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
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.
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.
Part 1 contrasts epidemic prevention under capitalism and communism
Part 2 will contrast management and control of epidemics (coming soon)
By Karyn Pomerantz, March 28, 2020
Like Hurricane Katrina, the coronavirus pandemic has stripped bare all the extreme inequities of capitalism. With millions at risk, it is the working class around the world, especially its poorest, black, and brown members, who suffer the most. As higher income people stay at home, low wage workers hold down jobs that endanger their health. Added to this are lifetimes without quality health care, education, food, and housing, and often the stress of racism and marginalization.
On March 27th, Black Agenda Report nailed it when it wrote:
“The United States is a global vector of suffering and death, through the policies of its corporate party tag-team. When deadly diseases are set in motion, the crime becomes mass murder-suicide.”
The two million prisoners in jail for crimes and the 38,000 undocumented immigrants detained in the US today are in grave danger of dying in large numbers from the Covid19 pandemic. Needless to say, the fact that the majority of those detained are black or Latin is a major factor in their lives being devalued by the rulers of capitalist America.
The current covid19 pandemic exposes the complete lack of concern of US capitalism for the welfare of working people. The just do enough mentality that governs public health and health care in ordinary times creates a system that cannot cope with surges in demand. Not only did the government fail to prepare for the emergency that was evident since January, but the fragile health, economic and social situation of so many workers could lead to a poor outcome for millions. The huge racial chasms that divide US workers at all times will turn into differential body counts. Only mass action by workers and students will guarantee that we come out of this alive and ahead.
Since this article was written, most factories in Italy and the rest of Europe have shut down, but not until worker protests forced them to. In the US, auto plants are still operating and have only promised more cleaning and safe practices as the UAW pressures them to close.
“We’re not cannon fodder!” cried millions across Italy as wildcat strikes erupted in every major industry to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease. Workers were protesting government and corporate attempts to force them to keep the factories open, risking their lives in unsafe factories so the bosses could jam them into cramped assembly lines to pump out profits.