US situation

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US situation
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As the election campaign hots up in the US, we encourage comrades to contribute their views on the state of the US bourgeoisie and the various dangers facing the working class. We have taken position on the US elections here so this could be a starting point for the discussion

https://en.internationalism.org/content/16913/trump-and-biden-false-choi...

 

Hoping to see your posts...

the Forum Team

 

jk1921
From the article on

From the article on imperialism:

"1. Has Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic and the chaos it has caused led the populist president to scale back his unpredictable foreign policy initiatives?"

Calling Trump's handling of the pandemic "disastarous" is a judgement without any statement of the standards by which such judgement is being rendered, other than it appears to have something to do with "chaos." It is true at some level that the reponse to the pandemic in the United States can be characterized that way, but can it all be laid at the feet of Trump? The grossly partisan and politicized nature of the response has its roots in historical proceeses that well precede Trump. What are the roles of other factions of the bourgeoisie (blue state Govenors, the professional bureacracy, etc.), the nature and structure of the US state (federalism), the highly partisan and political media, etc. in the unfolding of events the last 8 months? Trump, for his part, seems to have been remarkably consistent when he hasn't been pushed to the wall by the media and the bureaucracy (which have retained remarkable power throughout his Presidency)--the pandemic is what it is, but it is more important to protect the economy from a precipitous overreaction. Obviously, Trump has his own electoral interests at heart, perhaps mistakenly believing that his future relied on ignoring the pandemic as much as possible and focusing on restarting economic growth in the wake of blue state shutdowns, but he is not the only one with this opinion of what the stakes are for the national capital. Let Trump himself explain: "If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression instead — we’re like a rocket ship. Take a look at the numbers.”

Bluster aside, there is some element of truth to his statement when you compare the US to the rest of the industrialized West, and Trump is right, "listening to the scientists" is just a slogan. Which scientists? Just the epidemiologists? Should economists have a voice? Their profession is, afterall, a dismal science. And once you have listented to them you still have to decide if its in the nation's best interests to follow their advice. And whatever the politicization of the issues of "lockdowns" and "opening up," Trump is not the only member of the bourgeoisie to proudly tout their achievements in opening the economy in the middle of an ongoing pandemic with no vaccine and only modestly effective treatments. Even a moderate like Governor Larry Hogan of the blue state of Maryland delights in telling how his state is 98 percent open and has a much lower unemployment rate than the rest of the country. Maryland is not Ron DeSantis' Florida, but still some number of people die from Covid just about everyday.

Trump has used his own personal battle with the virus to send the message, "Don't be afraid of Covid." One can make their own judgment about how wise that is for themselves and their loved ones, but at the root of that message is the recognition that pandemics have clear medical and epidemiological aspects, but they also have psychological ones. And if Trump may be trying to declare that aspect over too quickly in the midst of an election campaign, its nevertheless the case that at some point someone will have to call time on the media fueled panic. Perhaps that will be Biden's job? In any event, the gameplan is in place--endure the pandemic, don't slit your own throat by blowing up the economy beyond repair, until there are effective vaccines and treatments. Whatever Trump's perceived self-interest in that, there seems a recognition there that the only way the US will get past this pandemic is through its leadership in advanced medical technology. What would you expect of a country where Interstate highways are branded as "bio-medical technology corridors"? Lockdowns are for weak willed European governments afraid of their own populations and the authoritarian Chinese with no fear at all of theirs. 

jk1921
From the New York Post

From the New York Post Editorial Board: "Imminent Vaccine Could Make all of Joe Biden's COVID Promises Irrelevant:

"For all of Joe Biden’s boasts of how much better than President Trump he’d handle the pandemic, it’s starting to look like he won’t have to prove it — thanks to Trump."

That's some serious sunshine pumping from the Post. As Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Head who now sits on Pfizer's board, said last weekend, even in the rosiest scenario a vaccine won't make much of an impact on the course of the pandemic for months. Assuming it works, it has to be produced, distributed, people will have to get two shots and there will be a good deal of vaccine resistance among the public. This doesn't even account for what Trump does, should he lose the election. Does he turn against the vaccine?

But this raises an interesting question. Turning around a safe and effective vaccine this quickly, so that it could have any impact on the course of the pandemic is a remarkable achievement. Does Trump get any credit for that? The liberal media uses "populist" as an epithet synonymous with, among many other nasty things, incompetent boob. But have Trump's bullying of the bureaucracy, his Operation Warp Speed investments, etc. Had any positive effect in making the possibility of a pandemic ending vaccine a reality? Is there anything a "populist" does well in the interests of the national capital? Or are incompetence, incoherence and chaos defining features of the phenomenon?

How would it have gone otherwise? Would this kind of progress have been possible or would bureaucratic red tape and other political considerations have slowed the vaccine? Would a Democratic administration, cowtowing to their woke base, delay a life saving vaccine in order to make sure enough minorities were included in the trials?

In any event, in a couple of weeks tens of millions of people will vote to relect Trump. Are they doing it in spite of his performance on the pandemic or because of it? If Trump's performance has been truly "disastarous," how do we account for that? Are these people deluded? Bonkers? Some perhaps, but all of them? Or do they just have a different evaluation of the imperatives imposed by a pandemic than the liberal media and the professional bureaucracy does? Regardless, when we communists make competence an analytical measure, don't we have to take this into account?

KT
The situation in the US

JK wrote: “Calling Trump's handling of the pandemic "disastrous" is a judgement without any statement of the standards by which such judgement is being rendered, other than it appears to have something to do with "chaos." It is true at some level that the response to the pandemic in the United States can be characterized that way, but can it all be laid at the feet of Trump?”

It is most certainly “disastrous”. It couldn’t be otherwise given that the capitalist class, historically and globally, has simultaneously encouraged the conditions that produce zoonotic viruses whilst diminishing the means to investigate, contain, treat and minimise their impact (see the article Report on the Covi-19 pandemic and the period of decomposition). This should be our departure point.

Neither can the US situation vis-à-vis Covid be characterised as a “media fuelled panic.” The virus is real - 8.38million humans infected and 222,000 dead in the US at the time of writing. Almost 5 times more than the (official) fatal US military casualties of the Vietnam War over a 20-year period! A projected half a million dead by February 2021…

Can all this be laid at the feet of Trump? Absolutely not. In fact, in sympathy with JK’s approach, and in addition to the structural weaknesses of the US State he correctly insists on (Federal v State, etc), we could remark on the relative social calm that reigns in the US (compared, say, with the Vietnam period of 1961-71, including the ‘civil rights’ movement) and note that if divide-and-rule is a long-standing tactic of exploiting classes, Trump should be congratulated by his peers for maintaining and deepening the false dichotomies presented to society in general and the working class in particular. The mobilisation of the population to participate in bourgeois democracy prior to, and during, the coming elections may give us one indication of this ‘success’.

His emphasis on promoting ‘the deals’ – ie keeping the economy going under the ‘America First’ banner  - is hardly a unique feature amongst the world’s states but has met with a certain, limited success (see below) … at the expense of some $4 trillion in grants, loans and tax breaks – the “costliest economic relief effort in modern history” (Washington Post). We should note and develop that under the Republicans and Trump, during the pandemic, the overt face of state capitalism has revealed itself on many levels.

On the inter-imperialist arena, the recent recognition of Israel by certain lower tier Middle Eastern states is presented by Trump as a major foreign policy achievement, as has the insistence that former allies pay their way in the US’s maintenance of itself as the world’s foremost military power. The attempt to contain China – firstly on trade but essentially militarily – also corresponds closely to the needs of US national capital.

But the inevitable collapse of the North Korean vanity project, the failure to match the adroitness of Putin or even Erdogan in the Mid-East and the inability to attract allies to its anti-China crusade (the inability to reassert itself at the head of a ‘bloc’) are all reasons why there is, it seems to me, a concerted effort by the US state to rid itself of the wild child Trump.

Trump’s election in 2016 took all factions of the ruling class by surprise – including the successful candidate himself! Despite decomposition, the intervening period of his Presidency  has served to coalesce some elements of the state (the ‘surprisingly’ tenacious bureaucracy and the media, as cited by JK), but also the ‘secret services’, the armed forces and, of course, the Democratic Party – a not-inconsiderable array. Their judgement is that Trump has not had a good pandemic, has isolated the US internationally, and the divisions he’s sewn internally and externally have not, overall, served the interests of the US.

Some statistics and commentary

“Two weeks before the election, the U.S. economic rebound is losing steam against a backdrop of dwindling government support, rising Covid-19 cases and cooler weather … jobless claims and restaurant bookings either worsened or showed no improvement. Others, such as a weekly measure of retail sales, continued to slowly advance..  the labor market rebound has notably slowed. The number of long-term unemployed has increased, and Americans are increasingly exhausting their regular state jobless benefits and moving onto a federal program for longer-term support. Applications for state unemployment insurance rose to the highest level since August, and a host of companies across industries have announced or begun fresh job cuts. A measure of new job postings also decelerated…

… At the same time, some parts of the economy continue to improve or have already returned to pre-pandemic levels. The housing market is a good example, with several indicators above February levels as record-low mortgage rates support demand. The S&P 500 Index remains near historical highs. Meantime, Johnson Redbook’s weekly measure of retail sales exceeded year-ago levels for a fourth straight week, suggesting consumer spending may be more durable than originally expected in the wake of declining government support… (Bloomberg)

“Unemployment has fallen sharply since hitting a historic record of 14.7% in April after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the US. But the rate is still far higher than the 4.8% when Trump took office in January 2017 and the recent pace of recovery is slowing. The current level marks the worst job loss that any president has faced going into an election based on records going back to the second world war. "(Guardian)

"During his first three years in office, President Trump oversaw an annual average growth of 2.5%.

The last three years of the Obama administration saw a similar level of growth (2.3%) along with a significantly higher figure (5.5%) in mid-2014.

But the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year has triggered the sharpest contraction since records began.

In the second quarter of 2020 - accounting for April, May and June - the economy contracted by over 30%. That's more than three times greater than the 10% fall in 1958.

Prior to the pandemic, President Trump claims to have delivered the lowest unemployment rate in half a century.

This is true. In February this year, the rate stood at 3.5%, the lowest for more than 50 years.

However, the Obama administration added more jobs to the economy, comparing similar time-frames.

Under Trump, in the three years prior to the pandemic, there were an additional 6.4 million jobs. In the last three years under Obama, seven million jobs were added.

As in many parts of the world, coronavirus lockdown measures very quickly led to soaring levels of unemployment in the US.

The rate jumped to 14.7% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The US Labor Department says more than 20 million people lost their jobs, eliminating a decade of employment gains in a single month.

Since the peak in April, unemployment has fallen back significantly to 7.9% in September.

Real wages (adjusted for inflation) grew throughout Trump's first three years in office - continuing a steady upward trend which began during the first of President Obama's two terms.

This growth reached 2.1% per annum in February 2019, prior to the pandemic.

This is lower than the real wage increases of up to 2.4% that President Obama oversaw in 2015

The rapid increase in average earnings then seen at the start of the coronavirus lockdown were largely as a consequence of the lowest-earning Americans losing their jobs at a disproportionate rate, following the economic downturn.

With lower wage-earners out of jobs, the average hourly wage data skewed sharply upwards.

Average wages have since started to fall back, as economic restrictions have eased.

President Trump claimed in 2019 that he had delivered "the largest poverty reduction under any president in history".

In 2019, around 4.2 million fewer people were living in poverty in the US compared with the previous year, according to official data.

This is a significant drop, but not the largest reduction in history...

The financial crisis of 2007/8 and subsequent economic downturn saw sharp rises in poverty, which only began to decline from around 2015 during the Obama administration, with a growing economy and rising levels of employment. (BBC)

 

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

JK wrote: “Calling Trump's handling of the pandemic "disastrous" is a judgement without any statement of the standards by which such judgement is being rendered, other than it appears to have something to do with "chaos." It is true at some level that the response to the pandemic in the United States can be characterized that way, but can it all be laid at the feet of Trump?”

It is most certainly “disastrous”. It couldn’t be otherwise given that the capitalist class, historically and globally, has simultaneously encouraged the conditions that produce zoonotic viruses whilst diminishing the means to investigate, contain, treat and minimise their impact (see the article Report on the Covi-19 pandemic and the period of decomposition). This should be our departure point.

Is the Covid-19 pandemic a disaster? In the sense of a humanitarian disaster for our species, of course it is. But that's not the question I was attempting to address. That questions was: "Has the Trump administration's response to the pandemic been "disastarous (for the national capital)?" That is a rather different question. It might be, but to effectively address that question, we would have to do a few things: 1.) We'd have to say what we think a non-disastarous response would have been; 2.) We would have to address the issue of "compared to what?"; 3.) We'd have to show that there was a reasonable chance of things having gone a different way; 4.) That other actors weren't equally or more responsible for how events played out.

I am not sure how to answer any of those questions, except maybe the last one. Certainly, alot of people have died, but is that the right measure? If it is, the US doesn't even have the highest per capita death rate in the developed world and it has certainly done better than places like Peru, which had a response much different than the US. Clearly, the US is no Iceland, New Zeland, Taiwan or South Korea or even Germany. But that is kind of the point, the US is not like any of those place. An historical institutionalist analysis would show the constraints and circumstances placed on its political actors by deep social, histroical (and even geographical) factors that the other places don't have or express differently. When it comes to reacting to a pandemic, the US isn't even like Canada, except that even the frozen North is now experiencing a "second wave" of the epidemic that elements of its own political establishment describe as unacceptable, even if daily case counts lag well behind its neighbor to the South. There is an element of relativity here. I guess the point here, is that if we communists are going to deleve into the field of comparative politics, we should do it right. In all likelihood, the real judgement o then response to the pandemic for the national capital will only be made by historians years later with the benefit of a lot of hindsight.

KT wrote:

Neither can the US situation vis-à-vis Covid be characterised as a “media fuelled panic.” The virus is real - 8.38million humans infected and 222,000 dead in the US at the time of writing. Almost 5 times more than the (official) fatal US military casualties of the Vietnam War over a 20-year period! A projected half a million dead by February 2021…

There can be a real pandemic and "media fuelled panic" at the same time. The two are not mutally exclusive. Just as the US media overplayed the threat of Islamic extremism to the average American after 9/11, this didn't mean Islamic extremism was all made-up. But the US media hasn't exactly been the model of responsible reporting on the pandemic. From calling its own political leadership mass murderers, to

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

JK wrote: “Calling Trump's handling of the pandemic "disastrous" is a judgement without any statement of the standards by which such judgement is being rendered, other than it appears to have something to do with "chaos." It is true at some level that the response to the pandemic in the United States can be characterized that way, but can it all be laid at the feet of Trump?”

It is most certainly “disastrous”. It couldn’t be otherwise given that the capitalist class, historically and globally, has simultaneously encouraged the conditions that produce zoonotic viruses whilst diminishing the means to investigate, contain, treat and minimise their impact (see the article Report on the Covi-19 pandemic and the period of decomposition). This should be our departure point.

Is the Covid-19 pandemic a disaster? In the sense of a humanitarian disaster for our species, of course it is. But that's not the question I was attempting to address. That question was: "Has the Trump administration's response to the pandemic been 'disastarous' (for the national capital)?" That is a rather different question. It might be, but to effectively address that question, we would have to do a few things: 1.) We'd have to say what we think a non-disastarous response would have been; 2.) We would have to address the issue of "compared to what?"; 3.) We'd have to show that there was a reasonable chance of things having gone a different way; 4.) That other actors weren't equally or more responsible for how events played out.

I am not sure how to answer any of those questions, except maybe the last one. Certainly, alot of people have died, but is that the right measure? If it is, the US doesn't even have the highest per capita death rate in the developed world and it has certainly done better than places like Peru, which had a response much different than the US (more like China's, except Peru is not China and really lacked the capcity to carry it out). Clearly, the US is not China, Iceland, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea or even Germany. But that is kind of the point, the US is not like any of those places. An historical-institutionalist analysis would show the constraints and circumstances placed on its political actors by deep social, historical, demographic (and even geographical) factors that the other places don't have or express differently. When it comes to reacting to a pandemic, the US isn't even like Canada, except that even the frozen North is now experiencing a "second wave" of the epidemic that elements of its own political establishment describe as "unacceptable," even if daily case counts lag well behind its neighbor to the South. There is an element of relativity here. I guess the point is that if we communists are going to deleve into the field of comparative politics, we should do it compently, with a method. In all likelihood though, a judgement on the effectiveness of  the various national response to the pandemic for the national capital will only be made by historians years later with the benefit of much hindsight.

I am not suggesting here that the particular person or party in power makes no difference at all. That would render concepts like populism, which the ICC has invested heavily in, rather meaningless. But I struggle to see how things would have gone much differently with HRC in office. Perhaps the media envrionment would be different, but I do think the situation is far more structural than is suggested by laying this at the feet of Trump (something KT and I agree on). Its counter-factual history, but had HRC been President, do we think that red state governors would have been more or less likely to go along with a national mask mandate, shutdowns, etc.? Remember that when Trump was still trying to appease the medical bureacracy, he had a public spat with Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp about opening too early. I don't know what signals were sent behind the scences, but Kemp basically just ignored Trump.

KT wrote:

Neither can the US situation vis-à-vis Covid be characterised as a “media fuelled panic.” The virus is real - 8.38million humans infected and 222,000 dead in the US at the time of writing. Almost 5 times more than the (official) fatal US military casualties of the Vietnam War over a 20-year period! A projected half a million dead by February 2021…

There can be a real pandemic and "media fuelled panic" at the same time. The two are not mutally exclusive. Just as the US media overplayed the threat of Islamic extremism to the average American after 9/11, this didn't mean Islamic extremism was all made-up. But the US media hasn't exactly been the model of responsible reporting on the pandemic. From calling its own political leadership mass murderers, to the daily hyping of case and death counts with no context, the US media (outside of the Murdoch owned enterprises) have used the pandemic as a weapon against the sitting administration. They present no opposing points of view to the predominant epidemiological narrative, except to ridicule them and they do their utmost to sensationalize every story about the risk of the virus, from the MISC-C syndrome in children (real and horrible, but rare) to the supposedly doubly deadly "twindemic" of Covid and the Flu about to explode in mass death (didn't happen in the southern hemisphere). We are always about to enter the "darkest phase of the pandemic," (eventually they will be right like a broken clock is), and critics of the administrations' vaccine efforts appear to be given undue weight. Now, not only is it enough to scold Americans about their obesity problem, as if Covid is some kind of righteous pay back for their gluttony, but even "mildly overweight" people are said to be at increased risk from the virus. Perhaps that is true, but by how much? At the infisteminal levels that matter to medical journals, where a 95 percent increased risk of something amounts to only a .02 percent overall risk, or is it something worse than that? And with two-thirds of the population qualifying as "overweight," maybe that is just the risk?

And this is not when the media is being just plain incoherent: "Don't go to the dentist;" next day, "Make sure you keep up with regular dental care." Or nakedly political: participating in mass gatherings is an act of murder, except when it is to protest racial injustice, because that is a higher calling.

Now, with the new fall wave of cases, blaming Trump for "needless death," is not enough; the responsibility for the spread is being laid at the feet of the ordinary Joe (not Biden), for giving in to "pandemic fatigue," or just not caring enough about the vulnerable people they will kill by ignoring social distancing and not wearing a mask. The media reveals its utter contempt not only for Trump, but also for ordinary people, most of whom who will at some point give in to "pandemic fatigue" like the human beings they are. But for the liberal-dominated media, this is evidence of a deep moral chasm in American society, a pandemic of ignorant selfishness-- a development not out of line with the overall direction of liberal ideology in general, where social problems like racism are pinned on the moral bankruptcy of flawed individuals. In the end though, this current wave of the virus is probably just evidence of what a certain faction of epiemiologists have been saying all along--the virus is just doing what highly transmissible respiratory viruses will do eventually--make its way around all human "non-pharmaceutical interventions," designed to stop it.

The point here is that in order to return to something like normal accumulation, the likely new Democratic administration is going to have to eventually send signals to the media to back off the dark Covid narrative and start changing the topic. Perhaps, this will happen once a vaccine is distributed, but we have already been told by the experts that even this will not end the pandemic. In other words, the Democrats will continue Trump's policy of attempting to effect the psychlogical end of the pandemic, even before its medical and epidemiological end. Perhaps they will be more convincing in their efforts to accomplish this than the crass populist Trump, desperately trying to win an election to keep his own and his kids' asses out of the slammer. Unless we believe, along with the right wing, that the virus is so useful to the state as a way of enforcing social control that they will never let it go. But, again, the US is not China.

Last week, my dentist told me--through multiple layers of PPE--(I guess even I am guilty of pandemic fatigue, I went to the dentist?) that he thinks the virus will mysteriously go away once the election is over. By this, I don't think he meant the virus will actually go away, but that the media obsession with sensationalizing it will wane, as the new Democratic administration will now be burdened with the responsibility of managing it (with "Trump's vaccines"!). Covid will continue to be a thing, but vaccines and treatments will herald the triumph of "science" as, hopefully, while not eradicated, it is driven down to the incidence and death toll of the seasonal flu, which appears to be society's baseline for acceptable vs. "needless" deaths from a respiratory virus.

In the end, I don't think, regardless of who is in power, that the American story of responding to this pandemic was ever going to be one of self-sacrafice, collective responsibility or social solidarity and it certianly never was going to be one of obedience to the state. It was going to be one of enduring the tribulations of viral spread until the eventual (inevitable?) medical-technological-scientific triumph, all while keeping the engine humming as much as possible. How has Trump done with that?

Kamerling
"How would it have gone otherwise?" Reply to jk1921

I welcome your effort to develop a response to the question “Has Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic and the chaos it has caused led the populist president to scale back his unpredictable foreign policy initiatives?” which is subtitle in an article published on the website: the article “The virus of imperialism and militarism cannot be eradicated in capitalism”.

From your posts I understand that the anti-Trump campaign in the US, organised by the liberal media, and probably backed by the Democratic Party has a huge impact. For an individual, even with communist positions, it will probably be difficult not to be influenced by it (in one way or another). You are completely right to denounce “Joe Biden’s boasts of how much better than President Trump he would handle the pandemic”. There is a great chance that he wouldn’t.

For a part KT has already replied to your post, and I agree with the points he has put forward, in particular the fact that US situation vis-à-vis Covid is harsh reality and cannot be reduced to a “media fuelled panic”. Moreover, as you admit yourself, the handling of the pandemic in the United States can be characterized” as disastrous as well.

The reason for this reply is a disagreement with the position that has not been taken up by KT. In general it is not a problem to be in disagreement; disagreements will always exist among communists and can be clarified and solved in the course of the political debate. This time however it is different, because your posts express not just divergences within a proletarian framework, but also contains serious concessions to the bourgeois ideology.

What are the concessions to the bourgeois ideology in your posts?

In your posts I read that the president, the highest authority of the bourgeois rule in the US, is not to blame for the chaos in the country, since:

  • the grossly partisan and politicized nature of the response has its roots in historical processes that well precede Trump”;
  • “he is not the only member of the bourgeoisie to proudly tout their achievements in opening the economy in the middle of an on-going pandemic with no vaccine and only modestly effective treatments”;
  • “he has been pushed to the wall by the media and the bureaucracy (which have retained a remarkable power throughout his Presidency)”.  While “Trump, for his part, seems to have been remarkably consistent”.

Thus, if the country is in chaos, so we read in your posts, it cannot “all be laid at the feet of Trump”, since he has tried to calm down the situation “At some point someone will have to call time on the media fuelled panic” and to reassure the people “Trump has used his own personal battle with the virus to send the message, “don't be afraid of Covid”.”

If you are right to denounce the liberal campaign, it is just as important to denounce the other side and not to stay on the level of How would it have gone otherwise?”. In the case of Trump the first thing we have to recognize is the fact that he has been elected as the president of the US and that, as a consequence, he is politically responsible for what is happening under his regime. So, whether the president is a populist or not, and if not all can be laid at his feet, the significant part of it can.

However in your posts, you are more or less caught in the trap of the bourgeois propaganda that the ruling class does its utmost to fight the pandemic and to save the lives of the people, but that it can’t do better given the nature of the virus and the conditions in which this pandemic occurred. This reminds me of your first post in “The British government’s ‘Herd Immunity’ policy …” thread where you wrote that: “there is a part of this tragedy it seems somewhat disingenuous to blame the bourgeoisie for. (….) As Marxists, it’s all too easy to try to make this an issue of class morality as in “all bourgeois are bastards!”

Whether you want it or not class morality is an inherent part of the proletarian struggle and indignation is a ‘natural’ proletarian reaction to the complete indifference and criminal behaviour of the ruling class regarding people’s safety. For communists their moral stand is for the defence of all human beings against the attacks of capitalism. If we are not outraged by “the capitalist state’s growing negligence toward the resurgence of infectious diseases and public health, and thus of a disregard of the importance of social protection [of human life] at the most basic level” (Report on the Covid-19 pandemic and the period of capitalist decomposition), we wouldn’t be revolutionary communists.

Looking back, we think that the seeds of the position you have put forward in your posts on the “US situation” are already (to be found) in the same thread “The British government’s ‘Herd Immunity policy...”, where you also write I am afraid the lesson of this outbreak may more about what a bastard nature can be [and] less about the bourgeoisie's moral perfidy (as evident as it is)”. And yet in my view the outbreak of the pandemic, in contrast to what you seem to imply, is profoundly connected to the bourgeoisie’s moral perfidy towards nature.

If we limit ourselves to the question of the zoonotic virus and the Covid pandemic, we have to make a clear distinction between the first and the second. While the transfer of the virus from animal to human is a natural phenomenon, the conditions in which such a transfer takes place as well as the spread of this virus into a worldwide pandemic is the expression of the degeneration of the social, cultural, political and economic conditions of decadent capitalism.

In the past decades capitalism has violated the laws of nature on an ever-increasing scale, with the growing spread of new pathogens as a consequence: HIV, Zikah, Ebola, Sars, Mers, Nipah, N5N1, Dengue fever, etc.

A clear example of this violation is the massive process of deforestation (Brazil, Indonesia, etc.) based on the needs of agro-industrial exploitation, the logging and mega-mining, and not to forget the urban growth of mass slums. This penetration of natural spaces exposes human beings to carriers of the virus such as bats (Ebola), mosquitoes (Zika) and other reservoir hosts – meaning, pathogen carriers – which adapt themselves to the new conditions of capitalist ‘civilisation’.

Another obvious example is the packing together of millions of cattle, pigs and poultry in huge farms, raised on antibiotic-and-steroid diets. Such a monoculture means that the possible presence of a virus finds an ideal breeding ground for its multiplication in a limited time. Deadly pathogens mutate in and emerge out of these specialized agro-environments. Agribusiness is so focused on profits that selecting for a virus that might kill a billion people is treated as a worthy risk.

As a consequence “From the 1980s the positive trend against infectious disease started to reverse. New or evolving pathogens began to emerge. (…) The conclusions to be drawn from this reversal in the progress of infectious disease control over the past few decades are inescapable: it is an illustration of the transition of decadent capitalism to a final period of decomposition.” (Report on the Covid-19 pandemic and the period of capitalist decomposition) 

Kamerling
A second time in reply to jk1921

In this post I want to come back to my previous contribution “How would it have gone otherwise?" Reply to jk1921” in which I wrote that the comrade made “serious concessions to bourgeois ideology” in his first posts on the thread “US situation”. Reading more closely and having heard the views of other comrades, after they had also read the posts of jk1921, I must admit that this qualification was not justified.

It is clear that jk1921, just as anyone else in the US, has been influenced by the huge anti-Trump campaign. This is hardly a surprise given the huge scale and intensity of it, and only three weeks before the elections of 3 November 2020. In denouncing this relentless campaign by the liberal bourgeoisie and media, the comrade has what you might call “slightly over-compensated” his reaction. But this does not mean that he defends the policy of Trump and it is certain that he has no intention to do so. In his posts he attempts to point out when and where the policy of the Trump administration is a reflection of position of factions within the US bourgeoisie and the needs of US capital and not sheer insanity or a loss of control caused by decomposition. This is another way to appreciate the situation in the US, but not an open concession to the bourgeois ideology.

A second point I want to take up again is the formulation that: “if we are not outraged by “the capitalist state’s growing negligence toward the resurgence of infectious diseases and public health, and thus of a disregard of the importance of social protection [of human life] at the most basic level” we wouldn’t be revolutionary communists.” This is an unfortunate formulation, because it seems to imply that if someone is not outraged by the indifference of the bourgeoisie with regard to the social protection of human life, he cannot be called a communist revolutionary. This is not what I meant to say. One example to clarify this: in contrast to Gorter, Pannekoek had not the temperament to be outraged, but he was undoubtedly a communist his whole life through.

A third point is on the political weight of the president of the US in internal matters, such as a national lockdown. In my post I wrote that “whether the president is a populist or not, and if not all can be laid at his feet, the significant part of it can”. But I think this formulation slightly misjudges the political relations in the US; i.e. the competence of the federal government in relation to those of the different states. In this respect the political situation in the US is more comparable to India and Belgium than to France and Holland, where the central government has the last word in almost every political decision. So, if a significant part of the “disastrous” evolution of the pandemic can be blamed on Trump, certainly not all can be laid at his feet.

Finally, there is always the danger of being caught up in the campaigns on both sides: the Democrats and the Republicans. This can happen to every communist and even every communist organization. The ICC was not ashamed to admit that it made concessions to bourgeois ideology during the campaign of the climate change. “We removed an article and a first pamphlet on the climate change protests from the French, Dutch and Spanish-language websites, because there was general agreement within the organisation that these two original texts were not critical enough of the bourgeoisie's involvement in the climate demonstrations.” None of us are immune from the impact of the dominant ideology, especially in the current period of decomposition with the increasing weight of partial (BLM) and interclassist (Yellow Vests) struggles.