Predictably, the pro-capitalist elite and their echo chambers in the media are almost on the same page of the book in terms of 21st century economic and financial exploitation. The only differences between them are over how soon after Covid-19 lock-down workers are to be returned to a form of capitalist precariousness. They are hoping that after the boredom of self-isolation many workers will welcome a return to the long hours, poor pay and unhealthy conditions of most capitalist dominated employment.
Undoubtedly, some workers (but not all) will welcome escaping from the various domestic cells they have been confined within for several months. With only occasional ‘exercise’ breaks to interrupt monotony or family friction, breaking-out of confinement will feel exhilarating – at least for a time. But the reality facing those who go back to work after release, will be a more intensified treadmill of austerity and danger than before Covid-19.
Capitalist production logistics were already over-producing everything they laid their hands on before the corona virus slammed the brakes on most production processes. Artificial-intelligence and automated-production with fewer human workers was already producing far more than could be sold by the originating enterprises. More oil, more commodities, more steel, more cars, more clothes, more smart phones, in fact more of everything.
In 2019, economic downturn had already commenced. Precarious employment had risen, recession (and more unemployment) was visible and a prodigious slump was on the horizon. Covid-19 merely accelerated the journey to that depressed future. It is now inside and outside of every home that doesn’t belong to some super-rich exploiter of human labour or some speculator who has stock-piled essentials for human survival.
After lock-down, businesses needing high volumes of paying customers (transport, entertainment, holidays) will continue to lose income as customer numbers are reduced by caution and ‘social distancing’. Many, having lost their disposable incomes, will have to stay away.
Severe crises invariably make most people poorer but make a few even richer.
It is estimated that the wealth of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Elton Musk, Larry Ellison, Larry Page and Bill Gates increased by over $20 billion during March and April 2020. [see http://www.mronline.org/2020/04/30/americas-super-rich%5D Yet at the same time the opposite – unemployment, low pay and poverty also increased – and those effects also kill.
The capitalist mode of production was already a prodigious killer of human beings everywhere – even before Covid-19 got in on the act.
Furthermore, any post lock-down euphoria, will be short lived, before scapegoats will be used to blame for the deteriorating situation. Blaming their victims, rather than their mode of production, is a frequent reaction of privileged elites. Iran, China, refugees or even Covid-19 are already targets to blame for this systemic dysfunction of global capitalism. Unfortunately, many people will be taken in by this tactic of deflection and become agents of reaction rather than agents of progress.
Meanwhile, every contemporary argument on ending lock-down is based upon an assumption that the only future for humanity lies in repairing the corrupt edifice of ‘capital’ and forcing it back onto a world it has already polluted. Even after the recent example of socially funded bailouts, not one mainstream advocate has come forward to suggest developing such a model further. For elites, it is OK to rescue capitalist enterprises by social methods but not revive economic activity by the same means. Yet it could be restarted in the following way:
1 Instead of paying people to stay at home and keeping economic activity barely alive (as now) continue to pay all people to go to work (when protected) in the following areas.
A. To produce and maintain essential products and services.
B. To produce non-essential products and services deemed useful and desirable.
C. To begin the work of clearing up pollution, repairing crumbling infrastructure and restoring ecological balance.
The salaries paid to all three categories of work will enable the purchase of the production of (A), (B) and the materials and equipment needed for (C).
Impossible! No! It was done during the Second World War in many countries but for far less humane purposes. Moreover, it is what is done now in public service organisations (ie Government, military, police, education, health, social services, civil service). People in these organisations, (including Parliaments and State institutions) are paid by society in general. They do the tasks agreed and spend the currency they earn on what is produced or provided from elsewhere.
By the way, there is enough work needing to be done in all the above categories to keep present and future generations fully occupied in meaningful and rewarding economic activities.
2 Cancel all state debts – as in bankruptcy cases.
3. Cancel all private debts – again as in bankruptcy cases.
Can this be done? Yes! Debt forgiveness and debt cancellations are being done as you read this article with regard to some countries and individuals and will be soon done in larger numbers for many bankruptcy cases.
Perhaps the reader might ask themselves; that if all that was done in the past during warfare and is being done in the present for public services, favoured people and businesses, then what can be the motive for not doing it now and in the future – for everyone? The answer cannot be far away from a conclusion that the elites in power don’t want us all to go forward to such a new post-capitalist ‘normal’, but go back – as close as possible – to an old ‘normal’. No prizes for guessing that they will gain and retain more disproportional wealth that way.
NB. If a fully humanist socio-economic system already existed, then a virus pandemic would only be half the problem it currently is.
But because such an alternative economic model is possible and with some agreed egalitarian tweaks probably widely desirable, then the main obstacles to this type of future are obvious: – entrenched elites! These parasitic minorities need to be removed from power and privilege whenever the chance arises. Then another world will indeed be possible.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)