From fascism to exterminism
Around the time of the 2016 election it became popular to revive the word "fascism." Trump was a fascist, we were told. No, I argued, Trump isn't a fascist. A fascist would disdain democracy; Trump is bad, but he's not quite there yet, and besides, "fascism" is a word belonging to an earlier period of history, a period of expanding capitalism. Our period is one of declining capitalism.
Now I still think "fascist" is the wrong word to describe Trump. But mostly because it's too kind -- because Trump is perhaps something of an exterminist.
I first read this term "exterminism" from something Stan Goff said. It wasn't in the piece I linked, but somewhere else. Anyway, Goff's writing is of a piece, and the piece I linked tells the story:
We are living through a long period of exterminism, the last stage of imperialism.
Well, anyway, I did a Google search on it, and it turns out that the celebrated scholar E. P. Thompson did a piece on "exterminism." Thompson thought of "exterminism" when considering the power of the state to wage nuclear war, as a threat to exterminate nearly everyone on the planet. It was republished in Verso a bit over three years ago. Here's Thompson's definition of "exterminism":
Exterminism designates those characteristics of a society — expressed, in differing degrees, within its economy, its polity and its ideology — which thrust it in a direction whose outcome must be the extermination of multitudes. The outcome will be extermination, but this will not happen accidentally (even if the final trigger is "accidental") but as the direct consequence of prior acts of policy, of the accumulation and perfection of the means of extermination, and of the structuring of whole societies so that these are directed towards that end.
Doesn't this describe Donald Trump's coronavirus policy to a T? "So, yeah, lots of people are going to die. Do we look like we give a sh*t?"
Frankly, I expect that only a few of those who die will actually die because of the coronavirus. More likely we will see lots of people dying because they can't get any food to eat, in the same way in which the economic collapse of the Great Depression of 1929-1932 produced large starving populations. We aren't getting free testing, we aren't getting sick leave, and most of us won't have jobs or income or food stamps or anything once most of the population is either quarantined or waiting to get into the ICU.
So it's beginning to look like we ought to revive this term "exterminism." It's the ultimate expression of the ruling class's contempt for the rest of us. You know who's been tested? Rich people.