Thomas Friedman and David Brooks are very worried.
Friedman and Brooks are prominent political columnists for the New York Times who try to speak to, and for, a section of the rulers of this imperialist-capitalist system. Their worries point to real crises and conflicts that “could lead to something really terrible,” but could also give rise to the very real possibility “that we could wrench something really positive out of [this situation]—revolution, to put an end to this system and bring something much better into being.” (Both quotes from “A Declaration, A Call to Get Organized Now for a Real Revolution)
Friedman and Brooks assume that U.S. society—and the capitalist-imperialist system that defines and determines it—is the best of all possible worlds. This grounds every column they write and every argument they make. From that position, week after week they put forward views on how best to maintain that political, economic, and social system—a system of horrific domination and destructive plunder of the entire planet. And they try to persuade the Times readership—which includes some sections of the ruling class as well as many middle- and upper-middle class people and others who work with ideas—of these views.
To do this, they frequently bend the truth and often lie.
To take just one murderous example: both columnists loudly supported the totally unprovoked U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an invasion and war that was widely opposed by millions who took to the streets within the U.S. and around the world. The protesters insistently and convincingly pointed to the overwhelming evidence refuting the excuse for this war put forward by the George W. Bush regime—that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” (nuclear and biological weapons, etc.). The protesters made clear that the war itself was a blatant violation of international law and would have disastrous consequences for people of the entire Middle Eastern region. In the face of this, Brooks and Friedman used their columns to promote what was easily proven at the time to be a pack of outright lies and disinformation, and to distort the true objectives of the U.S. in going to war.
In fact, this war did set off a nightmarish chain of events that has taken the lives of a million human beings and wrecked the lives of millions more—a cycle that is still going on. When the war was over and the lie was indeed exposed—when the U.S. could not even manufacture “evidence” to support their excuse—Friedman and Brooks had already moved on, and to this day not only refuse to criticize, but continue to uphold, their criminal advocacy.
But even though these two have an ugly overall record of lies and distortion, they do often express real concerns of different sections of the ruling class. In this way, they can reflect significant aspects of and truths about reality and they can shed light on how the enemy views its problems and weaknesses in maintaining its rule.
Understanding how significant representatives of the class that we are trying to overthrow view their problems—where they see its weaknesses and with what degree of urgency, and how they propose to deal with those—is important.
In this regard, two columns that appeared in last week’s New York Times shed some light on things. First, there is “Big Lie Devours G.O.P. And Eyes Our Democracy,” by Friedman.
The Specter of a Political Civil War
Friedman is worried that Biden’s early success (in combating COVID, passing a stimulus bill, etc.) “has lulled many people into thinking” that Trump’s election theft lie “would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.”
He goes on:
“We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war—more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.”
Friedman is especially worried about the way in which the Republican Party is ever more firmly in the grip of the lie that the election was stolen from Trump. They act on this lie by passing laws that are designed to prevent decisive numbers of Black and other oppressed people who tend strongly to vote Democratic from voting at all; laws designed to ensure locked-in fascist rule, though Friedman does not use that term.
Friedman goes on to warn his readers:
Imagine if all or many of these measures are passed—and in 2022 and 2024 Republicans manage to retake the House, Senate and White House with, say, only 42 percent of the popular vote, effectively establishing minority rule. Do you know what will happen? Let me tell you what will happen. Disenfranchised Democratic voters will not sit idly by. They may refuse to pay their taxes. Many will take to the streets. Some might become violent, and our whole political system could become paralyzed and start to unravel.
Yet, this is precisely the path that Trump’s G.O.P. is setting us on.
Again, Friedman’s conclusion: “[We] run the real risk of a political civil war in America over the next election.”
The fact that Friedman’s proposed “solution” to this is to support those few prominent people in the Republican Party who still oppose Trump, as these very people are being bum-rushed to the exits, only shows the utter lack of answers this section of the ruling class possesses in confronting this crisis.
The Lack of “Social Cohesion” in the Face of International Challenge
David Brooks has a different worry. In an article he titled “Our Pathetic Herd Immunity Failure,”1 Brooks voices concern that the “national cohesion” required for “voluntary sacrifice” is gone from America. Brooks cites this cohesion as essential to the U.S. victories in World Wars 1 and 2—examples that are not without meaning at a time when the U.S. faces a strategic challenge from its imperialist rival in China.
Citing the self-centered refusal of whole sections of people to get vaccinated, Brooks writes that a “basic sense of peoplehood, of belonging to a common enterprise with a shared destiny, is exactly what’s lacking today.” He goes on to say this: “Our pathetic Covid response may not be the last or worst consequence of this condition.” In fact, what he is pointing to and bemoaning is nothing but variants of the two brands of individualism—oblivious and virulent—analyzed by Bob Avakian (BA) in Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis. In that work BA digs deeply into how this is rooted in the heightened parasitism of the past decades, in which the U.S. and its imperialist partners and rivals even more lopsidedly suck the blood out of the rest of the world. And as BA has also pointed out many times, the poisonous individualism of this system—which Brooks now criticizes and seeks to “balance”—rests on the grinding up of billions of individuals every day.
But don’t expect Brooks to dig that deep any time soon. And speaking of “pathetic,” his solutions are “working to restore trust” at the community level by things like “building parks” and supporting Biden’s spending programs.
“Building parks”? Really? This is a lunatic fascist movement bent on restoring and reinforcing the most violent and repressive forms of white supremacy, male domination, and unbridled militarism—and you’re gonna overcome that by building parks together and calling for electoral support for Biden? When the fascists are hardening by the day around their lunatic theories and quickly moving, as his colleague Friedman points out, to make such support totally irrelevant?
The Real Depth of the Crisis... and the Real Solution
Both Friedman and Brooks pretend to go deep, but in fact they point to surface phenomena, with no real understanding to the actual depth and roots of the problem. They underestimate the crisis facing this system. Both sound the alarm, then put forward paths to reconciliation. The dangers they point to are real, even if they understate their severity; the solutions are not just paltry but poisonous.
In sharp contrast, Bob Avakian, in his New Year’s Statement, “A NEW YEAR, THE URGENT NEED FOR A RADICALLY NEW WORLD—FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF HUMANITY,” explains why “Biden will fail miserably in his attempt to bring about ‘healing’ and ‘unite the country.’”
Biden and the Democrats cannot “bring the country together,” as they falsely claim, because there can be no “reconciliation” with these fascists—whose “grievances” are based on fanatical resentment against any limitation on white supremacy, male supremacy, xenophobia (hatred of foreigners), rabid American chauvinism, and the unrestrained plundering of the environment, and are increasingly expressed in literally lunatic terms. There can be no “reconciliation” with this, other than on the terms of these fascists, with all the terrible implications and consequences of that!
The statement goes on to “to dig beneath the surface, to discover the underlying mainsprings and causes of things, and arrive at an understanding of the fundamental problem and the actual solution.”
In deeply confronting this, the words of “A Declaration, A Call To Get Organized Now, For A Real Revolution,” from the Revcoms, ring out with even greater force:
Revolutions are not possible all the time, but are generally possible only in rare times and circumstances, especially in a powerful country like this. This is one of those rare times and circumstances. This system is in real trouble, caught up in crisis and conflicts for which it has no easy or lasting solutions. Throughout this country the workings of this system have given rise to deep divisions which cannot be resolved under this system. Society is being ripped apart. Those who rule are locked in a bitter fight among themselves, and they cannot hold things together in the way they have in the past. Although there are a lot of bad things connected with this and it could lead to something really terrible, it is also possible that we could wrench something really positive out of it—revolution, to put an end to this system and bring something much better into being.
And as that piece goes on to say:
To come back to basics: We need revolution—a real revolution. We cannot afford to waste these rare times and circumstances that could be ripened into a real chance to make revolution. We cannot afford to squander the rare and precious leadership we have for this revolution. We have to get busy, build the movement and the organized forces for revolution all over the country, and work together tirelessly for this revolution, to actively prepare for the situation where this system can be brought down and something much better brought into being.
1. In the print edition, the column was titled “Our Herd Immunity Failure.” [back]
It is necessary to confront the fundamental reality that there is no future worth living for the masses of people and ultimately for humanity as a whole under this system—which has given rise to a powerful fascism; which is the source of horrendous, and unnecessary suffering, not only for masses of people in this country but for billions of people throughout the world; and which poses a growing threat to the very existence of humanity, through its massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons as well as its accelerating destruction of the environment. It is true—an important truth—that the Trump/Pence regime (and others like it, for example the rule of Bolsonaro in Brazil) has made the environmental crisis far worse—has, so to speak, accelerated the acceleration of environmental destruction. But the dynamics and requirements of this system are driving the climate crisis toward the point of no return, regardless of which particular person or regime is acting as its dominant political representative. Capitalism is often extolled for being a “dynamic” system, constantly bringing about changes. But this is a “dynamism” based on exploitation for privately-accumulated profit, and driven by anarchy (and anarchic competition between capitalists), and that very anarchy is rapidly propelling things toward an existential threshold—past which humanity could well be irreversibly hurtled—if this system of capitalism, in its imperialist globalized expression, continues to dominate the world.