Viruses and Natural Disasters Happen in Every Society...
How They Are Dealt with Depends on the System in Power



Editors’ Note: The following are transcribed excerpts of Lenny Wolff’s comments from a radio interview featuring him and Lucha Bright, hosted by Michael Slate on KPFK Radio Pacifica, on Friday, March 20. They have been lightly edited for reader accessibility. The references to the previous guest on the show are to Eunice Cho, staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Prison Project, talking about the horrific impact of COVID-19 and its consequences on immigrant and other vulnerable communities.

Michael Slate: It’s... a heavy world... Glad you guys are out there in it... Let’s jump on this natural disaster and a system of savage inequalities, capitalism-imperialism. Let’s talk about this... An American fascism... I think in the past there’s a lot of people used to call things fascist... but today it seems that not enough people are actually recognizing that there is in fact an American fascism, here and advancing... What are we talking about here? Let’s put some meat on this as we get into this. You want to jump on this first?

Lenny Wolff: Yeah, I think a lot of what you and your previous guest were getting into brought out one of the really terrible examples of what’s going on and what’s being made worse. I want to actually follow up on a few points you and your guest made. One was your point, which she also underscored by saying that “history won’t judge us kindly,” on the Nazi character of what is being done to the immigrants in particular.

And the point that you were making on the need to protest, the need to bring this out, even in situations like this, was also very important. I know that people in Brazil the other day, millions of them, went out on their balconies, and in their doorways, to bang on pots and pans to protest Bolsonaro [the president there], who is also a fascist, and what he has been doing and not doing around this. And I think we are going to have to find the ways appropriate to the current situation to continue to raise the necessary questions and to wage the necessary battles.

But I also want to follow up on something else you said, and pull the lens back a little bit on the unnecessary character of all this... Before we get totally to the fascism, I want to talk about what kind of a system, of which this fascism is one extreme and ugly expression, and one form of rule of it, that we are dealing with right now. What kind of a system makes this—for example, the grossly unequal and vicious way this is coming down on immigrants—necessary? Why is this perceived to be necessary? Why is this being acted on and how are we going to get out of this? Is it really necessary? Is there an alternative? Could dealing with a pandemic be done in a different way?

Any society would have to deal with viruses, it would have to deal with pandemics, and all the rest, just as any society has to deal with hurricanes and other natural disasters. But how they deal with it has to do with what social system they have. What are the motive forces that drive that society? What are the basic relations underlying that society? And what kind of constraints or alternatively what kind of freedom does that give humanity and the people in that society to deal with these things.

And I did want to talk about three things on the front page of the paper today, the New York Times, that bring out how much unnecessary damage it does to deal with this through this system and how a socialist system, and I mean a real socialist system—which requires a real revolution, a real dismantling of the forces of repression of the current system and its replacement, top to bottom, by totally different social relations, economic relations, political structures, a different morality between people, different relations between people—could deal with things like this so much better.

There were three articles. One was that they had done a simulation,1 the Trump regime had its people do a simulation of something remarkably similar to this over a year ago. And this simulation gave an actual sense of the level of damage that would be done. Their simulation gave you 110 million Americans becoming infected by it, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized, and 588,000 dead. They can’t say they didn’t know that something like this could happen, OK? The other thing, the other article, I will get back to all of these.

The other articles are that there is a global race, the headline is that there is a global race to figure out the silver bullet [a cure or a vaccine to arrest the spread of the disease]. And this article makes the point again, that... I am going to quote this actually. I know I am taking a minute, but...

MS: that’s fine, don’t worry about it, take as long as you want.

LW: There is “a nationalistic approach that could give the winner the chance to favor its own population and potentially gain the upper hand in dealing with the economic and geostrategic fallout from the crisis.” OK? They are not calling for all the scientists of the world to come together, to be communicating with each other, to make any breakthrough the property of everybody else. They’re trying to figure out how to angle for advantage with each other. There was something that came out the other day about Trump, Trump himself attempting to buy out a German company that seemed to be making advances on this and then the Germans saying, “No, you can’t do this...”

And then the final point, the final article, which is the main article on the front page, is that there are going to be terrible shortages of gear. It says “Doctors Sound Alarm as the Nation Struggles/Shortages of Gear Imperil Staffs at Hospitals.” And what this is basically saying is that the frontline caregivers in this are going to be, are going to be up against... they won’t have the necessary, it’s not just the respirators and ventilators for the patients. They don’t even have face masks in some cases. They detail in this article some of what people are doing—very heroically—and the risk and in many cases the almost certain risk of their own lives to deal with this. Why? Because there is no stockpile, there was no planning...

These things are three interlocking things when you think about it, each of these, all driven by a system in which the commanding, in which the driving commandment is to expand profit and this overrides everything and which takes expression in competition on a global level between nation states and in which the society also keeps people in abysmal ignorance both of basic science and of things they understand that are looming... How unconscionable is it to make this simulation and say nothing and keep people ignorant? In each of these examples—including the ways that scientists are divided from sharing knowledge, the ways that there was no planning in advance for emergency stockpiles of medical gear when they knew something like this could happen—this is where you see the crying unnecessary-ness of all this, that it doesn’t have to be this way....

I really want to urge people: Go to the website Read the Constitution [for the New Socialist Republic in North America] that has been authored by Bob Avakian, who has brought forward a new communism and see how a socialist society would deal with this so much differently. How it would prepare, how it would involve the ordinary people, the masses of people in society in grappling with what to do and collectively figuring out and preparing responses in advance and how it would gear production to be able to meet calamities and could do this not just for the people in this society ranged against the whole world but to fight for the world as a whole, to do this for the world as a whole and as part of that world as a whole and to struggle for cooperation and for a common way for humanity... There’s 7.7 billion of us as a common humanity, and why is this not put in first place? And the only reason is because of this system we are living under, and we don’t need this system. That’s why...

Anyway, I think this is why... we on the Tour say, there’s never been a leader like Bob Avakian in a country like this before. Who else has brought forward a constitution that actually lays out and provides a way for people to understand in advance what kind of society we are going for and how that society, which would rely on people’s conscious understanding of science and of the scientific method, would be so, so different? It would be so much more freedom.

And then you do have what your guest was bringing out, which Lucha is also going to bring forward, the savage inequalities that pre-exist in this system which come into play, and then get accentuated when there is a question like this that arises in society. The things we saw on one scale in Katrina we will very likely be seeing on a much larger scale in the days and weeks ahead. They are sentencing a portion of the immigrants that your guest talked about to death and disease. What kind of a system does that?

This is the question we have to be asking, not only what we have to do to fight this, and yes, we do need to find the ways to fight against this particular ugly form this has taken in the Trumpian fascism. The combination of ugliness and idiocy, but... it’s also time to really look at where are we at as a species and what do we need to be doing and we’ve got to open our minds to the fact that there is an alternative, and that the hour is late, and that this is bringing this out and underlining it.


1. Simulations are computer models that imitate reality and scientifically construct different possible scenarios of the future, in order to understand the effects of various events and factors, and plan how best to deal with them if they should occur. In this instance, the simulation was of global flu pandemics.  [back]

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CONSTITUTION For The New Socialist Republic In North America

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