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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 18 New Delhi, April 18, 2020

(La Pesadilla): The Nightmare or COVID 19 and the Specter of Communism

Saturday 18 April 2020

by Murzban Jal

While there was already a "New Normal" that arose with totalitarian states formed globally in the last decade for whom the "love for lies", as opposed to philosophy’s "love of truth", became the dominant social, political, ideological and cultural order; Covid 19—the terroristic Invisible Enemy said to be quite akin to Communism and Islam—shifted not only how one imagines global societies, but shifted the complete order of international capitalism.

On one hand, following Zizek’s claim in his recent book Pandemic, American and West European states with their anathema towards totalitarianism—remember neoliberalism’s mantra: less government, more governance—moved to form if not a centralized authoritarian state, almost akin to the Soviet state with it’s complete nationalization of, if not the entire economy, then at least health and other important sectors. The question that emerges is: Why did Monsieur Less Government along with the entire horde of the global neoliberals suddenly become Stalinists?

To understand this, and also to understand how Covid 19 could strike the world more deadly than the specter of communism that struck Europe first in 1847-8 one has to move from the world of viruses, bats, hobgoblins and elves to the world of political economy.

Look back into a previous virus, no not SARS, no not Ebola, but what we knew popularly as the "Spanish flu" (La Grippe Espagnole) also known as "The Nightmare" (La Pesadilla) that struck Europe a few months after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and in the closing moments of the First Imperialist World War. Recall that when the workers of European countries were not only revolting against their respective governments, but starting revolutions in the chain of the international revolutionary order, the White Guards of Russia started their armed attack against the young revolution (led by Denikin, Kolchack, Kornilov,, aided by Chaikovsky heading one of the White governments financed by the notorious imperialist Winston Churchill, supported by the all out imperialist invasion of the young Soviet republic; the 1918 flu came to assist the White Guards and Churchill. A coincidence, or a necessary part of the anti-Bolshevik counterrevolution?

Recall also the same period—the German revolution is crushed and Rosa Luxemburg is assassinated along with Wilhelm Liebneicht—Benito Mussolini emerges triumphant in Italy and in February 1922 with the blessings and aid of Pope Pius XI (the former Cardinal of Milan and "a notorious pro-fascist", to borrow a term from Nicos Poulantzas’ Fascism and Dictatorship) seizes power and proclaims the infamous ultra-fascist laws. Mussolini’s seizure of power was followed by German Nazism. One only has to recall the infamous Nuremberg Laws that disenfranchised Jews and the not too distant Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Viruses, so we learn, need to be eliminated.

The fact that viruses and capitalism, viruses and fascism and all the counterrevolutions are inexorably linked must be pointed out. One can say that viruses, Covid 19 being the most recent, are "necessary" and "inevitable" parts of global capital accumulation, just as crimes, terrorism, riots and wars are inevitable and necessary parts of capitalism and imperialism. Therefore when one says that Covid 19 is both a commodity produced in the factories of global capitalism and a specteral ideology of late imperialism in permanent crises, this could not be said to be altogether incorrect.

Now turn from the 1918 flu in the service of imperialism and to 2020 Covid 19. It is best to understand both periods (1918 and 2020) of intense capitalist crises. The very existence of capitalism is questioned. The 2008 crisis shook the world economy sending it into recession, but because of methods to counter this crisis, it was swept beneath the magical carpet of global capitalism.

After all anyone with the slightest knowledge of political economy knows that production is for producing profits and that capitalism’s Master Puppeteer is surplus value. Thus in the circuit of capital—M-CM1—M1 or surplus value has to be realized. This is the goal of the capitalist mode of production. But overproduction, the essence of capitalism, implies that the chain in the M-C-M1 chain is broken and M1, surplus value, expressed as profit, the "darling of capitalism", cannot be realized. It is like the state of apoplexy where "the flow of blood" stops leading to death, to borrow a phrase of Marx.

The world has seen periodic stoppages. The 1928 Great Depression was only one instance that we know of. Covid 19 only activized the most recent stoppage. However the world leaders scream that there is no crises, nothing called "overproduction", nothing called "capital becoming a barrier to capital accumulation", but because of this damned virus, this damned "Chinese virus" (as Donald Trump once blurted out) looking like a crown seated on the heads of the dreaded terrorists!

Once we were told that the anti-Christian specter of communism is haunting good old Christian Europe, where the specter would destroy not only the world of the popes and the czars, but would destroy world bourgeois civilization. Now we are told that Covid 19 has struck if not the whole world, then at least good old Europe and USA. Look at Prince Charles and Boris Johnson!!! Nevermind that the good Boris came out from hospital fresh as a cucumber one week after we were told that he was in ICU even getting some poofs of oxygen and so, so, so close to a ventilator! So what do learn from this? We learn that Boris is fully cured to sit on the Royal horse of British imperialism and chasing the viruses from the face of the Earth!

Good old Boris, just like Boris Yeltsin, who dug the scum Soviet Union into it’s anti-Christian grave. Now let us dig more graves! Yes Boris Johnson is needed to rescue capitalism, just as Boris Yeltsin was once needed. The latter, as we learn from history, was superseded by Putin. Now who would supersede this new Boris, fresh as a cucumber? Donald Trump of course supported by all his incarnations, the little Trumps of the world.

Meanwhile M1 as surplus value refuses to realize itself and the apoplexy affected capitalist monster refuses to see reason. Are then we to call the popes and the czars of the world, knowing well that the fresh cucumbers exist only to be superseded by even more fresh cucumbers? Would it not be better, so our modern popes and czars ask, to bring back the Mussolinis and Hitlers, along with all the little Trumps to be crowned the saviours of world capitalism?

After all is not Monsieur Covid 19 depicted wearing a crown?

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