Ebola: capitalism in decay spreads new epidemics

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Ebola: capitalism in decay spreads new epidemics
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Ebola: capitalism in decay spreads new epidemics. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!


I welcome this position on the Ebola crisis and the deeper framework of capitalist decay and decomposition. Within the "fragmentation and chaos" developing in Africa, in West Africa particularly, capitalist economic activity has shrunk further worsening the crisis and underlining the aspect of decomposition even from capitalism's own point of view. And while borders are definitely breaking down this deadly disease, and others possible, have no respect for capitalist frontiers. I think that the role of the major imperialist powers here, including Britain, France and the US, in the local "civil wars" has contributed to this decay. There are reports today (Channel 4 News) that the number of cases in Sierra Leone to take just one area, have been seriously underestimated. As the article says malaria will increase as a result of the scarce resources been given over to fighting Ebola. It's already begun too as well as outbreaks of other new diseases such as measles among children.

"The Ebola virus has all the

"The Ebola virus has all the potential to become a disaster on a scale never seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920, nearly one hundred years ago."

Well, I guess this answers my question from the other thread.

"what's our take?"

I don't think that it does answer the question which was "what's our take?" (on Ebola) and I think that the article does well in giving our position. The predictive nature of the alarmist sentence that you quote above was unecessary in my opinion but the rest and main part of the position stands I think.

Why do you suppose such an

Why do you suppose such an alarmist statement made it into the article, Baboon? Did comrades not catch it on editing?


I agree with baboon that the statement in the offending article is needlessly predictive, although it still makes a very good statement of our general position. If it had said something like…

“In the current phase of capitalism’s decomposition, diseases such as Ebola have all the potential to become a disaster on a scale never seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920, nearly one hundred years ago."

…I for one would have no problem with it.

Given the foundation of our position on capitalist decomposition is that, as with previous class societies, the decadence of capitalism could in the end result in ‘the mutual ruin of the contending classes’ (Marx), surely the danger of exaggerating any particular threat is a secondary one?

This does not make us ‘catastrophists’; we don’t say this result is inevitable, just as we don’t say that the economic crisis will inevitably lead to the collapse of capitalism.

As far as I can see this is precisely the accusation that leftist critics of environmental ‘catastrophism’ try to make. But their critique goes hand in hand with the essentially reformist argument that capitalism could use its dynamism and innovativeness to escape ecological catastrophe. At the very least this understates the depth of capitalism’s crisis and its basic inability to overcome its contradictions. (I found this article useful in understanding some of the issues).

So if anyone does actually accuse us of ‘catastrophism’ I don’t think we should have any real problem in refuting the charge. However we do need to be precise in our language.

Agree with that. One of the

Agree with that. One of the points of the article is to suggest the "what could be" against the "what is" and I think that is illustrated in a medical development revealed this week that, if validated. can rightly be described as "miraculous". A British/Polish medical team working on a fireman who had been paralysed from the waist down after a knife attack has enabled him to walk again. This is the first time that someone with a complete spinal severance has had the condition reversed. The sense of smell is the oldest of the human senses and nasal nerve cells are very good at repairing themselves if damaged thus restoring the sense of smell. The medical team was able to isolate the "restoration" power of the nasal cells, transfer them to the spine where the repair factor worked, the spinal nerves re-grew and the severed spine was bridged. This team have been working almost for nothing on a budget of peanuts. This, and much wider research into the properties of stem cells could be of enormous benefit to mankind and this has been so for many years.

Red Hughs
While the Ebola epidemic is

While the Ebola epidemic is still a worry, recent information seems to indicate it is slowly declining.

Indications are that, at least in Liberia, the population is starting to take the precautions seriously and so avoid spreading the disease. The US experience seems to corroborate what experts have said - Ebola is not a very contaigeous disease - it only spreads once a person reaches the stage of very ill (which is indeed horrible and messy with the disease).

This also suggests the level of decomposition that allowed the situation to get out of hand in the first place.

And the situation of general decomposition certainly still seems pretty plausible. I think cholera reappeared in Greece is year or two ago.

The thing about the situation is that it seems like the present order seems to be moving towards composition "in good order" - not aiming to stop it so much as dealing with whatever problems occur as they occur.

Don't what more to say besides that.






not newsworthy?

Hi Red, good to have you back on this forum. It's certainly true that Ebola is no longer headline news, and you are right about the short term 'solutions' the system comes up with in this period. But I think they are still some way from having dealt with this one....

Ebola is still a top news

Ebola is still a top news story in the states. Its a great opportunity for the right wing to preach doom and destruction right around the corner and scream that Obama isn't doing anything about it. Republican Governors like Chris "Bridgegate" Christie and Paul "Wingnut" LePage can grandstand about locking up nurses returning from the hot zone in quarantine tents to keep the public safe, while Obama twiddles his thumbs in the wind.

There was a very good File on

There was a very good File on 4 radio programe about the Ebola outbreak and the series of "errors" by the WHO and other international bodies. From the beginning the WHO has tried to play down the potential of the outbreak. Part of the reason for this was that the WHO has had to make massive cuts in the disease prevention services it runs in West Africa because they have had their funding cut.

What was most interesting about this programe was the interveiw with a tropical disease specialist, who has work in West Africa since the outbreak. He made it clear that the best treatment for Ebola was plenty of fuilds, approx 4 Litres a day . This much fuild, when the patient has diarrhoea and vomitting would need intravenous access and a very large supply of IV fluids (which must amounts to 10s of thousands of litre bags of fluid a day for the areas involved). A level of demand for such a basic product that would stretch the most effective health service.He was rather dismissive of all the talk of new drugs etc.

As for prevention he made clear that this is pretty simple: clean water and soap, and a bucket for bodily waste. Basically this disease, its spread and its mortality rates are due to the terrible levels of poverty

The spread of this disease in the West  would poses many questions. The basic preventive measures, clean sanitation are in place but so are well developed transport system etc. But it is not a disease that is that easy to spread. The problem would be the hysteria that would develop. The media is already whipping up the most stupid hysteria and if there was a serious outbreak the health services could be overwhelmed by the  worried well, let alone by Ebola cases. The real difficult would be that health services are being run permanently on the very edge of overcapacity, so any extra demand will pushes services easily into a critical state.

There is clearly a strong aspect of terrrifying the population around Ebola, but also a real fear in the ruling class, that if there were outbreaks in the West the health services would be placed under massive strain. The preparedness of the advanced countries has already been shown to be pretty ropey. In the US, sending away a potential Ebola case from an ED departement with anti-biotics, staff having to use level of protective clothing below the level of security of that used in West Africa (and this was not just in Taxas), and now the insane hysteria about nurses coming back from West Africa.

What would happen if there was an outbreak in New York State if nurses had to be isolated for 3 weeks, would they not be able to leave the hospital between shifts? If that was the case how many would turn up for work? They western media had been tut tuting some of the hysterical responses in West Africa, isolating those who had survived etc but now even before there has been an outbreak insane counter-productive responses have been seen in some of the most "sophisticated" states in the US. They may not being killed as some health workers have in some isolated instances in West Africa, but the hysterical scapegoating atmosphere being whipped up by state govenors could easily spill over into physical attacks.

It is a real sign of the depth of decomposition that those health workers who have volunteered to go to West Africa to help, are vilified by parts of the ruling class.


It seems that if an Ebola

It seems that if an Ebola infection is diagnosed early enough and appropriate care is given, otherwise healthy people stand a pretty decent chance of surviving it. What's intersting to me is that there appears to be an evolutionary link between the virulence of particular viruses and their transmissibility. Supposedly, viruses that kill their hosts too quickly are at a competitive disadvantage, because this limits its ability to reproduce and spread. This is why most previous Ebola outbreaks have tended to burn themselves out--the virus killed its hosts in isolated rural areas before it could spread to urban areas. Overtime, killer viruses should mutate to less dangerous forms. However, there also appears to be a relationship between this tendency to attentuate virulence and social conditions. When people are living in difficult social conditions, where santitation and basic healthcare are unavailable (the trenches of WWI for H1N1--parts of West Africa today for Ebola), the virus no longer faces the same competitive pressure to attentuate its virulence. it can kill quickly and still find new hosts to infect. Supposedly, when a new pandemic breaks out, virologists pay close attention when it hits areas of social upheaval, as this is when there is actually a danger of the reverse process of an otherwise mild virus assuming a virulent form.

The Ebola virus sounds just

The Ebola virus sounds just like the bourgeoisie. It doesn't want to kill people too quickly if it can live off them.    But sometimes it loses control, runs amok, killing all and sundry. 

If only soap and water would dispose of our rulers though! I'd wash more often.

Good One

Fred wrote:

The Ebola virus sounds just like the bourgeoisie. It doesn't want to kill people too quickly if it can live off them.    But sometimes it loses control, runs amok, killing all and sundry. 

If only soap and water would dispose of our rulers though! I'd wash more often.


Great analogy, Fred.

Northen California

There is a two-day strike of some 20,000 nurses in Northern California affecting around 60 hospitals and clinics in the region going on at present. It looks like that there will be more health workers' strikes against the lack of training and protective equipment across the US. Called by the unions the strikes nevertheless reflect the anger of health workers particulalry the way that some of them have been villified and demonised by the state.

Channel 4 News and its reporter Alex Thomson has been courageous in reporting the continuing and deepening problems in Sierra Leone against the BBC/British military propaganda of the great British army coming to the rescue - after plunging the country further into decomposition and disaster, the latter not being mentioned of course. Thomson's reporting shows that in towns and villages just a few miles from the capital Freetown, dead and dying Ebola sufferers are being left lying around with no-one responding to the desperate phone calls of people.

More strikes

Over 400 workers, nurses, cleaners and porters, have gone on strike at the Ebola treatment centre in Bandajuma, southern Sierra Leone. The 60-bed centre comprises one fifth of the total beds in the whole country. The workers, protesting en masse outside the centre, are striking over promised and unpaid wages from the government and MSF, who run the centre, say that it will have to close soon.

The British military response in Sierra Leone started in May 2000, though British forces were active in the war in the former colony for some time before that. The official action under the Tony Blair government made him a media poster-boy for his "humanitarian" action. The man himself didn't deny on Channel 4 News last night that he was getting "consultancy" payments from different elements in the country.