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.
An important point—and this is spoken to in the “Right-Wing Conspiracy” supplement and Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones and talks I gave recently on religion1—is that there is an acute contradiction that we have to recognize: Christian Fascism will have a lot to do with the polarization that occurs in U.S. society in this period, and even the pulling apart of the center in the form in which it has existed; but, on the other side of the contradiction, the polarization cannot be allowed to be or to remain around religion per se (in and of itself). One of the indications of this—and this is something I have also called attention to sharply—is that there have been consistent efforts by the Christian Fascists to reach out to people in the inner cities, among the oppressed masses, particularly through the churches, to try to ensnare them on an ideological basis to act against their own interests.
At the time that “Right-Wing Conspiracy” was written, Clinton was in office, hanging on barely. Let’s not forget, he was actually impeached; and I believe all (or in any case nearly all) the Republicans voted for a conviction—it’s just that they didn’t have the total number of votes they needed. If they’d gotten some significant defections from the Democratic Party, they would have actually thrown him out of office on a ridiculous basis relative to what their Constitution is actually talking about—”high crimes and misdemeanors.” But Clinton remained in office, so these efforts of the Christian Fascists in the inner city were made then largely through privately funded projects, by and large (things like “The Samaritan Project” of the Christian Coalition). But now Bush is in office, and the ruling structures of the government are saturated with Christian Fascists—more all the time. It’s like the movie Birds [BA laughs]—they just keep coming and coming, and filling in every crack and crevice of government agencies. And there are the “faith-based” initiatives and programs, backed and funded by the government, which are increasingly the means through which social services are supposedly being addressed. So, this has the force, the resources, and the authority of the federal government (and the bourgeois state as a whole) behind it now.
And you did see in this election some of these Black ministers, for example, lining up with Bush (never mind Don King and his support for Bush—who knows what the fuck that was about, it probably had to do with his financial situation—I’m talking about something more serious than that, since he is sort of a self-conscious clown and minstrel). A number of Black preachers—and this is a serious thing—lined up with Bush around gay marriage, and even around abortion. Here they were, lining up with reaction, with outright fascism, on the basis of traditional religion and traditional values.
Now, just to be clear, my point is not that we should, by any means, be casting Black preachers in general into the enemy camp—that would be very wrong and a terrible mistake. We should certainly not be giving up on uniting with many of them—and repolarizing at least many of those who are now playing a role that is not very good, or even is very bad. It is a fact—and a fact that we cannot fail to recognize—that more than a few of them are right now not playing a good role. And there does have to be work done around exposing the role that some are falling into of leading people, yes, toward a program that has a genocidal element in it—a program that could lead to genocide against Black people and other oppressed peoples—on a basis of reactionary traditional values, patriarchy, religious fundamentalism, and everything that’s wrapped up in that.
While all that is important, the fundamental point I’m making here is we cannot allow the polarization to be around religion per se (in and of itself), although a big part of the polarization does have to be against Christian Fascism, against reactionary theocratic fundamentalism. And there is a vast difference between those two things (religion in a general sense and, on the other hand, Christian Fascism and reactionary theocratic fundamentalism generally); there is a qualitative difference which we should understand. And if we don’t understand and handle this correctly, we’re going to aid the enemy in pushing, not just preachers, but masses of people, into the enemy camp—or allowing them to be dragged, against their own fundamental interests, into the camp of the enemy, or to be confused and sit on the sidelines when they should be frontline fighters against all this. So we cannot allow this to be the polarization—it cannot be around religion as such.
I noticed, in a report on a speech by Cornel West, that during this speech he pointedly said: “My secular friends on the left have to understand that most of the country is religious.” Well, speaking for our Party, we do, of course, understand this—and we do have to understand this—but perhaps not quite in the way he means this. If you listen to the recent talks I gave on religion, there is conscious attention—not simply out of tactical considerations, but fundamentally out of principle—to draw the distinction between religion in general and reactionary religious fundamentalism (there is that distinction in our Draft Programme, and this needs to be even more fully developed in my opinion in the finalization of the Programme). There is a qualitative difference—and we have to clearly and fully understand the difference—between religion, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, theocratic fundamentalist fascism, which is seeking to impose religious order and “biblically-based” law and rule, as interpreted by reactionary theocrats, onto U.S. society and much of the world, for that matter.
Think about the fact that the son of Billy Graham—who is “credited” with beginning the conversion of George W. Bush back in the ‘80s—Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, a close associate and confidante of Bush, makes a public statement that Islam is not only a false but an evil religion. (This has also been said by Jerry Falwell and other prominent Christian Fascists.) Think of the impact a statement like that has in the world, particularly in the Islamic world, when this guy (Franklin Graham) is someone who is known to be closely associated with Bush! You can believe that every Islamic fundamentalist will draw the association—and call people’s attention to the association—between Franklin Graham and Bush. So, you have Bush, right after September 11, letting the word “crusade” come out—and then, “ooh...oops...” retracting it...“I didn’t mean that”—and then you have the Franklin Grahams and others putting forward exactly that line—that, in effect, the “war against terrorism” is a crusade against “evil Islam.”
With all this, the point once again is that Christian Fascism will have a lot to do with the polarization in society, including as we work to repolarize things; but the polarization cannot be allowed to be around religion as such. We have to understand, first of all, the essential and crucial distinction between the two, and then we have to act on that understanding.
1.See "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" (Revolutionary Worker #1255, October 17, 2004 ) and Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality, But Not Traditional Morality (New York: Banner Press, 1999). The talks on religion referred to here are "God Doesn't Exist-And We Need Liberation Without Gods" and "Christianity and Society—the Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution," which are available online as audio downloads at bobavakian.net.