Among those who discuss the prospects of overthrowing the United States government, there’s a common belief that it would be impossible for domestic rebels to militarily defeat the U.S. armed forces. This inevitably leads to speculations about alternative ways for the rebels to prevail. Maybe we could win most of the U.S. military personnel over to the side of the revolutionaries, or maybe we could get a powerful U.S. rival like China to come to the aid of the rebel forces.
But upon thoroughly examining the situation, these hopes look ever more wishful. China’s goal is not to help foment revolutions abroad. And given that a civil war in the U.S. would no doubt prompt many U.S. allies to get their own militaries involved, Russia, China, and other superpowers would be especially hesitant to intervene given how much risk this would create of world war. Maybe Cuba or the DPRK would come to our aid, but we can’t bank on any foreign army to turn the direction of the class war in our favor.
Propagating Marxist-Leninist theory among U.S. troops is a worthwhile goal. But for every armed forces defector towards the socialist movement that appears in the coming chaotic years of U.S. imperial collapse, there will be plenty of other military members who remain loyal to the forces of fascism and capitalist reaction. Thus comes the recently articulated conclusion from communist YouTuber Hakim that:
The U.S. military and police will never, and I mean will never, join a potential revolution in the U.S. They are a barrier to a revolution. These are the agents of capital sent worldwide to rob, steal, and murder, all for the wealth and power of the bourgeoisie. Reactionary attitudes and counter-revolutionary mindsets are manufactured within the American military and police. For every soldier or policeman that lays down his weapons or, even better, joins the revolution, there will be a hundred, if not a thousand, cracking black skulls and shooting children. I saw it in Iraq. It isn’t far-fetched for it to be the norm in the U.S.
As you look at these facts, you slowly come to realize the stark reality of your situation as someone who’s committed themselves to liberating the world from U.S. capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. This reality is that you can only rely on the revolutionary organizations within the U.S. to help bring you to victory against the forces of bourgeois reaction. In all likelihood, an army from across the ocean isn’t coming to save you. The throngs of heavily indoctrinated fascists in the U.S. military aren’t going to overwhelmingly join your side. Victory is only going to come from how good you are at sticking with the revolutionary tasks that the material conditions will demand from you.
These tasks are apparent from looking at how the Taliban, despite lacking tanks or warplanes and despite having always been outnumbered and technologically outmatched by the U.S., has managed to prevent the U.S. from defeating it after nineteen years of war. The Taliban has done this by winning the loyalty of much of the local populations in the parts of Afghanistan that they control, using the massive violence and corruption that U.S. imperialism has brought to the country to get many people to see aligning with their organization as the best option.
The Taliban has had advantages that rebel forces in the U.S. won’t necessarily have the equivalent of, like highly mountainous terrain and support from Pakistan. But even if we don’t manage to get military support from Cuba or the DPRK, and even if the U.S. surveillance apparatus forces us to operate with great secrecy, we’ll be able to gain a comparable advantage if we do the work to build popular support for a revolutionary guerrilla effort.
This step is where agitation and organizing come in. If we spend the coming years using the country’s crises to get many more people to join communist parties, and if we do this while educating the masses about the capitalist and imperialist contradictions behind the crises they’re experiencing, we’ll gain a large base of support. Not one that includes the enormous population of reactionaries in the U.S., but one that’s capable of providing a guerrilla struggle with popular backing. With this vision in mind, Hakim has articulated the actions which must accompany these efforts:
Arm yourselves. Establish armed wings of revolutionary organizations. Start coordinating armed actions across the country with as many organizations as you can. Remember, never terrorist activity-only military and state targets. Establish Red bases around the country, and begin building dual power. People’s war is the solution. If you truly want radical change, and if you really want to turn the U.S. from an overwhelming agent of bad in the world into an agent of good, you will need to turn upheaval-with sufficient development-into a civil war.
When this war starts, we’ll need to apply the guerrilla tactics that can make us win. These are the tactics that focus around attrition, the action of gradually weakening the forces of the enemy. Attacking military and state targets, as Hakim said, is how we can accomplish this. If we sustain these attacks, the forces of the U.S. will over time be forced to retreat.
And despite what the “a rebellion can never defeat the U.S. military” perception seems to imply about how such a conflict would play out, the U.S. won’t initially use its heaviest military tools for attacking the rebels. The U.S. will start to cripple itself if it begins bombing cities and infrastructure, and the more military resources it has to sacrifice at home, the less ability it will have to project power abroad. This certainly won’t be good for them in a future scenario where the current resource, climatic, economic, and social crises have all been massively exacerbated, and where U.S. imperial decline will have gone on for much longer than it has so far. Our enemies may have the might of empire on their side, but we’ll have the advantage of fighting against a power structure that’s destabilizing itself amid the collapse of global capitalism.
The foundations of capitalism are falling out. Through guerrilla warfare, we can tear the whole structure down. What this will require from you is the psychological commitment needed to carry forth this operation.
The guerrilla warrior has to endure great bodily sacrifices. In addition to the risks of being killed or injured in battle, the life of a guerrilla can consist of severe hunger, thirst, lack of domestic sanitation, demands for great physical exertion, and the other costs of hiding and traveling outdoors. The accounts of the great guerrilla Che Guevara make these costs apparent. But when you realize the value of revolutionary sacrifice, these things will no longer deter you. The alternative to joining the struggle is to remain complacent, to keep standing by while the U.S. empire collapses into fascism and while your material conditions keep deteriorating. Without making the necessary sacrifices, we won’t be able to defeat the ruling class.
Capitalism and U.S. imperialism may be collapsing, but revolution won’t come of its own accord. It won’t happen after a grand foreign invasion, or after thousands of armed fascists suddenly have a change of heart. It will happen after we realize that the U.S. military is not invincible, and that we have the capacity to win the class war ourselves.
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