"The British government's 'Herd Immunity' policy is not science but the abandonment of the most sick and vulnerable"

51 posts / 0 new
Last post
jk1921
"The British government's 'Herd Immunity' policy is not science but the abandonment of the most sick and vulnerable"
Printer-friendly version

Maybe, I'll be slammed for this, but I am not quite sure what the point of outrage is here. "Herd immunity," is itself not a strategy and not a policy; it is a scientific description of a certain state in the relationship between humanity and infectious pathogens, in which there is enough acquired immunity (through infection and recovery or through vaccination or some combination thereof) so that the pathogen no longer spreads in exponential fashion. This is the desirable, and some would say inevitable, end point of a pandemic. The question is how do societies get there.

Perhaps this is the point of contetion with the British policy as it was first announced, i.e. there was no point in doing much to mitigate the spread of the virus, because the quicker we get it over with the better. Perhaps, the initial formulation of this by the British government was rather crass and callous--but how much did it actually differ from the plan put forward anywhere else? Sweden's notoriously lax "social distancing" measures relied on the same underlying scientific/medical assumptions, as did the Dutch plan. Even in places that instituted strict lockdowns, it was more or less openly acknowledeged that this had little to do with protecting the old and vulnerable from getting the virus, it was about preventing a generalized collapse of the medical system under the pressures of the pandemic, by "flattening the curve," etc. In other words, prolonging the pandemic. In any event, the UK eventually backed off the "no mitigation" approach and instituted a rather strict lock down, but it has done little to stop the massacre of the old and vulnerable in the care homes. Such has been the fate of such insitutions of social neglect just about everywhere.

Its not clear then what is supposed to oppose the pursuit of "herd immunity," as a matter of policy? Lockdows that immobilize the world until a vaccine is found (if it even ever is). All across the world, governments are realizing that this is itself impractical and possibly worse than the disease in terms of any number of social metrics of misery, death, disability and turmoil. Soon, just about everywhere will be instituting a version of the Swedish model, crossing their fingers that hoping there isn't a second wave worse than the first. But its not clear that there is any alternative. As many experts have expressed, the virus can't be stopped. It has its own logic; its own gravity and it will just keep going until some figure over half of humanity has acquired immunity through whatever means. Lock-downs, social distancing and mitgation only delay the inevitable, while creating all kinds of collateral damage in their wake. As one commentator put it, its not about balancing the economy against lives, its about balancing lives against lives.Preventi

Perhaps, this is where the moral outrage originates? The idea that the human species would ever be put in a position of having to choose who lives and who dies in the face of some terrible, horrific threat emanating from nature that even in our most Promethean moments we will never be able to fully control? As Marxists, its all too easy to try to make this an issue of class morality as in "all bourgeois are bastards!" Yes, it is true that in a communist society, it may be possible to better control nature to the point where such devastating pandemics are lessened in frequency or attenuated in intensity, but it is far from clear that they can ever be completely eliminated. How would the ethical and moral calculus be much different under communism?

Unless, we are willing to contemplate that communiusm would mean the elimination of human mortality, there would still need to be some kind of social triage faced with these natural threats. Essential production would need to continue, as it does today, therefore putting some people at more risk than others. Could communist society just afford to wait out a pandemic until a vaccine is developed? Could communist society do it more quickly? (Although, part of the issue today with Covid-19 is that a vaccine may be rushed and therefore unsafe). In the end, there is a part of this tragedy it seems somewhat disinegenous to blame the bourgeoisie for. They happen to be in charge today, so it is very convienent, but old people will die under communism too and most of them will die sooner than most young people. In general, the older you are, the more susceptible you are to viruses, disease and yes death. This is part of the human condition, unless we want to start to explore the limits of mortality, which would push the boundary towards mysticism.

I am afraid the lesson of this outbreak may be less about the bourgeoisie's moral perfidy (as evident as it is) and more about what a bastard nature can be.

Link
I agree with a lot that you

I agree with a lot that you are saying here jk.  I do not see there is a correct strategy to deal with pandemic as each are different and it takes time for scientists to work things out so i agree hyperbole against the dastardly ruling class is not always correct.  Communism will still however have the main basic conditions ie large towns and easily accessible transport systems which enable the spreading of viruses. What i do think is important though is that a communist society as we foresee it, would have a much better capacity to respond quickly and appropriately because it wont have the concerns about costs and economic breakdown getting in the way of provided the best possible help for humanity.  We could also foresee much better health systems worldwide but im not convinced that even then planning and stockpiling of protection gear could prepare fully for any new pandemic because by its nature it would be a new virus with its own specific behaviours.

baboon
There's concern above about

There's concern above about the tone of the article, its pointless "outrage" regarding "a dastardly ruling class" whom it is "disingenuous to blame" with a "moral outrage" along the lines of "all bourgeois are bastards" when they just using their "science" because "they happen to be in charge today". To be clear, none of these phrases were used in the article but a similar tone to the article above regarding the denunciation of the bourgeoisie over the spread of the virus and its criminal negligence was expressed quite categorically in the French piece put on the ICC's English website over a month ago. Articles from Spain, Italy, South America, etc., on the website have expressed similar "tones" of outrage and denunciations of the murderous approach of the bourgeoisie to the pandemic so I would defend the "tone" of this article as in continuity with the expressed positions of the ICC. But "tone" is not the real disagreement.

This is not an issue over tone, anger, outrage - although that's a part of it because the question is posed that the working class has no right to be angry about the bourgeoisie's negligence, indifference and lack of preparation; no right to be outraged by the sacrifices of proletarian lives hoisted on it by the capitalist state. In essence it's the old  position is that the ruling class are doing what they can in very difficult circumstances and that, in the final analysis, this wouldn't be very much different in a society that had undergone, struggles, insurrections, a revolution, a period of transition and a flowering into a classless, communist society. There's an underestimation of both the organisation and consciousness of the bourgeoisie today and the consequences and differences that this has with the struggle of the working class and the potentials of a communist society.

The British government's herd immunity in four months, as enunciated by its Chief Scientific Adviser, is not one aspect of science against another but an ideology, a political strategy/policy. It is unrecognisable as "science" from a range of eminent scientists working in associated scientific fields. It's not guesswork but a policy that's designed to be implemented. They can say it is science, they can say that they are following the science, but it's not compulsory to believe them. It's a political policy/strategy aiming to defend capitalism as best it can while dumping its worst effects onto the working class, the poor, the vulnerable and the sick.

Although the British government arrogantly and brazenly announced its policy to send the weak to the wall ("herd immunity in four months") all the other major powers (with the exception of China and South Korea) had their own herd immunity policy - it's the only one available in the absence of a vaccine. Thus, while there were some secondary differences within the responses of Spain, France, Italy, the USA, Sweden, Russia, Canada and so on (taking into account the authoritarian "deniers"), the conditions and responses were essentially very similar. Germany came out slightly better because of its fairly prompt reaction and the superiority of its health care system but even here some German scientists are saying the death figures are higher by a factor of 10 and the disproportionate amount of deaths among the working class, the poor and immigrants have already been mentioned.

Pound for pound, dollar for dollar and dose for dose, one of the poorest countries in Europe, Greece, has so far come out "best" in the obscene "league tables" because it acted immediately the WHO sounded the alarm by beefing up its health system, getting protective gear and enforcing immediate isolation and distancing. As well as that it immediately (January, I think) closed schools and universities, put effective controls into ports and airports (Britain had none for months) and set up an infectious disease committee. The latter was as effective as it was unlike the scientific stooges set up by the British government to announce the state's strategy/policy while hiding behind "the science". Of course, nothing is sorted and the virus continues along its way and all the bourgeoisie's figures at the moment, while they might show trends, are unreliable.

It's not the "human species" or the "human condition" that is deciding who lives or dies here but the same capitalist states and their system which has generated the pandemic in the first place. And the British herd immunity policy is becoming very clear: "Protect the NHS", clear out the bed-blockers  and farm them out to care homes often with no prior notice, the "organisation" being in their removal from hospitals and their transportation by ambulance to care homes where they could offloaded, live or die and spread the disease. That's the British state's herd immunity and the horrific wave of deaths in care homes in some of the wealthiest capitals of the world suggests this policy, in one form or another, was widespread.

There's little clarity in the posts above regarding the policy/strategy of the British state seeing it as one scientific element as opposed to any other - a sort of debate among a ruling class that's trying to do the best it can. On March 17 and April 2, when official advice was that the threat to Britain was "moderate", two British government policy documents set out blueprints for care homes to have to accept patients from hospitals with Covid-19 and those not tested for Covid or even assessed. The government objective is clearly laid out in these documents: clear 15,000 hospital beds. The policy needed organisation and implementation on the ground, i.e., it had to be physically put into place. To this end "Operation Stiff Broom" (still steeped in mystery) was effected and NHS workers were told to clear hospital beds - imagine the trauma of the workers and their elderly, sick and confused patients - and transport, ambulances, were organised to take them into care homes. Here the organisation ended; some care homes, full up and hardly coping, were not told of the arrival of their new "guests" and some turned them away. But organisation at this end wasn't needed because the "problem" had been removed from the NHS and onto the care homes where the virus would definitely spread.

 This "collection" of sick people and their transportation by the state from places of safety to places of serious danger are not the train lines leading to Auschwitz but it bears a similar mark and gives off a similar putrid stench. That's British herd immunity.

There are elements above that suggest that there's no difference between the moral and ethical compass of capitalism and communism. As this crisis has shown, along with the whole history of capitalism, the policy of the ruling class as managers of capitalism is for the weak to go to the wall and this is reinforced by its eugenics-based "science "such as we've seen and are seeing. For communists, now not in the future, their moral stand is for the defence of the weak and vulnerable against the attacks of capitalism and this indignation and outrage will form part of its revolutionary struggle. Incidentally, it's worth remembering that in its assault on the capitalist state and the class war hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of workers will die.

People will get sick, have accidents and old people will certainly age and die under communism but as far as pandemics are concerned general health and living conditions will be totally different and the barbaric conditions of capitalism will be eliminated and present dangers minimised. The old "mysticism" trope is also dredged up above in order to show that people will also live and die under communism; communism is thus associated with a mystical expression.

This pandemic is not an abstract "tragedy" that the bourgeoisie "happen to be in charge of" but a product of capitalism and it is being played out by capitalist states in the best interests of the system. And those ruthless interests are underlined by its continual abuse of nature; nature is most definitely not the "bastard" in this case as is suggested above but a system and a ruling class that is culpable at every level.

The question isn't what does communists pose against herd immunity or the variants on that policy/strategy of the bourgeoisie.  We could take on the lessons of this outbreak and the actions of the ruling class and learn from them for future struggles. Not less the wave of unemployment and the raft of attacks that are coming down the line.

jk1921
The point is someone like

The point is someone like Tagore could have easily written an article about how irrational and unscientific the lockdowns are; how they do more harm than good and are in esscense an "abandonment" of a certain class of people. In fact, he kind of already has in the comments of the other thread. It could then be argued that a managed pursuit of "herd immunity" is the only rational and socially responsible way out of this pandemic. Countries that lockdown everyone in order to protect the most vulnerable, only put off the inevitable spread of the virus anyway (either through the inevitable lifting of the lockdown at some point, because it is untenable on a number of levels, or because the virus spreads inspite of it). Lock downs seem to have done little to stop the spread of the virus in the care homes, just about everywhere. Some have argued that the countries that have done the best during this pandemic are those that have allowed for a managed spread of the virus (Sweden, Netherlands). Other countries that have locked down have only delayed herd immunity, while terrorizing and antagonizing their populations, such that they will get hit much harder in any second wave. Whether or not this true, I can't say, but it is in the end a question of bourgeois management in tension with uncertain science and there is no outside of these dilemnas.

What I am concerned about is a tendency to get caught up in a fruitless distraction about whether some bourgeois policies are more amoral or less rational than others. Lockdowns are somehow better (either in morality or their rationality) than promoting the achievement of herd immunity. There is no way around this pandemic except through it at this point. People, many people, will die, the question that is to be managed is who will die, will the hospitals be overurn and how quickly can we get to the other side of it. Obviously, that is a very distasteful proposition, but it is nonetheless real. I am not sure what moral posturing gets us.

If it is about trying to decipher which bourgeois policies are more rational given the interests of the national capital then that is a somewhat different question, but again it doesn't have a straightforward answer. Germany decided to shut down its factories, ostensibly to shield the working class from the virus, not out of some moral obligation to its citizens, but in order to have a more ordered restart of the economy on the other sidfe of the "peak" (with the cooperation of the trade unions). It looks like the US bourgeoisie will soon adopt a different approach and tell everyone to go back to work: yes, many will get the virus, some will die, but some will die anyway from any myriad of different things. Perhaps they figure it is better to get it over with as quickly as possible? Which one of these is more rational from the point of view of the national capital, I can't say. Perhaps it is a question of the differing status of industrial relations in the different countries, but Professor Osterholm, epidiemiologist from the Univerity of Minnesota has basically said that any notion that the virus can be defeated is a fantasy. It will spread and spread until herd immunity is achieved one way or another, regardless of what policies are implemented.  It has its own natural logic that doesn't care what class is in charge of society at any given moment.

The question for Marxists is how could this threat from the natural world play out differently under communism? If we can't answer that within the bounds of current science without resort to Promethean, utopian overreach and hyperbole what do we have to offer that isn't ultimately constrained by the same moral dilemnas facing bourgeois society right now?

 

baboon
Jk, I don't understand what

Jk, I don't understand what you are talking about. Britain's herd immunity policy had nothing to do with lockdowns and lockdowns, which have been implemented all over the world to various degrees (except some right-wing authoritarian regimes), including Sweden, have nothing to do with the abandonment of the vulneratble into care homes. I think that your search for rationality among the bourgeoisie might go on for some time.

jk1921
Link wrote:

Link wrote:

I agree with a lot that you are saying here jk.  I do not see there is a correct strategy to deal with pandemic as each are different and it takes time for scientists to work things out so i agree hyperbole against the dastardly ruling class is not always correct.  Communism will still however have the main basic conditions ie large towns and easily accessible transport systems which enable the spreading of viruses. What i do think is important though is that a communist society as we foresee it, would have a much better capacity to respond quickly and appropriately because it wont have the concerns about costs and economic breakdown getting in the way of provided the best possible help for humanity.  We could also foresee much better health systems worldwide but im not convinced that even then planning and stockpiling of protection gear could prepare fully for any new pandemic because by its nature it would be a new virus with its own specific behaviours.

Right Link, its not clear how communist society could plan for the excess capacity to deal with such an extraordinary threat from the natural world. How would you know how many ventilators would need to be kept idle? Then, there is the problem of not knowing what you don't know. Does that just go away when the bourgeoisie is no longer in charfe? Its more than PPE though, the doctors and scientists are telling us today that they have never quite seen a virus do what Corona does. They have basically been running trials on whoever shows up in the emergency room, sometimes with disastarous results: ventilators set too high, etc. Do these problems just go away, because we have vanquished the dastardly bourgeoisie?

Of course capitalism makes it all worse, but unless we are going to resort to forms of magical thinking, I don't think it is appropriate to assume that the kinds of moral dilemnas playing out today will just go away when the ruling class is expropriated. Perhaps under communism, it is a question of limiting the extent of the damage and of mitigating the suffering. That is no small thing, but it also means that we can't have the kind of moral absolutism that puts it all down to the bastards in charge today. Suffering is suffering, and there may be a certain human tendency to amplify it, just when it starts to recede.

Sweden's chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, recently remarked that he had no idea if "herd immunity" would work, but that if it didn't we were pretty much screwed, because then a vaccine wouldn't work either. So, was Sweden's strategey a result of a cruel experiment by a sick ruling class or a recognition of humanity's tenuous and fragile relationship with the natural world? Is Tegnell a shameful hack shilling for the politicians or is it more the case that the science is frighteningly uncertain here and nobody really knows what is going to work? Everything is an experiment at this point.

 

Link
JK, i agree with the

JK, i agree with the questions you raise in the first paragraph, these problems do not just go away.  I also agree that moral dilemnas would still exist and i would think that communism would still have some sort of cost accounting even if there wasnt any money so i think costs considerations would well come into projects being undertaken etc.  In terms of a response to the likes of this pandemic, i am sure though that the 'dilemna that is playing out today' would not exist because what i see is the health of humanity coming up against considerations of  money ie of maintaining the economic the structure, preserving wealth and protecting financial assets and of destitution for workers and the poor from lack of jobs.   In  a society not based on money this just wouldnt get in the way of finding the best response and it wouldn't restrict and slow down the conversion of pre-existing manufacturing resources etc to produce health care equipment.  I think i am making sensible generalities here and not going to far to bring me into the realm of the magical thinking you criticise. 

In the last couple of  years in the UK, ICC and the CWO did a series of meetings about the Russian Rev and the German Rev and their lessons which were really interesting and instructive.  Neither of them wanted to follow up with my suggestion of something on the 'Period of Transition' which i do somewhat regret because i do think there is scope in this period of relative inaction by the class to investigate in more depth just what can be done in that period and under communism eg how the councils could be organised, how the party would function and how to keep it from absorbing power from the councils.  Even suggestions in terms of decisions that councils would have to make may be appropriate to discuss.   I am saying mainly because one of the major lessons from the discussion of Germany was how poorly prepared the revolutionary minorities were for the revolution.

Demogorgon
Agree with the concerns of

Agree with the concerns of Link and especially JK.

As an aside on how capitalism makes things worse, it's interesting to note the warnings issued by authorities denouncing hostile state actors allegedly hacking research into CV19 vaccines: "As we’ve seen with cyber-attacks, whether it’s a hostile nation state or an organised criminal, there’s no real boundaries to the types of data they try to steal, so why would this be any different if the development of a vaccine is a very competitive area? We’re seeing those geopolitical tensions played out in this space." (emphasis mine)

This begs the question as why access to this research would be restricted anyway. You'd think that open, co-operative research on a global scale would be the most rational approach!

But vaccine research, even in the face of a potentially existential crisis, is still subordinated to the general laws of capitalist competition. The power to save lives is just another commodity, the property of those who manage to produce it first and monetise it, as well as being another point of contention in imperialist competition.

MH
the starting point for our position

I tend to agree with baboon here; the starting point for our understanding is: “This pandemic is not an abstract "tragedy" that the bourgeoisie "happen to be in charge of" but a product of capitalism and it is being played out by capitalist states in the best interests of the system.”

I don’t think we have to invoke a sinister Malthusian conspiracy to be outraged at the mixture of cynical self-interest and incompetence with which the bourgeoisie has responded to the pandemic. The virus itself may be a product of nature, albeit a nature transformed over millennia by human interaction, but everything else about the current crisis is shaped and infected by a decaying class society based on exploitation and oppression.

The point about ‘herd immunity’ is not about whether it is ‘scientific’ or not. As baboon says it’s an ideology and it’s all about the way in which it is being interpreted, manipulated and implemented by a ruling class ultimately concerned only with the defence of its system of private property and class domination. As jk describes, despite differences in approach by governments, the effect has been “a massacre of the old and vulnerable in the care homes. Such has been the fate of such institutions of social neglect just about everywhere”.

Given the way that the old and vulnerable are treated in the supposedly advanced capitalist countries, whatever official ‘policy’ was adopted, the effect would surely have been the same. If we take the example vividly described by baboon of operation ‘stiff broom’, to sweep the sick and elderly from hospitals into the ‘care system’, is this a necessary and inevitable ‘clearing of the decks’ to prioritise coronavirus cases in the hospitals? Every single day, hospitals dump ‘bed blockers’ into a so-called ‘system’ which is run for profit, staffed by underpaid and overworked people, supposedly overseen by hollowed-out, austerity-hit state agencies, all because, fundamentally this is driven by a society which sees the old and sick as so many useless mouths, to be fleeced of whatever savings they have and treated all so often as less than fully human. We don’t have to portray the bourgeoisie as bastards for doing this - although they are disgustingly culpable. It’s driven by, and vividly highlights, the priorities of decadent capitalism.

And even if a communist society was unable to eliminate such pandemics – and it would take many generations to take the necessary measures to transform the way that human beings inhabit the planet and relate to nature, as the article on Bordiga and cities describes, the ethical and moral basis of such a society would be fundamentally, almost unimaginably different, into one predicated on the maximal expression of the individual. Faced with a natural threat this principle may be seriously tested, but there would surely be no supposed balancing acts between ‘lives’ and the ‘economy’, with the decisions (of course) made by an exploiting minority.

baboon
I agree with MH particularly

I agree with MH particularly the point about it taking generations to arrive at a communist society where such problems can be openly tackled on a global level within an ethical basis. On the road to that though, clearing up the mess left by capitalism will have to begin immediately and I imagine it will be an enormous task compared to which confronting and limiting the spread of viruses will be relatively easy.

The idea of Jk above that "nature" is the bastard here goes along with the idea that the bourgeoisie is facing "a moral dilemma" or Link's "moral dilemma which is playing out today"; it complements the idea of the virus (and other expressions of capitalism's decay) as a "natural disaster". And the idea, that appeared at the beginning of this discussion and now revived, that the bourgeoisie are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, complements both the other ideological "explanations". Thus "nature" is blamed for producing the virus and the bourgeoisie are understood to be trying to cope with something completely extraordinary which produces a "moral dilemma"within its ranks. And what's more for Jk above, in a communist society (a long time into the future)  the system will still be fighting with nature - rather than unifying with it - and for him it's "magical thinking" (complementing his "mysticism") to imagine that the actions taken by the bourgeoisie today won't be played out in a communist society.

Capitalism is destroying nature: by its very nature it has been engaged in a relentless war against nature since its inception (in line with all previous societies of oppression but at an entirely different level) and Marx, to a significant extent, emphasised this by immersing himself, away from further work on Capital, into what might seem the relatively unimportant condition of the soil and other related "ecological" questions. Marx did this because he saw the destruction of nature as a major threat to humanity.

 

While clearly expressing their rejection of any proletarian indignation or anger over the murderous role and responses of the system and its states to the pandemic which Jk and Link liken to "moral posturing", they put forward a concept of the bourgeoisie's "moral dilemma" which is nothing other than how to get the wheels of exploitation grinding again as efficiently as possible. There's no "moral dilemma" for the bourgeoisie because its actions, while covered up in a guise of "trying to do its best in difficult circumstances" (an idea echoed by Jk), have been the height of cynicism, contempt for the working class and the pursuit of policies which have worsened the consequences of the ravages caused by the virus. The "moral dilemma" is just an anguished cry from the ruling class about its loss of profits and the need to get production going at full pelt again. There's nothing moral about it; neither is it a dilemma.

Jk above, followed by Link, seem to have little time for any expression of proletarian ethics or morality seeing them in continuity with "bourgeois morality" or just non-existent. What's the basis for their so-called "moral dilemma" of the bourgeoisie? No-one could possibly have known that a virus could emeerge, spread and mutate in conditions that were entirely favourable to it. No-one could have possibly known that. It came completely out of the blue this natural phenomenon from a "bastard" nature, no indications, no warnings - total surprise and disbelief. Cut to the bone health services - who could have possibly foreseen that this would have a devastating effect on general health conditions of populations and the specific need to confront the spread of disease. And in these cuts was there another "moral dilemma" for the bourgeoisie? Has the dictatorship of capital been based on its "moral dilemmas?  But there's "no time for recriminations and blame" as the spokespeople for the ruling class are flocking to say today, "we've got to tackle the job in hand" and do the best we can in difficult circumstances..

Elements of the bourgeoisie's "moral dilemma" can be seen in its approach to the virus: "everyman for himself and the devil take the hindmost"; the abandonment to death (quite literally) of the old, the frail and workers looking after them in the wealthiest capitals of the world arising from the deliberate policies of the state; nationalism, xenophobia and imperialism; theft and banditry of protective equipment by states on a world-wide scale;  contempt, criminal negligence and rafts of daily lies and disinformation and the necessity, above all others, of the imperative need for the conditions of a renewed bout of intense exploitation to be resumed. Where's the "moral dilemma" here?

 

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

And even if a communist society was unable to eliminate such pandemics – and it would take many generations to take the necessary measures to transform the way that human beings inhabit the planet and relate to nature, as the article on Bordiga and cities describes, the ethical and moral basis of such a society would be fundamentally, almost unimaginably different, into one predicated on the maximal expression of the individual. Faced with a natural threat this principle may be seriously tested, but there would surely be no supposed balancing acts between ‘lives’ and the ‘economy’, with the decisions (of course) made by an exploiting minority.

Most of what you say here is of course true, but I am afraid it is still stuck in the problematic of "comparitvely fewer deaths, less suffering," as opposed to a transcendence of the moral dilemnas posed by this pandemic. It is still difficult to see how these dilemnas are necessarily class specific to the bourgeoisie given the reality of the human condition, fundamentally conditioned  as it is by a struggle with nature we do not fully understand and perhaps cannot ever really control. In order to denounce the bourgeoisie's moral bankruptcy in the face of these kinds of crisies, we need to have a radically different alternative and I haven't seen one presented here (at least in terms of the conundrum of "herd immunity"). Its as if we are imagining communism as one of the various nation states competing to have the best response to the pandemic, as if it would be like Germany or South Korea, but some degree better.

And I am not entirely sure that there would be no balancing act between lives and the economy under communism. Perhaps if you replaced "economy" with "profit" that statement works, but can communist society afford to cease production and lock everyone inside? If everyone sat in a chair two metres from anyone else for a fortnight, this virus would be finished, but there is a reason that doesn't happen and I am not sure it is all down to a function of bourgeois society. Communism would seem to need its heros too.

The issue of how we care for the old in the sick is paramount to morality across the board. And it is obviously true that the profit motive undergirding long term care in many countries has contributed to the scale of the human disaster unfolding (poorly compensated satff, working at more than one facility spreading the virus, etc.), but I am not sure it is convincing to suggest that we can always protect the most vulnerable from every threat. Even if the homes were entirely locked down, who would care for them? They can't take care of themselves by their very nature. How can you keep a virus away from them? And what would be the measure of a moral policy towards the sicked and aged? No deaths?

KT
Jesus!

I’d like to mobilise my inner Jesus and declare ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’. But I can’t and, to a certain, important extent, they do.

If a communist society has directive social organs which:

  • Conduct research into imminent, inevitable pandemics, and then ignore the implications of their own findings;
  • Lie to the vast majority of the population about the severity of the virus unfolding in front of their eyes;
  • Permit policy to dictated by short-term economic considerations and the maintenance of minority rule,
  • Continue to wage war and tests of (hypersonic) missiles while dealing with a global pandemic;
  • Pit one region of the globe against another in a gangsterish battle for supplies to combat said virus;

Etc, etc … then I’m in the wrong business. But it won’t and I’m not. I’m with Baboon and MH on this one.

baboon
I think that the question of

I think that the question of the "moral dilemma" of the bourgeoisie needs further examination because this appears to be an innovation for marxism. Jk and Link have a different position on it and Demo agrees with them both. What's the basis for this new analysis of the class struggle? Is it a product of decomposition or does it appear in capitalism's decadence; for example the attacks on the working class unleashed wih full-force from the 1980's - is this an example of the "moral dilemma" of the bourgeoisie? The invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya - "moral dilemmas"? World war, the counter-revolution - the bourgeoisie doing its best in a difficult situation, is that an example of it? If it's only related to the question of the Covid-19 virus, then do the massive job cuts just recently announced as "due to the coronavirus" qualify as an example of the bourgeoisie's "moral dilemma".

The image of communism posed by Jk above appears to be capitalism without the contradictions though the contradictions would remain in a society where its "moral dilemmas" continued.

Demogorgon
What is actually in dispute?

KT, none of the things you mention are in dispute. There is a fundamental contradiction between the needs of capitalism and the creation of the social machinery to combat pandemics of this nature. We all agree with that. The question here is the nature of our critique of the bourgeoisie's response to the crisis.

Of course we can criticise, say, the British government's response to the pandemic. But this puts us onto two rather tricky terrains. Firstly, it leads us into comparisons with other national bourgeoisies. Some responses have actually been comparatively effective if we compare death rates for the countries first affected by the pandemic like South Korea and China. (I am, of course, aware that we shouldn't take these statistics at face value, but they are the only data we have at present.) Does this mean that these bourgeoisies "got it right?". Are they somehow less ruthless or morally bankrupt than the British or the US bourgeoisie? Or simply more competent?

The attack on the UK's application of the science also seems superficial. The government were given several different models for how the pandemic would evolve and as data changed, the models predictions changed. It now looks like the models and strategy is changing again - lockdown will probably begin easing in the UK from next week, because scientists are now saying a segment and shield strategy is the way forward. If this looks strangely familiar, it's probably because that was more or less what the original strategy was!

It's too simplistic to blame Johson, or Trump, or any other government when the science (and the presentation of the science to the government) was far more nuanced than is commonly given credit for. An interesting account is given here. Another more nuanced account of the "herd immunity" strategy - which was never a strategy at all - is here.

The general impression I get from many of the interventions here is that somehow the bourgeoisie could stop the virus and save more (everyone?) but they choose not to do it. It's posed as some sort of moral choice which thus poses the possibility that, if only we could get them to choose differently, then things would be better. But this is completely at odds with a marxist understanding of capitalism. Do we think the bourgeoisie chooses to be imperialist? Or is imperialism a systemic condition imposed on the bourgeoisie by the decadence of the capitalist system? Does the bourgeoisie choose to have economic crises or trigger them through bad policy? Or are economic crises a product of a system beyond their knowledge and control? Does the bourgeoisie choose to impose poverty because its cruel? Or because poverty is the natural, inevitable, unavoidable essence of capitalism? Or take the unions? Do union struggles lead to defeat because of "bad leaders" who are either corrupt or incompetent? Or is it because of the inherent limitations of union struggles in decadent capitalism.

I'm not suggesting for one moment, that the bourgeoisie cannot be deliberately militarist, or incompetent, or cruel, etc. Of course they can be and often are! But, with the possible exception of incompetence, these are products of a system that requires such behaviour in order to keep functioning. Moreover, even if the bourgeoisie wanted to be nicer to us, it really cannot because of the limits of its own system. Criticising the bourgeoisie for its moral perfidy is, in my view, putting the cart before the horse.

A secondary problem with this sort of critique at this level opens up a perfectly reasonable question of what do you actually expect the bourgeoisie to do in the circumstances that they are in? Leaving aside how we got to this point of moribund health services, it would be impossible to beef them up to an adequate level to meet the crisis. This isn't just a question of money or profit but the practical difficulties of a massive uptick in production of particular items: PPE, ventillators, etc. not to mention the question of training.

The lack of preparedness of health systems is a reasonable critique, of course - but then we are back to the question of whether this is a consequence of policy choices or the necessary actions the bourgeoisie has had to take to preserve its system over the last 40 years? And by what measure do we assess adequate preparation? This is the question that I think JK has posed - how much resource should any society put into, say, producing ventillators to prepare for a crisis that might never happen? Unless you think communism means unlimited resources, there will still be choices like this to be made. How many thousands or millions of ventillators will a world workers council be ordering just in case, do you think? If they get it wrong, does it mean they are deliberately leaving people to die?

Outrage and anger over the pandemic is already pretty widespread in society and we'll have no shortage of it when bourgeoisie political life begins to return to something approaching normal. There's already been plenty of media coverage on the various inadequacies of the government response, Keir Starmer was the very picture of withering disgust in PMQs, and there'll be plenty more to come. [Edit: I meant to add here that I think the role of communist minorities is not to tail end this but to get to the core of why capitalism has made the situation worse]

Briefly, on nature, I think it's a tricky argument to blame the virus itself on capitalism specifically. Most of the arguments I see on this line - and again, you can find plenty of them in the bourgeois media - suggest that our encroachments on nature are to blame by bringing us into closer contact with animals we previously had no contact with. This is true as far as it goes but the irony is that in developed capitalist countries we are far more removed and separated from nature and animal contact than pre-capitalist agrarian societies!

The existence of mega-cities is, of course, a recent phenomenon if one made both possible and necessary by the development of certain forces of production. But their absence didn't prevent the Black Death wiping out between 30% - 60% of Europe's population any more than the predominantly agrarian lifestyle did.

There is much more to be said about the relationship of communist society with "nature", a question that even in its posing is predicated on an assumed separation between humanity and nature which is questionable at all sorts of levels. "Nature" in communist society will be no less transformed by humanity than it currently is, if anything even more so, I would have thought. One can hope that the nature of the transformation will be a little less counterproductive but make no mistake it will still be orientated around human need as far as natural science allows.

Demogorgon
What moral dilemmas?

My post crossed with baboon's but I think it answers his question, albeit obliquely.

Link
Jesus wept indeed!!!

Im glad i saw Demogorgon last response before looking back at the rest.  As well as giving an example of how discussions should be conducted it also helped me bear in mind that KT and Baboon don't actually represent the ICC.  Indeed, i dont think these type of interjections are at all supportive of the ICC.

I know i am liable to post contributions critical of the ICC and Baboon is heavily depended upon to maintain the forum here but he does seem to be more frequently jumping aggressively at any sign of an opinion contrary to his own and as for KT's rant from another planet, absurd.

If you disagree with what JK or I said, explain that.

Save the rants for the time, hopefully soon, when you can get up on a soapbox and have somebody listen to you.

 

KT
Response to Demogorgon

First, thanks for the response to my post. I’m glad you didn’t interpret it as a rant and agree that the points I raised aren’t in dispute. Despite your efforts and those of other posters, I remain unconvinced that the ICC’s approach thus far (and Baboon’s article is, as he says, very much in line with others produced by different ICC sections) puts us on “tricky terrains”. Some points without developing them at this time;

There’s nothing wrong with your acknowledgement that “some responses have actually been comparatively effective” compared to others. We shouldn’t be afraid to recognise that there is a procedure, a method, for dealing with this situation, even if it’s by no means perfect and certain elements are novel. The question remains: why did so very many modern industrial nations fail to follow it? Why are their ‘health’ services in such a mess? This is not the first pandemic experienced by capitalist society. Why were the lessons learned ignored or worse, reversed? I think we have some answers to give, and a solution to propose. And I think we can denounce the ruling class as a whole and in its various parts for wantonly wasting life.

I don’t think a critique of the policies and actions of this or that national bourgeoisie is a problem. As Baboon’s article states (and as has been said elsewhere in discussion), the policy of the vast majority of ‘developed’ nation states has been markedly similar: in the face of the pandemic, they have all to varying degrees lied, denied, delayed and decried before accepting that measures of quarantining (social distancing, lockdown etc), testing, and a multiplication of hospital facilities was required to reduce the spread, to ‘flatten the curve’ of the virus. Once such a stage has been, in their judgement, achieved, it’s a transition ‘back to work’, ‘out of lockdown’. This has been the trajectory of Trump. This has been the trajectory of Xi Jinping. As well as pointing to the general response of the bourgeoisie, communists have the task of showing how these tendencies worked themselves out (or didn’t) under the specific conditions – historical, cultural, etc, - of this or that nation state. That’s one reason, I presume, that the International Communist Current, centralised as it is, still maintains territorial sections. To say that we shouldn’t demonstrate the inadequacies of this or that response  is tantamount to saying we shouldn’t critique Hitler for fear of fuelling anti-fascism or that a denunciation of Stalin and Stalinism is support for ‘democracy’. Is Labour leader Starmer expressing enough outrage for all? (actually, he’s keen to stress his support for the government’s major axes before making any critique). Is any indignation expressed by communists in danger of merely ‘tail-ending’ the Labour Party? It’s our job to expose the sham critiques made by the Labour Party, not to curtail our own class outrage.

Demogorgon wrote: The general impression I get from many of the interventions here is that somehow the bourgeoisie could stop the virus and save more (everyone?) but they choose not to do it. It's posed as some sort of moral choice which thus poses the possibility that, if only we could get them to choose differently, then things would be better.” I think that’s something of a caricature. No one has said the bourgeoisie could stop the virus. And we could discuss for hours whether they have a ‘choice’  to defend their role in present social relations or not (although has a ruling class ever just handed over its power?). Our point must surely be that it’s precisely because of their identification with and role on behalf of capitalism that things can’t and won’t get better without their forcible removal.

On the culpability of capitalism: if there’ s a comparison to be made with today’s pandemic and the epoch of the black death, it’s precisely that both occurred in, were signifiers of, and brutally accelerated the decomposition of both societies. Those who defend the current social order are prolonging our agony. No doubt about that.

jk1921
An interesting counter

An interesting counter-factual would be to imagine pandemics in which the victims tend not be the old, but the young and healthy. In fact, you do not need to look very far back in history to find them: the Spanish Flu ravaged young healthy people, while taking it light on the old. Similarly, even the swine flu of 2009, while minor as far as pandemics go, to the extent it killed tended to find its victims among those who were previously healthy. The medical mechanism of this is no mystery: its the dreaded cytokine storm, in which the patient's immune system goes beserk at the prescence of a pathogen it hasn't seen before and attacks the body's own tissues. Of course, the imperative to "protect the old and sick," that is playing out in the current corona virus pandemic ignores the fact that not all young and healthy people will survive this virus--the cytokine storm can take the lives of young adults as much as pre-existing conditions and advanced age can. While it may be true that the young and healthy die at lower percentages, those who want to "shield and protect" the old and infirm would seemingly accept the sacrafice of some number of young and healthy people in order to restart the economy.  No matter what you do, some group of unfortunate people are "sent to the wall."

In order for the the kind of moral critique of the British bourgeoisie's "herd immunity" strategy to stand serious scruitny (and again, its not even clear this was ever a strategy per se and if it was, it was abandoned in the face of modelling), it would be necessary to propose an alternative that was better. What would this be other than a lockdown of some sort? And yet its not clear that every country that did a strict lockdown has fared much better. China perhaps kept its death toll compartively low (but if you believe the official numbers, then you probably also invest in beach front property in North Dakota) with a draconian lockdown (welding the doors to apartment buildings shut). South Korea achieved relatively fewer deaths with no lockdown, but neither the UK nor the US are S. Korea. Then, there is the strange case of Sweden, which has had no lockdown. Sweden has been both denounced as willing to conduct a cruel experiement on its population (as the UK is here) and praised as offering a reasonable path through the pandemic that will leave it in a stronger position than most other countries when round two hits in the fall. In any event, its still not clear what the metric being used is to denounce the UK bourgeoisie: morality, competence, willingness to engage in risk?

Demogorgon
Progress

Quote:
First, thanks for the response to my post. I’m glad you didn’t interpret it as a rant and agree that the points I raised aren’t in dispute.

I don't think your post was a rant and disagree with Link's assessment in that regard. But I do think that there has been an unnecessary polarisation of the "sides" in this debate. I dislike singling comrades out because I don't think any of us are exactly models for debate but I do think Link has a point about the tone of some of baboon's posts. On the other hand, I get that this is a deeply emotional issue - we are all either in potentially vulnerable groups or have friends and family members who are. This isn't an abstract debate about a historical event, but one directly affecting us; a situation where it is entirely possible that not all of us will be around to see it's conclusion. It also has potentially profound effects for the class struggle and the cause to which we have dedicated our lives. That being said, I think it's important to remember that we're comrades and all of us are just trying to understand what is going on. It's also important to remember the commonality of our positions, even as we lay out our disagreements and misunderstandings (of which I think there are inevitably a few).

Quote:
There’s nothing wrong with your acknowledgement that “some responses have actually been comparatively effective” compared to others.

I actually agree with this paragraph. There is no question that the obsolescence of the capitalist mode of production and the impact of decomposition on the ruling class has laid the ground for the pandemic to be worse than perhaps it might otherwise be. But, again, this isn't a question of the bourgeoisie's moral failings or somehow having a plan to wipe out hundreds of thousands of old people. I see no evidence whatsoever that there is any sort of plan for this - it is a consequence of the nature of the virus and the decades-long decay and neglect of health infrastructure.

Quote:
I don’t think a critique of the policies and actions of this or that national bourgeoisie is a problem. As Baboon’s article states (and as has been said elsewhere in discussion), the policy of the vast majority of ‘developed’ nation states has been markedly similar: in the face of the pandemic, they have all to varying degrees lied, denied, delayed and decried before accepting that measures of quarantining (social distancing, lockdown etc), testing, and a multiplication of hospital facilities was required to reduce the spread, to ‘flatten the curve’ of the virus. Once such a stage has been, in their judgement, achieved, it’s a transition ‘back to work’, ‘out of lockdown’.

I don't see the immediate response of the bourgeoisie as the core issue. There's a certain element of truth in what you say, but I don't think there was a concerted plan to do any of these things. One of the reasons why the Western countries were slow in reacting is because there's been no real state experience of dealing with a pandemic of this nature. The Asia-Pacific region had the experience of SARS which taught them the urgency of responding to such outbreaks. China, of course, did lie, deny and delay (at least at the regional level) and then launched into a frenzy of activity to brutally suppress the virus (and, of course, the people).

On the return to work, though, I think we're back to this ambiguous question of what is actually being said here. Are we saying the bourgeoisie is a little too keen to get us back to work? Well, of course they are - although there is disagreement amongst them on this point, as well. But then the question becomes when is the right time for lockdown to end? When the virus is completely eradicated? This may never happen. No society can remain in stasis forever - there must be a return to work and/or normal life at some point. (There is a great debate about what this "normal" will be, and I predict that the changes around home working, commuting, "digital delivery", etc. will be the arena of a new and vicious escalation in the class struggle.)

At some point, there will be a calculation about what is an acceptable level of risk vs the benefit of reopening society. The same calculation would confront a communist society facing a similar problem. It goes without saying that in communism the decision would be one in which all of society would have a genuine say and there would probably be disagreements as well. The calculus would also be different in that we wouldn't be worrying about the loss of "jobs" and the resulting slide into destitution - but we would have to consider the necessity of restarting the production of needed (or wanted) items, the benefits of seeing friends, family, lovers, etc. and getting back to enjoying the general eudaemonia of communist society.

This is what I'm trying to get at. Simply criticising the bourgeoisie for wanting to re-open society, immediately poses the question of the alternative. The same goes for all the various criticisms around not enough intensive care beds, ventillators, etc. The real point here is not that capitalism cannot provide adequate health care in a rapidly evolving crisis situation but that there isn't adequate health provision even under normal circumstances.

Quote:
To say that we shouldn’t demonstrate the inadequacies of this or that response is tantamount to saying we shouldn’t critique Hitler for fear of fuelling anti-fascism or that a denunciation of Stalin and Stalinism is support for ‘democracy’.

This is a fair point, but there are some fundamental differences. We criticise Hitler and Stalin (and Democracy) because communists are against nationalism, imperialism, state power, the organised repression and extermination of millions for their ethnic origin or beliefs. There is absolutely no question of a communist society ever indulging in such practices. Against that, we have a clear alternative: a world without nations, war, a state (which doesn't preclude an organisational and administrative apparatus), real freedom, etc.

It's not so clear to me at all that we have such a clear alternative to lockdown vs. segment and shield, etc. And it's thus equally unclear on what grounds we're condemning the bourgeoisie for their various strategies of lockdown, reopening, segmenting, etc. There is a real problematic here and refusing to acknowledge it - or suggesting it makes us somehow sympathetic to the bourgeoisie - doesn't get us any closer to answering it.

Quote:
I think that’s something of a caricature. No one has said the bourgeoisie could stop the virus. And we could discuss for hours whether they have a ‘choice’  to defend their role in present social relations or not (although has a ruling class ever just handed over its power?). Our point must surely be that it’s precisely because of their identification with and role on behalf of capitalism that things can’t and won’t get better without their forcible removal.

Leaving aside the first two points, I absolutely agree with your concluding sentence here. The difference is nailing down precisely the nature of their role in capitalism (for Marx, they were personifications of social power) and how they identify with it and thus lay the ground to argue for their removal. Which brings us back to your first two points ...

Quote:
On the culpability of capitalism: if there’ s a comparison to be made with today’s pandemic and the epoch of the black death, it’s precisely that both occurred in, were signifiers of, and brutally accelerated the decomposition of both societies. Those who defend the current socil order are prolonging our agony. No doubt about that.

This is also absolutely correct. The point I was making is that we need to be very careful about careful about labelling the virus as somehow "capitalist". A simple assertion here on this point is no better than Trump labelling it a "Chinese" virus. And some of the arguments that have appeared, especially on the "eco-left" are questionable, in my view. There is a genuine debate to be had here which involves a far deeper understanding of marxism, ecology (and epidemiology?) than we currently have.

zimmerwald1915
Future of the Proletarian Class Struggle

Demogorgon wrote:
(There is a great debate about what this "normal" will be, and I predict that the changes around home working, commuting, "digital delivery", etc. will be the arena of a new and vicious escalation in the class struggle.)

This is a key point which has not received nearly as much attention as it should have up to this point, probably because we still feel ourselves to be in the midst of the most acute moment of crisis and can spare only little attention to prognostications about the development of capitalism and the class struggle therein. This text (https://en.internationalism.org/content/16851/movement-against-pension-reform-drawing-lessons-prepare-future-struggles#_ftnref6) seeking to draw the lessons of, if not exactly an accounting of, the struggles against the pension reform in France, might be a starting point proceeding as it does from conditions and the state of the struggle just before the pandemic, but it doesn't exactly take the new conditions into account.

 

The shelter-in-place orders have led to an explosion in work from home, which have revealed both the limits of which jobs can be outsourced from workplaces in this way and that capitalist society before the pandemic had not even begun to approach those limits. Work from home poses severe problems to development of class consciousness, which in ascendent and pre-decomposition decadent capitalism depended on workers being aware of their position in a co-operative labor process (physical proximity, observations of the formation of the commodity as it passed from hand to hand, etc.). It poses similar problems to coordinating class action, which likewise depended hitherto on big concentrations of workers. In this way, the bourgeoisie's response to the pandemic represents the culmination of its attack on the working class, its material capacities for struggle, and its self-conception and consciousness of its interests, as these had been constituted throughout pre-decomposition decadent capitalism. It poses ever more acutely the central question of decomposition: whether the working class will be able to evolve new forms and recover its capacity for struggle before the rule of the bourgeoisie dooms humanity.

 

The working class has not ceased its struggle during the pandemic, far from it. See https://intransigence.org/2020/05/01/dont-suffer-strike/ for an overview of the state of things in the USA over April. But it is telling that the sectors in struggle are the ones still tied to workplaces, who have not been able to shelter in place, and are in particular located in retail, delivery, and logistics. The struggle of the French railway workers more or less disconnected from (and in the conception of the unions, on behalf of - substituting for) the rest of the class posed a similar problem before the pandemic. It is clear that the working class cannot slough off its mass character, adopt a "lean production model" and engage in struggle only in so-called critical sectors. Communists have, therefore, to fight against professionalization and atomization of non-essential workers who have been able to work from home through the shelter-in-place orders, both on the level of agitation (how to reach people excluded from the workplace is beyond me, though it is not beyond capitalist advertising) and on the level of theory. Working from home cannot be a simple material and ideological tool in the hand of the bourgeoisie - it must have a dialectic character, even if it escapes me at the moment.

KT
continue, conclude, move on?

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

 

Demogorgon wrote:

(There is a great debate about what this "normal" will be, and I predict that the changes around home working, commuting, "digital delivery", etc. will be the arena of a new and vicious escalation in the class struggle.)

 

This is a key point which has not received nearly as much attention as it should have up to this point, probably because we still feel ourselves to be in the midst of the most acute moment of crisis and can spare only little attention to prognostications about the development of capitalism and the class struggle therein. 

Totally agree on the necessity to discuss the conditions of the class and of/for struggle now and in the coming period - along with some assessment of the unfolding of the recession/depression. There's also a need to continue/conclude aspects of this current discussion on the article in question and the ICC's general approach to the bourgeoisie's response to the pandemic so far - the questions of policy or the lack of it and morality. 

KT
Their Morals and Ours

Having accepted that it’s possible to critique how specific national bourgeoisies reacted to the pandemic, it’s necessary, in order to move towards a certain point in this discussion, to return to the global and historical level.

Most participants on this thread would agree that: “There is no question that the obsolescence of the capitalist mode of production and the impact of decomposition on the ruling class has laid the ground for the pandemic to be worse than perhaps it might otherwise be” (Demogorgon, post 19). No ‘perhaps’ about it, I would suggest but let’s move on.

One of the main points made in initial ICC articles concerning the impact of decomposition on the unfolding of this epidemic was the erosion of international cooperation – the movement from multilateralism to bilateralism, the corrosive effect of ‘everyman for himself’ – on pre-existing global structures designed firstly to prevent and, failing that, to monitor and minimise the effects of “a disaster foretold” [1] The undermining of the World Health Organisation, for example; the failure to follow its basic procedures in the face of pandemics, has been one of the major, identifiable symptoms and causes of the lack of international cooperation and coordination, the differences in the measurement and treatment of the virus, the war of each against all, the thefts of medicines and materials….

Are those (politicians, ‘experts’, advisors in social manipulation, etc) who knowingly ignore the fundamentals of hygiene - one of the major gains of ascendant capitalism – are such representatives of their class beyond reproach? They may be banal, but they still embody the ‘evil’ of decaying capitalism.

Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden's state epidemiologist, responsible for the country’s ‘let rip’ policy, says: "We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say … We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us." [2] Seriously? As of May 6, Sweden reported more than 2,700 COVID-19 deaths and more than 23,000 infections. That death toll is far higher than its Nordic neighbors' and many other countries that locked down. Half in nursing homes.

Conversely, there are epidemiologists who break with their state’s propaganda and denounce it as “getting awfully close to genocide by default. What else do you call mass death by public policy?” (Gregg Gonsalves, co-director of Yale’s Global Health Justice Partnership)[3]. Similarly the exposure of the sinister ‘Harvesting’ policy concerning the elderly and infirm (the subject of Baboon’s article) consciously promoted by the British government, made by Richard Coker, emeritus professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine [4].

Such experts recognise that there is a method, however imperfect, and with its own negative consequences to be sure, that minimises and curtails viral spread. It’s being widely ignored and they passionately denounce it and its consequences. I don’t see why communists can’t do the same, as well as providing pin-sharp analyses of the underlying causes of such ‘outcomes’.

For thousands of years, human societies have valued the wisdom and experience of their senior citizens: councils of elders played leading roles in the transmission of survival modes and traditions. Communist society will return to such practices on a higher level. Meanwhile, decaying capitalism and its servants quite consciously aims to sacrifice large swathes of this segment on the altar of profit and expediency. Are you not “outraged”? And we haven’t even touched on the research showing how impoverished areas are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, or its effects on black and ethnic minorities….

Tim Bray, a senior engineer and Vice President at Amazon has “quit in dismay” because Amazon has been “firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.” He described the company as “chickenshit”. Yes such individuals walk into million dollar jobs the following day. No, they haven’t a clue why their next employer will act more or less like the last. But they nonetheless see a moral issue here and are outraged by it. I don’t think comrades should be criticised for reacting similarly. Just look at the headlines of ICC articles concerning Covid-19: “Generalised capitalist barbarism”, “capitalism inflicts pain and death”, “the bourgeoisie is a class of thieves…”

Demogorgon wrote: “It's not so clear to me at all that we have such a clear alternative to lockdown vs. segment and shield, etc. And it's thus equally unclear on what grounds we're condemning the bourgeoisie for their various strategies of lockdown, reopening, segmenting, etc. There is a real problematic here and refusing to acknowledge it - or suggesting it makes us somehow sympathetic to the bourgeoisie - doesn't get us any closer to answering it.”

I don’t think the problem lies at this level. It’s not one bourgeois curtailment strategy versus another, but the abandonment under the pressure of decomposition by the bourgeoisie of its own previous levels of consciousness and organisation, and the consequences for the rest of society. It’s indeed not “reckless individuals” who are responsible for this state of affairs. That does not mean we shouldn’t denounce those who design, administer and attempt to justify this ‘crime of the century’.

[1] https://en.internationalism.org/content/16823/covid-19-pandemic-symptom-terminal-phase-capitalist-decadence

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-sweden-lockdown-chief-says-high-death-toll-was-surprise-2020-5?fbclid=IwAR2CHLYSIN5gzhhhjkYdrlXYpdtAFlYjfOKq702pGzWOdjfeX1gFSdIGC0M&r=US&IR=T

[3] https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/epidemiologist-coronavirus-genocide-by-default_n_5eb2a5ebc5b63e6bd96f5d81?ri18n=true&ncid=engmodushpmg00000003&guccounter=1

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/apr/10/world-health-organization-who-v-coronavirus-why-it-cant-handle-pandemic

Demogorgon
The Paradox of Class Morality

I think KT's post has brought us back to the problematic I raised on the previous thread, about the question of the morality of the ruling class. The very fact that we can find all sorts of examples of those who, rightly or wrongly, are critical of the response of their company / country / class demonstrates that we should be very careful of denouncing "the bourgeoisie" as a monolithic bloc and a fundamentally immoral one at that.

Take this statement from the original article:

Quote:
The herd immunity in four months that Vallence was proposing was unheard of in any branch of science. Various specialists immediately came forward to say so and were generally ignored by a hysterical British media that was going into "war-time" and "we are all in this together" mode. One immunologist thought Vallence's statement was "a hoax"; another immediately called it "unethical"; epidemiologists called it "baffling" and virologists expressed their astonishment and, all the while, the government said that it was "following the science". Vallence wasn't of course: his "herd immunity" was unknown to any science and what he was doing was acting as a stooge, fronting a government policy that had more to do with capitalist eugenics than "protecting the vulnerable".

There is a worrying series of binaries in this sort of analysis, which breaks down upon further inspection. We have the sock-puppet Vallance (not not Vallence as he's repeated called in the article) cast as anti-scientific against the "true" scientists that critiqued the strategy. Except it's not true. The advice was confused, contradictory and even when some scientists privately feared the worst this didn't always come across in their official briefings.

Then we have a "hysterical British media" which "ignored" all these true scientists, following the government line. Except it's not true. There were plenty of articles in the Guardian and elsewhere that highlighted the questioning of the UK strategy. It was the Tory-supporting Times that highlighted Cummins' supposed statements about letting pensioners die. I watched the original briefings and the "hysterical" journalists practically crucified Johnson for not doing enough - other countries were going into lockdown, why aren't we? was the general line. My impression was that, if anything, there was far more scepticism than there was support right from the start.

And we discover that the real reason for the failures of the government strategy is because they're not failures at all but the intended outcomes of a policy based on eugenics!

For yourself, you quote Richard Coker who has indeed condemned the shocking spread of CV19 in care homes. Let's see what he says about how this situation came about:

Quote:
My guess – which can only be provisional, as Sage’s minutes aren’t publicly available – is that scientists gave policymakers a scenario in February that the pandemic could be allowed to spread largely unhindered in the wider community.

In other words, the decision to allow the virus to spread came from the scientific community. He goes on to say:

Quote:
But if this approach were promoted, islands of elderly and vulnerable people would need to be created, and the residents on these islands would need to be protected. This strategy makes sense if we acknowledge comments about “herd immunity” from Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, alongside the initial decision not to roll out testing in the community. Remember, too, Matt Hancock’s assertion that care homes “have been a top priority from the start”.

To that I would add, there was plenty of talk at this time about old people shielding immediately, before lock-down began and warnings that more severe restrictions would come. But what this illustrates is that, as a proposed strategy, there is a certain logic to the initial approach. That's not to say whether it was right or wrong, just that it was a reasonable approach to take.

The crux of Coker's criticism is this:

Quote:
But this is not what happened. The initial strategy of allowing herd immunity to develop in the wider community was pursued, but the most vulnerable people were not protected. Though harvesting may not have been the government’s intention, it became the de facto policy in the absence of adequate protections for older and vulnerable people. Had the government monitored care homes, supplied adequate PPE, rolled out testing in care homes and reduced the exposure of their residents to visitors and other carers, the islands of vulnerable and elderly people would have been protected.

So there was a clear gap between the stated strategy and what happened on the ground.

Quote:
The government’s initial strategy, therefore, was herd immunity and harvesting. Operational implementation follows a strategy, not the other way round. Only belatedly did the government’s strategy morph into one that sought to protect the elderly and reverse the harvesting, through widespread testing and contact tracing. But by then it was too late. Operations could not catch up.

Again, this is true as far as it goes. Was there a deliberate decision not to provide PPE, testing, etc. in care homes? I honestly don't know. But I do know that there hasn't been provision of adequate PPE or testing, etc. in any arena. The government has been daily criticised on live TV by "hysterical" journalists for their failure to provide PPE for frontline staff treating infectious patients. They have been daily criticised first for abandoning testing altogether - which was, essentially, because they didn't have capacity to do it anyway - and then for a desperately underwhelming failure to meet its own (modest) targets. Not to mention the debacle of rapidly procured PPE and ventillator equipment failing to meet basic safety standards, companies rushing to retool for the design and production of ventillators without consulting medical experts about their actual requirements, etc. (There have also been a number of innovative successes, too, it must be said.)

Think for a moment about what this means. From any rational standpoint, keeping health services (along with other key services) functional is absolutely vital to containing the pandemic and preventing social disintegration. The bourgeoisie know this and much of their activity has been centred on attempting to do this. I say attempt, because it's no secret they've largely failed. Little to no testing of NHS staff, no PPE, etc.

But the shortage of PPE has been international. Confronted by a situation of fundamental scarcity, the bourgeoisie has responded in typical fashion: desperate attempts to maintain confidence by following each broken promise with an even more unrealistic one (the lying and denying that you highlighted earlier); blaming each other for their woes (Trump is a carricature of this but the others are no different - the Chinese media were propagating rumours about the virus being created by the CIA); hijacking shipments destined for other countries; keeping vital research to itself or trying to buy it (Trump again) while trading accusations of cyber-espionage. Every day a new wonder drug is found, only to be abandoned the next when it's discovered it actually raises the mortality rate!

All these behaviours are fundamentally counterproductive to its own interests, a fact which its more lucid fractions are aware of, and yet the bourgeoisie is still unable to do anything other than mildly restrain its basest instincts (I don't think they've started shooting each other - yet) but its aggregate behaviour is nonetheless becoming more and more unhinged by the day. I don't think there are any clearer signs of a class that has been condemned by history, along with its obsolescent mode of production - it even has a dim but growing awareness of this and yet it is still increasingly unable to act in a rational (even in its own terms) manner in confronting the crisis.

Takes a breath ...

The other symptom of scarity in this scenario is that decisions are made about who lives and who dies. On an immediate level in medical settings, this is expressed in triage. In the context of this virus, the young have better odds of survival and responding to treatment. This has already been the subject of serious angst in the medical community. In Italy at the peak of the crisis, one medical group issued the following guidelines:

Quote:
The guidelines also say that in “in the interests of maximizing benefits for the largest number,” limits could be put on intensive care units to reserve scarce resources to those who have, first, “greater likelihood of survival and secondly who have more potential years of life.”

“No one is getting kicked out, but we’re offering criteria of priority,” Dr. Petrini said. “These choices are made in normal times, but what’s not normal is when you have to assist 600 people all at once.”

This is no less true on the social level. If you have limited testing capacity and PPE, who do you prioritise? Hospitals or care homes? In such circumstances, does Coker's demand that the government push resource towards a really effective shielding for people in care homes have any chance of being met? And does it really indicate a eugenecist plot or the awful, practical reality of a medical crisis?

On a personal note, when the crisis first broke, there was a partly jocular discussion in our office about what would happen if triage became necessary. We have two main demographics: a small majority in their 20s; the rest of us in our 40s. The latter group were acutely aware that if things got really bad, we probably wouldn't be the first choice to be saved compared with our younger colleagues. For the most part, we were quite sanguine about this: the younger colleagues were much more upset.

Quote:
For thousands of years, human societies have valued the wisdom and experience of their senior citizens: councils of elders played leading roles in the transmission of survival modes and traditions. Communist society will return to such practices on a higher level.

I don't think it's as clear cut as you present it. There have debates about euthanasia and senicide going back to ancient Greece. But even accepting your claim as true, the respect for the old in ancient societies was based on the material conditions of the day: without methods to record and transmit knowledge and expertise, the old were society's only link with history. Expertise is much more valued when it's harder to live along enough to acquire it.

For capitalism, with its relentless drive to revolutionise the forces of production, knowledge, and the continual creation of new use values, being old is more of a liability than a blessing. The expertise we acquire rapidly becomes useless and our ability to adapt to new realities becomes attenuated as we age. (Interestingly, in the interests of "equality", we are told to challenge these assumptions now - because, in yet another contradiction, there's another imperative to keep us working for much, much longer.)

So it's not the case that we can pit moral antiquity (or future communism for that matter) against immoral capitalism. The morality of these social systems stems from material, social relations (and their contradictions) which are then justified and critiqued through the lens of the moral ideology they generate. I think if we were transported into a mature communist society we would find their moral precepts rather alien, perplexing and possibly even quite questionable; certainly, they would view us as savages.

Quote:
Meanwhile, decaying capitalism and its servants quite consciously aims to sacrifice large swathes of this segment on the altar of profit and expediency. Are you not “outraged”? And we haven’t even touched on the research showing how impoverished areas are bearing the brunt of the pandemic, or its effects on black and ethnic minorities….

The first statement is precisely the question that is under dispute. How conscious are these choices? Even if they are conscious, are they avoidable? The question of my "outrage" opens the door to a personalisation of debate where the validity of our positions - or moral worth? - is predicated on the level of virtue signalling we're prepared to indulge in.

You're right about the last point of course. Yet, even here, care must be taken. It's established fact that ethnicity has an impact on predisposition for certain diseases. We don't yet know why this pathogen seems to be attacking BAME groups more viciously than others, anymore than we know exactly why it has such a pronounced impact on the elderly. Even this latter "fact" may be changing: evidence is emerging suggesting that different forms of it attack (some) younger people even more fatally. There is the link between CV19 and strokes in young to middle-aged people and a syndrome that effects young children. It's too early to tell if these concerns are valid, but if they are true you can prepare a whole new set of horrors coming our way.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

On the culpability of capitalism: if there’ s a comparison to be made with today’s pandemic and the epoch of the black death, it’s precisely that both occurred in, were signifiers of, and brutally accelerated the decomposition of both societies. Those who defend the current social order are prolonging our agony. No doubt about that.

Its not clear how the Black Death was a signifier of the "decomposition" of its society (I assume here we mean feudalism?) The plague had been a thorn in humanity's side for centuries up to that point and continued to reoccur well into the period of capitalist ascendance. London was devasted by a bout of plague in the late 17th century, when mercantile capitalism was already in full motion. In order to make this kind of statement, it seems that we have presuppose some kind of alternative that would have occurred, but for the decomposition of the given mode of production. But how would the Black Death have played out any different in any other pre-scientific society? The plague is said to have origniated in China, which while still in a pre-capitalist mode of production of the time, might not easily be described as "feudal" or in decomposition. What level of death and destruction did it reap there? Why did it not lead to the decompoistion of Chinese imperial society? Actually, It has been argued at times that the Black Death was one of the historical events that gave an impetus to the development of capitalism through a Malthusian action that drove up the price of labor. In this sense, was it then historically progressive?

I think one of the main problems with the kind of moral critique offered in this article is how easily it can be turned back on the proletariat. Already, this is happening. NY Gov Cuomo (no Trump!) in discussing the curious finding that the majority of new hospital admissions for Covid-19 were unemployed or retired people staying at home, lamented that society had done what it could do up to this point and the onus was now on individuals to follow the sanitary guidelines: wash hands, etc. Similarly, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and other city politicians have expressed frustration that those communities most likely to ignore social distancing guidlines were precisely the minority communities hardest hit by the disease. The logical outcome of this, of course, is the temptation to use the repressive apparatus to enforce these policies, leading to a whole new round of police-young minority men encounters. NYC Mayor De Blassio, who until now had the cops turn their backs on him at public speaking events, has come out in favor of agressive enforcement of social distancing. Elsewhere, the use of social media to denounce "Covidiots," who flaunt mask wearing requirements and therefore put their fellow citizens at grave risk is on the rise. While there have been numerous incidents of celebrities, media personalities and even epidemiologists (Imperial's Neil Ferguson) caught flaunting the rules, the politicization of this into virtuous social distancers (often professionals who can work from home) and Covidiots (usually, the blue collar working class) deepens each day. Why can't these people just get with the program?

Speaking of politicization, it is patently clear that Trump administration is "incompetent" in many different measures of the concept. But can one imagine the counterfactual circumstance of a HRC attempting to address this crisis? How much more competelty could she have navigated the structural cleavages in US society and produced a rational and effective policy? Trump likes to brag that he was quick to close the borders, therefore avoiding the worst. Obviously, he is full of shit, but would HRC have closed them at all? Or would she have bowed to leftist constituencies and the WHO, who as late as March said that travel restrictions were counter productive, an assertion contradicted by the NIH's Dr. Fauci who has said the border closures were a necessary (if not sufficient) step? Perhaps she would ultimately been forced to do it, but how much later and at what political cost?

Moreover, if you think the federalist nature of the US state is a problem today, think about how it might have played out under HRC. How many red states would have openly flaunted any national lockdown as a show of resistance against federal government overreach? Have you seen what the right-wing media has done to Michigan Gov. Whitmer? Even now the pressure to reopen is asserting itself in ways that contradict the direst epideimological recommendations, even if they would not be possible without some scientists giving them a tepid green light. Having flattened the curve (or not) many governors are forced by public opinion and the business community to introduce some measures to relax social distancing and restart the economy, likely knowing that a second peak cannot be but a month or two away. Are they giving in because they don't care if people die or because they are in an impossible situation in which people are hurt either way? Do the scientists and public health experts who advise them and give them a green light to reopen do so because they are servile to power or is there a recognition that public health requires some kind of balancing act?  The point is that the issues here are much much more structural than anyone who focuses on bad, amoral or incompetent leadership would like to admit.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

The undermining of the World Health Organisation, for example; the failure to follow its basic procedures in the face of pandemics, has been one of the major, identifiable symptoms and causes of the lack of international cooperation and coordination, the differences in the measurement and treatment of the virus, the war of each against all, the thefts of medicines and materials….

The same WHO that took China's word for it about a lack of evidence for human to hmaun transmission, claimed travel restrictions did more harm than good, said there was no evidence that wearing masks was effective and still recommends only one metre separation in public?  Are they the good scientists in the story?

KT wrote:

Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden's state epidemiologist, responsible for the country’s ‘let rip’ policy, says: "We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say … We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us." [2] Seriously? As of May 6, Sweden reported more than 2,700 COVID-19 deaths and more than 23,000 infections. That death toll is far higher than its Nordic neighbors' and many other countries that locked down. Half in nursing homes.

Sweden's death toll may be higher, but its hospitals haven't been over run, its society hasn't suffered the pains of lock down and they may be approaching herd immunity--or not, but we don't really know. If they are, they are poised to do much better in the seemingly inevitable  second wave than their Nordic neighbor and won't have to go through the socially straining policy of having to lock down their immunologically naive population again. Any of this may be true or false, but again its not clear what is the metric for seeing in Sweden's policy a particularly dastardly motive. Are we to believe the Swedish ruling class has suddenly been elevated to the ranks of the world's most murderous and blood thirsty along with the British Tories and the Trumpists? What exactly should we find here that is particularly objectionable? Its willingness to take risks and gambles with uncertain science? Sweden's nursing homes haven't fared well in this crisis, but again they haven't really anywhere else either.

baboon
I've been through this

I've been through this discussion before with Demo years ago. It didn't end well and I've no intention of repeating it. I have argued from the beginning that the response from the bourgeoisie to this crisis has been fundamentally uniform and jk has argued against that. Because we live in Britain I also gave an analysis of the approach of the British bourgeoisie which was "herd immunity", an approach that was essentially shared by all the major capitals but articulated openly by the clique fronting the British government. Herd immunity didn't stop with various other measures introduced by the state and the results of the policy are still working their way through the population today. In the same way the section in France of the ICC wrote an article on the response of the French bourgeoisie which, I think, took a similar "tone" to the one in WR. It was on the website for weeks before but no-one saw anything to criticise in it.

Sweden has a highter per million death toll than the United States and much higher than its closest neighbours.

Demogorgon
To Lockdown or not Lockdown

baboon wrote:
I've been through this discussion before with Demo years ago. It didn't end well and I've no intention of repeating it.

What discussion, when? Why didn't it "end well"? Was it on this forum or elsewhere? Is it linkable? You may know what you're talking about, but how other people reading this to make up their minds about its relevance or otherwise to what's been discussed here?

As you've said, you don't want to have this discussion "again", but as you brought it up you could at least allow others to make the decision for themselves?

baboon wrote:
Sweden has a highter per million death toll than the United States and much higher than its closest neighbours.

The Washington Post has an interesting article here about the respective differences between Sweden and the UK, the differences in scientific models and strategies. There's a strong defence of the no-lockdown model and a stark realisation of the "choice" that the bourgeoisie is faced with, both practically and politically:

Quote:
Giesecke argues that the virus is essentially unstoppable, until either herd immunity is reached (when two-thirds of a population has been infected and is producing antibodies) or an effective vaccine is widely available, perhaps nine to 18 months from now, according to the most hopeful projections. In a letter to the British medical journal Lancet, Giesecke wrote that “everyone will be exposed” and that strict lockdowns only push severe cases into the future.

...

The Swedish epidemiologist says that yes, of course, imposing a strict lockdown will slow the spread of infections for a while.

“But then, what next?” he asked. Giesecke said no democratic society can remain in lockdown for many months or years. Their economies cannot withstand it, and the public won’t allow it.

Asked why Britain and other countries went with hard lockdowns, Giesecke said political leaders want to show leadership — force, decisiveness, strength.

He also makes no bones about the care home crisis:

Quote:
Giesecke said both Britain and Sweden failed their elderly citizens by letting the virus run rampant in nursing and care homes, where deaths might account for as much as a third of totals.

“We’ve failed. We’ve all failed to protect them,” Giesecke said.

Interestingly, some parts of the WHO are saying that Sweden's approach might be the way forward:

Quote:
But the World Health Organization has suggested that Sweden is not an outlier. “If we are to reach a ‘new normal,’ in many ways, Sweden represents a future model,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, said April 29. “What it has done differently is that it really, really has trusted its own communities to implement that physical distancing.”
KT
Onwards

The issue really isn't whether 'Sweden' has trusted its citizens, but whether 'its' citizens should trust Sweden! Aparently not. The quote I saw was: “’We failed to protect our elderly. That’s really serious, and a failure for society as a whole.’ Sweden’s government has apologised for not protecting older people, with 90% of the country’s Covid-19 deaths occurring in the over-70s. (Guardian 10/05/2020). I guess they’ve apologised so that’s OK. As for JK’s unfortunate question: “Are we to believe the Swedish ruling class has suddenly been elevated to the ranks of the world's most murderous and blood thirsty…” No, it’s not sudden. Enforced sterilisations with the stated aim of purifying the race in Sweden began in 1935, and didn’t end until 1976. 60,000 mainly women were affected. Most records of the policy have quite deliberately been eradicated and the purges weren’t publicly revealed until 1997…. I won’t go on but this is described as “a plot to rid Swedish society of "inferior" racial types and to encourage Aryan features.”. No form there then.

Look: I don’t want to go on scoring (or conceding) petty (or not so petty) points; I’m humble enough to know I don’t know the science in any serious detail, only that right or wrong, there had been an assumed approach to dealing with such eventualities (which will undoubtedly be altered by this experience) and that those who applied it fast appear to have had a certin success in limiting spread. What I do know is this a) the argument is actually with the ICC, not Baboon, or me. Have another read of the international leaflet and other articles b) The conscious cancelling of research into pandemics; the running down of basic health provisions on a global level and the erosion of international cooperation has negatively impacted on the lives of millions and is responsible for the deaths of thousands, if not tens of thousands, so far and c) that workers who denounced the ruling class for putting profits before their lives have a clear vision of what’s going on and who is culpable.

As part of JK's original post put it: "Even in places that instituted strict lockdowns, it was more or less openly acknowledeged that this had little to do with protecting the old and vulnerable from getting the virus."  Indeed. That's the point.

Edited for bad attitude !

baboon
More elements are emerging of

More elements are emerging of the British government's murderous "herd immunity" policy related to what's been called by some sections of the press "Operation Stiff Broom". Rachel Beckett of Welcome Care Homes said "They (the hospital authorities) told us we were breaking the law by refusing to take suspected or positive patients". In fact the hospitals were breaking the law, such as it is, on farming out patients to care homes knowing that they had a life-threatening and infectious disease. Beckett went on to say that some patients were transported to her homes at 3 a.m. Further reports from care homes from the south to north of England (Daily Mail, today) talk of paramedics leaving hospital ejected patients at their care homes in the early hours of the morning with no staff around.

I think that KT's example of Sweden is instructive.

Demogorgon
Point scoring

KT, I think it's unfortunate that you think this has degenerated into some sort of point scoring. I don't think that is the case. For the record, I don't have any real disagreement with your statement that the real debate is about "the conscious cancelling of research into pandemics; the running down of basic health provisions on a global level and the erosion of international cooperation has negatively impacted on the lives of millions and is responsible for the deaths of thousands, if not tens of thousands". I have made many of these points myself.

But do you really think statements like this - "This "collection" of sick people and their transportation by the state from places of safety to places of serious danger are not the train lines leading to Auschwitz but it bears a similar mark and gives off a similar putrid stench. That's British herd immunity" - baboon #3 - stand up to scrutiny?

This is a remarkable comparison. Auschwitz was part of a massive machine designed with an explicit purpose: the extermination of millions of human beings. Are we really comparing the ambulance drivers who took elderly patients from wards with the drivers and guards on the trains to the death camps? Care home staff to the guards at the camps that operated the Selektion process and sent people to the "showers"? There is no "similar mark" and no "similar putrid stench".

And then we have the highly personalised attacks on people like Vallance - "Sir Patrick Vallence must have known when he talked about "herd immunity" that, as far as science was concerned, he was talking absolute rubbish ... fronting a government policy that had more to do with capitalist eugenics". There's legitimate outrage and then there's attempting to cast Vallance and his cronies as architects of a new Holocaust, especially when Vallance wasn't talking absolute rubbish but taking up a strategy based on a legitimate scientific position (which is not the same as saying it's correct). Moreover, these would-be Nazis, when confronted with new modelling that showed (for them) an "unacceptable" levels of deaths, what did they do? They changed their strategy! That is not the action of a group that are consciously planning for the extermination of hundreds of thousands of people. Cummins, by some accounts, switched from being a strong supporter of the original strategy to being even more strongly supportive of lockdown.

This isn't about point scoring. This isn't about baboon and previous debates that may or may not have ended well, either - he's written some very erudite posts and articles over the years, some of which I agree with, some of which I really don't. But there is a real question here about how we engage with what could potentially be one of the biggest crises of capitalist civilisation. There's a question about method, here, as well and how we criticise and react to criticism. I fear we all have a great deal still to learn.

baboon
What's been going on in

What's been going on in residential care homes and what is continuing in Britain - and elsewhere - to a particular section of the population along with others, is state-assisted slaughter. The numbers of deaths have yet to be determined but they appear to be considerably underestimated so far. This outrageous action goes some way beyond criminal negligence.

 

From "herd immunity" (announced and expanded upon by government spokespeople in a blaze of publicity), as it has evolved and mutated over time, came the order from the state to "protect the NHS", "ring-fence the NHS" and make 15 thousand empty hospital beds immediately available. How many "bed-blockers", the elimination of who was at least relatively good news for one ex-government medical advisor, were removed is not known; there are no numbers (no need to "suppress" them) and no-one is asking for them. Earlier reports, mostly anecdotal, talk of thousands. We don't know.

 

But there are reports of care homes all over England suddenly "receiving" large numbers of vulnerable patients from hospitals so, obviously, the numbers are there. Added to this and indicating the scale of events is the numerous local horror stories from relatives and carers at the treatment of the victims of this monstrous crime. What was the time-scale for the removal of "bed-blockers" happening - did it happen over one night, a couple of days, a week? No information and no figures from the state. It looks like it was undertaken in one fell swoop, a one-night operation because a number of care homes report large numbers of "arrivals" over a short period and mostly in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning, which only adds to the police-like quality of the operation (without mentioning the further disorientation of the "patients"). Also, at that time of night in hospitals there are few senior medical staff on shift who could question this dubious type of operation but possibly they couldn't question it because the order came from the highest levels of the state with the full compliance of the NHS. Care home staff "receiving" patients in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning would generally cede to paramedics and take in patients although some reported that they wouldn't take in anyone or didn't have the room.

 

People were being discharged from hospitals without medical assessments and some carrying the Covid-19 virus. This practice is designated as illegal under British law and I am sure that the NHS and the state are perfectly aware that they acted illegally or, at the very least, on the fringes of legality. More than this, the NHS then told the care homes that they had a "legal responsibility" to take in patients sent to them, a responsibility that the care homes do not have in law. In its desperate drive to get out "bed-blockers" it was the NHS which broke the state's own laws.

 

In this case we've clearly seen what's behind such ideas as "defend the NHS", "protect the NHS". The NHS is not the "workers involved in it", but part of the state and another ruthless boss. We've seen everywhere how the state's health services treat their workers and how the workers, in the main, have to swallow it and do what they can and do what they are told. And the NHS, "the envy of the world" is no different. In this case, NHS workers are told what to do and they do it or there will be consequences, just like all places of exploitation; hospitals are not work places outside of capitalism but expressions of it and carry many of its consequences.

 

Through the actions of the state, including its NHS, a large number of frail and vulnerable people have been turfed out of hospital beds and put into places of extreme danger. More than that, many of these unfortunate were known by the state and the NHS to be carriers of a deadly disease and that the conditions that they were being dumped into meant that the spread of the coronavirus was certain among the weakest and most vulnerable people in society. It's the NHS as part of the state that was fully complicit in this crime.

Demogorgon
How to properly pose the problem

I'm not disputing that the situation with elderly patients (and others) being turfed out of hospital beds with nowhere to go is appalling. But rather than posing this as an avoidable objective of the current strategy, and talking of eugenics, etc. we should be focussing on why and how this situation has arisen.

If you want some outrage about the horrors going on at present, we can see Piers Morgan losing his shit this morning with Andrew Bridgen. This is not a picture of the compliant British media simply parroting the government line; Bridgen went on GMB because ministers have stopped going on there after a series of "car crash interviews". For your viewing pleasure, you can watch it here.

Simply upping the stakes by using even more emotive language is not the way to advance a communist argument, IMO.

Rather, we should be analysing why this situation has occured. I'm not proposing to do a full analysis here, simply show how I would pose the question.

Firstly, any mass influx was probably going to overwhelm the health service. This immediately posed a choice. Yes, the government could have chosen not to evict the long-term inpatients (and, in some cases, this is a literal eviction, complete with court order as this example shows). But, if they had made this choice, then thousands of covid patients would be dying in the streets and corridors of hospitals. If we are posing the question in terms of elderly people being somehow worthless and left to die, then the alternative choice means that covid victims are worthless and left to die. Criticising the choice they've made simply reduces it to some of sort of moral question over the wrong choice.

This is the origin of the critique that some have raised about "moral dilemmas", but these comrades are not the ones reducing the situation to a moral problem. That has already been done by posing the problem in terms of a "crime" and "state assisted slaughter" rather than a structural inevitability of the capitalist system. It then opens us up to counterpoints - okay, you don't want these people to die, so is it okay for this lot to die instead? The simple fact is that, in the current situation, the death and ill-treatment of thousands is unavoidable getting into a squabble about who should be left to die on the street only keeps the argument on the terrain of bourgeois crisis management.

The question is why this choice has to be made. To begin scoping an answer, we can begin with this:

Quote:
The NHS has been haemorrhaging hospital beds for decades. In 2017, the King’s Fund, a think tank, found that the number of beds in England had plummeted from 299,000 in 1987 to 142,000 in 2017 – a 52 per cent slump. The number of beds in general and acute care in England fell by 43 per cent in the same period, even if heavier cuts on other types of beds – including those for maternity, mental illness, or learning disability patients – means that acute and general beds make up the majority of the total bed stock. As of December 2019, NHS figures show that England had 128,329 beds available – of which 101,598 in general and acute care. The UK as a whole had 167,589 hospital beds as of 2017, according to figures by the OECD, an international organisation.

This decrease has happened despite an increase in population – from 56.8 million 30 years ago to today’s 66 million. “In recent years, the UK has gone from having about four beds per thousand people in 2000 to two and a half beds per thousand people now,” says Mark Dayan, head of public affairs at Nuffield Trust, a charity focused on healthcare.

While the number of hospital beds – which should be thought of not only as actual linens and mattress, but also equipment and medical staff attending to them – has consistently gone down across the developed world, the UK’s axing has been much more radical than comparable countries’. According to OECD figures, in 2017 Germany had eight beds per thousand people, while France had 5.98 beds per thousand. On average, Dayan says, the number of beds per thousand people in similarly developed countries is almost twice that of the UK.

I don't have figures to hand for the slow motion crisis facing the social care sector - the aim of this is not to write an article but to show where I think the real lines of attack are - but it would be interesting to see. If I have time in the next couple of days, I might look them up.

Now, even this isn't enough, because it still obscures the reality of the entire capitalist system by focussing on Britain where the crisis is presently the most acute. But it shows the way towards shows the link between the degradation of health services, social care, the decades-long neglect of the elderly, to the declining fortunes of capitalism. Because it's capitalism that's the enemy, not Boris, the Tories, or Vallance, or Whitty, but a capitalist system that makes such horrific choices necessary.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

 As for JK’s unfortunate question: “Are we to believe the Swedish ruling class has suddenly been elevated to the ranks of the world's most murderous and blood thirsty…” No, it’s not sudden. Enforced sterilisations with the stated aim of purifying the race in Sweden began in 1935, and didn’t end until 1976. 60,000 mainly women were affected. Most records of the policy have quite deliberately been eradicated and the purges weren’t publicly revealed until 1997…. I won’t go on but this is described as “a plot to rid Swedish society of "inferior" racial types and to encourage Aryan features.”. No form there then.

And I am sure the Swedish bourgeoisie was heavily invested in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade too, but I am not sure what a fact from the late 17th century would have to do with where it ranks today on the list of most devious ruling classes. But if you want to stick to the 1930s and eugenics, how did Sweden's policies stack up with Canadian residential schools, Irish Catholic homes for unwed mothers, forced sterilization of the mentally feeble in hospitals pretty much everywhere? The point is if you are going to make a rank list of terrible bourgeoisies you have to ask for each one--compared to what? Sweden doesn't even come close to the controlling cases for that era: Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. The question under consideration today as it relates to the heated moral denunciation of "herd immunity" as a strategy faced with the Covid-19 crisis is: if you thought it was a useful exercise to make a ranked list of the world's worst bourgeoisies (and my point is kind of that it is not that useful) Sweden's wouldn't crack most top tens. Why then have they adopted the same policy as the British state intially hinted at faced with this crisis (never backing down from it)? Is it because of some warped morality or is it a reflection of the difficult nature of this crisis, reflected in the uncertain and often unhelpful science?

Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota was on the Sunday talk shows yesterday and he stressed that there really is no way out of this mess except for 'herd immunity." The virus has a logic all of its own, it won't stop until 60-70 percent of the population are infected regardless of what we do. He stressed that leaders should not be giving a false sense of security that this virus can be contained, beaten back or in some other way defeated. What leaders need is a plan to get their populations to this level of herd immunity. Is Osterholm some kind of mass murderer, masquerading as a serious academic scientist? He isn't shilling for the Trump administration, which is full of nothing but happy talk about the virus just going away and the economy rebounding. He is a frequent guest on the anti-Trump networks, precisely because he refutes all the nonsense coming from the White House. Osterholm could be wrong about the trajectory of the pandemic. He seems to base his projections on models of influenza pandemics (he thinks covid-19 will kill about 800,000 in the US before its done, so I hope he is wrong!) and it is not clear that a corona virus will follow this pattern. However, it is difficult to see him as some kind of eugenicist. He simply thinks this is what will happen regardless of what we do. He is not recommending opening everything up and letting it rip (but about the only govenrment that seems to be doing that is Bolsonaro in Brazil and he is contradicted by many state governors there), but he also recognizes the world can't stay locked down forever, trying to prevent the unpreventable. There has to be a plan to get to herd immunity.

For some historical perspective on the politics of today, we need to look back at previous pandemics: Do you know what President Wilson said about the Spanish Flu? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! He doesn't even appear to have ever been asked about it, despite catching it himself in Paris negotiating the Versailles Treaty. And despite coinciding with a world revolutionary wave, the Spanish flu doesn't appear much of anywhere in our historical memory of the period. Its almost like it never happened. Where were the leaflets from the Comintern pinning it all on capitalism? if someone finds one, let me know. Or more recently, the pandemic flus of 1957-58 and 1968. The latter killed over a million people worldwide and 100,000 in the US (Covid-19 still hasn't overtaken it, although it seems poised to soon). The world did not stop, even the class struggle went on. What is different today that governments have decided to shut the world down to stop a respiratory pandemic? Was it something in the nature of the virus itself? Or are there changed historical, political circumstances? The 24 hour news cycle? The balance of class forces? What's worse, a government that says nothing about a pandemic that kills over 600,000 citizens, while the economy and the war effort goes on, or one that fumbles, stumbles and bumbles in the face of uncertain science?

Demogorgon
Some tidbits

Not sure if this is the right place, but it's the live Covid thread so why not ...

The NYT have published a piece on Didier Raoult, the man behind the claims about a hydroxychloroquine / azithromycin combination being able to cure CV19. I haven't read it all yet, but it provides an interesting background.

And, also, from the NYT, there's piece on historical pandemics and the way they end which, in some cases doesn't mean they actually end at all, just that society adjusts. I don't have any detailed analyses of these pieces to offer, but I thought comrades might be interested in reading them.

zimmerwald1915
Demogorgon wrote:

Demogorgon wrote:

Not sure if this is the right place, but it's the live Covid thread so why not ...

The NYT have published a piece on Didier Raoult, the man behind the claims about a hydroxychloroquine / azithromycin combination being able to cure CV19. I haven't read it all yet, but it provides an interesting background.

And, also, from the NYT, there's piece on historical pandemics and the way they end which, in some cases doesn't mean they actually end at all, just that society adjusts. I don't have any detailed analyses of these pieces to offer, but I thought comrades might be interested in reading them.


NYT paywalls its content past a certain number of articles per month. Dunno how many comrades this will affect (at least one), but it's something to think about.
Demogorgon
Oops

A good point well made. I use Firefox with the NoScript addon, it seems to neutralise their paywall for me, so I didn't even think about that. Apologies.

KT
Wilson Speaks

Shame about the paywall. I agree absolutely - and it's been mentioned before - that a study of the so-called 'Spanish flu' epidemic of 1918 in all its dimensions is essential to enlighten our understanding today.  I believe study will show the bourgeoisie wielding the same callous and knowing attitude towards sacrificing those it considered expendable as it does today. Contrary to what JK believes, ("Do you know what President Wilson said about the Spanish Flu? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!') US President Wilson had a great deal to say on the subject.

`[Acting Army Surgeon General Charles Richard ] “was willing to suspend war mobilization to protect the health of the soldiers. [Army Chief of Staff Peyton] March agreed to a 10% reduction in crowding on troopships, but that was all. The controversy reached the White House when President Wilson asked March why he refused to stop troop transport during the epidemic. March described the Army's screening precautions and invoked the exigencies of a war of attrition, pointing out “…the psychological effect it would have on a weakening enemy to learn that the American divisions and replacements were no longer arriving.” Troop shipments should not be halted for any reason, he told Wilson, and the president deferred to his judgment.” (Public Heath Reports : The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 (Published by PMC – US National Library of Medicine)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862337/ Wilson overode the army's chief medic and ordered infected troops off to war.

or

“What proved even more deadly was the government policy toward the truth. When the United States entered the war, Woodrow Wilson demanded that “the spirit of ruthless brutality...enter into the very fibre of national life.” So he created the Committee on Public Information, which was inspired by an adviser who wrote, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms....The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.”

At Wilson’s urging, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it punishable with 20 years in prison to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United State...or to urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of any thing or things...necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.” Government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone “who spreads pessimistic stories...cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.”

Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie…

Across the country, public officials were lying. U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue said, “There is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.” New York City’s public health director declared “other bronchial diseases and not the so-called Spanish influenza...[caused] the illness of the majority of persons who were reported ill with influenza.” The Los Angeles public health chief said, “If ordinary precautions are observed there is no cause for alarm.” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/

JK wrote: " The point is if you are going to make a rank list of terrible bourgeoisies you have to ask for each one--compared to what? Sweden doesn't even come close to the controlling cases for that era: Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia."

No one is compiling such a list. The point is quite the opposite: that no national bourgeoisie - none, not even the 'clean-cut Swedes' - was then or is today free from the historical forces which the bevahiour of the Stalinists and Nazis exemplified. You can't have a mode of production - capitalism, which begins its life dripping blood and gore from every pore - without seeing this reflected in the class which represents its interests. Even more so in decadence. And it is "men who become conscious of their interests and fight it out", (Manifesto) ie the bourgeoisie too, not just the proletariat.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

Shame about the paywall. I agree absolutely - and it's been mentioned before - that a study of the so-called 'Spanish flu' epidemic of 1918 in all its dimensions is essential to enlighten our understanding today.  I believe study will show the bourgeoisie wielding the same callous and knowing attitude towards sacrificing those it considered expendable as it does today. Contrary to what JK believes, ("Do you know what President Wilson said about the Spanish Flu? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!') US President Wilson had a great deal to say on the subject.

`[Acting Army Surgeon General Charles Richard ] “was willing to suspend war mobilization to protect the health of the soldiers. [Army Chief of Staff Peyton] March agreed to a 10% reduction in crowding on troopships, but that was all. The controversy reached the White House when President Wilson asked March why he refused to stop troop transport during the epidemic. March described the Army's screening precautions and invoked the exigencies of a war of attrition, pointing out “…the psychological effect it would have on a weakening enemy to learn that the American divisions and replacements were no longer arriving.” Troop shipments should not be halted for any reason, he told Wilson, and the president deferred to his judgment.” (Public Heath Reports : The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 (Published by PMC – US National Library of Medicine)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862337/ Wilson overode the army's chief medic and ordered infected troops off to war.

or

“What proved even more deadly was the government policy toward the truth. When the United States entered the war, Woodrow Wilson demanded that “the spirit of ruthless brutality...enter into the very fibre of national life.” So he created the Committee on Public Information, which was inspired by an adviser who wrote, “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms....The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.”

At Wilson’s urging, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it punishable with 20 years in prison to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United State...or to urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of any thing or things...necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war.” Government posters and advertisements urged people to report to the Justice Department anyone “who spreads pessimistic stories...cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war.”

Against this background, while influenza bled into American life, public health officials, determined to keep morale up, began to lie…

Across the country, public officials were lying. U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue said, “There is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.” New York City’s public health director declared “other bronchial diseases and not the so-called Spanish influenza...[caused] the illness of the majority of persons who were reported ill with influenza.” The Los Angeles public health chief said, “If ordinary precautions are observed there is no cause for alarm.” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/

And these pronoucements were made to the public? Wilson gave how many press conferences or fireside chats about the flu, compared to the war?  I think rather these quotes may help prove my point. There was little attempt for the national state to reassure the public about much of anything related to the pandemic at the time. My how times have changed, when governments are forced to backtrack from "herd immunity" in the face of a firestorm of media controversy rather than hide behind a Sedition Act. Why the remarkably different behavior? Obviously, something has changed where governments at least feel the need to profess some degree of accountability to the public in matters of public health. Or is it just society's attitude toward death that has changed, such that any policy that countenances that in a pandemic some will die is rejected as unacceptable?

Has anyone found anything from the Comitern, yet?

KT wrote:

JK wrote: " The point is if you are going to make a rank list of terrible bourgeoisies you have to ask for each one--compared to what? Sweden doesn't even come close to the controlling cases for that era: Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia."

No one is compiling such a list. The point is quite the opposite: that no national bourgeoisie - none, not even the 'clean-cut Swedes' - was then or is today free from the historical forces which the bevahiour of the Stalinists and Nazis exemplified. You can't have a mode of production - capitalism, which begins its life dripping blood and gore from every pore - without seeing this reflected in the class which represents its interests. Even more so in decadence. And it is "men who become conscious of their interests and fight it out", (Manifesto) ie the bourgeoisie too, not just the proletariat.

The list is at least implicit in the methodology (or lack thereof) in the article, in which bourgeoisies who pursue "herd immunity," are marked out as especially dastardly, callous and murderous as opposed to, well that is the question, opposed to what and whom? Those that instituted strict lockdowns, I suppose? A policy which much then be the "correct" and moral one or at least the scientific way to combat a pandemic. Of course, as some professional epidiemologists like Osterholm state, if the goal is to somehow suprress the virus, to beat it back into nature, this too is an illusion unsupported by the science. The virus will spread in any event. Its not clear then, regardless of the muddled and alternating standards presented in the article (morality, competence, scientificity) that its suppositions can be supported in any coherent way. If "herd immunity" is unscientific, so might be lockdowns with the hope of escaping the virus's ravages.

At this moment there appear to be two main strategies emerging to confront the pandemic. 1.) Herd immunity must be allowed to develop to some extent, while the old and vulnerable are shielded as much as possible. 2.) The first wave of the pandemic will subside in the summer and by the time there is a second wave in the fall, society will have learned more about the virus, have built up enough supplies of PPE and equipment, will have in place an agressive test, trace and isolate program, such that there can be an effective bridge to a vaccine late this year or early next.

Neither of these strategies are without risks, gambles and unknowns. Immunity with corona viruses is poorly understood; its not clear how long the recovered retain immunity from reinfection. Moreover, the extent to which the old and vulnerbale can be shielded is questionable. Someone has to provide care work in the homes and they are often among the most likely to be carrying the virus. Protecting the vulnerbale means knowing who the vulnerable are and one of the lessons of the pandemic has been the extent to which many people have pre-existing conditions they don't even know about.

The second strategy relies on a vaccine being developed and distributed in a reasonable time frame. There is no existing vaccine for a human corona virus. Moreover, the test, trace and isolate paradigm seems a bit like a herculean task in Western societies, especially for a virus that is transmissible for two weeks by people who don't show any symptoms. There is an element of utopianism there that this can even be susccesully pulled off.

In any event, the point is the science is still sketchy and therefore formulating a policy to address the pandemic is not an easy task. Right now as I type, Dr. Fauci is testifying before Congress. This is a professional public servant with impeccable qualifications. Still, he is far from clear sometimes nor is he without his contradictions. At the same time he tells Congress that reopening too soon will lead to unnecessary death and suffering, he opines that American gridiron football may be possible in the fall with the right public health program in place. Perhaps, but it is also unlikely that whatever programs are developed will be perfect; some players will contract the virus and some might get really sick or even die--especially likely for the lineman since obesity is a contributing factor to mortality with this virus. But is Fauci shilling for the Trump administration or the NFL or is he recognizing that if the rest of us don't get our lives back in some form sooner rather than later, the resulting social fallout may be worse than the virus?

baboon
"The list is at least

"The list is at least implicit in the methodology (or lack thereof) in the article, in which bourgeoisies who pursue "herd immunity," are marked out as especially dastardly, callous and murderous as opposed to, well that is the question, opposed to what and whom? Those that instituted strict lockdowns, I suppose?" You suppose too much Jk. It's opposed by proletarian indignation and a revolutionary working class.

Also the strategy of herd immunity (and really "herd immunity" meant anything to anybody, it's at least a nebulous concept and that suited the state) was not as you say, "to protect the weak and vulnerable" it was very clearly, internationally expressed, to expose them to the worst effects of the virus. As it continues today in ravaging the weaker economies, the "huddled" poor, refugee camps and migrations of people.

KT
Questions, questions

JK wrote: "I think rather these quotes may help prove my point."
In the movies, lawyers are advised 'never ask a question to which you don't know the answer'. But we're comrades, not lawyers, so I'm going to ask: what is your point? We know why Wilson didn't tweet nor give fireside TV chats but why do you think he issued orders to shut up about the pandemic, whereas today it's an unavoidable subject? (although its ubiquitous coverage could constitute just as much a mystification as Wilson's instruction to supress and dissemble, IMO). What is the significance of the Comintern's apparent lack of concern with the 'Spanish' flu, if that was the case? Was that a good thing or a bad thing?  What, indeed is your point about Fauci, the front-line medic sheltering from the virus and contradicting Trump almost every day with his insistance that social distancing, lock-down, is/was necessary? What was the lesson of the 1918 lockdowns in St. Louis, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Kansas and New York Cities which ,so legend had it, cut drastically virus spreads in these areas? Your two hypotheses of how the bourgeoisie is actually responding seem to suggest (in No1) that it is doing evrything to see that "the old and vulnerable are shielded as much as possible" which is in my opinion evident and dangerous nonesense while No 2, "The first wave of the pandemic will subside in the summer and by the time there is a second wave in the fall, society will have learned more about the virus, have built up enough supplies of PPE and equipment, will have in place an agressive test, trace and isolate program, such that there can be an effective bridge to a vaccine late this year or early next." rather begs the questions: why was research into pandemics axed in the first place; why were stocks of PPE run down and why is there so little preparation on all kinds of levels in most countries for 'agggresive testing'? Finally, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but you seem to be suggesting that the virus is the virus and will do its thang regardless of what you, I or Albert Einstein concoct, so what's the point of critiquing the ruling class?  

jk1921
KT, if you can't see what my

KT, if you can't see what my point is any of those questions than perhaps I am just rambling or hysterical at this point. But I would be interested to know what other comrades think. If there is conensus I am not advancing the discussion, I will step back and let the clearer minded take over.

As for your more specific questions: No, there is no assumption everything is being done to protect the most vulnerable, the question is to what extent is that even possible and at what point do we label failure to protect some number something akin to a murderous plot? Who counts as "vulnerable" anyway? And it is not me who is suggesting the virus will do its thang: that would be (some of) the professionals who actually study them for a living, but because they tell us there is really nothing we can do about it then they must be shills for the ruling class as opposed to just maybe being (hopefully) wrong about the science? 

Nobody here, again nobody, disputes your point about how the profit motive inherent in capitalism distorts society's response to pandemics. There should have been a vaccine developed after SARS that I imagine would have at least provided some cross-protection to Covid-19, but nobody was interested in producing a vaccine for a diesease that just went away. Well, guess what it appears to be back.  But there is also the question of the limits to planning for pandemics that are not specific to capitalism--the extent to which you can expect any society to plan for a threat it doesn't know is coming and not suffer the necessity of making stark moral choices, which I thought was the question posed by the article and which I don't think there has been any real convincing response given. And without being able to specify an alternative to those choices, the moralist bluster of the article risks falling into hypocrisy.

 

Demogorgon
Quote: You suppose too much

Quote:
You suppose too much Jk. It's opposed by proletarian indignation and a revolutionary working class.

The whole point of this discussion, though, is what meaning (use?) these terms actually have. Indignation is not revolutionary in itself. The peasants were pretty darn indignant during the Peasant's Revolt, but they had no revolutionary alternative to decaying feudalism. The petit-bourgeoisie pretty much wrote the book on indignation - but they have no revolutionary alternative to offer. Even the bourgeoisie can be indignant when it serves its purposes, as Piers Morgan demonstrated so handily earlier this week. So what, exactly, is proletarian indignation? What specific characteristics does it have?

You're right, of course, that the proletariat is a revolutionary class. But to be revolutionary is to offer an alternative. You have criticised the bourgeoisie's strategy in this pandemic, questioned its motivations, all of which are fair enough in themselves. But when challenged as to the alternatives (which a revolutionary perspective must provide), you've offered nothing, except to say that this problem wouldn't happen under communism. When provided with very reasonable points about why such things actually could happen in communism and that it's quite conceivable that similar horrific choices may have to be made, you've offered nothing. You've made no attempt to really rebut the counter-arguments about Vallance fronting a eugenicist strategy, either.

Worse, you've implied that even asking these questions is somehow making concessions to the bourgeoisie - or in KT's case, indicating that it means those asking just aren't outraged enough.

If anything you've retreated from the discussion, at least with me, because we had another discussion years ago that "didn't end well", a bizarre comment that you still haven't clarified in spite of being specifically asked. This kind of passive-aggressive personalisation is really not the way to advance a discussion. Nor is simply repeating verbiage about "indignation", as if this in itself is the answer to all questions of method and analysis, when it is the nature of this supposed "indignation" that is one of the main points of contention.

More and more, this outrage and indignation is looking less revolutionary and more like the impotent rage of those other classes which have no place on the stage of history.

baboon wrote:
Also the strategy of herd immunity (and really "herd immunity" meant anything to anybody, it's at least a nebulous concept and that suited the state) was not as you say, "to protect the weak and vulnerable" it was very clearly, internationally expressed, to expose them to the worst effects of the virus. As it continues today in ravaging the weaker economies, the "huddled" poor, refugee camps and migrations of people.

I wish you'd make up your mind about herd immunity. Sometimes it's "real", sometimes it's "ideology", now it means anything to anybody. Again, this simply isn't true. Herd immunity is a definite scientific concept that has been central to epidemiological science since the 1930s. It's the conceptual framework supporting mass vaccination programmes. There's nothing nebulous about it.

Now, if you want to say that it's been put to ideological use, that's one thing. The constant refrains of "we're following the science" are clearly meant to pacify the population and give some sort of impression that the government knows what it's doing - although, the debacle this week makes it pretty obvious they don't and you don't need to be a marxist to see that! Ironically, though, there is some truth to the claim, because the simple fact is that lockdowns, segmentation, allowing the spread of the virus, can all be said to be following the science because the science itself is uncertain at this point.

If you're going to criticise the bourgeoisie for not following the science, then it's incumbent on you to demonstrate what the science is. Whose theories do you agree with? Neil Ferguson or Johan Giseke? Both eminent epidemiologists with, apparently, conflicting views on lockdown. What examination have you done of their underpinning theoretical models? Do you think, from a purely scientific point of view, that we should be extending the lockdown? Should the government have acted earlier? I personally have absolutely no clue about the answers to any of this, but you seem to think you do, so let's hear it.

Would you have prioritised PPE to care homes ... or to A&E wards? Who do you think deserves the better chance to live? Elderly people who have, by definition, already had long lives or younger people who would be otherwise cut down before their time? You've criticised the bourgeoisie for the choices they've made, but you've not offered your own.

And before you say it's irrelevant, let's look at a time when proletarian forces actuall were in power and had to navigate horrific circumstances. Guess what? They had to make even worse choices. The economic chaos, famines, etc. that followed the Russian Revolution forced the Bolsheviks to expropriate (we'd call it stealing if the bourgeoisie did it) tonnes of food from the peasants in order to feed the cities. Was Lenin a "eugenicist"? You can bet your life (and for those there, this was literal) that the Red Army had to carry out triage in order save those who could be saved ... and put them back on the front line. Was Trotsky a eugenicist?

The famines in 1921 also give a little insight into the morality of the bourgeoisie as well. Lenin sent out an internation appeal for food aid and it was America (America!!) that responded, especially Herbert Hoover, who's organisation fed millions of Russian children who would have otherwise starved to death. The civillian and military branches of the US government donated $28 million. Eugenicist bastards. (As I said on the other thread, it Hoover was also instrumental in ending the brutal Morgenthau plan, after WW2.)

Now, the really interesting thing, is that Hoover had already offered food aid to Russia in 1919 and Lenin refused because Hoover wanted to hand out the food impartially over the country ... in other words, feeding the Bolshevik's enemies. So here we have the spectacle of a proletarian leader forming a policy based on a war effort, rather than humanitarian concerns ... and by refusing to feed the Bolshevik's enemy armies, they were also refusing to feed their children and their old people. Where is the condemnation of Lenin's moral failings? Where is the proletarian indignation? More and more, this proletarian outrage and indignation is looking a bit more like special pleading, isn't it?

For the bourgeoisie, Lenin was a wicked dictator and a mass murderer. For us, the Bolsheviks had to make incredibly difficult choices in horrific circumstances. Being revolutionary didn't give Lenin some sort of magic power to conjure up tonnes of food out of thin air. The Bolsheviks still had to navigate the structural reality of capitalism, regardless of any subjective feelings he had about the matter. And this is the point - the social and economic catastrophes of capitalism are not moral questions. They are structural inevitabilities inherent in the system itself, all the more so as it continues its irreversible historical decline. They cannot be resolved by making the "right choices" or by some act of will. If revolutionaries like the Bolsheviks were unable, in spite of their best efforts, to overcome these problems, what chance the bourgeoisie? Proletarian morality doesn't feed starving children.

Let us, by all means, criticise the bourgeoisie for the untold misery and millions of needless deaths their system has dealt out to the working classes. Let us criticise how their defence of their dying system has left society defenceless in the face of this pandemic. Let us criticise the way they've tried to cover up the disastrous failure supplying PPE, etc. which is a direct consequence of the aforementioned defence. But baseless accusations of eugenicism, criticising them for failing to do the impossible (even though, to some extent it's their system that makes it impossible) simply echoes bourgeois moralism and its condemnation of the Russian Revolution and other proletarian struggles.

KT
Selective viewing

I don’t watch daytime TV. I evidently missed the bit where a shock-jock called for the destruction of the bourgeois state by the armed workers councils. But he’s obviously one of us as Demogorgon has amalgamated his indignation with ours. Just like a surgeon and a murderer are the same because they both use a knife to penetrate human tissue.

I don’t think it is the task of communist revolutionaries to give the bourgeoisie alternatives to the policies and procedures to which they themselves have failed to adhere. We explain why things are as they are, and what must be done to change them. None of us are epidemiologists but social distancing, quarantining and a minimum provision of protection for practitioners and patients alike are generally regarded as minimum requirements. When these are ignored and flouted, resulting in untold and unecessary numbers of global deaths, I believe we have something to say and I don't think a little emotion muddies the message. I didn’t criticise anyone for 'not being outraged enough': I responded to the first line of JK’s original post: “I am not quite sure what the point of outrage is here.” Not at all the same thing.

I find this discussion increasingly circular and often bizarre. Like JK, I’m going to give it a rest, perhaps try to draw up some kind of balance sheet of issues raised. That’s what’s required now, not a-historical frothing at unnamed posters.

baboon
I think that the section of

I think that the section of the ICC in Britain needs to discuss what its discussion website is for and what the travesty of a "discussion" above should tell it.

I submitted a topic for an article - Britain's role in the developing outbreak - with a framework and other elements already laid out in my posts. When the ICC publishes a text that has bits in it that it disagrees with, it says so by adding a caveat with an explanation of where the disagreement is. None of this is detrimental to political clarification; in fact it's assistance to it. There was no caveat to the article on "herd immunity" which the ICC said was "from a close sympathiser".

The article was a fundamental defence of the ICC's positions (they can always be written better) and the "tone" of the article, a question that has generated such an incredible response, was naturally adopted and entirely in line with articles that I had already read from RI and other ICC sections: expressions of anger, denunciation of the bourgeoisie and elements of the particular national situation, etc. It was not an article that was going to cover the development of feudalism, the Russian Revolution and the development of communism; it was about the culpability of the British state and not a history of everything.

One of the things shown from the discussion above is the need to have a discussion - completely unlike the one above - on what we think elements of a communist society would look like because that is very important for framing discussions today - the end is no less that the means and greatly informs the latter.

I was surprised by the responses to the text from Jk and Link whose responses I would sum up as "the bourgeoisie are doing their best", "science is complicated" and "you've got a big mouth, what would you do then?" I was even more surprised when a comrade of WR began making increasingly vitriolic attacks on me with some odious comparisons ("erudite" indeed; how dare he compare me to an adhesive, that sort of accusation sticks) with his last post indicating that I was a petty-bourgeois element, a "hypocritical moralist" who simply "echoes bourgeois moralism and its condemnation of the Russian Revolution and other proletarian struggles".  Counter-revolutionary petty-bourgeois scum no less when what I had written was an article and posts that generally defended the positions of the ICC.

I've had the impression for some time, talking here and there, that there's a contempt in the ICC's section in Britain for its website. For the great majority of the time only Alf ever makes an appearance. Recent discussions in the ICC have talked about the real necessity - particularly at this time - for solid discussions between all comrades, contacts and sympathisers. In WR, uniquely in the ICC, the tool exists but is treated as a rubbish bin to be ignored and it shows. There have been some good discussions recently on the class struggle, decomposition, etc., and they have been polemical and fraternal, often showing real political advances. WR must stop ignoring this and take this opportunity to reinforce and expand this tool so that rather than the same old usual suspects more contacts and individuals feel that they can express themselves openly - taking the above example, you wouldn't want to go anywhere near it. The quality and consistency of the discussions need to improve so that it becomes a real forum and not the nit-picking tension that it often descends into.

Alf
pause for reflection

This is a proposal from the organisation, not just me as an individual. Given the atmosphere pervading this thread, we ask comrades to pause and reflect, and thus not to make any more posts on this thread for the time being. It clearly needs a statement from the organisation as such and we will be discussing it in the coming days. 

Forumteam
briefly...

The forum team asked comrades to suspend posting on this thread because we felt that the discussion was becoming too personalised. We thank comrades for respecting this request. For the discussion on the bourgeoisie's use of "herd immunity" to continue in a fruitful manner in future, we want to point out that while Baboon is a sympathiser rather than a member of the ICC, this article on the UK bourgeoisie's use of "herd immunity"  was discussed and approved by the ICC. Its approach, above all its denunciation of the ruthlessness and criminal negligence of the ruling class, was fully in line with all the other articles we have published on the Covid-19 crisis. So comrades should develop any criticisms of this article in the context of the ICC's overall intervention on the pandemic.  The article raises many general issues which will inevitably come up in future discussions about the Covid-19 pandemic, such as:

 - the need to understand the relationship, in this phase of decomposition, between the growing loss of control of events by the ruling class, and its efforts to hold back this tendency through the strengthening of state totalitarianism.

  - the relationship between the needs of the bourgeois state and scientific research 

 - "Their morals and ours": bourgeois and proletarian morality. 

 

baboon
The positive element to

The positive element to emerge from the "discussion" above is that it shows the need for the ICC to take its discussion website seriously and this is particularly important not only for the present circumstances but for those that are to come. It is all our responsibilities to make this a long-term, positive development.

No apologies at all for the "tone" of proletarian indignation in the article over the British state's murderous actions in its "response" to the pandemic.

 Demo's more serious issues are to be had elsewhere and not with me. Above the forumteam talk about the "personalisation" of the debate but demo's abuse was out of order. Just recently the ICC has published a series of four long and profound texts on the conduct of debates among revolutionaries and the entire gist of them is relevant here.

Looking back, it is now clearer that the British government has been less and less "following the science" and rather leading the "science" by the nose in order to justify its own attempts to "get the economy going again "and minimise economic disruption. This is apparent in the episodes of press conferences which "the advisors" stay mostly dumb or compliant and are full of headline-grabbing sound-bites that bear no relation to reality, outright lies that continue from one day to the next and any scientist that publicly disagrees, or even questions the approach of government, is "disappeared" Soviet-style from the line-up and banished from the clique. Those that toe the line are allowed to stay on the platform while more accommodating scientific and medical elements of the state are brought in.

Herd immunity  ("take it on the chin", UK Prime Minister), is an idea that had no scientific basis from the outset, itself being made-up as an ideological cloak to smother the state's incompetence and incoherence and was, in the first place, an expression of its wilful, criminal negligence for a policy that sent the weak and vulnerable to their terrible deaths in their thousands in Britain (Scotland, which has tried to distance itself from the Johnson/English clique as "the good guys", has essentially followed the same deadly policies as Whitehall all along - as has Northern Ireland and Wales). The reported comments of the Prime Minister's chief advisor, Dominic Cummings about "let them die" remain on the Sunday Time's website. On the same day about two weeks ago, both Prime Minister Modi of India and President Erdogan of Turkey declared that they would be henceforth following a policy of "herd immunity"! This has been the policy, with some secondary aspects, of almost every nation state as their general approach and the care home deaths of the vulnerable in every major capital testifies.

Since the article was written, all aspects of unfolding witnesses have confirmed the role of the state (Public Health England, the NHS, government) in enacting a deliberate policy of dumping the most vulnerable ("bed-blockers"), knowingly with the virus (or not tested) into care homes that had little or no preparation, warning or PPE, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of residents and numbers of workers; All this, while the government congratulated itself,  lying every step of the way.

"Celebrations" over the defeat of the virus are another aspect of the ideological attack of the state that are more than a little premature given the re-appearance of epi-centres of contagion in various countries and industries. New Zealand's much vaunted "success story"- which the Prime Minister did "a little dance" to celebrate have proved to be hollow; just as the Swedish "success story". The virus hasn't gone away and most of what looks like reliable scientific reason in Britain today is against relaxing the lockdown.

Just as there is a questioning of the role of the state, as legitimate anger rises in the population of Britain, as elsewhere, over the criminal negligence (at least) of the state, then almost out of nowhere, a massive and global (in all the major capitals) campaign of division based on "Black Lives Matter" grips everyone. Overnight it seems it explodes over one particularly horrific killing; anti-racism became the campaign favoured, and already partly in place, of the major capitalist states.  This is a massive campaign and mobilisation in the face of the sacrifices demanded now by the state - and those definitely to come - a conscious attempt is being made by the state to impose divisions and diversions in order to lessen or undermine the response of the working class that the ruling class fear, with some justification, is coming. But this is a formidable card that the bourgeoisie are playing and in the protests of French workers a couple of days ago, the race card was being played by a media which has played no small part in whipping-up an anti-racist campaign that has long-term value for the bourgeoisie in the class struggle.

Link
The danger of not allowing open discussion

As a fairly frequent victim of Baboon’s abusive comments in recent times, I would like to say I agreed with the decision to stop this forum and consider the need to think about how to maintain a more appropriate discussion within the proletarian camp.

I particularly agreed with the initial statement:

“As capitalism has no future to offer, people fear for the future, engendering the tendency towards irrational thinking or retreating into a corner. As response to this tendency it is the resposibility of the revolutionary organisation to create the conditions for its contacts and the readers of its press to be able to “open up” and to participate in the elaboration of the theory as “the head of passion”. Every contribution to the expression of a rational, rigorous and coherent thought is welcome. What we want is that the forum becomes a fertile ground for the increase of the taste for theory.”

However I am concerned by by the latest response by the forumteam with the suggestion to reoopen a discussion on topics which actually encompass the initial comments on this thread but which were stomped on by Baboon and KT. Perhaps a more open approach would maybe have been to point out where comrades made comments that should be criticised. Nobody doubts the article was approved by the ICC and I pointed out myself that Baboon and KT are members earlier in the thread. All this statement has done is give licence to abuse critical and questioning posts. What has followed is therefore Baboon continuing to complain about others for criticising him.

So I do agree with the initial response and hope that the forumteam will in future to stress the idea that a proletarian organisation should create conditions for others to discuss openly. This is so important in the proletarian camp as the ICC has recognised with its emphasis on discussion and the dangers of personalised discussions and the circle spirit etc. Of course disagreements and arguments will happen from time to time but open discussion is one of our main strengths and it shouldn’t be comprised. Indeed, as Luxemburg’s comments about the need for remorseless self criticism were quoted recently and this is the only way the the proletariat can be learn and be confident in its positions and avoid the arrogant dismissal of others.

Baboon didnt at all need to apologise for his article  and I dont need to apologise for focussing on the importance of a proletarian attitude to discussion.

MH
welcome debate and criticism

Like Link I can only welcome the intervention of the forumteam as an expression of the ICC's comitment to supporting its own online forum. The absence of such a commitment has clearly been a source of frustration amongst the comrades posting here for many years now and has actively contributed to the curtailment and weakening of debate, despite the efforts of the few ICC comrades to be actively involved. It certainly helped to derail the debate on the resolutions of the 23rd Congress, for example, which also ended in acrimony.

I do wonder, in the case of debate around the pandemic, if this absence was exacerbated by the very nature of the issue being discussed which has perhaps generated personal feelings of anxiety and helplessness amongst comrades unlike any other?

A litmus test for the forumteam will definitely be how it deals with discussion which is critical of the positions of the ICC, in the interests of promoting 'rigorous, rational thought' in the Communist Left. I've previously confessed to a tendency to 'bend the stick' on occasion, but fhere is sometimes a reflex among comrades to reach for the polemical pen rather than engage in a calm and rational debate and this overly polemical tone was certainly present in the debate here and it really doesn't help. 

I think it's worth ending with an appeal for some of the newer, younger comrades who we know have been attracted to the positions of the Communist Left to participate in the forum too. 

baboon
Elements of the discussion

Elements of the discussion above, particularly those that dismiss the expression of proletarian indignation describing it as "moral outrage", "all bourgeois are bastards", "disingenuous to blame the bourgeoisie", disease and death being "part of the human condition" and "hyperbole against a dastardly ruling class", when aligned with such arguments that go along the lines of 'what else could the bourgeoisie do, they are human and doing their best, the science is difficult, many complex scientific problems and various interests' and so on, all express a naivety in relation to the capitalist state that's very useful for the ruling class. Class goes out of the window with such arguments and we are all reduced to citizens, mankind with all its faults, fallible human beings, the ultimate identity politics that tend to reinforce democratic illusions of individualism and the role of the state is underestimated.

Illusions in the bourgeois state were generally strengthened by the collapse of the eastern bloc, a collapse that both surprised the ruling class and showed how quickly it can move, adapt to and profit from any almost any expression of its decay and decomposition that confronts it. Instead of class it puts forwards the ideas of citizens, human rights, will of the people and freedom of expression in order to bolster its rule. The present strength of western democracy - where it is needed most against the working class - lies in its ability to hide the fact that it is as ruthless and effective as its Nazi and Stalinist blood relatives - and even better organised.

It has not gone unnoticed by the ruling class that since capitalism's great victory and its "peace and prosperity" has turned to dust; the ideology of capitalism has taken a hit or at least aroused some questioning about its "victory" and what the future holds. Here the capitalist state has been able to manipulate this questioning, particularly from the working class, and direct it into populism/anti-populism demonstrating how these elements are consciously used by states: "In all countries, the hidden rivalries between the various clans who inhabit the state apparatus have come to the surface in the form of endless scandals that expose how rotten the ruling class has become. Corruption and prevarication have become a gangrene throughout the state apparatus, politicians work hand-in-hand with all kinds of gangsters and swindlers, and all of this goes on in the secret corridors of power, unbeknown to the public. Little by little this sordid reality of the totalitarian state of decadent capitalism is piercing the veil of democratic appearances. But this does mean that the whole mystification has vanished. The ruling class knows how to use its own decay to reinforce its propaganda, using the scandals as a justification for a new struggle for democratic purity" (International Review no. 71, "The Lie of the 'Democratic State'").  While its system decays, the bourgeoisie becomes ever more determined and organised in order to hold onto power and confront the working class.

The ICC has talked about the "octopus state" with its tentacles everywhere, the body that incarnates "the proof that society is caught up in an insoluble contradiction with itself" (Engels). It controls all the aspects of economic, political and social life which has developed and sharpened over the period of its decadence.

Democracy, parliament, the free-press, politicians, more or less conscious of their roles, serve to obscure the totalitarian hold of the state over the whole of society and this phenomenon has only strengthened along with the overall needs of capital as a controlling body defending those needs; not least in the face of a permanent and deepening economic crisis, rising imperialist rivalries and the more or less present threat from the working class (On this see also "Notes on the consciousness of the decadent bourgeoisie", IR 31, and "Machiavellianism, the consciousness and unity of the bourgeoisie", IR 66).

As we've see with the covid-19 crisis and the explosion of the BLM movement, the "free press" and "independent media" are essential parts of the democratic charade, powerful vectors for promoting mystifications and lies on the vitally important social level. An example of the role of the press in Britain was highlighted over the government's advisor, Dominic Cumming's, "child-care and eyesight-testing" trip around the north of England. Furore in the papers and on TV; editorials, opinion pieces, thousand of column inches that went on for weeks and weeks - yet of Cumming's reported "let them die" words, nothing; hardly a ripple. And whether Cummings expressed these words or not (he probably did), the nett result of the state's policy, was that tens of thousands of vulnerable people died in horrible conditions as a result of the deliberate policy of the state. And this policy wasn't made by the smarmy, ever-lying and scheming politicians but by elements high up in the state: cabals of government advisers, civil servants, government scientists, bosses of the National Health Service and Public Health England and the like.

The media serves to lump the proletariat into the population in general, the people, citizens of the state with a national identity and "we are all in this together". There are differences within bourgeois cliques and clans, mafia and gangster elements and there are wars for power going on behind closed doors. But there is no fundamental difference between the democratic dictatorship of capitalism and its totalitarian expressions. The revolutionary confrontation of the proletariat with the capitalist state, should this highest of dramas be enacted, needs a revolutionary force that is aware of the material force and organisation of its enemy. Any underestimation here will prove perilous.

 

 

 

Forumteam
closing the thread

Closing the thread

 

On 18th June the Forum Team posted a message in which it explained why it had decided to suspend this thread on “Herd Immunity”. At the same time it also made an appeal to all the participants on this thread to make an effort to continue the discussion “in a fruitful manner” and to direct their criticism not at a particular comrade but at “the ICC's overall intervention on the pandemic”. 

 

Judging from the ensuing responses from Baboon and Link, it is clear that this post did not succeed in its purpose – to raise the discussion above the element of personalisation which had developed within it - because both of their posts continue to make accusations against individual comrades.  In retrospect we must admit that our post was not firm enough in criticising this approach on both “sides” of the discussion.

 

This is why we want to reaffirm that the ICC, as an organisation of the communist left, cannot allow its forum to be poisoned by insults and insinuations (accusations that are not openly stated), and certainly not by unfounded accusations of aggressiveness against other participants on the forum.

 

We must conclude that the debate on this thread failed to take the discussion forward, and that comrades’ intentions to deepen and clarify the issue were undermined by further accusations. We sincerely hope that the overall discussion on the Covid pandemic – certainly one of the most important events in the life of capitalism since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, and a clear expression of the acceleration of capitalist decomposition – will continue on other threads, and we again appeal to comrades to think carefully about the manner in which they develop their arguments and respond to those of others. For its part, the ICC through the Forum Team will be more vigilant about monitoring the political “quality” of future debates.  

But regarding this particular thread, the time has come to close it for good.

 

The Forum Team

Topic locked