March 6, 2017
The writer self-identifies as a person with mental illnesses.
A common insult hurled at President Donald Trump by the liberal media is that he’s “crazy,” “insane” or “mentally ill.” But what is the impact of using such insults against a fascistic bigot?
Calling Trump “mentally ill” implies that people with mental illnesses are inferior or that it’s shameful to have a mental illness. Capitalism already demonizes, ostracizes and discards people with mental illnesses. To call Trump mentally ill passively supports this oppressive system, which is inherently ableist.
The capitalist class promotes ableism because they find it economically useful. People with disabilities may have more difficulty carrying out their labor, or they may require special accommodations to do so. The capitalist class, which values profit over people, seeks to streamline the labor process, to cut costs and maximize profits wherever possible.
The needs of people with disabilities can throw a wrench in this simplification process. In fact, people’s disabilities are often defined and understood in business terms through what types of labor they hinder.
The capitalist class promotes the idea that people with disabilities are “useless” because they get in the way of profits reaped through exploiting workers. A measure of their being “expendable” under capitalism is that people with disabilities, especially those of oppressed nationalities, are disproportionately targeted by police terror. Nearly half of people murdered by U.S. cops are identified as “disabled.” (tinyurl.com/zn79rup).
Ableism cannot be anti-fascist
In a fascist system, in a last-ditch effort to save capitalism, all systems of oppressions are intensified to crush the working class and oppressed into submission. In Nazi Germany, an estimated 600,000 to 675,000 individuals were sterilized or killed under medical rationalizations. This included an estimated 250,000 people diagnosed by doctors as having schizophrenia. (tinyurl.com/hlpshjg)
Nazis gave an ableist and racist reason for the genocidal extermination of people with disabilities, saying their deaths would “purify the Aryan race.” This bigoted rationale is called eugenics. The United States has a long history of ableism and eugenics, which was adapted by the Nazis. (tinyurl.com/o6bgjz8)
In fact, the Nazi regime committed the crime of genocide against a wide range of people, from communists to Jews to Romani people to left-wing Christians to LGBTQ people to people with disabilities, in an effort to break all peoples’ political and worker resistance in the midst of the Germany’s collapsing capitalism.
To demonize Trump as mentally ill is to fall into lockstep with fascism, capitalism and white supremacy, because ableism goes hand-in-hand with all three.
Class interests, not personalities
Ableist attacks on Trump are not only bigoted, they’re also unscientific and ahistorical. Marxists understand that imperialist capitalism isn’t about personalities or individuals, it’s a system. Analysis starts by understanding the social and economic relations that permeate all of society. Specifically, the history of society is that of a class struggle between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
Liberalism says that personalities, individuals and policy are decisive in making history, rather than class struggle. Thus, liberals focus on Trump’s personality, rather than his class interests. Part of painting Trump as “mentally ill” is painting him as “irrational” as an individual.
But Trump is a capitalist billionaire. From his perspective, there’s nothing irrational about his worldview! He acts in the interests of his class, the capitalists, just as we act in the interests of our class, the working class and oppressed.
As long as capitalism exists, the ruling class will promote bigoted views, because it is in their class interest to target and divide the working class.
Painting reactionaries as “crazy” or “irrational’ will not make them change either their behaviors or beliefs. These are tied by a thousand threads to the interests of the capitalist class.
Attack from the left
As revolutionary socialists, we must level our attacks on Trump from the left. It is crucial that we understand the class interests of Trump, Bannon and the Wall Street billionaires who increasingly support them.
When we criticize our enemies from a reactionary perspective, rather than a revolutionary perspective, we only hurt ourselves. The ableist insults thrown at Trump distract us from the real reasons why Trump is bad. A similar distraction is the Russophobia and homophobia directed at the alleged Trump-Putin connection.
That narrative only draws attention away from Trump’s and Bannon’s proto-fascist policy and the everyday violence of imperialist capitalism as a whole. The Democratic Party and the liberal media push this bigoted narrative because their primary goal is not to resist Trump. Rather, they want to save the corrupt Democratic Party establishment — and capitalism.
Trump’s actions should be named what they are: white-supremacist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, warmongering and anti-worker!
We have so many reasons to fight Trump, and none of these have to do with mental illness.