Rear View

Science v. superstition

Donald Trump’s appointment of vice-president Pence as head of the US response to the coronavirus provoked rage and ridicule from health professionals and others. Pence is a lawyer. Does he expect to stop the virus by serving it a writ?! Socialists here are perhaps for the first time in agreement with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez: ‘Mike Pence literally does not believe in science,’ she tweeted… ‘It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of the US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic. This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have,’ she said. Ocasio-Cortez reminded people of Pence’s credentials for the job: ‘While he was governor of Indiana, he oversaw an HIV crisis that was so severe that at its peak, 20 new cases of HIV were diagnosed every week. As governor, Pence’s science denial contributed to one of the worst HIV outbreaks in Indiana’s history’ (, 28 February).

Reform or revolution

Given a choice between a voice of reason Democrat such as AOC and a bible-thumping, science-denying Republican e.g. Pence, who is more deserving of the socialist vote? Neither. Both support capitalism. Science aside, the real question is do we want to end war and want or not? Leftist luminaries, including Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich and Michael Albert ignore the lessons of history and support the ‘lesser evil’. Their open letter (truthdig. com, 24 January) states ‘…real solutions require Trump out of office. Real solutions will become far more probable with Sanders or Warren in office… ‘ Slavoj Zizek agrees: ‘…US political life to be radically reinvented… Sanders is to be unconditionally supported’ (rt. com, 11 February). The Sanders ‘meantime’ must be a capitalist meantime and is no responsibility of those who seek to replace it with a better system. The establishment of socialism depends on a majority of us withdrawing our support of capitalism. It becomes practicable only to the extent that socialist ideas are accepted, and it will become a reality when action in line with those ideas is taken. Supporting Sanders or any leader amounts to trying to patch up capitalism, the existence of which is the cause of the problems we all want to solve.

More of the same

That reformists such as Sanders do not represent a threat to the status quo is confirmed by history and current mainstream comment. ‘It should be clear to anyone who is not trying to frighten voters that Sanders is a social democrat… ‘(, 11 February). MarketWatch, it should be noted, is an American financial information website that provides business news, analysis, and stock market data. It is a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Company, a property of News Corp, which also owns The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s. Similarly, we read: ‘In capitalist mecca Las Vegas, social democrat Sanders cements Democratic front-runner status’ (, 23 February). ‘Like most Democrats, Kimberly Carr said she’d vote for anyone against Trump. But she wants Sanders. The VIP host at the Bellagio supported Elizabeth Warren, then switched to Sanders on the second ballot in Saturday’s caucuses. She said the party needs someone with fire in the belly and bold policy ideas to take on Trump. ‘Eugene Debs knew better: ‘The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles’ (1904).

Frederick Douglas

Then and now

Fifty years earlier, one former slave wrote: ‘The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to ONE slave-holder, and the former belongs to ALL the slave-holders, collectively. The white slave has taken from him, by indirection, what the black slave had taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers’ (Frederick Douglas, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855). Today, ‘Target Workers Unite recently released a survey of more than 500 Target workers around the US, representing 382 different stores in 44 states. Only 12.7% of the workers who responded said they could survive on the wages from Target alone, with 56% of workers citing they have run out of food while employed at Target, and 12.8% of workers reported experiencing homelessness’ (‘Target raised wages. Then it cut workers’ hours and doubled their workload’,, 27 February). Target’s annual gross profit for 2019 was $22.057bn. Post November’s presidential election, it will be business as usual.