On Thursday April 30th, protesters, some carrying firearms, marched into the Michigan state capitol building. The demonstration was just the latest of a stream of protests demanding an end to the lockdown and social distancing.
ABOVE VIDEO: Note from the interview clips that many of the protesters talk about their need to "reopen their business", which indicates a strong presence of small entrepreneurs in the protests, a historically prominent component in most fascist and proto-fascist developments of the 20th and 21st century.
It is unclear what the protesters want. Some echo the sentiments of Glenn Beck and Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, that the lives of elderly and vulnerable people should be sacrificed for the sake of revving up America’s economy. Others echo claims circulating on social media, alleging that the pandemic is a hoax conducted by enemies of Donald Trump. Signs follow the ideological brand of the 2008-2010 Tea Party protests that opposed Obama’s healthcare plan. Slogans include “Social Distancing is Communism” and there are placards containing references to Hitler, the US Constitution, Liberty, and Tyranny.
Meanwhile, there are also mobilizations of the organized political left. Examples of these include: car caravans calling for a rent freeze, strikes and organizing among essential workers. Unrest is brewing in US society as the economy is the worst it has been in decades. Unemployment numbers have reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. The chasm between two factions in the US economic ruling class, divisions which expanded under Obama and became even more intense following the 2016 elections, are sharper than ever.
Who is Behind The Anti-Lock Down Protests?
The people responsible for the right wing mobilizations are a coalition of millionaires and billionaires who feel like they are locked out by the ultra-rich. This is the coalition that took Trump to the White House in 2016. Amidst the pandemic, these lower levels of American capital are watching the blood gush from their financial wounds.
With oil prices lower than they have ever been, an essential part of the Trump coalition, fracking companies, have begun to face the possibility of their ultimate demise. Frackers were already extracting oil and natural gas from American shale on credit from banks, with low oil prices hurting their profit margins. The New York Times published an op-ed by Bethany McLean with the headline: “Coronavirus May Kill Our Fracking Fever Dream” predicting that the pandemic will finish them off for good.
The desperation to end the lockdown on the part of many millionaire and billionaire capitalists is quite real. They face financial ruin. Meanwhile, they are very well aware that certain competitors are fortified enough to ride out the storm.
Who benefits from the lockdown?
Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos is an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump. He owns the Washington Post, a publication that has been harshly critical of the administration. While the lockdown has been bad for most US businesses, on April 14th, Amazon’s stock reached its all-time high. Amazon is hiring new employees to deliver products, and Bezos has made billions.
The big four super-major oil companies that dominate the New York Stock exchange and function like a mini-cartel, are happily watching their competitors in fracking and drilling suffer amidst the oil price drops. With the elimination of frackers, Exxon-Mobile, BP, Chevron, and Shell Oil would walk out of the lockdown with an even more well established monopoly than before.
Social media giants are certainly not suffering as Americans sit at home, updating their status, tweeting, posting pictures and watching ads. These types of corporations that already function as a natural monopoly are quite happy to see a large percentage of the US population working from home.
Many of the conspiracy theories that claim the pandemic is a hoax focus on Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft. Bill Gates is an outspoken Malthusian who believes the human population must be decreased. In the conspiracy theories, Bill Gates has become a stand in poster boy for a faction of the US ruling class long-labelled “The Eastern Establishment.” The Rockefeller Family, whose Standard Oil is now reincarnated as Exxon-Mobile, the Morgans, the Duponts, the Mellons, and the “old money” elite that has been the most powerful faction in US politics for generations, represents a more managerial wing of the American elite. These are the elements that worked with Cecil Rhodes’ Round Table Group, and eventually gave birth to the Council on Foreign Relations. Rockefeller money worked to create the Trilateral Commission, Planned Parenthood, the Asia Society, and many of the other institutions that have crafted US government policy in a long-term and strategic way.
These forces favor stability and long-term hegemony over their own short-term economic growth. They are closer to the Intelligence Agencies than the military, and friendlier to Silicon Valley than to retail owners and industrialists. The ideological right-wing has long targeted this wing of American politics, from the 1950s when the John Birch Society accused the Rockefellers of being Communists, up to the rants of Alex Jones denouncing Goldman Sachs and calling for “real capitalism.” These forces have entrenched themselves well enough, and built up enough of a monopolistic position, that the pandemic will not put them out of business. Rather, the pandemic is a convenient way to clear out their competitors and secure their position. As the lower levels of capital bleed, they call out their powerful nemesis with rage, realizing that while they have much to lose, the Eastern Establishment is likely to emerge even more powerful and dominant.
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