bourgeois-democratic opposition (of various kinds) on the other side, good things are not going to result, and the real interests of the masses of people are not going to win out.

There are many people who are being forced to confront the world they're being dragged into as a result of the current dynamic—they're staring it in the face now. And what the dominant core of the ruling class (grouped around Bush, in basic terms) is aiming for is a reforging of a consensus that is definitely different than what Clinton was aiming to do. In the aftermath of the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire, Clinton was aiming to recast things in the U.S. within an essentially secular bourgeois-democratic framework. Even though he was making more concessions to religion, even to religious fundamentalism, he was still operating within a secular bourgeois-democratic framework, a "post-Enlightenment" secular bourgeois-democratic framework. And that is being opposed by a whole other framework, which is not yet completely dominant and consolidated as the ruling class framework—as the form in which things are being run, to put it simply. But it has got a lot of initiative, and it is a monster that can never be fully fed—and is not going to stay on its leash if it's not fed. So there you go. That doesn't mean this fascist, and in particular Christian Fascist, framework, and the forces determined to impose that framework, are bound to win out, even if we do nothing. But there is a definite dynamic at play which is very heavy.


We really have to recognize that there is a kind of a conjuncture here—a coming together and heightening of major contradictions—but at the same time this is not static and frozen and divorced from larger forces in the world. It is not bound to remain as it is, it almost certainly won't remain exactly as it is now—in fact, we can say with a great deal of certainty that it won't remain exactly as it is now. But things are posing themselves a certain way—there is a definite dynamic at play—and this is not a matter of that famous (or infamous) notion of the "political pendulum" that will somehow "swing back the other way." Things are being taken to extremes, and right now this is in an overwhelmingly negative way. At the same time, once again, there are favorable factors within this. We have to urgently work on those potentially positive elements within this situation and this dynamic—and we have to work on the negative factors, too, and transform them and repolarize things. And then if, or when, there are major turning points in the world, because of what other forces do and how the ruling class of the U.S. responds, the result of all that can be very different than the definitely negative outcome that would occur if this current dynamic is not radically transformed.

We have a tremendous amount of responsibility, politically and ideologically, in this regard. We have to unite and struggle with—and we must not tail—the many progressive people and forces who find themselves still desperately trying to find a solution to all this within the framework of the capitalist system and bourgeois democracy. We have to unite with their sentiments of hatred for what is represented by the current regime in the U.S. and the direction in which it is taking U.S. society, and the world; but we also have to struggle with them and transform the current opposition and resistance into something else, something radically different. And we have to bring forward a powerful, revolutionary movement among the basic masses. That is a decisive element within all this.

We cannot sit around and let this "faith-based" stuff, and all this religious shit that's leading people to act against their own fundamental interests, have free rein. I will have more—a lot more—to say about that, but here my main point is that the polarization that is shaping up now is, in its main aspect, very negative, but it is not all one- sided and static: there are definitely positive, and potentially very positive, elements and factors within all this. This current polarization is part of a very dynamic and volatile mix, and it can change radically, in one direction or another. But, even if this Christian Fascist element ceases to be, at a given time or for a certain period, the major feature within all this, it will never completely disappear, or never cease to be a major feature of the terrain and of the "configuration" within ruling class politics—until there is a revolutionary transformation of society as a whole.

The fundamental question is this: What are going to be the dynamics of all this, and where will they lead? To horrible consequences and more and more negative polarization— or to a situation where the masses of people are wrenching a different repolarization out of all this, and bringing into being a different dynamic, leading toward a radically different resolution of all this?

That is where we come in—that is the challenge, and the responsibility, we must take up.

The Coming Civil War 360 white



This article is in

The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era
by Bob Avakian

From a series of questions and answers that followed a talk given by Bob Avakian in 2004.


Available as a pamphlet.
Download here (PDF)