February 27, 2020
As an atheist I am reluctant to invoke religious imagery, but “bargain with the devil” does seem to be a fitting metaphor to characterize important aspects of what has gone on in recent years in the dominant politics of this country. In The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!1 I pointed to the “unholy alliance” between fundamentalist Christian Fascists and Trump, whose personal behavior and “morals” are flagrantly in conflict with the no less despicable but definitely different “values” espoused by these Christian Fascists. It is, however, not just religious fundamentalists who have made a “bargain with the devil”; it is also those who claim that there is much about Trump’s “behavior” that they do not like, and who may even distance themselves from some of Trump’s blatant bigotry, yet nevertheless say that they support him because under Trump the economy is doing well.
Some have pointed to flaws in this position, by noting that much of the “economic progress” that Trump takes credit for began when Obama was president and engineered a “recovery” from the economic crisis of 2007-8; that official unemployment may be low, but actual unemployment is significantly greater; that many jobs are low-paying and insecure; that huge numbers of college graduates are saddled with tremendous debt; that many families, even among those seemingly well off or comfortable economically, are only a major health crisis away from extreme financial pressure or even ruin; that more than 550,000 people are homeless on a typical night; that income inequality has grown to grotesque proportions…and so on. But it has to be bluntly said that arguments of this kind, however valid they might be on their own terms, are not just essentially beside the point in relation to Trump but serve to validate a standard and criterion that should never be applied or accepted—that it would be legitimate to support fascists, such as those of the Trump/Pence regime, if such a regime actually did improve the economy.
With previous fascist regimes it was the case that, for a time, there was significant improvement in the economy. For example, with the rise to power of Mussolini in Italy after World War 1, some chaos in society and the functioning of the economy was eliminated and “order restored” (this was “memorialized” in the saying that Mussolini “made the trains run on time”). Even more dramatically, when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany, after years of massive unemployment and astronomical inflation, there was a dramatic improvement in the economic situation, particularly stimulated by the ramping up of the machinery of war. To support the Trump/Pence regime on the basis of the performance of the economy is no less morally bankrupt and despicable than it would have been to support those previous fascist regimes, under Mussolini and Hitler, on the same basis.
Refuse Fascism, which from the beginning of the Trump/Pence regime has pointed to its fascist nature and called for nonviolent but sustained mass mobilization to demand the removal of this regime, has recently called attention to the fact that, in the wake of the Senate impeachment trial and acquittal of Trump:
Fascism has been unfolding, but it has made a major leap through this sham trial. In recent days, the Muslim Ban has been expanded to include six more countries, signaling that the whole fascist program will go forward with even more vengeance and entitlement. Concentration camps on the border… environmental devastation accelerated… war, even nuclear war, threatened… white supremacist rule… fascist mobs and racist mass murderers… truth and science erased… the right to abortion near gone… the rule of law and democratic and civil rights stripped away…All this and more will be accelerated and further sanctioned by this Senate acquittal.
All this is what is being facilitated and furthered in supporting Trump, no matter what reason, or rationalization, is given for this support. And while Trump may not literally be the “devil”—any more than he is the Messiah that some of his fanatical religious fundamentalist followers apparently believe him to be—a “bargain” that involves supporting Trump is something that no one could ever make without destroying whatever decency and humanity they might still have left.
Support for the fascist enforcement of capitalist rule is, however, not the only form in which moral bankruptcy has been expressed in the political realm. This is also the case with those who have been unable to rid themselves of the affliction, and addiction, of supporting more “enlightened” representatives of this system. A striking example of this is those who allowed themselves the delusional ecstasy of believing that when Barack Obama became president this would somehow mean that long years of horrific oppression and degradation would end and barriers to opportunity and achievement would be removed. In reality, while perhaps more Black faces were found in high places, and while some Black cultural figures were courted by the Obamas, the situation for the masses of Black people—including the hundreds murdered by police each year and the overall police terror directed against Black people and other oppressed people—did not change for the better during the Obama presidency. In fact, in this regard the main effect of Obama’s becoming president was to reinforce and further promote the vicious lie that there are no barriers to anyone “making it” in America, with the unavoidable implication (or outright insistence) that if some people have not “made it,” it is their own fault—a lie that was voiced by Obama himself in his 2012 election victory speech.
And delusion about what Obama represents led many to be blinded, or to turn a blind eye, to the war crimes and other crimes against humanity, and the plunder of the environment, by the U.S. (and its “allies”) while Obama was chief executive and “commander-in-chief.” This included the 2014 slaughter by Israel of more than 2,000 people in Gaza, Palestine—the great majority civilians, including hundreds of children—which Obama fully and forcefully backed. And then there is the meaning and effect of what Obama has said in relation to Vietnam. In a recent article,2 I highlighted the wanton destruction and depraved atrocity perpetrated by the U.S. military in Vietnam, including:
the slaughter of millions of Vietnamese civilians, with incessant bombing and shelling, including of schools, hospitals, dams and other crucial infrastructure, and widespread use of napalm, white phosphorous, Agent Orange, and millions of anti-personnel weapons, burning to death and maiming huge numbers of children and others;
ruining the livelihood of millions of Vietnamese—destroying large parts of the soil and livestock so essential for the people in rural Vietnam;
torture of people held as prisoners—including large numbers of civilians—male, female, old and young, including the very young;
mutilating the bodies and wearing as “trophies” body parts of Vietnamese killed;
mass rape of Vietnamese women and girls.
All this, and more, was the “service” carried out by the U.S. military and its soldiers in Vietnam. Did Barack Obama, as president and “commander-in-chief,” have anything to say about this? Yes, he did. He did so, however, not to condemn this unspeakable atrocity and bury the possibility of its ever being perpetrated again—but, on the contrary, to praise those who carried this out. Look, for example, at the following remarks by Obama as part of the May 28, 2013 Vietnam War Commemoration:
One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam—most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there…. [Y]ou wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history.
Here it should be said that the only acts of true bravery and integrity by U.S. soldiers and veterans of the Vietnam war were carried out by those—numbering eventually in the thousands—who turned against that war and played a key part in exposing what the U.S. military was really doing there and in contributing to what became massive opposition to the war. But, in speaking of the “bravery and integrity” of “the troops who served” in Vietnam, Obama is actually endorsing the truly monstrous crimes that were systematically and relentlessly carried out by the U.S. military and its soldiers in Vietnam; and his remarks amount to saying that what was “painful” was not that atrocity, and the horrors it inflicted on the Vietnamese people, but the fact that those who ordered and carried out these unspeakable acts were not given the support and respect Obama believes they deserve! This serves not only to “honor” horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity in the past but to “legitimize” and encourage support for such actions by the U.S. (and its “allies”) in the present and future.
To continue the metaphor, can anyone really continue to worship Obama without “selling their soul to the devil”—not just Obama himself but the greater “devil,” the capitalist-imperialist system whose faithful servant he is?
1. THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In The Name of Humanity We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible–a film of this speech by Bob Avakian is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org.
2. The article quoted here, “Bob Avakian, On Impeachment, Crimes Against Humanity, Liberals and Lies, Provocative and Profound Truths,” is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org.