Global “Free” Market Capitalism Is a Failed Fantasy & the Coronavirus Proves It Yet Again
“Economics is unique among the social sciences in having a single monolithic mainstream, which is either unaware of or actively hostile to alternative approaches.”
Welcome to the latest installment of global economic catastrophe — this time brought to you by failed free-market policies alongside none other than COVID-19. Although to be perfectly candid, one could just as convincingly argue that the total systems-wide collapse we find ourselves in at present is the result of said polices working entirely as intended as opposed to failing. Semantics aside, COVID-19 is undoubtedly rapidly accelerating the post-2008 Great Recession. As others and I have stated before, the 2008 recession never truly ended, instead, migrating to various countries and sectors on the economic periphery, such as Greece for instance. Indeed, the period after 2008 has been marked by relatively stable financial markets propped up by the central banks of the world printing trillions of virtually cost-free currency which corporations have overwhelmingly utilized to buy back their own stock. Of course, this did nothing but exacerbate already worsening inequality as well as siphoned away investment from key productive sectors of the economy. I delve into these deleterious pre-COVID economic dynamics in much deeper detail in my piece titled “Our Economy was Broken & Now The Coronavirus is Going to Expose it”.
It’s a virtual certainty at this point that a severe economic recession, or more likely, a depression, is in store for the global economy. Last week, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, James Bullard projected that the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter in tandem with an astounding 50% drop in GDP. That estimate was later amended to 32% unemployment, equating to 47 million jobs lost. To put those numbers in perspective, the worst economic crisis in capitalism’s history, The Great Depression, observed an unemployment rate of 25% at its worst point. Early on March 26th, U.S initial jobless claims almost topped out at an unprecedented 3.3 million, over 3 times that of the previously held record. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, known in part for constantly boasting about previously low-unemployment, referred to those figures as “ not relevant”. Moreover, those numbers are dated from the week of March 21st, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, unfortunately. I would be pleasantly surprised if there aren’t twice as many jobless claims filed in the next week.
The Federal Reserve has responded with the announcement of ‘QE Infinity’ which essentially is the formalization of letting the Fed’s money printer run, well, infinitely — but primarily only to purchase corporate debt with little to no strings attached of course. It’s worth noting that the Fed purchasing corporate debt (bonds) has never been done before. In 2008, the Fed shored up the financial system by recapitalizing the banks and then allowing the money to flow in the system thereof. Purchasing debt directly from corporations is yet another way the Fed is subverting the will of Congress, the President, and subsequently, the people, to pick and choose who they wish to recapitalize. Nonetheless, assuming the world’s central banks, aided mainly by the Federal Reserve, are able to stabilize the situation as they once did in 2010, we must acknowledge the following: the world will not return to the global capitalism that existed prior to COVID-19, just as it never returned to the global capitalism that existed prior to 2008. Investment, specifically in the sectors that actually matter (green energy transition, medicine, education, etc), will continue to reach even lower levels, inequality will reach higher summits, and broader sociopolitical instability will intensify across the globe. But, even assuming the Fed and co. will be able to refloat the global financial system in much the same way as before is assuming a lot. In 2009, the Federal Reserve, and the European Central Bank to a lesser extent, were able to refloat the global financial system with dollar swap lines, also referred to as “liquidity swaps”.
However, there are two key differences between this crisis and the one in 2008. For one, China is not in the position it once was to boost aggregate demand. China is quite literally patient zero for this catastrophe and will need time to recover from the total depletion of its political economy. Second is the issue of Donald Trump. Will he allow the Federal Reserve to provide strings-free liquidity swaps to Canada, Mexico, Europe, or even China? It’s hard to say, perhaps his desperation to get reelected will render him more pragmatic in his decision making, or perhaps desperation will lead to an even more unhinged Trump who will look to score cheap nationalist points by refusing to allow the liquidity swaps to take place at any meaningful level. Europe’s economy is especially exposed due to interest rates already being negative there, the systemic purchasing of private debt en masse for a decade now, and thanks to the austerity-laden European Fiscal Compact. Fortunately, on March 19th, the Fed reopened some of its existing swap lines as well as opened some new ones, but for now still excludes large economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, and more. Regardless, Trump deciding whether or not he wants to play ball or take his ball home in a tantrum won't alter the fundamental reality that our current system is riddled with contradictions which make it wholly unequipped to respond to the worsening crises humanity has and will continue to face in the 21st century. The next section aims to illuminate these contradictions within the context of the contemporary crisis.
The Main Contradictions That Are Hard to Miss
First, a word on the conflation of markets with capitalism. Conflating the two only serves to dehistoricize as well as naturalize capitalism due to markets having existed for millennia in contrast to the capitalist mode of production which is only a few centuries old. Markets are simply a method of exchanging goods, services, and wealth while capitalism is an entire mode of production. Markets, specifically unregulated or loosely regulated (“free”) markets, can and have been manipulated to operate synergistically within the capitalist framework, but the two are not inextricable models.
1| The Freedom of Consumption
The first main contradiction found within free-market doctrine is the so-called freedom to consume. Consumers who don’t possess the funds to acquire shelter, food, or as is all too prevalent in the U.S — healthcare, effectively have no freedom to consume. The freedom of the consumer only exists for those who have the requisite amount of money to demand (i.e market demand) what they need or want. In this way, markets ultimately direct scarcities towards the wealthiest. This contradiction is more pertinent than ever in an era marked by gilded-age levels of inequality which dispossess countless workers and deprive them of basic necessities and security. For a visceral example, why are 15 million-plus households food insecure in the U.S while food waste is estimated at somewhere between 30–40% of the entire country’s food supply? Because rudimentary supply-demand equations only apply to those with the money to partake in them. The free market places no value on non-monied non-participants and as such the government is tasked with intervening on their behalf, although not without massive resistance of course. At the macro-level, further establishing this contradiction are predatory agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank whom often demand that governments of emerging economies eliminate any subsidies or social programs as a condition for receiving loans, as a part of the neoliberal Washington Consensus (more on this later).
Back at home here in the U.S, we’re currently witnessing the abject failure of the patch-work private healthcare system. The healthcare system here provides a glaring example of the lack of freedom that exists when it comes to “consumption” of this critical service. Unfortunately, in the case of healthcare, this is not only inefficient from a resource distribution perspective but deadly from a human perspective. It’s not complicated or novel — healthcare is all or nothing. As a society, we are only as healthy as the weakest member of our society. Indeed, this truth extends beyond our borders now too as in the highly interconnected 21st century, we’re invariably only as healthy as the most vulnerable members within the global population. The social costs we’re paying now far exceed the actual costs we would have paid had we implemented a single-payer system, and further still, they exceed even the exorbitant costs we pay under the current patch-work private system.
2| The Freedom To Sell
The majority of people sell their work or service to an employer of some kind for wages and salary. In the process, the sale of their work accounts for almost, if not all, of the value they are able to sell. The novel side-hustle fetishization where workers must stretch themselves unbearably thin just to make ends meet is the most recent innovation to cope with this. The employer, paying for the workers’ services is then granted the right to order the employee regarding their every action while on “company time”. For most of one’s active hours, for five out of every seven days a week, one is told what to do and how to do it. Marx referred to this hierarchical dynamic as wage slavery precisely for these reasons. Indeed, one has to wonder why we demand so much in the way of democratic representation from our government, yet settle for much the opposite in our workplaces where most of our time is actively spent. Those who are unemployed, a group which is poised to tremendously grow over the coming months, are even more restricted in their ability to sell, as the free-market deems them valueless. Thus, the freedom to sell only narrowly applies to a minority of people who are not required to sell themselves or their work in order to survive.
3| The Freedom To Produce
Having established that typical workers lack the freedom to sell, it’s expected that they would lack the means to produce freely as well. Even capitalists who possess enough capital to employ workers thus granting them more freedom than their employees are ultimately, still too, restrained by the parameters of the market. In the competition with other producers, they must maximize profits for shareholders by increasing sales or cutting costs (or buying back stock…). This forces employers to relate to their employees as a means to a profitable end for the capital owner and shareholders. Capitalists are subsequently compelled to engage in a “race to the bottom” in an effort to out-compete their rivals. Being altruistic towards one’s employees is therefore unjust under the free-market rationale since this diminishes the profits that the shareholders will see and renders the business less competitive.
Indeed, we needn’t look further than the widespread normalization of stock buybacks which greatly enrich CEOs who are paid in stock options, as well as increase returns for shareholders, thus purchasing their compliance in the practice. The airlines, which loudly begged for bailouts and got them, spent 96% of their cash flow in the last 10 years — you know the LAST time there was a financial crisis — on buybacks. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz threatened huge job cuts if his company didn’t receive “sufficient government support by the end of March”. Despite the apparent direness of the situation, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said that the company would refuse government assistance if it attached a condition in which the government would acquire equity in the company for bailing it out. Calhoun even said “I don’t have a need for an equity stake” and that “if you attach too many things to it, of course, you take a different course”. It doesn’t end there though, even the private jet industry is extending out its hands for cash. The narcissism of these executives may be hard to fathom, but under the free-market doctrine, they are in fact acting in exactly the manner they should.
4| Lower Costs
This contradiction is perhaps the most emblematic of the inhumanity baked into the capitalist mode of production. Chiefly because the ways in which lower costs are achieved by the producer, for the consumer to enjoy, are rarely if ever mentioned. Private firms can and do lower their costs of production by eliminating or evading pollution controls, minimum wages in the form of immigrant exploitation, benefits for workers, safety standards, as well as taxes via loopholes and offshore havens. And, even when a private firm isn’t directly engaged in the aforementioned, rare as that might be, they’re often actively engaging in political lobbying to undo and undermine those policy prescriptions from an enforcement standpoint. This is why under free trade agreements such as NAFTA, private firms relocate their production to countries where they’re not obligated to pay these costs of protecting human life or the environment. This is how low costs (and record-breaking profits) are achieved for the producer and consumer under the free-market doctrine, by producing goods cheaply at the cost of human and environmental life and then selling the goods at a markup to consumers in U.S markets. The effects of this are reflexive however as the resulting increased unemployment further cheapens the price of labor as it becomes more abundant, thus reducing the amount that private firms are required to pay workers. Indubitably, the dismantling of the U.S manufacturing sector partly catalyzed the record-low labor force participation we see now alongside the formation of the gig-economy and the increased hiring by more monopolized companies such as Amazon and Walmart. Notice that capital is unencumbered by the borders of the world, yet workers are. It is only with intervention on the part of the government that minimum standards and protections for workers and the environment are guaranteed in order to prevent a never-ending “race to the bottom” from occurring between firms in competition. By the way, this highlights another contradiction of unfettered free-market capitalism wherein lower prices force suppliers to produce more to generate the same amount of profit. This leads to production outpacing consumption culminating in a crisis of overproduction where workers are laid off and cannot buy back the products they have made. What follows is a prolonged economic contraction until the market glut eases (often aided by the government), the excess products are finally sold off, and production picks up again.
Again, firms taking advantage of low-cost “free-trade” zones are acting totally rationally under the free-market doctrine, despite the inhumane and contradictory nature of the system.
Another comical contradiction found within free-market doctrine is the idea of “perfect competition”. An idealized market scenario in which buyers and sellers are so numerous and well informed that all elements of monopoly are absent and the market price of a commodity is beyond the control of individual buyers and sellers. This fantasy cooked up to idealize capitalism is in direct opposition to the proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production (otherwise known as “economies of scale”), unless you assume that all firms can increase the scales of their operations endlessly as they endeavor to outcompete one another. Obviously, this isn’t tenable and in the real world, firms are engaged in an endless war of lowering costs and cutting prices. Economist Anwar Shaikh aptly refers to this reality as “real competition”. Furthermore, in the perfectly competitive scenario, apparatuses like the $1.2 trillion advertising industry wouldn’t exist since its sole purpose of existence is to misinform consumers.
As a result, economies of scale lead among factors that contribute to monopolization and the uniformity of goods since it is multinational corporations that posses the greatest economies of scale, thus outcompeting smaller businesses. John McMurty had this to say in his Journal of Business Ethics article:
At the same time, economies of large scale make for more and more uniformity of methods and goods — from monocultural farming and seeds to mass homogeneity of media products and books. Diversity raises prices. Vandana Shiva has called the outcome of this market imperialism process a “monoculture of the mind”. With ever fewer multinational media conglomerates in the global free market monopolizing control of the production and distribution of television programs, films, magazines, newspapers and even textbooks and learned journals, this “monoculture of the mind” extends into the control of people’s brain circuits themselves.
But are the lower costs which proceed from these competitive advantages and economies of scale really lower costs for societies as a whole? What about increased poverty, pollution, unemployment, illiteracy, ill-health, environmental degradation and destruction of natural resources by large-scale exploitation which follow from such cost reduction methods? What of the loss of cultural diversity and autonomy of thought which the central control of media conglomerates increasingly imposes on human societies and peoples? What of the increasingly inescapable pervasion of the globe by ever more motor noise, traffic, commercial interruptions and junk?
The negative consequences McMurty mentions are all viewed as “externalities” or “social costs” under the free-market doctrine, meaning external to the profit-making of firms. One concrete example readily observable in our current battle with COVID-19 is the social cost of preparing for an inevitable pandemic. Because these costs were external to business’ private costs, nobody bore those costs. And indeed now we see all too clearly that the social costs of being unprepared for this crisis far exceed the social costs that would have been necessary to prepare for the pandemic. Yet another example of the inefficiency of the free-market capitalist system.
Back at the micro-level, neoclassical proponents claim that markets encourage suppliers to enter the market in the face of shortages, thus reducing prices until an equilibrium is reached. The problem with this assertion is two-fold. Firstly, it says nothing of what occurs in the meantime while suppliers attempt to enter into a specific market. Again, just look at the shortage of ventilators that we’re currently experiencing. Secondly, as is often the case in neoclassical economics, it assumes a far too simplistic altruistic neutrality from market participants. Inevitably, the aforementioned dynamic of suppliers entering the market is actively undermined at all times. Suppliers have taken the same Econ 101 course you have — look no further than the modern real estate bubbles that exist across what is virtually the entire developed world if you desire more proof of suppliers endeavoring to keep supply low. In reality, there is a constant supply-demand disconnect because that ensures a higher degree of profitability for capital owners.
At the macro-level, the World Bank and IMF carry out neo-colonial practices that, according to Ghanian revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah, represent “imperialism in its final and perhaps its most dangerous stage.” In his book titled Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of imperialism, Nkrumah details the different forms neo-colonialism may assume:
The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes. For example, in an extreme case the troops of the imperial power may garrison the territory of the neo-colonial State and control the government of it. More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means. The neo-colonial State may be obliged to take the manufactured products of the imperialist power to the exclusion of competing products from elsewhere. Control over government policy in the neo-colonial State may be secured by payments towards the cost of running the State, by the provision of civil servants in positions where they can dictate policy, and by monetary control over foreign exchange through the imposition of a banking system controlled by the imperial power.(emphasis added)
If all a civil servant needs to do is satisfy the whims of a former colonial power in order to remain wealthily connected and powerful, why would they ever listen to the needs of their domestic constituency? Why else has Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who’s regularly condoned and funded by the World Bank, held power for 34 years despite the widespread collapse of education, healthcare, and other infrastructure in the country? Such is the sabotaged state of many African countries. This is significant because capitalist states disperse capitalism’s contradictions both domestically and abroad, the latter of which is manifested in imperialism. Fighting to limit imperialism, in its neo-colonial forms or otherwise, directly limits capitalist states' ability to externalize their many contradictions.
Ask yourself, how was Cuba, a beleaguered island nation on the economic periphery able to aid in the liberation of South Africa both militarily and strategically? Why has the tiny island nation been able to send more than 400,000 healthcare professionals to work in 164 countries, with the most recent example being 52 doctors sent to Italy to help combat the current pandemic? Meanwhile, Africa, a continent with over 1.3 billion people, vast natural resources, and 54 sovereign nations, routinely turns to Cuba for help in times of need, such as during the Ebola crisis. Why do many African and Asian countries serve as the literal dumping grounds of western nations? It might have something to do with the World Bank and the IMF’s prevailing model simultaneously being the anti-Cuba model. Take China, for example, a nation that had a GDP per capita income several times smaller than that of Ghana in 1960, yet in 2020 it is China that’s primed to become the world’s next superpower, not Ghana. Setting aside valid debates that can be had over the Chinese political system, it is undeniable that China transformed itself from a rural peasant society to a world superpower in merely half a century. It accomplished this by taking control of its production and kicking out western powers who were exploiting the country, often by literally slinging dope within China. By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa over the same period has largely stagnated despite dwarfing China’s natural resource abundance, due to neo-colonialism.
Of course, the disarticulation of the African states stems from the colonial ravaging of the continent for centuries prior. But, neo-colonialism in its economically veiled form extends and amplifies this disarticulation in the modern-day. In order to access financing from the World Bank and IMF, a nation is forced to accept certain conditionalities, known as The Washington Consensus, which directly hamper the industrialization of a nation. For example, nations cannot subsidize their long-term growth supporting sectors like primary education, infrastructure, and healthcare. That last one is of particular significance as it has served as the impetus for the gutting of the global public health infrastructure which as we’re witnessing in real-time has disastrous consequences. Ultimately The Washington Consensus policy prescription is antithetical to the ways in which industrialization has been achieved in virtually every nation.
The work of political economist and world-systems analyst Samir Amin often revolved around the ways certain nations came to possess industries without ever industrializing, essentially by sub-contracting their resources and labor cheaply to the west. Amin argued that nations must develop an integrated economic system of domestic resource extraction that feed into domestic production that then can be channeled into the domestic production of higher-level consumer products. For example, a steel factory in Pennsylvania producing steel that is purchased and used in Michigan to produce automobiles sold domestically. But subsidizing these industries early on in a nation’s development is the key. Subsidizing inefficient industries is costly but is required in order for them to become productive if a high-tech economy is the eventual desired outcome. As a matter of fact, infant industry protection played key roles in the industrialization of Britain, and later America and the enforcement of these policies represent the kicking away of the ladder so that uneven development, and thus the power of the imperial core, is further reinforced.
The same dynamic exists for regulating foreign direct investment (FDI). The World Trade Organization regularly asserts that regulating FDI will reduce investment. Take Japan, for example, a staunch advocate of deregulating FDI, who virtually banned FDI until the 1980s. In 19th century America, foreign shareholders weren’t even allowed to vote in Annual General Shareholders Meetings (AGMs). Finland classified all firms with more than 20% foreign investment as ‘dangerous enterprises’ and the nation went without a foreign bank branch until 1983. State ownership also became extensively utilized in France, Austria, Norway, Taiwan, Finland, and Singapore in the wake of WWII. The hypocrisy runs deep in The Washington Consensus. Perhaps the most successful state-owned enterprise (SOE) is the U.S military. Virtually all of the U.S’ technologically leading industries were borne directly from subsidized research done in the public sector. The semiconductor, backbone of the information economy, was developed by the navy for instance.
Some neoclassical economists argue meta-structural factors such as a countries geography, climate, access to the sea (i.e not landlocked), and even culture are to blame for uneven development. Uzbekistan is the only country in the world to be double landlocked, meaning one must traverse through two countries to reach a common waterway and yet it has experienced consistent 5% year over year GDP growth — all while utilizing the “bad policies” of protecting and investing heavily in its SOEs. Which establishes the pretext for the last contradiction of free-market capitalism. (Although there are several more not mentioned here).
5| Freedom From Government Interference
If the previous contradiction uncovers the most heinous aspects of free-market capitalism then this one surely represents the system’s (and its proponents) most asinine argument in defense of it. That is, the argument that free-market open competition ensures freedom from government interference. After all, the previous contradictions have all in some way or another spelled out why this isn’t remotely the case.
Putting aside for a moment the monumental moves the government routinely makes in order to keep the capitalist system propped up (like the $4 trillion corporations just received), the free-market continuously requires the services of government to maintain the profitable operation of firms. Services like police which protect private capital, education which provide skilled laborers, armed-forces which protect firms’ private interests abroad, and even highways, railways, and the internet, all are subsidized by the government. I’ve yet to see a free-market proponent call for the privatization of the roads they drive on every day, or for the disarmament of police, or for demilitarization. What free-market proponents really mean is freedom from any government intervention that does not directly enhance the profitability of private enterprise. The contradiction deepens when you consider the role the government has played in subsidizing many key industries. As mentioned above, paradigm-shifting technologies like GPS, the internet, the underlying technology that is Google, touch screens, semiconductors, cellular networks, and more, were all invented by the U.S government, funded by taxpayer dollars, and essentially handed to private enterprise to profit off of.
At any rate, the same conservative liberals who’ve incessantly whined about the “affordability” of social programs didn’t have much to say when the government passed a $6 trillion bailout package last week.
The Disasterous Response of Trump & Co to the Crisis
By now you’re likely familiar with reports that showed Trump and John Bolton fragmenting the previous white house pandemic team which reported to the National Security Council. You’ve also probably seen the reports of Senators Burr (R-NC), Loeffler (R-GA), and others engaging in insider trading of stocks before the extent of the crisis was widely known, instead of actually informing the public, or pushing the government to prepare for the danger that was to come.
Chances are, you’ve seen the footage of the president appearing to fall asleep during a coronavirus meeting. You’re likely aware of the disastrous job done by the administration to acquire and disseminate testing kits and other crucial items that doctors and hospitals need such as masks, gowns, and ventilators. Nurses in New York City are having to reuse masks and wear literal garbage bags to protect themselves. You’ve probably already heard that the Trump administration refused testing kits from the World Health Organization, likely in an effort to preserve the profits associated with producing the kits for some patron at Mar a Lago. Trump and co. ignored the literal ‘pandemic playbook’ in their response to the crisis, if you weren't aware. And, as if anyone needed more evidence, a Reuters special report stated that “The delayed and chaotic testing in the United States will cost lives, potentially including those of doctors and nurses”. Already, a nurse in NYC has lost their life from the virus.
You’re also probably familiar with the marked shift in the president's attitude towards the crisis. I’m pretty young but even I’m old enough to remember a month ago when Trump was regularly referring to the virus as a hoax that would disappear in short order. In case you missed it or are too young to remember, here’s a recount of the president’s pivot on the issue.
On March 31st, the total number of global cases eclipsed 850,000. On the 26th, the U.S became the country with the highest total cases of the virus, surpassing Italy and China. Additionally, the U.S is adding new daily cases at the highest rate of any nation. This is in spite of a frankly pitiful testing regime and overall environment which disincentivizes people from getting tested or receiving any medical care that they may need for that matter. Even previous worst-case scenarios placed the number of cases at roughly 81,000 by the end of March. The U.S blew past that number on March 26th with 5 days left in the month, surpassing 100,000 cases just a day later. The death toll in America also recently blew past the 3,000 mark and that number is likely an underestimation.
Somehow, South Korea, which reported its first case of the virus around the same time as the U.S has tested vastly more people in the same time and virtually flattened the growth curve of the virus within its borders. It may have something to do with an incredible healthcare system that’s even more comprehensive than a single-payer system. The highly successful government-run system allowed for an agile response executed in the form of large-scale free testing for citizens as well as non-citizens — no questions asked. Furthermore, the nation has 10 hospital beds per 1000 people compared to the U.S’ paltry 2.8.
Get Back To Work, Maggot.
Now the consensus on the right is that come Easter, the country will re-open prematurely so that the wheels of the economy can begin spinning again and wealthy capital owners can resume their regularly scheduled exploitation — only this time with workers holding the added concern of dying from a virus they can’t afford to get treated for. This cuts directly against everything health officials have warned us about. If the growth curve of the virus does begin to flatten over the next two weeks, reopening the country on Easter would cause the virus’ rate of spread to spike right back to where it was prior to restrictions being placed. The 1918 influenza pandemic was characterized by three distinct waves, the second and third of which ended up being the deadliest. If we reopen the economy we are setting ourselves up for a disastrous second wave of COVID-19 spread. Psychopaths like Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick have come out saying that the elderly should sacrifice themselves so that the economy doesn’t suffer. Such is the sociopathic calculus made under the capitalist framework which deifies profits above all else.
Furthermore, the conservative talking point which cynically states that the so-called ‘Chinese virus’ “only” has a 1 to 2% mortality rate assumes that the healthcare system will remain fully functional if restrictions are removed and people are once again forced to report to work. Hospitals are already overrun in NYC and as you’ve likely heard already, no part of the U.S has enough hospital beds for a coronavirus crisis. If, and when the Trump administration attempts to reopen the country prematurely, the death rate will skyrocket just as it has in Italy, only worse since we have even fewer hospital beds per 1000 people than they do. Deaths from treatable ailments will likely go up as people who would normally get treated are turned away due to the scarcity of beds. Even if we take the disingenuous talking point at face value, 1 to 2% of the American population is still 3 to 7 million lives lost. The conservative death cult is no longer mincing its words — Americans must die in order to save capitalism. Only after massive pushback from virtually everybody with a brain, Trump announced an extension of social distancing guidelines until the end of April, which is still too early and allows for the same dynamics described to take place.
The Democratic Party’s Failure
Donald Trump's approval ratings being the highest they’ve been since he’s taken office is a direct function of the Democrats’ failure from an oppositional and messaging standpoint. As is customary, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer represent the total absence of political competency in the Party. Gone are the days of the Party being headed by a charismatic and savvy political operator in the vein of Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. The party desperately needs renewed leadership and the corpse of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, who’s once again under fire from credible sexual assault allegations, is simply not up to the task.
Had Pelosi and Schumer possessed an iota of political savvy and or care for working people, they would have introduced a relief bill for workers and small businesses weeks ago that was separate from the bailouts of large corporations. The “phase three” CARES (“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security“) Act that was signed into law last Friday, combined relief for workers with corporate bailouts. Had the Democrats introduced a separate relief bill earlier, the pressure put on Congress to promptly pass the relief bill would have been immense and the Democrats’ leverage would have been insurmountable. Instead, they loitered and combined the two into one bill, effectively neutering any leverage they may have had in bolstering aid for working people. This played right into the hands of the GOP who callously held hospitals and working people hostage until they were rewarded with their wall street giveaway. Now, corporations will receive their gold plated parachutes while ordinary working people receive crumbs to help them get through this crisis. The bill is also means-testing based on 2018’s tax returns which will leave out millions who don’t typically need to file. To add insult to injury, the pathetically weak oversight provisions that were written into the bill by Democrats are now rendered useless per the president's legally questionable signing statement issued only hours after he signed the bill into law.
Schumer was patting himself on the back for delaying the bill in order to add a provision that would ensure no federal relief goes to the Trump family businesses. How about delaying the bill in order to raise the amount that gets paid out to working families, or better yet, so that there is no one-time payment but rather a monthly stipend. A month ago, Nancy Pelosi reassured Americans that the vaccine for the coronavirus would be “affordable”. Not free, but affordable. Pelosi and Schumer were even against direct cash injections to Americans at the beginning of negotiations, further revealing just how out of touch the pair are. In the case of the election, credit is due to Speaker Pelosi for her insistence that measures need to be taken to ensure that mail-in voting is viable at the national level come November. Nevertheless, Trump’s approval ratings are a reflection of the Democrats' failure to counter the right-wing effectively — mainly because they themselves aren’t too far removed from the right these days. Truthfully, I’m not sure the relief bill would look much different under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
However, even with the Republicans’ agility in outmaneuvering the Democrats by appearing to flank them from the left, the Republicans have been demonstrably worse when it comes to providing relief to workers. Had the Republicans had their way from the outset, the poorest Americans would have received nothing in the way of aid, the additional unemployment benefits included in the bill would be even more diminished, and there would be even less oversight given to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for a stupendous half a trillion-dollar slush fund which would then have its books hidden until after the election (I wonder why…). Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) opposed the bill at the last moment for being too generous to unemployed workers. The Senator stipulated that providing a momentarily marginally higher income to nurses would incentivize “taking people out of the workforce.” Ignoring for a moment that unemployment insurance doesn’t actually work the way he seems to think it does, Lindsay Graham and other conservative Senators’ statements distill the corrosive and punitive nature of a system that relies on workers’ desperation to keep the ball rolling. Thankfully, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remained steadfast, asserting that the provision was non-negotiable. Sanders also recently utilized his campaign’s fundraising apparatus to raise over $2 million within a 48 hour period in the coronavirus relief effort. Meanwhile, aside from a few short incohesive TV appearances, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has practically vanished.
You can spot the buyers remorse already setting in among the establishment as the pundit class has seemingly coronated New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as their new savior. Of course, they fail to contextualize the reality in NY that Cuomo has himself contributed to. Cuomo is also yet to provide a valid reason why rents shouldn’t be frozen but mortgages should, especially in a state where half the population rents. Likewise, they either ignore or fail to mention that Cuomo is engaging in the same sociopathic calculus that many on the right are.
Regardless, the Democratic fetishization with paperwork will be the party’s undoing. In this sense, if the Democratic establishment wishes to hold onto what little power it has left, tacking to the left (which would be considered the center-left anywhere else) is absolutely necessary. Although, I’ll hold my breath when it comes to the party displaying competency. And yes, I’m painfully coming to the conclusion that I may have to vote for Joe Biden as a swing-state voter. Only because Joe Biden and a hollowed-out neoliberal establishment will be a far more vulnerable and defeatable adversary than a frankly much more nimble and ruthlessly effective populist-right which will potentially be even better institutionally situated once this crisis starts winding down. That being said, the left in America has never been better situated to extract concessions from the Democratic establishment. Biden will lose in November if he fails to convince a majority of the Sanders flank of the party to join him. For decades, the establishment has consistently ignored the whims of the left because ultimately, by design, the left has had nowhere else to go. Bernie Sanders has uprooted that dynamic entirely. The left, now having real muscle this election cycle, must be adamant in demanding concession such as a truly progressive VP pick, as well as a progressive cabinet. If JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is chosen as Treasury Secretary then the left must threaten Joe Biden and the establishment with their abstinence. Media pundits may try to push a narrative of “damage mitigation” wherein whining, lecturing, and fearmongering are employed en masse as they grapple with normalizing the candidacy of a senile old man who’s tired old ideas will forever be relegated to the dustbins of history. The “damage” is already here in the form of a Biden candidacy and the left must be unequivocal or else they risk a Republican governing consensus forming that will be virtually impenetrable once solidified.
Veritably, a Trump-Biden general election is the formalization of one-party system American politics in all but name. The true damage control doesn’t lie in simply voting for Biden in order to return to a so-called time of normalcy. Mitigating damage entails demanding serious concessions from Biden and co. in order to not only sustain but further entrench progressive politics in America for four more years such that a true progressive can take the reins once Biden’s time is up.
At the moment, America is undeniably cratering towards a one-party state ruled by a single conservative faction. One split bloc — the Republican coalition, will represent racist and xenophobic neoliberalism while the other will represent racist national socialism. Meanwhile what’s left of the Democratic party will dive further rightward while maintaining a performative “woke” stance on certain social issues, yet remain indistinguishable from their Republican counterparts on virtually all economic issues. At this point, the only forces within the party that can prevent the continued neoliberal consensus in D.C from consolidating further are up-and-coming politicians like Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ro Khanna, and the like. Every day that passes, politicians like the aforementioned appear more out of place in the highly corporatized Democratic party of today.
COVID-19 Shows Us That Socialist Reforms Are Not Only Possible but Necessary
In the case of Rep. Tlaib (D-Mich), she recently released a plan, the one that should have been passed, which included universal direct payments via $2000 prepaid cards, which would recharge $1000 monthly until a year after the economy recovers. The congresswoman called on the treasury to exercise its power to issue platinum coins in order to fund the relief program. Under the plan, the treasury would mint two $1 trillion coins. Already, this is a massive improvement over the grand theft bailout bill that was just passed, but even better is the broad definition of “universal”. The bill includes non-citizens, children, and other dependents, as well as those in territories and protectorates, and those without bank accounts. Vulnerable populations lack bank accounts at the highest rate which makes Tlaib’s bill all the more crucial to implement. Under the current bill, millions will fall through the cracks and be stuck waiting months to get their one-time $1200 check. Still worse, immigrants who don’t possess a social security number but hold tax IDs will get nothing in the way of relief. These same immigrants pay more in taxes than Amazon does. Meanwhile, the unjustifiable and arguably criminal, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to carry out raids and arrests across the nation, during the midst of a global pandemic. Nevermind the 38,000 immigrants currently being held in perpetuity in over 130 private and state-run detention camps.
Under the bill, “an emergency corps will conduct a targeted outreach program to at-risk populations (homeless, elderly, etc) to ensure they receive cards, and at the same time perform a wellness check to assess whether they need additional assistance,” said Modern Money Network president Rohan Grey, who helped write the bill.
“It’s been a thrill to work on this proposal, but it is important to note that while emergency cash relief is critical, it is not sufficient on its own,” Grey added. “We need far-reaching debt and expense relief, additional income and benefit protection and expansion, including direct payroll support, repurposing and public ownership of key industry, and direct worker support through a job guarantee that supports emergency and solidarity work, remote work, and begins planning for what the post-crisis recovery looks like.”
Grey is absolutely correct, both Tlaib’s bill and the CARES act need to be followed up by comprehensive legislation regarding debt relief, a nationwide suspension of rents, evictions, mortgages, and foreclosures, as well as the release of immigrants from unjust detention camps, in addition to inmates confined in jail cells which inhumanely expose them to the virus — essentially telling the world it’s okay if they die. At one point last week, the coronavirus was spreading through the New York City Rikers Island jail complex at a rate 85 times faster than the U.S average. Rikers Island prisoners are now being offered $6 an hour to dig mass graves. The issue of healthcare coverage must also be immediately addressed. Spain and Ireland have both nationalized their health systems in response to the crisis. If the U.S were run by competent actors, we would have done the same long ago. At the very least, free medical care must be instituted for all coronavirus related hospital visits for the foreseeable future, especially for nurses, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, and any other essential workers, many of whom are forced to continue to work under these stressful conditions without any kind of sick leave or hazard pay.
Undeniably, there isn’t a moment more poignant than the current crisis to illustrate why healthcare must be untethered from employment and guaranteed as a right for all. With millions of Americans becoming unemployed recently, and with millions sure to follow, our healthcare system is functionally going to be there for Americans less than ever before at a time when it’s needed most. As a result, It’s become nakedly apparent the past few weeks that it’s never been about the money. As Lindsay Grahm alluded to with his reluctance to compensating unemployed nurses — it’s about the control of labor. Even if it were a question of expense, a single-payer system has been demonstrably proven to be a more affordable system for America. Already, a teenage boy in California lost his life after being turned away from urgent care for not having insurance. Congress must act swiftly or else more will tragically die, if not from this crisis, from the next.
Indeed, it’s hard for Americans looking out at the rest of the developed world not to be envious right now. Why is Denmark able to cover 75% of the wages of workers threatened by job loss, in a joint labor-employer agreement which stipulates no layoffs will take place? For hourly workers covered by the agreement, the government will cover 90% of their wages, up to 26,000 Danish kroner (£3,162) per month. In essence, Denmark nationalized its payroll to keep workers from becoming unemployed while they are told to remain at home. Senator Sanders has already come forward in contending that the next stimulus phase must accomplish the very same thing.
MMN President Rohan Grey also correctly pointed out the importance of repurposing and nationalizing key industries. Trump has already invoked the Defense Production Act which grants him the ability to mobilize manufacturing capabilities via prioritized contracts given to producers. Yet, for some totally-not compromised by big-business reason, he’s decided not to actually wield the powers given to him under the law. After weeks of stalling, on Friday, March 27th, the president finally utilized the powers of the act to ask General Motors to begin producing ventilators. Once again it is too little and too late.
In the same vein, if the airlines truly are the critical utility they claim they are (and I happen to think they’re right), then the sensible thing to do would be to nationalize them ala the National Railroad Passenger Corporation — also known as Amtrak. The same ought to apply to Internet Service Providers such as Comcast and ATT, the oil and gas companies, as well as the major commercial banks. In fact, the government should respond in one of two ways to all bailout requests. If the industry is vitally pivotal— nationalize it (or at the very least purchase a controlling stake) and keep the workers on the job, otherwise guarantee income for the workers only and let the investors bite the losses. Such ought to be the way of the fabled disciplinary “free market”. The mere suggestion that the government should bail out the cruise lines is mind-numbing. Just read Jordan Weissman’s piece for Slate if you wish to become privy to the insidious nature of the plainly vapid and ecologically destructive industry:
While the world’s three top cruise lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian — are all based in Miami, they flag their ships in foreign tax havens like Panama, Bermuda, and Liberia, which allows them to avoid U.S. corporate taxes and do an end-run around domestic labor laws. Relatively few Americans actually work on the ships (in fact, there’s only one cruise ship in the world with an all-American crew). Instead, they tend to be staffed with crews from poorer countries such as the Philippines, who are willing to work long, grueling hours.
Tell me again why the government should bail out companies that aren’t even American.
Elsewhere in the world, the U.S empire continues to bloody its hands as the Trump administration refuses to ease sanctions on Iran which border on genocidal at the current moment we’re in. Last year, before the current crisis, Human Rights Watch wrote in a report that sanctions had “drastically constrained the ability of the country to finance humanitarian imports, including medicines.” Also in the middle east is the question of Palestine, specifically the densely populated and militarily blockaded Gaza Strip. The tiny coastal strip saw its first two cases of COVID-19 last week, with the number jumping to nine by Thursday, March 26th. Remember South Korea, the nation with 10 hospital beds for every 1000 people? The Gaza strip has 1.3. Remember those vitally important ventilators that are already in shortage in many parts of the U.S? The U.S has 52 ventilators for every 100,000 people; the Gaza Strip has 3. There are only about 200 test kits in the Strip, about 1 for every 10,000 people. The precarious situation in Gaza is primed to be nightmarish in short order now that the virus has penetrated its borders. As Neve Gordon writes in The Nation:
The intensity of their suffering will not be due to natural causes, but because the military siege has put the people of Gaza at an immense disadvantage in all three categories that are considered vital for combating the virus’s dissemination: health services, social determinants of health, and physical distancing.
So while our governments emphasize the significance of washing hands many times a day, Gazans are worried about having enough water to drink. The fact that most Palestinians are living literally from hand to mouth suggests that the coronavirus’s impact in Gaza will be exponentially harsher than in many other countries.
For now, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) along with seven other senators, including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders, have written a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the U.S. to provide crucial humanitarian aid to the Gaza and the West Bank no later than April 3rd in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Despite what a desperate to get re-elected president Trump may wish for, we are just beginning a new global economic reality of prolonged turmoil and as such, further bailout packages will be passed. The “Phase Three” CARES Act will be one of many and the Democrats must not fail a second time to leverage their power for the good of working people and the vulnerable both here in the U.S and abroad in nations like Iran, Venezuela, and Palestine, or else the blood on Trump’s hands will also taint their own due to their failure to effectively oppose him and the GOP. The excuse of immediacy is no longer valid.
How the Economy Should Be Relaunched
Yes, this crisis differs from 2008 in that the underlying cause of it is exogenous to the system now under collapse. However, the instability of the system is directly responsible for the degree to which the crisis has been able to proliferate. The external genesis of the crisis doesn’t change the fact that corporations have been far too irresponsible for too long and that writing them a blank check to cover for their mistakes is unjust. Truthfully, I find it strange how workers barely scraping by are expected to have six months’ worth of income saved for emergencies, yet huge swaths of the private sector are now on the brink extinction after a few weeks of reduced profits. It might have something to do with exorbitant stock buybacks, increasing intra-firm inequality, continued expansion along overly globalized supply chains that not only hurt workers but have also made us extremely vulnerable to supply shocks. In the stimulus bill, 26 billion of the $2 trillion allotment will be going to the safety net programs like SNAP and food banks. The airline industry alone received more than double that at $58 billion. The Fed will match $425 billion from the $2 trillion stimulus package at a 10:1 ratio, producing $4.25 trillion to be siphoned essentially to whichever corporations want it — something never before done. Basically, Congress has created a “Bank of Large Corporations” with 10% capital restrictions that will loan with little to no conditions. Corporations will be free to engage in buybacks a year after the term of the loan and will be free to release dividends in the meantime as well. The bill places no constraints on workforce payroll, mergers & acquisitions, etc. The bill also hands out a $170 billion tax cut to real estate investors. It’s going to directly harm small businesses and forge deeper wealth disparity. Even with the Republican hijacking of the rhetorical frame, small businesses truly are the last bastion of non-oligopolistic wealth generation in the nation. Allowing them to fall by the wayside ensures further monopoly consolidation of wealth and capital. The post-COVID world is shaping up to be even more distorted and monopolized thanks to this corporate bailout. One player that comes to mind, Amazon, is positioned to become THE retail economy. Ironically enough, the company, headed by Earth’s richest man Jeffery Bezos, is asking for contributions to its relief fund intended to assist its “employees and partners”.
If we aren’t careful, the power of labor may become even more narrow as more workers find themselves working from home further atomizing them, and as this bailout, now having recapitalized corporate America, serves as the impetus for pursuing advanced degrees of automation inevitably followed by sharp layoffs. The way to prevent our society from degenerating into a neo-feudal hellscape ruled by a few competing corporate fiefdoms is to immediately begin transitioning our economy away from the homicidal capitalist mode of production. This entails not only nationalizing the most vital industries but democratizing them by building upon the German model of corporate codetermination, stipulating that no less than half of a corporate board be comprised of workers in the company.
Capitalism endures tirelessly to obscure the value of workers, but this crisis is illuminating to the world the true power of labor. We’re seeing in plain view who the “essential” personnel in our economy are. They’re nurses and caretakers, grocery clerks and fast-food workers, delivery drivers of all varieties, sanitation and construction workers, and so on. In spite of being the most integral to society’s continued functioning, it’s often those sections of the economic base that garner the least in return in compensatory terms.
Workers are more privy to this than anyone and are taking action nationally as a result. Pittsburgh sanitation workers refused to report to work until they were given proper protective gear to avoid contracting COVID-19. Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, NY, walked out during lunch on Monday, March 30th over safety concerns. Amazon, which owns major grocery provider and deliverer, Whole Foods, has already confirmed the spread of COVID-19 at 17 warehouses in the U.S, according to Reuters. Moreover, more than 150,000 drivers and shoppers for the online grocery service Instacart have commenced a national strike that they say will continue until the company provides an additional $5 per order in hazard pay, as well as supplies like disinfecting wipes, and expanded pay for those affected by the pandemic. On the same day of the Staten Island Amazon warehouse walkout, General Electric factory workers launched their own series of protests demanding that the company utilize its jet engine manufacturing facilities to manufacture ventilators. Workers of the world are better situated now more so than ever to leverage their power, and they increasingly are taking advantage of just that.
As mentioned previously, we’re on track for unemployment levels higher than that of the Great Depression. Except, only now, millions of people are saddled with caches of debt, be it medical, student, or housing related. In order for society to function going forward, there will need to be a massive reset — a jubilee. An indentured-servitude based economy will not be viable in a post-COVID world. Again, transitioning to a cooperative based economy is the long-term solution to ameliorating this and a host of capitalism’s other ailments including but not limited to income inequality, the offshoring of jobs, evasion of pollution controls, regulatory capture, worker alienation, and more. Legislation like the Marcora law must be put on the table to forward this.
Worker cooperatives are on the rise in the U.S and elsewhere and with the imminent retirement of baby boomers, who own around 12 million businesses with which 70% are expected to change hands, the transition to a democratic economy has never been more possible. It’s also well documented that, aside from the holistic social benefits of worker autonomy, giving workers a direct stake in managing production enables a business to operate more productively. An economy without bosses that doesn’t answer to far-away shareholders consumed by the nearest of term profits isn’t some fantasy — that’s what free-market capitalism is. No, this is far more grounded in reality.
Take a look at how 19 Dominos franchises in the Dayton Ohio area, in response to the current crisis, pledged to go “non-profit” by sharing all profits with their employees for the next three months.
This Isn’t a Battle Between Capitalism & Socialism — It’s a Battle Between Capitalism and Democracy
“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”
— Milton Friedman
Renowned author and activist Naomi Klein is known in part for her extensive work done on the “shock doctrine” and disaster capitalism — processes in which right-wing governments exploit momentary public disorientation in the wake of a crisis in order to further erode democracy as well as shove through radical free-market policies which enrich the ultra-wealthy at the expense of all else. The infamous Patriot Act passed only weeks after 9/11, is a classic example. The recapitalization of Wall Street in the wake of 2008 is another. We’re even witnessing it in the context of the current pandemic as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an unprecedented suspension of regulations enforcement on Thursday.
Be that as it may, the shock doctrine isn’t some unavoidable force of nature. The Great Depression is an illuminating example of the opposite occurring. It was in the aftermath of the Great Depression that FDR, the most popular president in US history, passed the New Deal which greatly expanded protections for working (white) people. Vital measures such as minimum wage and social security were passed then. We as a nation must not let this crisis be another 2008 and instead, push for a 21st century New Deal which this time leaves nobody out and incorporates the all-too-important action required now to combat the existential threat of climate change. A program that would channel the need for many critical public works into a federal jobs program. Perhaps we’ll even call it something catchy like the Green New Deal. Just a few weeks ago these ideas seemed too radical.
Indeed we still must maintain a heightened sense of vigilance as this crisis presents the picture-perfect opportunity for an autocratic fascist to seize more power. After all, physical resistance in the form of protest is virtually impossible to engage in at the moment and one would be naive to think ghouls like Bill Barr aren’t actively scheming to capitalize on our current sheltered state. The far-right prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban has already provided a blueprint of what kind of dictatorial erosions of democracy can occur amid a crisis, after being granted the power to suspend elections and parliament, rule by decree, and imprison any who share misinformation regarding COVID-19, however the hell that’s supposedly defined.
The United States, and really, the world, is positioned at the mouth of a crossroads currently. One path features the nationalization and democratization of key industries as a part of a more holistic approach to reimagine the institutional role of the state in order to seriously tackle the 21st-century crises of inequality and anthropic climate change. Another possible trajectory features increased institutional authoritarianism carried out by a hierarchical heightening of the security state via police, surveillance, and army powers that will further erode civil liberties and fortify Capital. The former can serve as the catalyst to a post-capitalist world while the latter is a neo-capitalist hybridization of government and Capital where private and public systems of control are intertwined in their deployment to surveil and control populations while simultaneously those same caches of data are exploited to provide highly targeted services from the likes of Silicon Valley and other corporate giants such as Amazon. We failed once to learn our lesson after 2008, there is no valid reason to make the same mistake yet again.
The former path can only be achieved through intense engagement in mutual aid efforts, the fostering and emboldening of broadly inclusive working-class institutions, workers' organizational efforts such as strikes, and the supporting of various electoral platforms. The stagnation of old must die and make way for a robust organizational dynamism if the left, and thus the people, are to regain a voice at the increasingly exclusive table.
The Working-Class Always Wins in the End
The struggle will not be easy for the working class, but it will certainly end in the workers’ victory because the bourgeoisie, or those who live on the labour of others, are an insignificant minority of the population, while the working class is the vast majority. The workers against the property-owners means millions against thousands.
— Vladimir Lenin
COVID-19 marks the end of historical deadlock. The so-called “end of history” paradigm popularized by Francis Fukuyama and others in the early 1990s has been definitively dislodged in light of COVID-19. The false sense of satiation propagated by this neoliberal adjacent ideology certainly no longer exists, if it ever did. Indeed, the wheels of history are once again churning, and rapidly. Politics in America have, for a while now, largely been a bourgeois affectation rooted in aesthetics rather than substance. The crisis of 2008 should have marked the end of that, and it appeared it would with the energetic upswell that launched Barack Obama into the Presidential office. Unfortunately, for two terms, Obama reinforced the same neoliberal policies that led to the crisis in 2008. The American electorate rejected a continuation of those policies represented in Hillary Clinton in favor of someone as oafish and repugnant as Donald Trump — let that be a lesson for Joe Biden. And yet, even Trump has proven to be a glorified servant of Capital, this time with the addition of an outwardly dangerous neo-fascist angle.
Even amidst the current widespread haze of chaos and unending sorrow, I refuse to capitulate, not because of a facile hope draped in passivity, but because of the following truth: built into the capitalist system is an omnipresent failsafe mechanism — the people. The minority at the Top who heavily rely on the vastly broader Bottom to create and sustain their immense caches of wealth will always be just that — a minority. It is the people — the workers — who will always hold the numbers advantage. With the acknowledgment of this self-evident reality, I am able to sleep at night despite the seemingly neverending losses we who pursue the humanist agenda seem to endure. The future may appear bleak, and the present tumultuous, but I maintain a conviction that the working-class of the world will actualize its power for the good of all and not the few. Perhaps COVID-19 will serve as the catalyst, or maybe it is some other, even more, cataclysmic event at a later point that bursts open the dam of repressed consciousness but rest assured the working-class always wins in the end. It’s simply a matter of when.
“We are living through neoliberalism’s Chernobyl”
— Michael Brooks
COVID-19 marks the departure of American politics from political aestheticism, not because the media and political establishments want it to be the case, but because the moment we’re in simply necessitates it. Going forward, politics will once again take part in every single person’s everyday life. Veritably, politics is no longer invisible. As minted by author and political commentator Michael Brooks, we are witnessing neoliberalism’s Chernobyl meltdown, and if we fight like hell, we can ensure that this crisis lays the groundwork for making the bottom-up socialization and democratization of our society more achievable than ever before.
Before closing, I find it salient to acknowledge that if you’ve read this far you likely have a mildly unhealthy penchant for information which, in this time of ceaseless updates and general craze, can be particularly exhausting. Try, as hard as it might be, to resist being overcome with endless negativity. Take time to unwind, Skype-call or set up Zoom meetings with your friends, watch something funny and share it with them, and get fresh air frequently if you can. The last thing needed is for this period of social isolation to lead to increased atomization and disconnection among the economic base. Allow yourself to breathe, and do stay home as much you’re able to, but in the same vein, don’t become acclimated to this period of inactivity. As soon as the world reemerges from its socially mandated slumber, the real fight will begin.