The Conservative UK government, in what it thinks is a sober reflection of economic reality, decided (w/e 25th September 2020) to only continue subsidising (via a Job Support Scheme) what they consider are viable jobs. That is to say, for a further six months, they will only help businesses which they think will ultimately yield enough income to pay staff, overheads and taxes.
In the private sector, this means those businesses which will eventually be able to attract enough regular customers to guarantee a high enough income level. In the public sector viable jobs will be those, which in the future, this government feel can be maintained from future tax bases. That policy should not surprise us. It is simply the logic of capitalism; consequently all other jobs will be allowed to disappear.
So if, because of continued Covid-19 fears and/or cyclical downturns, economic activity does not reach the levels necessary in six months to make businesses viable, as is likely, then even more businesses will close and more jobs disappear. It is important to note here that the term viable is being used by pro-capitalists within a capitalist economic framework of meaning. In capitalist terms viable is defined by the difference between what are classed as productive jobs and unproductive jobs. (See ‘Productive and Unproductive Labour’ on this blog)
In another words employment will not be supported, by the governing elite because the tasks the workers do at them are useful, necessary or even important to society as a whole. Employment will only be supported by the pro-capitalist elite if a profit can be made from employing people or if the jobs are necessary for the welfare of the elite.
Thus jobs for politicians, senior bureaucrats, police and military personnel, royalty etc., none of which are viable in an economic sense will be protected, whilst jobs at places where working people spend some education, culture and leisure time activities will disappear. Youth clubs, libraries, cultural and non-occupational education services have already closed, local cafes and more existing small businesses will undoubtedly now follow.
In other words, the problematic logic of neo-liberal capitalist economics, which brought about the current crisis – in all its manifest forms – is to be applied now as if it’s a solution. It’s the economic equivalent of trying to put a fire out by pouring petrol on it. The general economic situation will be made far worse even though some high-level individual capitalist concerns will benefit financially.
Yet in the material world of nature, including human nature, being viable is not calculated by profitability. In the real world, viability is measured by how useful something (or someone) is in allowing us to manage the situations which we face. Humanity, along with all the elements of nature which supported it’s existence and evolution, has been viable for millions of years, without its viability being judged in terms of income and profit and thus how many paying punters you can cram into a particular space.
Revealingly, the capitalist mode of production, having encouraged working people to become audiences who pay to sit and watch excessively paid professionals in sport and culture, now finds its political representatives cutting the ground from under all but a few of the most influential ‘lovies’ and ‘arti-farties’; and this includes those paid millions for playing with balls.
However, note well. If a local coffee shop or any type of local cultural or educational venue is beneficial to local communities, it will be left to atrophy and collapse. An alternative humanist perspective to this capitalist policy would view these as valuable community resources and support them in such a way that they can continue – despite any modifications needed due to circumstances such as pandemics.
Indeed, in terms of evolutionary and even contemporary viability, it is over-producing, elite over-paying and over-polluting economic systems, such as capitalism, based on profit that are not sustainable. So it is these that are definitely not viable. This contrast was made clear (to those who wanted to see) even before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has has revealed it most starkly. What is now vividly exposed is that it is now a case of capitalist economics versus humanity. Which definition of viability will dominate over the other is a struggle we now face.
There is also a difference between what capitalist and pro-capitalist think is a viable vaccine and how humanists view the question. Capitalists want one sufficiently effective to allow workers to get back to productive (ie the viable) jobs as described above. Moreover, they wish the vaccine itself to make profits by sales to governments and private citizens. Since vaccine producers are in competition with each other to be first, there will be obvious temptations to take short cuts regarding safety and side effects. This is not unwarrented speculation. It actually occurred in the tragic cases of many other such medical ‘products’ as Thalidomide and Depo Provera (Medroxyprogesterone acetate).
Even if a competitive scramble is avoided by international collaboration of vaccine producers, the profit motive itself will not disappear. Shareholders and managers of drug firms expect to make gains from peoples illness and suffering – its why they invest in such private medical ‘enterprises’. Accordingly, those countries and people who can afford it (after experimental trials on poor people) will get it first. However, that still leaves the poorly addressed question of what viruses are and how vaccines work.
Viruses are microscopic life-forms which, along with bacteria, are probably the earliest forms of life – at least on this planet. Not all viral life-forms cause disease. Some are bacteriophages which can be (and have been) used against bacterial pathogens in humans. However, viruses of the corona family live and reproduce themselves by becoming parasites within a beneficial Eukaryotic animal or human cell.
Life in this microscopic animal/human cell form reproduces itself by a complex process of cell division. The internal elements of a cell (nucleus, organelles etc) form into two discrete zones with identical elements shuffled into each zone. The outer cell membrane then forms into a waist like shape and divides into two with the outer surface reforming completely around the two zones. The one amazing, normally invisible, cell has become two.
When not at the reproductive stage the outer wall of a beneficial microscopic cell (the plasma membrane) allows things to pass into (nutrients) and out of it (waste) without bursting. It is similar to the outer film of a soap bubble in that it maintains it’s structure and yet can reshape and absorb elements external to it. However, the outer membrane in a cell will only give way to substances which it chemically recognises as useful and safe. Thus successful viruses have on their surfaces substances (in the corona case ‘spikes’) whose protein composition acts like an attraction (or password/key) which allows it entry into the host cell.
Once inside the cells outer membrane, the virus’s bio-chemical RNA triggers the host cells reproductive process to replicate copies of itself. In humans (and animals in general) anything which is not beneficial to the internal composition of the system will be recognised and resisted by what is generally classed as the immune system. Beneficial cells (anti-bodies/phagocytes) will be eventually be produced by the immune system to neutralise the invading organism wherever they encounter it.
Vaccines are weakened or dead versions of a virus which are meant to trigger the immune response in the human body. But unfortunately, a virus, perhaps more than any other life-form, is able to evolve relatively quickly because its replication mechanism is less accurate. This means copies of viruses more frequently differ and those small differences in turn can mean that the altered version is not recognised by the immune system as detrimental.
There have been studies on viruses in general, and on corona viruses in particular, which concluded that random mutations occur during replication that subtly change the composition and structure of the “spike protein” on the surface of the virus. It is that particular protein which can allow the virus to pass through the membranes of beneficial cells in our bodies. Apparently, Covid-19 has one called D614G, which involves
“the substitution of an amino acid called aspartic acid (D) for one called glycine (G) in a region of the genome that encodes the spike protein”.
All this means that a vaccine, even one which does not have bad side effects and is reasonably (!) effective, may only be effective until a random mutation emerges in the virus which allows it to avoid cell and anti-body detection again. For example the annual corona-type flu virus mutates so quickly and differently, that the flu vaccine has to be adjusted every year and may not always be fully effective.
Another humanist concern on viable vaccines arises because the nature of the immunogen suspension (a cocktail of substances) used to convey the weakened or dead pathogen cells and which is injected (or ingested) into our bodies may not be fully disclosed or their effects fully understood.
So not all anti-vaxers are conspiratorial nut cases or necessarily anti-science or anti-medical science as some pro-vaccine dualists maintain. Many may also be sensibly wary of reassurances by those scientists funded by capitalist concerns and those scientists whose scientific understanding is distorted by economically-blind dualistic frameworks which view everything in non-contradictory opposites.
It needs to be recognised that vaccines are an unnatural method of relating to the evolution of pathogens within nature, only developed during (and promoted by) an unnatural mode of production – capitalism – which has disturbed nature to such an extent that it has accelerated the release of parasitic forms of life over symbiotic forms of life. I suggest it is important that these alternative revolutionary-humanist perspectives enter any current and future discussions on the viability of both jobs and vaccines.
Roy Ratcliffe (September 2020.)