Playing Fast and Loose With the Rule of Law

Playing Fast and Loose With the Rule of Law
A protester burns an American flag in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 26, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Brian Giesbrecht

The scenes of lawlessness we see in cities such as Portland, Oregon, that have been playing out on our screens since the death of George Floyd appear to show creeping anarchy as we approach the November election. It appears that the rule of law has broken down.

We don’t know if this lawlessness will come to an end after the election, or if this is only a preview of what’s to come. The Democrats hint that if they’re elected they'll make the violent unrest stop—somewhat like the gangster, who threatens, “Nice country ... sure be a shame if anything happens to it.” However, it’s beginning to look as if the dark forces they’ve helped to unleash aren’t much concerned with which political party is or isn’t elected.

A hundred years ago, similar forces of anarchy were growing halfway across the world.

Russian Parallels

In Russia, a series of strong Romanov Tsars, who had ruled Russia with an iron fist for 300 years, were followed by a weakling. By 1917, the hapless Nicholas II was steadily losing control. Many unprincipled opportunists were lining up to finish him off and grab power. It was in the interests of those anarchists to watch law and order disintegrate. And they were only too eager to help that process along.

It was one of those opportunists, Vladimir Lenin, who was the first to jump into the power void. After doing so, his Bolsheviks summarily disposed of the hapless Tsar and his family. The rule of the Romanovs was over, and five years of bloody anarchy followed.

Until the moment that Lenin declared himself ruler, no one had much respect for the ragtag pseudo-army that were known as the Bolsheviks. They were a despised minor revolutionary gang—much like the Antifa domestic terrorist organization today. And like Antifa, or Black Lives Matter (BLM) radicals, the Bolsheviks were basically a rather motley assortment of intellectuals, thugs, and blind followers.

But Lenin and his trusted organizers were taken too lightly. No one should underestimate ruthless people on a quest to achieve power by any means. Just like the leaders of BLM and Antifa of today, they were trained Marxists. Their goal was to destabilize, intimidate, and sow fear in order to grab power. The nuclear family, the church, and capitalism were their enemies—the same enemies BLM and Antifa have targeted.

The central thing all members agreed upon was that they wanted power—and they were prepared to use any means at their disposal to get it. They encouraged violence and unrest whenever an opportunity presented itself. They temporarily allied themselves with any group—no matter how ideologically different—that could help them in their quest for power. The weakness of the Tsar suited them fine.
And as the Bolsheviks gained success in their grab for power, ordinary Russians stood aside, or tried to appease them. Citizens wore bits of colored cloth on their sleeves to signal to the Bolsheviks that they would stay out of their way—just as ordinary Americans today try to appease the radicals by raising their fists when the demand is made, or sending money to BLM.

Seizing an Opportunity

Anarchy often starts with unrest on the street over some real or imagined slight to some aggrieved group. If street protests are not controlled, they rather quickly devolve into mayhem. This was seen in Russia a hundred years ago, and it was seen in Minneapolis immediately following George Floyd’s death.

In the Russia of 1917 the Czar was simply too weak to contain the anarchy. In the Minneapolis equivalent it was a weak mayor and governor who feared offending some of the groups involved in the street violence they clearly saw playing out in front of them. So they tried to appease them by failing to denounce their violence. The additional factor was that somewhere along the line the Democrats came to the fateful conclusion that the violence playing out on the street was in their electoral advantage.

There was obviously some level of organization to the street unrest that followed Floyd’s death. How else to explain the fact that the Minneapolis mayhem was followed almost immediately by thousands of BLM protesters in London, England, trying to topple a statue of Winston Churchill. What Churchill had to do with Minneapolis or George Floyd is unclear. What London had to do with the American history of slavery and racism is even less clear. What’s clear is that opportunists with an agenda were waiting for the right chance to make their move. Some level of organization within groups was necessary to do this, as was some level of cooperation between groups. Like their Russian counterparts 100 years ago, Antifa and BLM saw an opportunity, and they seized it.

The opportunity that presented itself in Minneapolis was also quickly duplicated in similar Democrat-run cities across the nation. The political leaders in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and other cities allowed the street violence free rein. Seattle even welcomed a lawless zone known as CHAZ (later as CHOP) to be taken over by anarchists. The mayor insisted that this zone would be like Woodstock, the “summer of love.” It was only forcibly disbanded weeks later after murders and much property destruction had taken place.

Portland is still virtually under siege by anarchists. The outrageous mayor there refuses to allow federal forces in to clean up the mess. Instead, he chooses to move out of the burning city and let the mob have its way. So Portland—like Moscow a hundred years ago—is allowed to become a place “where ignorant armies clash by night.”

This happens because uncontained protests are a perfect environment for anarchists and other opportunists. They can hide among the legitimate protesters. Peaceful, well-intentioned protesters become useful idiots for the ruthless opportunists. Unless political leaders step in to denounce and end looting, burning, and similar lawlessness, the troublemakers will continue to make trouble happen.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani dealt with similar lawlessness during his time as mayor of New York City—then a crumbling city with soaring crime rates. Giuliani said that the answer to lawlessness is clear—the leader must announce that the first person to throw a brick will be arrested and jailed. And the leader must put his words into action. In short, he stood up for law and order. That was not the case in Minneapolis. There, craven leaders didn’t stand up for law and order. As a result—just like 1917 Russia—the mayhem quickly escalated, and anarchy prevailed.

And in other blue states, mayors and governors failed to do their jobs and insist on peaceful assembly. Hidden within crowds of well-meaning protesters the anarchists therefore had a field day. The leaders let them get away with it. And anyone arrested was quickly released.

The same thing that happened in Russia a hundred years ago happened in cities such as Portland today. Simply put, the leaders failed to uphold the rule of law. Law and order quickly broke down.

Inviting Trouble

And Democrat politicians have recently upped the ante with their threats over what will happen if President Donald Trump proceeds with his announced plans to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg judicial vacancy.

For example, at a time when tensions and street violence are running high, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that if Trump proceeds with his plan, “nothing is off the table.” This is a message that can easily be interpreted (and will be) by radicals as an invitation to burn and destroy. Schumer and his colleagues—some of whom have made similar thinly veiled threats—know this full well.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), known as AOC, takes this even further. She tells her supporters to “let this moment radicalize you.” Ocasio-Cortez is the unofficial leader of the street radicals. Her words will be taken as permission to escalate the violent action that she and her colleagues are attempting to ride into power. Vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris dutifully parrots AOC’s words.

Democrat-friendly media is even more explicit. Former CNN host Reza Aslan bluntly tweets, “If they even try to replace RBG we burn the [expletive] thing down.” CNN host Don Lemon says, “We’re going to have to blow up the entire system.” Aslan and Lemon will argue that they’re not advocating violence, but the low-information activists on the street won’t understand the nuance. To them, the words “burn” and “blow up” mean exactly what they sound like.

And attempts by Democrats to cancel left-wing extremism and violence off against right-wing extremism rings hollow. The fact is that extreme right-wing white supremacist-type groups have no support whatsoever from conservatives. However, radical groups, like BLM, are not only not denounced but also financially supported by Democrats and Democratic Party supporters.

President Trump, for example, has repeatedly denounced groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, whereas Joe Biden refuses to denounce Antifa or BLM violence. Harris openly praises BLM, in spite of its many violent and anarchical goals and activities. As a result, the radical BLM remains an organization of great strength and political influence, while right-wing extremist groups remain politically irrelevant.


We can imagine that similar incendiary threats, like those made by Aslan, Lemon, and Harris, were exchanged in Russia in 1917. At that time Lenin made brilliant use of the anarchy in the streets to seize power. A few weeks after Lenin made his move, he made peace with Germany.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918. This was preordained. The fact that Germany had financed Lenin and his return to Russia made this inevitable. (Had Germany realized that their adventurism would ultimately result in a Soviet Union that would burn them to the ground in 1945, they might have been a little more restrained in their enthusiasm for the said Mr. Lenin.)

The allies were understandably thrown into alarm. Would this peace allow Germany to reposition 2 million troops from the Russian front? (Yes.) Would this result in Russia sending vast quantities of war materiel to Germany? (Yes.) Would this result in Russian grain and other foodstuffs being gobbled up by Germany? (Yes.)

The British were gung ho to jump in to prevent Germany from gaining advantage. Here’s a young Winston Churchill—long before he became the model for a statue worth toppling—telling us what he thought of the Bolsheviks, and enthusiastically committing his war-weary nation to a few more years of pointless fighting in the frozen Russian north:

“Civilization is being completely extinguished over gigantic areas, while Bolsheviks hop and caper like troops of ferocious baboons amid the ruins of cities and the corpses of their victims.”

And much of the rest of the world also came madly dashing in from all directions (apologies to Leacock) to Russia. American, French, Canadian, and many other nations’ troops were dispatched to do battle with the ragtag Bolsheviks. Japan sent in 70,000 troops for the singular purpose of grabbing a huge chunk of territory. (It worked.) When the Great War came to a rather anticlimactic end, the fight with the Bolshies did not.
And everyone else with a grudge or a cause joined in, too. Latvian independence, Polish grievances, Bulgarian nationalism, Menshevik principles—suddenly the dog’s breakfast that was called the “White Russians” were fighting everywhere—often with themselves. Here’s one British officer’s description of that disreputable army:

“The filthiest and most unkempt mass of humanity I have ever seen in my life ... the dregs from all the call-up depots in Siberia.”

After a few years of anarchy, the largely pointless battles gradually petered out. Enthusiasm waned. The fighting finally sputtered to an inconclusive stop in 1922, when war weariness and other reasons cooled the ardour for doing battle in a vast frozen land where no one knew exactly who their enemies were, and what they were even doing there. During that period of madness as many as 12 million people died.

That period of bloody anarchy was followed by years of grim famine and repression, and ultimately the horrors of World War II.

The fact is that once the forces of anarchy were released, events took on a life of their own. There was simply no army big enough to stop them. Russia was savaged. Two generations of Russians paid the price.

Abandoning Rule of Law

Events in Russia a hundred years ago differ markedly from today, but the unleashing of anarchical forces by people with agendas is similar. Once those forces are unleashed, they can’t be stopped. Once leaders let the rule of law slip, all bets are off. Anything can happen. And it will.

A hundred years ago it was the weakness of the Tsar that allowed the rule of law to slip out of his grasp. But today in America, the abandonment of the rule of law appears to be a deliberate tactic by opportunistic Democrat mayors, governors, and leaders. So strong was their desire to get rid of President Trump and achieve power that they made some kind of insane decision after the death of George Floyd that they would ride the wave of rioting, looting, and burning that erupted after his death right on to Election Day.

So, in a decision that couldn’t have been bested by the Bolsheviks for pure cynicism, Democrat strategists appeared to decide to let radicals who hated their country do the politicians’ dirty work for them.

The mainstream media played along with this plan. No matter how violent the “protests” became, and no matter how much property destruction or even deadly violence, the Democrats and their media allies insisted that what was happening were “mainly peaceful protests.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—asked to denounce Antifa and BLM violence—simply said that “people will do what people do.” For his part, the hapless Joe Biden—asked to denounce Antifa and BLM violence—finally admitted, after months of fires, street violence, and utter mayhem, that violence was wrong after all—but it was “white supremacists” and Trump that were at fault!

But Biden doubled down on his refusal to denounce Antifa—an entity that has been officially designated as a domestic terrorist organization—during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29. Biden not only refused to denounce Antifa for its violence, but he also insisted that Antifa was not an organization at all. To Biden, Antifa is an “idea.” The radicals must take heart to continue their carnage when they hear a man who is running to become president give them a free pass to do whatever they please. What “idea” has ever before in human history burned down entire city blocks?

It is, therefore, no wonder that the violence continues unabated. Who exactly is involved and who is financing the insurrection is not well known. Lenin, in the Russia of 1917, could only have wished for enablers as pliable as the Biden team.

The Result?

We have no idea how this will turn out. Will the November election put an end to this madness? Or will it get worse? The fact is that once the anarchy genie is out of the bottle, it’s almost impossible to put him back in. The Democrats, their governors, and mayors, took a gamble on letting some really bad people have their way in cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and Kenosha, to name just a few. The belief was that this would hurt Trump, and once he was defeated they could rein in these violent factions.

But can they? Is it now so late in the day that regardless of who wins the election, entire American cities will become uninhabitable? Is rolling anarchy the destiny of America from now on? Will certain areas of progressive-run cities become permanent “no-go” areas for law-abiding citizens?

And is it even conceivable that the less “woke” parts of America will allow this to happen to their cities? There are more guns of every type and description, and of every level of lethality, in the red states of America than in most of the rest of the world. “Preppers”—people who have been preparing for exactly this kind of apocalypse—have every kind of deadly weapon hidden and ready to go. There might even be “dirty” bombs—i.e., nuclear weapons—hidden somewhere in rural America.

Regardless of whether Biden or Trump wins, is it indeed possible that parts of America after the election will resemble Russia of a century ago? And is it even conceivable that the “red states” will want to remain in such a fractious union—particularly a union radically altered by “court packing,” the end of the filibuster, the addition of new states, and the possibility that a socialistic Democratic Party will achieve permanent one-party rule over them?

The death of one man—a man with felony convictions, numerous prison stints, and a lethal dose of fentanyl in his system—was used as an excuse to cause the streets to erupt. Any similar incident will provide an excuse to do the same, so long as Democrat mayors and governors fail to immediately denounce violence—and specifically to name Antifa and BLM as the main perpetrators of that violence.

And a highly contentious election on Nov. 3—perhaps a very close one with no clear winner—could easily result in anarchy, chaos, and violence on an unprecedented scale. The truth is that anarchists were given implied permission by unscrupulous politicians to do their dirty work. It’s not clear that this dark energy can now be contained.

In 2020, we have witnessed the damage that a new virus from China can cause. Anarchy—the failure to uphold the rule of law—is much like that insidious virus. Once it’s allowed to infect, the final outcome is anyone’s guess.

This was true in Russia a hundred years ago, and it’s true in America today.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.