A Talk by Andy Zee
December 21, 2020 | revcom.us
[Editors’ Note: The following is the transcript of the opening presentation by Andy Zee at the December 16 online forum “COVID: A Case Study with Life and Death Stakes: Science, Epistemology, Conspiracy & Fascism,” co-sponsored by RefuseFascism.org and The Revolution Nothing Less Show. The other panelists on the forum were historian Paul Street and emergency physician Phil Rice, and it was moderated by Coco Das of the Refuse Fascism Editorial Board.]
My co-panelists have presented compelling evidence of the criminal rejection of and outright opposition to science by the Trump/Pence regime. The regime’s electoral defeat has focused up in a profound way how far detached from reality they are. Not only were lawsuits filed by a demented Rudy Giuliani with no evidence—but literally crazy conspiracy QAnon theories were put forward to explain the imagined election theft. QAnon is a shadowy internet super spreader of fascist lunatic theories—such as that the Democratic Party is in reality a child kidnapping operation organized around capturing children to literally suck their blood. After this election we now have QAnon spouters who ran on, won and will represent the Republi-fascist Party of Trump/Pence in Congress. Lunacy like this when laughed at and shrugged off masks the danger to humanity when a huge section of America is completely unhinged from reality and fervently believe their alternate, fact-free, reality as morally superior and existential for their lives. This destruction of truth is a key factor in the forging of a fascist base, a fascist leader, and fascist rule. We have lived it for four years … and it’s been metastasizing for 40. Trump and Pence will most likely be out soon, even as they are still trying to overturn the election. Even as they are not yet gone, they can do enormous harm up until when they no longer have their hands on the weapons of state power, but even when they are out of executive power, the fascist danger remains.
Paul Street and Dr. Phil Rice have brought telling evidence that the Trump/Pence fascist regime’s refusal to take and foster a scientific approach to the COVID virus has meant that the scientists, medical researchers, frontline health workers as well as the broad masses of people whose role in adopting safe practices to slow the spread of infection was, and still is, decisive until the majority of the people here and around the world are inoculated with a safe and effective vaccine which has led to an appalling criminal number of unnecessary deaths and disease. I want to begin this talk by bringing some additional evidence to the discussion:
[Here, Andy Zee played a minute of video clips: first, the comedian Sarah Cooper doing a bit with Trump’s suggesting people take bleach and somehow inject sunlight into their bodies, followed by a 10-second clip of Trump saying that the virus “will just go away”—like a miracle.]
We laugh at this, especially at Sarah Cooper’s hilarious mouthing of Trump’s insanity, but this should be a doorway to a stark confrontation to the horror show that this ignoramus … this psychopath … this fascist … has brought down on humanity. The absurdity of Trump’s blathering accomplishes a purpose. A fascist purpose—the effect of which is potentially even deadlier than the cost in death and debilitating illness—because it destroys any sense of what is real and what is not and how to determine what is true—without which people are susceptible to being manipulated including to commit great crimes. Such buffoonery entertains the fascist base who relish the fascist leader’s “irreverence” and feel validated in their resentment and desire for revenge against those they have been taught to feel are taking from, and looking down, on them.
At the same time, the buffoonery captivates while it blinds liberals and progressives to confronting the enormity and the essence of what is going on—the fight at the top of society for a fascist form of rule —the shredding of all pretense of democracy, of a more blatant form of dictatorship of the capitalist system by the leader of the fascist party and the forging of a different cohering set of values of an amalgam of open white supremacy, patriarchy, and xenophobia, cohered with the mythology and program of America First undergirded by a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.
I said that this has been 4 years and 40 years. Forty years ago, in response to changes in the world and the risings of the 1960s and what were concessions to those struggles resulting in greater recognition of and inclusion of Black people, women, and lesbians and gay people. After President Nixon was forced to resign the presidency, the hard right conservative movement coalesced behind Ronald Reagan. Reagan put forth a messianic mythology of America as a “shining city on a hill” to prepare for actual world war against the then Soviet Union, and at the same time to wage a domestic war on these civil rights gains. A Republican coalition was forged with a strand of biblically literalist Christian evangelical movements to forge a base of what has become a Christian fascist movement which reached power in 2016 through the unholy union of Trump with Mike Pence. This became the core of the organized base of the Trump/Pence regime. These forces have been trained and forged in a belief system that is completely and dangerously disconnected from actual reality.
This is a movement with a large section who believe in “end times,” in which they believe that they—the faithful—will be raptured, magically transported, up to heaven and thus nothing else matters—to hell with (quite literally) the environment, the danger of nuclear war, and all the people who they regard as other than human, and would just as soon be eliminated.
This movement has coexisted with a whole culture and fascist media that has been training millions in a mode of thinking of “what benefits us, me, is true, because we/I want it to be so.” With no criteria of actual evidence. This way of thinking—what benefits me, finds expression in their taking the very American concept of the absolute freedom of the individual (which is an undesirable impossibility) as the greatest good. We are living and dying with this in the morally sick and the actual sickening spread of the virus in their refusal to wear masks expressed as “My right to be an asshole, trumps your right to live”—and especially so, if you are Latino, Black or Native American.
This fascist “belief system” is buttressed by twin pillars of American chauvinism that refuses to look at the history and present-day reality of the U.S., which has put this country in vampire position of sucking the life blood of the rest of the world—children digging in toxic conditions for precious metals for our cell phones in the Congo, or women risking their lives in perilous garment shops of Bangladesh —humanity whose lives and labor are being poured into the wealth of America and its imperialist allies and rivals. Buttressing this is an epistemology in which facts are subordinated to their desire to benefit themselves and take revenge upon those whom they believe stand in the way of their further gorging.
But, wait, we also have to look at the epistemology of the progressive and liberal strata, all those who have been outraged at the Trump/Pence regime, but who over four years overwhelming would not recognize or acknowledge what this regime is—a fascist regime with dire consequences for humanity here and around the world, and who up to this moment have refused not only to recognize fascism, but to act against it in the only way it could really be rocked back on its heels by getting out in the streets in sustained nonviolent protest. While I know that these “decent” people, outraged by the bigotry of the Trumpites, may be made uncomfortable by confronting the reality that their complacency, and putting their faith, in the institutions and normal political processes, particularly the Democratic Party, is also based on the reality of living atop the food chain of capitalism-imperialism.
Last April, the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA) wrote a piece titled: “Conspiracy Theories, Fascist ‘Certitude,’ Liberal Paralysis, Or A Scientific Approach to Changing The World.” I am going to read a substantive passage from this because it concentrates a great deal of what has plagued the millions of progressive people from acting in the way they should to drive this regime from power.
Even as people in the medical field are proceeding on the basis of a scientific approach and, in the context of this coronavirus crisis, “liberals” are insisting that it is vitally important now to “listen to the scientists,” for far too long many “liberals” and “progressives” have allowed themselves to become paralyzed by relativist agnosticism, lacking—and often even rejecting the very idea of—certitude (with ridiculous notions like “How can you know what is really true, no one can say that their truth is greater than someone else’s truth,” and so on). Meanwhile, fascist forces, marked by a truly dark ages mentality, and firmly convinced of the “truth” of all manner of lunatic conspiracy theories promoting fascist “values” and objectives, are eagerly embracing callous philistinism, willfully rejecting critical thinking, smugly ignoring, defying and denigrating science and the scientific method.
Put another way, in terms of major trends in society as a whole: Those who have the most certitude are those most out of touch with reality.
Further complicating the situation and an additional dimension to this problem is the fact that, although they do not share but strongly oppose the “values” and objectives of the fascists, many of the basic masses, who are bitterly oppressed under this system, also are suspicious of and even are inclined to reject science and scientifically-grounded analysis. But this also leaves you vulnerable to all kinds of unfounded “conspiracy theories” and other wrong and harmful ideas, including the notion that nothing people do will make a difference because “it’s all in god’s hands.”
There is both great danger and no way forward for the interests of humanity in a society and culture of competing “stories,” or narratives—where you have your narrative, and she has hers, and I have mine. We have different experiences and these can contribute to our understanding the world we live in … but to really understand the world you need a scientific understanding that starts from the fact that there is one reality that has many layers and complexity, but there is one objective world. Science means gathering evidence and seeking the patterns in that evidence to reveal the connections and pathways to identifying and understanding the underlying causes that give rise to that evidence, and then developing the ways to act on that reality. This is true whether you are a scientist trying to discover the antibodies to prevent the spread of COVID, or, studying the ozone layer to save the environment, or you are applying the scientific method to overcome the exploitation and oppression, the wars, and divisions that plague humanity.
Bob Avakian goes on to say:
…The truth of something does not depend on who says it, or how it makes you feel. Because something comes from a source you like does not make it true; and because something comes from a source you do not like does not make it untrue. And truth is not a “popularity contest.” Because a lot of people believe something does not make it true; and because only a few people believe something does not make it untrue.
Truth is objective—which means: Whether something is true or not depends on whether it corresponds to actual reality…. [BA goes on to say:] To sort out what is false from what is true and to stand on solid ground in terms of understanding things, you need the scientific method and approach to reality—and, yes, scientifically-grounded certitude, where such certitude can and must be established.
For a brief example of how we can apply science to society: how can we say that there is a straight line from the Confederacy to the fascism of the Trump/Pence regime? We can start by tracing its development in the history of the U.S.—beginning with slavery written into the U.S. founding documents; its centrality to the development of wealth in the U.S. from the 17th to the 20th century; the betrayal of Reconstruction that ushered in the era of lynching and Jim Crow; through the current era of the New Jim Crow where the police play the role of the KKK; and the open white supremacy that was evidenced in the attempt of the Trump/Pence regime to discard the millions of urban votes of Black people in cities that voted for Biden. There is more than I can go into here, but the point is—just as in the natural world, you go to the evidence, in this case, the history and the underlying economic and political forces that drive this white supremacy all of which is available in articles and films at revcom.us.
The scientific method is at the heart of the work of Bob Avakian and is a defining character of his leadership. BA has qualitatively developed the science of communism, the science of revolution, to chart the path to the emancipation of all humanity. Think about what it would mean if under a totally different system that didn’t set people against each other just to survive as that shapes people’s thinking today, but instead there was a shared epistemology of basing our lives and decisions on a collective process of discovering and acting on what was actually true? This, as BA has said, is what is needed to get to a world beyond where might makes right. BA has said there is a place where epistemology and morality meet. This is expressed in Bob Avakian’s personal character and is a hallmark of the principles of the new communism which completely repudiate the notion that “the ends justify the means,” and that “truth” is just an “instrument” of desired objectives, rather than what it actually is: a correct reflection of objective reality.
To all who reject the anti-science of the Trump/Pence fascist regime and the dangerous movement they have forged all the way up into the highest reaches of government including dominating the Supreme Court, this talk is a challenge and invitation to be consistent and principled in your recognition of the importance of science and apply it not just to where you feel comfortable in the prevention and curing of COVID, but as BA concludes the article I am citing:
…follow the truth wherever it leads, particularly when it comes to historical, social and political questions—because where it leads is to demolishing cherished illusions and prejudices of “liberals” regarding the actual role of this “great American democracy,” throughout its history and throughout the world; the actual nature of the system we live under, capitalism-imperialism; and the actual experience of revolutionary struggle against this system, and more particularly the experience of the communist movement and the socialist societies it has brought into being.
A better world is possible. There is a way that everyone can be a part of knowing and changing the world—in opposing the fascism of the Trump/Pence regime, and even more fundamentally in making a radical leap beyond this capitalist-imperialist system (which has given rise to this fascism) through making revolution and bringing into being a far better world—for that future you need the scientific method and approach of the new communism.