In May I wrote about the ongoing revolutionary warfare being conducted in the US by elected and appointed Republican officials at all levels of government in America in general, and how Senator McConnell’s blocking a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on 6 January as a specific example of it.
Last night, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Minority Leader, decided it was time for him to up his game.
— Vivian Jones (@Vivian_E_Jones) August 1, 2021
Before go forward, here’s what I wrote in terms of defining revolutionary warfare back in May:
In Fall’s The Theory and Practice of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency he delineates two equations that explain his theory of what he calls Revolutionary Warfare. The first is for Revolutionary Warfare the second for countering it. From page 2 of his essay, which was adapted from a lecture (emphasis mine):
Let me state this definition: RW=GW+P, or revolutionary warfare equals guerrilla warfare plus political action. This formula for revolutionary warfare is the result of the application of guerrilla methods to the furtherance of an ideology or a political system. This is the real difference between partisan warfare, guerrilla warfare, and everything else. Guerrilla simply means ‘small war’ to which the correct Army answer is (and that applies to all Western armies) that everybody knows how to fight small wars; no second lieutenant of the infantry ever learns anything else but how to fight small wars. Political action, however, is the difference. The Communists, or shall we say, any sound revolutionary warfare operator (the French underground, the Norwegian underground, or any other European anti-NAZI underground) most of the time used small-war tactics, not to destroy the German Army, of which they were thoroughly incapable, but to establish a competitive system of control over the population. Of course, in order to do this, here and there they had to kill some of the occupying forces and attack some military targets. But above all they had to kill their own people who collaborated with the enemy.
But the ‘kill’ aspect, the military aspect, definitely always remained the minor aspect. The political, administrative, ideological aspect is the primary aspect. Everybody, of course, by definition, will seek a military solution to the insurgency problem, whereas, by its very nature, the insurgency problem is military only in a secondary sense, and politically, ideologically, and administratively in a primary sense. Once we understand this, we will understand more of what is actually going on in Viet-nam or in some other places affected by RW.
What McCarthy’s “joke” demonstrates is that the revolutionary warfare being waged by Republicans and conservatives against the United States and their fellow citizens is that the small war that Fall writes about – the violent guerrilla portion of revolutionary war – has merged with the political action that he also writes about. Just as we’ve seen the lines blur between kinetic and non-kinetic, or lethal and non to less than lethal actions in the low intensity wars that the US and its coalition allies have been fighting over the past twenty years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, so to are we seeing the same dynamic here. Just as al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, al Shabab, and other similar groups have learned to be just as effective using information and psychological warfare, as well as economic and cyber warfare, so to have the Republicans and conservatives waging their revolutionary war against the US and their fellow Americans. This is, in itself, not a new innovation. Guerilla warfare, or small wars/warfare, have always included using information and psychological and economic warfare. What has changed is our technology. Now the cyber domain is both a domain of warfare and a weapon system unto itself at the same time.
McCarthy’s remarks are a great example of how the political action that he, the members of his caucus in the House, the members of the Senate Republican caucus, Republican elected and appointed officials at the state and municipal levels of government, and both conservative movement leaders and conservative media personalities – news, social, and/or digital – have made a significant portion of their political action are also guerrilla warfare. In some cases, like McCarthy’s remarks last night, this is to reference violence against their opponents as something that is casual and no big deal, which simply sets the conditions for stochastic terrorism and revolutionary violence in the future. In other cases, like Trump’s debate call for the Proud Boys to stand back and stand by, which the Proud Boys interpreted as being an order by Trump for them to prepare for imminent political violent action, the calls are anything but casual.
On Friday it was reported that Congressman Cawthorn, got himself crosswise with another member of the House Republican caucus, then made threats against him because Cawthorn was “in the mood for a fight.” This was just a couple of days after Cawthorne threatened Adam Kinzinger, not just with a primary opponent, but with action so terrifying that Kinzinger would have to abandon his reelection campaign and flee his district with his family. Between these two incidents it was reported that Cawthorne forgot where his GLOCK was and had to leave it with the TSA back in Asheville because he had it in his carry on bag. Cawthorn is a great example of the fusion of the non-kinetic forms of guerrilla or small warfare and political action in the revolutionary warfare that is being waged by Republicans and conservatives against the US and their fellow citizens. And in Cawthorn’s case, against his fellow Republican members of Congress.
This elision, this blending of the two parts of revolutionary warfare into a more unitary activity, into political violent action, is a problematic development given that far too few elected or appointed Democratic officials and members of the center, center left, left, and left of center movements and demographics that form the Democratic Party’s base even recognize that this revolutionary war is here and that it has been here for a very, very long time.
Fall also explains how to counter revolutionary war. Specifically:
And this leads to the second of Fall’s equations, which he does not make explicit, but does describe on pages 15 and 16 of the essay. Counter-Revolutionary War=Counter-Guerilla Warfare+Counter-Political Action+Civic Action (CRW=CGW+CP+CA). Fall defines Civic Action as:
Civic action is not the construction of privies or the distribution of antimalaria sprays. One can’t fight an ideology; one can’t fight a militant doctrine with better privies. Yet this is done constantly. One side says “Land reform,” and the other side says “better culverts.” One side says “we’re going to kill all those nasty village chiefs and landlords.” The other side says “Yes, but we want to give you prize pigs to improve your strain.” These arguments do not match. Simple but adequate appeals will have to be found sooner or later.
Unfortunately, as I also wrote back in May, there are simply things that political action taken by Democrats, Democratic leaning Independents, and apostate Republicans and conservatives who are now in opposition to the Republican Party and the conservative movement can not counter or even reverse. Foremost among them is an extreme gerrymander. As Berman explains in his reporting, unless something is done very soon to make gerrymandering illegal, the Republicans are going to retake the House of Representatives in 2022 just based on gerrymandering in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas in the redistricting that will begin this autumn. In fact they may be able to do it just based on redistricting in Florida alone! So for those joking that McCarthy will never be Speaker of the House, while that may be true because his caucus is almost so far gone that even if they don’t do something completely crazy, like install Trump as Speaker if they retake the majority, he may once again get passed over for someone more performativfly extreme than he is.
Another thing you can’t overcome by political action is the Republican majority in the Georgia state legislature taking control over the administration of elections in Fulton County ahead of the 2022 elections. They are not doing this just to get ahead of things for 2024, they are also doing this now because Senator Warnock has to stand for reelection in 2022 as he’s finishing out the term of Republican Senator Isakson who resigned because of health concerns. Senator Warnock will need to hold his Fulton County, GA base to stand a chance of reelection. The state’s Republican legislature taking control of Fulton County election administration, combined with their other efforts to suppress Black and other minority votes in Georgia, will go a long way to making Senator Warnock’s reelection that much harder. Which, in turn, makes it that much harder for the Democrats to maintain their slim majority in the Senate, let alone expand it.
As I wrote back in May:
I cannot express just how dangerous a place we are in right now. No matter how much work Stacey Abrams does, no matter how many other places Democrats or liberals and/or progressives seek to emulate her work, as David Schor correctly states: “the idea that you can organize your way out of a 3% bias in the median seat is pretty wild.” Translated into non election jargon, if the gerrymanders that are going to be put in place during the next round of redistricting are audaciously large enough, combined with the inherent disparities that already exist in how the Senate is comprised and, as a result, how the Electoral College functions are large enough, no amount of political work at election time to turn out the vote is going to be enough to overcome artificially created electoral roadblocks of that size! And no amount of Marc Elias’s yeoman’s legal work will be enough to prevent it!
So what is to be done? Democrats, especially elected officials at the state and Federal levels, need to actually clearly recognize what is going on and actually call it out and describe it in plain terms. It needs to be hammered until the media is unable to both sides the coverage of it even as Republican elected officials and conservative movement leaders and commenters squeal like stuck pigs. And those same Democratic elected officials, where they have any leverage and power have to use it and fast to either stop what is happening or prevent it from happening. They have to engage in counter-political warfare and civic action! Because the bottom line of this lesson is if they do not use the power they have right now, if they do not develop an effective counter-political warfare and civic action strategy and execute it, it will not matter if the policies they are proposing are better for Americans because the Republicans opposing them DO NOT CARE ABOUT POLICY! They care about obtaining power and doing so in order to never have to relinquish it again!
If action is not taking by this Autumn, especially at the Federal level, it will be too late. Once Congress goes into its Autumn recess, which is when the 2022 midterm campaigns will begin in earnest, Congress’s work for this term will effectively be over. It is all well and good that Senate Majority Leader Schumer has scheduled Senate Bill 1, the Senate equivalent to House Resolution 1: The For the People Act, for a vote during the June work period. That is a great start. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader does not have the votes to even bring the bill to the floor for debate as long as the silent filibuster remains in place.
We find ourselves in the midst of a revolutionary war. Our leaders need to recognize that fact and begin to act like it. This is not business as usual. The next seventeen months, but especially the next six months, will determine if we remain a small “l” small “d” liberal democratic self governing republic or if we become a managed, illiberal democracy. It can not only happen here, it is happening as I type this!
These challenges cannot be defeated with better policies. They cannot even really be met with political actions that meet the need of Americans. They can only be defeated by effective counter-political action combined with effective civil action. As Fall teaches us: Simple but adequate appeals will have to be found sooner or later.