In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming “total” executive power and threatening to “adjourn” Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to “normality,” it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state.
Yet at this grim moment for humanity, there are utopian as well as apocalyptic potentialities. Paradoxically, the number of deaths per week in the US has actually dropped over the past month, due to reduced highway carnage—a trend that we also saw during the last economic downturn, but was dramatically reversed over the past years of low oil prices. Air pollution has been dramatically reduced in Italy. In India, the usually smog-obscured Himalayas are visible for first time in decades, and the waters of the Ganges are drinkable for the first time in generations. Emergency measures to restrict motor vehicles and open city streets to pedestrians and bicyclists, from New York to Oakland, are a sign of hope.
This crisis affords the opportunity to go beyond the insufficient notion of a “Green New Deal,” and demand a controlled collapse of the fossil fuel economy and global industrial leviathan. As a recent Hong Kong graffito put it: “We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem.” But the inevitable pain for this transition must be borne by the ruling class—not the common people. Or, as a slogan taken up by the South American left now demands: #QuePaguenLosRicos—make the rich pay.
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Production by Chris Rywalt
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