|Volume 51 Number 1, January 16, 2021||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Pauline Easton, TML Monthly supplement, January 10, 2021
Given the evidence available at this time, what took place at the Capitol building in Washington, DC on January 6 is a counterrevolution within the counterrevolution. It becomes increasingly evident that President Donald Trump staged a coup to keep the presidency in his own hands but this failed due to the defection of Vice President Mike Pence followed by others. Furthermore, due to the way things unfolded with the images of destruction, intimidation and hooliganism within the Capital building, Senate Chamber and House Speaker Pelosi's office broadcast across the world, Trump could not maintain the military united behind him either. The failed coup was then used by President-Elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in an effort to unite the federal policing and military bureaucracies behind Biden to preserve the union and avert civil war. Pence and other Republicans, including those like Senator Ted Cruz who stuck to their stand of questioning the validity of the ele ction, disassociated themselves from the violence and Trump and have moved to preserve their own careers and the Republican Party to fight another day.
Biden has deliberately called the rampage which took place at the Capitol, an insurrection. Social media footage is revealing the extent of the damage caused by the rampage. Five people died, including a protester killed by police and a policeman who was bludgeoned while on duty. It was certainly no small matter but how does calling it an insurrection account for the President of the United States assaulting Congress?
Donald Trump received some 73 million votes in the election, to Biden's 81 million votes. This is thus more than a criminal "mob" or armed militia on a rampage. When Biden calls it an "insurrection", he does not define what that is or what makes it so, or the consequences. He is defining his presidency as the one which will restore law and order and the values the US stands for, which is exactly what Trump says. Furthermore, many in the top echelons of the Democratic Party and media who have long despised Donald Trump are calling for retribution through impeachment.
The FBI are identifying those who broke the law, with federal charges to date limited to 15 people, for "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds" and "intent to impede government business". About 40 others face lesser charges of unlawful entry and curfew violations. Interestingly, despite a Trump executive order imposing a mandatory 10-year sentence for any action that "destroys, damages, vandalises, or desecrates" government property, no such charges are being made. The indication is that the FBI, like those in Congress, are not yet pursuing more serious charges, including those of insurrection or sedition. This is likely part of an effort to lessen conflicts among the ruling factions and avert violent civil war.
The word rampage describes violent or excited behaviour that is reckless, uncontrolled, or destructive; a state of violent anger or agitation. In a limited way it seems to aptly describe what took place on January 6. The reason we call it a counterrevolution within the counterrevolution is because we are not just dealing with two sides - one side which engaged in an insurrection and another which defends democracy. The whole picture is greater than the sum of its parts which cannot be aggregated in any case.
The counterrevolution against the standards and levels societies had hitherto achieved in the post-World War II period got underway under US President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) when they unleashed neo-conservatism and claims that there is no society, just families, family values and individual right. This put the nail in the coffin of social welfare states and their institutions and organisations and set the course to restructure the state to eliminate any vestiges of public right, the public good or public authority. It was accompanied by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the counterrevolution initiated there by Mikhail Gorbachev in the name of glasnost and perestroika - openness and restructuring. Counterrevolution and retrogression took place in quick succession in the former peoples' democracies of eastern Europe (1989-1990) and the Soviet Union itself collapsed in 1991. An anti-social offensive and retro gression became the consequence of counterrevolution and capitalist restoration in those countries. In the US, Britain, countries of western Europe, Canada and others the trappings of the social welfare state were dismantled in favour of rule by decree. An anti-social offensive and retrogression also occurred and continues, often using justifications to pay the rich.
In the US, the military-industrial complex that emerged after World War II and further developed in this period is the merger of the military-industrial complex with the public authority. There is a war government, with the development of massive military and federal policing bureaucracies. Private interests are increasingly taking over government functions and institutions. Notions of serving the public good are eliminated. This is part of the counterrevolution of the period. It also means the problem of uniting the military and policing bureaucracies as part of preserving the union and preventing civil war takes on great significance.
The concerted assault by the rulers on US institutions of democratic governance was further advanced with the election of Bill Clinton on a platform of change in 1992. Ronald Reagan introduced a direction for the economy to pay the rich. This included the war profiteers and energy moguls. The Soviet Union's collapse unleashed the US imperialist striving for world domination. By the time Clinton came to power this policy was well entrenched.
Clinton defeated George H W Bush who had launched the first Iraq war with the stated intent to remove "a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harboured and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world". This and subsequent wars were no longer politics through other means which would eventually be settled through negotiations and peace accords. They became desperate efforts to bring spheres of interest under US control and, failing ready submission through bribery, threats and killer sanctions, then by means of wars of destruction. This policy abroad has been combined with increasing repression at home, including a massive prison and detention apparatus and efforts to split the polity on the basis of race, religion or gender to impede the people uniting in action to achieve their own empowerment.
The assault on the democratic institutions has led to the destruction of the political parties which have become cartels and operate as coalitions. They spend billions and engage in disinformation to control the police powers of the presidency and other positions of power. The Congress has consequently also degenerated, as have elections, with neither serving to unite the massive military bureaucracy and contending factions vying for power, with wars no longer serving that purpose. Now we are witnessing one wing of government, the presidency, attacking another, Congress, for purposes of strengthening executive power. Biden, in speaking about the events, has not defended Congress as a legislative body with powers. He says how he, as President, will restore law and order, not permit the Justice Department to act like his personal law firm, and the like. The aim is to further strengthen the Office of the President and his ability to use police powers. It is not to provide the change d emanded by the people for rights and empowerment but rather to further the counterrevolution against the people.
It shows that narrow private interests have seized control of the decision-making powers at both the federal and state levels. Since Clinton's presidency and call for change, change which favours the people has been the casualty in the US. One president after another has perfected the use of police powers, using the office of the president to surpass the bounds of all hitherto permitted conduct. With 9/11 President George W Bush declared a permanent state of exception following which justifications for violating civil liberties have become the norm. Torture, wars of aggression and killer sanctions go hand in hand with the perpetuation of police killings with impunity, mainly of Black people, the inhuman treatment of refugees, undocumented workers, immigrants and children, the incarceration of ever-larger numbers of people who are criminalised as a matter of course, along with other crimes the US regularly commits. The entire Department of Homeland Security is established with its m assive police forces and bureaucracy, all for purposes of repression and impunity to use force. Only those who seek to appease the US imperialists repeat the mantra that the United States is a democracy or a civil society with democratic institutions.
For 30 years, all of this has constituted a counterrevolution whose results can be seen in the state of the US economy, the private health care and insurance systems and inability to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic (with one death for every 1,000 people), the length of the food lines, the treatment of veterans, seniors, the homeless, women and children, besides Blacks, Puerto Ricans, peoples of the Americas and Asians as well as the violations of the inherent rights of Indigenous nations. Now, there is a crisis of confidence in US governing institutions. The many millions who voted for Trump as well as those voting for Biden are angry with government failures and express their lack of confidence that problems will be solved in their favour.
The crisis of confidence in US governing institutions means that the vast majority of people are angry and not in agreement with the direction of the country. Some 20 million held protests for more than 100 days after George Floyd was killed, all viciously attacked by police forces. Many millions more supported these actions, as they had previously joined and supported demonstrations defending immigrants and refugees and their children. There is a drive among the people to have control over policing, budgets and for a new direction for the economy and politics, which will no doubt continue.
The counterrevolutionary forces organised this rampage on the Capitol building on January 6, including using armed militias, to try and subvert this drive and divide the people. The failed coup attempt on the part of Donald Trump and his attack on Congress is a counterrevolution within the counterrevolution which has now unleashed a wave of revenge-seeking among the rulers, which will polarise their factions even further.
None of their efforts, including those by Biden, will unite the federal policing and military bureaucracies, let alone the people of the United States, or solve a single problem facing the US democracy still touted as the greatest in the world. Only a modern nation-building project will set the United States on a course which can unite the people behind a common cause. Led by the US working class, such a project requires that the democratic renewal of the political decision-making process be put at the centre of its concern. It must strive to bring into being a government and institutions of governance which have a modern democratic anti-war personality and respect the sovereignty and equality of the peoples of the world. A modern constitution is required to replace all remnants of the present constitution which was a compromise with slavery and maintains the rule of the propertied elite and institutions which favour narrow private interests over the masses of the people.