By Mariano Rosa
The situation caused by the pandemic is completely unusual. No person living on the planet has had to experience something similar to it. The mass media build meaning with disturbing cinematographic images. The political use of uncertainty. The dialectic of wars, crises and revolutions.
An excellent book titled When the World Becomes a Nightmare establishes something like a record of anti-utopian literature, the genesis of undesirable worlds. A scholars´ consensus should fix three antecedents:
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
- 1984 by George Orwell.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
Of course, 21st century cinema had the Matrix trilogy as a point of reference for the genre, and Netflix made the massively seen Black Mirror series in the same tenor.
However, what is overwhelming about the current situation is the media´s use of images of a quarantined world to reinforce a thesis: the planet is going through an unpredictable crisis, with an uncertain scope. It is like a war, but invisible and the enemy is a virus that spreads surprisingly fast. The construction of meaning uses partial aspects of reality as a starting point. To operate politically, that construction has to be credible. At the same time, the multiplication of partial and fragmentary information does not provide a comprehensive understanding, but disorients, confuses and reinforces prejudices:
- The virus comes from China, an incomprehensible world.
- The culturally strange East pollutes the healthy, normal West.
- It could not be foreseen, the war is minute to minute.
- The political struggle must be suspended: humanity is at stake, and we are all on the same team.
Thus presented, the media´s editorial line is in tune with the political line of capitalist governments across the world to build up team spirit, the key to any war. If humanity is one side, we are all in the same trench. This logic justifies consensus and unity, and limits the margins of political doubt. Technically, the infodemic presents partial news to build a false political sense of unity from the social point of view of the majority. It is aided by a special material condition: the immobility caused by the quarantine limits a direct source of mass consciousness, which is the experience of collective, labor, family, territorial, face-to-face interaction. The quarantine immobilizes people and the media are almost an exclusive source of mass political experience right now. All this interpretive description is to say four things:
- Yes, the pandemic could have been forseen.
- The conditions of its spread are not natural.
- Yes, there are people who are responsible for this.
- Yes, there is another way to intervene.
Of Flat Worlds and Centaurs
Argentine writer Martín Caparrós wrote an article in the New York Times a few days ago titled “The World is Flat”, in which he says: “The flat world is fragile. We believed that this hypertechnical world that we are inventing in rich countries was invulnerable, but a tiny bug has it against the ropes. It is rare to see, these days, how everything we thought so solid has fallen apart: industries, banks, various powerful people, our lives.” To immobilize bodies, quarantine. To flatten consciences, dystopian images. However, those in power know, by class instinct, that consensus is not enough. It is temporary, episodic. Therefore, class power – as a centaur – prepares the action of its animal half, it reinforces its repressive apparatus, selectively training it socially and generationally with the poor and the young. And they do it preventively. If we clear the undergrowth of so much fragmented information, some powerful key data is revealed:
- No capitalist world authority emerges, in any country, that is winning the invisible war.
- The paralysis of the economy conditions bourgeois profits, but also austerity measures, and speculative pricing increases shortages.
- Social sympathy towards sectors of the working class (health care, essential services), fuels a potentially dangerous trend for 1%.
- The flat world is fragile. They know it. We are passing through the calm, but those in power prepare for the storm.
The Magnitude of the Catastrophe
Marxist theory links revolutions, wars and crises under the conditions of capitalism. It is not a religious belief, but a historical synthesis. It explains that military conflicts or the turning points of violent economic crises, exacerbate the class struggle as a result of the suffering of the masses that accumulate consciousness. Those events accelerate the class struggle and create conditions in the political struggle for a revolutionary socialist strategy. That is, they produce the necessary conditions, the prerequisites, for revolution, though not all the sufficient variables.
Engels, in 1887, clairvoyantly described what a new conflict in Europe could look like and predicted the collapse of traditional political ideas. Though who will win the war cannot be predicted, general exhaustion will create conditions for the revolutionary struggle of the working class. This is what Marx’s comrade said.
Lenin, an obsessive student of the Paris Commune and the transformation of inter-bourgeois wars into class struggle for the revolution, posed a hypothesis at the beginning of the First World War (1915): that a revolutionary situation was about to open as a consequence of the catastrophe and the experience of the masses.
Trotsky says that “imperialist wars sharpen contradictions, rip the backward masses out of their initial immobility and prepare the great magnitude of the catastrophe.”
Engels wrote in the Europe of capitalist expansion after the repression of the Paris Commune. Lenin from exile and clandestinity, in a world dominated by the patriotic adherence of the masses to the imperialist war and the. Trotsky was thinking about the Second World War and the construction of a new international, seclusion forced by Stalin´s persecution.
Of course, historical comparisons cannot be employed for mechanical reasoning. Anchored in the idea that the consciousness of the masses is accelerated by their experience, Marxism does not preach that “the worse the better” as an aspiration, but anticipates that this dynamic of class suffering that most have to go through, mobilizes people, unmasks parties and leaderships, and stimulates great rebellions. This dialectic can be caused by wars, by great class disasters and, why not, by the social and economic disasters of a pandemic, from an uncertain perspective. The current picture, which has been accumulating contradictions, sees them amplified by Covid-19. Therefore, we prepare ourselves actively, constantly and patiently, under all circumstances, to guide the social experience towards a structural rethinking of the economy, politics and everything.
Ideological Struggle, Political Preparation, Perspective
Crises fix ideas in the collective imagination. They are moments of concentrated attention. At the international level, there is bourgeois inconsistency. That deteriorates leadership, accumulates experience, fixes images, provides lessons. In this panorama, the political intervention of a militant socialist current means unleashing its political agitation to “tear down walls and build bridges,” between immediate needs, the predisposed understanding of millions and the model of society that we fight for:
- Denounce the inhuman character of the ruling bourgeoisie, which compromises the health of the population under the logic of private profit.
- Demonstrate with data and pedagogical patience that the emergency plan to help the sick requires beds, equipment and personnel, and that means unifying the entire health care system, without financial compensation for the owners of private health care institutions;
- That layoffs, suspensions and wage cuts must be prohibited, with the confiscation of companies that do not comply;
- That the foreign debt must be repudiated;
- That it is necessary to self-organize the response to the crisis, based on democratic forms of organization in each place of work, study and neighborhood.
In summary, it is necessary to explain with clarity that the privileges of the social minority defended by the bosses and the political caste are the obstacle to the solutions that he emergency requires. And that our organization proposes to sweep away that obstacle and offers an active role of struggle to every person willing to fight for that orientation, for that strategy: to join the socialist militancy in our party. We intervene in calm weather, and prepare for the storm.