Chapter Twenty-Four

If the political power necessary for changing the world is not found “in lifeless virus particles which are utterly indifferent towards the world around them” as we asserted at the end of the last chapter, nor is it found in the US electoral machine or useless political figures like Ruth Bader Ginsburg that are also utterly indifferent to the world, then where is it found and how is it built? Although we have a lot of thoughts on the answer to that question––many of which have been revealed or implicit throughout this project––to even ask it is to also recognize a kind of thinking that needs to break from the capitalist imaginary.

In some ways, we have come to think like an indifferent virus. Or, rather, the kind of thinking that is most prevalent in the imperialist metropoles––even amongst progressives––is one of denial or nihilistic indifference. This is not the result of the pandemic, nor is it the result of the fascist movements pushing reactionary leaders into power, but was already emerging as a necrocapitalist characteristic before the global pandemic and along with emergent fascism. Again, the pandemic merely revealed the already existing depredations of a decaying system that has been morbidly violent from the beginning; emergent fascism is evidence of this decay. As these depredations came more and more to resemble the death throes of the system itself, and as coherent and sustainable revolutionary organizing vanished from the imperialist metropoles, the proclamation of the “end of history” became a proclamation of “no alternative” and even “no hope” for those who could not see beyond the boundaries of the imperialist strongholds in which they resided.

Within this cancerous and necrotic capitalist reality denial or nihilism manifest as the only possible attitudes, as long as we think within its confines. Denial might take multiple forms but these forms are over-determined by fascist and liberal perspectives, both of which are invested (in their own ways) in saving capitalism from collapse. Inordinate focus on the US elections is a form of denialism, specifically a denial of our ability to organize and create another world. But such focus also demonstrates a nihilist attitude, an indifference to organizing political power because it has been drained of meaning.

Nihilism also takes multiple forms: i) its own fascist variant as the nadir where collapse is embraced as judgment against those deemed weak (who let the virus, to cite one example, “dominate” them rather than “dominating” it); ii) a liberal individualism of giving up and accepting, with a pseudo-zen magnanimity, that armageddon is fait accompli; and most importantly iii) an anti-capitalist variant of loss, mourning, raging in the face of inevitable environmental and social collapse. It is this last species of nihilism that should concern us the most since it represents the power of contemporary crisis capitalism to infect the imagination of the left.

Indeed, nihilism is an attitude that is harder and harder for anti-capitalists to avoid. We have witnessed multiple failures and have been socialized to forget or dismiss any success. We lived through the trauma of the collapse of the great revolutionary projects. We were fed the false hopes of movementism and were incapable of recognizing that these fragmented projects were doomed from the outset. We witness a world crawling towards the edge of destruction, maniacally pursuing mechanics of species suicide. We understand that everything about capitalism is a lie, we know that it cannot save itself from itself because of its logic, but our imagination is such that the possibility of rupturing from this necrotic sequence is unthinkable. Within the reality demarcated and described by the capitalist imaginary another world is impossible and it is very difficult to pursue the revolutionary slogan, famously proclaimed in May 1968, that the revolutionary imaginary is about demanding the impossible.

Faced with the vast graveyard that the world has become nihilism, when judged within the constraints imposed by capitalism’s vision of reality, certainly feels like a viable option. According to the capitalist imaginary, resistance is impossible or (as the Orwellian discourse coupled with Cold War ideology has promoted) will result in a more horrific state of affairs. Hopelessness becomes normative amongst would-be militants who are separated from the world-building projects of revolutionary communist parties. Even militants who join such party projects might drop out and give up when events do not proceed as quickly and smoothly as they would like. While there is indeed a petty-bourgeois variant of this hopeless nihilism (“nothing matters so I might as well enjoy what little time I have while complaining that capitalism has pushed the world into a death drive”) it is common amongst the exploited and oppressed masses as well. The working class is taught that there is no future but drudgery and meaningless labour, that workers’ failure to rise above their circumstances is their fault alone––because they are not creative enough, because they lack the incentive, because they are not thinking enough positive thoughts.

But it is the pseudo-progressive strain of “left” nihilism that attempts to push this sentiment enforced by capitalist ideology as a viable anti-capitalist option. Lee Edelman’s No Future is a perfect example of the petty-bourgeois wallowing in capitalism’s death drive, presented as radical. So-called “queer nihilism” (along with “nihilist communism” and “anarchist nihilism”) emerges from Edelman’s morbid acceptance of the capitalist imaginary. Nihilism is the “common sense” of necrocapitalism, even when it presents itself as critique.

The apotheosis of contemporary nihilism is that strange sub-region of speculative philosophy known as anti-natalism, a philosophy that claims to prove, as the name of an anti-natalist article puts it, why it is better to never come into existence.1 Represented by philosophers such as Théophile de Giraud Peter Zapffe, David Benatar, Julio Cabrera, and horror author Thomas Ligotti, anti-natalism asserts that non-sentient existence is preferable to sentient existence, sentient existence is in essence pain and harm, consciousness is a monstrous evolutionary aberration, and thus it would be better if humans simply ceased to exist. As Ligotti summarizes this philosophy:

For the rest of the earth’s organisms, existence is relatively uncomplicated. Their lives are about three things: survival, reproduction, death––and nothing else. But we know too much to content ourselves with surviving, reproducing, dying––and nothing else. We know we are alive and know we will die. We also know we will suffer during our lives before suffering––slowly or quickly––as we draw near to death. This is the knowledge we ‘enjoy’ as the most intelligent organisms to gush from the womb of nature. And being so, we feel shortchanged if there is nothing else for us than to survive, reproduce and die. We want there to be more to it than that, or to think there is. This is the tragedy: Consciousness has forced us into the paradoxical position of striving to be unself-conscious of what we are––hunks of spoiling flesh on disintegrating bones. (Ligotti, 11)

On the speculative level, this philosophy is influenced by the very materialist understanding that the history of conscious human existence, as well as the history of any form of sentient life, is both a tiny blip in the long ancestral history of matter and takes up minuscule space in a massive unthinking universe. The upshot of this very large materialist insight is that we should not think that humans possess an especial destiny, that they are better than other forms of life, or that we are the center of existence. Anti-natalism, however, adds a warped ethical injunction to the insight that non-sentient existence is older and larger than sentient existence. The former, it asserts, is preferable to the latter. Such an assertion, though, confirms the anthropocentric conceit since its reversal merely reaffirms what the initial insight attempted to undermine: the centrality of human consciousness. Human consciousness again becomes a central focus, though one that is problematized rather than being exhorted to be de-emphasized.

Hence, to assert that we come from nothing and exist for nothing is not enough for anti-natalism. These assertions again become puzzles. Ligotti complains that “[n]o philosopher has ever satisfactorily answered the following question: ‘Why should there be something rather than nothing?’” and then asserts that such a question “suggests our uneasiness with Something.” (Ligotti, 71)And yet, if we reject the privileging of anthropocentrism we should recognize that “from nothing and for nothing” (Meillassoux, 110) are answers to this question, and answers that allow us to think an existence broader than human consciousness. The only reason that this age-old question is a puzzle is because it emerges from an anthropocentric framework. Such a framework is precisely what allows anti-natalists to focus on the monstrousness of human consciousness, the claim that existence is pain, and to move on to privileging the non-existence of humanity over its existence. By focusing on a utilitarian calculus of pain and pleasure, and claiming that pain (and harm) is normative to human existence, David Benatar asserts that “there is nothing bad about never coming into existence, but there is something bad about coming into existence, all things considered non-existence is preferable.” (Benatar, 348-349)

On the speculative level it is an exercise in futility to argue against those dedicated to the axiom that the non-existence of humanity (and indeed all sentient life) is preferable to its existence. Charges that anti-natalists should simply suicide if they truly believed in what they argued are usually met with scorn: due to the programming of human consciousness, and in the words of the character Rustin Cole from True Detective (which was based on anti-natalist philosophy), they “lack the constitution” for suicide. Besides, what do the suicides of a handful of misanthropic philosophers matter when the problem they feel like they are diagnosing concerns all of sentient existence? Hence, following Zapffe’s so-called “last messiah”, anti-natalists can simply argue that they work to “bear witness” (again, as Rustin Cole puts it), to argue this truth to the rest of ignorant, conscious humanity, and to struggle for the solution of mass sterilization where all of humanity will agree to eradicate itself. Nihilist utopianism.

It cannot be denied, after all, that reality is horrendous and that, even if we side-step David Benatar’s argument about “asymmetry” and argue that some pains and harms are simply part of life and not an insurmountable category of being (psychological and emotional pain, the fact that we will become ill and experience various level of distress simply because we are mortal and fragile), there is still the fact that the vast majority of the world experiences extreme harm and pain. Natural disasters, famines, wars, genocide, vicious labour conditions, immiseration, and multiple forms of pain and harm characterize the living conditions for the majority of humanity. Moreover, the unfolding facts of environmental devastation and now a global pandemic attenuate all of the above problems, resulting in a very bleak looking future that is becoming nearer every day.

But these terrible facts of material existence are facts that multiple radical social theorists have grappled with, have agonized over, and have concluded that the solution is to struggle against them and change society so that such predations and their affects can no longer exist. Many of these social theorists were and are not starry-eyed utopians unaware of pain and thus deceived (as anti-natalists would have it) into thinking such pain and harm was not a big deal; many of them either originated from, or embedded themselves in, those marginalized populations that experienced the worst aspects of social-historical violence. For example, Christina Sharpe writes about “the ways our individual lives [meaning individual black lives] are always swept up in the wake produced and determined, though not absolutely, by the afterlives of slavery.”( Sharpe, 8) According to Sharpe, this “wake” inheritance continues to globally affect black lives into the present, where the pain and immiseration of the past persists as a material memory upon the body of the present. “Racialization and colonization have worked simultaneously to other and abject entire peoples so they can be enslaved, excluded, removed, and killed in the name of capitalism,” writes Indigenous scholar Jodi Byrd: “These historical and political processes have secured white property, citizenship, and privilege, creating a ‘racial contract,’ as Charles W. Mills argues.” (Byrd, xxiii) Sharpe and Byrd are just two contemporary scholars, each occupying a position of social marginalization, amongst a litany of radical social theorists who have experienced and explored the multiple predations of capitalism and its colonial roots, whose response to a visceral experience of marginalization is to demand an end to the mechanics of oppression, exploitation, and predation. Indeed, the vast majority of social theorists and organizers who originate from populations that have experienced the most abject pain and harm do not argue for the obliteration of sentient life even though they understand, intimately and viscerally, what this pain and harm actually means.

Therefore, what is truly monstrous about anti-natalism is not the supposedly profound “truths” it reveals; it is that it is an ontological confirmation of the imaginary of necrocapitalism. None of the anti-natalist philosophers are individuals who have experienced the abjection of contemporary global capitalism––who have lived in what Mbembe calls the “death worlds” of the current conjuncture––and in fact most of them belong to quite privileged and largely comfortable demographics. To demand that humanity embrace extinction when those who have been historically threatened with extinction have always struggled against it, is worse than cynical. In the context of the global pandemic an anti-natalist might argue that we are merely dealing with non-sentient planet wiping out sentience, and that this is a “good” thing. Or perhaps they would take it as evidence of the pain and harm that is a normative part of existence, confirmation that we should cease to exist rather than struggle against it.

Past nihilisms were confirmations of the dominant orders of meaning by assuming that all meaning was lost with the loss of these orders; they rarely attempted, outside of polemical and aesthetic statements, to be conscious and theoretical celebrations of nihilism. Nietzsche described these past nihilisms as ressentiment or self-hatred. Of course, being the “nineteenth century dirtbag philosopher” (Mitropolous, 32) that he was, Nietzsche’s answer to nihilism was an occulted bourgeois triumphalism. But he was correct insofar that all forms of nihilism are produced by melancholia, ressentiment, and cynicism. Contemporary iterations of nihilism, however, are the most melancholic, resentful, and cynical nihilisms yet despite––or perhaps because of––their attempt to present themselves as theoretical assemblages. Anti-natalism takes this necrotic wallowing to the speculative level, reifying the current order’s hatred of existence.

To be clear, anti-natalism is a minor philosophical position. In fact, its proponents enjoy this minor status because they feel it confirms that they possess the kind of profound insight that only a few enlightened intellectuals could ever hope to gain. In this sense, it is also an elitist position and thus anti-mass as its own dismissal of the insights from the oppressed masses demonstrates: such insights, for the anti-natalist, are delusions of the herd. They are, in a weird sense, inverted Nietzscheans who have somehow managed to copper-fasten the elitism of his philosophy with the ressentiment he despised. So why should we take their claims seriously? Largely because, as noted above, anti-natalism is the apotheosis of contemporary necrocapitalist nihilism. It represents a kind of trope in contemporary thinking, a trajectory of the thought of the necrocapitalist subject. It is where the thinking encouraged by this conjuncture leads: an indifference that is so far gone it celebrates its indifference by imagining it is profound.

Although proponents of the bourgeois electoral circus argue that refusing to participate in the spectacle of elections is callous indifference, and thus evidence of a nihilist attitude, might it in fact be the opposite? After all, once we examine these electoral systems with even the smallest amount of critical thought we are presented with an avalanche of absurdity. Aside from the limited options, aside from Lenin’s joke that they are conventions where the bourgeoisie competes amongst itself to best misrepresent the people, aside from the fact that any and every elected regime has done nothing to make the world better but has in fact continued exploiting, oppressing, and straight out murdering the majority of humanity… Aside from all of this, they are always compromised within the bounds of bourgeois democracy––they cannot even guarantee the limited grounds of bourgeois reason! Legitimized political parties court the most powerful members of society and demand that the marginalized just get on board, refusing to listen to any of their demands. People wait in line for hours to vote only to discover their vote won’t be counted. Entire populations have their democratic rights suppressed; rumours are spread of illegitimate non-citizen voting while nobody cares about those citizens who are barred from voting. And all of this happens while imperialist states disparage and destabilize the conventions of voting in other nations. To find meaning in such a concatenation is impossible, and everyone who even thinks about it for more than a few minutes is forced to realize how meaningless it is. We would have to be nihilists regarding everything else about social existence to care about the electoral system: nothing really matters, and nothing will change, but we might as well vote since there is nothing better to do.

Meanwhile, the government of Alberta has started to defund and privatize its provincial medical system right in the midst of a pandemic. Meanwhile Joyce Echaquan died livestreaming the abuse she endured in a Québec hospital because she was an Indigenous woman, and the only result was a dialogue about reconciliation and a debate about whether systemic racism actually existed. The death tolls continue and, in the face of this death, there is denial (such as the absurd Barrington Declaration) and there is nihilism. But there is also outrage, and maybe this outrage can generate something productive. Something that does not collaborate with the electoral circus; something beyond necrocapitalist thinking.

1 This is the title of David Benatar’s essay Why It Is Better to Never Come Into Existence that was reworked as a chapter in his book Better Never To Have Been.

Chapter Twenty-Three

There is a strange tendency among certain radicals to highly overemphasize the competence of the ruling class generally, and the competence of the state apparatus that serves their interests in particular. The power of the state is vast, and it clearly functions to consolidate class rule through its organs of violence and oppression. Daily we are reminded of this violence through extrajudicial executions at the hands of police and through the life-destroying effects of the criminal “justice” system. And yet, despite all this power, we also know that capitalism is prone to crisis. This is an inherent feature of capitalism. This is the reason that we insist that necrocapitalism is not some new form of capitalism but rather is an analytic for understanding the decay that is built into the very nature of capitalism and all class societies. While we are daily reminded of the power of the ruling class and the tools at their disposal, moments of crisis can reveal the dysfunction within the ruling class itself, while also allowing us to see how those class forces unify together in defense of the status quo during moments when the present state of things is most pressing.

As of 48 hours ago at the time of writing this chapter, US President Donald Trump announced that he had tested positive for SARS-COV-2. 24 hours ago, it was announced that he was being airlifted to Walter Reed Hospital. Today we are seeing ​reports​ of his vitals being in serious condition, and discovering that more and more GOP politicians who had been in contact with him have tested positive. It is moments like this when we realize that the ruling class and their state representatives are not all powerful, and when we understand the truth behind Mao’s insistence that the reactionaries are paper tigers.

To note that all people, including the leaders of global empires, are in fact mortal is utterly banal. This is a realization that anyone could come to. What is interesting in this context is the extent to which the incompetence of Trump, the US American state, and the unhinged coalition of petty-bourgeois and bourgeois elements which support him are responsible for Trump’s current predicament. The state response to the crisis of COVID-19 has varied from at best acknowledging its existence while failing to take systemic action to stop it and at worst denying the reality of the pandemic and intentionally endangering the populace. Among Trump’s base there is widespread conspiratorial thinking regarding the virus, with some insisting that the virus does not exist at all, while others insist that it is harmless and the economy must open up. The US American right has rallied around reopening, insisting that the costs of an expanded pandemic are justified in order to save the economy. The lens of necrocapitalism analysis enables us to see the extent to which the reactionary political forces have reverted back to the most base forms of Moloch worship in this time of crisis. Furthermore, we now see how this frenzied drive towards irrationality and human sacrifice as a response to capitalism’s own inevitable crisis has failed entirely as a strategy. The leader of this crazy cult now lays in a hospital bed, as daily more and more of his close confidants and political allies test positive for this deadly virus. Paper tigers indeed.

And yet, despite this obvious testament to the incompetence of the most reactionary aspects of the capitalist state, this moment we find ourselves in also reveals something about the unity of the capitalist class in times of crisis. In our previous chapters we have discussed both the liberal mobilization of performative grief in the face of the death of political figures, as well as the limits of voting for achieving any actual change. Our current rather acute moment of crisis overlaps with these concepts in a few fascinating ways.

Liberal claims that Trump represents a uniquely fascist and uniquely dangerous aberration within the realm of bourgeois politics have been central to the vote-shaming strategy employed to pull more radical forces in line with the Democratic Party. As happens every four years, we hear constant demands that we fall in line and cast a vote for yet another moderate neoliberal democrat because the alternative poses an existential threat to the norms of democracy. While it is true that Trump has eroded liberal norms at a particularly rapid pace, it does not follow from this that a bourgeois electoral strategy would be sufficient to repair the erosion of these norms. As communists we understand that the erosion of liberal norms is a result of reactionary defense mechanisms which occur within capitalism during moments of particularly distinct crises. Regardless of whether Trump is an instance of this fascist reaction to crisis, we must insist that the conditions that allow the emergence of such a fascist reaction are themselves found within the very conditions that produce the norms and political order of liberal republicanism that the democrats claim to hold in such high regard. Liberals, of course, remain blind to this reality and to the extent to which their own politics are inseparably intertwined with the conditions which allow for the emergence of fascsm. Thus we find ourselves endlessly shamed for being “unwilling” to compromise in the name of “practicality” or national unity in the face of a supposedly unique threat.

And yet, it is in this moment where this threat is endangered by our current pandemic that we see the liberal rhetoric fall apart. We might suppose that if these liberals were in fact genuine in their belief that Trump represents an existential threat then we would see the liberals themselves expressing some excitement at the fact that he is currently endangered by this virus. We do not, of course, see this response from those who chastise us for failing to oppose Trump “by any means necessary.” Instead we see the total opposite reaction, as these same liberals ​wish Trump a speedy recovery ​and insist that those who oppose Trump must take the moral high ground and wish the best for the president. In this moment of crisis wherein nature itself threatens the well-being of a man they have spent years decrying as uniquely dangerous, the liberal political class rallies around the president’s well-being.

It is not merely that the pathetic liberal commentariat who endlessly chatter and moan for a living are calling for unity in support of Trump now; we in fact see the actual politicians who hold and contend for state power back off their opposition.​ Biden himself has chosen to pull attack ads ​from his campaign while Trump is incapacitated from the virus. During this moment when the “opposition” candidate could consolidate his campaign and take advantage of the current situation he chooses to back off for the sake of liberal ethics regarding “civility.” There are two immediate lessons that we can learn from the reaction of liberals. One acts as a sort of corollary to our previous observations regarding the incompetence of the ruling class, and the other expands our understanding of the weakness of electoral strategies in the face of reaction.

First, we might note that while the reactionaries are in fact paper tigers, undermined by their own incompetence and their own drive towards irrationality in the face of crisis, it is also true that the ruling class on the whole is willing to unify when the consequences of this incompetence become too significant. That liberals have suddenly gone from seeing Trump as an existential threat to seeing him as a vulnerable person whose health we must rally around reveals the hollowness of their political outlook. Trump does not, in fact, represent the greatest threat to their politics and they know this. They recognize that at the end of the day their own politics and his politics serve the interests of capital and they recognize that the legitimacy of the head of the capitalist state is crucial for the maintenance of capitalist social relations more broadly. What is more dangerous than Trump to the liberals? The possibility that the masses might come to celebrate the downfall of the leader of the American empire, regardless of who that leader is. In their calls for unity and civility they undermine their own rhetoric and endless ideological banter in order to defend a man who would happily have seen them die from the very same virus. It is tempting to misdiagnose this as a weakness of liberals as a sort of pathetic overcommitment to principles of civility, but this would be a mistake. It is not that liberals are weak or cowardly in the face of reaction, it is rather that they are on the same side as the reactionaries themselves. Our present moment brings this into clear focus.

The second lesson to learn from this moment relates again to the question of voting. If the liberals are correct that voting remains the only way to oppose the fascism of the Trump administration, surely we would hope that the candidate we are told we must vote for would actually take every step within his power (which far exceeds our own) to overcome Trump. And yet, here we are with Biden refusing to take the actions necessary to secure the election. We see, once again for the millionth fucking time, that bourgeois politicians are not and cannot be held accountable to the masses and cannot be used as a tool for fighting off the most violent aspects of capitalist decay. Biden himself cannot be seen as a tool for fighting off the necrocapitalist decay that marks our time.

In a sense, this present moment is profoundly useful because it demystifies so much of the liberal political ideology. It lays bare a hypocrisy that many radicals have failed to see beyond, and it draws our attention to a certain dual nature of the ruling class; a simultaneous weakness as a result of sheer incompetence, and a horrifying willingness for consolidation of political forces which are supposedly at odds with each other.

At the same time, we also see a certain pathetic reaction from the radical left in response to this. The chorus of social media voices unable to contain their excitement at the current situation speaks ultimately to the weakness of the organized left. A movement so weak that it has to cheer on the role a virus plays in the political struggle is a movement that must seriously self-reflect on the meaning of power and the means of attaining it.

Should Trump succumb to the virus, this would not be victory for the left. It would surely spur on violent reaction as a host of assassination conspiracies cropped up among the reactionary right movement to explain the situation. These people already believe the virus is a manufactured bioweapon; they are poised to engage in political violence should things turn badly. Furthermore, the elation of the radical left at Trump’s current predicament plays into the liberal hyperfocus on the uniqueness of Trump as a threat to progressive politics. True radicals ought to understand that Trump as an individual is in many ways insignificant. He is a chosen figure who represents forces and interests that will continue on long after he is gone. What is at play is much more systemic than the life of a single person.

So let us look at our moment, a moment in which the most morbid and stunning aspects of capitalist decay have now threatened the official representatives of the capitalist class, and let us recognize both that our enemies are often utter fools but also that they are willing and ready to set aside differences in defense of the status quo. Let us also realize that we gain nothing from cheering on the fall of our enemies to a virus other than momentary catharsis. When that catharsis subsides, however, we are left recognizing the weakness that led us to seek out such a release of frustration in the first place. Power is found in organization and in the masses, not in lifeless virus particles which are utterly indifferent towards the world around them. Power is built. There is much work to be done.

Chapter Twenty-Two

“To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather”

Mao Zedong

In a recent piece, J. Moufawad-Paul comments on the connection between capitalist electoral dogma and the performative mourning of US liberals over the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The mourning is performative because it entreats us into accepting a liberating role for Ginsburg that, from the standpoint of the oppressed, she simply does not have. The piece refers to two cases motivating this view: Ginsburg’s opposition to indigenous sovereignty in the case of Sherrill vs. Oneida Indian Nation in 2005 as well as Ginsburg’s coming down on the side of white supremacy (and ableism) referring to Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes taking a knee during the American national anthem as “dumb and disrespectful”. But there are other cases, like Daimler AG v. Bauman where Ginsburg prohibited relatives of victims and the survivors from bringing legal charges against Daimler AG when they conspired with the government of Argentina to torture workers at local Mercedes Benz factories during Operation Condor, the US-sponsored campaign of political repression and state terror in Argentina. And there’s also Homeland Security vs. Thuraissigiam which––in addition to condemning unknown numbers of asylum seekers to death––allows the fast-track deportations that enables Trump’s administration to separate families at the border by denying all immigrants, including children’s access to asylum law under the pretext of protecting Americans from COVID-19. Restating the point made in Moufawad-Paul’s piece, Ginsburg was not a friend of oppressed people; she was their enemy.

The connection of performative mourning to electoral dogma in Moufawad-Paul’s piece is the idea that without Ginsburg, Biden’s election to the presidency is at risk bolstering the dead-end liberal narrative that voting under necrocapitalism can fend-off fascism. We’ve been treating these and related ideas in the last couple of chapters focusing on the role of voting in necrocapitalism and its disarming, serializing effect on revolutionary groups and movements that are fighting for systemic change, and even its failure as progressive expressive politics when compared to not voting. In this chapter we continue to think about the pitfalls of putting stock in the political systems of necrocapitalism and turn to a particular intervention on the death of Ruth Ginsburg coming from the liberal petite-bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries claiming the banner of feminism. This is the intervention of bourgeois philosopher Kate Manne in a series of tweets anticipating a misogynist response to Ginsburg’s death and absolving her of blame for the current situation in US politics.

The situation in question is a vacant seat in the United States Supreme Court and Donald Trump poised to fill that seat with an imperialist politician of his choosing, resulting in a 6-3 Republican majority. From the standpoint of the non-revolutionary, parliamentary left represented by the liberal bourgeoisie in the United States, this situation threatens existing and future laws serving the interests of a certain class of euro-american women in this country. The reason some people might think that Ginsburg is to blame for this situation is that she refused to retire under the Obama administration when Obama was in a position to appoint an imperialist politician to the chair occupied by Ginsburg with more appeal to liberals than one selected by Trump. To the liberal bourgeoisie in the United States these are multidimensional and weighty issues that involve interpreting Ginsburg’s choice to stay on rather than retire during the Obama presidency as a heroic and hard choice limited by Senate Leader and right wing imperialist stooge Mitch McConnell’s blocking of Obama’s nominations to the Supreme Court. This is in contrast to the view opposed by Manne that interprets Ginsburg’s choice to not retire as a bad calculation on Ginsburg’s part based on optimism that Hillary Clinton would be elected president in 2016, enabling her to retire in 2017 and her chair filled by another imperialist politician, viewed favorably of course, because of selection by Hillary Clinton.

Manne’s focus, however, is misogyny in the evaluation of Ginsburg’s death and the political situation described above. Manne is the author of a bourgeois philosophy book on misogyny, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, influential among euro-american liberals, white feminists, bourgeois philosophers, and those who aspire to and share the social identity of the imperialist country non-revolutionary left.[i] In it she defines misogyny as the law enforcement branch of a patriarchal social order, (Manne, 63) and claims to propose an account of misogyny that situates patriarchy in the intersection of other systems of social control that outstrips the naïve notion that misogyny is a type of subjective hatred of women and girls in the minds of misogynists. Manne is correct to conceptually connect misogyny to patriarchy and to recognize that patriarchy intersects with other forms of oppression. However, in the same way that the American Declaration of Independence claims that “all men (sic) are created equal”––while American liberalism in practice is white supremacy borne out of the political and economic ambitions of euro-american settlers against the colonial powers of Europe through the genocide and dispossession of the native peoples of the Americas––Manne’s philosophical work mentions the intersection of different strands of oppression but is borne out of the political and economic ambitions of petite-bourgeois, settler women whose material life sets them against the interests of women and persons generally oppressed by imperialism. Nowhere is this more evident than in Manne’s consistent and plentiful defense of US imperialist politician Hillary Clinton in the pages of Down Girl as she draws on the narrow space of debate between american politicians, Democrats and Republicans, to produce examples of misogyny as petite bourgeois settler women conceive it. Manne builds the case that Hillary Clinton was the target of hostilities by men involved in imperialist politics during her presidential campaign because she is a woman and because she violated the social norms of this group. In doing so she cites examples of gender bias, expressions of disgust directed at Clinton, demands that Clinton be more warm and caring than male imperialist politicians, attributions of insincerity to her, and suspicion directed at her regarding behaviors that go unnoticed by the class of people involved when a male imperialist carries them out. In Manne’s view, misogyny was a major contributing factor for Clinton losing the American election to Trump, upholding the view that Clinton was a “better presidential Candidate than Trump”, and that misogyny kept the voting public in the United States from recognizing it. (Manne, p. 278)

Manne’s general claim is that powerful women, and women generally seeking the autonomy to exist according non-patriarchal rules, are troublemakers and that patriarchy leverages misogyny point blank to prohibit that. What is missing in this formulation is the intersection, or the recognition that women, and powerful women, exist only in gender (power) relations mediated by class, nation, and ability. To go beyond toothless, academic, declarations of commitment to intersectional analyses we ought to ask: what is the political and economic content of Clinton’s power and how does it relate to the powerless?

Spoiler Alert: The power in question is the political and economic power of settler capitalism in its imperialist, necrotic form. Hillary Clinton has effectively wielded this power––so admired by Manne as disruptive of patriarchy––to implement measures that have spread “a particularly virulent strand of Carceral feminism” (Nair, 104) expanding state repression of both men, women, and people who don’t fit patriarchal notions of abuse victims through the Violence Against Women act––a piece of legislation that ignores the roots of patriarchy as a system in connection to capitalism and instead builds upon it by increasing policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women. Taking this thinking internationally, in her capacity as Secretary of State for American imperialism, Hillary Clinton in 2011 threatened to cut off humanitarian aid to African countries who did not adopt American prescriptions on gay rights. (Nair, 109) This action was prompted by Uganda’s 2009 bill criminalizing homosexuality (a bill revealed to have been created by Ugandan lawmakers in connection with evangelical Christians from the United States). The threat was lauded by LGBT activists in the United States and Britain, but LGBT activists in African countries responded differently “with more than 50 African organizations working on LGBT issues in countries on that continent [signing] a statement indicating that premising foreign aid on a country’s treatment of LGBT people was a dangerous move for LGBT people living in those countries as it would likely lead to more hostile treatment of LGBT people.” (Chávez, 89) Moving from Africa to Central America, Hillary Clinton wielded imperialist power to continue the legacy of US terror in Latin America and aid in the military overthrow of the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, a move to install a right wing dictatorship responsible for femicide on an unprecedented scale in that country. Among the dead is Berta Cáceres, an environmental and Indigenous rights activist who in a 2014 video interview named Hilary Clinton among those responsible for legitimizing the military coup: Clinton, in her position as secretary of state, pressured (as her emails show) other countries to agree to sideline the demands of Cáceres and others that Zelaya be returned to power. Instead, Clinton pushed for the election of what she calls in Hard Choices a “unity government.” But Cáceres says: “We warned that this would be very dangerous…The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud.”

Closer to home: “I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” Clinton said while campaigning in 2015. Specifically, she called for the user of satellites and drones in addition to low-intensity warfare checkpoints at the border. This is the power, the class power of the bourgeoisie and the national power of euro-american settlers, including the privileged women that belong to those groups, that enables talk of Hillary Clinton being a powerful woman. The reality is that to be better qualified than Donald Trump at directing American imperialism is not a feminist goal, and neither is filling the office of the president. As we discussed in the previous chapter, there is no meaningful way to conceive of voting as “harm reduction” at this stage in the necrotic development of American capitalism. And if the history of American leadership teaches us anything, it is that imperialism is a total harm (à la total war) and the relative incompetence and or preparation of its leadership is more a compass for political maneuvering for classes of people with a stake in perpetuating that harm than it does in reducing it. The United States has had a Black president. If the Democrats and people like Manne have their way, it can have a woman president. It can have a gay president. It can fill this office in every which way but those that affect most of the people oppressed by the necrocapitalist system where that office exists. In other words, there will never be an anti-patriarchy, anti-capitalist, and ant-imperialist president of the United States.

And now we ask, regarding the enforcement role of misogyny under patriarchy, is there a way to make this important point in a way that takes into account the people who are violently subjected to the type of power that enables talk of Hillary Clinton as a powerful woman? Yes: one way to do it is to struggle in practice to uphold the standpoint in analyses of those whose practical demands for freedom and democracy are not served by the liberalism of the imperialist countries. If we wanted to do philosophy in a strictly bourgeois way, we could say that Manne’s focus on Clinton is just the rhetorical avenue for a serious argument about patriarchy and misogyny. But we reiterate what we said in Chapter Four: what philosophers emphasize in their philosophizing reveals their pre-theoretical class, national, and gender commitments. And to this we add: to do philosophy after Marx’s 11th Thesis as Marxists means doing philosophy with an awareness to those commitments as they intersect to produce philosophy, conditioned by our relation to both theory and to social practice. The commitment in Manne’s philosophical work on misogyny is to what proletarian feminist Anuradha Ghandy characterizes as liberal feminism:

“It tends to be mechanical in its support for formal equality without a concrete understanding of the condition of different sections/classes of women and their specific problems. Hence it was able to express the demands of the middle classes (white women from middle classes in the US and upper class, upper caste women in India) but not those of women from various oppressed ethnic groups, castes and the working, labouring classes.”

Ghandy, 39.

Consistent with liberal discourse, Manne cautiously refers to the experience of Black women in the United States, granting the privileged status of white women and their complicity in misogynoir, but stops short of the concrete understanding that Ghandy writes about because the specific problems facing Black women are co-extensive with the content of the power that enables talk of Hillary Clinton as a powerful woman. So, we are treated to a bare mention of problems and cases instead of a critique of the material reasons for those problems and cases. Many of the features of Ghandy’s account of liberal feminism are unfortunately exhibited in Manne’s Down Girl: “it does not question the economic and political structures of the society which give rise to patriarchal discrimination. Hence it is reformist in its orientation, both in theory and in practice,” (Ibid.) and ultimately aligning with the most conspicuous representatives of American imperialism. “It believes the state is neutral and can be made to intervene in favour of women when in fact the bourgeois state in the capitalist countries and the semi-colonial and semi-feudal Indian state are patriarchal and will not support women’s struggle for emancipation.” (Ibid., 39-40). These commitments to the capitalist state and to the social identity of the petite bourgeois classes of the imperialist countries turn what could have been an important investigation into the role of misogyny under patriarchy into a defense of agents of those sectors of capitalist society––the government, it’s judicial arms, and the mass base for liberalism––most responsible for upholding patriarchy and legitimizing misogyny for persons who don’t fit into the liberal mold, persons who serve a different subordinate social role necessitated by the capitalism that produces the material life of liberal feminists.

So, who is served by this philosophy, and by this imperialist feminism? Its not the women of Honduras. It is not the LGBT people of Uganda and other African Nations. It is not women at the illegitimate border with Mexico who are pursued by Hillary’s drones to be separated from their families by Ginsburg’s laws, enforced by Trump’s goons. It is not even women in the United States whose social reality is not expressed by capitalist liberalism and who are ignored by powerful women because their gender identity is non-conforming to liberal feminism or it intersects in “inappropriate” ways with their class and national standing and who are subjected to greater criminalization and police violence by the carceral feminism of women like Hillary Clinton, Ruth Ginsburg, and Kamala Harris. But, hey, on the bright side, it does positively serve bourgeois liberal women who seek validation of their experiences in their attempts to occupy positions of capitalist power in a global system of oppression.

Returning to Manne’s tweets on the death of Ruth Ginsburg: Manne is concerned with the apparent punishment of a woman, Ginsburg, who failed to behave according to the strictures of patriarchy interpreted in terms of her imperialist country liberalism. Ginsburg’s power is like Hillary’s power––it is the power of the United States government, and everything that goes with it including capitalism and patriarchy. Ginsburg had the audacity to die and is criticized for it while male politicians die all the time, and no one calls them out for it—or so the reasoning goes. It is misogyny because it happens because they are women. In the case of a proletarian feminist critique of liberal feminism this reasoning fails to apply because proletarian feminists are seeking political and economic power for women and people whose gender intersects with strands of oppression not recognized by liberal feminism. The reason women like Hillary Clinton and Ruth Ginsburg are criticized by the oppressed is that liberal feminists attempt to pass them off as liberators when, in reality, they are our oppressors and relate to us in the same way that any male imperialist, Democrat or Republican, does by wielding the power of capitalist patriarchy. From the proletarian standpoint, we want women wielding proletarian power to liberate us from the tyranny of necrocapitalism. Misogyny, if it is the law enforcement arm of a system of patriarchy cannot, in the idealist sense of bourgeois philosophy, be disconnected from people in a material context. Patriarchy is intertwined with the material production and reproduction of social life complicated by racialized national oppression and ability-based oppression, and its enforcement wing, misogyny, is connected to this complex. It means that a supposed liberating feminist ideology can serve to enforce misogyny on women whose womanhood is racialized, intersects with their national being and their ability as subaltern in a social system. When oppressed women are ignored, silenced, put down, told their criticisms of women in imperialist positions of power are “counterproductive” by liberal feminists, we have that type of misogyny in practice.

During this project we have examined the way that necrocapitalism and the capitalist imaginary limits critical thought and erodes the capacity to think through new political and social possibilities. It fragments social movements against white supremacy and police violence, channeling their energy into bankrupt ballot-box activism, and during a global pandemic it cries for a return to the dystopian “normal” of capitalism. Thinkers too enfeebled by the capitalist imaginary and those who have a material stake in it continue to repackage and re-brand the same failed strategies concealing the workings of necrotic capitalism as they perpetuate them. The death of Ruth Ginsburg is being positioned as an added tragedy during a global pandemic and the rise of fascist forces worldwide to gather support for voting to maintain the status quo of necrocapitalism during the 2020 American presidential election. Many of the same arguments peddled by liberals during the 2016 election about the possibility of casting an “antifascist vote” are being dredged up again to put down mass anti-racist uprisings in favour of passive acceptance of the order imposed by the ruling classes. In this context, we must be aware of liberal efforts to weaponize the opposition to misogyny in a way that harms proletarian feminists––whether it is by putting them down, or pretending they don’t exist, or by making it seem that there is no principled, feminist opposition to the necrotic system represented by Ruth Ginsburg or that a critique of women’s role in upholding capitalist patriarchy is unequivocally misogyny.


[i] We will refer to this book in a limited capacity here, but a type of trigger warning is warranted for those who might want to pursue the source material. The book is packed with imperialist country chauvinism, settler chauvinism, racism, neo-nazi anticommunist tropes, and apologetics for violence against women and people from the imperialist periphery which may trigger survivors of the violence wrought by Hillary Clinton and euro-american liberal women generally.

Chapter Twenty-One

Last week we took advantage of Cornel West’s recent intervention to give a hard look at voting, interpreting it through the lens of Sartre’s notion of seriality. The basic insight was to warn against the amorcelating or “serialization” of political energies through the ballot and electoralism, amounting to the de-fusion of the insurrectionary political group or movement.  

Since the 2020 US election is less than two months away at the time of writing, the above discussion is worth pursuing a bit further. No doubt some comrades will detect a note of “infantilism” in the insurgent notes we’ve sounded these past months. But make no mistake, our line is not that there is anything inherently problematic or impure about the political tactic of casting a vote. Many of us vote in small-scale, autonomous political groupings as a matter of course, and this can be both efficient and empowering. It is simply that we reject any fetishism of the ballot box. When in Left-Wing Communism Lenin famously castigated as “infantile” the principled abstention of the left Social Revolutionaries from parliamentary politics, this was in no sense a blanket endorsement of parliamentarianism. His defense was a qualified one; tactical and strategic considerations rather than abstract principles of the political good were what was at issue. The question, then, is whether those who defend voting do so on principle, or for politically realist reasons. The follow-up question, if the latter is true, is whether voting in a particular situation actually holds up to the tactical and strategic criteria of a realist criticism.    

A constant theme in our project has been the necessity to return to the actual conditions on the ground. In the present constellation of necrocapitalism, the serialization of political energies into the ballot amounts to “choosing” between hard right and center-right masters. This is a choice between an openly racist regime that will crush us under police occupation, and a regime that sees us, hears us, and will likewise not hesitate to crush us under police occupation (perhaps it will also hire more transgender drone operators, but we prefer our intersectionality without the imperialism). As such, with less than two months to go before the 2020 US election and fascism on the march, we repeat that there is no “antifascist vote.”  Even the often-repeated claim that voting can be “harm reduction”, minimally satisfying the tactical and strategic exigencies of Lenin’s model, falls flat here. Bailing out a boat that is sinking so that it can stay afloat a little while longer, or so that a small number of privileged passengers can scramble for lifeboats, is hardly “harm reduction” in any meaningful sense of the term.

Nonetheless, there remains the possibility that if things are really all that bad my vote still expresses something and that when we are stripped of our political efficacy we may nonetheless, good Kantians, register our negation of the status quo on the properly moral plane. In 2020 such expressive politics, through voting at least, amounts to expressing that we very much would like the awful man to be replaced by a less boorish, less openly predatory awful man. This is very little – arguably nothing – but such “expressive politics”, pursued for example by Avishai Margalit in On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, is not meaningless. Personally powerless to oppose injustice, violence, apartheid, there is arguably a moral power in making even what we know to be a merely symbolic gesture. The wager is even that this moral power could some day lend itself to political power, or at least keep the moral embers of political investment burning in situations where hope is on the wane. 

The obvious rejoinder is that the real work is in organizing our communities politically, precisely against such a moralistic posture of impotence. Here, however, we need also to contend with the expressive power of silence, of non-participation, of “inaction.” It’s possible that not voting, as an expression of expressive silence, actually carries greater symbolic power than actively choosing a more palatable version of evil in a system that is widely recognized to be rigged. Jean-François Lyotard reminds us in The Differend that silence is “a phrase,” i.e. an event of language that has a range of possible meanings. It’s not like the message sent by not voting will always be heard, or heard unambiguously, or have any kind of power, moral or otherwise. But it takes very little effort not to vote, and unlike voting for the perceived lesser of two evils, it does not entail an expressive endorsement of the very system that is killing us. 

Voting, then, amounts, in the current conjuncture, to bad expressive politics and bad strategy and tactics as well as serialization. It is worth saying a final word on serialization. The pandemic has sharpened certain contradictions and helped bring them to light. But it has also drawn attention to serialization both as ambient reality and as a broadly levelled recuperation strategy by those in power. What are schools, long-term care homes, workplaces, all privileged zones of tension in the pandemic, if not also serialization mechanisms? Seeming to bring us together, don’t they end by disciplining us as atomized, neoliberal subjects? These they do by intention, by design. But the classic Marxist insight that capitalism produces its own gravediggers is apposite: any system that brings us together by way of breaking us apart has a built-in contradiction that can be exploited. If we are capable, in spite of everything, of coming together and working for a better future, then why would we waste that precious chance on electoralism?

Chapter Twenty

In 2017, in the midst of the Unite the Right mobilization in Charlottesville, Virginia, Cornel West gave an unequivocal defense of militant antifascism. Today he tweeted:

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an “antifascist vote.” Antifascism is a form of group praxis that embraces a diversity of tactics, which gain their force through organizing and demonstrating. The electoral process functions, by contrast, to fragment social movements and isolate their participants. Antifascism doesn’t defeat fascism at the ballot box; the fight against fascism demands that we organize better than them.

In 1973, Jean-Paul Sartre published a short but controversial essay, “Elections: A Trap for Fools” (which is a polite rendering of the French “Élections, piège à cons”). More conceptually, though not linguistically, accurately, Sartre argues that elections are a form of serial organization that prevents transformational or revolutionary praxis. Seriality is a form of reified social mediation that treats individuals in abstraction. We would argue, in terms momentarily borrowed from Harney and Moten, that fugitive forms of social life are serialized when “large social forces—work conditions under the capitalist regime, private property, institutions, and so forth—bring pressure to bear upon groups they belong to, breaking them up and reducing them to the units which supposedly compose them.” (Sartre, Elections, 200) These autonomous groups are recomposed in serial forms of social organization within a practico-inert field; that is, social relationships are mediated by inert collectives.

Throughout this series, we have discussed the many ways that necrocapitalism whittles down our imaginary to accept its narrow political possibilities. In this way, the general antagonism of necrocapitalism is reduced to the particular antagonism between liberals and conservatives. In this way, the systemic features of class domination appear as accidents of the rule a particular party. The young Marx observed that “where there are political parties, each finds the cause of every evil in the fact that its opponent instead of itself, is at the helm of state. Even radical and revolutionary politicians seek the cause of the evil not in the nature of the state but in a specific form of it which they want to replace by another form.” (Marx, “Critical Notes,” 348) When I enter into this serial structure my choices are already set by the terms of the institution. In the electoral process, the party might change, but the state as a form of class domination remains the same—in fact, its explicitly socio-political character is occluded. At the present conjuncture, as both US parties rally around “law and order,” voters are presented with a choice between two different forms of implementing police and state power.

Voting is for Sartre a form of serialization. The liberal dogma holds that voting grants legitimacy to political rule; voting uses indirect democracy to delegate popular legitimacy and power to the representatives in power (and their parties). By contrast, Sartre argues that the voting system reifies the power of parties and the party system, which voters confront as individuals rather than groups. Furthermore, Sartre maintains that serial social forms mediate between individuals as Others. So, were I to vote, as an individual abstracted from group praxis, I don’t vote as a practical subject, but rather as an Other whose interests are already mediated by oppressive institutional parameters.

In a typical American election year, immense amounts of political energy are funnelled toward strategies of influencing the Democratic party, despite the fact that repeated attempts to move the party to the left have failed and party leadership has continued to tack to the center-right. Although the pandemic interrupted this process, it was quickly set back into motion during the Democratic Party’s convention. Unlike recent election cycles, however, the convention began amidst a widespread anti-police uprising and a growing white supremacist reaction that Trump has sought to both foment and commandeer. Trump has both celebrated right-wing vigilantism and attacked the Democratic party as, in terms borrowed from conspiracy theories, the electoral representative of radical Marxists and “ANTIFA” (the caps warrant scare quotes). Trump is making a play to pull the Far Right into a system-loyal coalition with the Republican party.

In typical election cycles, the Democrats present themselves as representatives of leftist social movements; as the story goes, an electoral victory offers an opportunity for the demands of these movements to be implemented in policy. The movement to defund or abolish the police demonstrates the actual antagonism between Democrats and social movements. Once the convention wrapped up, Biden, Harris, and their acolytes went on the offensive, attacking militant groups and delegitimizing militant tactics. As we argued in Chapter 8, at the conceptual level (setting aside moral and pragmatic concerns), for antipolice protest to be internally consistent, it must demonstrate the antagonism between police and community. The parliamentary left has largely fallen in line, attributing violence either to pathology or outside infiltrators; the possibility that property damage and the diversity of tactics has a significant meaning is flatly denied.

The present conjuncture lends support to Sartre’s thesis that electoral politics is a process of serialization. By drawing a false dichotomy between legitimate and illegitimate protest, the Democratic party is attempting to splinter the group praxis of these anti-systemic, anti-police mobilizations. With demobilization, the anti-police uprising is sapped of its political force, and its members will end up serialized and isolated. Far from representing the movement, the parliamentarian left will be its undoing—to what end? To elect key cogs in solidifying and maintaining neoliberal carceral policy in the United States?

It is clear that Trump is staking his political fortune on far-right social forces. But we must keep in mind that in city after city, defund/abolition protests have broken out and have been sustained—some now for over three months—in cities with Democratic mayors, in states with Democratic governors. These are places where, on the typical picture of grassroots political pressure, those in power are supposedly responsible to leftist social movements, and yet in broad outline, these politicians have done little beyond symbolic gestures that aren’t even close to the demands articulated by protestors and organizers. At best, a Biden victory stabilizes neoliberal policy without explicit far-right social characteristics. But there’s very little chance that any faction of the ruling class curbs the present extension of an increasingly locally militarized police power and the infiltration of federal police powers throughout the United States—unless the continued strength of the uprising makes them curb this power.

Therefore, we must reject the thesis, maintained by the parliamentarian left, that there is a continuity between leftist social (and in particular anti-systemic abolitionist) movements and electoral politics. The electoral process is antagonistic to maintaining the power of the movement. The anti-police movement, therefore, doesn’t owe anything to electoral parties.

Chapter Nineteen

And so the protracted civil war that characterizes class society, particularly the general antagonism of capitalism, continues unabated even in times of pandemic. This moment of emergency, as we have seen, simply changes the intensity of this general antagonism. In some regions––in some countries, in some levels within countries––policy functions to mute the antagonism through an appeal to nationalism and health. In other spaces the civil war becomes more acute, as the rebellions demonstrate. The situation of migrant labour, discussed in the last chapter, is evidence of how this type of labour––essential to imperial capitalism––continues to demonstrate that class struggle is ongoing. The depredations migrant workers already face are only exacerbated by the pandemic, just as the conditions faced by illegal immigrants and refugees have been exacerbated. As we have noted, it was not as if the condition of migrant labour was particularly humane before the pandemic; rather, the fact of the pandemic revealed the already-existing predatory and necrocapitalist characteristics of migrant labour. As we asserted in the prologue, “every capitalist state’s necrotic underbelly is being exposed.”

Despite this exposure, however, what makes capitalism thoroughly necrotic is its ability to continue to profit even when its violence is exposed and to weather the crisis by reshuffling the economy so as to push its necrocapitalist aspects upon its most vulnerable subjects. The fact that, as discussed, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois families can comfortably weather this crisis through migrant labour regimes indicates that the upper strata of class society are able to treat the pandemic like a holiday while their domestic, landscape, and agricultural workers are even more exposed to death. They can even comfortably afford personal educators, when necessary, like Roman patricians employing slave tutors.

Moreover, the economy is being reshuffled. Large corporations that can afford to persist throughout the crisis are instituting new austerity measures while preparing to take over the spaces lost by the small capitalists crushed by pandemic measures. Agribusiness continues unabated as migrants are still shipped in, safety concerns waived since these workers––not white and/or not citizens––have never been worthy of rights to health and equal pay. New security measures for the police are being rushed in, and neoliberal plans for job discipline are becoming normalized. At the beginning of July the stock market was higher than it had been for twenty years.

The adage that COVID-19 has been a “social equalizer”––oft-repeated by liberals based on the abstraction that anyone can potentially contract the virus––is about as meaningful as claiming everyone has a fair chance to “make it” under capitalism. It is another platitude generated from a bourgeois vision of society as a contract between equal individuals that the three-ring circus of the recent Democratic National Convention wants us to embrace as an alternative to the Trump regime’s open embrace of inequality. It’s largely another version of “make America great again” but based on the liberal mythology of the US where greatness is in everyone getting a fair chance, a veritable Rawlsian utopia. Joe Biden’s senile neoliberalism and Kamala Harris’ carceral capitalism are openly celebrated as alternatives to “Trumpism”. Elizabeth Warren was lauded by the podcast “Pod Save America” for having “BLM” spelled out in children’s toy blocks in the background of her video: “We see you Liz,” they tweeted, authoritatively recognizing her as a champion of Black Lives Matter despite being a podcast comprised of white cis men. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, once seen as a great hope for social democratic renewal, tried to bring the corpse of the Sanders regime back to life with appeals to social justice the Democratic mainstream cared nothing about. And Colin Powell, former member of the Bush Jr. regime, was given more time than Ocasio-Cortez to demonstrate that the Democratic party of 2020 was angling to look like the Republicans of 2001. All of this in the wake of mass rebellions. All of this despite the imperialism that generates, along with ruined countries and lives, refugees and migrant labour regimes. All of this to provide an alternative to so-called “Trumpism” which is wagered as the prime evil rather than the violent necrocapitalist context in which the politically useless (but not useless in the policy and policing sense of politics) electoral spectacle plays out.

While it is the case that the pandemic has shed light on the predatory aspects of capitalism––that it has revealed the sham “think of the children” and “family values” discourses for what they are, that it has demonstrated the outright cruelty of labour exploitation by openly exposing the most vulnerable workers to disease, and that it has continued to profit greatly––official ideologues continue to generate the same garbage they blathered before the pandemic, though one senses an almost desperate tone in their proclamations. The likes of Charlie Kirk state without irony that centre-right liberals are akin to Marxists. Liberals imagine that their regimes are rational calls to order, and that to refuse to endorse even their most carceral representatives is to support a fascist alternative. Charlatans such as James Lindsay write books about a social justice conspiracy that has taken over liberal society and yet have these books, that cannot even represent their subject material accurately, published by massive mainstream presses. Although we can look at these examples (and others) as proof that mainstream public intellectuals are, as a whole, unworthy of the name “intellectual” (they are willfully ignorant and/or opportunistic hucksters) the more salient point is that this entire faction of acceptable intellectual producers are struggling to convince their audiences that the only meaningful struggle is between the liberal and conservative wings of the bourgeoisie, or even between liberals and fascists, and that the third pole of struggle (anti-fascism, anti-capitalism, abolition, communism, etc.) is politically inadmissible, if not aberrant or “insane”. The particular antagonism between capitalist siblings thus obscures the general antagonism between social classes.

Whereas some members of the liberal reptile press note the ills the pandemic has delivered upon, say, migrant workers, their analysis (following the class they represent) is that this is merely an exception to normal labour practices. The solution is an appeal to liberal rights, an appeal to humane labour practices, and blame is placed upon human error; management, which can be “good”, was simply unprepared, and did not have the resources, to deal with the coronavirus. Hence, what the pandemic has in fact revealed as a deep problem with the system is blithely interpreted as a problem with the pandemic rather than the system itself.[i] What the pandemic merely demonstrates is that, in the words of Jasbir Puar and yet again, “labor is an inverted form of warfare against a disposable population ensnared as laborers-consigned-to-having-an accident.” (Puar, The Right to Maim, 64) There were always other “accidents” that these “disposable” populations faced before COVID-19.

Hence, the general antagonism of class society is ignored in favour of a particular antagonism that conservatives ignore but that liberals claim they can fix: just get some more individual rights in there! But what anyone who has grasped the necrocapitalist aspects revealed by the pandemic must realize is that these depredations are not exceptions but in fact novel normative developments of the bourgeois order. The violence inherent in migrant labour regimes (and other labour regimes) did not only manifest after the pandemic; the pandemic simply revealed the already existing violence of this facet of the protracted civil war. The COVID-related violence visited upon migrant workers is like the mustard gas released upon the trenches of World War One. While the ruling classes of the imperialist nations involved in the so-called “Great War” would eventually condemn the use of mustard gas but not that war itself (they still hold it up as sacrosanct and pretend it was identical to the Second World War’s Allied fight against fascism when they cannot even agree on its meaning), revolutionaries understood that war was essentially about bourgeois nations fighting over colonial territories that was also a war upon the international proletariat. (Lenin, Luxemburg, Connolly, and others walked out of the Second International when it endorsed this inter-imperialist monstrosity.) The horrendous use of mustard gas, then, was merely a violent epiphenomenal development of a war against the proletariat and colonized peoples. Violent COVID measures (meaning lack of protective measures) in these days of pandemic are thus the mustard gas factions of the bourgeoisie roll out upon the hard core of the proletariat.

Liberal ideology thus approaches the pandemic as a problem that can be solved with individual responsibility, liberty and formal equality, and the rational agency of the bourgeois subject. Those economically privileged enough to work from home are seen as more responsible than those who must continue to work or starve, or whose work outside of home is necessary for the economy to continue functioning––who work long hours in a factory, whose children have to go back to a school system ill-prepared to meet the pandemic, and who often take crowded public transit to their sites of work. While liberal professions of “care” and “responsibility” (some of which find their way into supposedly radical philosophy) are wagered as a panacea against a blithe reactionary attitude towards the pandemic, the same and similar platitudes have always been used to reify the protracted civil war. These platitudes are extended to the rebellions––both to the police and the protesters. The police are chastised for being irresponsible or corrupt; their structural function as the repressive manifestation of the bourgeois state, what Lenin called “special armed bodies” of men and women, is ignored or mockingly dismissed. (Lenin, State and Revolution, 11) The protesters are exhorted to be “responsible” in their protesting as if this protesting is akin to a debate amongst friends.

But this is precisely how liberalism and those largely beholden to this kind of “common sense” way of seeing society react when faced with crisis. Before austerity, and alongside repressive measures, appeals to individual responsibility and rational citizenship abound. Class struggle is denied; even worse liberal ideologues proclaim that any talk of this general antagonism is aberrant because it is divisive in light of the social contract. Reactionaries, on the other hand, openly engage with the protracted civil war, though from a position that is complicit with the capitalist state.[ii] Hence, reactionary demands regarding “bearing arms” are not treated as being in contradiction with the state’s monopoly of violence, but only against an imagined state of affairs that would take away this right; the right is conceived, and in line with the settler logic of the US, as being part of a standing white militia that is a legitimate addition to the police and army––which is why the pigs are not threatened by armed NRA goons. (Indeed, a seventeen year old fascist who murdered activists in Kenosha was a “police admirer” who was in fact not stopped by the police and allowed to depart the scene after having gunned down several people.) But since a hallmark of liberalism is, as aforementioned, to deny the general antagonism by making it about a particular antagonism between different ruling class factions, the discourse of reactionaries is treated as vulgar and irresponsible, but just as much irresponsible as any faction from the oppressed masses who would dare to pursue class struggle. Whereas reactionaries want both the state and armed white militias to have a shared monopoly on violence (a vision going back to the early days of settler-colonialism where every settler was part of a standing militia, and where scalp-hunters and filibusters engendered state expansion into the frontiers), liberals want only the official state to possess this monopoly.

Despite this distinction between liberal and reactionary articulations of the capitalist state of affairs, it is worth noting that even reactionaries truly want to believe––even in the midst of openly proclaiming fidelity to the state’s side of the protracted civil war––that Marxists, anarchists, communists, and “ANTIFA” are ruining an imaginary national unity. Even for reactionaries the recognition of the general antagonism only goes so far; classical liberal discourse also affects their judgment when it comes to the state. A strong state, what they want to impose, will reconcile once it does away with the rabble who are responsible for conspiring to foment national disunity. The Nazi regime, we should recall, worked to deny the general antagonism of class struggle by propagating the myth of national unity supposedly undermined by Jewish conspirators, Roma, and other non-Aryan and communist rabble. The notion that the state reconciles individuals into a common [manifest] destiny, and that class antagonism is just a myth perpetuated by extremists and conspiratorial bad actors (by even a Russian conspiracy!), is point upon which reactionaries and liberals agree. Here it is worth recalling Lenin’s insights regarding the state:

The state is the product and the manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises when, where and to the extent that class antagonisms cannot be objectively reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that class antagonisms are irreconcilable.

Lenin, State and Revolution, 8-9.

Reactionary approaches to capitalist hegemony might unconsciously recognize this irreconcilable fact of this state––which is why the persistence of an armed white nationalist settler garrison manifests in settler-capitalist formations––but they consciously proclaim that the state is reconciliation, even if it is fascist. Liberalism openly denies this irreconcilability and imagines the state as a social contract where liberals and reactionaries can live together in familial harmony, denying the irreconcilable and general antagonism.

So our job remains, as we have maintained since the outset of this project, to remind our comrades, friends, and fellow travellers of the necessity to foreground the fact of the protracted civil war and the meaning of the general antagonism. To treat liberals and reactionaries as our enemies; they are both invested in this pitiless state of affairs. The revelations brought by the pandemic must be understood as revelations of capitalism’s already existing necrotic nature and not something that can be dismissed by the policy apparatus of capture, diverted into reformist liberal avenues.

The problem, however, is that the necrocapitalist reality has also generated a particular kind of subjectivity that, while accepting the truth of the system, leads to a practical dead-end. That is, necrocapitalism tends to generate nihilist subjects. With the general antagonism transformed into a particular antagonism between liberals and conservatives, without an organized mass movement to combat this diversionary transformation, people who see precisely the meaninglessness of the necrocapitalist reality accept that meaninglessness is a fact of nature. To recognize that the protracted civil war is a real general antagonism, to see that there is nothing to make this general antagonism into a meaningful movement, and to also witness the diversion of this antagonism into the spectacle of a fight between liberal and conservative wings of the ruling class results in a hopelessness. Especially when the ideologues of this diversion have hammered into our heads that there is no alternative, no future, and no history beyond capitalist foreclosure.


[i] Here it is also worth noting that the term “necrocapitalism” has started to appear with more frequency since we began this project but that its appearance has largely been according to the way we warned against: as a new phase of capitalism, as something more than just a novel conjunctural revelation of what capitalism always was. For example, over a month ago Mark LeVine wrote an article entitled “From Neoliberalism to Necrocapitalism in 20 Years” that asserted “necrocapitalism” represented a new phase of capitalism rather than a characteristic of what capitalism has always been and that is merely being foregrounded in this conjuncture. Such analyses risk endorsing precisely what liberals have been saying since the pandemic: that we are in an unprecedented economic reality and that every current problem of capitalist depredation is “new” rather than part of an ongoing necrotic capitalist project that is simply being revealed for what it has always been. Perhaps LeVine could have learned a thing or two if he had paid attention to this project, or even the original useage(s) of the term “necrocapitalism” (Banerjee in 2008, Holmes in 2017), but it was clear he largely wanted to make a very bland intervention that was wagered as unique in the face of pandemic.

[ii] In Austerity Apparatus J. Moufawad-Paul writes: “Indeed, both Mao Zedong and Carl Schmitt argued that a coherent political order begins by drawing a distinction between friends and enemies. To argue that this demonstrates a unity of thought between the radical communist and the nazi, however, is rather simplistic; all it demonstrates is that coherent political movements are able to grow in power by recognizing antagonistic and non-antagonistic relations—who to recruit, who not to recruit, who to oppose and isolate, who to support and reinforce. The similarity is only formal: a militant political order that wishes to come into being must understand who and what would oppose its emergence, the class basis of its ethics. The substantial differences beneath this formal similarity are more telling: the friend/enemy distinction of the fascist is precisely the distinction opposed by the communist and vice versa.” (Moufawad-Paul, Austerity Apparatus, 104)

Chapter Eighteen

In the last chapter we discussed the family and the inability of necrocapitalism to support proletarian families or offer an alternative form of collective care. In imperialist countries such as Canada and the United States, the entrance of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois women into the paid workforce has resulted in a phenomenon that some feminists have dubbed the “care deficit”. In the absence of a robust welfare state that can provide child and elder care and with the majority of unpaid household labour and care work still shouldered by women in most families,[i] women in the workforce has meant that a gap has opened up in the home. Never mind that many bourgeois women did not actually participate in the majority of the household labour during earlier iterations of capitalism or under feudalism––deferring much of the burden to maids, nannies, and house slaves––or that most working class women have always had to labour outside of the home as these maids and nannies but also in the factories, mines, and fields. During the brief years of economic prosperity in imperialist countries following World War II the “privilege” of staying in the home was extended to middle and upper-middle class women of the working class, especially white women who were idealized as perfect wives and mothers in popular culture. When white, liberal feminists began critiquing women’s exclusion from institutions of higher education and the workforce, their lack of historical materialist analysis meant that they took their particular experience at one moment in history and in the imperialist centre as the universal experience for all women throughout history and across culture. Thus, access to birth control and abortion were prioritized as the struggle for women’s reproductive freedom while issues of forced or coerced sterilization of Indigenous, Black, and disabled women were completely neglected, at best and even advocated for by some feminists as a solution to broader social problems such as poverty. Similarly, the rights of bourgeois women to engage in “sex work” by choice took precedence as the struggle for women’s sexual freedom over the experiences of Indigenous, migrant, and trans women of colour who were (and are increasingly) trafficked or economically coerced into a violent and exploitative industry. Moreover, the white and bourgeois biases of a liberal feminist analysis has meant that as increasing numbers of women made their way into the paid work force, liberal feminism failed to provide a solution to the care deficit that did not rely upon further exploitation and oppression.

As a result, the imperialist bourgeois family has become dependent upon migrant labour regimes. White bourgeois women are able to work outside of the home in professional and management positions while migrant women raise their children and clean up around the house and migrant men take care of the landscaping and gardening. This is not a contradiction in the mind of the liberal feminist for whom individual empowerment and success are the end goals of the feminist movement. A woman in the white house, or as the minister of finance, a female CEO or “boss babe”, are the symbolic victories that liberal feminists valorize over and above the collective struggle for women’s emancipation. For liberal feminists, collective struggles against women’s oppression and exploitation are less important than empowering individual women to live their best lives. As Sakai reminds us in Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, “It is the absolute characteristic of settler society to be parasitic, dependent upon the super-exploitation of oppressed peoples for its styles of life.” (Sakai, 8) What is true for settler society as a whole is also true of white, settler, liberal feminism whose “victories” in breaking the glass ceiling have been achieved by standing on the backs of migrant and racialized women.

The working conditions of the women who work in the homes of the bourgeoisie are notoriously terrible and have only gotten worse as the pandemic exposes exactly which workers are considered disposable. In the early days of COVID-19, nannies and maids working for bourgeois American families, largely racialized and migrant women, were laid off from their employment suddenly and without warning. For undocumented migrant women working under the table means that employers were already able to pay below minimum wage and exploit them for long hours; now pandemic layoffs mean that, in many cases, they cannot access official unemployment insurance or government relief. Furthermore, because of the relatively sudden imposition of COVID measures, many nannies were let go without the chance to say goodbye to the children they had invested so much emotional energy and labour into while others were asked to continue a relationship with the children without pay, via online outlets like Skype, because they are “like family” and the children understandably miss them. As of June 29th, the New York Times reported that over 20 nannies in New York City, mostly older migrant women from Caribbean countries, had died of the corona virus.

In Canada, the vast majority of nannies are in the country on temporary foreign worker visas that tie them to one particular employer and contract. That there is a separate immigration category (formerly known as the Live-In Caregiver Program) for this group of labourers is indicative of how foundational this exploitation is to the participation of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois women in the Canadian economy. In early 2020 some of these Canadian families employing temporary foreign workers irresponsibly continued to travel internationally with their nannies in tow to look after their children despite the looming pandemic and border closures leading to several non-citizen nannies being trapped in countries like Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. Other nannies have been forced to live with their employers in times of social distancing, leading to a resurgence of the abusive and exploitative live-in conditions that migrant women’s organizations in Canada fought for years to eliminate from the Live-In Caregiver Program. Trapped in their employers’ homes these women are often roped into working around the clock without overtime pay because once again being “like family” means being exploitable for unpaid labour at any time of day or night. Being “like family” can also mean being subjected to the sexualized and patriarchial violence, harassment, and abuse that are commonplace in many families. While the entire immigration system in imperialist settler countries like Canada is based on the exploitation of labour, migrant women working as nannies and care takers are able to be intensely exploited as temporary workers rather than economic immigrants who are granted Permanent Residency because the government has labeled this work as “unskilled”. This labour is seen as unskilled precisely because it has been feminized and essentialized as a natural function women’s bodies by bourgeois patriarchal ideology as earlier chapters demonstrate. Indeed, many of the Filipina women working as nannies in Canada and other imperialist countries have high levels of education and training as nurses––a situation the government authorities in Spain were happy to exploit by granting temporary permission for these women to work as nurses rather than nannies when the pandemic hit and health care workers were urgently needed.

Notes and image by Laura Weir during her listen to our interview at Revolutionary Left Radio.

However, in-home care work while making up a large portion of the work performed by temporary migrants in countries like Canada, is not the only type of employment the migrant and undocumented workers are concentrated into. As noted in an earlier chapter, migrant workers are over concentrated in nursing and personal support work in Canada and the United States where Filipina nurses make up approximately 1/3 of foreign trained nurses in both countries. In Canada where the majority of COVID deaths have been associated with Long Term Care Homes it is also important to point out the concentration of temporary foreign workers who work in these homes. But these are not the only migrants working in Long Term Care. Disturbingly asylum seekers who are in the country awaiting their hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board are also overly concentrated as workers in these homes. One can only imagine the horrors faced by these workers who have fled war, persecution, and right-wing paramilitary violence only to end up laboring in the institutions of death described in our seventh chapter. After months of activist push-back the Canadian government has “generously” offered a “path way to citizenship” for an extremely narrow portion of asylum seekers (approximately 1000) working as personal support workers in long term care homes to the exclusion of those working other essential jobs such as food processing, factory work, or even other jobs at long term care homes such as security guards.

In Canada temporary foreign workers also perform the bulk of seasonal farm labour. In both Canada and the United States the mythology of the settler farmer who works tirelessly on his own small plot of land is deeply foundational to the national imaginary (Sakai, 8) and so the labour of all the people necessary to the functioning of even a small “family” farm has been overshadowed and disavowed by this mythological figure. In Canada there are also major marketing campaigns by agribusiness lobbying groups that have shaped our perceptions of everything from dairy farming to egg farming to the production of Alberta beef as being the product of the local (white) family farm rather than big business. But it is not modest family farms that make up the bulk of the $111.9 billion Canadian agribusiness sector. Major farming corporations such as the Scotlynn Group and Greenhill are only able to generate their massive revenues (over 73.88 million in the case of Scotlynn) and expand their operations at an impressive rate because they rely so heavily upon seasonal migrant labour. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian farmers have continued to import seasonal farm labour despite the border closures that affect other temporary workers such as the nannies trapped abroad by their employer’s family vacation. Already horrific living and working conditions for migrant workers on Canadian farms has led to over 1300 migrant farm workers testing positive for COVID-19. It has also led to the preventable death of three workers: 31 year-old Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, 24 year-old Rogelio Munoz Santos, and 55 year-old Juan Lopez Chaparro. But worker deaths are nothing new to Canada’s farming industry. In recent years, a van transporting 13 migrant workers from Nicaragua and Peru collided with a truck in Hampstead Ontario killing ten of the men inside in 2012, and in 2014 worker Ivan Guerrero drowned while trying to fix a leak near his bunk house in Ormstown Québec. Sheldon McKenzie, a Jamaican worker in Leamington Ontario died after suffering a severe head injury on the job in 2015 and Zenaida a worker from Mexico whose last name remains unknown was killed in a hit and run in Niagara last year. 

The dangerous working conditions and extreme exploitation facing farm labourers is built into the very immigration system in Canada. Due to their temporary status these workers are unable to access benefits such as healthcare or employment insurance (EI) despite paying into them and during COVID-19 are ineligible for the CERB offered to other Canadian workers if they are forced to quarantine. These workers also lack many basic protections such as minimum wage laws, overtime pay, time off, and the right to collective bargaining. Because their temporary status in the country is tied to their employer they are subject to deportation if they quit or are fired. As a result, many workers are coerced into silence in the face of even the gravest violations of labour law. Already multiple workers have faced deportation for asserting their rights during COVID. Erika Zavala and Jesus Molina were deported to Mexico in July for inviting two migrant rights activists to speak with them at their employer-provided housing in Kelowna British Colombia. Their employer claimed that this action was in violation of their strict no visitor policy due to the pandemic but Zavala and Molina stated that the activists, their friends, were delivering work clothing and culturally appropriate food that their employer had neglected to provide. Another anonymous Mexican worker in Leamington Ontario was threatened with deportation after injuring his head in the bunk house and calling the Mexican consulate for help filling out a workplace accident report. Yet another worker, Luis Gabriel Flores was fired from his employment and threatened with deportation after he spoke to the media about his working and living conditions. Flores tested positive with COVID-19 after several of his bunk mates also caught the virus and one, Chaparro, died. Flores spoke out anonymously to the media and told them that the living conditions on the farm made it impossible to social distance. He also told them that even after Chaparro and other workers started demonstrating symptoms of the disease, the employer continued to make them work and was slow to take action and get testing for the workers. By the time testing was granted 199 workers on the farm run by Scottlyn Group had contracted COVID-19.

The treatment of migrant farm workers during a global pandemic has been so atrocious that even the Canadian health minister Patty Hajdu has called it “a national disgrace”. Rather than granting permanent status to migrant workers, however, a move that would allow them the protections to assert their rights, the Liberal government has instead responded by giving $59 million directly to employers who we are meant to trust to spend this money on proper social distancing and other safety measures for workers. The government has also promised more farm inspections but since the beginning of the pandemic farm inspections have been “virtual” and always by appointment giving the employers the discretion to show only what they want to show. What have employers done to inspire such trust? According to a report compiled by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), wage theft is common place in the industry and they were able to confirm reports of over $57,369.46 stolen from workers in the form of deductions and unpaid wages. In particular, many workers have reported that employers have refused to pay them during the mandatory two week quarantine period when they enter the country. For low wage workers missing even two weeks of pay means facing starvation and mounting debt. During this same quarantine period over 539 workers reported inadequate access to food and 160 reported an inability to social distance due to employer-provided living arrangements. Once the quarantine was completed, MWAC reports that the living conditions worsened significantly for a number of workers. Indeed, a number of YouTube videos showing inadequate living conditions on farms have been shared by migrant rights organizations such as Justicia for Migrant Workers. Those who have contracted the virus are often not paid for the time they are sick.

Most egregiously, the Ontario government has released a plan for migrant farm workers that allows them to continue working even if they are COVID positive, as long as they are asymptomatic. Other employers across the country have infringed on the basic rights of their workers by pressuring them into signing agreements where they agree not to leave the farm and to allow their employer to use their wages to provide food and other provisions for them. The option for migrant workers is to sign the document so as to face firing and thus deportation. The same restrictions, including the restrictions on visitors that led to Zavala and Molina’s deportation, are not being placed on Canadian workers. Other egregious cases of differential treatment have been reported to MWAC such as the case of migrant workers at Ontario Plants Propagation who were asked to unpack a major shipment of plants from an American farm with a confirmed COVID outbreak while their Canadian co-workers were given the day off. For this risky work the labourers were paid an extra $2 per hour, bringing their wages for the day to a generous total of $8 per hour. Within a few days cases of COVID-19 were present at Ontario Plants Propagation. Workers have also reported increased surveillance, intimidation, and threats from the employers and some have even had private security guards placed at their bunk houses to control and monitor their movements. These facts make it obvious that the COVID measures put in place on Canadian farms are meant to protect Canadians from contracting the virus from migrant workers but not to protect the workers themselves.

Temporary migrant workers are also concentrated in meat and fish plants across the country. Cargill and JBS meat packing plants in Alberta have been responsible for major outbreaks comprising up to 30% (1400 cases) of total cases in the province. It is also estimated that between half to 75% of their employees are migrant workers. In April Bui Thi Hiep, a Cargill worker originally from Vietnam, died of COVID-19 and two more deaths have been linked to the JBS plant. In New Brunswick, fisheries afraid they would not have access to their usual seasonal migrant workers, hired children as young as 13 to work in their plants processing fish and lobsters. By resorting to child labour the employers here have exposed the true function of the temporary foreign worker program. Although there are many adult workers out of work due to COVID-19, the plants are unable to attract them because the wages are below the measly rate offered by Employment Insurance and the CERB benefit. In Capital vol. 1, Marx spends a considerable amount of time elucidating the ways that child labour is used by the bourgeoisie to drive down wages and to maintain a relatively[ii] docile workforce. Similarly, the temporary foreign worker program with the lack of rights and protections, as well as the constant threat of deportation hanging over workers’ heads, is designed to keep wages low and the rate of exploitation high.

In Settlers Sakai details the multiple ways that the white American working class has been treated as privileged over and above migrant, racialized, and Indigenous workers who have been regulated to the most dangerous, lowest paying jobs. By standing on the backs of this “third world” workforce the white working class has been able to form a labour aristocracy and has at times achieved wages and working conditions impossible for most workers in other parts of the world. (Sakai, 27) The “privileges of belonging to the oppressor nation” (Ibid., 13) have often been enough to encourage a, “petit-bourgeois consciousness that was unable to rise above reformism” in the white working class. (Ibid., 27) As Sakai writes, “It was only possible for settler society to afford the best-paid, most bourgeoisified white work force because they had also obtained the least-paid, most proletarian Afrikan colony to support it.” (Ibid., 13) And while many things have changed since the times of the slave economy––slavery has been reformed into the for-profit prison industrial complex, globalization and imperialism have exported many of the most dangerous and lowest paid jobs to the Global South, and the multiple recessions of recent decades have meant the shrinking of the middle class and the impoverishment of some segments of the white working class in the United States and Canada––it remains true that worst paying, most dangerous, most precarious work in these countries is reserved for racialized workers who are often migrants, undocumented people, or asylum seekers. Furthermore, the immigration system in imperialist countries such as Canada has been deliberately designed to “respond to the labour market” by creating entire groups of workers who lack access to the legal rights and protections granted to citizens.

It is imperative then that communist efforts to organize the working class in settler countries like Canada and the United States focus extensive attention on this group of ultra-exploited and oppressed workers. As J. Moufawad-Paul is apt to point out in his new book A Critique of Maoist Reason, these efforts necessitate the leadership of a revolutionary proletarian party. (Moufawad-Paul, Critique of Maoist Reason, 95) The ultra-precarious and by design temporary position of temporary migrant workers means that organizing must often take place clandestinely (Ibid., 96) and not through a traditional union drive since temporary foreign workers lack access to collective bargaining rights in Canada anyway. As Moufawad-Paul goes on to explain, because this and other sectors of the working class are made precarious, and because their work is often temporary even if they are citizens, the politically advanced elements of the working class will necessarily be drawn from disparate industries and job sites (Ibid., 97). It is only through the revolutionary proletarian party then that the working class can find political unity in this context. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies this pre-existing exploitation and leads inevitably to the death and illness of countless workers who lack even basic protection under the law, the necessity for this type of mass organizing led by a revolutionary party is more urgent than ever.


[i] While this is certainly the case in the majority of heterosexual and nuclear families, we should not imagine that the phenomena is neatly confined to the state-sanctioned unions of “the straights” as the queer youth of the internet like to call them. Indeed the same patterns are often replicated and reproduced in a myriad of ways in families that extend beyond the nuclear model––in poly families of all sorts, and even within queer chosen families where home and care labour remain feminized to a large extent.

[ii] I write “relatively docile” because although children have always had less (or no) access to legal rights and protections in the workplace and in general, we should not imagine that children are without a proletarian consciousness and unable to organize themselves as workers. Indeed, the large newsie strikes in the late 1800s in New York City were organized and led entirely by working class children. The fact remains that child workers have historically and continue to experience intense exploitation and oppression at the hands of employers because of their lack of legal protections and because of the uneven power relations between adults and children in general.

Chapter Seventeen

Over the last two chapters we have turned to considering both the fate of children in light of the pandemic, as well as the way that the notion of children’s well-being becomes a rallying cry for order and a disastrous return to the status quo. We have examined the failures of anti-natalism and queer theory in their approach to questions of futurity as well as examined the way that the settler colonial regime in North America has itself acted as a source of intense violence against the children of the colonized both historically and as an ongoing genocidal project. The pandemic has forced us to confront the violence built into our socio-economic system which ultimately does not care in the slightest for the well-being of children. The question of children must force us to also confront a classic issue of Marxist and feminist inquiry: the family.

Prior to the pandemic taking the world by storm, much attention had begun to be devoted to the question of the family within Marxist writing. The work of Sophie Lewis, who’s book Full Surrogacy Now was released in 2019, has continued to generate buzz around the question of the family, with far right pundits like Tucker Carlson fear mongering about the Marxist plan to destroy the family. In this sense, the attempt to smear Marxism with a wholly negative and destructive view of social formations seeks to appeal to the view of Marxists as the bomb-throwing anarchist or agitator intent only on the destruction of the world as we know it.

As such rhetoric ramps up as a way to smear those who have taken to the street to demand justice, we ought to take the time to analyze the ways that the pandemic has forced the issue of the family to the forefront of our current social situation. We must also analyze the ways in which Marxism can point towards another possibility, another futurity, beyond the horizons of the capitalist imaginary which constrains our very notion of possibility.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx introduces the notion of the abolition of the family when he writes, “Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists. On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie.” Marx here notes that this claim that the communists seek to abolish the family is itself a way of creating derision towards the Marxist position, while also pointing out a crucial hypocrisy among those who would choose to attack Marxists for this position. Marx points out that the bourgeois ideal of the family is a reality only for the bourgeoisie themselves, and from this we can actually uncover a critique of the way that capitalism is itself materially incompatible with the ideals of the family that it claims to defend. The conditions of proletarianization are in fact the source of the destruction of the utopian view of the bourgeois family, because the realities of proletarian life are incompatible with such a family. Marx writes:

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

It is, after all, the conditions of capitalism which would transform children from loved members of a family into economic instruments who will also sell their own labor. It is capitalism that forced parents to choose between time with their children and time laboring for a meager wage. It is capitalism which has itself chipped away at some idealized vision of the family and has created conditions which preclude the possibility for any sort of proletarian family.

While much has changed since 1848, the conditions of the present pandemic can call attention to the extent to which the capitalist construction of family relations has become a source of crisis. The problem posed by the rapidly approaching school year is a problem which is produced from a failure of capitalist social relations to construct a viable family model for the vast majority of individuals who are outside of the capitalist class itself. For working parents, there are real reasons to hope for the opening of schools; working parents can hardly supervise children doing school from home if they are working outside of the home. Capitalism, in its attempts to give the workers the bare minimum needed to get by, has created the conditions of partially socialized education for children, allowing some of the work of education and care to be undertaken through public schools. Of course, this is not a communist socialization of care wherein the community itself shares responsibilities for care, but rather a concession which the capitalists had to make in order to ensure that they could have a captive workforce. As we approach the school year, many parents who still have managed to somehow hold on to work are faced with the prospect of choosing between work or educating their children at home. This is, of course, an impossible decision. Sending children back to school is a death sentence for many, but giving up income during this time can represent a more slow and insidious path to financial ruin.

Here we see the failure of the capitalist approach to care and the family. For the rich it is possible to take time from work and oversee the home education of their children, to have only a single source of income, to have access to the idealized heterosexual vision of the nuclear family. The stable family, a calm amidst the storm of a chaotic world, is only possible for the bourgeoisie under the best of times; under a global pandemic this possibility is foreclosed to the masses, and the violence of that foreclosure is brought to the surface for all to see. Once the meager forms of social care that capitalism has allowed us begin to collapse, we see how much the possibility of the bourgeois family is denied to the workers. The disruption to the school system calls our attention to a form of familial violence which precedes this pandemic and is endemic to capitalist relations overall. Capitalism has destroyed the possibility of the family for the workers, and it has not offered real alternatives.

This outbreak has also exacerbated things by creating a more intense form of social atomization, although such atomization again predates COVID-19 and is built into the core of capitalist social relations and ideology. Social distancing has isolated us within our own homes in a rather dramatic fashion, but the capitalist notion of the family had already laid the groundwork for this arrangement long before we faced this virus. The concept of the nuclear family as the core unit of capitalist society has been tied together with a whole host of ideological appeals to familial autonomy. While the family is made up of multiple individuals, the unit itself is still regarded as an individual cell in such a way that it does not disrupt capitalist notions of individuality in the slightest, leaving the neoliberal Margaret Thatcher to declare that, “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” Thus the forms of distancing and atomized isolation we see now have always existed and have always been built into capitalist notions of the family. This atomization becomes particularly problematic during times of acute crisis as it ensures that the forms of communal care amongst neighbors that could be necessary for working families to weather this storm are in fact precluded, because the preceding ideology of familial individualism has stopped connections of care and kinship beyond the nuclear family from being formed. Now is the time that many are wishing they knew their neighbors better, that they had some sort of support system beyond the immediate family, because once again capitalism is demonstrating that this idealized vision of the family is impossible for the vast majority of people who labor for a living.

The capitalist notion of the family has always been corrupt and hypocritical. Capitalism has always sought to mobilize a surface level defense of “family values” from agitators and anarchists, while simultaneously eroding the possibility for such families to exist among the working class. The capitalists have always talked out of both sides of their mouth. Now here we are, in the midst of a historic crisis on a global scale, and the rot and decay of the capitalist family now confronts us head on. We see just how minimal the socialized care allowed by capitalist society really is, and we see how once it is imperilled, proletarian families are forced to make impossible decisions that risk their very existence. We see the individualism of capitalism leaving us with neighborhoods where on the one hand all are trapped in their houses away from others, but on the other most would not be communally interacting even if the pandemic were not here.

Pandemics are a collective sort of crisis. They confront us with actions that individuals or individual families cannot possibly tackle. It is for this reason that they call our attention to the failures of a socially atomized society. And so, when reactionaries rally around the notion of getting the children back to school and of protecting family values, we can see the hypocrisy behind these appeals. When those advocating for something better are accused of wanting to destroy the family, we can insist that the only version of the family which capitalism has provided is not worth defending, and we can show that this pandemic has made that reality quite clear. We demand not merely the abolition of the present state of things, but the construction of an alternative.

It is tempting, in this moment, to try to point to the resurgence of mutual aid and other forms of communal organizing as the solution to these problems. Those who defend a prefigurative approach to politics often argue that we are building the alternative to the nuclear family now when we create these forms of care that transcend beyond the nuclear family and create a connected and collective sense of mutual responsibility. While these forms of organizing may indeed propagandistically call attention to the failures of the nuclear family and its individualized regime of care, they do not replace it or do away with it based merely on their existence. Such organizing is crucial, but it is not enough. The capitalist notion of the family, which claims to defend the needs of children while demanding that they die from a horrific virus so that the economy can keep functioning, is built into the very core of ideological understandings of society, and reinforced materially through capitalist social relations.

What we need to draw attention to is not only the ways in which current organizing efforts can propagandize a new possible future, but also the extent to which truly equitable socialized care which moves beyond the nuclear family and reactionary homophobic ideas about reproduction is incompatible with capitalist relations more broadly. Capitalism itself has made the possibility of the bourgeois family only available to the few, while providing no alternative family structure for the masses, leaving them to face impossible decisions and constant states of crisis. The pandemic then forces us to see not just how children are endangered by the capitalist and settler state, but also the ways in which the very social unit tasked with the care of children functions as a complete failure. Another possibility for care is out there, somewhere beyond the horizons of the capitalist imaginary, and we must continue to struggle for it. If a futurity is possible, if the lives of the children of the most marginalized and exploited are worth fighting for, then we must fight back against every reactionary appeal to the children and the family that would seek to pacify struggle.

Chapter Sixteen

We turned to the subject of children in the previous entry: to the weaponizing of our children against us to force-feed us policy—always a policy which subverts radicalism to an assimilationist “call to order”. And we affirmed that the concepts of “the child” and “childhood” are political and intersectional with social class at the base. As such, they are mobilized by the capitalist class and its accomplices to advance their material interests. Right now, education bureaus in the imperialist countries bent on pressuring schools to re-open are placing families between the Scylla and Charybdis of risking illness and death by COVID-19 or shouldering additional economic hardship during the pandemic as families scramble to provide at home education for children and make ends meet.

Consider for example the fallout of an alarming photo recently shared on Twitter showing hallways crowded with mostly maskless teens at a North Paulding High School in Georgia revealing the grim reality of schools reopening during a pandemic. Since the photo went viral it has come to light that staff and students at the school were diagnose positive for COVID-19 just prior the school’s reopening and that teachers have come into contact with those infected:  “Teachers at North Paulding say there are positive tests among school staff, including a staff member who came into contact with most teachers at the school while exhibiting symptoms last week.” And for families with parents and caregivers who work full time and with little or no access to computers and internet, switching to online at home instruction is not a reality.

Why is this happening? In the United States at least, it is happening in part to further the agendas of reactionaries like Betsy DeVos looking to put into action programs that hurt poor children and families and assist the wealthy. The basic operations of settler capitalism in the United States have not frequently been investigated in terms of their harm to children. Continuing the pivot of this critique of necrocapitalism to children we note that the United States has a long history of endangering children and using violence and the threat of violence against the children of oppressed people to advance the political and economic goals of the capitalist class and of the settler population generally.

The 1619 Project documents how settler laws governing the lives of African children during the colonial period in the Americas enabled the United States to become a slave country. A Virginia law, for example, enacted in 1662 stated “all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.” Slave mothers gave birth to slave children producing a reality where “most enslaved women had to endure their children being forcibly taken from them.” Why? And for what?  There is no way to give a complete answer here, but if we want to point to material conditions, the answer will likely involve profit. Historians like Edward Baptist, author of The Half has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism and economists like Gavin Wright in his The Political Economy of the Cotton South, detail how American capitalism owes its initial success to the slave order imposed by settler law and commodified slave labor in the American South. Indeed, “there was a concrete relationship between African-American suffering and economic growth: the more that enslaved people were tortured, the more efficiently they produced the new global economy’s most essential commodity.” (Baptist, 421)

As Americans expanded their slave order into lands stolen from the Indigenous people of North America, they also expanded child endangerment and forced family separation for the natives with the goal of advancing American class and settler interests. From the mid-1800s through the 1970s, US Government boarding schools forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families in order to “kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” These are the words of American Calvary Captain Richard Henry Pratt who, after experimenting with disciplining captured Plains Indians by means of military drilling and torture at the Fort Marion prison in Florida established the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania to assimilate the indigenous population. (Dunbar-Ortiz, 151). Pratt’s “school” served as a model for off-reservation assimilation centers where indigenous children, once abducted from their families were “beaten for speaking their own languages” and were prohibited from practicing their religion (Dunbar-Ortiz, 151). These assimilation centers nurtured a “culture of pervasive physical and sexual abuse…[where] food and medical attention were often scarce; many students died.” Appropriately, a piece at Everyday Feminism describes these “schools” as “Guantanamo for Native Babies.” As mentioned above, these practices carried on well into the 1970’s, and according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, their impact on indigenous families include both loss of parental power and the near destruction of the extended family system. (The same processes happened in Canada with the Residential School system, and other institutional forms of breaking up Indigenous family––such as the Sixties Scoop––that continue into the present.) Theoretically, it may be useful to think of these assimilation centers as a counterpart to the US’s general policy, in Veracini’s terminology, of necropolitical transfer: the military liquidation of indigenous peoples. (Veracini, 35) For Veracini, transfer is how settler society is achieved by “cleansing” others. Transfer by assimilation is a way for settlers to “uplift” indigenous people out of existence (Veracini, 37), to make the land bare of any existential challenge to the legitimacy of settler society.

These basic historical operations of settler capitalism in the United States involving harm to children and families, the establishment of a slave order churning out slavery profits, and destroying Indigenous lives and culture through assimilationist policy and programs to entrench settlerism, are vectors in the continuing, and necessary movement of necrotic capitalism toward the ruin and immiseration of people whose lives and deaths are required to maintain bourgeois society at various stages.

Coincident with funnelling resources to wealthy families at the expense of poor ones with “Back to School” orders no matter the death toll is the current US policy of family separation along US Borders. A policy that endangers children and destroys the families of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. This policy is carried out punitively to discourage immigrants from seeking asylum in the United States. Punitive American border policy regarding families and children dates to at least the mid 80’s when the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began jailing so called “unaccompanied minors” in detention centers along the southern border. (Dunn, 46-47) The notion of “unaccompanied minors” is macabre. In the mid-80s American border police used it to refer to detain and deport children traveling with family, including grandparents and adult siblings, but not with their parents (who may be back in their home country, or already in the United States). Today the US government creates “unaccompanied minors”––as part of a “Zero Tolerance” doctrine of the Trump regime where asylum seekers crossing into the United States “illegally” are immediately subject to criminal prosecution––by separating children from parents and adults they may be traveling with and opening separate immigration cases for the adults and the children. From then on, the children are treated as “unaccompanied alien children” and placed into a detention processing track away from their family. Children may never be reunited with their parents, and the United States government has no program or policy regarding reuniting families. American officials have in fact lost track of thousands of children and there are no plans in place to determine where they are or what happened to them.

In addition to the horror of being wrested from family, children in cages at the US border are at high risk of COVID-19 infection. At the start of the pandemic, the United Nations Children’s fund called for the immediate release of all children in detention centers: “Many are being held in confined and overcrowded spaces with inadequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services––conditions that are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19. An outbreak in one of these facilities could happen at any moment.” And research by the Yale University School of Medicine urges that children shouldn’t be “detained for a long time or separated from their families” at least in part because “In addition to the already high risk for traumatic impact of parental separation, the coronavirus pandemic creates additional burdens and distress, exacerbated by fears about their own health and safety and that of parents and family members they have little or no contact with.”

Finding the most horrifying way to respond to this situation, the United States has implanted a policy of immediate expulsion that denies all migrants, including children, due process and access to asylum law. The US government is positioning this policy as a public health initiative to protect Americans from COVID-19 but experts say that there is “no public health sense behind” this policy that “categorically targets one particular group who is not anymore at likelihood to essentially spread COVID-19 than other groups.” Yet, children as young as 8-months are being expelled from the border, often alone, not knowing if they will be reunited with family.

The brazen inconsistency between on the one hand willingly putting children and families at risk with “Back to School” orders and claiming that immediate expulsion of children without due process and the protection of asylum law is due to health concerns exposes the political reality of childhood under necrocapitalism today—where the lives of our children are lanced in multidirectional ways against us in class war.[1] We refuse to entertain the foolishness of anti-natalist attitudes and philosophy, a stark foolishness when we consider the legacy of American imperialism and how it has targeted the children of the oppressed to disappear us from the world. Childcare is indeed a radical act, and the care of all our children at schools and in cages in detention centers must be connected in our political program and platform as revolutionaries.


[1] It is important to remember that bourgeois law, including international human rights law and asylum laws are not the be-all-end-all of justice, and certainly not the end goal of communist approaches to these topics. Revolutionaries can use bourgeois law to both expose the hypocrisy of the bourgeois classes when they violate them and to strategically win temporary reforms to advance the goals of the proletariat, but we harbor no illusions about the revolutionary potential of reforming or advancing bourgeois law as an ultimate goal.

Chapter Fifteen

We’ve rejected the liberal call to order, both in the current conjuncture and in principle. Fugitive planning is our watchword; swallowing policy is capitulation. Naturally then––though this might seem like a sharp turn––we’re going to have to talk about our children.

Saying “our” here is deliberate. The Uprising was first of all a righteous explosion of anger, but now envisions and fights for a future, and to speak of futurity is to speak of children. Some of us militating on behalf of the Uprising are actually parents, or caregivers of children in some capacity. But each and every one of us makes a claim on the future of our community’s children when we enter the three-way fight. Never want to have any children of your own? Care not to engage in child-rearing, or educating children, or anything of the kind? Other people’s children are still your responsibility, and this is a responsibility that bears down heavily on you, maybe even especially heavily, from the moment you line up against the state.

As communists, we need to embrace and declare this futurity loudly. The terrain of children’s futurity and social reproduction has for decades been dominated by cultural conservatism, despite important inroads made from the left via feminist and antiracist organizing especially. The conservative hegemony regarding children is among a constellation of factors allowing Trump and Biden, from both sides of the necro-liberal cartel, to appear credible to the wide public when they decry “anarchists” among the protestors, or assimilate protest to “anarchism” full stop. They seem to mean something like “active nihilism”, not anarchism as any self-identified protestor would understand it, but the point is clear: the Uprising is framed as purely destructive, and pure destruction is framed as anti-future––hence, as anti-child. Never mind that neoliberal policy-makers and their cultural conservative enablers have done more, root and branch, to increase stress on families and undermine childrens’ right to futurity than any “anarchist” boogeymen could accomplish in their wildest dreams. (Cooper 2017) The point is that “the child” is already mobilized politically, for better or for worse, and from a purely strategic vantage point we have to play on this terrain if we’re to get anywhere at all. 

Parenthetically, in the tradition of this blog, here too we find philosophy and theory in a culpable role where it could have done better. A number of academic edgelords have made a career out of giving full-throated voice to anti-natalism, misanthropy, and the political rejection of “reproductive futurism.” David Benatar and Lee Edelman are cases in point, both because they represent different streams of intellectual radicalism (utilitarianism and queer theory respectively), and because they trotted out their canonical anti-future arguments during the Bush Jr. years (!), upstream of all of the cruelty and political incompetence of 2020. (Benatar 2006; Edelman 2004) If you take the concept of a woman’s right to choose at all seriously, Benatar’s “pro-death” position in the first trimester of pregnancy is a nonstarter––and Edelman’s call for queers to be the very scarecrows of disease and death depicted by cultural conservatives resonates little outside of spaces where Lacanian point-scoring is important. Such examples might be extreme, but precisely because they are, they alibi the conservative lie that “progressives” hate children, foment a “culture of death”, and so on. Especially in the time of COVID-19, we need to be on guard against anything smacking of nihilism, resignation, or neo-Malthuseanism––for beyond these lie white supremacy. It’s time to accept that people reproduce and care for children, that race, class and other factors have measurable demographic aspects––i.e. that “childhood” is intersectional––and that this is all woven into the political fight at a basic level.    

Theory aside, the point where the call to order congeals as policy is where the topic of our children becomes most important. Quite simply, our children are being used against us to force-feed us policy. This is of course nothing new––a distressingly familiar refrain by this point in the blog––but it appears in stark and ghoulish outline in the context of the Uprising and COVID-19.

First off, the presence of freely rioting federal police and militarized local cops in major urban centres is a resounding blackmail against parents who would otherwise join in protests or any kind of public political action. Children themselves have been tear-gassed and maimed by police, so are better left home. Parents or guardians who still want to brave the streets without them are therefore forced to find childcare, and if they themselves are arrested or injured this will also affect their children. There is a heavy disincentive to fight for your child’s future when it could mean injury, death, or family separation through incarceration.

The cops are one thing––the education ministries are another. What’s more representative of a “call to order” than “back to school?” The problem of course is that simply sending children back, as Trump and De Vos have suggested, is bound to be disastrous from a public health perspective. A more subtle policy play, qua call to order, is to give us a choice between our children’s safety (and ours) on one hand, and our economic prosperity or even survival on the other. In Canada, with only six weeks left until the start of school, plans for the coming year are still being rolled out. The province of Ontario, where the Ford government unsurprisingly didn’t bother to consult teacher’s unions, is perhaps a representative case. There will be medical-grade masks for the teachers and rules about who sits where and pisses and shits when and all that, but in sum public school children will be back at it for full days, five days a week, in overall crowded conditions––and for younger students, masks will be optional. This is what families have to look forward to, unless parents or guardians request that their child shift to online learning. Bracket for a second the public health implications of this plan, which like a full return is almost certain to result in new outbreaks and a fall lockdown since many parents will have no choice but to send their kids back in. What else is going on here? Many parents who can afford to, and can make arrangements, will try to keep their kids at home. This will of course come at a cost––literally financial for many people, in the form of caregiving costs, staying home from work, debt and the like––but also in terms of “opportunity costs” in general and the broader political cost of isolating and diluting the energies of more radical or progressive affluent parents. The choice is between potential sickness and death on the one hand, and siloing and discipline on the other. Anyone who can afford to will take a hit to their political energies; after all, “think of the children.” What then can we do––we communists, faced with such cynicism from the state––when “our” children are in the balance? At a bare minimum we must internalize and propagate the slogan that childcare can be a radical act. Bearing in mind all the necessary health precautions and scientific advice about social bubbles, we need to commit to easing each others’ burdens of care and enriching children’s lives in a terrifying time. We must do this by committing to equitable, reliable, solidarity forms of community care, at a distance from the state––effectively, childcare in the circuit of fugitive planning.[1] Strong care networks have the potential to ease if not defuse both the blackmail of the police, and the blackmail of the education ministries. This will free up our political energies, which is something we owe to our children.


[1] It should go without saying that parents or caregivers of disabled or neurodivergent children should receive special consideration, and that these arguments about solidarity networks apply to the care of dependent adults as well.