Toxic masculinity during lock-down.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has starkly exposed three of the most fundamental contradictions within the capitalist mode of production. They are contradictions which are ripping apart the already tattered fabric of capitalist socio-economic relations. First, the suspension of many economic activities by order of governing elites; second the almost complete fragmentation of social relations by their policy of lock-down; and third, anti-social violence by toxic forms of masculinity. All three problems are products of capitalism combined with the lack of preparations by its elites.

The pandemic has also revealed elite willingness to become more and more authoritarian in restricting choices. The pro-capitalist elites by granting themselves emergency powers, dictated who was allowed to work, who was allowed to associate together and included how far people could travel. Powers were sought to enforce restrictions, if they were resisted, but in fact most people understood the need to self isolate in order to save lives and did so. But of course it didn’t.

Millions were infected and hundreds of thousands died prematurely. The heterosexual male-dominated elites in most governments were exposed as self-serving incompetents who had ensured that weapons of mass destruction costing billions, were stockpiled, but couldn’t ensure the availability of sufficient aprons, masks and swabs for nurses. Elites clapping front line staff who were actually dying from lack of PPE was both patronising and cynical.

Men at the top of most 2020 governments – even those at their best – have been at least mildly toxic toward humanity by also failing to provide adequate PPE, to care homes, by flouting lock-down recommendations and ignoring social distancing. These omissions and commissions helped the virus to spread – and thus increased the numbers of dead. That is bad enough, but we know that forms of masculinity can (and may) get even more toxic than this. Historically, Biafra, Bosnia and Armenia proved that toxic forms of masculinity were indifferent to suffering and vicious to the point of genocide,

Toxic masculinity in history.

From Genghis Khan, to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and hundreds more, forms of toxic masculinity have been to humanity what poisons are to the human body – fatal! And the toxic brand of masculinity pops up everywhere – even on the left! Recall how the leader of the Bolshevik political sect, Lenin addressed those members of his own party who opposed his views at the 10th Party Congress.

“Comrades:…Either you are on this side, or the other, but then your weapon must be a gun and not an opposition.” (Lenin collected works. Volume 32)

The most powerful, so-called revolutionary left politician of the 20th century, was addressing the political situation within a dualistic and weaponised framework. An oblique parallel with Donald Trump’s recent verbal treatment of critics, cannot be avoided. Lenin effectively threatened ‘critics’ with the prospect of settling differences with guns instead of discussion. Toxic Trump verbally threatened looting with shooting.

And Lenin’s toxic masculinity was no conference rhetoric, for it is on record that this type of solution to disagreements became routine within the Soviet communist party and reached a pinnacle of depravity under Lenin’s successor, Stalin. Moreover, simple-minded, male thinking – at the time – countered criticism of aggressive left violence by asserting that killing people during revolutions is similar to breaking eggs when making an omelette. (!!)

There is also evidence that left sectarian Bolsheviks killed and tortured rival Mensheviks and Anarchists and visa-versa without a morsel of remorse anywhere. Unfortunately, the viruses of extreme prejudice and a toxic urge to disrespect and punish those who differ, exists within many members of the human species. In particular, a combination of pent up anger, prejudice, ambition and simplistic thinking in the brains of some men, can produce toxic forms of masculinity on the left as well as on the right in politics.

Toxic masculinity under capitalism.

Toxic masculinity really is the elephant in the drawing rooms of bourgeois society. From there it infects all the other environments that it is allowed to seep into. Sadly it is everywhere, from board room, to locker room, to bar room. Not only Harvey Weinstein, but many men rape, sexually assault and kill women. Even young men kill other young men and women in their school classrooms. The capitalist system undeniably produces environmental and social forms of toxicity.

Some (heterosexual) men beat up gay men and some seriously hurt women who resist their demands. Toxic masculinity in charge of high-tech weapons callously direct bombs or shells on wedding parties and school bus trips. Other carriers of toxic masculinity order the mass bombing of innocents knowing exactly what they are doing and exactly who will be shredded into fragments.

Other men ensure that crimes against humanity cannot be brought against their toxic masculine troops rampaging on foreign lands. Those atrocities perpetrated at My Lai, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, provide examples of the depths to which toxic masculinity can descend when they are part of institutions built entirely on that form of masculinity.

And yes in 2020 men with toxic masculinity syndrome can even kneel on other men’s necks until they are almost dead. Others, within days of such deliberate inhumanity, baton and pepper spray those who protest against it. Unfortunately, this is no marginal issue. Like the intellectual viruses they manufacture and spread, toxic masculinity in charge of economies, governance, finance, politics, law enforcement and armed forces is a fundamental problem facing humanity.

Toxic masculinity is currently at the head of every activity which pollutes, destroys ecological balance, starts wars and perpetrates civil violence against anyone who protests too much. Some are even in the support networks necessary for these destructive activities to occur. And, as noted above, there is even a version of toxic masculinity on the left, which thinks there is only one suitable version of maleness to enable and secure radical change. It is the one that is prepared to kick ass – physically or polemically. More on that version in the next article.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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