Socialist Alternative

Coronavirus, Racism & Xenophobia

Published on

Ruling Class Chauvinism Leads to More Racist Attacks

Racist Sentiments Whipped up as Borders Close

Jonas B, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (ISA in Sweden)

In all crises, contradictions tend to explode, and trends accelerate. The Corona crisis has revealed that nationalism around the world is not just about Donald Trump, but how the ruling elite in each country whips up nationalism and racism to protect themselves and their own capitalist class interests. In the wake of the coronavirus, this has led to an increase in racist attacks but also an anti-racist counter movement, under the hashtag #IamNotAVirus.

Japanese tourists have been called “Corona” in Egypt, mainland Chinese have been denied service in Hong Kong restaurants and people of Chinese origin have been assaulted in, for example, New York and Israel. The examples of racist hatred in the wake of the pandemic are everywhere.

Racist sentiments have been whipped up from above since the Corona crisis erupted. Donald Trump, who has changed his speeches to refer to the “Coronavirus” as “the Chinese virus” is the best-known example, but he is far from alone. In Australia, the notorious Herald Sun “newspaper” ran the headline, “Chinese virus pandemonium” and the Daily Telegraph, “China kids stay home!”. A French newspaper warned of “Yellow alert”. The Chinese regime has also tried to whip up racism and nationalism by supporting conspiracy theories that the virus was planted in China by the US military.

Border closures are also often about presenting the danger as something that comes from outside, in order to draw attention away from insufficient healthcare resources and in order to maintain capitalist production for profit at any price. In many cases, the countries that have closed their borders have had far more cases than the countries against which they closed the border. South Africa is one such example, where a wall/fence now is built on the border to Zimbabwe with the Corona virus used as an excuse.

Longer Term Trend

The trend of increased nationalism and racism from the ruling class is not new. Over a long period of time, tensions between the various imperialist blocs have been increasing and nationalism and racism have been used as an excuse for each country’s ruling elite to back up its own capitalist class in an increasingly brutal power struggle for profits and control over markets. Simultaneously, structures such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the EU and various trade agreements have increasingly broken down, while the growth of world trade has slowed.

At the same time, an explosion in class divisions has undermined support for the old parties, which, in the absence of a fighting labour movement, has left space for right-wing populists and racists.

Now when the Corona crisis has thrown society into a deep social, economic and soon political crisis, this nationalist disintegration has become more apparent. The fact that Italy’s request for EU assistance during the crisis was not responded to by a single EU country shows that when in crisis, the EU exists only on paper. Each government has its own strategy, its own “rescue package” to back up its capitalists, while workers are often left completely in the lurch. Not even the limited global coordination that the capitalists succeeded with during the 2008–2009 crisis is now possible.

Pressured by the apparent failure of their own system to deal with the pandemic, increased nationalism and racism are no surprise. During the Great Depression of 1929 and onwards, nationalism and racism also flourished, not just in those countries where the capitalists turned to fascism under the threat of revolution.

Resistance Expressed

The peculiar situation created by the Corona pandemic, with the shutting down of society and billions of people under “lockdown”, means that the resistance to racism is forced to express itself in special ways. On social media, the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus has spread like wildfire in solidarity with those affected by racism. In California, 40,000 have signed a petition in response to the racist bullying of Vietnamese-American students.

Nationalism has also been pushed back. The refusal of Brazil’s President, Bolsonaro, to deal with the spread of infection, referring to Corona as merely “hysteria” and to Brazilians having a special “resilience”, has thrown his regime into a crisis.

Racist diversion maneuvers and the scapegoating of different groups must be countered by the collective action of workers and young people, despite the fact that, for the time being, in many parts of the world it must be done online. Attempts to hide the system’s inability behind nationalism and racism are doomed, in the long run, to failure.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was the basis for mass radicalization on a global scale. Today’s crisis has the potential to do the same but because of our globalized world, in an even more comprehensive way. The Corona crisis reveals capitalism’s inability to meet people’s most basic needs, while at the same time throwing the capitalist economy into the abyss. In the long term, this means a deeper political crisis and greater opportunities to, instead of racial division, organize workers and youth regardless of their origins in a powerful socialist movement.

Latest articles


How The Abortion Rights Movement Can Push Back The Far Right

Millions of abortion rights supporters breathed a sigh of relief in late March when the US Supreme Court signaled its unwillingness to ban mifepristone,...

“I Am Buried In Bills”: How Under The US Health System, The Patient Always Loses

In August of 2023, I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle home from the gym, severing my spinal cord at L1....

Healthcare In Freefall: Biden & Trump Can’t Heal Us

The US healthcare system is infamous worldwide for being an absolute travesty. The everyday stories of working class people facing traumatic choices about whether...

International Women’s Day 2024: Demonstrate Against War, Oppression, & Capitalism!

This year’s International Women’s Day has a very dark setting. We have a climate crisis to solve. We have hundreds of thousands of hungry...