On “The Big Takeover” by Jarrod Shanahan

Three Way Fight


For an excellent analysis of Wednesday’s Trumpist insurrection/putsch/attempted coup and what it signifies for the U.S. far right, check out Jarrod Shanahan’s “The Big Takeover.” This is just the latest of many insightful offerings from our comrades over at Hard Crackers.

Shanahan challenges the tendency by many critics to dismiss the Capitol invaders through ridicule. “For every absurd or risible image we can cite to write off the insurgents, there is another that demonstrates tactical militancy and seriousness of purpose.” We especially appreciate these passages in Shanahan’s article:

While Biden’s victory was ultimately certified amid a barrage of maudlin platitudes, the siege of the US Capitol was nonetheless a massive victory for the insurgent far-right in the US, akin to the siege of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis that helped catalyze and set the militant anti-cop tone of the George Floyd Rebellion last summer. The militancy of the siege is a bellwether of the changes that the US far-right has undergone in the five years since the Trump movement gave it renewed life. The siege also provides the movement a much needed opportunity for self-clarification, which will unfold in the coming weeks and months among the ragtag movement of US rightists who have hitched their wagon to Trump’s falling star. Above all, at the risk of engaging in the “crystal ball” thinking [Mike] Davis rightly warns us against, when the history of this period is written, the siege of the Capitol is likely to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the US far-right.

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[T]he mayhem in D.C. demonstrates that a considerable segment of US rightists are beginning to unambiguously embrace a system-oppositional framework. In doing so they are aided in no small part by Trump himself, who has spent the better part of the last two months crowing that the government is not legitimate and its laws are therefore not to be respected. But this is also due to the working out of contradictions in their own theory and practice through struggle, toward an extra-parliamentary fascism, the same way moving beyond reformism is an essential for a leftists’ coming to political maturity, and is often achieved only through concrete engagement.

Shanahan also emphasizes that these events mark a radical shift in many right-wingers’ relationship with the police. Many people have emphasized the glaring disparity between how cops treated Trumpists breaking into the U.S. Capitol and the brutality they’ve repeatedly brought to bear against Black Lives Matter protesters, but that’s only part of the story. What’s new here is that Trumpists are no longer acting as pro-cop vigilantes—they are now on opposite sides of the barricades, and the two sides are literally killing each other.  As Shanahan writes,

a movement that had built itself in large part as supporters of US police against BLM and antifa began planning for armed encounters with not antifa or the Democrats, but the cops themselves. This profound ambiguity is best captured by the storming of a police line in D.C. by an insurgent waving a Thin Blue Line flag.

Shanahan is rightly critical of the unsupported conspiracy theory that the Capitol police deliberately allowed the building invasion to happen. The new reality—that a major section of the U.S. right has positioned itself in opposition to the forces of law and order, and some of them are willing to die for it—is one that clashes with standard leftist assumptions, but it is not an aberration, and it is not going away.

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