The white settler state always inflicts excessive mortality on racially subject peoples, and capitalism inflicts death on large sections of its disproportionately non-white working class and poor.
“Capitalism is constantly imposing a monstrous, rolling triage on the populations it controls.”
People everywhere ask, “When will this Covid-19 crisis be over?” But the question is based on the flawed premise that the nation and world are being ravaged by a health crisis, when in fact the planet is suffering the convulsions of a late-stage capitalist system that cannot cope with the periodic emergence of deadly contagions – just as it cannot possibly confront the climate change that results from the workings of the system, itself. Human health and welfare and planetary climate stability are incompatible with the rule of the rich. Period.
It should also be inarguable that, in a society born of indigenous genocide and Black chattel slavery, “excessive” Black, Latino and Native American deaths during the current plague would follow the same pattern as the historical excessive mortality among these same groups, due to their subordinate, despised and powerless status under the rule of rich white men. Why should Black mortality from coronavirus not match excessive Black rates of unemployment, incarceration, maternal childbirth and infant mortality, and early death by violence. The white settler nation that created the world’s first totally racially regimented society always inflicts excessive mortality on racially subject peoples, and capitalism is a chaotic system that periodically inflicts immiseration, obsolescence and death on large sections of its disproportionately non-white working class and poor. Among the super-exploited and perpetually warred-against peoples of the formerly colonized countries, mortality and misery are even more “excessive.” Such is the nature of the global rule of the rich – capitalism.
“Late-stage capitalist systems cannot cope with the periodic emergence of deadly contagions.”
Donald Trump, who increasingly behaves like a mixture of Caligula and Bozo the Clown, is charged with exposing workers to “catastrophic harm” by demanding that Covid-ridden meat-packaging plants remain open as “essential” businesses. Trump encouraged Tea Party-style demonstrators that demanded the whole country be freed from the “tyranny” of government-imposed lockdown. But the Orange Menace’s position conforms perfectly with the logic of neoliberal capitalism, whose think-tanks perform cost-benefit ratio analyses on all manner of social and political questions and inevitably conclude that the benefits to “the economy” of corporate practices outweigh the harms imposed on working and poor people. The Gulf coast’s “cancer alley” kills multitudes of Black and Brown Americans, but “it’s worth it” to maintain the profits generated by the regional petrochemical industry – the same assessment former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright arrived at regarding the economic sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s. Six million dead Congolese – the biggest genocide since World War Two – are a cost that is acceptable to the Lords of Capital when measured against Congo’s vast deposits of coltan and other minerals.
“The Orange Menace’s position conforms perfectly with the logic of neoliberal capitalism.”
Capitalism is constantly imposing a monstrous, rolling triage on the populations it controls. Slavery and the colonial conquest of most of the non-white world were always evil, and the Europeans knew it. But the genocidal costs accrued to the conquered and enslaved, while the benefits were reaped by the ruling classes of piratical Europe and its white settler colonies. Racial capitalism made the same calculation when it inaugurated the nuclear age at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “it’s worth it.”
The benefits to Capital of the privatization of health care are immense, while the down-side costs are expected to be borne mainly by the Black, brown and poor. However, the coronavirus has no human allegiances – class, racial or otherwise. Just as it ravages the elderly and people with previously existing morbidities, the contagion can be lethal to a late-stage socio-economic system wracked with accumulated contradictions. In the case of the United States, where the capitalists control the only two parties that are allowed to govern. and dictate the content of the mass media, cost-benefit analysis trumps science and upends common notions of morality, subverting resistance to the spread of disease. Austerity and privatization – policies designed to monopolize all national and global resources for profit-making enterprise while forcing the working classes into a Race to the Bottom – result in the loss of structural “antibodies” to mass infection, and condemn the sick to inferior or non-existent care.
“The contagion can be lethal to a late-stage socio-economic system wracked with accumulated contradictions.”
By the time the virus hit, the U.S. had no health care “system” worthy of the name, nothing but a patchwork of starved and disconnected public and profit-oriented private facilities with no stockpiles of equipment, medicines or gear to cope with Covid-19. Trump is arguably the worst chief executive possible in this crisis, but no American president could have averted the catastrophe that late-stage capitalism had made inevitable by its very success in creating a state of and for corporations. Such a state cannot protect the people, but is concerned only with further enriching and empowering the Lords of Capital.
No wonder the banks have been empowered to process $350 billion in emergency loans to small businesses – and that these windfalls have gone largely to big businesses with the best bank connections. The system is designed to create such outcomes, no matter who is in the White House. During the last meltdown, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a former president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, allowed most of the $7 billion Congress set aside for the worst-hit victims of the housing crisis to go unspent for two years. When Geithner was finally questioned about his failure to carry out the mandate of the TARP program, he essentially said “I forgot.” Obama did nothing to punish or even reprimand him, understanding that the class Geithner served – and that Obama served – insisted that the “recovery” be on bankers’ terms, not the people’s.
May 1 Strike and Demands
The only solution to the rule of rich white men is revolt. But we can start the process with a People’s Strike, beginning on Friday, May 1 and repeated the first of every month during lockdown. The strike call was first issued by the Black activists at Cooperation Jackson, and then joined by a broad spectrum of organizations. Their demands are:
- Protect All Frontline Workers in the Hospitals, the Supply Chains, and the Farms and Fields to ensure that they have all of the equipment and disinfectant materials that they need to keep themselves and the general public healthy
- Protect Asians and other vulnerable communities, including the homeless, migrants, and refugees from discrimination and attack in this time of crisis
- Democratize the Means of Production, Convert the Corporations and Workplaces into Cooperatives to produce what we need and distribute equitably according to need
- Institute Universal Health Care Now
- Institute Universal Basic Services Now (Education, Childcare, Elderly Care, Water, Electricity, Internet, etc.) based on Economic, Social and Cultural rights guidelines
- Institute Universal Basic Income Now
- Democratize the Finance, Credit and Insurance Industries - Bailout the People, Not the Corporations and Wall Street
- Decarbonize the Economy, Institute a Green New Deal based on a Just Transition, End the Fossil Fuel and Extractive Industries Now
- Housing is a Human Right, Decommodify Housing Now, Open all available housing stock to those who need it now
- Ensure there is clean drinking water for all communities, decommodify water now
- Cancel Our Debts, Institute a Debt Jubilee Now
- Close the Jails, Close the Prisons, Release the Prisoners
- Close the Detention Centers, Reunite the Families, Stop the Raids and Deportations
- Close all of the Overseas Military Bases, Cut the Military (Defense) and Spy (Surveillance) Budgets and Redirect these funds to Health Care, Social Services, Universal Basic Income and Greening Public Infrastructure and the Economy*
Where you see the word “democratize,” read “socialize.” That’s the intent. Power to the People!
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].
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