Bob Avakian on
CIVIL WAR AND REVOLUTION
I began the article “Radical Change Is Coming” with this blunt statement:
For those who cannot help but hunger for a “return” to some kind of “normalcy” as an answer to the madness of Trump, Pence and rest—forget it, it is not going to happen!1
I went on to speak to ways in which the fascist forces aligned with Trump (and Pence) are preparing to react, quite possibly with violence, if the election does not go Trump’s way (or if Trump cancels the election and there is an outpouring of resistance to this). In fact, for more than 20 years now, I have been analyzing the fascist nature of the kind of forces that have rallied around Trump and how they have been increasingly talking about, and preparing for, a civil war.
This is obviously a very serious question. But something even more serious is reflected in a statement I read somewhere recently—that if only one side (the fascist side) is waging a civil war, then it is not really a civil war but murder, and genocide. This is another way of saying what was crudely expressed by the fascist Congressman from Iowa, Steve King, who declared:
Folks keep talking about another civil war. One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.2
Recently, powerful figures within the Republican Party have turned against King, feeling that his expression of this and other fascist positions is a little too crude, and King has been defeated in his bid for re-election in a Republican primary election. But, expressed more or less crudely, King’s fascist views and stands are shared by the core of the Republican Party and its “base.” And, as I have pointed out previously, there is a “demented insight” in the comment by King quoted here. While the people King is ridiculing are righteously supporting the rights of trans people, gays, women, and others, at the same time far too many are
attempting to resolve the conflict with what is represented by the Trump/Pence regime and its fascist “base,” with its “8 trillion bullets,” through relying on (or seeking a return to) what have been the “norms” of the bourgeois order in this country (and, on the part of some, this involves a call for “restoring civility”) while the fascists are determined to trample on and tear up these “norms” and are perfectly happy to have those who oppose them adopt the stance of “civility” (accommodation) toward their unrelenting fascist offensive…. And so, while things could be heading toward a civil war, and it could come down to that even in the not-too-distant future, the present lineup is very unfavorable for anybody who represents anything decent in the world.3
And here is another big part of the picture:
while a lot of what King describes applies in a certain demented way, particularly to progressive or so-called “woke” middle class people, there is another kind of problem with regard to more basic oppressed people, and in particular the youth—a big problem that their guns are now aimed at each other. And without going more fully into this right now, this is something that needs to be radically transformed in building a movement for an actual revolution.4
This whole situation needs to be radically transformed—and with a very definite urgency! We have once again seen the potential for this in the recent determined actions of masses of people whose outrage at the ongoing police murders of Black men and women erupted in response to the cold-blooded execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (And a strategically favorable element in this outpouring of outrage is that, at the same time as it has involved significant numbers of Black people, it has also involved large numbers of people of other “races,” including a great many white people, especially youth.) As I said in Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, upsurges like this exert a very powerful positive force and influence, and show the potential for revolution, and it is crucial that the righteous resistance and rebellion of masses of people “be transformed…into revolutionary understanding, determination, and organization.”5
Looking at this from the strategic standpoint of working for the revolution that is needed to deal with the root causes of all this, it is also important to act on this understanding:
To a significant degree now, the conflict between the sections of society upholding this fascism and those opposing it, from various different perspectives, is shaping the terrain on which the struggle for revolution must be carried out; this conflict is likely to intensify, and could erupt further in violent confrontation, and in any case it would be a significant factor in the context of an all‑out struggle between revolution and counter‑revolution.6
It is not time, right now, for the all-out fight between revolution and counter-revolution: the conditions for this—most of all, a revolutionary people in the millions in a situation of deep crisis for the whole system—have not yet been brought into being. But there is a pressing need to work to accelerate and “hasten” the development of things toward a revolutionary situation. A big part of working to bring that revolutionary situation into being, at the earliest possible time, is waging a determined battle against the injustices and outrages continually perpetrated by this system.7 And
this political battle also needs to be waged in bold and determined opposition to the “base” that is being mobilized by the fascist section of the ruling class—this is important in its own right now, and is important preparation for and will have an important bearing on the “civil war between two sections of the people,” once conditions have fully ripened and the all-out struggle is underway.8
For, when it comes down to it:
The all-out struggle will not just mean going up against the institutional forces of the old ruling class but will also involve “a civil war between two sections of the people,” requiring the revolution to both defeat and disintegrate but also, as far as possible, win over parts of the armed forces among the population that started out on the other side.9
With regard to winning over parts of the armed forces among the population that started out on the other side: First, and fundamentally, the advance of the revolution in the actual fight would have a very powerful positive impact and effect on the thinking of people broadly. Along with that, there would be the powerful moral clarity and authority of the revolutionary forces fighting with right on their side and in ways consistent with the emancipatory goals of the revolution. And then there are specific measures—such as the cancellation of all debt that people have owed to banks and other financial institutions in the old society—that the revolutionary forces would make known as their official policy. Such policies would be in line with and flow from the basic goals of the revolution and the radically new society the revolution is aiming to bring into being; and making such policies known, and actually implementing them wherever and as soon as the basis exists to do that, could play an important part in winning sections of society which started out on the counter-revolutionary side to actual involvement in, or support for—or at least a “friendly neutrality” toward—the revolution. Still, it will be the case that certain die-hard reactionary elements of the population, including many among hardcore fascist forces, will remain stubbornly committed to the counter-revolution; and the revolutionary forces would need to take this into account as part of their overall strategic approach and operational principles, in waging the all-out fight, once the conditions for that had been brought into being.
A one-sided civil war—waged only by the forces of fascism against everyone and everything they hate and are determined to wipe out or beat into submission—would be a disaster. Ignoring the reality that these fascists are definitely prepared to carry out such a civil war, if they see it as necessary to achieve their objectives, will only make such a disaster more likely. And nothing good will come from relying on those, like the leaders of the Democratic Party, who refuse to call out this fascism for what it is and oppose it on that basis, because doing so would call into question the “legitimacy” of their whole system, which has given rise to this fascism.
What is urgently needed is a massive struggle against the fascism of the Trump/Pence regime and determined opposition to the “base” it is mobilizing in its support. This struggle needs to be waged in a serious way, in accordance with the actual stakes involved—not seeking or initiating violence but also not cowed into submission by the actions of the fascists.
And what is needed, in working toward the fundamental solution to all this, is to wage this anti-fascist struggle as part of accelerating—“hastening”—the development of things toward the point where it will be possible to carry out the revolution, the all-out fight, to finally put an end to this whole system of capitalism-imperialism, with all of the horrors it has already brought about for the masses of humanity—and the even worse horrors it will unleash if it is allowed to continue—when all this is completely unnecessary and there is the basis and possibility for a radically different and far better world.
1. Radical Change Is Coming: Will It Be Emancipating, Or Enslaving—Revolutionary, Or Reactionary? This article by Bob Avakian is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
2. This statement by Steve King is cited in Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis, Breaking with Individualism, Parasitism and American Chauvinism, by Bob Avakian, author of The New Communism, which is also available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
3. Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis. [back]
4. Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis. [back]
5. The text and video of this speech by Bob Avakian (Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution) is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
6. From Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution (Part II, “How We Can Really Make Revolution”).The text and video of this speech by Bob Avakian are available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
7. As pointed out in a footnote to the article by Bob Avakian “Boomers”—“X,Y,Z”: The Problem Is Not “Generations,” It’s The System (also available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us):
In a number of works—including Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution; Breakthroughs: The Historic Breakthrough by Marx and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism, A Basic Summary; HOPE FOR HUMANITY ON A SCIENTIFIC BASIS, Breaking with Individualism, Parasitism and American Chauvinism; and Bob Avakian Responds To Mark Rudd On The Lessons Of The 1960s And The Need For An Actual Revolution (all of which are available at revcom.us)—Bob Avakian speaks further to “why there was no revolution” at the height of the 1960s upsurges and “major changes, largely of a negative kind, that have taken place over the decades since.” Among these observations are the following (from Bob Avakian Responds To Mark Rudd):
An actual revolution requires two essential factors: a revolutionary situation, and a revolutionary people in their millions. And these two factors are closely interconnected.
A revolutionary situation involves not just a crisis in society in some general sense but a situation where the system and its ruling powers are in a profound and acute crisis and millions and millions of people refuse to be ruled in the old way—and are willing and determined to put everything on the line to bring down this system and bring into being a new society and government. Key components and signs of a revolutionary crisis are that the violence used to enforce this system is seen by large parts of society for what it is—murderous and illegitimate—and that the conflicts among the ruling forces become really deep and sharp, and masses of people respond to this not by falling in behind one side or the other of the oppressive rulers, but by taking advantage of this situation to build up the forces for revolution.*
[* Bob Avakian has also characterized a revolutionary situation this way:
What is a Revolutionary Situation? A deep crisis and sharpening conflicts in society and in the government and ruling circles, where they cannot find a way to resolve these conflicts—in society and among their own ranks—which do not make things worse for them and call forth more resistance and further undermine people’s belief in their “right to rule” and in the “legitimacy” of their use of force to maintain their rule; programs of “reforming” the system are shown to be bankrupt, totally unable to deal with what more and more people recognize as profound dysfunction and intolerable injustice of the whole setup; those, in society as well as among the ruling class, who are trying to enforce the existing system are on the political defensive, even if lashing out; millions of people are actively seeking radical change, determined to fight for it, willing to put everything on the line to win it, and searching for a force to lead them in doing so; and a solid core of thousands is united around a leadership, an organized vanguard force with the vision and method, strategy and plan—and deepening ties among masses of people—to actually lead the fight to defeat and dismantle the violent repressive force of the existing system and its power structure, and to bring into being a new revolutionary system that can provide the means for people to radically transform society toward the goal of abolishing oppression and exploitation.] [back]
8. Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution. [back]
9. Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution. [back]