Editors’ note: The following is a summary of some important developments of the past week. We want to add two important points to what follows.
First, in Something Terrible, OR Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility Of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed, A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution, Bob Avakian discusses how the intense conflicts between the fascist Republican Party and those sections of the ruling class intent on preserving the old ways of ruling—more or less grouped around the Democrats—have brought things to a situation in which the old ways of ruling can no longer hold. He makes the important point that:
[A]s “the normal way” society has been ruled is failing to hold things together—and society is increasingly being ripped apart—this can shake people’s belief that “the way things have always been” is the only way things can be. It can make people more open to questioning—in a real sense it can force people to question—the way things have been, and whether they have to stay that way. And this is all the more likely to happen if the revolutionary forces are out among the people shining a light on the deeper reality of what is happening, and why, and bringing out that there IS an alternative to living this way.
This dynamic makes revolution much more possible than it is in “normal times.” But this conflict alone does not make a revolution. He goes on to make the point that:
On the other hand, “left to itself”—that is, if the current character and dynamics of all this remain on the same course they are now on—this situation, the divisions characterizing it, and the outcome resulting from it are almost certainly going to become even more terribly negative. So, all this must be radically changed, in what is a relatively brief, “compressed” period of time—not just weeks or months, but also not decades. If things have not already fully erupted before then, the scheduled presidential election of 2024 is very likely to be a critical focal point and turning point, through which the fascist Republicans will attempt to gain and lock down power over society, and put an end to any possibility of a future “transfer of power” away from them.
What this article shows is how rapidly what is pointed to above is developing.
Second, it is worth noting in some of what follows that the response of the Democratic Party, and many influenced by and around that party, has been to group more tightly around the core repressive institutions of the capitalist-imperialist system: the armed forces, the FBI and CIA, etc.—institutions which have wrought terrible violence throughout their history and ruthlessly enforce the existing order which gave rise to these fascists and “at its best” is a system of white supremacy, misogyny, anti-immigrant hatred, environmental destruction, and worldwide repression, exploitation, and starvation.
These developments pose this sharp question: The core of the fascist social base is ready—is itching—to be the army of the “new Confederacy” in a new civil war. But where are the people on the other side of the divide at now?
On August 4, a group of prominent mainstream historians met privately with Joe Biden. According to Business Insider, they “described the current moment as among the most dangerous to democracy in modern history,” comparing it to 1860 (the year before the U.S. Civil War began) and 1940 (on the eve of U.S. entry into World War 2).
While these historians are largely characterized by being blind to—if not enthusiastic supporters of—the horrendous crimes and oppression brought down by the existing “democratic system” in the U.S. (see American Crime at revcom.us), they are not wrong about the current extreme danger posed by an even more repressive and blatantly white supremacist, misogynist and chauvinist form of capitalist rule—bourgeois fascism—which is accelerating rapidly.
The past few weeks have witnessed particularly rapid development in that direction.
The Hardening of the GOP as a Party of Trump, Voter Suppression, and “Christian Nationalism”
Over the past few months, Republican primary voters have generally chosen candidates endorsed by Trump, and/or candidates who passionately support Trump and endorse the “Stop the Steal” movement that was the pretext for the January 6, 2021 attempted coup d’état. As the New York Times put it, this has now “morphed into a widespread campaign to try to take control of the levers of democracy ahead of the coming elections”—i.e., to make sure that they “win” future elections even though they are opposed by the majority of people.
Or, as Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, put it, if elected, “I get to appoint the secretary of state, who is delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen.” And similar people are vying for statewide authority in all the “swing states.”
Another aspect is that the Christian fascist, white supremacy and patriarchal suppression of women and LGBTQ people—which was previously somewhat hidden—is now coming fully out of the closet. Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert declared, “The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church. I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” Supreme Court “Justice” Clarence Thomas reacted to the overturning of the right to abortion by immediately calling for a review of the rights to contraception, gay marriage, and gay sex. And the court as a whole upheld a high school football coach who insisted on leading a mass Christian prayer at the 50-yard line of every game.
All of this and more is being widely and openly touted by Republi-fascist candidates and office holders, not just by “fringe” fascists. It is now their “brand,” the core of their appeal and their program.
Trump and the Fascist Core Around Him Have Learned from Their Failure to Hold onto Power, and Are Taking Steps to Make Sure that “Next Time” They Will Not Fail
In July, writing in Axios, Jonathan Swan documents through interviews that the fascist core around Trump summed up that their agenda was constantly being blocked and subverted by what they call “the deep state.” By this they mean both the core repressive institutions (the armed forces, the courts, the intelligence agencies, etc.) as well as the federal bureaucracy that runs and staffs all the agencies that are charged with implementing laws and policies. The vast majority of this “deep state” are career civil service workers, not political appointees, and can’t be fired for political reasons. A much smaller section are political appointees, and are subject to being hired or fired by the president.
The fascists Swan spoke to identified two problems. First, the civil service bureaucracy often pushed back against aspects of the Trump agenda. For instance, Swan reports that there was mass revolt in the State Department against implementing Trump’s hard-line anti-refugee policies. Second, even the people that Trump appointed and who had overall agreement with his agenda, were generally not ruthless enough in tearing up the old ways and implementing the fascist program.
Based on this summation, Swan reports that the fascist core was itself hardened down to real fanatics, while “soft core” people either stepped away or were sidelined. Then the hard core developed a plan and a machinery for mass firings if they take power in 2024—up to 50,000 civil service workers who were previously considered non-political and hence protected.
And the Trump core has also established an organization that right now is building up a vast rolodex of future political appointees who are chosen based on a) their loyalty to Trump; and b) their support for the MAGA program. Andrew Kloster, one of the key people in this process, said: "the first thing you need to hire for is loyalty, The funny thing is, you can learn policy. You can't learn loyalty." Swan also reports that Kloster “wanted people harboring angst—who felt they had been personally wronged by ‘the system.’ The bigger the chip on their shoulder, the better… as it would help drive their desire to break up the system.”
In August, an article in the New Yorker detailed similar but even more serious conflicts between Trump and “his generals.” Though many of these top generals and Defense Department officials had been hand-selected and hailed by Trump because of their brutal reputations, or at least an expectation that they would follow his orders, they ended up pushing back against Trump at a number of key points. In particular, during the uprisings against police brutality after the murder of George Floyd, Trump wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy federal troops to crush the protests, but both Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper opposed and effectively blocked Trump from doing it.
Trump told The New Yorker that “These were very untalented people and once I realized it, I did not rely on them, I relied on the real generals and admirals within the system.” Exactly who he is referring to here is not clear, but apparently it was not the people who had overall authority in the military and Defense Department. The New Yorker (and other sources as well) reported that Milley and Esper undertook to prevent Trump from either declaring martial law and/or starting a war in order to hold onto power after he lost the election. And Milley and Esper were also speaking regularly to their own subordinates as well as with fascists like Attorney General Bill Barr who were apparently vacillating on going all the way with Trump.
On November 9, when it was clear Trump had lost the election, he fired Esper and replaced him with a compliant yes-man (Christopher Miller) as Secretary of Defense, and appointed several fanatical MAGA people as Miller’s top aides. Milley says he saw this as preparation for a coup. He says he held a meeting with two of these MAGA people that reportedly went like this:
[Milley told them] “Whatever machinations they were up to … ‘life looks really shitty from behind bars. And, whether you want to realize it or not, there’s going to be a President at exactly 1200 hours on the twentieth and his name is Joe Biden. And, if you guys do anything that’s illegal, I don’t mind having you in prison.’”
According to The New Yorker, “Trump and his men had failed in their execution of the plot, failed in part by failing to understand that Milley and the others had never been Trump’s generals and never would be.” But what is also clear is that the fascists have also summed up that they need very hard-core people in control of the state at various levels, especially in the military and other government institutions of repression.
Department of Justice Executes a Legal Search; Fascists Scream “Civil War”
While all this was simmering, the House Committee on January 6 was holding public hearings and revealing damning evidence of Trump’s involvement in the coup plot. (See Bob Avakian, January 6 Hearings—And the Violence of This System.) This in turn was generating calls for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a criminal investigation of Trump’s role. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Biden as well, seemed very reluctant to do this.
Then on August 8, the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. The FBI says that the search was carried out according to all the proper legal procedures that this system dictates. A federal judge reviewed the DOJ request and decided there was probable cause to believe that there was evidence of a crime at Mar-a-Lago and that Trump had not been forthcoming about producing that evidence in response to an earlier subpoena. Trump’s attorney and his Secret Service entourage were notified shortly beforehand. The judicial warrant was presented, and an inventory of the suspect material confiscated was given to Trump’s attorney.
Second, the object of the search was apparently not directly related to Trump’s involvement in the January 6 coup. Rather, it was carried out because Trump had illegally taken possession of government property—specifically, classified documents—and then after claiming that he had returned everything, evidence reportedly emerged that he was still in illegal possession of government property, including classified documents.
Third, the search warrant mentioned potential violations of the Espionage Act, which, if borne out by evidence and prosecuted, would be extremely serious, both in terms of possible criminal penalties, and because of the political implications of accusing a former president of “espionage.” Even if this was done in accordance with the rule of law, as maintained by the Justice Department, it could also be seen as a major move against Trump’s efforts to return to power—and whatever the facts of the matter, is clearly extraordinary.
The reaction of the fascist forces was immediate. Within hours, Steven Crowder declared to his 1.9 million Twitter followers, “Tomorrow is war. Sleep well.” Charlie Kirk, leader of the fascist student group, Turning Point, tweeted, “They will not stop until they fear a cost for their abuse. That is how it works.” One Trump supporter bragged, “I already bought my ammo.” Another declared, “Civil war! Pick up arms, people!” On Trump’s Truth Social platform, someone posted, “When this is all said and done, the people responsible for these tyrannical actions need to be hanged.”
Ben Collins, who covers “disinformation, extremism, and the internet” for NBC News, wrote on Monday, “The posts on these pro-Trump forums tonight are as violent as I’ve seen them since before January 6th. Maybe even more so.”
By the next day, the federal judge who signed the warrant had been doxxed, and his official page had to be taken down from the court’s website. On Thursday, a man reportedly armed with an AR-15 and a nail gun attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati and was later shot dead by police.
But it wasn’t just the most extreme fascist agitators or lunatics from the base—the Republican Party overwhelmingly rallied around Trump, as did Fox News.
No one can say with certainty what will happen next, but the danger of fascist violence and a fascist takeover is more vivid than ever.
The developments over the past two weeks may not go in a straight line, but the overall arc is one of intensification. In that light, it is worth not only reflecting on the following comment from Bob Avakian, but urgently going to work to make it real:
This situation needs to be radically changed, to where there are masses of people prepared to defeat these fascists and to do so as part of getting rid of this whole system, which has bred these fascists, along with all the other horrors it continually perpetrates. (From “This Is a Rare Time When Revolution Becomes Possible—Why That Is So, and How to Seize on This Rare Opportunity”)