The “Brennan Affair” : Sharp Infighting at the Top as Trump Moves to Forge Full Fascist Control


In a Nutshell: Donald Trump’s move to revoke security clearances of former high-level CIA and other “intelligence agency” officials is a major move to consolidate a fully fascist regime able to wield compliant repressive institutions of the capitalist-imperialist state against its foes. Sharp struggle has erupted over this involving other ruling class—that is, imperialist—forces that fear Trump’s approach could lead to disaster for the U.S. empire. This struggle is ongoing, and no one can say at this point how it will turn out. Neither side in this struggle at the top represents the interests of humanity or anything remotely progressive. The CIA is responsible for literally millions of deaths around the world since World War 2 and continues to wreak havoc on people today, and the FBI has spied on, disrupted, framed people up, and conspired in assassination during its entire time of existence, including today. But the infighting among the rulers may well present openings for mass resistance from below that is about driving out this regime. And those possible openings need to be seized and taken advantage of, from the standpoint of opposing its past and future crimes against humanity here and around the world, in the interests of humanity.

On August 15, the Trump/Pence regime took the unprecedented step of stripping the security clearance from John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, because of Brennan’s role as an outspoken ruling class critic of Trump. (Brennan recently said Trump’s behavior towards Russia was “nothing short of treasonous.”)

With the attack on Brennan as its “icebreaker,” the regime is now moving to revoke clearances for nearly a dozen former officials of the FBI, CIA, NSA, Justice Department, and others in the so-called “law enforcement and intelligence community” (which in reality is the U.S. apparatus of spying, repression, torture, and terror directed against people of the whole world as well as in the U.S.). Trump also stepped up denunciations of the mainstream media, and he reportedly demanded that the Justice Department arrest Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House official who now is dissing Trump as racist and misogynist.

Brennan continues to call out Trump, and 13 former intelligence chiefs signed an open letter denouncing Trump’s action as an attempt to suppress free speech (while at the same time distancing themselves somewhat from Brennan’s aggressive approach). Seventy-five former CIA officers have now signed a similar letter. A retired Navy admiral wrote Trump saying that it would be “an honor” if Trump took his security clearance as well. Others said Trump was on the road to “authoritarianism.”

But it is the Trump/Pence regime that holds and wields power, not these critics. And Trump’s new moves are a leap in the consolidation of fascist rule.

Fascism is characterized by extreme concentration of power in the hands of a small ruling group, and, most of all, the top leader, and by open terror, unrestrained by law and due process, against both the masses of people and ruling class opponents.

The significance of Trump’s attack on the former intelligence officials is not the personal consequences for Brennan or others of losing security clearance. Rather, it is that Trump is using his executive power to punish his ruling class political opponents, without regard for established norms, rules, or law, as he previously threatened to do, (e.g., with the ugly “lock her up” chants during his campaign).

And the fact that he is going after people who have been very high up in the ruling apparatus and remain well-connected, amplifies the threat to others. Both within the repressive institutions of “the intelligence community” and broadly in society, it is a chilling message: Opposition to fascist reorganization, or even personal criticism of Trump, will not be tolerated. Dissidents will be purged. The instruments of state violence will be reforged on a fully fascist basis, obedient to Trump’s authority and unbounded by due process.

And if opponents within the ruling class can be attacked in this way, the fascist regime will do a hundred times more to people who are challenging the whole oppressive order—to political activists, revolutionaries and communists, and to the masses of people as a whole.

In this volatile situation, where millions sense that the country is moving towards fascist dictatorship or chaos or both, people like Brennan, former FBI director James Comey, Robert Mueller, and others being attacked by Trump are being promoted by liberal pundits and politicians as “our last hope,” “the adults in the room,” or even as popular heroes! And the role of the masses of people is presented as cheering them on, and of course, “vote in November.”

But in reality, this orientation is absolutely deadly, not just for people in the U.S., but for humanity as a whole.

The CIA and FBI Are Your Enemies, Not Your Friends

In the midst of a tsunami of liberals fawning on people like Brennan, let’s get clear on who they really are.

The CIA is a crucial instrument of U.S. imperialist domination of the people of the world. This is the organization that dispatches drones that hover constantly over rural villages in Pakistan, in Libya, in Yemen, in Somalia, terrorizing the masses, ready at any moment to call in massive airstrikes if their operators perceive a gathering of villagers as a “threat.” This is the organization that cranked out fake “evidence” of “weapons of mass destruction” and “terrorist connections” (that did not really exist) in Iraq to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion that ended up killing a million people and all but destroying the Iraqi nation. This is the organization that set up secret “black site” torture centers around the world, where suspects were waterboarded, slammed into walls, and imprisoned in coffins until they were broken in body and spirit, with the torture at times continuing even after the CIA realized they were innocent.

Brennan was deeply involved in much of this and has been called the “assassination czar” for his role in drone attacks. He staunchly defended the “black sites,” saying they were “vital,” helped cover up the large number of civilian casualties from drone attacks, and justified kidnapping “suspects” and handing them over to be tortured by U.S. allies that are even less hemmed in than the CIA by any pretense of respect for human rights.

For 70 years, the CIA has organized or backed coups in dozens of countries, including Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Iran, Haiti, Congo, and Indonesia, each and every one of which was aimed at—and succeeded in—overthrowing popular elected governments that were not fully subservient to the U.S., and installing “U.S.-compliant” dictatorships that terrorized their own populations in the service of imperialism. In Indonesia alone, at least 500,000 civilians were slaughtered by the forces the U.S. backed, and the CIA actually provided lists to the Indonesian military of suspected communists to be murdered. In addition, the CIA has extensively collaborated in torture and assassination in many other countries. (The crimes of the CIA and FBI outlined here and in the next paragraph are addressed in revcom’s American Crime series.)

And the fucking FBI? The whole purpose of the FBI from its founding has been to spy on and repress political dissidents. In the ’60s it led in the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, murdered in his bed, and of dozens of other Panthers. It spied on Martin Luther King Jr. and attempted to blackmail him. It helped set up Malcolm X for assassination. The FBI closely monitored communist leader Bob Avakian from early on, and helped in the attempt to jail him for hundreds of years. And this is not “ancient history”—in 2015, then-FBI Director James Comey gave a major speech loudly proclaiming that public protests against the epidemic of police murders of Black and Brown people were keeping cops from doing their job and causing an increase in crime. In 2017, the FBI produced and circulated an internal report labeling nonviolent activists against police murder as “Black Identity Extremists” who threaten the safety of police.

These are not “knights in shining armor” coming to save us—they are world-class gangsters and moral monstrosities.

Their Conflicts with Trump Are Not Over Whether but How Best to Fuck Over and Repress the People

So if all that is true—and it clearly is—then why are Brennan and others so sharply at odds with a fascist like Trump? The answer is that they believe Trump will endanger the domination of the U.S. empire over the world, and the control of the U.S. ruling class over its “home” population. Read or listen to what Brennan and similar forces say—and don’t say—about Trump. You will hear nothing about, or at most passing reference to, Trump’s true crimes against humanity—his imprisonment of immigrant children, his denial of the right to asylum to desperate refugees, his abandonment of Puerto Rico after last year’s hurricanes leading to over a thousand unnecessary deaths, his whipping up of racism against Black and Brown people, his vicious misogyny, and so on. Nor have they sharply differed with him on his threats to annihilate North Korea, nor his current sanctions and war threats against Iran, nor his all-out support for Israel’s increasingly genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people.

Some of Trump’s ruling class opponents may have some disagreements with some of these things, but they are not deal-breakers. No, their differences are over how to maintain their empire of blood and horror. As wrote in July, “Trump represents and fights for a fascist section of the ruling class that aims to radically remake U.S. institutions and policies. This group believes that the ‘world order’ that the U.S. has headed for 70 years no longer serves U.S. imperialist domination…. This requires them to break up or radically re-set terms for all previous agreements…. These fascists also believe that certain basic democratic traditions of U.S. political system and rule of law, no matter how ineffectual, violated, limited, hypocritical and bitterly contested they may be in actual practice, stand as barriers to the extreme, open and unbridled white supremacy, national chauvinism, and patriarchy that the fascists require to reorder society.”

In the same article, we pointed out that “The previously dominant section of the ruling class thinks this will lead to disaster for U.S. imperialist interests and have been trying to at least constrain the fascists. While their differences over what best protects and advances the interests of the U.S. ruling class as a whole in the contentious global system of imperialism are sharp, what is more fundamental for all of them is their unity in defending the interests of U.S. imperialism.” [Emphasis added.]

Our Stance Must NOT Be to “Choose Sides,” but to Bring Forward the People to Fight for the Interests of Humanity, and on that Basis, Take Advantage of the Conflicts Among the Oppressors

So does that mean that the infighting going on now doesn’t matter?

No! As revcom has frequently pointed out with regard to the Democrats and the struggle among the powers that be, this infighting can provide openings for “‘the struggle from below’—for the mobilization of masses of people around the demand that the whole regime must go, because of its fascist nature and actions and what the stakes are for humanity.”

But these opportunities cannot and will not be seized or realized with an orientation of rooting for the anti-Trump forces in the U.S. ruling class. For one thing, because they are ruling class forces, and do not want to do anything that exacerbates the existing crisis and potentially weakens their class’ grip on society and power in the world, their opposition to the regime is extremely narrow and limited. They don’t even oppose the whole regime—including the Christian fascist Mike Pence—but instead pointedly limit their criticism to Trump alone. Nor do they want to see millions of oppressed and progressive people in the streets pushing for the ouster of the whole regime, for fear this could lead to larger social upheaval and debate over the nature and future of this oppressive society (i.e, of their system) as a whole.

And most fundamentally, as already noted, they want to keep the terms of things squarely within their framework of how best to maintain and expand a cruel and outmoded world order—or in other words, HOW to “Make America Great Again.” Fanatical and blind pro-American patriotism is so central to the ruling class “critique” of Trump that when New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo simply stated that America’s history of open racism and persecution of LGBTQ people was “never that great,” he came under withering attack, not just from Trump and the Republicans, but from Democrats, and very quickly walked back his comments.

No, as infighting intensifies, as the stakes get higher, we need people who refuse to sit passively on the sidelines waiting for a powerful savior that will never come—at least not to save us. We need new forces, youth and others, to step up and fight for a real road forward, joining in’s effort to bring first thousands and then millions into the streets in determined nonviolent protest that will not stop until the whole regime is driven from power, and who are willing to help lead those millions in what will undoubtedly be an intense and difficult struggle. And, we need leaders who take this on guided by a larger vision—and as an integral part of a strategic approach—of forging the path to an all the way communist revolution that can move humanity beyond the era in which oppression, exploitation and imperialist war were the order of the day for centuries and millennia. As Bob Avakian has said in his book BAsics (6:3):

“I have several times noted the fact that for the advanced forces, for those who come to the forefront of the revolutionary struggle, there is a heavy weight to carry. It is demanding a lot of them to play this role, to be the ones to most steadfastly carry the revolutionary struggle along. But it is not too much to demand.

“In basketball there are those players who are not only outstanding in general but who specifically make the big plays at the crucial moments. These are the ones who want the ball when crunch time comes, when the whole game is on the line. They are the ones who love to go into the home court of the biggest rivals and rise to their greatest right in the face of the other team and their howling, screaming fans. These are the ones who not only soar to great heights themselves but in so doing raise the level of their team as a whole. Why shouldn’t the advanced forces of proletarian revolution—those who have the most profound interest in this revolution and the most profound desire for revolution—why shouldn’t they be capable of this kind of greatness?”

Revolution newspaper/, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, provides the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the whole process of carrying out our strategy for revolution. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand, and act to radically change, the world.

Originally published at



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