Covid 19 and the reactionary responses
The past month has witnessed the tidal wave of the Covid 19 pandemic sweep the world. No country or continent has been spared the disruption it has left in its wake. This global public health crisis has exposed the inability of capitalism to care for the health of all the people, especially the poorest and vulnerable. As the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920 changed the state’s attitude to public health in its aftermath then certainly there will be some shift in policy from states globally following this pandemic. The ruling class has demonstrated its total short-sighted attitude in its lack of preparation for a viral pandemic. Pandemics of a bacterial or viral nature have occurred frequently in the short history in which humanity has occupied a place on this earth. States such as Britain have underfunded their health services for decades and already struggle to cope with health provision. In the USA the private health system and ‘safety net’ has demonstrated itself to be a disaster in this crisis. In some Third World countries the health system is for a privileged few and non-existent for the majority of people. Capitalist states are competing to try and create a vaccine first and while there are some attempts at international cooperation they still cannot create a unified approach to tackling the pandemic. This may change following the pandemic and perhaps the World Health Organisation (WHO) will establish a better means of dealing with future pandemics. The development and mass production of a vaccine cannot come too soon for most people, particularly those in the poorest parts of the world with little public health provision. There are some, however, who are already attempting to discredit a vaccination programme and promote backward pseudo-scientific theories surrounding vaccines and the pandemic. Along with this is the misanthropic and religious idea being propagated that the pandemic is some kind of ‘natural’ punishment or just reckoning upon the human race for its supposed sins.
The main conspiracy theory currently doing the rounds is that the billionaire Bill Gates is either exploiting the pandemic for his own financial gain, and therefore anything he says must be disregarded as somehow untrue, or that he created the pandemic for personal gain. 1 Right wing reactionaries have always drawn on conspiracy theories to deceive the people and to attempt to prevent any disruption they may suffer from events which may be interfering with the normal run of things. Many humans in general fear the unknown and if they cannot understand the immediate cause of some event or catastrophe may start to look for what may appear the simplest explanation. The dialectical materialist outlook of Marxism requires that we look further into a phenomenon beyond its immediate appearance and look into and analyse its inner contradictions and hidden concrete essence which is not at first apparent. There are though many fake leftists who while parading themselves as progressives and even ‘socialist’ or ‘communists’ do not uphold the materialist outlook and in fact reject it in favour of paranoid conspiracies.
There was a post to a newspaper article on the Facebook page of a group calling itself ‘I Hate the Tories’ which was reporting on Bill Gates’ latest announcement that he would invest in the development of a coronavirus vaccine to tackle the Covid 19 pandemic. In the Independent article it reported that Gates called for the lockdown to continue for another 10 weeks to flatten the curve of cases in the US. The ‘I Hate the Tories’ admin claimed that this article demonstrated how Gates was dictating to democratic governments how to deal with the crisis and this was all part of a plan by him to create a vaccine to make a huge profit. Also the admin suggests that Gates will ‘make’ the coronavirus seasonal in order to keep profiting from a new vaccine each and every year. The admin finally concludes that Gates’ company ID 2020 is using the vaccine to inject people with tiny microchips that will track your every move so he can have surveillance over billions of people!2 This is complete reactionary nonsense associated with the anti-vaccinationists who have caused so much trouble in recent decades. In the Washington Post article which the Independent refers to there is of course no reference by Gates to micro-chipping the entire population or ID 2020. This conspiracy has been widely circulated by Russian imperialist foreign media outlets such as South Front and Global Research, a fake leftist conspiracy theory website which has included in the past contributions from Trotskyists and other “leftists”. The Russian imperialists wasted no time using their media outlets to fan reactionary conspiracies and cause confusion surrounding the pandemic while covering up the Covid 19 catastrophe in their own country. Sputnik News, which is an international media arm controlled by the Kremlin, has produced stories claiming Covid 19 is a biological weapon invented by Latvians to kill elderly Italians or a US bio-weapon to bring down China. 3 The Russian ruling class is one of the main promoters of fascist ideology in Europe today especially among the fake left.
If you read the ID 2020 website it claims its goals are to create electronic personal ID’s which are safe and protected from data breaches and theft. It is also a non-profit organisation. Why must we assume this is a lie or false? In fact it seems quite a good idea, As the ID 2020 website points out many people in the world have difficulty accessing social services and health without their ID.4 Leftists should not always view the application of technology as sinister or dangerous. For sure the ruling class can use such technology for no good but it can also be used to benefit humanity, like vaccines! In a communist planned economy such easily accessible ID for people which could hold important medical data and a record of labour performed would be indispensable for its function, especially as to allocation of health care and resources according to need. Instead the fake left and the far right view these developments in a most undialectical and paranoid manner, only seeing what is potentially bad. Gates like many billionaires is a philanthropist who has so much money through exploiting his workers he needs to find something useful to invest in. There is nothing sinister in this.
The anti-vaccination lobby will no doubt be using this conspiracy theory based on Bill Gates wishing to control the world to put people off having a vaccine when it is eventually developed. These ‘anti-vaxers’ have caused considerable trouble surrounding the MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella) vaccine in the late 90s and early 2000’s. The quack Andrew Wakefield fraudulently claimed the MMR vaccine could cause autism in children if administered to them back in 1998. He was eventually struck off the Medical Register.5 The storm which he caused led to many parents not vaccinating their children. As a result there has recently been an epidemic of mumps in British universities.6 These ‘anti vaxers’ are an example of those who have benefited from the advances in science and technology and our development of a public health system and as a result have a longer lifespan then many of their ancestors and yet they wish to prevent others from sharing these benefits. In many low income nations people are desperate to have access to medicine and vaccination programmes. The ‘anti-vaxers’ view much of modern scientific developments with suspicion. Many of these people would consider themselves leftists or “greens”, they are in fact romantic anti-capitalists. They are not Marxists. Marx and Engels described such people in The Communist Manifesto as ‘Petty Bourgeois Socialists’ in their chapter on ‘Reactionary Socialism’.7 These people who propagate these ideas are typically of the middle strata of society, self-employed or small business people or those who came from such a background but are now employees of capital. Instead of analysing or understanding the inherent contradictions of capitalism, its dual nature and inherent class struggle, they react against modernity and technology. In general. Anything modern to them is seen as the course of all our problems and is associated with some wicked plot by an evil elite, rather than understanding that society is dominated by a whole ruling class which cannot fully control the system. Marx and Engels described the politics of these fake leftists as a:
“form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations and the old society…”8
The far right and fake leftists often converge on this reactionary and romantic terrain. Historically fascism has always appeared in a left guise using primitive anti-capitalist conspiracy ideas to disguise the true essence of society. Fascists today like those in the 30’s use romantic anti-capitalism to gain support from middle strata sections and backward workers. The crisis which we are now engulfed in due to the pandemic is an example of what the world is like without one particular vaccine. It would be even worse without the others! Would these people want the return of smallpox to the world or polio to Britain?
Along with this hostility to modern technology and medicine is a belief in the ‘natural’ or ‘alternative’ way of life, often based on a metaphysical notion of a divine right or natural order of things. There are currently ideas floating around that the Covid 19 pandemic is some kind of punishment on the human race for its environmental interference, population increase and ‘unnatural’ way of life. This idea comes from the religious conception of divine intervention, being born into sin and retribution. Well meaning radicals such as the ‘Deep Green Resistance’ movement claim that Covid 19 is a result of industrial civilisation disrupting “Mother Earth’s” balance of nature, and that we must return to a primitive life of localism and eating what we grow in local communities without cities.9 They claim that the ‘natural’ past was much better for us with ‘clean waters, and fresh air’.10 This is a completely romanticised view of only the recent past (in geological terms). For thousands of years humanity suffered, as did other animals, constant threat of attack, the destructive affects of extreme weather, waters poisoned with deadly bacteria, nutritionally deficient food supplies and starvation. Even at the beginning of our modern civilisations people suffered due to poor sanitation, insect infestations and plagues. We have conquered much of this, but there is still a long way to go, especially in poorer parts of the world due to the uneven nature of capitalist imperialism. Many people in those regions of the world would not romanticise the backward conditions they face and many migrate to more advanced countries. In the twentieth century the socialist countries such as the Soviet Union and China strived to improve public health and access to decent sanitation and vaccination programmes. The Soviet Government in the 1920’s was the first to introduce a centrally funded and socialised public health system following the October Socialist Revolution.11
The celebrity naturalist Sir David Attenborough recently claimed that humans were a ‘plague on the earth’.12He defends this claim by the fact humans have caused pollution, climate change through carbon fuel over use and due to overpopulation. It should be noted that when Attenbrough talks of overpopulation he appears to exclusively single out the poorer countries and their people as responsible for this! This smacks of plain old colonial racism. In 1974 the US imperialists and Soviet imperialists attempted to use this argument against the Third World at a population conference and were called to account by Socialist China.13 Attenborough claims that the famine in Ethiopia was due to their being too many of them, describing humans as an ‘enormous horde’.The civil war which ravaged Ethiopia appears to be overlooked by him and most authorities would agree it was this war which caused the famine. It could also be argued that people in the more advanced countries use more electricity and fossil fuels and are therefore more responsible for climate change. Blaming individuals or individual countries is not the answer though. It is the capitalist relations of production which have had negative consequences on our planetary habitat. Much of this is a result of activities which for human need are pointless or produce waste but for the capitalists they are necessary not for the needs of the majority but as a result of capitalism’s need to constantly increase surplus value. However the contradiction here is that without the development of productive forces humanity could not have raised itself to the technological level it needs to deal with these problems and indeed continue to improve the human condition. Capitalism however cannot continue with this task. It will always have limits to development, unequal development, degradation of people and it must be replaced with communism in which humanity will scale new heights. Marx demolished the population myth back in the nineteenth century against the reactionary Malthus who detested the working class and blamed them for growth in population which he saw as catastrophic for the Earth. He claimed production would never be able to keep pace with population growth.14 The human population has long since passed the boundary which Malthus claimed would be catastrophic. If countries can be allowed to develop the productive forces then they can create an infrastructure and provide better means of farming, distribution and education which often leads to families having less children anyway. In the poorest parts of the world families often have more children because they require many potential wage earners in the family to survive and purchase basic necessities. This places a great burden on the health of women and this is why limiting the amount of children is often a choice women make when they have access to better health care, education and a wage they can survive on. The likes of Attenborough, as with Malthus, like to pass the blame of poverty and overcrowding on from capitalism to the people suffering its worst effects. This is a misanthropic concept and is widely held by many environmentalists. They ignore the huge improvements in the material environment that humans have made possible.
The limits which were claimed by Malthus or today by Attenborough have been overcome or can be challenged by human initiative to survive beyond the limits the social and economic system which they have found themselves in at any one time. This week saw the anniversary (April 12th) of the voyage of the first human being in space. The Soviet Union launched Major Yuri Gagarin into space in the Vostok 1 and he orbited the Earth returning safely to a prearranged destination in Soviet central Asia in 1961. This was a great achievement and a result of the socialist revolution. Forty five years earlier the then Russian empire was mainly rural and backward, dominated by agriculture. It had large industrial centres but these were dwarfed by the rural economy. There was often famine, disease was rife, the majority of the population was illiterate. The capitalist class in Russia was politically weak and refused to take on the old order of feudal landlords, nobles and the imperial dynasty. The Russian capitalists, unable to defend even the progressive initiatives their own class had fought for in France or Britain, was bribed and subdued by the feudal remnants of Medieval Russia and it was only the working class, small as it was, who could bring about not only the land reforms associated with capitalism but also bring the country to socialism as capitalism had failed to continue to bring further progress to Russia. The October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new era for humanity led by the working class and its Communist Party. The Soviet Union which emerged began socialist construction fulfilling the vast industrialisation which was associated with capitalism but in a fraction of the time and without the misery of unemployment, illiteracy, and exploitation. It harnessed the initiative and enthusiasm of the masses of workers and peasants faced with great difficulties, but they succeeded in creating a modern industrial society which went on to smash the Nazi tide in World War II and liberate Central and Eastern Europe. The huge effort which the socialist state dedicated to the education of its people bore fruition in the launching of Vostok 1 with the first human in outer space. The US followed not long after, but US capitalism had existed for over two hundred years and at the time of the October Russian Revolution the US was far more industrially advanced. By 1961 the Soviet Union had caught up with them in technological advances and beat them to space. This great achievement was overshadowed in the same decade by the Soviet Union returning to the road of capitalism and the exploitation of its people returned under a new capitalist class. This should not discredit the achievement as it was proof that humanity with a socialist economic system can move beyond limits which had previously been considered absolute. It demonstrated that we can move beyond the Earth and gave us the potential to find resources and raw materials on other planets. Socialism will lead to the communist mode of production in which we will be able to develop the potential of all humans in an even manner. Communist relations of production will mean that the real needs of humanity are met, catastrophes planned for and resources to deal with them adequately met. Already 3D printers allow us to manufacture on a much smaller and resource efficient scale. The planned economy will meet the needs of every human to have what is required for health and education and decent living quarters. Artificial Intelligence AI) and the internet apps will play a major role in economic planning so it can operate democratically and rationally. Under capitalism automation increases production of goods but also brings unemployment and forces wages down. Under communism automation will reduce the working time and share out the labour required for production. It will be possible to plan the population and economy in harmony with each other. Humanity will be able to use geoengineering to mitigate environmental damage which has already occurred, we will be able to provide health care tailored for each person according to their genetic code, adapt our bodies to different habitats through genetic alteration and with the intervention of AI. We may even create a new AI species to live with us who will be able to survive in less hospitable planets and even terraform them or gather data and raw materials from these planets. Viruses and pandemics may be bought under control by greater understanding of their genomes. These developments in productive forces have already challenged the age old prejudices and traditions surrounding gender and sex. It will quite likely be possible that the old sexual divisions based on the prenatal phase will be removed as a burden on female biology. It may be that some people will be selected to carry the unborn as they may be better disposed for the task. We will essentially have taken more control of our evolution and become a new species of humanity. This was what Mao Zedong had in mind when he said mankind would soon meet its doom.15 He did not at all mean this in a negative sense but in the positive, that humanity would change, as everything changes and we would take control of our own evolution through our increased knowledge and technological achievements:
“Mankind will also finally meet its doom. When the theologians talk about doomsday, they are pessimistic and terrify people. We say the end of mankind is something which will produce something more advanced then mankind. Mankind is still in its infancy”16
Capitalism is the past, and the nostalgia expressed by some romantics for older capitalism or pre-capitalist societies is thoroughly reactionary.
The Covid 19 pandemic is not a punishment by the Earth. This would suggest a supreme moral authority of some kind over the world which there is not. Viruses have occurred like all existing phenomena and have either been beneficial to species or destructive. They occur in terms of human existence quite frequently, and the inability of the ruling class to plan for this demonstrates their short sightedness and ignorance of the warnings from the scientific community. The reactionaries and anti- capitalist romantics assume the world is of such a perfect nature that any such catastrophe must be the work of some wicked capitalist. There is no ‘natural order’ that humans must ascribe to. The internal contradictions which drive the movement of matter and therefore change in the universe occur in all things. Change is constant and there can be no ‘steady state’ or permanent state of being. Therefore there is no single standard to measure a perfect state of affairs for the world or our habitat to exist in. Humans must strive to consciously apply change to the material conditions they find themselves in and have always sought to transform their material reality. Morals, politics and culture are all products of transformation and do not remain static, they are subject to constant change according to the material conditions and development of productive forces and superstructure of a society. There is no absolute moral law or divine right by which we are governed by nature or the earth.
1Bill Gates is now the leading target in coronavirus falsehoods, says report < https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/17/21224728/bill-gates-coronavirus-lies-5g-covid-19 .>
3Sputnik: Coronavirus could be used to kill elderly Italians < https://euvsdisinfo.eu/sputnik-coronavirus-could-be-designed-to-kill-elderly-italians/ >
5MMR vaccine, Wikipedia article < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine#False_claims_about_autism >
6Why are University students catching Mumps? BBC News < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-47736643 >
7The Communist Manifesto, ‘Reactionary Socialism’ <https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf .
8The Communist Manifesto, ‘Reactionary Socialism’ <https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf .
9Deep Green Resistance <https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/what-can-we-learn-from-coronavirus/>
10Deep Green Resistance <https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/what-can-we-learn-from-coronavirus/>
11How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Revolutionized Public Health < https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-1918-flu-pandemic-revolutionized-public-health-180965025/ >
12David Attenborough: Humans are a Plague on the Earth <https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/03/26/david-attenborough-humans-are-plague-on-earth/>
13Marx vs. Malthus: Ideas stir Rancor at Population Meeting <https://www.nytimes.com/1974/08/26/archives/marx-vs-malthus-ideas-stir-rancor-at-population-meeting-coping-with.html>
14Marx vs. Malthus: Ideas stir Rancor at Population Meeting <https://www.nytimes.com/1974/08/26/archives/marx-vs-malthus-ideas-stir-rancor-at-population-meeting-coping-with.html>
15Talk on Questions of Philosophy <https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_27.htm>
16Talk on Questions of Philosophy <https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_27.htm>