Congressman Gosar, Vigilantism and the Class Struggle

Congressman Brooks attack on Senator Charles Sumner, 1856 - prelude to the Civil War.
Congressman Brooks attack on Senator Charles Sumner, 1856 – prelude to the Civil War.

By David Sole

On November 17, 2021 the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure right-wing Congressman Paul Gosar, (R-Arizona) and remove him from his two committee seats. Gosar had posted an Anime  cartoon of himself killing progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden on Twitter. The vote was 223 to 207 with only two Republicans voting for censure.

One wonders why Gosar’s advocacy of deadly force against the President alone hasn’t landed him in jail. His call for murder of the radical Ocasio-Cortez must be viewed in context of the current political scene, as well. That almost half the members of the House would not condemn this exposes the coming conflict that will not be settled in polite debate.

It has been only 10 months since then President Donald Trump gathered a mob of supporters and sought to have them overturn his loss in the election of November 2020. The January 6 insurrection saw the invasion of the halls of Congress, violent and deadly conflict in and around the building and the collaboration of some layers of the police and military which allowed the assault to go on for hours.

After the uprising was suppressed both houses of Congress reconvened to ceremonially certify the election results as reported by the Electoral College. Even after the violence and death they had witnessed, 7 Republican Senators and 138 Republican Congresspersons still voted NOT to accept the election results adding fuel to the big lie that fueled the insurrection.

Gosar the tip of a vigilante iceberg

Representative Gosar’s actions occurred in the midst of two trials of right-wing vigilantism being watched across the nation. Only days after the censure vote a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin found teenage terrorist Kyle Rittenhouse NOT GUILTY. Rittenhouse had taken an illegally possessed AR-15 style assault rifle, had his mother drive him across state lines and gunned down three Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha on August 25, 2020. The protests followed the police shooting of unarmed African American Jacob Blake six times in the back days earlier. Two of Rittenhouse’s victims died.

In Glynn County, Georgia three white men were on trial for hunting down and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old African American jogger on February 23, 2020. Gosar, Rittenhouse and Arbery’s killers are only the tip of an iceberg of white supremacy and reaction that includes much of the nation’s police forces along with armed racist militias and any number of self-appointed vigilantes. They certainly cannot be considered a fringe element.

Brooks and Sumner

One hundred sixty-five years ago real bloody violence was seen on the floor of the U.S. Senate chamber. Unlike Gosar’s digital attack on Ocasio-Cortez, pro-slavery Representative Preston Brooks assaulted anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. It was May 22, 1856 when Brooks used a heavy walking cane to beat Sumner bloody and senseless for a speech given by the Senator a few days earlier. It was many years before Sumner was able to return to public life and by then the Civil War had begun. A motion to expel Brooks from the House of Representatives failed.

The U.S. Civil War (1861 – 1865) is often described as a war between slavery and freedom. But it can better be understood as a war to settle who would rule the country – the slave owners or the rising capitalist/banking class based in the north.

The irreconcilable conflict – capitalism vs. slavery

The war, itself, was preceded by decades of struggles and maneuvers. It was known as the “irreconcilable conflict” because every compromise broke down, exposing the ever deepening rift between two ruling classes and their two economic systems. One had to eradicate the other.

As the Civil War approached it seemed as if the northern capitalists forces would not or could not commit to a real struggle. One Southern state after another proclaimed secession from the Union after Lincoln was elected. The great Abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass despaired. He booked passage for himself and his family on a ship for Haiti. Just before his departure, however, the rebel forces bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The military hostilities had begun. Fort Sumter sat in Charleston, S. Carolina’s harbor. It was S. Carolina that had sent Preston Brooks to Congress.

For months, dragging into years, the Northern forces still did not fight decisively. Head of the Union forces, General George McClellan, refused to carry out orders and attack Southern positions. Tens of thousands of Union troops died in one battle after another.

McClellan was ultimately replaced and Union forces learned hard lessons in combat. Of course it was only in 1863 that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

This very brief review should remind us that a civil war, a type of revolution and the class struggle at its core, does not follow a logical course. The roots of the conflict are often not even clear to those who do the fighting.

Socialism vs. capitalism

Today the future of the United States seems firmly in the hands of the bankers and corporate bosses. This avaricious capitalist class is the descendent of the victors of the Civil War. They are a much smaller class now having gathered together wealth in the tens of billions. They can only maintain their exploitation of wage labor and their control of the levers of power by keeping the hundreds of millions of the working class divided.

That is why so much is invested in promoting white supremacy. That’s why anti-women and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideology is pushed onto the masses.

For a moment it may appear that racist vigilantism is dominant. Yet only a year ago the largest crowds of all races joined together in the George Floyd protests. There are other signs that the multi-faceted working class has enormous potential for struggle. Even without the organization and leadership of the traditional union movement, millions of workers have walked off their jobs in protest of the miserable rate of pay prevailing. This has been called “The Great Resignation” and puts fear in the hearts of the Wall Street elite.

While it has not gotten much coverage, ten thousand workers at the John Deere Corporation went out on strike and won a clear victory in wages and working conditions. Other strikes are breaking out, even though they are still isolated instances.

Even the New York Times, a mouthpiece of the capitalist ruling class, had to allude to the building pressure of the class struggle to explain what was pushing forward the Democratic Party’s legislation. On November 20, 2021 the lead story pointed out that “income inequality, economic stagnation and a pandemic propelled an even more ambitious bill.”

The building, irreconcilable conflict in the U.S. is between capitalism and socialism. As in many past revolutions it is very likely this will not be fought out in those words. Nonetheless the only solution to the mounting problems of the huge working class can be found in the overthrow of the capitalist control of the economy and government and its replacement with a system that answers the fundamental needs of the vast majority of the population.

There can be no doubt that entirely new layers of leadership must emerge from a painful and prolonged process of struggle. Setbacks and defeats can be expected. But there is no reason to despair. Victory is certain.

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