The Covid-19 Pandemic lock-down has made it obvious that most people can manage without a constant flow of luxury items and even many non-luxury items. However, when it comes to basics such as food, water, shelter and electricity, the matter is different. Prior to the 2020 self-isolation, there were crisis levels of food poverty, restricted fresh water supplies and housing even within advanced capitalist nations. Globally, the governmental measures dealing with the Covid-19 virus have intensified these problems.
The new loans to businesses are an additional debt to the ones taken out prior to the lock-down. Taking on new debt means being confident that the future will be better than the present. In view of Covid-19’s effects, that is seriously delusional. Indeed, unless the social provision of salaries, wages and grants is continued after the Pandemic, the situation, except for a relative few, will be much worse. Without that support a significant number of bankrupt, shops, small farms, warehouses, cafe’s, restaurants, haulage firms, food processing establishments, airlines and entertainment venues are inevitable.
Even large chains may be forced to close down less profitable outlets. All this means jobs will be lost and vacancies much reduced. Lost jobs equals lost; cars, houses, holidays and health: They also means less; meals out, less entertainment and less charity giving. Private enterprises able and willing to re-open are likely to require workers to work longer and for less pay. Any widespread reductions in income will prevent productive activity from spiraling upward, and importantly these losses will have detrimental effects on the issue of future food security.
People permanently removed by illness or lock-down from the agricultural workforce and the transport system, in particular, will have severe effects upon the production, procurement and distribution of essential food supplies. This is another area in which the capitalist logic of profit-determined food production will prove detrimental to much of humanity. Capitalism, in order to maximise profits long ago created one-sided and distorted economic developments around the globe. Certain countries were encouraged or compelled to specialise in producing certain essential products and thus became doubly dependent upon a global system for things they could formerly do for themselves.
Low-cost mass production and transportation was presented as a sensible economic development. However, it was a sensibility based upon making profitable investments using internationally available, cheap resources and labour. As soon as a breakdown occurs in such elongated economic chains, profit-based logic is demonstrated as illogical. If a country produces more than its people can consume they need to export it; if a country does not produce enough for its people it has to import it. Imports and exports need expensive transport logistics and payment systems and introduces the obvious ‘air miles‘ pollution problem.
But that’s only part of the contradiction. At some point if an exporting country can only produce enough essentials for its own people it will be forced to halt it’s exports or risk citizen uprisings. In turn, the country dependent upon those imports of essentials, particularly food, is then faced with food shortages and all that this implies with regard to hunger, civil disturbances and legal/illegal racketeering. Food security at the end of a long global chain of interconnections is only as strong as it’s weakest links. Those weaknesses have now increased.
Food and Viruses.
The capitalist system of mass food production is based upon clearing global forests of trees and wildlife habitats to make way for facilities such as huge farms intensively producing only one type of food; (animal or vegetable); and gigantic extractive industries, for obtaining oil, iron, copper and aluminium to build the transport and infrastructure conveying all these products around the globe. Not only is that interconnected system a source of ecological destruction, climate change and general pollution, but also the cause and transport mechanism of previous zoonotic viruses such as Sars, Ibola and Aids, and of the current Covi-19 virus.
How ignorant and stupid would it be, after this lock-down is partially or fully ended, for governing ‘elites’ to put human and material resources into re-starting the very same economic links and profit motivations that have now brought the global system to an abrupt halt? Yet we know this is possible! We have witnessed them ignoring the warnings about this Pandemic, and their inability to ensure enough disposable medical masks, aprons and gloves for the very health services they have under-funded for decades.
Furthermore, we can daily witness the the crassness and stupidity of self-appointed ‘elite’ leaders across the globe as they daily bluster and try to ‘spin’ their way through general incompetence.
Knowing ‘elite‘ deficiencies, it would also be foolish of the rest of us to sit idly by and let them reinstate their preferred system without protest. It isn’t automatically inevitable that history will repeat itself by another Covid (20 or 21) virus, another 2008 type financial collapse, another large drought, another devastating flood or another world war in a few years time. It will only be inevitable if enough people do not become actively involved in arguing and campaigning for an alternative. If we do not stir ourselves into action the governing ‘elites’ will send us back to the only form of work they profit from!
If we let them, they will ‘clap’ our return to ‘in-work’ poverty – as before – with our heads down, trudging toward another existential crisis.
We too have been forewarned by climate scientists, biologists, economists and expert ecologists of what lies ahead. Evidence has been widely circulated among the public and the Covid-19 lock-down has provided ample time for reflection. It has also focused attention on who and what is essential for future economic sustainability and the need for international cooperation in achieving a humane-based global existence. If we also choose not to act on these warnings, then we will – by default – have enabled the ‘elite‘ to do to our future selves what they did to us in 2008 and have now done in 2020.
Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)