On the questions of civil war, secession and treason in the United States


The U.S. Civil War officially ended 155 years ago. Despite this, civil war talk mentioning secession and treason have become commonplace. The Texas lawsuit which called on the Supreme Court to vacate the votes cast for president in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin pitted groups of states against each other, 17 in support and 20 against, with both sides saying constitutional issues were being raised.

On hearing the Supreme Court ruling against the Texas lawsuit, the head of the Texas Republicans said: “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.” In countering the lawsuit, state Attorneys General said it “risks the destruction of the Union,” and that it was a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.”

New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on December 11 targeting the 126 Republican House representatives that supported the Texas lawsuit as traitors. He tweeted, “Today I’m calling on House leaders to refuse to seat any Members trying to overturn the election and make Donald Trump an unelected dictator.” He cited a Civil War amendment (Section 3 of the 14th Amendment), saying: the “Text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States.” It was written “to prevent the destruction of the United States from without and within,” he said.[1] Refusing to seat the 126 members would “cleanse from our government ranks any traitors and others who would seek to destroy the Union,” he said. A petition is now being widely circulated calling on people to urge Pelosi not to seat the representatives.

Pelosi has not responded directly. However, in a letter to colleagues December 11, she referenced the 126 House Republicans and said the Texas lawsuit “violates the principles enshrined in our American Democracy.” She referred to Pennsylvania’s statement about “seditious abuse of the judicial process,” and concluded saying, “As Members of Congress, we take a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution. Republicans are subverting the Constitution by their reckless and fruitless assault on our democracy which threatens to seriously erode public trust in our most sacred democratic institutions.”

This talk from both sides of the divide in fact makes it clear that the Constitution carries little authority in resolving disputes. Both sides claim to have its backing. The ease with which they throw accusations of secession and treason around or claim to defend “sacred democratic institutions” attests to the fact that they are going crazy unconcerned.

If the “sacred democratic institutions,” including Congress and elections, were functioning to resolve disputes as intended when they were conceived, nobody would be calling on hooligan armed militias or appealing to the Supreme Court to intervene in state affairs or making calls to secede and form a new Union or to “cleanse Congress of traitors.”

These institutions do not accord with today’s conditions where the conflicts between contending private interests striving to profit from pay-the-rich schemes are insatiable and the times require people’s empowerment.

Even if Trump leaves office, which he has not yet conceded, the conflicts among the ruling factions border on open violent civil war. Biden’s election will not make them go away. His agenda is no less dictated by the ruling financial oligarchy and its demands to continuously pay the rich. The section of the financial oligarchy which seeks to dominate does not tolerate limitations on its power posed by different levels of authority – federal, state, city-based and the like. This also includes any expressions of national sovereignty by countries which refuse to kowtow to narrow foreign private interests, especially those of the U.S. Though Biden and those aligned with him may express themselves in ways which are different to those used by Trump in implementing the U.S. imperialist agenda, his ways will also come into even greater contradiction with the demands of the U.S. working class and peoples and the demands of the peoples of the world. Subordinating social needs to the demands of the parasitic war economy is evident in the fact that while Congress overwhelmingly passed Pentagon funding of $740 billion for war and weapons, it has not passed COVID-19 relief for workers and persists with its horrific threat of government shutdown, now set for December 21.

The open disgrace this election brought on the U.S. “sacred democratic institutions,” as Pelosi calls them, is sure to give rise to calls for election reforms so long as they do not serve to empower the people and, on the contrary, strengthen rule by the rich by introducing greater federal control of the electoral process.

The open disgrace this election brought on the U.S. “sacred democratic institutions,” as Pelosi calls them, is sure to give rise to calls for election reforms so long as they do not serve to empower the people and, on the contrary, strengthen rule by the rich by introducing greater federal control of the electoral process. These may include a direct vote for president and elimination of the Electoral College. Most of the Trump lawsuits attack the current system of state-based elections, including how electors for the Electoral College are chosen and who decides disputes. Various officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and elsewhere are also calling for changes to election laws. All are being done in the name of preserving “our sacred democratic institutions,” “democracy” and “restoring the public trust.”

Only the people, by organizing themselves politically on the basis of their own agenda, can bring into being changes which provide for decision-making by the people from start to finish. This includes people’s assemblies for setting policy and raising the claims the people are entitled to make by virtue of being human, and selecting representatives from among their peers so all have equal footing and information on problems and solutions.

The public lost trust in elections a long time ago, with the general consciousness being that they are of, by and for the rich. The solution is not restoring faith in the dysfunctional institutions, but to give birth to new ones. Developing collectives and organizations where members are equal and together make decisions, implement them and take responsibility for the results is the way of the future. 

Across the U.S., workers, women and youth of all national origins and from all walks of life are persisting in united efforts in the interests of the people. The battle for rights is a battle for empowerment, the main problem being taken up for solution, including demands for decision-making power and control of policing, budgets and health care.


1. Amendment 14, Section 3:

“No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion.

TML Weekly, December 19, 2020 – No. 49

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