Governments; not fit for purpose.
If 100,000 and 400, 000 Corona virus deaths are not enough to conclude that the Johnson Government in the UK and the Trump government in the US were not fit for purpose, then how many deaths are needed? Even less developed countries have managed the global pandemic with far fewer deaths than the UK and US. On the 26th January 2021, once again Boris Johnson stood in front of TV cameras and without any embarrassment inferred that he and his team had “done everything we could to keep the numbers down”. Only sycophants with something to gain from defending the government could possibly not protest against such dissimulation and distortion of global reality.
In a list of countries numbering over 200, the UK and US are among the top three of those which, through a mixture of incompetence, indifference, and neo-liberal economic dogmatism, didn’t do everything they could have done. The global statistics and every day facts in the UK and US speak for themselves. Medical practitioners and virus research scientists know that on far to many occasions their advice and warnings were either ignored, not taken seriously, not implemented fully or implemented too late. It is an insult to UK and US citizens intelligence to think that such self-serving political disinformation will be accepted at face value.
The type of questions raised by UK press and MP’s after Johnsons TV statement and on the following day (27th January) in the British Parliament were also revealing. Not one question was directed to how we should or could prevent more deaths. Practically all were directed at either ‘how soon can businesses re-open’ or ‘how soon can schools re-open so businesses can re-open’. In fact the very reasons for the high death rate – the repeated attempts to get back to business as usual – was being ignored. It is a blatant form of intellectual blindness or hypocrisy to bemoan the fact of excessive deaths in one breath, then in the next breath urge a return to the circumstances that created those deaths.
But this concern with business as usual and these and future deaths are secondary, does reveal that many governments are not fit for purpose. The Chinese government knew in December that there was a contagious virus circulating in Whuhan, but denied it and punished ‘Wi Wenliang, the Chinese whistle blower, then in January silenced the Chinese researcher who sequenced the Covid19 genome so others could detect it. The Chinese government elite too wanted business as usual so knowing there was a risk of contagion, they allowed the multiple millions of Chinese workers to travel home across China and the world for new year celebrations. The Pandemic was then well on its way.
Moreover, the west knew it. By early January 2020 the west and the World Health Organisation knew it because it had already been leaked to them. The Chinese government spokespersons continued to deny how contagious it was until it became too obvious to deny. At that point they insisted they had not previously tried to hide the problem. Even later they repeated the now classic international elite mantra that they; ‘did everything they could to save lives’. Exactly the same official pattern; denial, damage limitation and dissimulation, was repeated by practically every European government and almost every government in the South and West, including the USA. Capitalist elites are programmed to put business before life.
Capitalist economics; not fit for purpose.
The capitalist mode of production needs human beings for three essential tasks; 1, A regular supply of workers to produce goods and services; 2, A regular flow of people paying for goods or services; 3. Sufficient numbers of paying people to cover the costs of premises rent, service costs, business taxes and wages. Thus the pressure exerted by capitalists on politicians and society for ‘business as usual’ over the last twelve months is for punters – in enough numbers and frequently enough – to be out and about buying and consuming products, services or entertainment.
Hence, the pro-capitalist governments, early virus denial, inadequate border controls, too short lock-downs, government encouragement and incentives to spend and half-hearted testing and tracing. One year on and 100, 000 and 400, 000 dead is still not enough for the pro-capitalist elite to try something different.
Clearly the needs of capitalists are the opposite of what humanity needs, particularly when a highly contagious virus is unleashed upon it. In those circumstances people need to avoid going out as much as possible, avoid close contact with those who have the virus and an adequate health service to nurse to back to health all those who become infected. However, the Covid 19 virus is not the first to be unleashed on humanity by the capitalist mode of production in its insatiable destruction of land and habitats in every corner of the planet and it will not be the last if this system is not halted in its tracks.
But Covid19 and any other viruses lurking in rare and common animal species is not the only threat to a humanity from the dangers of capitalism. Air, water, sea, land pollution, species (and essential species) extinctions, climate change, sea level rises are all the results of capitalism’s insatiable lust for profits obtained by any means from any place. These are results which threaten to destroy humanity communities in large numbers. Another economic model is needed, which would enable humanity to defend itself against such catastrophes and as I have written before, the good news is it is something we are already familiar with. I will therefore risk repeating myself.
A future; fit for purpose.
In most countries of the world there are already two models of economic activity. One model is comprised of two spheres ; a) non-profit public service organisations and b) co-operatives. This model has been in existence for a generation or so and is so good that most of the governing elites and state bureaucracies choose to be employed by one or other of them. Parliaments, Congresses, Civil Servants, Army, Navy, Air-forces, Health Services, Schools, Universities, Social Services, Police Forces are all staffed by people whose salaries, expenses and pensions are not dependent upon the whim of the capitalist market. Their livelihoods are guaranteed, irrespective of fires, floods or even viruses.
If for example, every adult in every economically advanced country were adequately rewarded and employed on the same guaranteed permanent basis as those in the public sphere then the situation in any natural crisis would be vastly different.
There would be no economic need for non-essential workers to ignore or circumvent lock-downs. With sufficient protection, non essential workers could volunteer to work in support categories. With safeguards in place, small businesses such as shops and cafes could continue to operate with much fewer customers and provide a service of benefit to their local community rather than close up, face ruin and have to claim an undignified level of state benefits. Children and teachers could return to school when it was safe to do so not just so businesses could limp on.
To those who think this full employment policy alternative to production for private capital could never work I would refer them to the countries at war during the Second World War. It is true that practically every citizen in Germany, Italy, Britain and many in the USA were drawn into public (and government guaranteed private) service with guaranteed sustenance – for the most bestial of purposes – but purposes aside, it functioned as an alternative method of full employment and production.
It succeeded even though much of what was produced during wartime was wasted by exploding it into smithereens whilst flattening buildings and killing everyone in the vicinity. However, think how much more viable a united campaign against a 21st century virus would have been in each country on the basis of everyone being on a similar (and a more equally) rewarded employment basis as the elite?
If what has been outlined in the last five paragraphs were implemented in advanced countries then the model could be replicated in less technically advanced countries who already have some experience with public service and cooperative employment models. Their efforts of course could be encouraged and supported via non-exploitative internationalist efforts from those countries who had already piloted a total transition to the public service model. Humanity could have international brigades of peace Corp activists dedicated to ecological and egalitarian driven re-constitution of natural habitats and de-pollution instead of armies of death and destruction.
For those of us who wish to ‘have a dream’, in this Covid lock-down nightmare, at least it should be for all humanity and not just our own particular part of it. Since we are all now connected by advances in transport and communications we should use them for revolutionary-humanist support purposes and non-exploitative unity and not let political elites turn them into weapons of our own self-destruction.
Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)