by Bob Avakian
EDITORS' NOTE: The series, "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era," is available online at revcom.us and in pamphlet form from RCP Publications. This article has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added.
Just to be clear, I didn't choose this title lightly or facetiously, but in all seriousness. In speaking to "a coming civil war" I am "drawing inspiration" from Newt Gingrich (the prominent Republican politician who was formerly the Speaker of the House of Representatives), who has made the observation that what's happening now in the electoral arena and the broader things that it reflects in U.S. society is analogous to what was going on in the U.S. in the 1840s and the 1850s, and that this isn't something that will—I'm paraphrasing, but this is the essence—this isn't something that will go away. It will only be decided when one side or the other wins out. While, obviously, we don't take at face value things that representatives of the ruling class say, we do have to think seriously about this, and I do think that this reflects—through the prism of Gingrich's own point of view, it does reflect a very profound reality. We can look at the alignment in society now and see very profound polarization—without reducing things to how things fall out in bourgeois elections, which are shaped by the bourgeoisie after all, and by the very real conflicts within the bourgeoisie. This is shaped not simply through manipulation on the part of some unified bourgeoisie, but by real conflicts within the bourgeoisie—conflicts that do, more or less, correspond to what was said in the piece on "The Pyramid of Power"1 in terms of what is represented by the Republicans on the one hand, and the Democrats on the other.
So there is something about that Newt Gingrich statement, there is something about the alignment that you can see, there is something about what was represented in the New York Times Magazine article by Ron Suskind2, with its representation of the polarization between "reality-based" and "faith- based" communities—which, once again, in and of itself and in the way that it's expressed, represents the conflicts seen through the eyes of, and more or less proceeding from the standpoint of, the capitalist ruling class itself, but nevertheless does speak to something very real in U.S. society at this point.
You really do have two fundamentally opposed forces in society, in potential; and I'll speak to how we can't leave the alignment and the polarization as it is now—for many different reasons and in many different dimensions and on many different levels it has to be transformed. But you can see that (even while many people are not fully aware of this yet, though many are becoming more fully aware of it) there are two camps in antagonistic conflict with each other. Out of this can arise different kinds of resolutions, representing different interests, and ultimately different classes, going to wholly different places in terms of the future of society and the world.
We have spoken philosophically, drawing from Mao, about how "irreconcilable" is not a correct philosophical concept because the opposite would be "reconcilable," and Mao pointed out that there are no reconcilable contradictions. But nonetheless [ BA laughs ], leaving that aside, these really are irreconcilable world views and fundamentally irreconcilable views on what society ought to be based on and what it ought to be like.
There is something very profound and important going on here, even though—and this is another fundamental reason why there is a need for repolarization—the pole of the revolutionary proletariat, and the forces gravitating to it, are at this present time woefully small, nowhere near as large and powerful as they need to be. That has to change—and that's where we come in. But it is interesting, the comment by this guy Hertzberg from The New Yorker —to the effect that two bad things are going to happen because of the Bush re-election: One, all the terrible stuff Bush and company are going to do; and two, this is going to lead to, or provide an opening for, the revival (if you'll pardon the expression) of the radical left. So what people like that are recognizing, we should not fail to recognize—and seize on.
1Bob Avakian, "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," RW No. 1237 (April 25, 2004).