Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick has sparked controversy with his recent call for people to be put to work to “save the economy,” going so far as to say that grandparents should be willing to risk their lives for the economic future of their grandchildren. It is easy to write this off as the murderous musings of a reactionary Trumpite looking in terror at his stock portfolio, but such thinking is hardly isolated in American politics at the moment, and reflects the general fascist creep that has been occurring since 9/11, the patriot act, and the inhumane persecution of immigrants.
While many on the left still refuse to reckon Trump and his movement as a proto-fascist one, openly on the move towards fascism, and underplay the meaningful differences in the way the American state has exercised its terroristic chauvinism against immigrant communities since 2016, these new developments and political rhetorics in the era of COVID-19 push the debate further. All of our lives have fundamentally changed, and the political body of the country has begun to reflect this.
There are two key aspects of this economically-driven deathwish rhetoric that reflect the fascist decay of American capitalism. First, Dan Patrick and many Trumpites reflect the cynical “reason” that was at the heart of 20th fascist barbarity and is the heart of 21st century fascist apologism. Fascists always seek to portray efforts to prioritize human life at economic or national expense as the product of decadent, weak liberalism that lacks the stomach to achieve true success. Sure, for the Dan Patrick’s of the world, thousands of elderly people will die, but how many, they ask disingenuously, will suffer from an economic recession? Killing thousands for economic gain, in such a construction, is actually good for the country, because it saves many millions from financial destruction. Our fate and the fate of stockholders are the same fate—the age-old Reaganite, trickle-down myth. But who, ultimately, did the American state help in the last recession? Did they offer mortgage relief for those who lost their home? Student loan forgiveness for graduates who couldn’t find a job? No, they offered trillions to corporations. We are asked to risk our lives, the lives of our parents and grandparents, for the good of the nation—but we know from experience who suffers and who doesn’t during the crises of capitalism. We understand that the cynical reason of fascists is but a rhetorical flourish meant to obscure the prioritization of economic gain for the ruling class over human life. Hitler may have been a tyrant, the fascist apologists say, but at least he was good for the economy!
Second, an argument like Dan Patrick’s demands that we stratify society into “productive” and “non-productive” people, a necessity for fascist criminality. The elderly, rendered to be “unproductive,” must be spent like currency in yet another stimulus plan for the rich. We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking such an understanding is unique to COVID-19, and only applicable to its particular qualities (higher mortality rates amongst older population, for example). This kind of thinking is the bedrock of fascist attacks on those with disabilities and mental health issues, groups who were among the first to be killed during the holocaust, and on who Zyklon B was given its test runs after the Wansee Conference. The economic conditions created by COVID-19 have accelerated this fascist descent, such that a political leader can openly advocate for huge swaths of the American population dying to save the economy and be defended by the right wing establishment, but this differentiation between productive and non-productive people has long been at the heart of the american fascist creep. Immigrants are abused and killed at the border because they are portrayed as leeches who do not pay taxes yet use social services like education and welfare (both flagrant myths). Capitalism in decay must seek to sow separatism in the working classes who might unite for its destruction, it must create a difference between those who are “productive” and “unproductive.” It must convince us that we have less in common with an elderly person who has worked their entire life than we do with venture capitalists on Wall Street. It has been the breaking up working class solidarity, and turning different sectors of the working class against each other that empowered fascists to commit their greatest crimes.
We must be unafraid to label a politics that partakes in a cynical reason that happily trades lives for stock gains and seeks to turn workers against each other for corporate gain what it is—fascist. Capitalism, facing a resurgent socialist movement and internal crisis, is turning to its last bastion. As workers, and socialists, it falls to us to press through the anxiety, despair, and isolation many of us are facing, and redress ourselves with new vigor and ingenuity to the task of destroying fascism, once, and for all.
Categories: U.S. News