On Biden’s ‘Countering Domestic Terrorism’ Study

By the Editorial Board

Joe Biden’s National Security Council released the “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism” on June 15, which is the US imperialist State’s updated strategy to address what it determines to be violent domestic extremism. The study denounces acts of reactionary violence against Black people, other oppressed groups, and progressive movements in an attempt to present the imperialist State as the noble protector of the people. However, this posturing is simply a means of covering for the State’s increased repression of their enemies, especially revolutionary and progressive movements—eroding its own liberal ideal of ‘freedom’ by further concentrating power in the executive branch, attacking the people’s rights, and expanding the existing surveillance of the American people.

The study comes in the wake of the expiration of the Patriot Act last December, the sweeping legislation signed into law by George W. Bush in 2001 that greatly expanded surveillance powers, stripped away legal standards, and increased law enforcement resources following the 9/11 attacks. Among other provisions, the act allowed for warrantless surveillance of civilians and deeper information-sharing among law enforcement agencies—it was extended multiple times, including in 2010 by Barack Obama. The Patriot Act’s expiration is a chance for the State to rebrand its surveillance initiatives, as the legislation faced widespread criticism as an attack on the people’s rights. It also faced criticism from the liberal wing of the ruling class, which seeks to pose its own surveillance initiatives as legitimate in comparison to those of the conservative wing.

The new counterterrorism study justifies the expansion of the State’s repressive bodies by listing past right-wing crimes against the people. Biden’s administration cites the massacre of 23 mainly Latino people in the border city of El Paso, the murder of Black churchgoers in Charleston, and the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh as examples of the domestic terrorism he intends to protect the people from. Throughout the document, other points, such as the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and the existence of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, are used to stir fear and justify the State’s plans to consolidate its surveillance powers and repression of the people. It does not matter that the study primarily uses examples of right-wing violence to make its case—the State also has the left in its sights and the study does not hide this fact.

This move to strengthen law enforcement and surveillance is no surprise coming from the ultrareactionary Biden, who built his campaign for the presidency on promising law and order. While Biden claims to defend the people from civilian right-wing threats, progressive and revolutionary movements must prepare themselves, as they will inevitably be targeted by the State’s repressive efforts regardless of which faction of the ruling class is in power. This preparation must include a greater degree of organization and discipline, especially when it comes to security, both on the ground and in electronic communication. It is by no means an excuse to shy away from combative action, but rather a call to take up the struggle more fiercely, more seriously, and create the organizational infrastructure which can shield revolutionaries and progressive movements from the State’s repression as much as possible.

Reactionization Is the State’s Response to Imperialism in Crisis

Biden’s new study fits within the trend of the State’s further reactionization in our current era. Reactionization is the process by which the ruling class attempts to shore up their position in response to the imperialist economic system experiencing deeper and more frequent periods of crisis. The people will inevitably respond to these crises, which thrust them into deeper poverty and ruin, with demands for a new path out of this cyclical misery. Consequently, each crisis is a time when revolutionaries must teach that the current system offers them no way out, and thus this new path must be socialist revolution. Capitalist ruling-class governments can only answer this demand for a new path with their impulse for self-preservation, whether by attempting to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the people to legitimize their outdated system with reforms and electoralism, or by lashing out at the people’s movements that refuse to surrender and be co-opted.

A key aspect of this reactionization is the concentration of power in the executive branch of the government. Biden’s domestic terrorism plan calls for greater information-sharing, surveillance capabilities, and prosecutorial powers for the agencies his administration oversees. The US president appoints the heads of the CIA, the State Department, the Justice Department (which includes the FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies tasked with law enforcement and domestic intelligence-gathering. According to the study, the budgets for these groups already include increased funding to “ensure that they have the analysts, investigators, and prosecutors they need to thwart domestic terrorism and do justice when the law has been broken.”

This concentration of power in the executive branch means a further erosion of democratic rights, as concentration allows the State to act with greater impunity and with greater unity and force. This paves the way for more efficient repression—soft or hard—of the people’s movements, and more economic gains and rights being stripped from the workers at the behest of the monopoly capitalists close to the executive. This is what their justice boils down to.

The Biden administration’s document states: “It is critical that we condemn and confront domestic terrorism regardless of the particular ideology that motivates individuals to violence. The definition of ‘domestic terrorism’ in our law makes no distinction based on political views—left, right, or center—and neither should we.” Elsewhere, it states: “Today’s domestic terrorists espouse a range of violent ideological motivations, including racial or ethnic bigotry and hatred as well as anti–government or anti–authority sentiment.”

The US government lumps revolutionary and progressive movements in with the darkest elements of reaction in order to paint them with the same brush of “domestic extremism.” The people should not trust the imperialist State to protect them from reactionaries, especially when these new repressive tools are being used against the people’s own struggles for political power and in defense of their own rights. The imperialist State itself is the biggest, most organized, and most brutal reactionary organization. It attacks and represses the people of the US—whether in the form of its police forces, its prison system, or its other armed bodies like the military. Fundamentally, US imperialism, like all imperialism is “a striving towards violence and reaction” and “reaction all along the line,” in the words of Vladimir Lenin. Imperialism is the source of civilian reactionaries themselves (Proud Boys, Three Percenters, neo-Nazis, etc.), who arise to defend a decaying, rotting system under the guise of ‘defending the Constitution.’ The make-up of these groups as largely ex-military and ex-police hints at the link between the civilian forces of reaction and the State.

Progressives and Revolutionaries Are the State’s Targets

The study’s emphasis on supposedly combating right-wing violence and racism can be seen as response to the May Uprisings sparked by George Floyd’s murder as well as the broad struggle against racism that accompanied it. It is an attempt to assure the people that the US State will handle the civilian racists and that the people can rest easy by relying on the imperialist State. Of course, the study says nothing negative or critical about the racist police forces, which the Biden administration will rely on as information-gatherers and enforcers of repression at the local level. The State intentionally fails to acknowledge the reactionary violence that the police carry out as the key reason the people rebelled to begin with.

The study leaves few doubts about how it views certain left-wing movements when it says that a key domestic terrorist threat stems from “anarchist violent extremists, who violently oppose all forms of capitalism, corporate globalization, and governing institutions, which they perceive as harmful to society.” The State regularly and mistakenly uses the term ‘anarchism’ to label any radical or bold action. The primary issue is understanding that what the State is intent on repressing is the opposition to capitalism, imperialist corporations, governing institutions, etc. Whether the State specifies that a movement, organization, or action is violent or non-violent is meaningless from this perspective—as Tribune has argued in the past, these terms are smoke-screens to cover the State’s repression of the oppositional movements of the people.

Biden and apologists for the ruling class emphasize that they only seek to target those who carry out political violence—which is ‘terrorism’ in their view. So, where does this put those protesters who violently rose up against “government institutions” during the May Uprising sparked by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police? By the State’s own definitions, the burning down of buildings as well as the people throwing projectiles and fireworks at lines of police and battling officers fit the category of “domestic terrorism.” They were violent acts intended “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,” in this case to demand the police forces of the US State, which Biden now heads, to stop their racist killings of Black people. The study emphasizes: “we disrupt and deter those who launch violent attacks in a misguided effort to force change in government policies that they view as unjust.”

Were these protests ‘misguided?’ Of course not. The police violence the people protested was entirely unjust, and through these protests, the people influenced and scared the State —this is what the ruling class wishes to deter. The people should be defended for their acts of revolutionary violence and protest in its many forms, but it is Biden and the US State who are making it clear that all protest that they cannot control, whether violent or non-violent, anti-racist or opposing “all forms of capitalism,” will fall into their broad definition of “domestic terrorism.”

Progressive and revolutionary forces should stand together in the face of all of the State’s repression, which means denouncing any attempts to split the ‘peaceful’ from the ‘violent’ opposition as a rendition of the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. The ruling class shows time and again it will not just target those whom it characterizes as ‘violent’ but will use its powers to target protest and speech it deems ‘out of bounds’ and paint this as ‘extremism.’

Biden’s Tech Ties

The study reveals that it sees the digital realm as a primary arena to monitor and control, again mainly under the pretext of preventing right-wing radicalization. The document says: “Continuing to enhance the domestic terrorism–related information offered to the private sector, especially the technology sector, will facilitate more robust efforts outside the government to counter terrorists’ abuse of Internet–based communications platforms to recruit others to engage in violence.” Under imperialism, the digital realm is enemy territory, and the people must establish organization outside of it—organization that is not readily accessible to the simple click of a tech monopoly acting on behalf of the US government.

As Tribune has reported previously, the members of Biden’s transition team who built his cabinet included numerous intelligence officials and tech industry representatives. The wing of the ruling class represented by Democrats has especially made the tech industry welcome when they hold the presidency, with Obama strengthening the ties between the executive branch and the major tech monopolies. Biden continues this, proposing former government official Matt Nelson, currently the chief security officer for the rideshare app Uber, to head the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Nelson has stated before that there is no reason for the government to require permission from a judge “to look at information it has already obtained.” It is no wonder that Biden proposes that the new era of state surveillance will rely on the State’s collaboration with private capital, and will appoint his lackeys to carry this out.

The ruling class does not reset the powers it gives itself after each presidential administration. Every successive administration is more reactionary than the last. Obama did not toss aside the Patriot Act or shut down the Department of Homeland Security—rather, he greatly expanded it. Biden has already shown he will use policies developed by Trump for his own purposes, such as for controlling immigration.

Following the ultrareactionary Biden, when another representative of the bourgeoisie takes power, whether it is Trump or another figurehead—whether they are a so-called ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’—they will gladly utilize the increased powers that Biden amassed to continue the State’s aims to repress revolution. This trajectory will not change under this system. The only way to end deepening reaction is through socialist revolution, establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat which can defend the people and excavate the soil of reaction: the rotting imperialist system.

There needs to be a new way, a new system, and that requires revolution, which is always the violent overthrow of one class by another, as no ruling class gives up power willingly. It must be understood that the reactionary State will always deem revolutionary violence and mass protest against the existing order as unacceptable and the class in power will call this terrorism. This is not a reason to stop organizing or preparing for revolution, but a reason to be more disciplined and more organized, to preserve the forces of the people, fighting for a new society ever more fiercely and steadfastly.


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