By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
The confinement finally decreed in the United States to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the capitalist economy and thus demolished the process of capital accumulation, writes William I. Robinson, a U.S. professor of sociology specializing in political economy, globalization, Latin America, and historical materialism at the University of California, Santa Barbara
“The fact that this economic paralysis is throwing tens of millions of workers into a crisis of survival is entirely fortuitous for the transnational capitalist class’ concern to immediately resume the machinery of profit, since capital cannot remain idle while it remains capital. The impulse to revive accumulation explains the fact that in many American cities there have been public demonstrations by the ultra-right-wing to demand the lifting of the quarantine, just as the most reactionary sectors of capital promoted the Tea Party in the wake of the financial collapse of 2008, a movement that in turn mobilized in support of Trumpism.
Although the protests seem spontaneous, they have in fact been organized by conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works, and the American Council on Legislative Exchange (coo ALEC), which brings together the CEOs of large corporations along with local right-wing legislators from across the United States.
Donald Trump inflamed the protesters through a series of tweets, including one calling to “Free (the state of) Virginia, and for protecting its great Second Amendment, which is under siege.” The call to defend this amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms, was almost a call for armed insurrection. In the state of Michigan, armed Trump supporters blocked traffic to prevent the flow of aid. A few days ago, Trump claimed to have “total” power to lift the quarantine.
Despite its populist rhetoric, Trump has served the interests of the transnational capitalist class well by implementing a neoliberal program ranging from regressive tax reform and extensive deregulation and privatization to an expansion of capital subsidies, social spending cuts and union repression.
Trump – himself a member of the transnational capitalist class – picked up where he left off in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse and forged a social base among those sectors of the (mostly white) working class that had previously enjoyed privileges such as stable, well-paid jobs, and that in recent years have suffered acute socio-economic destabilization and downward mobility in capitalist globalization.
Like the Tea Party that preceded him, Trump has been able to arouse increasing social anxiety among these sectors, from a radical critique of the capitalist system to a racist and patriotic mobilization against scapegoats such as immigrants. These Trumpist tactics have turned these sectors into shock forces for the ultra-right-wing capitalist agenda that has brought them to the brink of a truly fascist project.
The growing crisis of global capitalism has led to a rapid political polarization in global society between an insurgent left and ultra-right and neo-fascist forces that have gained adherents in many countries of the world. Both forces draw on the same social base of the millions of people devastated by neo-liberal austerity, impoverishment, precarious employment and their relegation to the ranks of superfluous humanity. The level of global social polarization and inequality is unprecedented at this time.
The richest 1% of humanity controls more than half of the planet’s wealth while the lowest 80% have to make do with just 4.5% of that wealth. As popular discontent against this inequality spreads, the ultra-right and neo-fascist mobilization plays a critical role in the effort by dominant groups to channel such discontent into support for the agenda of the transnational capitalist class, disguised in populist rhetoric.
In this context, the conservative groups are determined to organize a far-right response to the health emergency and the economic crisis, involving a greater dose of ideological subterfuge and a renewed mobilization of their shock forces than to demand the lifting of the lockdown, a resource that could well require the State to provide aid to millions of poor workers and families instead of insisting on the immediate reopening of the economy.
May 25, 2020.
This commentary may be reproduced citing the newspaper Por Esto! of Merida, Mexico as the source.