Against the manufacturing of impotence, communism alone offers humanity a perspective

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The Sars-Cov-2 pandemic has given rise to a great number of works trying to establish the causes of Covid and proposing a number of alternatives. One of them, La Fabrique des pandemies by Marie Monique Robin, has aroused considerable interest. This work is presented under the form of a synthesis of studies made by the author along with around sixty scientists globally: virologists, infectious disease specialists, doctors, epidemiologists, even vets, for whom, the world is currently confronted by “an ‘epidemic of pandemics’ caused by human activity which has precipitated the collapse of biodiversity”.

Presented as “salutary”, this book makes an appeal to analyse the causes of the “new diseases” and to become aware of the necessity for a “profound change in our global economy which is predatory on the planet’s resources and the cause of climatic, ecological, health, economic, energy and financial crises” and conceives itself as “an appeal to set up a social-ecology of health and of the well-being of everybody”[1]. Nothing less!

Capitalism is an impediment to the establishment of truth

Research for scientific truth is a value shared by the proletariat. As a revolutionary class deprived of all material support within capitalist society and possessing only its consciousness and organisation as arms of combat, it is imperative for it to develop a de-mystified vision of reality. It is the condition sine qua non of its political action. For their part, the task of revolutionaries with regard to science, “is to theoretically assimilate its results, while understanding that its practical applications can only really serve human needs in a society evolving towards socialism.

The development of knowledge in the workers' movement thus involves seeing the theoretical development of the sciences as its own acquisition. But it must integrate this development into a more overall understanding which is centered round the practical realisation of the social revolution, the basis for all real progress in society”. [2]

Regarding research into the causes and scientific origins of the pandemic, the least that one can say is that it’s had a hard time making progress. It met a number of obstacles in the toxic atmosphere generated by the decomposition of capitalist society, marked by the development of irrationality and hostility regarding scientific thought, notably in a whole number of conspiracy theories. According to many of these “theories”, often networked by various populists, the pandemic is an artificial creation planned by “elites” in the service of hidden interests in order to maximise the profits of the big pharmaceutical groups or to impose extra controls by the state on individuals’ private lives. Even the supposedly more “responsible” representatives of the system have used the media to disparage the scientific conclusions which underline the role of the destruction of the environment in the emergence of Covid: “To see a link between air pollution, biodiversity and Covid-19 reveals surrealism and not science” declared the ex-Minister of National Education, Luc Ferry, on the pages of L’Express. The search for scientific truth sometimes exposes researchers to reprisals from the authorities, not only in China where this pressure is clearly evident, but also in the democratic states under more subtle forms via financing or their work being put on the shelf.

Even on the terrain of scientific knowledge powerful filters and important ideological limitations exist, acting against the analysis of reality. The “strongly anchored belief within the scientific world, the eco-modernism of man (who) is above all other species populating the Earth and is not part of nature (and who) measures nature by the yardstick of what it provides us with and what it inflicts upon us, good or ill (and which) reduces nature to a service provider for humanity” reflects a completely bourgeois ideological conception of nature which can only prevent an understanding of the significance of the Covid-19 pandemic for humanity.

Added to this is the background of imperialism and increasing war-like tension between China and the United States these last months, who both accuse each other of being at the origins of the pandemic by allowing the virus to escape from a laboratory in Wuhan which was receiving American funding. The brainwashing, disinformation, and lies at the service of one part of the state or the other with the aim of discrediting the adversary can only feed the conspiracy fantasies and bring a supplementary discredit to science.

Manipulation of viruses for bacteriological warfare is part of the modern, barbaric world today and the hypothesis of an escape from a laboratory can’t be a priori excluded.[3]  If such was the case in China or elsewhere, given the dramatic consequences, it would be overwhelming proof of the irresponsibility of the bourgeoisie and a loss of control over its own system! “But even if the virus escaped the lab accidently, does that change anything of our understanding of the emergence of successive zoonotic epidemics these last decades? Assuredly not!”

Decadent capitalism is responsible for the multiplication of pandemics

Since the 1950’s the planet has faced a real “epidemic of epidemics”, ancient as well as new: from around twenty in the 1940’s to more than a hundred in the 1990’s. Since 2000, humanity has confronted a new infectious illness every year (SARS, Ebola, Lassa fever, Covid-19). Seventy per-cent of emerging sicknesses are zoonotic, transferred from animals to humans.

This “epidemic of epidemics” is caused by deforestation, the extension of industrial agriculture, monoculture and industrial animal breeding (as well as an increasingly unbalanced climate) which, by weakening ecosystems and precipitating the collapse of biodiversity, creates and favours conditions for the propagation of new, infectious pathogens. The mechanisms for these emerging and successive problems since the Second World War have been clearly identified and focus around “several factors which contribute to the emergence of new diseases (...): the first, the one through which everything happens, is deforestation for the purposes of monoculture, mineral exploitation, etc. (...); the second, are domestic animals which serve as an epidemiological bridge between fauna and humans, but also amplifies them when they are industrially raised: (...) the third, is a country’s integration into the global market”. Thus, for example, we now know that “the real emergence (of AIDS) is linked to the colonial expansion of the nineteenth century. Demands for ivory, wood, then rubber resulting in massive deforestation along with the local labour force working on plantations and the construction of railways transformed both ecosystems and traditional societies”. Thus, the ancestor of the AIDS virus arose around 1910; it circulated in Africa for some years from the 1960’s and arrived in the United States before being identified in the 1980’s.

Finally, scientists have identified the natural mechanism of “the ‘dilution effect’ thanks to which a rich, local biodiversity has a regulating effect on the prevalence and virulence of pathogenic agents, whose activity is maintained at a low level in the ecosystem’s equilibriums”. The destruction of biodiversity represents a mortal danger for the human species and its preservation is a stake for its survival: “The majority of the scientists who expressed themselves in this book are convinced not only that the collapse (of human life on Earth) is possible, but that it’s already underway.”

An “implacable” accusation... but against whom? And to do what?

Of course, these scientists denounce the negligence of the public authorities. While they’ve known “for some time the health risks linked to industrial breeding as a major source of selection and amplification of pathogenic agents to potential pandemics (...) It’s clear that there’s been a failure to prepare for such an eventuality by the authorities, regarding the risks of pandemics as well as strategies for predicting their emergence”. They also point out the incapacity of states to bring any sort of solution to the health question, faced with which “successive health crises” have above all increased “measures of bio-surveillance and biodiversity”. But “every time the imperative to respond to the health crisis leads in the end to ignoring the causes of the emergency. They cannot answer the question of knowing how and why a virus circulating in some part of Asia can, in the space of a few months, find itself in the whole of the planet’s human population”. A negligence and an impotence of the dominant class that is confirmed by an institution that can hardly be called “anti-state”: the CIA, which in 2017, in a report on the world situation written for the new governmental administration, says: “The planet and its ecosystems are in peril of being strongly affected in the years to come by diverse human and natural mutations. These upheavals will expose populations to new vulnerabilities and needs for water, food, health services, energy and infrastructures (...) These risks will be distributed in an unequal fashion in time and space, but will hit the majority of ecosystems and populations, in a serious, even catastrophic manner in some cases (...) The change of environmental conditions and the growth of links and exchanges throughout the world will affect the frequency of rainfall, biodiversity and the reproduction of microbes. All of this will naturally affect produce and agricultural systems and will multiply the emergence, transmission and propagation of human and animal infectious diseases (...) The omissions and negligence of national and international health systems will make the detection and management of epidemics more difficult, risking aggravating their expansion over very large areas. The generalisation of contacts between populations will increase the propagation of already expanding chronic infectious illnesses (such as tuberculosis, AIDS and hepatitis) and will bring serious economic and human problems in the countries most badly affected, despite the importance of international resources granted for their prevention”.[4] The scientists interviewed in the work of Marie-Monique Robin are also legitimately scandalised and revolted by the economic aspects of healthcare, pointing to the “gap between those who profit from these activities (the economies which cause the emergencies) and those that pay the price of degraded health and health services”.

But when it’s a question of knowing precisely who or what is behind the “human activities which make up the main factor of health risks”, fog and confusion enters the discussion.

Who or what are they talking about? Neoliberalism? Finance? Some “pharmaceutical multinationals and agri-businesses or those leaders lobotomised by greed for short-term profits?” Who, in turn, are pilloried over the chapters of the book. In fact, the vague and inconsistent incrimination of “human activities” and of “the anthropomorphic impact on the environment” only leads us into a vague ambiguity.

In a society divided into classes, which capitalism is, the invocation of “Man” in general in order to explain a social phenomenon is a completely mystified formula. By obscuring the reality of the social relations of the capitalist system, it masks and prevents us grasping the terms in which health and environmental problems are really and concretely posed. In presenting as “excesses” or “deviations” something which in reality corresponds to its daily practice absolves the capitalist system as a whole from any responsibility.

When it moves on to concrete propositions for political action in order to engage with “the only issue which matters: the calling into question of the dominant economic model based on the predatory hold of humans over the ecosystems” all science completely evaporates and falls back into the nets of the dominant ideology and the bourgeois state. They propose different recipes to us which all turn around the old, tired mystification of “We are all in the same boat” and the need for “individual citizens” to mobilise in order to pressurise institutions and policies and so to “take up their responsibilities”. Thus, the book’s conclusion opens with, along with other such nonsense that this part is full of, the grandstanding promotion of a piece published in Liberation, “The time of ecological solidarity has arrived”, calling “everyone to take their part, to contribute within their possibilities to the continued exploration of two essential questions: What development do we want? What nature do we want? It is therefore necessary to encourage all levels of decision-making (citizens, collectives, associations, unions, spiritual groups, communes, businesses, departments, regions, state services, organisations of the United Nations...), to think individually and collectively then put this solidarity to work (near and far) in ecological, social and economic dimensions”. Let’s be clear: they are asking us to show confidence in a bourgeoisie and state institutions, to put our fate in their hands and make common cause with the class which embodies capitalism, which is precisely the agent of the catastrophe: in order to change everything, we must change nothing of the foundations of the capitalist world!

Unless it has discovered a magic wand allowing it to escape its own nature and the contradictions resulting from it... [5]  But for a long time the workers’ movement and marxism have shown that the capitalist system as a whole does not at all have the means to put a brake on its predation of ecosystems. In spreading the illusion of a capitalism able to limit its “excesses”, to make “reasonable choices for the good of all”, they confine us within the limits of capitalist society, in a logic of the management and reform of capitalism, all this on the terrain of citizen’s actions where the proletariat is completely absent. Believing in this possibility is a dead-end, wanting to make people believe in it clearly renders one an accomplice of the dominant class. In the context of the pandemic where the bourgeois state and the dominant class have partly lost the confidence of the exploited, La Fabrique des pandémies helps contribute to the campaigns of the bourgeoisie and is nothing other than an ideological fire-break, dug in order to block all those who are legitimately posing questions about what to do in order to prevent the barbaric cycle of environmental destruction.

Only one alternative: communism

Throughout the book, scientists sketch out the contours of what they think is a solution to the planetary environmental crisis. They put forward the necessity for a “societal revolution” on a universal scale, affecting all domains, capable of a “total, systematic re-think” particularly the relationship between humans and nature, especially on the levels of the economy and production, the need to develop new ethics and to settle “the question of poverty” without which it will be impossible to “durably preserve ecosystems”.

Can one seriously imagine for a moment that these so-called solutions correspond in any way to what a bourgeois world in full-blown decomposition can offer? Of course not! On the contrary, the main lines of this tableau point to a social project which has to become the gravedigger of the capitalist world, the only possible alternative that can open doors towards a future: “Communism… is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man”[6] , the project which is carried by the revolutionary class of our time, the proletariat.

In the 19th century, confronted with the consequences of industrialisation on the living conditions and health of the working class, with poor hygiene, epidemics, pollution of the air and water in the urban hell of large towns, as well as the alarming exhaustion of natural resources, particularly of soil under the weight of large-scale agriculture in England, then the most developed country along the capitalist road, the workers’ movement was, from its first steps, preoccupied with environmental questions.

Thus, marxism vigorously denounced the aberration of the private appropriation of the earth and the incompatibility of capitalism with nature and its preservation. The capitalist system, which presents itself as the pinnacle of a historic process which consecrated the world of commodities, a universal system of the production of goods, where everything is for sale, did not inaugurate the pillage of nature. But with capitalism this pillage takes place on a planetary level, an unprecedented fact in relation to previous modes of production which were constrained to more local dimensions, and takes on a qualitatively new scale of predation in the history of humanity: “it is only with it that nature becomes a pure object for man, a pure affair of utility; that is ceases to be recognised as a thing in itself; and even the knowledge of its autonomous laws appear as a simple ruse in order to subject it to human needs, as much as an object of consumption as a means of production”.[7] The incompatibility of capitalism with nature (which is shown in ecological disasters at the heights of its rapacity) is rooted fully in its exploitation, in the fact that, driven by the frenetic search for maximum profits, it is not only from the exploitation of the labour power of the proletariat that it draws its riches and profits, but also from the exploitation and pillage of the resources of nature. “Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much a source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labour, which is itself only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power. (...) And insofar as man from the beginning behaves toward nature, the primary source of all instruments and subjects of labour, as an owner, treats it as belonging to him, his labour becomes the source of use values, therefore also of wealth.”[8] Marx was already denouncing the effects of exploitation and capitalist accumulation as similarly destructive to the planet as it was to the labour power of the proletariat: “In modern agriculture, the same as in the industry of the towns, the growth of productivity and the superior performances of labour is brought at the cost of the destruction and wearing out of the labour force. Moreover, each progression of capitalist agriculture is a progress not only in the art of exploiting the worker, but more so in the art of denuding the soil; each progress in the art of the short-term growth of fertility, a progress in the ruin of the durable sources of fertility. The more a country, the United States of North America for example, develops on the basis of large-scale industry, the quicker the process of destruction is accomplished. Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.”[9]

Above all, marxism has shown that the process of development of capital, submitting to the need for endless accumulation, affects the natural base of production, dangerously unbalancing the interaction between the human race and nature, provoking an irredeemable rupture of its metabolism. “With the still-greater preponderance of the urban population, concentrated in the main centres, on one hand capitalist production accumulates its historic motor force of society, on the other hand it upsets the metabolism between man and the earth, that’s to say returning to the soil some of its components utilised by man under the form of food and clothing and thus the eternal natural state of the permanent fertility of the soil[10]. “Great landed property reduces the agricultural population to a minimum, to a constantly lowered figure faced with the industrial population concentrated in large towns which grows ceaselessly; it thus creates the conditions which provokes an irreparable hiatus in the complex equilibrium of the social metabolism made up of the natural laws of life: there follows a wastage of the soil, a wastage that commerce transfers far beyond the frontiers of the country considered. Large-scale industry and agriculture, industrially exploited, acts in the same sense”.[11] That is why, despite all its scientific and technological advances, even when they are supposed to stand up against the ecological crisis, capitalism can only feed this crisis, spread it and aggravate it still more. In its devastating nature, in its threat to “the natural eternal condition of the life of humanity” Marx could already see that capitalism compromised the future of subsequent generations and, potentially, put the future of humanity in peril.[12]

If Marx and the workers’ movement of his time could only imagine the effects of the death throes of capitalism on humanity, their foresight has been amply confirmed after more than a century of the decadence of capitalism. During the course of this time, the accumulation of capital has become even more destructive, “the relentless destruction of the environment by capital (has taken on) another dimension and another quality (...); it is the epoch within which all the capitalist nations are obliged to compete on a saturated world market; consequently an epoch of a permanent war economy, with the disproportionate growth of heavy industry; an epoch characterised by irrationality, a pointless duplication of industrial complexes in each national unit (...) the rise of the megapolis (...) the development of types of agriculture no less damaging ecologically than the majority of different types of industry”.[13]

“The Great Acceleration” (as some elements describe the breadth and speed of ecological devastation these last decades) in reality forms one of the manifestations of the historic crisis of the capitalist mode of production in its period of decadence, which is now driven to paroxysms in its ultimate phase, that of decomposition. The ecological consequence of capitalist decomposition (of which the Covid-19 pandemic is a pure product) mixes and combines with all other phenomena of the dislocation of capitalist society, plunging humanity into growing chaos and barbarity. The exhaustion of resources and the consequences of global heating seriously disrupts and disorganises agricultural and industrial production, generating population displacements from unproductive and uninhabitable zones and exacerbating military rivalries in a world where each state searches to save itself faced with the catastrophe, posing a mortal danger for the survival of humanity.

It is thus the abolition of capitalism itself, of the social relations of capitalist exploitation, that alone holds the resolution of the ecological crisis. It goes hand-in-hand with the resolution of the social question and depends on the latter in order to establish a society of freely-associated producers (communism) which will have to “systematically establish (the metabolism between man and the earth) in regulatory law of social production”[14], in order to place the satisfaction of human needs at the centre of its mode of production. This communist society can only be implemented by the proletariat, the sole force able to develop a consciousness and a practice able to “revolutionise the existing world”, to “practically transform the existing state of affairs”.[15] It alone, through its fight for communism, can assure a future for humanity!

Scott, 25th October, 2021


[1] Unless mentioned, all the quotes in the text are taken from Marie-Monique Robin’s book.

[2] “Critique of Lenin as a Philosopher by Pannekoek”, International Review no. 27 (4th quarter, 1981).

[3]Even drastic security conditions cannot prevent accidents. More than 700 incidents of theft, loss or the escape of infectious agents and toxins happened in the United States between 2004 and 2010 and that also includes the anthrax bacilli and that of Avian Flu. A dozen of these resulted in infections.” S. Morand, Le prochaine peste, 2016.

[4] The world in 2035 seen by the CIA (2017)

[5] With chilling cynicism, the CIA report raises a lid on the reason for the congenital incapacity of capitalism to protect humanity from the plagues that overwhelm it: “Mobilising politicians and resources in order to take preventative measures is very difficult without a dramatic crisis forcing a re-think of priorities. Even after a crisis, the will to avoid any repetition is often outweighed by the amount of investment needed for climate research and the prevention of catastrophes” (The world in 2035 seen by the CIA). It couldn’t be clearer! The same agency moreover confirms that the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced still more the capacities for capitalism to respond to the health and ecological crises and we shouldn’t have any illusions of things getting better soon: “The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the weaknesses and political fractures of the international institutions (...) and calls into question the capacity and the will of countries to co-operate multilaterally in order to take on the common challenge beyond infectious diseases, notably climate change” (The world in 2040 seen by the CIA). Its “impact will be felt in a disproportionate manner in the developing world and the poorest regions and will add to the degradation of the environment, creating new vulnerabilities and exacerbating existing risks concerning economic prosperity, food, water, health and energy security. Governments, business and the private sector will probably adopt some measures of adaption and resilience to face up to existing threats but these measures are unlikely to be evenly distributed, leaving some populations behind” (Idem). That’s an understatement!

[6] Karl Marx, 1844 Manuscripts

[7] Karl Marx, 1857-1858 Manuscripts, Grundrisse

[8] Marx, Engels, Socialist Programmes, Critique of the Gotha Programme

[9] Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I. Just on the question of agriculture, the predictions of Marx have been amply confirmed: “More than a third of soil (95% of food resources) is already degraded and this part will probably increase with the growth of the world’s population. The degradation of the soil (the loss of soil productivity due to changes caused by man) is already on course for a rate 40 times superior to that of the Reformation” (The world in 2035 seen by the CIA).

[10] Idem

[11] Karl Marx, Capital, Book III.

[12] “The fact is, that for the growth of various products of the soil depends on the fluctuations of the market which entails a perpetual change of these cultures, the very essence of capitalism, axed around the most immediate profit, are in contradiction with an agriculture that must undertake its production taking into account all of the permanent conditions of existence of human generations to come” Karl Marx, Capital, Book III.

[13] “Ecology: it’s capitalism which is polluting the Earth” International Review no. 63 (4th quarter, 1990)

[14] Marx, Capital, Book I, ‘The development of capitalist production, section IV, production of relative surplus-value’, Chapter XV.

[15] Marx, The German Ideology


On the book La Fabrique des pandémies