Sunday, 29 November 2020

The Social Use of the Epidemic

In a series of articles in our press during the 1950s [1], parallel to the long study on the “Course of Capitalism”, we demonstrated, with the classical texts of communism to hand, how the “murderous and sinister dramas of modern social decadence” (floods and hydro-geological upheavals, cementification, collapsing dams, sinking liners and so on) must all be attributed to the capitalist mode of production.  Those were the years of post-war reconstruction and an unbridled economic boom: after the unspeakable destruction of the second inter-imperialist world massacre (and precisely thanks to it!), the capitalist production machinery had started to function again full speed ahead – indeed, at a previously unheard of pace.  And we could already see, before our very eyes, just as we see even more clearly today, the results of that unbridled hyper-production that has lasted at least three decades and, from the mid-seventies onwards, has foundered on the systemic crisis we are still immersed in.

  A few examples?  An acceleration in environmental devastation, over-crowding in megalopolises and depopulation in the countryside, food adulteration and air and water pollution, galloping deforestation and desertification, increasingly difficult living and working conditions, an exponential increase in poverty, “professional” illnesses from exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances, factory farming and the threat of its consequences, huge economic and social imbalances between countries (that unequal development so well known to communists), as well as dreadful and destructive conflicts in whole areas of the planet… And we can add, because the example is clearly to be seen by one and all (as we write in mid-March), the increasingly evident obsequience of scientific research to the law of profit, the exaggerated power of pharmaceutical companies, widespread dependence on pharmaceuticals, the progressive dismantling of healthcare structures, etc. etc.

Quite apart from any medical explanation, which is not our field of competence, this is precisely the breeding ground for the umpteenth epidemic now gripping the world (but how many have there been over the past decades? Mad cow, Chicken ‘flu, Ebola, Sars, Mers, Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue...).  In brief, coronavirus or Covid-19 is a child of capitalism, the child of a society divided into classes and totally, globally subjected to the law of profit.  The pure, fine souls drugged by mainstream ideology, for whom this is despite everything “the best of all possible worlds”, should keep their silence.  The society of capital is the society of catastrophes, emergencies, fear and, above all, is incapable of dealing with the crises that it itself fuels and spreads – on the plane of economics as on that of health or of daily life.

We do not want to dwell on this here, however:  there are other aspects we should like to examine:  We want to insist on the social (political, ideological, military) use of the epidemic.  Albeit in different ways and with different timing, the ruling class in all countries has grabbed this opportunity to elaborate and put into practice siege measures projected way beyond the current situation of the virus and contemplating scenarios well known to it, of both class war and the war between imperialisms – i.e. measures of State terrorism and territorial control, both at an ideological and at a military level.  As well as the distorted use, bordering on manipulation, of data, statistics and judgements – often contradictory ones – on the rate of infection and mortality and the constant arguments between “experts”, politicians, technicians, intellectuals, there comes a non-stop appeal from all the mass media to all citizens, regarding “collective responsibility”, “national unity” and “becoming the State”, the exercise of power over “others”, flinging open the door to grassing on your neighbour, today on those who don’t fully respect the decisions from above, tomorrow on those who do not fully identify with the State and indeed intend fighting it; and this call to arms – helped along by the skilfully induced separation and isolation of individuals – is accompanied by suspicion and mass psychosis.  The poor individual, the poor “community”, celebrated as the high point and guarantee of democracy and then invariably trampled on, shaken up and derided!  Here, democratic dictatorship assumes increasingly clearer outlines and – with them – evident practical preparation, though as yet in its early stages, for the management of future conflicts requiring the utmost patriotic cohesion.  Proletarians beware!  This is how the preparation for the future war is effected, when the State exhorts “all its citizens”, “united and embracing the flag” to “close ranks with its own troops”, committed to “defending the Fatherland against the enemy.”

There is more.  Firstly, as mentioned above, more or less everywhere (Italy, Germany, Great Britain, the USA), the healthcare system is at tipping point and the measures for “containing the virus” seem to be aiming primarily at avoiding its total collapse:  but this is happening precisely because of the continuous cuts to welfare (the welfare that was the carnation in the buttonhole of all the countries emerging from the massacres of the Second World War) over at least the past two decades, not because of one evil government or governor or another but out of capital’s need, when faced with a crisis that, with peaks and dips, has been dragging on since the mid-‘seventies, to eliminate as far as possible any spending on unproductive expenses.  Secondly, it should be remembered that the so-called “recession” was already ongoing, both in Italy and in Germany and other countries, WELL AHEAD of the outbreak of the epidemic, as has been documented over and over again in our press: capital is already taking advantage of this opportunity to make the epidemic shoulder the blame for the inevitable present and future measures “to save the national economy”, with all the accompanying unemployment measures, layoffs, step-ups in the pace of work, suspensions and repression of conflicts – thus without having to take the trouble to cast around for excuses to deny that this is an out-dated and murderous mode of production!  Proletarians will be in the front line once again in this emergency, the first to pay the price of the serious consequences of the epidemic on living and working conditions (and it will be interesting to observe if and when the statistics on deaths at work and due to work will start circulating again!).

An encouraging and revealing symptom for us, after the rebellions in overcrowded prisons with sanitary conditions that are miserable to say the least of it (during which it seems at least a dozen prisoners in Italy committed suicide, seized by… a sudden and irresistible desire to overdose!), the spontaneous outbreak of labour struggles all around Italy, France and possibly elsewhere, with improvised strikes (unforeseen by the mastiffs of the State unions) by workers from factories and warehouses, as well as by delivery staff and riders, protesting against the lack of even minimum safety measures at their places of work.  A further demonstration, on the one hand that proletarians do not become visible until they take action and, on the other, that precisely when they take action without the control of the union hierarchy, the State is obliged to make concessions, whatever the entity of them.  On these occasions the workers experienced and proved their potential power and it will be the task of us communists to ensure that this experience was not in vain or that it might be destroyed or forgotten in the rank and file of the proletariat.  As to the real consistency and above all the respect of the measures taken, we reserve our doubts:  we shall see, we shall see… In short, from the prison of prisons to the prison of wage earning, there have been some feeble but telling responses, and the “cannon fodder” has made its voice heard.

This epidemic, like those that have preceded it and those that will follow, will pass.  But it is important that a few cracks have appeared in the steel wall concealing the real, destructive and murderous nature of this mode of production that has become so out-dated and disastrous for the human species.

16/3/2020

 

International Communist Party

Il Programma Comunista

Kommunistisches Programm

The internationalist

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