One of the jobs of the presidency is to preserve the union, which requires uniting the military bureaucracy. This bureaucracy, which has grown to massive proportions, is part of the state machinery that exists from one president to the next. It is the state and its monopoly on use of force that ensures continuity and rule by the rich, while government changes from one election to the next. In current conditions, where the existing institutions for governance – for example, Congress, political parties, elections – are dysfunctional and no longer serve to resolve conflicts, this problem of preserving the union and uniting the bureaucracy becomes increasingly difficult.
This was evident during the 2016 presidential election, when various generals and military officials, mostly retired, campaigned for Trump or Clinton. This is contrary to military standards requiring military officials to remain neutral, so as to ensure their commitment to whoever becomes Commander-in-Chief. More recently, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the top commanders of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force – made public statements about racism, in response to those made by Trump about demonstrations and violence by Nazis and the KKK in Charlottesville. The statements by military commanders were seen as an open rebuke of Trump. News reports emphasized that the statements “indicated deep unease in the Pentagon” and a “dramatic break with precedent” of no public statements by the military that contradict the president.
“The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks,” General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, tweeted August 16. “It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.” Marine Commandant General Robert B. Neller tweeted August 15 that there is “no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps.”
Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, on August 13 posted a statement on Twitter and Facebook that called the events in Charlottesville “shameful” and “unacceptable.” He said, “The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred.” General David L. Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, tweeted August 16 that he stood “together with my fellow service chiefs in saying that we’re always stronger together.”
Military racist to the core
The military is notorious for its brutal racism, within its ranks and towards the peoples of the world. Soldiers are routinely trained to view peoples subjected to U.S. aggression as less than human, with various racist names used as part of this. Whipping up intolerance and hatred so as to convince soldiers to slaughter “the enemy” is also a necessary part of military training. So the aim of the comments is hardly to stand against the racism that has imbued the U.S. state and its military “since 1775,” and has been and remains integral to its genocide against Native peoples, enslaved Africans and now African Americans, and peoples targeted abroad, like those of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their comments against racism, like similar ones by Trump and numerous other politicians, are meant to hide this reality, to divert attention from the fact that the U.S. ruling class is imbued with racism and organizes racist attacks and funds and arms Nazis and the KKK so as to maintain their rule and preserve their union. The violence in Charlottesville was a state-organized provocation, to set the people fighting amongst themselves while letting the state off the hook.
At the same time, the statements by top-ranking military officials and politicians reveal the deep disunity and conflicts within the ruling circles, which are being openly displayed by the military. This also indicates the grave danger of civil war and potentially broader imperialist war.
Aggressive war is one means past presidents have used to unite the bureaucracy. The war against Iraq, for example, was launched in part for this purpose. But there is little evidence that open invasion of Syria, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or Iran, will solve the current problems the rulers face.
For the U.S., the issue of uniting the military bureaucracy is particularly important, as there is not a single, unified military. Rather, there are contending branches that both collude and compete for resources and power. There are also the many armed agencies within the country, like those at the border, the FBI, DEA, and many others, as well as the highly militarized police forces. These all must be kept in check and united behind the presidency, something in which Trump is not succeeding.
Organize for a democracy of our own making
It is this issue of preserving the union and uniting the military that is behind the various statements now being made about removing Trump and possibilities of civil war. Various politicians are talking about impeachment. One of the president’s former top advisors warned that the result of Trump’s removal would be an “armed” and violent “insurrection.” Roger Stone, a Republican operative and top advisor during last year’s presidential campaign, when asked about impeachment said, “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.” He also warned that anyone who voted for impeachment “would be endangering their own life.”
The rulers are contending with conditions where they cannot predict the outcome — the outcome of removing Trump through some means, the outcome of invading another country, the outcome of the growing and broad resistance, demanding a different direction for the country. Every effort is being made by the rulers to preserve the union and its constitutional form, while imposing a government of police powers, concentrated in the presidency. The façade of democracy and civilian rule is to remain, but the governing institutions for that are being eliminated, making the ability to sustain the rule increasingly difficult and unpredictable.
For the people this poses the necessity to organize for the new, for a new direction for political affairs. The problem is not choosing sides among the rulers or defending an outdated Constitution that enshrines slavery and protects property rights, not human rights. It is organizing today for a democracy of our own making, where we decide! New institutions of government, a new constitution, can be developed in the course of struggle for political empowerment of the people.
Source: Voice of Revolution, journal of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization, August 25, 2017; TML Weekly, September 2, 2017 – No. 26