Unemployment under Covid Capitalism: A Preventable Epidemic

Karyn Pomerantz, June 6, 2020

Introduction

There are millions of useful jobs that could improve our quality of life. The Covid pandemic requires the mobilization of millions to provide healthcare, food, outreach, and the production and distribution of protective gear. The US and other countries also need infrastructure overhauls to prevent collapsing bridges and further climate devastation. There are great deficits in education, transportation, housing, and health care that need to be addressed. Unemployment plagues workers, especially black, Latin, and young people. Why is there so much unemployment when our needs are so great?!

This post reports on unemployment, why it exists, how communism can prevent it, and the ways US activists fought it during the Depression in the 1930s.

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Public Health in Times of Epidemics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Karyn Pomerantz, May 7, 2020

The corona crisis, on top of so many others, shows how lethal capitalism is. Poverty and racism are the pre-existing conditions that inflate the rates of death and disability. For billions of people around the world, this disaster continues the misery at the hands of the 1%. It hopefully wakes up other people to the inequalities, negligence, and outright murder of global capitalism. 

How has public health responded to such inequities and pandemics? What can we learn from previous infectious disease outbreaks caused by smallpox, TB,  and cholera? When public health is good, it is very good, but when it is bad, many people die. When public health gets ugly, it destroys our lives and future security and aspirations. 

Public health today operationalizes the prevailing political ideology: personal responsibility, the philosophy that individuals make decisions about what to eat, where to live, how to work, or  whether to graduate, and then pay the consequences. Public health has blamed the individual for poor health habits and focused on educating people rather than dealing with systemic issues. Even now, when many talk about social determinants of disease, such as housing, racist police violence, immigration policy, and employment, actual interventions still focus on individual behavior.

This article identifies some of the qualities of successful and failed attempts to control epidemics with examples from selected countries since the late 19th Century.

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A Different Kind of COVID-19 Protest

by Nick Pemberton, 5-4-2020; originally published on CounterPunch on 4-29-2020

This article addresses the return to work advocates and the left’s response to them and the pandemic. Capitalism has always sacrificed workers’ lives. Instead of providing the food and income necessary to stay safe, the bosses and their government are pushing people to work in dangerous conditions (and dumping crops and animals that are also extraneous to them). It’s a system that requires people to make choices that lead to death: work and risk dying or shelter and risk starving. Nick rightly calls for a communist solution based on love for fellow workers. His other writings can be found on Counterpunch.org

Amidst a deadly pandemic set to kill millions of people it is hard not to become reactionary and short-sighted. The coronavirus for all intents and purposes is the new Trump for the libs. On the one hand a force that remains criminally underrated in its capacity for destruction despite its overwhelming popularity and attention from the bourgeoisie. On the other hand a noise that is so loud that it erases all rationality and perspective.

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May Day Is Coming – Spread the Word! The History Of May Day

by Sarah Harper, April 25, 2020

There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

Those were the last words of August Spies on November 11, 1887 as the hangman’s noose was tied around his head, murdered along with three of his class brothers by the U.S. ruling class for having helped organize the working class of Chicago and the country in the fight for the 8-hour day.

It was out of that struggle that May Day was born, an event proclaiming the solidarity and common goals of the international working class. It represents the revolutionary communist aspirations to create a world run by workers without the atrocious inequalities so transparent today. Many groups organize May Day strikes and marches to demand fairer conditions, and an end to wars and occupations.

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The New Normal: Cascading and Multi – Layered Crises

by Vincent Emanuele, 4-15-2020

Excerpt from The New Normal, the failures of capitalism. Click the link below to see the complete article at CounterPunch

“Without question, capitalism will survive COVID-19. The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises will alter the future of capitalism. The real question is: how can workers and ordinary people nudge things in a preferred direction, a path that leads to more collectivism and cooperation? How can we exploit the contradictions within the system? How can we ruthlessly expose the inherent limitations and internal contradictions of capital accumulation.

Every single aspect of our society is under extreme stress. Even the most passive populations can only take so much. Human beings can only take so much. The living world can only take so much. Eventually, things will explode.

The question is: how? Will poor and working class Americans turn that despair and cynicism into a righteous anger and rage? And if so, who will that anger and rage be directed toward? Each other? Or the powerful elites?

The current social context in the U.S. and across the globe is ripe for radical political change, but that change doesn’t necessarily have to be progressive in nature. It could also be reactionary and fueled by religious extremism, xenophobia, racism, and tribalism. That’s up to us. “

Racism and Epidemics from the Plague to Covid-19

by Karyn Pomerantz and KT Conner

Social Murder: “Infection Meets Inequality” 

A NYC physician described the Covid-19 pandemic as “infection meets inequality.” As the pandemic spreads here in the US, evidence shows that it reflects the same racist health and social inequities that capitalism created in the 15th Century. 

This post offers examples of racism during times of plagues and other epidemics, and reports early April 2020 data on Covid-19 morbidity and mortality rates among different racial and ethnic categories. These revelations of disproportionate deaths and illness have elicited vows to change the underlying causes of such inequity. This blog argues that the root cause is capitalism and that no reform, including elections, will eradicate racism, change the ways capitalism operates, or weaken the powerful owners of corporations and financial institutions. Capitalism cannot exist without racism, and we cannot live with capitalism. 

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Working People Have been Destroyed by Pandemics Throughout History

By Peter Scheckner April 9, 2020

Review of The Greater Leveler: Violence and the History from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century Inequality by Walter Scheidel (Princeton and Oxford, 2017) and “Pandemics and the Shape of Human History: Outbreaks have sparked riots and propelled public-health innovations, prefigured revolutions and redrawn maps.” by Elizabeth Kolbert, from The New Yorker, April 6, 2020 edition, written March 30, 2020

In March of this year, commenting on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Vijay Prashad wrote the following in an editorial that appeared in the April 8, 2020 edition of Consortium News, an independent on-line political review:

“We won’t go back to normal, because normal was the problem. Certainly, the coronavirus is a serious matter and certainly its spread is a consequence of its own danger to the human body; but there are social issues here that bear serious thought. Key to any discussion has to be the sheer collapse of state institutions in most of the capitalist world, where these institutions have been privatized, and where private institutions have operated to minimize costs and maximize profit.

Neoliberalism is the political philosophy that has urged governments over the course of the past 50 years to cut social spending, cut taxes and allow the magical markets to allocate resources effectively. The virus has done damage; but the real damage has been done by this political philosophy. Now, in the midst of the novel coronavirus, it seems impossible to imagine a return to the old world, the world that left us so helpless before the arrival of these deadly microscopic particles. Waves of anxiety prevail; death continues to stalk us. If there is a future, we say to each other, it cannot mimic the past.”   Continue reading “Working People Have been Destroyed by Pandemics Throughout History”

How the Covid-19 Exceptions Prove the Rule

by Nayvin Gordon, 4-6-2020

Covid-19 is contained in Taiwan and Singapore.  There is no “lock down,” no mass unemployment, no rising death rate.  Factories, schools and businesses are open.  Contrast this with Europe and the US where the plague of Covid-19 is devastating the lives of millions with “lock downs,” unemployment, isolation, and death.  What explains the differences?  Why were the doors to death wide open in Europe and the US but quickly closed in Taiwan and Singapore?

How did Singapore become the “gold standard of near perfect detection?”  Simply put, they learned from the SARS 2003 epidemic that had killed people and damaged the economy.  Their answer was to invest heavily in building health care infrastructure: building 1,000 public health clinics, free aggressive testing and hospitalization, contact tracing, and quarantine with financial support, consistent public education and social distancing.  The virus was contained. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6914e1.htm 

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Pandemic Disaster Looms for the Despised and Displaced Migrants of the World

by Ellen Isaacs

April 5, 2020

Who has not sobbed at the pictures of the drowned young migrant child on the beach, of children shivering under thin foil blankets without their parents in ICE detention, of the refugees living in squalor in camps in northern Syria or the islands north of Australia?

And yet the stories keep multiplying and the protestations of immigrant advocates cannot prevent most of the tragedies.

Just too many desperate workers are roaming the world, and now, with no sorrow from capitalists, a pandemic may cull their number.

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A Better World is Possible: Pandemic Management Under Capitalism and Communism

by Karyn Pomerantz, 4-3-2020

This contrasts the ways capitalist countries (primarily the US) mismanage epidemics and the changes communism would make. Part 1 discussed the prevention of epidemics.

Part 2 – Pandemic Management Under Capitalism = Social Murder

As described in Part 1, capitalists operate to make profit off the backs of workers. Whether they pay low or high wages, they ultimately exploit their employees by paying them less than the value they produce. Corporate boards cut benefits, increase productivity, establish factories in low wage, non-union countries, and avoid taxes to increase their wealth. This leaves low wage and unemployed workers destitute and vulnerable to disease.

Furthermore, in the interests of short term gains, they don’t plan for future needs or stockpile emergency equipment. While no country would ever have sufficient beds lying around in case of a pandemic, capitalists don’t invest sufficiently in prevention, health care, or medical research that would decrease the death rate of contagious diseases. Over the last decade, the US Congress has stripped funds from the CDC that cut over 700 employees and from public health budgets, leaving state and local health departments unable to conduct contact tracing, deploy enough outreach workers to educate the public, or pay for protective body wear.

In the richest country, we have regular people sewing gowns and printing 3D masks for healthcare workers. We have nurses, Instacart shoppers, and Amazon warehouse workers striking for protective gear and hazard pay. In Taiwan, factories produced millions of masks per day; the US has already depleted its stockpile and recommends that people make their own. The US had actually contracted with a company that could make inexpensive ventilators, but when the medical device industry objected, the government cancelled the contract.  Currently, major hospitals will run out of ventilators this month (April 2020). This neglect amounts to social  murder.

Here are some of the ways US capitalism sets up people for the kill.

Continue reading “A Better World is Possible: Pandemic Management Under Capitalism and Communism”