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.
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.”
It is the era of disavowal of
Trump. Long despised by anti-racists and
humanists of many stripes, his foreign policy has now even offended US empire
builders, leaving us with an overlap of interests between those who wish to
scuttle Trump’s overt policies of hate and those who hate to see US power
decrease in the world. Whether via impeachment or election, the time has come
for a new carrier of the torch. That person will almost certainly be a
Democrat, one who is “liberal” enough to appear to support human rights,
justice and democracy but who is also committed to the maximization of US economic
and political influence, just more nicely done.
On August 16, 1819, 60,000 men, women, and children gathered in St. Peter’s Field in the heavily industrial city of Manchester, England to demand political representation and better living conditions. It was the most massive assembly to have taken place at the time, amounting to roughly half the population of Manchester. Wearing their Sunday best and accompanied by musicians, they carried banners and signs calling for liberty, a parliament of the people and repeal of the Corn Laws. It was a peaceful, celebratory, yet emphatic crowd: little did they expect the brutal response of their “own” government. However, the ruling class was terrified of insurrection that would topple them from power, as had the French Revolution 30 years earlier. No sooner had the speeches begun than the rulers sent in the British cavalry, backed up by local volunteer militias, to strike them down, disperse the crowd, and arrest the leaders. The sabre-wielding forces wantonly murdered 18 men, women, and children, and injured 650. This pivotal incident became known as the Peterloo Massacre, and this year marks its bicentenary.
As Mike Leigh, director of the film, Peterloo, writes about its continuing significance:“Despite the spread of universal suffrage across large parts of the globe, poverty, inequality, suppression of press freedom, indiscriminate surveillance, and attacks on legitimate protest by brutal regimes are all on the rise… Peterloo is of seminal importance.” This article looks back on the events of 1819 and the lessons they hold for us today. It draws on the book, Peterloo by Jacqueline Riding and the film by Mike Leigh, as well as the contemporaneous commentary of several leaders and participants.