By Any Means Necessary

Unidentified men in camouflage gear were recorded on the streets of Portland last week kidnapping protestors and carrying them away in rented vans. Your acting head of Homeland Security, a Congressional staffer and lobbyist named Chad, acknowledged that the secretive force is acting on his authority, such as it is.

Chad, one of this administration’s unapologetic grifters who never would have survived a nominating hearing, cobbled a low-rent Gestapo from Frankenchunks of various federal agencies, after the military declined to cooperate in the President’s gonzo plans. Chad’s Urban Adventure Squad includes some of the racist goons from America’s most despised federal law enforcement branch, the Border Patrol. Like DHS, Border Patrol is directed by another of Trump’s interim nutjobs who was never submitted for Senate approval. Acting CBP head, Mark Morgan once explained to Tucker Carlson that he could tell whether a detained child would grow up to join MS13 by “looking into their eyes,” and presumably discovering that they weren’t blue.

No one in Portland asked for this. There is no problem in Portland warranting federal intervention. The Mayor, Governor and Senators are all protesting the move, to no effect. Portland police are collaborating with the secret police against the will of Portland’s citizens and their elected officials. Portland’s citizens are being beaten, gassed and kidnapped by criminals. Their police have refused to protect them.

An already impeached President under criminal investigation in New York for banking fraud who is scrambling to keep his financial records secret, has assembled an ad hoc force to invade an American city on a laughable pretext. That force is operating in secret, with no democratic legitimacy or legal authorization, randomly kidnapping and detaining citizens without due process and with the help of local police. As part of this campaign, our crudely militarized Border Patrol is being unleashed on American citizens, far from any border, to intimidate a president’s political opponents.

Those detained report that little happened. One victim was taken to the federal courthouse and held briefly before being released without charges or explanation. That makes sense. A Border Patrol agent has as much authority to arrest someone spraying graffiti in Portland as a school crossing guard does. If these ad hoc Stormtroopers aren’t ready to whisk people away to detention camps or kill them, then this is either political theater or a rehearsal for something more sinister. We can’t afford to wait and see, but we already have some clues.

Republicans intend to expand this assault. Last Saturday, John Catanzara, the Obersturmführer of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to President Trump inviting him to invade Chicago and wrest control from its elected leadership. Portland was a test.

We’re seeing Republicans’ ill-conceived but dangerously bold plan to preserve their power beyond the Trump Era: Manufacture a pretext with help from fascist cops to stage federal interventions that disrupt life in opposition cities. Since the military and professional law enforcement like the FBI are too disciplined and well-trained to cooperate, Republicans are using the interim hacks leading minor federal agencies to recruit armed goons from their ranks. They’re unleashing those unprofessional, ill-trained and ideologically motivated Frankenforces to riot in target cities. Republicans are trying to use footage of their engineered riots to justify the kind of crackdowns necessary to derail an election in which Republicans would otherwise face an existential defeat. Failing that, they will have built, trained and tested a fascist insurgency that will persist inside a new Administration, ready to be called on by the people whose authority it truly respects. This insurgency rising from within our law enforcement infrastructure will continue until it’s forcefully confronted and dismantled.

Back in 2016, under a previous blog, I wrote a piece titled Do not stab the Nazis, laying out the case for strictly non-violent resistance to fascists. Conditions underlying those arguments included a law enforcement infrastructure under the control of, and accountable to democratically elected leadership. Those conditions no longer exist. Police and federal law enforcement have signaled their commitment to resist democratically elected authority in pursuit of their own aims. We cannot assume that the police will enforce the law or yield to public will.

What is the appropriate response? So far, Democrats have made angry statements and filed lawsuits. Or in other words, they have done nothing, so this assault is expanding to fill the void left by their cowardice. If there’s anything we learned from the Supreme Court’s last term, it’s that the Courts will carefully remain on the sidelines to preserve its own power. The law won’t save us. What will we do about a President who openly and proudly spits on the law? Call the cops?

At what point should protests be augmented by more direct action against the regime? What shape should such action take?

Nonviolence relies on certain political conditions. Nonviolent resistance corners an enemy, forcing them to either yield to demands, or stage a demonstration of brutality that would undermine their popular support or moral validity. What if your enemy doesn’t need popular support and doesn’t care about moral validity? How successful was non-violence in Syria or Russia?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned us of this moment in The Gulag Archipelago. From the perspective of a survivor of the gulags he could see the fragility beneath the entire campaign, how vulnerable Stalin’s machine had been all along.

What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur-what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

Russians never organized even a modest effort to resist Stalin’s purges, but they had ample excuses. Their nation was primitive to begin with and ruined by war. Infrastructure for communication and organization outside official channels was nearly non-existent. They had no access to independent information, no data, no capacity even to understand what was being leveraged against them. We have no such excuses.

We understand the evil we face whether we want to acknowledge it or not. We understand from history the progress of Fascism and the ways it unfolds. We know, or should know by now, that Republicans are beyond rational bounds or negotiation. We know that the regime under which we live has no scruples, no legitimacy, no morals, limited in its abuses only by the constraints of its own incompetence and madness. And we’ve had ample warning that Republicans will not allow their power to be constrained within the democratic process.

Despite these desperate efforts, Trump will likely lose in November. However, Trump’s defeat will not end this struggle, only removing its immediacy and much of the momentum of the resistance. Republicans have made clear that they won’t stop their efforts to dismantle the American experiment just because they lose an election. We cannot be confident that a change in our elected leadership will bring this nightmare to an end.

This does not mean that people should rampage through the streets smashing windows. They absolutely should not. It means that we’ve reached a moment in which the full spectrum of resistance to this regime, including coercion, is not only morally appropriate, but necessary for our survival. America’s left desperately needs a more nuanced understanding of the role of coercion and broad disobedience alongside other elements of power. An unconsidered, blanket objection to violence in every case along with stubbornly futile appeals to the courts are a heritage of privilege, marker of a liberal white establishment who never had a baton cracked over their heads.

What would an ordered, responsible, and effective full-spectrum resistance to this regime look like? Just as importantly, how, and under what circumstances, should such a campaign be concluded? These are not hypothetical questions. We have to find answers and deploy them as quickly as possible before crucial windows of opportunity close.

We’ve been here before. The Founders’ final words from the Declaration of Independence:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

29 Comments

  1. The tyrant on his propaganda outlet, less than an hour ago:

    Trump to Hannity: “We’ll go into all of the cities, any of the cities. We’re ready. We’ll put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they’re doing. They’re strong. They’re tough. But as you know, we have to be invited in.”

    Yeah, no problem at all. The ALCU is going to sue them to a standstill….

  2. Chris, not sure where to put this, but what is your opinion about this article:

    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/11/the-real-class-war/

    (Please try to ignore for a second that the author was at one point pro-Trump, since he renounced him.)

    Article basically says that the real class war is not working class versus the rich as the working class is by now totally destroyed. Most they can do is vote for a protest candidate now and then. The real class war is between the upper 10% and 1%, those who live from salary and those who live from capital extraction.

    1. Great piece. I mostly agree.

      That was one of the themes of Politics of Crazy, though I largely disregarded the working class. Not totally convinced it ever existed as a coherent political entity. They’ve always been a prize to be captured by someone else, and a power mostly left on the table in our era.

      His assessment of Silicon Valley reflects his East Coast orientation. The tech industry right now is the brightest possibility for our future, the only place in our politics or economy that is still solving difficult problems. What he’s really describing in that bit about Boston and San Francisco is his own plight, the sad state of affairs for those highly educated and trained folks in dead-end public or academic roles, something David Brooks once called “status/wealth disequilibrium.” A PhD in public affairs from an elite East Coast school, then leading a major policy journal, means you’ll barely be able to afford your Whole Foods shopping list, and probably have to cut your summer down to only two weeks at the beach.

      I described the end of the middle class, which has been more important to our history, giving way to a new tension between affluent but not wealthy professionals (sometimes called the retainer class) and the wealthy. Much of what used to be the middle class (and even the working class) in this country has simply moved up the ladder. One of the reasons our politics is so weird is that the middle has been hollowed out, but not in the way we expect – more than half of it moved up. His piece mentions the top 10%, but since the 1950’s incomes and wealth have steadily concentrated among the top 30%, referred to in that piece by reference to some of Ben Sasse’s claims.

      When you see affluent white people out in the streets getting their heads cracked by working class goons, you’re living in Paris circa 1789, or Boston in 1775.

      1. Whenever I think about what a true meritocracy would look like, the first thought that comes to my mind is that there would be lots of social mobility based on, well, merit. That means people moving up according to their abilities and efforts. The right to rise if you will. Ok, at this point, I’m still in the nice, fuzzy, pleasant world of David Brooks and “moderate” Republicans.But it also means people moving down. Like, probably half of them at any given time. It’s at this point that I start looking at people like they are aliens when they suggest that we are, could be, or would even want to be a meritocracy. The only decent thing to do is to limit the benefits of getting to the top and make mediocrity (and sub-mediocrity) less crushingly awful. It seems to me that people spend a LOT of time and breath avoiding this conclusion.
        — Someone who calls themselves Pluto Shervington wrote this.

  3. I’m not into the dystopian stuff.

    This is a testing of our military leadership – one of very, very few in the history of our Republic.

    They swear and allegiance to the Constitution, not the President.

    I think they will vehemently make the right decision. They will not put troops on the streets of America from the actions of the people. There is a highly unlikely scenario where the police start to use force to overturn key aspects of the Constitution where the military may break chain of command to suppress an out of control para-military force. And then there will be a very quick action with an instant return to bases.

    I’d like to think that we train a military leadership that will never break their oath, but as we know most of the generals on the traitor side of the Civil War were trained at West Point.

    Let’s hope this “mark of Cain” has burned a determination to uphold the Constitution, and nothing else, a desperate drive to redeem forever.

    1. I can’t imagine troops will leave their garrisons at any point in this crisis, under any scenario, but only because Trump is such a coward. If we reach any resolution at all, the military will likely have a role, but it may be nothing more violent than a meeting in the Situation Room in which they lay down their terms.

      1. I’m hoping the military will forcefully escort this POS out of the White House. I believe the U. S. military refused to take any role in t’s stunt, and, further, that this is why the vigilante men attacking the Portland protesters were not wearing identifiable insignia because AG Barr was unable to coerce the brass to participate in an activity they knew was wrong.

  4. While I’m against outright civil war for many reasons, it’s nice to see that almost everyone with a few working brain cells see where the past 90 years of American “Exceptionalism” is heading. External Empire always brings with it internal rot and corruption, and eventually Internal Fascism. The only difference between Benito’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and Trump’s US, was the long-operating “big government” bureaucracy and “mainstream media” that was the real check on fascists.

    Fascism proper has been here operating since the 1930s. House UnAmerican Activities Committee was “outing” anti-fascists as a PUBLIC GOOD. Taft-Hartley in 1947 curtailed labor’s attempts to fight for labor over the “owners”, and should be seen as the beginning of the end of Unions’ political power. By the early 1970s you have Lewis Powell’s memo on how capital should “fight back” against the left, which they’ve just about completed by 2020 (tax breaks, deregulation of Wall St. crime casinos, deregulation of corporate regulations and bank regulations, and tax incentives of moving production overseas. That’s a lot of extra cash for fascists to buy politicians, police and policy).

    The above is just the “what” that needed to be done to get to where we are right now.

    The “how”, is pretty clear if you’ve been paying attention. Gingrich, Limbaugh, Fox News, and “Fake News” is how they’ve radicalized every single right-wing authoritarian in the country to be immune from any kind of critical thinking or objective observable reality.

    Creating the base is always the prerequisite to actively vote for a straight fascist narcissist/authoritarian like Strongman Trump.

    I was never a gun person, and I’m still not. But, as soon as Trump became the clear nominee in 2015, I’ve been preparing for the inevitable. So, I am now a gun owner.

    I obviously would prefer to avoid a civil war because ultimately it’s the scumfuck fascists who almost always “win”, at least short-term, but I am also not going to cry into my fucking pillow, afraid of defending democracy and freedom from fascists who would love to kill me and take my stuff because I’m not a “Real American”.

    Y’all remember how ubiquitous it was and is for conservatives to call themselves “Real Americans”, right? Well, if you think of fellow citizens as “others”, you’re being groomed to be OK with their subjugation and murder, full stop.

    How where we are hasn’t been obvious to most people blows my mind, but then again, as a life-long liberal, one of my superpowers is memory.

  5. I may be wrong in my reading here but it seems like the federal courts are skeptical of Oregon’s position.

    “During a 90-minute hearing held by videoconference, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman sounded dubious about the state’s right to a temporary restraining order to combat the use of camouflage-clad agents for detaining suspects and placing them in unmarked vehicles.”

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/22/judge-skeptical-portland-federal-agents-378440

  6. I think people are waiting to give the system a chance to right itself. Before goons start getting holes in their bodies from bullets. No one with any sense wants a civil war. I have lived a colorful life.The doers are smart enough not to advertise what they are willing to do and what they have done. There will be resistance.

      1. Us, personally? Not much, other than to press our officials to take a bolder stance. At least, that’s about all this week. More on that to come.

        Philadelphia’s DA, who was nominated by the Working Families Party to replace a machine Democrat, has stated he’ll press charges on any federal troops acting illegally. That will place a lot of pressure on the cops.

        Mayors need to steel themselves because they’ll be on the front line. They should:

        Insist that police arrest unauthorized feds operating in their cities.

        If they don’t, the Mayor should summarily fire the police chief on TV in a press conference then announce that they’ll be seeking criminal charges against him. What charges? Wrong question and doesn’t matter.

        Also announce that if the cops don’t arrest the invading forces, the city will withhold payroll for the entire police force until they do. If they don’t comply by the end of the next week, the entire force will be disbanded and subjected to a carefully vetted review/rehire, in which no one with a disciplinary record will be rehired. The Mayor should revoke the police’s union contract and dare them to sue.

        Law enforcement, such as it is, will be temporarily assumed by the Sheriff’s office which in nearly all of these cities is run by an elected Democrat. Call their bluff. Threaten their pay and their job and cops will do whatever you want them to. It would end right there.

        If any of these measures become necessary, the Mayor should also appeal for help from the Pentagon. They have already revolted against this plan, but they’re trying to stay on the sidelines. Two sentences spoke in a press conference by an American Mayor would force them off the bench. It’s their job to protect Americans from invasion. Where are they? Just asking will launch a much-needed constitutional crisis. Best chance we’ll ever have to see Republicans pressed against the wall before the outrage of the Trump moment fades.

        Governors, where they can, should mobilize their state guard and announce that they’ll be rounding up the invading forces. Again, merely making this announcement precipitates a crisis for the military. Trump will face a military pressed into contravening his wishes.

        Trump would back down. He always backs down, but after a very chilling phone call with his Joint Chiefs, even a stronger man would sober up. Forcing him to back down in this crisis, during an election campaign, would be devastating and humiliating. And if he didn’t back down, then let the chips fall.

        Going forward, the protests need to take on a more militant and strategic edge. How in the hell is Trump able to keep marque money-laundering properties operating normally in the middle of Chicago, Washington and New York? If you’re gonna graffiti something or burn something, direct that damage at Trump’s stuff. How many police officers want to lay down their lives to keep Trump’s mafia machine running?

        And more on this later, but I think the left can learn a lot from the Bundy family who are still wandering around free after a series of bloody federal standoffs. Marching with guns gets you very different treatment than holding hands or showing your p&&&y. This is not a scenario for staging instagram moments.

      2. One thing that comes to mind: people do not like to be inconvenienced. It’s amazing how pliable people are under threat of inconvenience.

        But because the paramilitaries are anonymous, it is difficult to inconvenience them and their immediate superiors.

        First, media should film attempts to request identification. I don’t think it’ll go well. I think at least trying this way is important for legitimacy sake.

        If (when) it doesn’t, I think it’s fair game to demand the identification of the roaming federal forces, as to cross reference with a government org chart and personnel record. If they do not comply, if the situation looks favorable to protestors, I think fisticuffs to procure their identification is justified. Other means to procure the identification, such as tailing, are also justified.

        These are courageous acts, no doubt, it could all go, including death. But some people are very brave. And it’d open the door to what, as you write, is the fundamental fragility of the system, that you can’t be storm trooper by day and sleep soundly at night, all to do it all over again day by day.

  7. Chris, I am curious if the governor of Oregon has the guts to do what is necessary in Portland. There are 114 stormtroopers deployed in the one federal building.

    If the governor wants to send a message, do an inversion of what Eisenhower did in 1957. Kate Brown could deploy the National Guard, with heavy transports, surrounding the fed building the 114 are holed up in. If and when they try to leave, they are simply blocked. If they try to run the blockade, they are arrested, If they fire at the National Guard, they are killed.

    Now, the question is, would the National Guard follow these orders. If they don’t, well then, the coup has already happened.

    1. If the Governor deploys the NG in Oregon POTUS can assume command of those units with the stroke of a pen. Oregon is one of the states that maintains a separate State Defense Force. The Governor can deploy them and they report only to the state. They aren’t exactly Delta Force, but they’re presence rounding up illegal federal invaders would provoke the kind of crisis that would force the military’s hand.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Civil_Defense_Force

      1. Mary, what Chris responded with , I did not know. If the National Guard, the military, and all the civil law enforcement offices all answer to the tyrant, well, it is over.

        That being said, your question “How do you think this would end up if the governor called out the state defense force?” is the ultimate question. You have professed, and you are not alone in this forum, that you believe in a non-violent response.

        Well, you are simply wrong, as are the 25% in Lenningrad, and 6 million Jews, and countless others. When faced with an enemy that has no hesitation, at the very least, to use violence to control you, the only rational answer is to answer in kind, and with far more brutality that they would not expect from sheep. Psychopaths recognize one thing, and one thing only, and that is actual or potential personal harm.

        But in specific answer to your question, the response from the tyrant would be an escalation in violence. But when you asked that question, you already knew the answer. The civil war started 4 years ago. You just did not recognize it, or more likely, not willing to accept it.

  8. You know, when I mention to friends I’ve been thinking about the role of violence in demonstrations — and that maybe some is called for — it makes them uneasy.

    I ask them to remember the first women’s march after 45 was elected.

    Here in Houston, Art Acevedo appeared to hand off management of the local demonstration to a few female police officers. Every now and again during the walk to city hall, Acevedo and one of the officers would meet up and seemed to congratulate each other on how well it was all going.

    Yeah, it was a peaceful demonstration of thousands of citizens.

    But do women’s bodies belong more themselves than before the demonstration?

    Nope.

    Does their health insurance cover birth control pills? How about abortion?

    Nope.

    Do women earn equal pay to men?

    Nope.

    So yeah, it was peaceful demonstration. And nothing changed.

    (I’m not discounting the me, too movement. It’s just that women aren’t only affected by sexual assault.)

    1. I wonder if Houston wouldn’t be a good place to deploy Chris’ theory on what Mayors should do:

      “Insist that police arrest unauthorized feds operating in their cities.

      If they don’t, the Mayor should summarily fire the police chief on TV in a press conference then announce that they’ll be seeking criminal charges against him. What charges? Wrong question and doesn’t matter.

      Also announce that if the cops don’t arrest the invading forces, the city will withhold payroll for the entire police force until they do. If they don’t comply by the end of the next week, the entire force will be disbanded and subjected to a carefully vetted review/rehire, in which no one with a disciplinary record will be rehired. The Mayor should revoke the police’s union contract and dare them to sue.”

      Art Acevedo seems squarely on the side of the local residents and I think would be a good leader to push back on any federal paramilitary force.

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