The British Medical Journal on President Donald J. Trump – as a determinant of COVID-19

A taut editorial published in the British Medical Journal provides a concise indictment of Donald Trump’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Put simply: “He downplayed the risk and delayed action, costing countless avertable deaths.” The editorial concludes with an appeal to social movement action:

To get through this, the US will need unprecedented social mobilisation. The dislocations call for a new social movement, inspired by the AIDS movement of the last 40 years—one that pushes local, state, and federal leaders to provide universal health coverage, universal sick pay, and rent and food assistance, focusing particularly on people who are poor, homeless, marginalised and those in jail or juvenile and immigration centres. Trump’s astounding incompetence was a political determinant of the US covid-19 epidemic. A new “politics of care” could be the corrective.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Capitalism, Socialism and Disease

In a recent op-ed, Victor Wallis, S&D’s Editor-at-Large, contrasts how capitalist and socialist imperatives shape our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wallis addresses the full range of issues from distributional questions including access to health care and prevention to macroeconomic matters and the immediate demands that we should address both nationally and globally. One of the more striking differences between systems, one that shatters the myth of capitalist abundance, is that leaders in capitalist countries simply lack the infrastructure and productive capacity to address the material needs, let alone organizational ones, required to either care for ill or bring a quick end to the pandemic. Decades of globalizing production and supply chains and shifting to a just-in-time production model makes for “efficiency” while leaving the entire system vulnerable to disruptions at multiple points and ensuring that very few countries and regions actually have the necessary productive capacity to immediately address these shortages. Reflecting on the specific healthcare dimension of this crisis, Wallis notes that a “socialist approach to healthcare… builds an infrastructure that can respond to emergency needs. This was strikingly shown just now in China, where urgently needed temporary hospitals were built (in Wuhan) in just two weeks. Moreover, a fully socialist approach, with its corresponding culture of cooperation, makes it possible, as Cuba has repeatedly shown, to extend health services on a large scale to people in other countries.” Read the full article at Political Animal Press’s magazine.

Toilet paper came to symbolize the shortages and panic buying typical of the earliest days of the pandemic in the United States. Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Learning Curves: Climate Change

In a recent post, James Hansen, who first sounded the catastrophic climate change warning bells before the US Congress, notes the public’s increased literacy about the nature of growth curves and particularly the impact of early interventions. Regrettably, at this stage, we are late in the game of carbon mitigation and while the public may better understand the physics behind the exponential growth rates we are confronting, literacy about the social relations that drive the physics remains grossly inadequate. Hansen however cautions against despair, there are actions that can be taken. He notes, though, that the “present graph suggests that we have a lot of mitigation to do before we can flatten and bend downward the global temperature curve.”

The Roots of Mass Incarceration

In this excerpt from the first Shelter & Solidarity* episode, Johanna Fernández, a historian at Baruch College and most recently the author of The Young Lords, A Radical History (UNC Press 2020), explains the history of mass incarceration. She traces it to the anti-imperialist uprisings in the Global South and with the United States. The reactionary, harsh “law and order” response from the state – to lock up the working class and especially its black and brown ranks explain the phenomenon we now call, “Mass Incarceration.” With the decline of U.S. economic power and industrialization, sections of the white working class are also drawn into the phenomenon, both as the jailers and the jailed. (Further excerpts to follow.)

* Shelter & Solidarity is a joint project of S&D, Hardball Press, LaborPress.org, and encuentro5.

Lee Camp’s Latest Book

Lee Camp, Bullet Points and Punch Lines (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2020), xviii + 216 pp., $17

Lee Camp (Photo Credit: PM Press)

You may know Lee Camp from his amazing show “Redacted Tonight” (available online), a unique blend of deep journalism and biting comedy. Well, here it is in book form, and it doesn’t disappoint. It consists mainly of short essays that were the basis for some of his shows. Although we miss the physical performance, we are compensated by being given full documentation for all his factual assertions. It ranges widely in subject matter, from the Pentagon’s “missing” $21 trillion to dissections of Wall Street, racism, police violence, media mendacity, and much more. An excellent vehicle for introducing a Marxist analysis of the present to people who don’t usually read books.

A Call for Clemency

S&D’s co-sponsored online show, Shelter & Solidarity, launched on Thursday, April 9, 2020. The first episode, Disease and Detention, featured Johanna Fernandez, Jose Saldana, Kevin Rashid Johnson, and several other activists in conversation with Joe Ramsey. We will be posting further excerpts from the show. In this video, Jose Saldana explains the rationale for his urgent COVID-19-related challenge to New York state’s Cuomo: clemency now!