A year of negligence faced with Covid: Capitalism kills!

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Mass cremations of Covid victims in India

Since the beginning of April, Covid-19 has rapidly spread to the four corners of the planet. Since November 2020, the pandemic has not ceased to worsen at the international level. If the situation seems somewhat stable in Europe and falling back in the United States after an enormous outbreak of contamination, Latin America and the Indian sub-continent are now suffering the torment. Countries like China, whose population has been massively treated by the Chinese vaccine[1], are being hit by an explosion of infections. The situation is so serious that even within the Chinese authorities some voices have been obliged to recognise the "insufficient" efficacy of the vaccine. Officially, globally, the pandemic has cost the lives of some 3.2 million people and without doubt more given the lying figures provided by countries like China and others.

If a year of research has allowed more to be known about the virus, a better understanding of how it spreads and how to fight against it, the persistent negligence of all states and the irresponsibility of the bourgeoisie works against the implementation of coherent and efficient measures to limit the scale of its spread at the international level. The states, mired in the logic of competition, have not even been capable of a minimum of co-ordination of vaccine policy.

Faced with this absence of co-ordination, each state has had to put into place short-term health measures, with lock-downs coming, going and coming again, mini-lockdowns, warnings from the state, curfews, opening this and closing that. Without the appropriate means to fight against the pandemic after decades of budgets cuts imposed by the crisis, preoccupied by "the economy" and the risks of being outdone by their rivals, the capitalist states have ended up adapting to daily deaths and have continued to adjust their health measures in order to avoid a situation of chaos in hospitals and cemeteries (with more or less success). This is what the dominant class calls "learning to live with the virus". The result? If some states have delivered rapid vaccination programmes to the population, it still leaves the virus spreading elsewhere by facilitating the emergence of variants of Covid-19 more resistant to vaccines.

India, Brazil... a vision of the future

But in this danse macabre, it's probably in India and Brazil that one witnesses the worst scenes of catastrophe. In Brazil "the epidemic is out of control" in the word of a Brazilian scientist: new cemeteries are opening up all over the place, bodies are transported by bus and the sickness carries away thousands of victims daily. Soon the numbers of deaths will reach half-a-million, overtaking the United States in this race to a grim record. Hospitals full, people dying on their stretchers while waiting for a bed; and all this in advance of a new variant coming from Manaus, the largest city in the state of Amazonas where, at the end of 2020, a mirage of herd immunity was being peddled, at the same time as a second wave swept through Brazil. During this time, Bolsonaro, the president of the country, who pretended that the virus was a "little flu" (gripenzinha) continued to repeat that "it's necessary to go back to work and stop complaining", while changing his ministers like shirts in a disastrous governmental merry-go-round.

In Brazil the trafficking of animals from the Amazon and massive de-forestation has exposed humans to viruses which up to now have been "under cover". The biologist Lucas Ferrante, a researcher in Manaus writes: "It is in the Amazon that there is the greatest risk of a new virus appearing and this risk is infinitely more important than what we've seen in Wuhan"[2]. The destruction of the Amazonian forest has taken on catastrophic dimensions these last years and the bourgeoisie, who benefit greatly from its exploitation, are not ready to stop it.

But for a couple of weeks now the situation in India has made it to Number One on the news. It's difficult to find words to describe the horror of the health catastrophe in the country which today is the most populous in the world. Despite its economic development, health services were already underdeveloped prior to the pandemic; health is not a priority for the state. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a kind of messianic alter ego of Bolsonaro, boasted in February of having "beaten the virus" and that the country "was an example to the world". Modi was even able to tail-end China and the other major powers possessing vaccines, using them for its imperialist influence. Now however the export of vaccines has been forbidden.

Since January, this government, which is very strongly marked by Hindu fundamentalism, has deliberately encouraged a pilgrimage (Kumbh Mela) of immense crowds coming from all over the country. During the first two weeks of April, 2.8 million Hindus were packed together, without masks, distancing, tests or temperature control, and immersed themselves in the waters of the Ganges, waters infested by the ritual cremations of infected bodies. Real virus bombs - and on top of this we should not forget the crowded meetings of the electoral campaign!

The backlash from such arrogance and contempt wasn't long in coming. Figures for the contagion and the death rate shot up: 4,000 deaths and around 4 million infections daily, "statistics much lower than reality", according to the press, confirmed by the distressing spectacle of the lack of oxygen, beds occupied by several people, queues in front of the hospitals with people dying on barrows, in motor-cycle sidecars or on the ground!

All this is a payoff in a country which, like Brazil, presents itself as an economic giant. Instead of that we see images of families looking for some empty spaces anywhere in which to bury their loved ones. Funeral pyres lined up over hundreds of metres have sprung up all over the place in order to incinerate the bodies which have piled up, rendering them a last miserable and undignified homage. As in Brazil and elsewhere, it's the most deprived parts of society, the proletariat and the non-exploiting layers, who pay the greatest price for such negligence and the traumas that they engender.

And to think that these two countries, along with South Africa[3], have been classed as having the potential of a development similar to that of China and are presented as part of the dynamism of an eternal capitalism.

Capitalism sinks into decomposition

The Covid-19 virus, as other pandemics and scourges that threaten the human race, is not only a product of but also a powerful accelerator of social decomposition at the planetary level. The India of Modi and the Brazil of Bolsonaro, even if they are led by populist governments which make particularly stupid and irrational decisions, are only two extreme expressions of the impasse that capitalism represents for the future of humanity.

Make no mistake: Modi, Bolsonaro, Trump and many other representatives of the powerful growth of populism, despite their erratic and narrow-minded administrations and "anti-elitist" speeches, remain fierce defenders of the national capital and embody the needs of world capitalism: brutal exploitation and pillage of the Amazonian forest encouraged by the soya-importing countries, as well as the extraction of minerals on a massive scale. As for Modi's India, the law on the end of "protected" agriculture has been enacted so as to open still more rural areas to the needs of capital[4].

As we say in our "Report on the Covid-19 pandemic and the period of capitalist decomposition" (July 2020): "The Covid pandemic (...) has become an unmistakable emblem of this whole period of decomposition by bringing together a series of factors of chaos that signify the generalised putrefaction of the capitalist system. These include:

- the prolongation of the long-term economic crisis that began in 1967 and the consequent accumulation and intensification of austerity measures, has precipitated an inadequate and chaotic response to the pandemic by the bourgeoisie, which has in turn obliged the ruling class to massively aggravate the economic crisis by interrupting production for a significant period;

- the origins of the pandemic clearly lie in the accelerated destruction of the environment created by the persistence of the chronic capitalist crisis of overproduction;

- the disorganised rivalry of the imperialist powers, notably among former allies, has turned the reaction of the world bourgeoisie to the pandemic into a global fiasco;

- the ineptitude of the response of the ruling class to the health crisis has revealed the growing tendency to a loss of political control of the bourgeoisie and its state over society within each nation;

- the decline in the political and social competence of the ruling class and its state has been accompanied in an astonishing way by ideological putrefaction: the leaders of the most powerful capitalist nations are spewing out ridiculous lies and superstitious nonsense to justify their ineptitude.

Covid-19 has thus brought together in a clearer way than before the impact of decomposition on all the principle levels of capitalist society – economic, imperialist, political, ideological and social (...) The present health catastrophe reveals, above all, an increasing loss of control of the capitalist class over its system and its increasing loss of perspective for human society as a whole (...) The fundamental tendency to self-destruction that is the common feature of all periods of capitalist decadence has changed its dominant form in the period of decomposition from world war to a world chaos that only increases the threat of capitalism to society and humanity in its entirety".

If the appearance of the pandemic has brought a halt to the development of the workers' struggles in the world, it has not altered the reflection on the chaotic character of capitalist society. The pandemic is another proof of the necessity for proletarian revolution. But this historic outcome depends first of all and before everything on the capacity of the working class, the only revolutionary force, to re-discover the consciousness of itself, of its existence and of its revolutionary capacities. Because the proletariat alone, mobilised and organised around the struggle for the defence of its own interests and class autonomy, has the power to put an end to the tyrannical and deadly yoke of the laws of capital and give birth to another society.

Inigo, May 6, 2021


[1] China and Russia have taken advantage of the situation in order to flood African and Latin American countries with vaccines for their own imperialist ends.

[2] "Amazon: point of departure of a new pandemic?", France Culture (April 19, 2021).


Explosion of Covid-19 in Brazil and India