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Jun 10, 22

Internal Sabotage: What the January 6th Committee Gets Wrong

A critical antifascist analysis of the unfolding January 6th Committee hearings and the neoliberal State’s response to the attempted coup.

by Sam Fisher

The January 6th attack is often dismissed as not a coup d’état because the military was not used to seize the Capitol building, but according to the world’s infamous textbook on coup d’états, Coup D’état: A Practical Handbook, the type of internal security sabotage which occurred on January 6th is the standard practice of every coup d’état.

In Coup D’état, defense intellectual Edward Luttwak explains that the main goal for coup operatives is to prevent defending forces from effectively defending.  The method for accomplishing this is to “identify the key individuals within those units of the armed forces that are capable of intervening, for or against us, during the coup,” and “to prevent their possible intervention against us for the limited span of the coup.” [i]  A number of events on January 6th matched this type of internal sabotage by security forces.

Defending forces were prevented from deploying by unusual restrictions.  On January 5th, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy placed restrictions on the deployment of the DC National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force,[ii] requiring the personal authorization of Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.  This occurred the day before January 6th.

Deployment of the National Guard was prevented by direct orders.  During a 2:22pm conference call, officers on the ground requested National Guard support, and their request was denied by Pentagon officials.  Army Staff Secretary Walter Piatt told the call participants “we don’t like the optics” of deploying the National Guard and he opposed their use, and General Charles Flynn supported his argument. This occurred at 2:26pm, after rioters had already breached the building.  According to Quick Response Force Commander Walker’s testimony, everyone on the conference call was shocked by the two officials obstructing deployment.[iii]

Deployment was also prevented by uncommunicative commanders.  During most of the afternoon, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy could not be reached,[iv] despite being part of the chain of command necessary to deploy the Quick Reaction Force.  Similarly, Defense Secretary Miller at first claimed to have approved an operational plan for National Guard deployment at 3pm, but later admitted during a hearing that he did not really approve such a plan until 4:32pm.[v]  According to Christopher Miller’s own written testimony, he was aware of the riot by 1:34pm, three hours earlier.[vi]

Moreover, there were inexplicable intelligence failures.  In late 2020, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security produced a threat assessment discussing electoral instability between the election and inauguration, November 2020 to January 2021.  However, the report did not mention January 6th, despite the rally being publicly organized over Twitter, and standard procedure including the creation of a threat assessment by these agencies for all major capitol protests.[vii]  The Civil Disturbance Unit Operational Plan used by Capitol Police focused entirely on countering a leftist counter-protest threat which never emerged, focusing on using police to clear a lane for Trump supporters to march on the Capitol building.  This same operational plan claimed there were no plans by Trump supporters to disrupt the proceedings despite the fact that such plans had been reported.[viii]

Equipment usage was sabotaged.  Only two days before January 6th, Defense Secretary Christopher Miller implemented a measure restricting the DC National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force from putting on their riot gear without his individual permission. [ix]  In a Capitol Police internal report, Inspector Michael Bolton found that leadership ordered the non-usage of various nonlethal riot control weapons.[x]  The internal report was never released, so who in the leadership did this remains unknown.  The same report revealed that the riot gear was also inaccessible, stored on a locked bus to which no one could find the key, placed too far away from the Capitol building to be useful. [xi]

While coup d’états rely heavily on internal sabotage, they also use some kind of force to take over.  Often these are military forces, whereas on January 6th it was Trump’s supporters instead.  However, the breaching operation on January 6th still relied on small active teams of well-organized units provided by reactionary groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.  It’s notable that the Proud Boys formed “Quick Reaction Forces” around the Capitol area, constructing the same type of mobilized tactical units as the official National Guard Quick Reaction Force which Trump officials sabotaged from within.  It was later revealed that the FBI had been working with four members of the Proud Boys, using them to inform on Antifa, but should have used these relationships to predict and successfully prevent January 6th.[xii]

These revelations make the “three way fight” antifascist concept more necessary than ever.  The anti-fascist movement has partially transitioned from street fights to research and exposure.  This makes sense, as the enemy has evolved from small bands of hardcore reactionaries to an entire mainstream party, with sabotage operators who may be lurking across the ranks of government and law enforcement.  Fascism may be in retreat at one level, but at another it has successfully ascended from subcultural marginalization to mainstream success, placing us in more of a Weimar scenario than we’ve ever been in.  The two Army generals who delayed deployment on the 2:22pm conference call, Charles Flynn and Walter Piatt, retain high command and could participate in future coup attempts.  In an effort to “return to normal” and re-cement social peace, the liberal State seems unwilling to dislodge and punish those that would over throw it.

However, the real lesson is that while everything from street fights and voting may have slowed fascism down, neither street fights nor voting have ended the threat.  The liberals of the January 6th Committee are unaware of the internal sabotage issue, or at least missing the point of its central importance to the incident, and thus we cannot count on the liberal state to defend us from fascism fully or consistently, if partially.  Rather than viewing the overthrow of capitalism as a distant luxury, we must treat it as a short-term, near-future survival necessity, against the existential threats of literal fascism, accelerating impoverishment, and climate collapse, and militarization of policing, prisons, and borders.  We must rapidly accelerate the revolutionary process against capitalism by creatively and relentlessly researching and implementing strategies and tactics, whether protest tactics, revolutionary strategies, or both.

The most important thing an anti-fascist could do at this time is simply spread awareness of the internal sabotage on January 6th, and educate people about its significance, as proving that Trump attempted a coup and is therefore an obvious fascist who must be prevented from running again.  More than any other piece of evidence, internal sabotage proves January 6th was a coup d’état.  This matters because coups are typically used by hard authoritarians, and while it’s easy for the energy against fascism to dissipate and be dismissed as partisan exaggeration, internal sabotage on January 6th proves that there is zero exaggeration, and that Trump is a fascist whose remaining influence must be eradicated.

How much of a threat or priority is this?  Moderation of intensity would probably be best – Trump may return, but also may not, and we also have other problems.  The most effective antifascism will be to focus on overthrowing capitalism, but maintaining an antifascist movement in parallel with anticapitalist efforts, with at least a moderate level of attention, seems necessary.  We must utilize everything from cultural and physical counter-pressure to legal disqualification from office, but mostly we must raise widespread awareness everywhere about the Capitol security internal sabotage.


[i] Luttwak, Edward N. (2016, pp. 66, 75).  Coup d’état: a practical handbook (Revised ed.).  Harvard University Press.

[ii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/dc-guard-capitol-riots-william-walker-pentagon/2021/01/26/98879f44-5f69-11eb-ac8f-4ae05557196e_story.html

[iii] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/12/06/jan-6-generals-lied-ex-dc-guard-official-523777

[iv] https://www.politico.com/minutes/congress/02-4-2022/national-guard-questions/

[v] https://abcnews.go.com/politics/house-oversight-committee-chair-testify-government-unprepared-capitol/story?id=77639074

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] https://wamu.org/story/21/01/15/what-we-know-so-far-a-timeline-of-security-at-the-capitol-on-january-6/

[viii] https://truthout.org/articles/capitol-police-wrongly-worried-about-leftist-counterprotesters-on-january-6/

[ix] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/dc-guard-capitol-riots-william-walker-pentagon/2021/01/26/98879f44-5f69-11eb-ac8f-4ae05557196e_story.html

[x] https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-04-14/missteps-left-capitol-police-unprepared-trump-riot

[xi] https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-most-damning-parts-of-the-senate-report-into-jan-6-capitol-riot

[xii] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-before-jan-6-fbi-collected-information-least-4-proud-boys-2021-04-26/

photo: Geoff Livingston(CC BY-ND 2.0)

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