by Bob Avakian
EDITORS' NOTE: The series, "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era," is available online at revcom.us and in pamphlet form from RCP Publications. This article has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added.
When we talk about the dangers posed by the Christian Fascists and the configuration in ruling structures of U.S. society now, some people say, "Are you people just trying to scare people into scurrying to your banner?" Well, no. This is very real. And one of the things that was very important in the discussion that followed the talk I gave on the dictatorship of the proletariat ("Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism"), was the question about whether there's "a perfect fit" between this Christian Fascist program and the interests and needs of the ruling class, at this time at least. (This discussion was published in the RW #1261, December 12, 2004.) And I believe this was dealt with in a dialectical as well as a materialist way there, in saying "No, there's not a perfect fit, but that doesn't mean this program won't come to predominate." It was pointed out that things have a momentum and dynamic of their own; these Christian Fascist forces are being courted and even manipulated by people like Bush adviser Karl Rove and others, but that doesn't mean they don't have their own agenda, their own interests (in a manner of speaking), their own outlook, and their own objectives that they're fighting for. And the more that they've been organized, the more this takes on a certain life of its own.
As reflected in that New York Times Magazine article by Ron Suskind ("Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush"— New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004), this is being recognized even by significant sections of the ruling class and their representatives and spokespeople, and certainly we should not fail to recognize the seriousness of this — both in terms of the dangers it poses, and also in terms of the contradictions it reflects, including in particular the intensifying contradictions within the ruling class. There is a contradiction here, between "not a perfect fit" and the fact that nonetheless there are driving forces behind this Christian Fascist program, which are very powerful and very powerfully connected. That's also a very acute contradiction that's playing itself out and will continue in an even more intense way to play itself out, if not in a straight line necessarily, over a period of time—and perhaps not that long a period of time.
In a number of talks and writings (for example, in the "Right-Wing Conspiracy" piece, Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones, the "Pyramid of Power" article, and recent talks I gave on religion1)—I have been emphasizing that there is a force of Christian Fascists that is very serious about implementing this program. Some of the mass base that's being mobilized behind this may not even be fully aware of the implications of this and what it would really look like to implement this program fully, or they may not even be fully aware that some of the driving forces within this do have in mind to implement this full program. Now, one of the things I have pointed out repeatedly, including in those talks on religion (and this is also in the "Right-Wing Conspiracy" piece), is that there is an acute contradiction between an insistence upon upholding the Bible literally and absolutely — insisting that every word is the divinely inspired and delivered word of god and must be upheld as such, on the one hand — and, on the other hand, things that broadly in society today, particularly a "modern" society like the U.S., can be accepted as decent, right, and just. This is a contradiction that, by and large, most of the mass base of this Christian Fascist movement is not even aware of. We have to hammer at those contradictions, and this is all the more important because, to a significant degree, the leaders of this Christian Fascist movement do not want these people who make up their base to be aware of this at this stage (or at least not fully aware). But, in those talks on religion, I emphasized the point: If you take the word of the Bible as literal and absolute, then you must be in favor of executing homosexuals — not just condemning them as sinners but executing them. You must be in favor of executing women accused of witchcraft, you must be in favor of insisting that people can't get out of even abusive marriages, and in particular women can't. You must be in favor of insisting that children who are rebellious against their parents should be put to death. And on and on—the list of cruel outrages that the Bible upholds, and insists on, is truly long and horrendous.
Now, if you look around, you will see that —for example, in relation to the whole Matthew Shepard outrage— there were these people from Kansas (or wherever they are), these preachers and their followers, who showed up and denounced Shepard as a "fag" and said he was condemned to hell, showing absolutely no sympathy nor mercy. And if you read David Brock's book, The Republican Noise Machine, particularly Chapter 7, "Ministers of Propaganda," he quotes a lot of these people, these Christian Fascist ideologues, saying that a lot of these outrageous things that are in the Bible should be done. It is somewhat similar to what's described by Claudia Koonz in The Nazi Conscience, where she discusses how Hitler was rather cautious, rather circumspect, even after consolidating power, in terms of toning down his overtly anti-Semitic tirades for a while—while at the same time the mass base, the stormtroopers, were running wild with that stuff. And we saw where that all ended up. Perhaps in 1933 or '34 Hitler did not intend to carry out the "final solution," the mass genocide of the Jews, at least in the way and on the scale it was carried out, but that's where the logic led. It might not have led there if things had gone a different way with the war, and so on, but that's where the logic led under the circumstances that actually evolved. I pointed out, for example, in "Right-Wing Conspiracy," that there is a genocidal element in this whole Christian Fascist program—a genocidal program that would be directed toward many people in inner cities and others whom people like the prominent Christian Fascist Pat Robertson regard as putting the stain of sin onto the land. I quoted Pat Robertson on this and then drew out the logical implications of what he was saying. And I made the point in the talks on religion, and also in the talk "Elections, Democracy and Dictatorship, Resistance and Revolution,"2 about why it is that the Bible belt is also the lynching belt. I used that as a metaphor to speak to why it is that you can't uphold traditional morality in this society, with its whole history, and not uphold the most virulent and grotesque kind of white supremacy and repression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities.
Look at Pat Robertson's writings. And who is Pat Robertson? Just some lunatic? Is he a Jeremiah somewhere ranting in the wilderness? No, he's a prominent figure in the ruling structures of this society. Look at the things that are quoted from him in "Right-Wing Conspiracy." Not only his lunatic claims about his personal experience and trauma of undergoing a demonic attack one morning in a hotel near Seattle, Washington, but his statement that it may well be the case that Satan is directly in charge of major cities in the U.S.—and that things like Ouija boards and New Ageism provide openings for the devil to enter. And this is of a piece with his lunacy in general, which is not only unscientific but anti -scientific—including his attacks on the scientifically established fact of evolution. (See, for example, Robertson's book Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions .) I remember reading a book by a woman who got out of this kind of fundamentalism (I mentioned this in the conversation with Bill Martin3—the book is This Dark World, by Carolyn S. Briggs): She talks about how she used to go around and get rid of statuettes and things in her house because she was afraid that Satanic forces would enter through them and get to her children. Well, that's one thing— she was a person with barely a high school education, if that, at the time, and she was just a foot soldier for the Christian Fascists, unconscious largely in terms of the larger implications of this. But for people like Pat Robertson it's very different. Pat Robertson made this chilling statement— that when people get sick of all this decadence and the rest, we will take over.
These people are deadly serious, and there doesn't have to be a "perfect fit." If things go a certain way and there's no other force in the ruling class with both the coherence and the power to prevent it, this may become the ruling force in society. And they have every intention of becoming that. They are not going to go away. And, as has been pointed out, you can't keep making promises to these forces, as the Republican Party does—you can't keep making promises and then leave them unfulfilled, like "we're going to get rid of Roe v. Wade, we're going to outlaw abortion." There is a certain tension there that will rupture beyond those bounds at a certain point. We have seen further indications of this in things like the campaign to hound Republican Senator Arlen Specter after his comment that, basically, Bush shouldn't nominate judges who are going to abolish Roe v. Wade . We are just seeing the beginning of things like that.
And there is a genocidal element in this Christian Fascist program. You can see this if you read what Pat Robertson says and follow the logic of it—once again it's the Richard Pryor thing, "the logical conclusion of the logic." As I have pointed out, Robertson doesn't just say that the death penalty should be used for murder, for homicide, he insists it should be used for crimes that bring a stain upon the society, and which alienate it from god. Well, think about the implications of that and how far-reaching that can be, especially when this is being interpreted by theocratic rulers, people with the mindset and worldview of Robertson.
And, although I have been urgently pointing to this phenomenon for a number of years, at this point at least I am not the only one who is commenting on this in these kind of terms. For example, Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, who has written a book entitled The Bush Dyslexicon, refers to these people as "Christo-fascists." And he makes a very interesting and important observation: Don't expect to see people with swastikas goose-stepping down the street saying "Heil Hitler"—that is not how this is going to come to America, it's going to come in this theocratic religious form; it's already here and it's already powerful. So, I am not the only one recognizing this—and Crispin Miller is a Jeffersonian Democrat (probably a "Big D" but certainly a "small d" democrat), expressly so. He talks about how these "Christo-fascists," as he calls them, want to go back not just before the civil rights movement, not just before the civil war and the abolition of slavery, but back before the Enlightenment.
And the fact is that, as I have pointed out, the more you dig into this, the more you'll see that the Enlightenment is a watershed event in history for these fundamentalist fanatics. To them this is a time when society turned away from God—even before the Supreme Court decision, in the early 1960s, eliminating prayer in public schools in the U.S.— going back several centuries, the time of the Enlightenment is when society began to go away from God and towards hell, in these people's view. So, this is a very serious thing, with very serious implications, including this potentially genocidal element to it. And there doesn't have to be a "perfect fit" for this to become the ruling and dominating and operative force and form of bourgeois dictatorship in this country—in this period.
The fact is that the Christian Fascists are not an ephemeral phenomenon—they are not something that is just going to be around for a little while—a flash in the pan that is going to go away. Nor is this something that's turned off and on like a spigot by people like Karl Rove and other political operatives in the ruling class. This is a force which has been developed, and cohered, and led, and ideologically indoctrinated and trained, and honed over decades; yes, by political and ideological operatives, but some of whom actually themselves believe in this whole vision and these objectives. Had that not happened, a lot of these forces would have been more dispersed, they wouldn't have lived as much in a self-contained world, and they wouldn't have had the same impact they have had and are having— being politically organized and ideologically conditioned, and oriented, and primed in a certain way. But that is what has happened, and that does take on a life and a momentum of its own. It's not something anybody can just turn off at this point. In Germany, after he consolidated power, Hitler slaughtered the SA stormtroopers at a certain point, because they were getting in his way. That's what the Nazi leadership had to do, to get rid of that particular force at that time, after Hitler had consolidated power; but it would be a whole other matter to do something like that to these Christian Fascist forces. Plus, I don't know who would have the interests to do that, and the inclinations to do that, within the U.S. ruling class.
So, again, it is very important to understand that these Christian Fascists cannot and will not let up. They will not go away, they will not recede into the background, they will not leave science alone, they will not leave the arts alone, they will not leave education alone, they will not leave social relations alone, they will not leave the culture, broadly speaking, alone. They will not leave daily life and work alone. There was another article recently in the New York Times Magazine about these "faith based work places."4 These reactionary Christian fundamentalists are creating, on the one hand, their own infrastructure and self-contained universe where you watch Fox News, and religious channels, and you get "the word," about the world as well as about religion, from the Pat Robertson 700 Club or whatever, and you listen to evangelists on the radio and watch them on the TV—and this fundamentalist shit is on 24 hours a day, all day every day, with massive productive forces and sophisticated technology devoted to it. And, frighteningly, but it's the reality we face, there are massive turnouts of people at these fundamentalist church services, even sometimes multi-national crowds. They cannot and they will not let up. Mark Crispin Miller made this comment, that if you watch only Fox News and live in this whole world I've been describing, you have about as much sense of reality as people living in the ninth century. Now, again that's exaggeration, it's hyperbole (and he would likely acknowledge that), but there's some reality to that. There have been surveys and studies that show that these people—not just confined to the Christian Fascists, but more broadly people who regularly watch Fox News—are qualitatively more misinformed about basic issues than other people in U.S. society, even more misinformed than those who watch CNN, for example. I think a majority (or near majority) of those who regularly watch things like Fox News still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that there was a tie between Iraq and al-Qaida—an operative ongoing link and functioning relationship—and a large number of these people believe that Iraq had something to do with September 11th.
But that's just one manifestation, it's much bigger than that, in terms of not only information and politics but worldview. For example, our Party's national spokesperson Carl Dix talked about how, at a forum on the elections he spoke at, in Harlem, somebody actually raised: "We've got a real problem here, these people can't be swayed or persuaded, they don't listen to reason, they don't acknowledge reason." This is one of the things even the New York Times is bringing out: It doesn't matter if Bush lied, because Bush is on a mission from God (not in the humorous, lighthearted way of the "Blues Brothers" movie). Bush is there—like Jerry Boykin, a general who's still being promoted in the U.S. military, said—Bush is there because God wanted him there, even though in 2000 he didn't win the popular vote. It's not because of very earthly machinations, but because God wanted him there. So what difference does it make about facts and lies and so on, if this is what's behind Bush. God's will and purpose is greater than any fact, or any lie.
So these people cannot and will not let up. And there are two different universes here that people are recognizing—and we'd better recognize it. This is not the total configuration of ruling class forces and ruling class splits—even the Republican Party has many different forces within it, and there are contradictions within this, including contradictions between the Christian Fascists and some other forces within the Republican Party. And, of course, in the society more broadly, there is a much more complex configuration—social configuration and class configuration—and different political and ideological, and social, and cultural trends of many different kinds. But the role and importance of the Christian Fascists— within the Republican Party, where they play a major and in many ways dominant role, and within society more generally, where their influence is very significant and is now growing—this is a major feature of the alignment of the ruling class, and of the character of the society.
There are, in a very real sense, two different universes, two different worldviews and visions of how the world is and ought to be, that are in fundamental and ultimately antagonistic conflict with each other within U.S. society. Newt Gingrich is essentially right in saying that these cannot continue to co-exist without one side or the other finally and decisively winning out and defeating the other.5 But right now it is a fact that the alignment, the polarization that presently exists—the way in which the two sides are taking shape politically and ideologically—is not a good thing. It is not a good thing for two crucial reasons: 1) The opposition to the Christian Fascists, and to the reactionary juggernaut in which they are a decisive force, is still characterized and dominated far too much by outlooks and programs which, in and of themselves, cannot mount the necessary opposition because, despite very real and profound differences, they still see things within and operate within the confines of the same system which has given rise to the Christian Fascists and to their becoming a major force within the ruling class as well as the broader society; and 2) the forces in society which represent, at least in potential, a real, revolutionary alternative, are by and large not yet mobilized and organized around a revolutionary worldview and program. Left to its current trajectory and momentum, this can only lead to very bad results.
But, again, that is where we come in. The challenge we have to take up is to apply the world outlook and methodology of communism, in a scientific and creative way, to correctly and deeply analyze this reality, in all its complexity, and to act to change it—to bring about a radical repolarization in society in a way that offers the prospect and the hope of the real, the revolutionary way out and way forward for society and humanity.
1. See "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" (RW #1255, October 17, 2004); Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (Chicago: Banner Press, 1999); "Elections, Resistance, and Revolution: The Pyramid of Power And the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down" (RW #1237, April 25, 2004); "Christianity and Society—The Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution" and "God Doesn't Exist — And We Need Liberation Without Gods" (audio recordings available at bobavakian.net).
2. Audio files of three of thetalks referred to here are available on the web at bobavakian.net.
3. Bob Avakian and Bill Martin, Marxism and the Call of the Future: Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics (Chicago: Open Court, 2005).
5. This point is discussed in another excerpt from this series, "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era" ( RW #1274, April 10, 2005).