Same-Sex Marriage, Texas, and Thoughts from a Reader on the Coming Civil War and Repolarization

March 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Bob Avakian’s short statement “What Is a Revolutionary Situation?” is packed with deep scientific insight. It merits returning to repeatedly. Not merely to memorize a list of components making up such a situation—but everyone working towards revolution, everyone who wants a better, radically different world and understands on some level that such a world is possible, needs to grapple, in an ongoing and ever-deepening way, with the kinds of developments we need to not simply be “looking for,” or waiting for, but actively working upon and prepared to pounce upon and shape in order to bring forth the full possibilities for revolution.

Revolution recently wrote of two developments last fall, the powerful actions all over the country against murder by police and the Dialogue in New York between Bob Avakian (BA) and Cornel West, REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, and said that “These two things, together with other developments and acute contradictions in the world, could be part of opening up a real possibility to make revolution—if we rise to the challenge. Such revolutionary situations don’t arise very often—and nothing would be worse than squandering such a possibility, or even missing its possible emergence.”

It was with all that in mind that some recent developments have provoked me to think about the opening section especially of BA’s statement, beginning with this: “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...” (the entire statement by BA should definitely be studied).

In particular, observing the ongoing, intense conflict over same-sex marriage in Alabama, and the recent inauguration of an overtly Christian fascist state government in Texas (and the venomous upsurge of threatening outbursts this has already inspired among its fascist social base) has compelled me to look at ways in which geographic divisions in the country can be understood as a partial expression of the political polarization in the U.S. as a whole. This includes understanding the depth and volatility of the ongoing conflict within the ruling class over contradictions—including conflicts over morality—this capitalist-imperialist system cannot resolve, and the contention within the ranks of the system’s rulers these deep differences give rise to.

And most importantly—what all this has to do with preparing for, hastening, and making and winning an actual revolution.

The Attack Dogs Get a Longer Leash

In Alabama, a section of the federal court system and the Alabama state courts have been engaged in an intense back-and-forth legal battle over the recognition of same-sex marriage. This battle, now contained within the courts, very directly impacts the lives of many people in Alabama, and has important implications for people throughout the country: whether people who desire same-sex marriage are full human beings with the same rights as others, or a separate category who can be discriminated against in the legal code.

Traditional American Values

A federal judge ruled in January that Alabama probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in that state, must issue them to same-sex couples. But this was contested by Roy Moore, Alabama’s Christian fascist Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The result was that most probate judges refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples, while a few, especially in the larger cities of Mobile and Birmingham, did. But just this week, the entire Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama ban on same-sex marriage is legal, and that the federal court order should be ignored pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, licenses for same-sex marriage are not being issued anywhere in the state.

In Texas, since the November elections, the state government is completely controlled by fascists—Christian fascists, Tea Party fascists, or some combination of the two. Something similar is taking place in most, if not all, of the so-called “deep red” (i.e., completely dominated by Republicans) states, which are mainly in the South, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain West. I think there’s an important distinction between saying the state government is completely controlled by fascists and saying fascism has been imposed in those states. But, “you can see there from here.”

What’s happening in Texas is actually a leap beyond what previously existed there. And considering what previously existed—governments led by the likes of George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Tom DeLay, and others, governments which consistently executed and imprisoned record numbers of people, sent armed troops to patrol the border against children, forced anti-scientific ignorance into public school teaching, moved systematically to abolish all access to abortion in the state, took measures to ensure that they and their ilk would remain in power unchallenged, etc.—well, that means things have gotten very ugly indeed.

But, I think it’s an objective, scientific assessment, not exaggeration, to say that fascists are in control of the state government in Texas, and outside of a few big cities and some areas of the Rio Grande Valley, virtually all other levels of government as well. These people came to their offices on a program of outlawing abortion, mass criminalization of Black and Latino people, further militarization of the border, denial of science, opposition to same-sex marriage, exalting Christianity above other religions, and a “free market capitalism” rid of federal government oversight.

There are divisions and disagreements among these people, but as a group or movement they didn’t come this far just to water down what they’re about, or to concede to the federal government what they perceive as “rightfully their authority,” especially one in which Democrats hold significant power. They also are not just some backwoods ignoramuses who’ve been out in the Texas sun too long, but in fact represent, and some are part of, a powerful section of the ruling class. A point in the important article “The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need to Repolarize ... for Revolution” is very relevant here, and it is important to really “get” its implications: “...understand this: For the most part, these fascists really believe what they say, and they are more than willing to fight for it, if it comes to that.”

Three events that occurred in the first few weeks of the new Republican administration of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick give some sense of the direction these people want to take things in society. Both Abbott and Patrick repeated the phrase “come and take it” as part of their inaugural speeches. They did this in the context of mocking and challenging Obama in particular and the federal government in general. By “it” they meant not just various measures taken in Texas in defiance of the federal government, or to undermine federal mandates or direction, but, even more, how they see the state’s “sovereignty” (self-rule).

“Come and Take It” is the slogan of the “Open Carry” movement. Open Carry is a movement coalescing in Texas around the demand that everyone in the state should be able to openly carry any weapons anytime, anywhere. Members of Open Carry have staged ugly demonstrations of heavily armed white men in several Texas cities, and are among the racist vigilantes patrolling remote areas along the Texas/Mexico border.

This group has, I think, the real potential to become something similar to the “Brown Shirts” of the Nazi Party in Germany—thugs used in that situation to attack communists, unionists, and Jews, burn down synagogues, and other violent acts that helped propel Hitler and the Nazis to national power.

“Come and Take It,” a taunt aimed at government authorities, is on all the Open Carry flags and banners, along with an image of a firearm. On the day Abbott and Patrick were inaugurated in Austin, armed Open Carry fanatics swarmed all around the Capitol grounds and in the Capitol building itself. In an incident widely publicized in Texas, they stormed into the office of a state legislator from a border town they consider to be not sufficiently anti-immigrant, and repeatedly threatened him. In the incident’s aftermath, they not only refused to back off these threats and apologize for their Brown Shirt-type actions, but their threats became uglier and more intense. In fact, the legislator and his family still need to have body guards.

Even more noteworthy is that both Abbott and Patrick declined to dissociate themselves from these actions and threats, despite being asked their thoughts on it several times, including why their inauguration sparked this kind of activity. Using the phrase “come and take it” in their inaugural speeches was a deliberate, conscious way for the new governor and lieutenant governor of Texas to associate themselves with the thuggish goals and methods of Open Carry.

About a week later, a group of Muslims from across the state came to Austin for their annual “Muslim Capitol Day.” This event has been going on for about 10 or 12 years, and has been a day for people to meet their state representatives, tour the state government buildings, etc. This year the people who participated were ridiculed and assaulted by an organized mob of Tea Party anti-Muslim fanatics. Among those bullied and ridiculed by these fascists was a group of schoolgirls wearing head scarves and singing patriotic songs.

Hateful, threatening comments made by a leading Republican legislator allied closely with Dan Patrick got a lot of publicity (she said the Muslims needed to publicly renounce Islam and accept the Constitution before they got into her office). Once again both Abbott and Patrick pointedly refused to comment, or distance themselves in any way from the mob or the ignorant invective of their colleague.

Finally, towards the end of January and in the context of controversy around the movie American Sniper, and in particular some comments on the film made by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, Greg Abbott ostentatiously declared February 2 to be “Chris Kyle Day” in Texas. Abbott called Kyle, a cold-blooded killer and racist hater of all Muslims, an outstanding son of Texas and an American hero, which this sociopathic mass murderer undoubtedly was.

So, that’s a lot of damage in less than a month. But I think there is something very important for revolutionaries to understand about what is developing, what deeper underlying contradictions reactionary displays like these reveal, and what they mean for the work of revolutionaries.

BA has made an important pathbreaking analysis of this whole Christian fascist movement. (See The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era.) Drawing from that analysis, it has been said that the Republicans treat their social base as trained attack dogs kept on leashes that can be slackened or tightened as the situation demands, while the Democrats send what they see as their social base to obedience school. A central point these examples illustrate is that some prominent political leaders are willing, even eager, to provide the “attack dogs” a lot more leash these days.

And it is crucially important for revolutionaries to understand what this tells us about the schisms and chasms that divide and polarize this society, the seriousness of the divisions within the ruling class over how to deal with these chasms (as well as with all the international challenges U.S. imperialism faces), and what it all means for revolutionary potential to burst forward, perhaps from unexpected places and in unexpected ways, perhaps seemingly abruptly.

The Outlines of a “Hot Mix” with Revolutionary Potential

Austin, August 2014Abortion Rights Freedom Riders traveled across the state of Texas for five weeks in August 2014 confronting the assaults on women's rights.

It is worth thinking through various possible scenarios of the way a “hot mix” of contradictions began to come together in Texas last summer. The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride spent five weeks traveling across the state to oppose laws intended to shut down all but a handful of clinics in the state, and millions of people were positively impacted by its courageous actions and slogans; at basically the same time, along the border with Mexico, the federal and state governments unleashed vicious attacks upon immigrant women and children, mainly from Central America, and protests against the heartless assaults began shaping up all along the border region; in the middle of the Freedom Ride, the fight for Justice for Michael Brown burst forward in Ferguson and soon people in cities across the entire country, including in Texas, were taking over freeways, holding sit-ins, and other forms of protest to bring out that “Black Lives Matter.”

This illustrates some important points. One is that revolution is never a simple, linear affair; in fact, even massive outbursts of protest aren’t. But none of this is “under the control” of the rulers, and when people in their millions are compelled to confront the questions (for example) of whether or not women will be recognized as full human beings, and whether it is right for the government to utilize overwhelming force against starving children, what the revolutionaries do makes a huge difference in affecting what people think and do, and what comes out of such a situation.

Another point is that it is important to understand the reality we are acting upon in all its complexity and texture; understand it as fully and scientifically as possible, from the perspective of making revolution. Even in places where it seems as if the most overtly reactionary elements of the ruling class have a stranglehold on political life, there is tremendous unevenness, and enormous potential for revolutionary advance.

Several aspects of BA’s new synthesis are very relevant in grappling with the significance and implications of these types of developments mentioned and touched on above: the “pyramid point,” about the roles of the Democrats and Republicans and the social bases they strive to represent; BA’s analysis of identifying Christian fascism as being a possible “stage manager” for the emergence of a crisis of legitimacy, and even a revolutionary crisis in this society; BA’s emphasis that we can and must do better than democracy in making revolution.

Key elements of the RCP’s overall political analysis are also very relevant in understanding what’s underway: regional crisis in the Southwest as a potential triggering factor for a larger legitimacy crisis; conflict around how to develop policy towards the U.S./Mexico border and towards Mexico itself as a concentration of the intense contention within the U.S. ruling class; the question of women’s emancipation or deepened oppression as something that will be radically resolved, one way or another.

Same-Sex Marriage, the Supreme Court, and the Eruption of Societal Conflict

All this bears on a U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage that is likely to come this year. This decision has the potential to be a very big deal, in several ways. Arguments are expected to be heard, to my understanding, in April, with a decision expected in late June. The Court’s decision could go several ways, and I’m not trying to predict the exact outcome.

If the Court does rule favorably for advocates of same-sex marriage, or even if the ruling is mixed but largely favorable, I don’t think these Christian fascists in Texas, Alabama, or elsewhere are going to accept it. I don’t think their response will be, “Well, we disagree, but now that this is the law of the land under our Constitution, we’ll just have to live with it.”

I’m not predicting secession (or any other particular response), but I think there’s an analogy to South Carolina (soon followed by other states) leaving the Union when Lincoln was elected. It’s very possible that these people just won’t recognize such a decision as being legitimate, and they’ll look for ways to oppose it. Christian fascists and Tea Partiers will likely use a form of the old racist, reactionary arguments used to justify slavery, secession, and Jim Crow—“states’ rights” and “nullification”—as the legal basis of their opposition, buttressed by fundamentalist Christian theology as their philosophical foundation and ultimate justification.

What would it mean if state governments in sections of the country won’t go along with a Supreme Court decision? Divisions in the ruling class are deep and serious today, as BA has repeatedly analyzed, and I think a decision along the lines of the one mentioned above could be something that sets things off in society in unpredictable ways; it could be, I think, in the overall context today, the sort of thing that really inhibits the ruling class as a whole from “ruling in the old way” (one of the criteria for the emergence of a revolutionary situation, as expressed by the great communist leader, V.I. Lenin).

I’m not really up on all the legal issues involved in the same-sex marriage cases and decisions, and the full and apparently rather complex lineup of social forces on different sides of this question. But I do think this is a matter we should be able to address deeply when this case goes to the Supreme Court. (Another outcome worth thinking about is a decision that does leave it up to the states—what would be the implications, not just for the question of same-sex marriage, but even more for revolutionary possibilities—if the Supreme Court’s decision does leave things up to the states, if same-sex marriage remains legal in states like Massachusetts and California, while outlawed in Texas and Louisiana; what would such growing geographic social and political fragmentation, expressed around acceptance or denial of such a basic right, as well as around many other questions, mean for the growing polarization in society, and for carrying out the RCP’s strategy for revolution?)

An Exponentially Growing Audience for “Our Kind of Music”?

A brief point on the Democratic response to what’s underway in Texas. They are gripped by paralysis, powerlessness, irrelevance, and delusion. They say the Republican dominance in the state is due to the gerrymandering institutionalized by Tom DeLay, the fact that for various reasons something like seven million adults aren’t registered voters, and that sooner or later demographics will kick in (white people are a minority in Texas) and the Republicans will be voted out.

People who go along with this line of reasoning need to look at some basic facts. Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor, who has always been a straight-up Christian fascist and makes no bones about it, claims he now has a “mandate.” In last year’s Republican primary, where “everybody knows” the general vote was decided, less than three percent of registered voters selected Patrick, who then won by a landslide in the general election, through which Patrick laid low and never spoke to what he’s all about. Needless to say, he’s not been deterred from ramming through his hateful agenda since he came to office.

My point in raising this is that the potential audience for “our kind of music” could grow significantly if things come to something of a head around the same-sex marriage case, and the Democrats are cautioning people to “wait until the next election cycle,” or until more “minority” (actually a majority in this state) people vote. In short, I think we should think big about this upcoming ruling, and be prepared to really speak to, and lead, millions.

This is essential to being poised to pounce on and maximize, as the RCP’s “On the Strategy for Revolution” states, “major events or big changes (that) can happen in society and the world and can come together  in  such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations ... deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions ... the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed ... conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, the ‘legitimacy’ of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering  for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.”

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