Shortly after September 11, 2001, Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, spoke soberly to the efforts that had been launched by the imperialist ruling class to "reshuffle the deck" of world power in the wake of 911 and to radically remake U.S. society itself.1 He went deeply into the ramifications of the imperialists’ "wild ambitions," while speaking to the ways in which the things they were launching could cause them real problems.
"All of this," he said, "comes together and mixes wildly--that’s why I call it a cauldron of contradictions--to produce a lot of potential for things to go in many different directions and even to get out of their control."
The recent intense conflicts within the U.S. ruling class point sharply to that potential--and underscore the challenge facing people opposed to imperialism.
The Cauldron Simmers
The war in Iraq, to understate the case, is not going well for the U.S. imperialists. The resistance to the U.S. occupation within Iraq has spread and grown more capable. The conflicts between the many different political, ethnic and class forces within Iraq show little sign of resolution, and the puppet Iraqi army is still not able to fight on its own. In response, the U.S. has escalated its tactics of wholesale terror directed against the Sunni Muslim population as a whole, which is the main (though not the only) base of the insurgency. Making all this worse--from the imperialist standpoint, that is--is the increasingly widespread and sharp sentiment against the war within the U.S. itself. And interplaying with that is a growing disaffection and anger within the army itself.
All this is causing intense concern within the U.S. ruling class. To get a sense of what is bothering some of these forces, it is worth quoting at some length the editorial "A Timetable for Mr. Bush" that appeared in the New York Times
"The ultimate Iraqi nightmare, which continually seems to be drawing closer, is a violent fracturing of the country in which the Kurdish north and Arab Shiite southeast break away, leaving the west, dominated by Arab Sunnis, an impoverished no man’s land and a breeding ground for international terrorism. . .
The consequences of such a breakup would be endless and awful: civil war, the persecution of minority populations in the new states, an alliance between the Shiites and Iran, and a complete breakdown of American moral and military influence in the Middle East. [emphasis added]"
Please note and note well that nowhere in this editorial does the Times even profess to be bothered by the wholesale slaughter that continues to be carried out against the Iraqi population, the ongoing torture, the recent revelations of the criminal use of white phosphorus against civilians, and all the rest of the horror that goes with imposing tighter U.S. domination. No, what has them bothered is the breakdown of "American moral [sic] and military influence."
Faced with the intensifying discontent and anger among the people and the restiveness within the ruling class, Bush has gone on the offensive. He has forcefully reasserted his "vision" of a world dominated by the U.S. and, in particular, a Middle East radically transformed in such a way so as to deepen and ensure that domination. [See Revolution # 22, "Bush Calls for Endless Borderless War Without Limits," for an in-depth analysis of Bush’s speeches in this period.] And he has increasingly accused the opposition of encouraging "the enemy" and demoralizing the troops.
In giving these speeches mainly on military bases and to military families, Bush is trying to do three things. First, he is attempting to firm up his base in the army; second, he is trying to win back sections of the American people by waving the banner of "supporting the troops"; and third, he is signaling to other forces within the ruling class that he does have a base in the army, and that he will not hesitate to use it should it come to that. That in itself is very heavy, and a sign of how deep the contradictions run.
Nonetheless, contradictions within the ruling class have continued to simmer. Much of this has been taking the form of Democratic congressmen raising questions about the intelligence that was used to justify the U.S. invasion. Last week, the Senate passed a resolution that called for regular progress reports on Iraq from the Administration and a "period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty." Neither the criticism of pre-war intelligence handling nor the call for progress reports got to the heart of the question: that of the war itself and its utterly unjust and immoral nature. And neither track exposed how the U.S. forces are escalating their savagery in the face of the stubborn resistance. But while this was mainly posturing--both Republicans and Democrats attempting to look like they were "doing something" in the face of an increasingly acute crisis, while essentially keeping things going on the same track--there was a secondary element within it of expressing concern that things were spinning out of control.