by Ellen Isaacs
January 10, 2022
F for failure, failure of the US capitalist system to exert any control over Covid-19. In fact, US capitalism now has the worst death rate of any “advanced” nation in the world (https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/coronavirus-data-explorer), despite being the richest and most powerful (at least for now). By January 10, 2022, the US had the most infections since the start of the pandemic of any country – 61,263,030- and the most deaths – 851,356.
Ironically, the system’s disregard for workers’ health and the willingness to sacrifice essential workers from the outset, allowing food workers, transportation workers, health care workers and others to sicken disproportionately, led to the to the whole economy and social fabric being endangered. As protective masks and gowns were scarce, as workers were crowded together, as ventilation was barely tackled, as vaccine distribution was slow and discriminatory, the virus killed and spread.
But it’s not just Trump or Republicans who are to blame– it’s the whole system of producing medicines and selling health care for profit and treating workers as cogs in a money-making wheel. As brilliantly laid out by Justin Feldman (ttps://jmfeldman.medium.com/a-year-in-how-has-biden-done-on-pandemic-response-88452c696f2), the rapid rise in cases now affecting the US was worsened by Biden’s policy decisions to abandon public health measures and rely entirely on vaccines and medications, vaccines whose effectiveness is waning and medicines not yet produced. Some examples cited:
- OSHA’s emergency standard of 6/21 requiring vaccination of workers was limited to health care employees.
- A plan developed in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation to mitigate infection in schools was not implemented. Only 10% of suggested funds for school testing were allocated.
- 100,000 new public health workers to vaccinate and contact trace were not hired.
- Paid sick day requirements were allowed to expire on 12/31/20.
In order to protect commerce above all else, to the delight of Delta, Walmart, Amazon and others, Biden’s CDC recently shortened the isolation for exposed or recovering sick workers to five days from ten, without a requirement to test negative or wear a protective N95 or similar mask. Given that 5-10% may still be contagious from days 5-10 and that Omicron is about 5 times more transmissible that earlier variants, many more infections will occur than would have if 10 days were still in effect. As greedy pharmaceutical companies care only to protect their billions in profits, much of the world, especially in Africa, has remained unprotected and new variants have blossomed, only to re-infect the US. In addition, as hundreds of flights have been cancelled due to sick staff, domestic passengers are still not required to test or vaccinate. Children, who desperately need to be in school, are being returned to classrooms without testing, masking requirements or good ventilation, and students and staff are sickening in record numbers. Hospitals and nursing facilities are rapidly running short of staff, who are being infected or leaving from exhaustion.
We wrote on this blog over the past two years about many of the racist and economic inequities of this pandemic, but time has not changed its disparate toll. A major reason this is tolerated is because capitalist indoctrination teaches workers that they shouldn’t care about one another or cooperate with each other, especially those of a different ethnicity, so that they hesitate to unite in their own interests. The Supreme Court is about to deny workers the protection of a vaccinated workforce in order to further promote that vital American illusion that we are each individually the maker or our own fate. Capitalism is also a system of miseducation designed to impugn science and the ability to analyze the true conflict in society between corporate wealth and workers’ wellbeing. The result is the widespread refusal of vaccination resulting not only from the government’s history of victimizing minorities, but now largely from individualism and susceptibility to nonsensical anti-science ideas.
As the tragedy grows, as the absurdity increases, as the callousness of the greed for profits is ever more exposed, some voices are rising in protest. Groups of medical and public health workers are speaking out, some unions are demanding more protections, and the CDC has said, yes, maybe test. However, what is really being exposed here is the potential – the willingness – of this capitalist system to cause mass devastation and death. For in truth, you cannot rebuild a public health system in an economic system that has no interest in the health of the public except to protect the elite and their ability to make profits. We cannot vote for any politician to change this system, we cannot only demand – but we must fight for – reforms in public health or health insurance, as long as money overrides mortality.
As we face this pandemic along with ever increasing disasters due to climate change, as we watch the US rustling sabers against Russia and China, as we count the bodies slain by police every day, as we realize that at least one third of our fellow citizens live in or on the brink of poverty, as we await the wave of evictions and hunger to soon come, we must think about bigger changes. Instead of lining up at the voting booth, let’s meet with our neighbors and fellow students and workers to fight for what we need now and infuse our struggles with the promise and a plan to build a larger struggle to overthrow this entire system, in the US and worldwide. It means struggling against racism, nationalism, sexism, and individualism to forge a united working class. It has been done before, it is possible. Great public health victories have been won. Our challenge is to build on the successes of prior revolutions and make sure we analyze their errors so that we maintain an egalitarian worker-led society.