Part 3: Civil War and Revolution
by Bob Avakian
August 14, 2023
“REVOLUTION: A REAL CHANCE TO WIN” is being published in a series. Part 1: We Are Serious was published July 31, 2023. Part 2: A Scientifically Based Strategy was published August 7, 2023. Part 3: Civil War and Revolution was published August 14, 2023. Part 4: Hard Core Youth and the Revolution was published August 21, 2023.
Some people have argued that an attempt to make an actual revolution, to overthrow the ruling system of capitalism-imperialism in this country, up against the powerful armed forces of this system, would be suicidal. This is something I spoke to, a number of years ago now, in the talk Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution:
Many people, including many who say they would like to see a radical change in society, insist that revolution is not possible because “they” are too powerful, and “people are too messed up.” Well, it is true that, shaped as they are by this system, the masses of people, in any part of society, don’t know shit and have their heads up their asses, when it comes to an understanding of how things really are, why they are the way they are, and what could and should be done about this. But this stands in sharp contradiction to another important truth—that millions of people really do care about one or more, and many care about all, of the “5 STOPS.” This is a contradiction that we have to go to work on, to move masses of people in the direction of the revolution that is needed to finally put a stop to those “5 STOPS” and the horrific conditions to which the masses of humanity are constantly subjected. [The 5 STOPS refers to five major social contradictions and forms of oppression and devastation that are built into this system of capitalism-imperialism and which can only be eliminated through a revolution to overthrow this system.]1
It is also true that the ruling powers of this system, with the machinery of death and destruction they wield to enforce this system, are indeed very powerful. But a big part of people’s difficulty in imagining that we could actually defeat them is the inability to conceive of a situation that is radically different than the “normal” functioning of this system, a situation where, for large parts of society, the “hold” of the ruling class over people—its ability to control, manipulate, and intimidate them—is broken, or greatly weakened. Fundamentally, people cannot imagine this because they are not approaching things with a scientific outlook and method.2 [emphasis added here]
This series of five articles speaks more fully to why such a revolution is not only urgently necessary now but why, with the right scientific approach, such a revolution could in fact have a real chance to succeed—and why anyone who really wants to see a radically different world, without all the horrors that are continually brought about, and the even greater horrors for humanity that are now threatened, by this system of capitalism-imperialism needs to be actively involved in working tirelessly, with scientifically based determination, for this revolution.
The following, from “Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating”3 is the third in this series of selections from my talks and writings speaking to how to go about carrying out a revolution in this country, mobilizing millions of people, with the goal of actually defeating the violent enforcers of this system of capitalism-imperialism, abolishing this system altogether, and bringing into being a radically different, emancipating system based on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.4
What are the necessary conditions for a revolution? In basic terms, they are:
A crisis in society and government so deep and so disruptive of the “usual way of things,” that those who have ruled over us, for so long, can no longer do so in the “normal” way that people have been conditioned to accept.
A revolutionary people in the millions and millions, with their “allegiance” to this system broken, and their determination to fight for a more just society greater than their fear of the violent repression of this system.
An organized revolutionary force—made up of continually growing numbers of people, from among the most oppressed but also from many other parts of society—a force which is grounded in, and is working systematically to apply, the most scientific approach to building for and then carrying out revolution, and which is increasingly looked to by masses of people to lead them to bring about the radical change that is urgently needed….
The reality now is that the fascist section of the ruling class, represented by and concentrated in the Republican Party, is actively and aggressively engaged in a “two-pronged” move to achieve and consolidate fascist rule. These “two prongs” are: corrupting and controlling the electoral process and key government institutions; and the threat and use of violence, including through the mobilization of violent mobs. These fascists are, for now, relying mainly on the first, but with the second (violence) as an “accompaniment” to this—which could become their main means, if that proves necessary for them. In any case, if they succeed, the full power of the government—including the executive power of the presidency, the courts and legal apparatus, the prisons, as well as the police and the military—will be wielded to crush any effective opposition to fascist rule and to forcefully impose its program of “restoring” America to its mythological “greatness” on the basis of aggressive white supremacy, crude and brutal male supremacy and suppression of LGBT people, xenophobia (hatred and persecution of foreigners and immigrants, particularly from what Trump infamously referred to as “shithole countries”), forceful assertion and chauvinistic trumpeting of American dominance and “the superiority of western civilization,” along with willful rejection of science and the scientific method, especially where it would interfere with unrestrained plunder of the environment, as well as people.
Given the nature, objectives and actions of the fascists, there is the real possibility of actual civil war. But given the nature, objectives and actions of the “mainstream” section of the ruling class (as represented by the Democratic Party and media such as MSNBC, the New York Times and CNN), and given the current situation with those, from different parts of society, who tend to support, and politically tail behind, this “mainstream” section of the ruling class, it is possible that the fascists could achieve and consolidate power without a civil war, but with all the terrible consequences that would follow this fascist consolidation of power. Or, as emphasized in the “Declaration and Call,” in what would amount to a one-sided civil war, these fascists could carry out a slaughter of those they hate, including Black people and other people of color, “illegal immigrants,” “uppity women” and those who don’t conform to “traditional” sexual and gender relations and “norms.”
In any case, it is a deadly serious reality that these fascists are determined to crush—as violently as necessary—anyone and anything, anywhere in society, that stands in the way of implementing their horrific objectives.
This puts an exclamation point on what the “Declaration and Call” says immediately after this:
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. …5
This is not the time of the Civil War in the 1860s, when the goal of those fighting against injustice was to abolish slavery, and—in terms of who ruled society—the only possible positive outcome was the consolidation and strengthening of the rule of the rising capitalist class centered in the North. That time is now long gone. And this system of capitalism, which has developed into a system of worldwide exploitation and oppression, capitalism-imperialism, is long outmoded—long past its expiration date, long past any circumstances where it could play any positive role. The goal now must precisely be getting rid of this whole system of capitalism-imperialism.
The character of a new civil war would have significantly different features from that previous civil war of 1861-65, where one geographic part of the country, the southern Confederacy, attempted to secede and form a separate country in that territory. Today, the forces of fascism among the population are again concentrated in the South, as well as in rural areas throughout the country; but, in the South and throughout the country, they are closely connected, geographically, with sections of the population that are opposed to this fascism. Any new civil war would be fought between opposing forces that would be in close proximity to each other—in a real sense intertwined geographically—around the country. This would have both advantages and disadvantages for the people on the positive side of such a civil war, and this would need to be taken into account in their approach to fighting that civil war.
(The “Red States/Blue States” picture, which is constantly presented in the mainstream media, is very misleading in terms of the geographic and political divisions in the country. It does not present an accurate picture of population concentration—of which sections of the people are actually concentrated where, and in what numbers, within the existing states. Of particular importance, it downplays the concentration of people in this country as a whole in urban areas, including the suburbs around the inner city cores, and the concentration of masses of oppressed people especially in those inner city cores. It downplays the strong opposition to the fascists that exists among large numbers of people in the urban areas. This mainstream presentation of things is meant to reinforce the sense that the only possibility is the continuation of this system of capitalism-imperialism, and the only choice is between the two parties representing the ruling class of this system: the “red” Republican Party or the “blue” Democratic Party. And, by the way, with the color red historically associated with communism, the “appropriation” of this color in association with the fascist Republican Party is an abomination!)
The current polarization, even on the positive side, among those opposed to the fascists, is not what is needed, and will not meet the profound and urgent challenge of these times. For the reasons discussed in this talk, there can be no real and lasting defeat of these fascists on the terms of the Democrats, on the terms of what have been, for generations, the “norms” of “democratic” capitalist rule in this country. Fundamentally, there can be no resolution to this, under this system, which will be in the interests of the masses of people, not just in this country but in the world as a whole. Once more, what is urgently needed is a very different polarization than what exists today—a repolarization—for revolution.
And, once again as well—without being absolute about this—there is a limited time frame within which this repolarization must be achieved. If things continue as they are, with the fascist offensive by the Republican Party and its base becoming even more aggressive and powerful, then it is very likely that their “two-pronged offensive” will succeed, that they will utilize the changes they are forcing through state governments and key parts of the federal government, in particular the courts, to regain and consolidate control of the country as a whole, move forward with a vengeance to implement their fascist program, and forcefully suppress, as violently as necessary, any effective opposition.
The urgency of this situation—and the urgent need for repolarization, for revolution—must be clearly understood, and forcefully conveyed to masses of people. This must be done in a compelling way, without hype (and there is no need for hype to describe the critical situation and urgent stakes). While it is crucially important to unite with people in rising up against the terrible injustices and outrages constantly perpetrated by this system, and to continually bring alive the possibility of a radically different and emancipating alternative, once again it needs to be stressed: It is necessary to wage a tireless struggle to break people out of the ways of thinking, and acting, that in fact keep them chained to this system and contribute to perpetuating this system, in one form or another.
Fatalism, and defeatism—the belief that nothing can be done to change the terrible situation and bleak future humanity is now facing, that no positive radical change is possible—this way of thinking itself must be defeated, overcome both through sharp struggle and by bringing alive and popularizing the possibility for a radically different and better world, through revolution, which is grounded in a scientific, materialist approach to and understanding of the real world and the actual possibility for its positive radical transformation. Overall—and above all in terms of the basic masses, the bitterly oppressed people who must become the backbone of this revolution—overcoming this defeatism, and bringing about the necessary repolarization, must be carried out, and can only be achieved, through a powerful combination of fierce ideological struggle among the people, to win growing numbers to a scientific understanding of the situation we face and the actual solution to this, together with determined resistance against this oppressive system—all of which must be led to contribute to building up the forces and creating the political alignment necessary for revolution….
So, in the event of, and in the context of, a new civil war, the approach of the revolutionary forces, led by the new communism, would be to carry out the necessary political work, in combination with the actual fighting, to develop such a civil war into a revolution to achieve the goal of getting rid of this whole system, and replacing it with a radically different and emancipating system based on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.
1. The 5 STOPS are:
STOP Genocidal Persecution, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder of Black and Brown People!
STOP The Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender and Sexual Orientation!
STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!
STOP The Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!
STOP Capitalism-imperialism from Destroying Our Planet! [back]
2. The text and film of Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, a speech by Bob Avakian in 2018, are available at revcom.us in BA’s Collected Works. [back]
3. 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, by Bob Avakian is available at revcom.us [back]
4. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America is available at revcom.us. [back]
5. From The Revcoms: A Declaration, A Call To Get Organized Now For A Real Revolution is available at revcom.us. [back]