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.
I can get at the point I want to make here more or less with the formulation: "The Two Pats and Andrew Sullivan...and Cornel West." I'll explain what I mean by that, as I go along.
Let's take the Bush circle. First of all, there is this Christian Fascist element in it. In reading that Esther Kaplan book (With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House), you can really see this: Kaplan examines and amplifies further how deeply this has spread—and is being spread even as we speak—through the different agencies and institutions of the ruling structures of society. This is very real, it's very far along and it's very deep. On the other hand, what has actually been driving the foreign policy, or the international dimension, of the Bush regime? It has been not so much the Christian Fascists but this "neocon" ("neo-conservative") bunch. A number of them are Jewish, for one thing, and therefore they are not Christian Fascists, although there is this whole Book of Revelation thing with Israel—that the existence of the state of Israel is a pre-condition for the second coming of the Christian Lord. There is what some people call (I think Kaplan calls them this) "Christian Zionists"—Christian fundamentalists who are the most ardent defenders of Israel, at this point—until the time comes for the Jews to convert to Christianity! But right now, the Christian fundamentalists are the most ardent defenders of Israel; there is no one who is a more fanatical defender of Israel—and even "the greater Israel"—than these Christian Fascists. ("Greater Israel" refers to territory supposedly guaranteed to Israel by god, beyond just the present boundaries of the state of Israel.) There is no one more opposed to making concessions in the occupied territories than the Christian Fascists, based on their interpretation of "Revelation."1
As for the Wolfowitzes and people like him (this refers to Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary in the Department of Defense, and a major policy maker, particularly with regard to foreign policy and war, in the Bush regime) many of them are Jewish but most—or certainly many—of them are secular, actually, from what one can tell. And they are, in any case, not motivated by a religious fundamentalism. If you read The Rise of the Vulcans (a book by James Mann), a lot of them are, as someone referred to, "Straussians" ideologically. (This refers to Leo Strauss, a conservative thinker who has had a lot of influence among people in the Bush administration and similar types.) I haven't really studied Strauss, so I'll make that proviso and caveat right off the bat. But, from what I understand from reading The Rise of the Vulcans, and a few other things, there is an element ideologically, in terms of opposition to relativism and the promotion of absolutism, which is part of Straussian thought too—as well as Christian Fascist fundamentalism. And that overlaps with but is not by any means identical to—and in some ways is in contradiction to—the Christian Fascist form of absolutism and Christian Fascist ideology generally.
So, right now, in the persona of not only Bush but Cheney, and the Bush-Cheney combo, these things are being held together, so to speak. And right now their unity and identity is much greater than their opposition. But they are not identical, not the same. So that's one thing to understand. The dynamics are more complex than that. Pat Buchanan comes up here, in that I've given him credit previously for being far-seeing. He's not the only one, but he was prescient, we should give him credit [BA laughs]. He started writing his book The Death of the West before, and then finished writing it after, September 11, 2001, and he commented, in the part of that book written after September 11: There is all this national unity right now (right after the events of September 11) but it is not going to last; there are deep social and cultural and other divides in this society, and they are going to reassert themselves.
And he was right—U.S. society did repolarize very sharply. I raised this also in connection with a point that I made in "New Situation/Great Challenges"2 where it talks about how the Christian Fascist element was the driving element in the Clinton impeachment thing, but then after September 11 it was enveloped within this larger juggernaut while still remaining a core and driving force within it. And I think this speaks to the point that a comrade in our Party raised about the shifting of this from time to time and how different elements of this whole package—which we can, for shorthand, characterize as the Bush-Cheney package—may be at the forefront at different times. Cheney is not a Christian fascist—I don't know if he's really a Christian or not, but that's not his particular thing, Christian Fascism—although, in his own way, he's certainly a diehard reactionary. Edwards did bring out a few things that illustrate this in that one debate, the Vice Presidential debate: how reactionary Cheney has been, and how proud he is of how reactionary he's been. He voted against making Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday, he voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa—these are a few things Edwards brought out. Cheney has a whole record along these lines, of which he is very proud. It can't help but dovetail and overlap with the Christian Fascist program, including on things near and dear to their hearts, but it's not the same. There is the particularity of Cheney's daughter (who is openly a lesbian), but more generally the position Cheney has voiced on the question of homosexuality is not the same as the Christian Fascist position. And Cheney articulates his position on that, in part at least, because there are some people whom the Republican Party and that general section of the ruling class want to appeal to who don't share the views of the Christian Fascists on gay marriage (or on homosexuality more broadly) and on questions like abortion.
There is this tension, and different aspects of this program can come more to the fore or recede more to the background depending on what's happening in the world. But the Christian Fascist element has its own dynamic within this, which is not absolutely identical to the "neocon" ("neo-conservative") program and the international strategy embodied in that National Security document of 2002.3 Condoleezza Rice is a Christian daughter of a minister, but I don't know that she's a Christian Fascist exactly. So, it is more complex, and we have to understand the dynamics. But the reason I raise Pat Buchanan is because what has happened is that as that repolarization that he (Buchanan) spoke of re- emerged, and as the "war on terror" took what to many people appeared to be a "detour" into Iraq, that brought out, or brought to the fore, more opposition to the Iraq war. This was Kerry's position, of a sort—that Iraq was a "detour" from the "war on terror"—although Kerry definitely took the stand that, "now that we are into this war in Iraq, we have to win it...and I can do that better than Bush." In actuality, Iraq is not a "detour." It's part of a larger strategy. But if you buy the line about the "war on terror"—that somehow this is really what Bush and company are waging, or should be waging— then perhaps the war against Iraq doesn't make sense. And that's partly why the repolarization has asserted itself too, because a lot of people, including some people who should have known better, took the position, if not of supporting at least of standing aside from and not opposing, the war in Afghanistan, because they bought into the propaganda that this was waged as a justified and necessary response to the September 11 attacks, even though in reality the war in Afghanistan, too, was part of the whole strategy of more aggressively asserting U.S. imperial rule around the world, and more forcefully recasting the world under U.S. imperial domination—a strategy that was formulated well before September 11. But with Iraq, it was more clear how that war was not in line with the proclaimed rationalizations for the "war on terror."
The point is that part of the reason this repolarization reasserted itself so quickly and so strongly is that the contradiction between the appearance of a "war on terror" and the essence of a war to expand and refortify empire asserted itself very powerfully around Iraq. But then there comes the Andrew Sullivan point, which is cited in "Right-Wing Conspiracy," 4 where Sullivan, himself an avowed "conservative" and admirer of Ronald Reagan, makes the point that even "fiscal conservatives" (referring to people who favor cutting taxes and keeping government spending down for social programs, etc.)—even, if they aren't particularly religious, they have to wrap up what they are fighting for in the terminology of social conservatism and essentially merge it with this Christian Fascist thrust. They can't get over within the Republican Party, for example, simply by arguing for fiscal conservatism—and in fact, fiscal conservatism is out the window with this Bush regime. This has got a lot of these traditional libertarian types very upset; they're writing books, too—not just Buchanan, other people are writing books, criticizing Bush for, among other things, his government spending and the huge deficit that has been piling up under his regime. Buchanan has a new book, Where the Right Went Wrong, and these other people are writing books about the betrayal by Bush of the conservative cause.
So that touches on something very real about the Christian Fascist phenomenon, which is that it's not the sum total, even of the Bush-Cheney regime. And one should not fall into reductionism and try to explain everything that's happening in the world, including the major move they are making for unchallenged world domination, by looking through the prism of Christian Fascism. What you definitely do get is Christian Fascist rationalizations for this drive for world domination—that is a very significant phenomenon in ruling class politics these days.
But there is not an identity in all this, and it is not even that the strategically operative program for what they are doing in the world right now is flowing out of Christian Fascism, but actually more out of the "neocon" people, many of whom were "Rooseveltian Democrats" who don't believe in a small state or a small government. And they don't believe in using the state just "for national defense" in some more traditional sense—even though that always meant imperialism. Rather, these "neocons" insist on an aggressive imperialist expansion in the world. These are people who are on mission for "democratization" in the world—in other words, for reshaping the world in the image of the U.S., even reshaping certain countries with some of the outer forms of rule as it takes shape in the U.S.—elections, and so on and so forth.
For example, Christopher Hitchens was on Amy Goodman's program Democracy Now not long ago. She asked him, "Have you become a 'neocon'?—you seem to be supporting these neocons." He answered, "Well, I'm supporting people like Wolfowitz." And—I've heard this on other occasions, for example in debates where Hitchens has taken part—he went on to argue that Wolfowitz is different than Henry Kissinger: Kissinger said we should support any despot in order to pursue our interests, but Wolfowitz thinks we should bring in democracy and not support despots. I have seen where Hitchens has made that point in debates, and he repeated that basic point on Amy Goodman's show, and then he cited the Philippines as an example of where Wolfowitz took the position that we should not keep supporting Marcos (the brutal pro-imperialist dictator in the Philippines, in the 1970s and up until the mid-1980s). And Hitchens cited The Rise of the Vulcans as a source for this view of Wolfowitz. Well, I've been reading The Rise of the Vulcans, so I went to the book to confirm my sense of this, and then said to myself, "Somebody should send an e-mail to Amy Goodman pointing out: 'Even the guy (James Mann) who wrote The Rise of the Vulcans says that Wolfowitz was late in coming to this position—he hung with Marcos for a long time. So, sorry Christopher, even on that count you can't get over. You can't slide even on that point.' " Even though we have our differences, politically and ideologically, with Amy Goodman, she does a lot of very important exposure, and we should be helping people like her politically combat hackish apologists for this imperialist juggernaut, like Hitchens, and expose their hypocrisy even more fully. That's all a part of what we needed to be doing.
These people (the "neocons") are on a mission for their own view of democracy—but, of course, they do the "Kissinger" thing too. In all these Central Asian republics where U.S. military forces are setting up bases—those are not democracies [B.A. laughs ]—by the "neocons" own account, they are brutal bourgeois dictatorships... openly brutal dictatorships, by anybody's account. But, nevertheless, ideologically there is sort of a crusading missionary zeal here of "spreading democracy in the world," of which Wolfowitz, in particular, is an architect.
And this is causing a lot of conflicts. Buchanan, as well as "Anonymous" (the long-time CIA operative who is the author of the book Imperial Hubris ) and other people, are saying, in essence: "What the fuck is this 'democratizing mission'—what does this have to do with our interests as imperialists?!" Buchanan is arguing that the U.S. should be "a republic not an empire," even though he's all for imperialism as long as it is "in the national interests"—as he sees those interests. But Buchanan insists, in effect: "This zeal to spread democracy around the world is going to land us in a big shit-load of trouble." That's also the argument of "Anonymous," and other significant ruling class figures are putting this forward as well.
So, it's not all Christian Fascism that is driving things, particularly in the international arena, but there is "the Andrew Sullivan point"—or two points in this connection: First, you cannot get things through, so to speak, within the Republican Party in particular—which is the ruling party now—you cannot get things through without some accommodation, at a minimum, to the Christian Fascist forces and program. That's the point of Sullivan's emphasizing that even "fiscal conservatives" have to wrap their program up in a "social conservatism" and Christian Fascism package in some form or other. And, while he was saying that a few years ago, in the context of what became the Clinton impeachment scandal, what he says about this is still true—it's very true right now. Even though the juggernaut of war and repression that was unleashed fully after September 11, 2001, has sort of "enveloped" this Christian Fascism within a broader package, Christian Fascism has remained at the core within all this and, even if you aren't actually a Christian Fascist yourself, it is still necessary to accommodate to that to get things done within the current regime.
That's one point. The second point is something else we've been stressing: Christian Fascism—the Christian Fascist element, within the ruling class and more broadly in society—is a powerful force in its own right, and it's not going away. Very much related to the fact that it's not identical with the whole Republican Party, it's not going to simply tail in the wake of these other programs within that Party. It has its own dynamic, while it overlaps with other "conservative" programs. Presently there's overwhelming unity between these programs, but not complete unity, and the differences are there also. I made the point in the talk "Elections, Democracy and Dictatorship, Resistance and Revolution" about how Al Gore says what he's saying—sharply criticizing Bush and even making some criticism of the Iraq war—and why he says it. He says this because he's not running for president. At the same time, you've got Schwarzenegger in California, who's supporting funding for stem cell research, and he's not for gay marriage but he's not a virulently anti-gay person either, and he's pro-choice. But, if he runs for president, you'll hear a different tune—if he wants to be the Republican nominee for president—just like Bush the senior was pro- choice until he ran for president on the Republican ticket, or got associated with Reagan (as Reagan's vice presidential running mate) even before that.
These are the dynamics. Certainly at this point, I don't think it's possible to get the nomination of the Republican Party for president and be pro-choice. They'll talk about how they have pro-choice elements in their party when it's convenient for them to say that. But I don't believe that at this point you can get the nomination of the Republican Party and be pro-choice.
Is it possible that there could be a reconfiguration within the ruling class in which the Christian Fascists would actually be smashed? Yes, that is at least theoretically possible—they could be smashed, or pushed back significantly. Gingrich's point can be understood just in terms of conflicts within the ruling class, although I think it would be very difficult to confine such conflicts within those terms ultimately. (This refers to Newt Gingrich's comparison of the present period in the U.S. to the 1840s and 1850s, the decades in which the conflicts that eventually led to the Civil War, in the 1860s, were sharpening.) In other words, there could be a reconfiguration within the ruling class in which what is represented by the Christian Fascists—and, more generally, what is represented by the "conservatives" (including Gingrich)—takes a real blow and some other program comes to the fore. That's what some of these billionaire Democrats are aiming for. (This refers to a group of very wealthy Democratic Party backers who are talking about taking up, from their side, the strategy of the "conservatives" in the Republican Party: aiming to build up institutions, etc., that would be parallel to, and oppose—within the framework of mainstream bourgeois politics—the institutions built up over decades by right-wing forces.) But is this likely to be achieved, in the immediate context at least? I don't think so. There may well be attempts at that. But it would take a major struggle in the ruling class, with someone coming up with a whole different coherent program, and actually aggressively going after these right-wing forces, for that to happen. And I think you can look around, and look at the dynamics in the society and in the world, and think that's not very likely. Not impossible, but not very likely.
But let me put it this way: No other ruling class program is going to win out which doesn't, at a minimum, deliver a heavy political defeat to Christian Fascism. You're not going to do it in the way that some key forces within the Democratic Party are talking about—being "Christian Fascist lite," or whatever. That's just grist to the mill of the Christian Fascists, and the "conservatives" generally. The author of The Rise of the Vulcans makes a provocative point, which I think is really worth thinking about. Toward the end of the book, he argues that in this period—he's talking about what we mean by "period of major transition with the potential for great upheaval," what's been set in motion as a result of the resolution of the Cold War—both the Democrats and the Republicans have a broad unity in terms of the further globalization of the economy and the military power to back that up. He uses a musical metaphor: They're both playing the same tune, but, as he puts it, "When Democrats held the White House, they turned up the economic treble. When the Republicans took over, they turned up the military bass." ( The Rise of the Vulcans, p. 215)
And then he makes a further comment, which I do believe speaks to what was a significant factor in the recent election, besides the Christian Fascist element. He characterizes it this way (you know how they put these things—they put it off on the people, they don't present things in terms of how the ruling class controls and shapes these politics): When the American people perceive that the war aspect of this has come to the fore, he says, they will vote mainly for the Republicans, because they believe the Republicans are more resolute and consistent about being hawks, basically, and the Democrats really can't convince people, in this day and age, that they are just as good at waging war. The Democrats were able to do this back in the day of LBJ and all that, but nowadays they cannot really do it. Why? Because of the configuration of things in society, because (this is a point that's made in the "Pyramid" article5) the Democratic Party does have this contradiction in its ranks, which came out at its convention and explains the Howard Dean phenomenon, that its base, or a large part of it, doesn't support these wars, doesn't want to live in the new Rome, and therefore you can't convince people that you're going to be as resolute as the Republicans in waging war, no matter how many times Kerry says "reporting for duty" and "I'll be a better commander-in-chief and I'll kill the terrorists."
By the way, people have pointed out what a remarkable election it is when a candidate running for President of the United States gets up and says, "I'm going to track down and kill" people. Kerry didn't just say, "I'm going to wage a war"—that's one thing—but he said, "I'm going to track down and kill" people. Someone who is seeking to be the president, the head of state, of a country like this one, said: "I'm going to go around the world and track down and kill people." And this is the "good guy" in the election, right?—the candidate that many peace forces rallied behind, in any case. [B.A. laughs] Yet and still, the point is that it's a hard sell—not that you cannot do it, but it's a hard sell—to convince people that the Democrats will be better as the war party, under the present circumstances and the present configuration in American society and politics. And it's certainly a hard sell to convince them you will be the better religious party. It just doesn't conform to what people know is the reality. So that's not the way the Christian Fascists are going to get defeated, even within the confines of ruling class politics.
Which gets to the Cornel West point. Cornel West, in his book Democracy Matters (his latest book) has this argument about "Constantinian Christianity." He says he himself is an evangelical Christian but not a Constantinian Christian. What he means by that is Christianity as an instrument of the state and of imperial policy— Christianity in the mode of Constantine (a ruler in the Roman Empire, in the 4th century, who adopted Christianity, fought battles under the banner of Christianity, and dictated to the Church a lot of Christian doctrine). A lot of people use the Roman Empire metaphor these days, and it's very apt in a lot of ways. So Cornel West is talking about Christianity as an instrument of state power and of imperial power when he speaks of "Constantinian Christianity." But I think he misses something important here, because he is an evangelical Christian himself, at the same time as he describes himself sometimes as a "Gramscian Marxist" (referring to the ideas of Antonio Gramsci, a somewhat "unorthodox" Italian Marxist in the first part of the 20th century). Perhaps Cornel West does not see the real danger, or at least the full danger, posed by the fundamentalist Christian Fascist element in all this—he only sees the negative aspect in the "Constantinian" element, which is very real and very significant but I don't think he fully appreciates the great danger of Christian fundamentalism as such.
And this finally brings me around to the other Pat—Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson represents in a real sense the merging of fundamentalist and Constantinian Christianity. He is a high level political operative of the imperialist system who is at one and the same time a genuine nut case—a fundamentalist religious fanatic—and a Constantinian Christian.
But it is still the case that the interests of these different ruling class factions don't run absolutely together: Christian Fascism and Imperial Hubris, if you will, don't run smoothly together; nor does the "neocon" mission for "democratizing the world" fit so well with the position of people like Buchanan as well as the author of Imperial Hubris .There is this basic point: These days you cannot get anywhere in the configuration of ruling class politics, and in particular Republican Party politics, without at least accommodating yourself to the Christian Fascist element. At the same time, I believe it is the case that the whole thrust of what they are doing in the world, as embodied for example, in that National Security document of 2002, is not proceeding primarily from the dynamic of Christian Fascism. But even in the international dimension, let alone in the U.S. itself, you cannot push things through and carry them out, without at least accommodating to the Christian Fascist program. And, again, Christian Fascism is a real force in its own right, it has its own dynamic, within the ruling class and within society broadly. As Esther Kaplan points out in With God on Their Side, Christian Fascism is becoming deeply entrenched and suffused, widely spread, throughout the ruling institutions and agencies of government and the state. It is beginning to affect every sphere, and it is seeking to "close the circle" of institutions inside and outside government—and at some point that distinction (inside and outside of government) could be obliterated, and Christian Fascist institutions could become the institutions of state and government.
Now, some people will say that's crazy. How can you have science, how can you do NASA, how can you keep the population from becoming sick and dying if you interfere with science and medicine in this kind of way? But that's the "not a perfect fit" point. (This refers to the discussion, following the talk Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism, about whether the Christian Fascist program is a "perfect fit" with the interests of the ruling class as a whole at this point.6) This is an extremely volatile, unstable compound, so to speak, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't come to pass (to use Biblical terms) that theocratic rule by Christian Fascists would be the form in which bourgeois dictatorship would be exercised in the U.S. These are the dynamics, and we have to understand them more fully.
I do believe this Christian Fascism element, in and of itself, is the leading and essential aspect of this. Yes, the whole imperial extension could become over-extension and could get them in trouble, and that could be the form in which everything gets called into question, and even a revolutionary situation arises. But I still think that what is unrelenting in this, in the most concentrated way, is this Christian Fascist element. It is both, at one and the same time, unrelenting and a fundamental challenge to and opposition to the consensus that's ruled this country in one form or another throughout its history.
This has always been a religious country, but it's always essentially had a secular government. That's a sometimes acute contradiction—which now is becoming extremely acute. Separation of church and state, abortion, the homosexuality question—but, beyond that, science, education—everything is being brought into the sights of the Christian Fascists, not just in a theoretical way but in a practical way now, and in an increasing way, and it probably will be in a geometrically increasing way in the period ahead.
At the same time, once again, this is enveloped in a larger juggernaut at this point, while not being identical to that larger juggernaut. These, I believe, are the dynamics within the ruling class, and also within the society and the world in the larger sense.
Remember that movie with Jeff Bridges (as the President), The Contender, with Joan Allen (as the Vice President)? Remember when she comes under fire and she goes to a Congressional hearing and says, "My chapel is the chapel of democracy." Remember that? Well, that's the "religion" of many secular bourgeois democrats—a "religion" which is being upended and challenged by this Christian Fascism. When those fundamental things get called into question and challenged in this way, then, for one, people who "hold those things dear" will rally to the defense of those things; but, at the same time—this is the way these dynamics work— many of them will also open up to big questions, even about those assumptions. That's what we're seeing in microcosm, and on even on a bigger scale, in some of our own work and more largely in the society. This is what you see. Somebody, a force of Christian fundamentalist fanatics and other fascists, is coming to destroy that "chapel" of democracy—which is ultimately and fundamentally bourgeois democracy . Yes, many want to still keep worshipping there, but all this makes you question your beliefs, especially if something is brought forward with a different synthesis, which can resonate with you. This is one of the big challenges we face—to really bring forward that radically different synthesis in a living way.
This situation could recede or change significantly, while still remaining within the confines of bourgeois politics and bourgeois rule. Things are not set in stone: dynamics could emerge that are larger than whatever is happening at a given time—that's the point about unexpected, unanticipated, and in some ways "unanticipatable" events—and even what we can look at and anticipate now could shift the terms of this. But none of this is going to get shifted, even within ruling class parameters, without a wrenching process and struggle. And I don't believe that can actually go on without all of society getting drawn into it. And certainly we don't want that to go on without all of society getting drawn into it.
And then there's the question of what comes out of all of it. That is not pre-set.
So, those are some thoughts that I wanted to lay out, because this is extremely important for us to understand, in a scientific, dialectical materialist way—to understand, as best we can, the dynamics and have the best possible method and approach for digging further into these dynamics and grasping them more fully, in all their complexity as well as in their essence, in order to wage the struggle to radically transform things in a positive way.
2. "The New Situation and the Great Challenges" by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA, Revolutionary Worker #1143, March 17, 2002, available online at revcom.us
4. See "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy ...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" ( RW #1255, October 17, 2004).
5. Bob Avakian, "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," RW No. 1237 (April 25, 2004).
6. See "The Enemy's Solid Core," RW #1261 (December 12, 2004).