Covid 19 and Capitalism.
Viruses are an ancient life-form and they pre-date the capitalist mode of production by millions, if not billions of years. Yet viruses and capitalism do have something in common. A virus is a member of the planets microscopic bio-mass, yet it is a predatory/parasitic member. It continues to live by exploiting the energy and material of other life-forms to promote it’s own welfare. It enters our internal system by inserting itself into weak points of our skin. It then moves into the circulatory part of our internal eco-system. Once there it attaches itself to healthy cells, pierces their protective layer and uses what is inside to reproduce itself. If not prevented, by a strong internal resistance, it moves on leaving behind it death and destruction.
On a larger scale capitalists are also predatory members of the planetary biomass. However, they only began to seriously enter the human socio-economic circulation systems a few hundred years ago. They too entered the weak spots in human environments and attached themselves to nearby economic activity. They then progressively penetrated and destroyed the healthy hunter-gatherer, pastoralist and agricultural economic cells of activity they encountered. This parasitic invasion was done, first at local and national geographic levels, then via colonialism and imperialism, to international ones as well. Countless millions of human beings and their sustainable life-styles were destroyed during the process of capitalism’s parasitic invasion of Gaia’s healthy body.
Anyone not totally blinded by ignorance or self-interest cannot fail to acknowledge that the capitalist mode of production, through its frenetic profit-motivated activity, has destroyed much of human, animal and plant life. It has also polluted so much of the land, seas, air and ground water, that many more forms of extinction are now inevitable. Capitalism’s pandemic invasion of the planet, in many ways mirrors the action of corona viruses on the human body. Of course, the analogy cannot be applied too far, because the virus does not know it is being parasitic and creating death and destruction in its wake.
For example, this virus cannot tell our healthy cells that ‘we are all in this together’ or ‘what we are doing is only natural’ or ‘the benefits of our activity will eventually trickle down’ or ‘isn’t this the best of all possible worlds…’. Nor can a virus so completely befuddle our immune micro-biotic agents with such propaganda that they ignore the destruction around them. But a parasitic elite class can. The human internal immune system if not compromised or sidelined, will automatically fight back. However, our external citizen antibodies have only intermittently rejected capitalism and not always effectively.
Returning to the contemporary Covid19 virus situation it is worth examining the recent statements made by the political representatives of capital as referenced in italics above.
1. ‘we are all in this together’. Perhaps in a biological sense, but we are not equally financially or economically protected. The billions set aside for business support will not really come to us all. Struggling, poorly paid working class people are likely to get a very small fraction of the bailout to capitalists. [and even 80% of low pay is still a huge 20% reduction.] Nor will they get interest free loans or council tax reductions. Those required to use pre-payment meters for electricity and gas, are not at all in the same boat as the well-heeled. Nor does everyone have access to private health care. We are not all in this pandemic together.
2. ‘what we are doing is only natural’. Capitalism is not a natural form of production. It is entirely social and on a historical scale – fairly recent! Nature does not produce billionaires on the one-hand and poverty-stricken hard working people on the other. These are social results imposed by human laws and elite enforcement agents. Indeed, capitalism is so unnatural that capitalists and pro-capitalists in crisis want bailouts – not from nature – but from social funds. Those dishing out social bailouts, such as politicians, government officials and advisors are themselves not directly employed by private capital, but by non – profit based forms of social organisation!
3. ‘the benefits…trickle down‘. The decades since Reagan, Thatcher and their enablers, instituted neo – liberal economic and financial policies, are informative in checking out what benefits have trickled down. Certainly not ‘benefits’ themselves. Moreover, reductions in public services since then are at the root of many current problems we face from Covid 19. Underfunded health services in practically all capitalist countries have insufficient intensive care beds, staff, testing kits, ventilators to cope. Even cheap face masks are not sufficiently available for front line staff. Millions of low – paid, zero – hours workers and part – time workers have for decades been unable to save anything for a rainy day or a quarantined month. Yet the 1% and the 10% have far more than they need tucked away.
4. ‘isn’t this the best of all possible worlds?‘ Not for those mentioned above, or the elderly ill, parked in hospital corridors, or those in many profit-based, ill-staffed care homes. That is before we draw attention to the rest of the world, where proxy wars have been fueled by the capitalist greed for oil, copper, zinc, aluminium and many other raw materials. For economic refugees and political seekers of asylum this is far from the best of all possible worlds. Only an elite are likely to really think that it is.
Whilst a virus is an unconscious parasite, capitalism’s parasitism is far from unconscious. A great deal of thought and planning go into how capitalists can best exploit global human and natural resources. Sadly, as greed motivated transmission ‘vectors’ most capitalists will continue their path of global invasion and destruction until enough larger life-forms recognise this death-dealing intrusion and resist. The global equivalent of the bodies immune micro-organisms rejecting Covid 19 are ordinary people who when this is over, need to begin a fight back and seek an end to capitalism’s virus – like pandemic of global destruction.
Roy Ratcliffe (March 2020)