“Where does he start, why, where does he go, and what did you think?”
This question began a recent discussion of Bob Avakian’s filmed speech, THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In The Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America. A Better World IS Possible. The film showing and discussion itself was sponsored by The Bob Avakian Institute last week in Chicago.
The audience was diverse in regard to age, background, experience, and point of view—though all were pretty firmly against the Trump/Pence regime and just about everybody had been acting against it. Many of the people there had seen the film, some more than once. Yet people found themselves able and wanting to dive back in and go deeper. At the end, someone remarked that what was different in this discussion was the way that the leader of it kept taking people back to the content that BA was putting out there, and to the method and approach behind that content. While there’s a lot to be done in the immediate, and a whole lot of things that always get sparked in people’s thinking when they watch BA, including ideas on what to do, this person thought it was important that things kept getting returned to the actual content of what we had been watching.
People grappled in particular with just how deeply embedded in U.S. history and reality, and overall human history, this fascist movement is—all the different layers of causes and dynamics that led to this moment. From that initial vantage point, and going deeper as we went, people were able to weigh and approach objectively all the things they ran into—for instance, that the Constitution would prevent fascism. They were sparked to think about the whole world and the developments over the past decades—including the rise of Christian fascism (with one person bringing in parallel developments in Latin America).
The “Great Tautological Fallacy” sparked people to make a lot of connections—from the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, to the way the culture promotes superheroes and wars and does NOT promote the real history, the content of “taking a knee,” and the importance of the upsurges against police murder a few years ago and sexual abuse today. People did telling exposure of what the Europeans did to Native Americans, including vicious massacres singling out “Two Spirit”1 people in particular.
The Alabama election where Roy Moore was just barely defeated was on people’s minds and came into the discussion in ways that deepened an appreciation for what is in this talk by BA—both the point on the straight line from the Confederacy to Trump, and the ways in which this is exposed and pursued in the speech.
This was part of an overall emphasis in the discussion on BA’s focus on slavery in the U.S.—why did he go there so heavily? What light did this shed on things—and how did it differ from other analyses, other “frameworks of understanding?” Again, quite a few people went at this point, bringing in different dimensions and different understandings.
People were led to contrast this at one point with a recent speech by Obama, where slavery and other outrages are presented as somehow counter to the main foundations and direction of U.S. history and society—including the fact that Obama talked constantly in this speech about “different narratives,” in contrast to going for the truth and unsparingly confronting it; that is, what is modeled in BA’s speech.2
Why is something like this so crucial for a critical mass of people to understand? Why must people very broadly be exposed to this—and yet why can people still act, based on what they do know, even as they are learning more and wrangling with—including disagreeing in part with—the analysis that’s in here? This too came up for grappling and there is more to explore about those dynamics.
Due to time constraints, the discussion was not able to do much more than touch on other critical and major themes of the talk by BA in their own right—the emergence and role of Christian fascism in the U.S., the U.S. role in fueling the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the big challenges that the U.S. empire is facing around the world, and the problems of American chauvinism expressed in the Great Tautological Fallacy. Nor could we go that deeply into the problems facing the U.S. rulers that have led to the Trump/Pence regime’s fascist solutions, or BA’s analysis of why the Democrats have no real answers that are in the interests for humanity and why it is so imperative to have a movement of millions to drive out the Trump/Pence regime for humanity’s sake and if there is any hope of getting to a better world. The point was made—there are layers and layers to this talk, and a need to spread it and get more deeply into it, and to keep discussing and thinking about what is in there.
There was time to watch and discuss one question and answer from the speech—BA’s response to the question as to why the American people were not more incensed and ready to protest at U.S. outrages against other countries (Korea, in this case) and what this had to do with the chances to really prevent the full consolidation of fascism.
People really “felt” the question, and wrangled with it. They commented on the repressive state laws against protest pointed to by BA, the Great Tautological Fallacy (again), and the way the “windows are closing” on the chance to actually stop this—all as part of BA’s emphasis on the need and basis to struggle with people about all of this.
Here too people grappled with the content of the answer but also—and even more fundamentally—how BA approached this. There were no shortcuts or easy answers; if anything, BA brought in other dimensions of the problem as well, even as he was exploring paths of possible solution. You got the feeling of someone confronting, grappling with, and working on a problem—and inviting others into that grappling. There was not a hint of anything pat or precooked or designed to “buck people’s spirits up.”
The program had opened with an introduction about the work of BA, its significance for the whole world, and the particular role of The Bob Avakian Institute in relation to that. It closed with the leader of the discussion coming back to that significance—and saying that there was no way that anything good can come out of the situation in the world today without humanity really grappling with this work; at the same time, if that did happen, a future could be forged that was far different, even beautiful, despite the damage and destruction of the environment and people that so directly looms before and weighs on us.
1. People in Native cultures who did not strictly conform to conventional “male” or “female” gender role. [back]
2. On December 5, 2017, Obama spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago. This speech is significant on different levels, and a full analysis of it deserves to be done. But for the purposes of this article, Obama said: “The America I know is based on freedom of press and religion, endorses free markets, is willing to be part of big global problems such as Zika. The other narrative is America First, for people who want to find security and are looking for simple answers in the face of massive disruptions in the workplace due to automation and globalization. The technology revolution has made it easy to deliver powerful stories that cause people to question their basic assumptions, leading to a clash of cultures. The question is whether we will resort to nationalism as part of our need to assert our superiority over others or whether we will go back to a narrative that people all over the world aspire to.” [back]