Far from being “spontaneous” or “mythical,” today’s militant political violence is not only organized, it even has user manuals. In destroying statues and other symbols of American history, the new violent extremist movement cultivates its own history:Indoctrinate people without them realizing it, gradually and slowly, by infiltrating their cultural institutions. Italian Communist Party founder Antonio Gramsci laid it out in his Prison Notebooks to battle what he called the “cultural hegemony” of religion, politics, business, and folklore of Western civilization. Gramsci pioneered a “counter hegemony” to develop alternative values for all of society, including an alternative religion. Inculcating this alternative hegemony throughout society to change values over time, he argued, was necessary to create a social support base for violent revolution.
It’s all about replacing a society’s belief system.
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity,” Gramsci wrote. “In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
Gramsci and others called for a warrior intellectual who didn’t just think radical thoughts. “Unless an intellectual has really participated in armed struggle, with the risks and danger which this entails, all his answers” to revolution “could easily become a pretentious intellectual comedy,” wrote Regis Debray, the French Communist who stressed culture as a tool of revolution. Debray lived it out, working with Che Guevara’s violent revolution in Bolivia and Chile’s Salvador Allende in revolution-through-political-infiltration. His critical analysis Revolution In the Revolution? became a guidebook for violent extremists in Latin America, later borrowed by American radicals.
Debray laid out what we see with Black Lives Matter and Antifa today—and with their supporters deep inside the Biden camp: “Armed self-defense” (aggressive defense using shields, barricades, helmets, and weapons), “armed propaganda,” “the guerrilla base,” and a merger of “the Party and the guerrilla.”
Debray devoted considerable attention to what he called “armed propaganda”—what others call “propaganda of the deed”—in which direct action, vandalism, destruction of national symbols, assassination, and other violence are valuable for their own propaganda purposes. Bolsheviks such as Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky deplored armed propaganda as a counterproductive anarchist trick that needlessly provoked authorities into repressing the movement. But others, including 1960s-era extremists in the Black Panther Party and the Weather Underground, viewed armed propaganda as a strategic asset purposefully to provoke police overreaction for all the world to see in the press and on television.
A New Generation of Radicals
For BLM and Antifa, armed propaganda produces precisely the overreaction they think justifies their causes and broadens their public support as heroic victims.
Debray went on to become a French government official. Today, now-elderly surviving Black Panther and Weather Underground figures like Angela Davis and Bill Ayers have become the revolutionary intellectuals and organizers of the Gramsci and Debray models.
Street-fighters such as Davis—who served prison time for buying the sawed-off shotgun to murder a California judge—went on to study under Marxist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse, the most famous of the Frankfurt School of critical theory and considered the father of the New Left. Davis then studied at Marcuse’s alma mater, Humboldt University, in what was then Soviet-occupied East Berlin, where she received her Ph.D. after the Kremlin presented her with the Lenin Peace Prize in 1979. She joined the KGB-controlled Communist Party USA to run twice for vice president of the United States. From her perch as a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Davis built an intellectual movement to defund police, shut down prisons, and support the murders of police officers. She personifies the Gramsci-Debray-Marcuse-Soviet hybrid American revolutionary.
Davis and others—including Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—were participants in, and perhaps agents of, controlled international Soviet front organizations. (I saw Lee in action myself when she was a staffer for Ron Dellums, a long-serving Democratic congressman from California, operating on the World Peace Council, a Soviet front I had infiltrated in 1986. Lee now holds Dellums’ seat in Congress.)
“The Communist fronts have an organizational base and cadres trained in schools of political warfare, with which they aim to confuse opinion in the non-Communist world and weaken the will of the democracies to resist,” as James Atkinson, an analyst of Communist fronts, had written two decades earlier in The Politics of Struggle: The Communist Front and Political Warfare. The controlled fronts, under KGB direction, assessed, recruited, and trained an international cadre. They built a controlled international core of political warriors whose networks outlasted the Soviet collapse and remain with us today.
These networks took decades to build, and young Molotov cocktail-throwing radicals who had promise but no strategic vision or discipline, some feared, would burn themselves out and waste their potential.
“They have no illusions about the system,” Saul Alinsky said of them wistfully in his prologue to Rules for Radicals, “but plenty of illusions about the way to change our world. It is to this last point that I have written this book.”
The young people for whom Alinsky wrote in 1971 were the New Left: Students for a Democratic Society, Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army, and so forth. Alinsky wrote it for those riding on the extremist coattails, for students like the ambitious Hillary Rodham, who studied Alinsky so closely that she corresponded with him and wrote a paper at Wellesley about his work.
Alinsky provided that discipline. He was already famous for his Gramscian foundational work, Reveille for Radicals, which appeared before the future first lady, secretary of state, and Democratic presidential nominee was even born. That was Alinsky’s community-organizing manual, complete with organizational and conflict tactics, the role of “popular education,” and observations on the psychology of mass organizations and how to manipulate them.
“Few of us survived the Joe McCarthy holocaust of the early 1950s,” Alinsky wrote. Rules for Radicals was intended to help the next generation not only to survive, but to succeed.
It was that mass organizational work that infiltrated the George McGovern campaign against the Democratic Party establishment in 1972 where militants gained mainstream party political credentials. From that network, much later, seasoned Weather Underground communists like Bill Ayers mentored promising young community organizers in his Chicago living room. People like Chicago’s Barack Obama.
The Best Candidate to be Manipulated
As Bolshevik Leon Trotsky learned back in his time, it was fruitless and fatal to try to overthrow “the system” by deadly force without the right social and political preconditions. In the 1930s Trotsky developed a theory to drill or bore into the existing sociopolitical order, a concept translated into English as “boring from within.” Hardline Communists would dump their formal organizations and bore into the socialist and other legal leftist movements. Later revolutionists would rename this tactic “entryism,” or what 1960s Gramscian Communist and Frankfurt School devotee Rudi Dutschke called, borrowing from Mao, “the long march through the institutions.”
So it’s no surprise to see Communist support for Obama’s old running mate and vice president.
Angela Davis explains why. She ran twice for vice president under the Communist Party USA ticket. But 2020 is no time for numerically marginal parties to run protest candidates against Trump. This year, as Davis said, is the time for Communists to hold their noses and back Biden.
“I don’t see this election as being about choosing a candidate who will be able to lead us in the right direction,” Davis told Russia’s RT propaganda channel in June. “It will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist [BLM/Antifa] movement.”
“Biden is very problematic in many ways,” Davis continued, because he took a hard line to imprison African Americans and is part of the enemy establishment. “But—I say but—Biden is far more likely to take mass demands seriously,” Davis stressed. “Far more likely than the current occupant of the White House. So that this coming November the election will ask us not so much to vote for the best candidate, but to vote for or against ourselves, and to vote for ourselves, I think, means that we will have to campaign for a vote for Biden.”
This is a 21st century call from a Communist agent using a Kremlin mouthpiece to encourage loyal cadres to infiltrate a mainstream presidential candidate and use his presidency as a Trojan horse.
It didn’t stop there. Bob Avakian, head of the Revolutionary Communist Party, announced that he wasn’t running a protest candidate either in 2020. The stakes for “revolution” are too high, he said in a long August 1 manifesto, so he threw his small but well-organized street network behind voting for Joe Biden: “To be clear, this means not a ‘protest vote’ for some candidate who has no chance of winning, but actually voting for the Democratic Party candidate, Biden, in order to effectively vote against Trump.”
All Communists must hold their noses and vote for Biden, Avakian said, “while continuing to build sustained mass mobilization against this regime and everything it represents and concentrates, and being prepared to carry forward this mass mobilization if Trump loses the election but refuses to leave.” (Emphasis in original.)
This is right out of the Democrats’ own action plan over the summer to use the mobs and other means to oust Trump if the election is inconclusive. Everyone against them is a dictator. A “fascist.”
“Violence,” wrote Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, who, like Angela Davis, spent a career in academia, “represents a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.”
As if borrowing from Gramsci for the digital age, Bray explains, Antifa researches its targets “online, in person, and sometimes through infiltration; they dox them, push cultural milieux to disown them, pressure bosses to fire them, and demand that venues cancel their shows, conferences, and meetings; they organize educational events, reading groups, trainings, athletic tournaments, and fundraisers; they write articles, leaflets, and newspapers, drop banners, and make videos . . . .”
This is, in a nutshell, makes up the only lively part of the Biden-Harris campaign. Boring from within.