Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK BY BOB AVAKIAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA, FALL 2009
UNRESOLVED CONTRADICTIONS, DRIVING FORCES FOR REVOLUTION
[Editors' note: The following is the third in a series of excerpts from the text of a talk by Bob Avakian in Fall 2009, which is being serialized in Revolution. The first two excerpts appeared in Revolution #184, November 29, 2009 and #185, December 13, 2009. The entire talk can be found online at revcom.us/avakian/driving.]
The appeal of the Christian Fascists in the moral and cultural sphere—and the need to sharply contend in this sphere
In this context, I want to speak to something which would be very wrong to ignore or to underestimate. And that is the moral appeal of the Christian Fascists in particular—and more specifically their opposition to and attacks on selfishness, individualism, consumerism and, as they frame it, "materialism." That is, the grasping and the lusting and striving after more and more consumer goods and material possessions.
This is a big part of the moral indictment and moral appeal of Christian fundamentalist fascists in particular. All of this is raised by them, however, from the standpoint of vigorously upholding and aggressively seeking to reinforce tradition's chains, as applied to women and the family in particular, and all on the basis of accepting and serving to perpetuate the dominant oppressive relations in this country and the world overall—including, as a key pillar of this, the position and role of U.S. imperialism as "the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower." (See "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," Revolution #170, July 19, 2009; this statement is also available online at revcom.us.)
This moral appeal of theirs focuses and seizes on some of the elements of the dominant popular culture and ethos that we also criticize—and very rightly so—but from a radically different perspective. From the standpoint of Christian Fascist morality, around which a social base of very large and significant proportions is presently being mobilized and has been mobilized over a number of years in the U.S., this involves a critique of things that could be concentrated in the word "licentiousness": both sexual license, by which they mean any kind of sex outside of the framework of the traditional patriarchal family, and a more general licentiousness of seeking gratification in terms of personal—and what are very often, spontaneously and within the dynamics of this system, selfish—objectives and selfish motivations.
As these Christian Fascists see this, what is involved, and is dragging society toward damnation, is everything from abortion to same sex relations (and, specifically, gay marriage) as well as the question of evolution—all these things which call into question the traditional dominant relations that have existed for thousands of years and are associated in a general sense, particularly by these fundamentalist religious forces, with the "Judeo-Christian tradition."
These reactionary Christian Fascist forces insist that such challenges to "traditional" viewpoints and values can only lead to chaos in society. There is some truth to this, and from their standpoint this can only be a very bad thing, since they are proceeding from within the framework of the capitalist-imperialist system and the need to continue—and enforce, as violently as necessary—U.S. imperialist domination in the world. But the more fundamental question is: how to view the prospect of "chaos," or the disruption of "stability"—when that "stability" involves the perpetuation of this system and its monstrous crimes—and how to view the prospect of major social upheaval and struggle, when that upheaval and struggle can bring an end to this system and its very real horrors?
Now, it's important to note that the "moral appeals" of the Christian Fascists find some resonance, are able to strike a chord, not only among "old fogies," but with a number of youth as well—including, very importantly, some young women who, among other things, are very legitimately alienated and disgusted by the rank degradation of women promoted everywhere in the dominant culture and embedded in the dominant social relations in this society. This is something that is very important, once again, not to be ignorant of, or to ignore or underestimate.
It is also very significant that this kind of appeal finds a basis among those who make up the ranks, and not just the officer corps, of the U.S. military. Those who have been drawn to the U.S. military, as a voluntary military now, are appealed to in significant measure on the basis of being different from, and better than, the "nasty" society outside the military. (This was true when Bill Clinton was president, during most of the 1990s; and, while this does need more looking into, it would be surprising if it were not the case now with Obama and the politics and "ethos" that he is associated with.) This denunciation of the dominant society as corrupt and rotten often focuses on the rampant individualism among the U.S. population—contrasting this with the "team spirit" of the murderous U.S. military!—and, once again, rampant individualism is something that we also criticize, but from a radically different standpoint.
In the book Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks (Scribner, 1997)—which was written in the 1990s, and was about the U.S. military broadly even while it focused on basic training for U.S. Marines—this theme came up over and over again. It was stressed by the officers, but also voiced spontaneously by a lot of the soldiers who were going through this basic training, that they were the ones who had the real values, and the irony was that they were protecting a society full of people who were rotten and selfish.
Somewhat related to this, it's worth noting the posturing of these fascists and in particular fundamentalist Christian Fascists as "anti-colonialists": the ways in which, in certain circumstances and at least in certain aspects, they will defend "traditional cultures" against what they sometimes denounce as "liberal cultural imperialism." For example, in the name of opposing liberal cultural imperialism, they may uphold even some of the most horrific traditional forms of oppression of women: things such as female genital mutilation in Africa and some other parts of the Third World; or other ways in which women are debased, degraded and subjugated in traditional forms in the Third World, rather than in the "modern" forms that more often take shape in the imperialist countries themselves.
These Christian Fascist forces also promote a perverse populism (which is a feature of fascist political tendencies generally). As people like Chris Hedges have pointed out, this was quite pronounced in the short-lived but significant Huckabee candidacy during the Republican presidential primary in 2008. This populism involves an effort to rally the "common folks" against "liberal elitism"—all on behalf of truly elite and ruling forces at the top of the capitalist system (or, at least, significant sections of them). You can see that now, for example, in the debate around health care.
Right-wing—and it is not exaggeration to identify them as fascist—demagogues seek to rally "common folks" against what are, in fact, some positive aspects in liberalism, such as secularism and advocacy of certain rights for oppressed and marginalized groups, even while liberalism itself frames and confines all this within a bourgeois and imperialist dominated framework. This, too, is a very perverse dynamic, and it is crucial to wage the struggle to break people out of this in growing numbers.
This is also akin to how, in certain circumstances, these Christian Fascists will promote relativism. Even while they denounce relativism and promote the absolutism of Biblical literalist "certainty," they will at times turn around and foster and support relativism—especially in opposition to science—with once again, their attack on evolution a concentration of this.
All this is an arena, morality and culture, where we need to contend much more—more extensively, systematically, sharply and creatively—bringing forward a truly radical and truly liberating alternative to all this, to every way in which culture and morality is presented on the terms of the exploitative and oppressive system of capitalism-imperialism.